On Monday, October 5, Fremont Mayor Lily Mei delivered a virtual State of the City Address, which focused on important issues affecting the City, local economic conditions, and the progress of City projects. The virtual event was hosted by the Fremont Chamber of Commerce on Zoom.
Mayor Mei opened the address by acknowledging her colleagues on the Fremont City Council and City staff. She then discussed Fremont’s response to COVID-19, policing and race, and the recent wildfires. Then she outlined many of the City’s projects in 2020, financial status, and its goals for the year ahead.
A few of the main takeaways include:
- On March 13, 2020, Fremont declared a local state of emergency, closing all non-essential City facilities before the County-wide Shelter-in-Place Order took effect the following week.
- Fremont was one of the first Bay Area cities to open a drive-through COVID-19 testing center at 7200 Stevenson Blvd. and continues to work with community partners
- The City and its Economic Development team provided the Fremont business community immediate support by waiving penalties and interest on late payments for business tax certificate renewals, creating a business assistance hotline, and building an online business resource page for vital information on financial assistance programs and safety protocols.
- The City fast-tracked its zoning permit approval process for Fremont-based life sciences companies transitioning operations to combat COVID-19 through the manufacturing of test kits, face masks, and ventilators, including Evolve Manufacturing Technologies, Inc., BioGenex, Biolytic, PrinterPrezz, Steri-Tek, and Thermo Fisher Scientific.
- In April, the Economic Development team and Ohlone College Career Center hosted a virtual career fair that featured more than 300 job openings at Enovix and Evolve Manufacturing due to the increased demand for equipment to help medical workers combat COVID-19.
- Innovative City programs, such as the Small Business Emergency Relief Grant Program, Pop Up Patio and Gift Fremont, were designed and implemented during the pandemic to support the Fremont small business community by generating much-needed revenue and economic relief.
- To support commercial fitness businesses amid COVID-19 social distancing regulations, the City of Fremont launched an Emergency Park Business Operating Permit (P-BOP) Program, enabling permitted businesses to access park spaces to conduct fitness classes.
- To assist Fremont’s vulnerable populations, the City established the Fremont Cares Rental Relief Program, which utilized the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program funds for renters unable to pay their rent due to a COVID 19-related loss of income; the City also installed hygiene infrastructure throughout Fremont for unhoused populations, and provided over 20,000 meals to those community members in need. PBOP
- The City hosted a virtual grand opening of its new Housing Navigation Center (HNC), designed to help participants find permanent, stable housing. The HNC will house a reduced number of 25 participants to comply with COVID-19 safety measures; once restrictions are lifted it will house 45 participants at a time.
- Despite a projected revenue loss of $12 million from the impacts of COVID-19, the City took actions to restrict overspending and its budget remained balanced. The City Council’s decision to increase reserves last year, as well as cost saving measures in place such as continuing a hiring freeze and decreasing overtime expenditures, have contributed to Fremont not severely curtailing services as some other cities have been forced to do.
- Fremont Police Chief Kimberly Petersen addressed community members by denouncing the death of George Floyd through a letter to the community, and immediately implemented changes within the Police Department. This included participating in the 8 Can’t Wait campaign, implementing new training, and hosting a virtual Town Hall discussion in June to address community concerns around policing, race, and safety.
- To build on the June Town Hall, the City launched the Engage Fremont initiative that included a community survey, new policing budget infographic, and small dialogue groups for further conversation and exploration of potential solutions.
- Fremont is exploring the expansion of the Mobile Evaluation Team (MET), a partnership between the Police Department, Human Services, and Washington Hospital Healthcare System to provide mental health services to the community, including responding to homeless calls and a crisis intervention specialist that trains police officers. The program has helped 78 unhoused residents transition off the streets and into hotels since the pandemic.
- During this year’s unprecedented wildfire season, parts of Fremont were under an Evacuation Warning during the SCU Lightning Complex Fire that affected the eastern foothills of South Fremont. Mayor Mei thanked the firefighters who worked on the frontlines and everyone else worked behind the scenes to prepare for these warnings, ensuring our community’s safety.
- Over 79% of Fremont residents have participated in the 2020 Census, an important avenue for the City to receive government funding for highways, schools, health facilities, and many more community programs. For those that have not yet participated in the 2020 Census, the deadline has been extended to October 31.
- The City has also been planning for several transportation infrastructure projects that are now funded and either under construction or in development. Additionally, construction of new affordable housing units, Central Commons, Innovia, Geo Apartments, Reilly Station (Metro Crossing), and Pauline Weaver senior apartments; the new Downtown Event Center (anticipated to open in the Spring); the BART Warm Springs West Access Bridge & Plaza; the completed 680 Freeway Widening Project; and the new Age Well Center at South Fremont that will be completed by December are all underway or completed.
- Finally, Fremont is focusing on green initiatives and is developing a Trails Strategy Plan and new Parks and Recreation Master Plan, both of which are underway and include feedback from community members garnered through virtual meetings, surveys, and the City’s Happi Feet app. In addition, Fremont is updating its Climate Action Plan to help the City reach its goal of no new net greenhouse gases emitted by the year 2045.
To view the full speech, slides, webcast, and resource guide from Mayor Lily Mei’s State of the City address visit our webpage.