2018 All-America City Finalist - Placentia, CA

Application Summary for the All-America City Awards:

When residents of the City of Placentia enter city hall, they are greeted with a large screen that reads, “Placentia: The People ARE the City.” These words reflect the City’s public commitment to engage and balance the diverse interests within the community.

Over the past 5 years, over 200 community meetings have been held on a variety of subjects, from transit-oriented development to the fiscal health of the small, Orange County city. For instance, a residents’ task force conducted a series of open meetings to take suggestions and respond to public concerns about the fiscal health of local government.

The community, in turn, requested additional information and more public meetings. Over the course of 3 years of ongoing outreach, the task force ensured that the community’s perspective was front and center when financial options were presented to local officials.

Another example: when considering zoning changes to encourage transit-oriented development opportunities and development plans for the city’s Old Town area, local officials met with stakeholders and proposed an amortization clause to preserve the interests of existing property owners and businesses. The innovative proposal, as well as subsequent actions by the City, have helped support small, family-owned businesses in newer development areas.

Three project examples showing how this community leverages civic engagement, collaboration, inclusiveness and innovation to successfully address local issues:

1.) Bringing Downtown Back: The Placentia Renaissance Project
Placentia has embarked upon a comprehensive plan for the revitalization, activation, and economic growth of the city’s Old Town area – the original central business district founded in 1910 around the original train depot and the citrus packing houses.

The Old Town area of the city, specifically the La Jolla district, had become ground zero for criminal gang activity in Orange County for more than 50 years with higher than average rates of violent crimes such as murder, aggravated assault and robbery. Nevertheless, existing property owners, residents, and businesses have preserved the area with a unique and diverse mix of small businesses, restaurants, and residential uses, meaning that the area never truly lost its small-town charm.

The City plans to restore key features of this area’s past while positioning itself for the next twenty years. These efforts are intended to create a new destination by reviving and improving Old Town’s unique identity and character to benefit residents, visitors, and the business community. To help with this transformation, the City has adopted an amendment to the zoning code with specific standards to allow a mixed use, pedestrian-oriented retail and residential district, creating new development opportunities for a one-of-a-kind destination within walking distance of the La Jolla neighborhood.

More importantly, it will also support existing retail and restaurant businesses to grow the city’s local economy. It will revitalize an existing, aging industrial/manufacturing area plagued by non-conforming and illegal uses and will leverage the construction of Placentia’s Metro link station to transform the area into a vibrant destination.

More information: Placentia Revitalization Plan


2.) Get Healthy Placentia
A collaborative effort of the City of Placentia and partner organizations, this initiative focuses on programs and policies to promote healthy living and address disease prevention, and to ultimately bring about community-wide transformation in health behaviors and attitudes. Though Placentia has a thriving economy, there are pockets of the community that currently experience poverty, food insecurity, high rates of diseases such as diabetes, and reduced access to recreational space for physical activity.

Over the course of 18 months of meetings, the Community Services Department compiled a list of all free social services offered within the city limits that met the goals of the initiative. This resource identified food programs and soup kitchens, tutoring programs, senior services, teen and family shelters, and other services. All programs and services were overlaid on a city map to identify service gaps within a half-mile. This gap analysis revealed areas that still need to be addressed within the city.

The actions that resulted from the first year of effort created tangible change in the most vulnerable Placentia neighborhoods. These successes include:

  • the addition of fitness equipment at 3 parks in low-income areas funded by a healthcare partner;
  • implementation of four, themed community walks in the summer months to encourage physical activity;
  • and the adoption of a 5-year initiative establishing a framework for healthy city policies.

More information: Placentia Community Services Department


3.) Citizens Fiscal Sustainability Task Force
Like many other U.S. municipalities, Placentia faced a growing and dangerous fiscal crisis after the onset of the 2008 recession. Years of deficit spending and a troubled economic climate left the City with less than $1.5 million in reserves and a grim five-year financial forecast.

To assist the City in identifying potential cost reduction and revenue enhancement ideas, a Citizens Fiscal Sustainability Task Force was formed. The task force was to closely examine the City’s revenue structure and structural budget deficit and make recommendations for creating new revenues and/or reducing costs. The members were from all parts of the city, from the most disadvantaged neighborhood, to the most expensive area, and all parts in between.

The task force held 30 public meetings in various locations around the city, analyzed the City’s finances, and prepared a final report of their conclusions for the city council. The report included the current financial health status as well as short, medium, and long-term options based on the City’s ten-year financial forecast. The task force completed a comprehensive, long range, fiscal forecast and developed a fiscal sustainability plan with specific recommendations for addressing areas of concern. The plan will be supported by city council policy decisions and recommendations for ongoing community information-sharing and involvement as new alternatives are studied.

More information: Citizens Fiscal Sustainability Task Force

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