Grand Terrace’s Strategic Plan Paints A Picture Of A City On The Rocks

(June 3)  The city of Grand Terrace faces a catalog of daunting challenges, according to the 11-page strategic plan covering the years 2014 to 2020 city officials accepted last month.
Grand Terrace is the third smallest of San Bernardino County’s cities population-wise and the smallest in terms of land area. Several geographical factors have put it at a disadvantage financially throughout its 36-year history. On the city’s east side lies Blue Mountain, physically separating it from the city of Loma Linda, and over which no significant roads or points of access traverse. South of the city is the 3,988-population unincorporated Riverside County community of Highgrove and beyond that the essentially unpopulated Riverside County frontier, with likewise no significant points of access.  The 215 Freeway runs through the southwestern portion of the city, but on the city’s northwest and northeast sides it rises majestically above the city of Colton, as its name implies, leaving the city separated and in some fashion isolated from its surrounding neighbors. While the city’s elevated distinction from its neighbors and its resultant quietude is considered to be a plus by many of its residents in terms of living environment, the  lack of population and dearth of vehicular traffic through the city proper has resulted in only minimal commercial development within the city. Thus sales tax revenue, which is a major source of capital in most California cities, is severely limited in Grand Terrace.
The strategic plan accepted into the record in May by the city council, which is one member short following the resignation of councilman Bernardo Sandoval earlier this year, does not dwell on the relative advantages and disadvantages of
the city’s geographical setting, but does ponder the several disadvantages that reality has created.
In 2007, with the advent of the recession that has gripped the nation, state and region for more than a half decade, Grand Terrace initiated the first of a series of economies, including drastic cuts to the city’s work force and service levels. In 2011, the state of California’s dissolution of all municipal and county redevelopment agencies was a particularly tough blow to Grand Terrace. Past councils and management had place the entirety of the 3.502 square mile city in one of two redevelopment project areas and put a number of city employees on the redevelopment agency’s payroll. This accelerated the already-begun slashing of City Hall.
So severe were the cutbacks that there was talk of deincorporating the city altogether and  Grand Terrace once again having all of its governmental functions administered by the county of San Bernardino or, in the alternative, being subject to annexation by the city of Colton.
The strategic plan identified “insolvency/uncertain revenue stream [and the] redevelopment agency dissolution” as major threats to the city’s ongoing viability as a municipal entity. Further threats were outlined as the California Department of Finance’s rejection of the city’s plan to convert the redevelopment funding that was previously available to civic programs and projects, as well as actual or potential litigation the city is facing and the financial liability this represents.
Also listed as disadvantages to city operations were the “temporary” status of senior staff in the wake of former city manager Betsy Adams’ departure, what the plan referred to as the “total loss of institutional memory” the  departure of city staff has imposed on the city, which has resulted in the “lack’loss of staff to address/skills to address key issues.”
The staff turnover and attrition has led to “staff insecurity,” according to the plan, and “no clear vison.”   The plan assert that Grand Terrace is further hampered by a “vocal minority opposition to development” within the community that has led to a “perception of an ‘anti-business’ climate.”
The report sums up what is perhaps the city’s major challenge/disadvantage with three words: “lack of revenues.”
Furthermore, the plan states the city suffers from a “lack  of  training/cross training/clear  policy/procedures guide for staff.”
The city further needs to overcome a “lack of public understanding of the city’s form and function” and needs to redress infrastructure needs to allow development to take place and must gain “access to current technology,” the plan says.
Other city shortcomings listed are inconsistent code enforcement  and an imbalance in service levels.
Upon accepting the strategic plant, the city council resolved to strive toward fiscal sustainablity, maintain public safety, promote economic development, develop and implement successful partnerships and engage in proactive communication.

Leave a Reply