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Daly City, Town of Colma surviving recession well

/ 03:25 PM February 04, 2012

DALY CITY—In their joint State of the Cities address at Daly City Hall, the mayors of Daly City and Colma recently spoke about issues that affect their community, business, and the daily lives of their residents.

The partnership is probably based on their distinction by geography and population. Daly City and Colma are considered to be respectively the biggest and smallest cities in San Mateo County.  Daly City, the “Gateway to the Peninsula,”  is home to a little over 100,000. Colma, “City of Souls,” is San Mateo’s smallest with over 1,600 residents.

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First to address the civic minded and various city and business leaders of both cities was Colma Mayor Raquel “Rae” Gonzalez. Gonzalez was first hired as Colma’s public information officer in 1989. Then she was elected city treasurer in 2001. Eventually, she ran for city council and was elected in 2009.

Gonzalez said that though the cutbacks and foreclosures are slowing down, the impact of the nationwide recession’s impact is still being felt.

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As in most Northern California towns, Gonzalez reported the closing of Barnes and Noble as “personally tough.” Like the last page in life being shut.

But although several businesses closed in Colma, Gonzalez reported that Best Buy, Home Depot, Home Depot Pro, Lucky Chances Casino, and Target remain the city’s five largest employers and continue to be steady.

In a city where Spanish-Mediterranean is the signature look, Colma’s building designs, especially in commercial establishments, have been prioritized for some face-lifts — hopefully, the best remedy for sagging business.

They have streamlined their business license processing to be faster and gotten excellent reviews. At $25, Colma continues to have the lowest rate in the state.

They’ve also put out a slick brochure on how to start a business in Colma to rein in investors, big or small.

Next up was four-time Daly City Mayor Sal Torres. A successful San Francisco lawyer, Torres is also corporate counsel for Marvell Technology, and a columnist.

He reminisced years ago when alarming numbers of home foreclosures and the state’s insolvency declared by then California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger were just weeks apart.

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When California’s structural budget deficit was $20 billion – “we were about to plunge into the abyss.”

But Torres reported that in Daly City, labor groups agreed to concessions that brought savings up to $2 billion. He lauded the courage of these labor groups.

But that wasn’t enough. When data from the 2010 US Census was released, it was revealed that about 1,500 people left Daly City. “Vacant houses meant losses in property tax.” But Torres expected the population to flourish again.

He pointed out that San Mateo’s unemployment rate dropped below eight per cent, according to the Employment Development Department or EDD. It is the second lowest rate in California and heartening to note when one considers L.A.’s unemployment rate at 11 per cent, said Torres.

Torres said the dissolution of the California Redevelopment Agency denies Daly City one of the most productive means to create jobs.  Without it, he said, “there would have been no Pacifica Plaza and Mission Plaza.”

In 1996, Westlake Shopping Center “was dead.” With the building expansion came the parking lot re-configuration. “Now people tell me to do something about the parking. But that’s music to my ears.”

The closing of Mervyns’ at Westlake was followed by the coming of JC Penny at Serramonte Mall.

He also mentioned the Geneva, other on-going projects, as well as Habitat for Humanity’s successful condo projects at Mission and it’s affordable housing project on 3rd Avenue.

Torres said in the Q&A session later that Santa Clara County may have the lion’s share of angel investors for semi-conductors. But San Mateo county has actually more angel investors for software.

He said he considers what others may consider a bleak situation to be a challenge. He quipped that Daly City is not, and will never be, in a position to write its obituary alongside partner city Colma.

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TAGS: Daly City, Recession, Town of Colma, United States
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