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Downtown vacancy rate falls
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Vacancy rates in Downtown Turlock are nearing pre-recession lows, according to a report delivered to the Turlock City Council on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough number of years for our nation, region, community, and our downtown, but I’m pleased to announce that our downtown … has seen a resurgence in businesses opening up, and businesses continuing to do well,” said Turlock Downtown Property Owners Association administrator Dana McGarry.

The 55 properties within the Downtown Turlock improvement district house approximately 150 suites. Only 18 are vacant, McGarry said – many of them less-desirable upstairs offices or larger spaces – marking a 12 percent vacancy rate.

The Downtown vacancy rate peaked in March 2009 at 25 percent. A total of 14 downtown businesses either closed or relocated that year.

That’s a stark contrast to 2012, when nearly as many new businesses opened their doors.

“It’s just quite obvious, the changes that are happening downtown,” McGarry said. “I can barely keep my database up to date in adding new businesses.”

Many of those businesses are restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues. And another trend – antique, vintage, recycled-goods stores – is also growing downtown.

Downtown has seen some sprucing up, as well, with trees trimmed and pavers replaced. The work brought previously deferred maintenance up to par, McGarry said.

McGerry noted the growing foot traffic downtown, but said one of the busiest days of the year is just around the corner for Downtown Turlock – the Festival of Lights tree lighting ceremony, on Nov. 23.

Horse carriage rides will be available from 4 to 9 p.m., Santa will be on hand, and craft vendors will proffer their wares. Bands will perform in Central Park leading up to the big tree lighting, scheduled for 7 p.m.


On Tuesday, the Turlock City Council also:

·         Met with the Turlock Irrigation District in closed session to discuss the sale of city property at 900 N. Palm St., the current home of the Turlock Police Department and Fire Department Administration.
The Departments are set to move to the new, $33.6 million Public Safety Facility, under construction at the corner of Olive Avenue and Broadway, in June 2013. But $2.5 million of the project’s funding hinges on the sale of the existing police department site on Palm Street.

The Turlock Irrigation District’s Turlock headquarters on East Canal Drive are on the same city block as the current police department. Purchasing the building would give TID room to gradually expand in the years to come, control over the neighboring land, and a site to move some operations out of cramped quarters at the District’s North Broadway corporate yard.

There was no report out of the closed session meeting.

·         Councilwoman Mary Jackson requested that the City Council consider altering the hours of operation for Turlock parks. She expressed concern that parks are often busy until 10 p.m., making noise and disturbing nearby residents.

Jackson suggested the closing time be amended to dusk. Council will consider the issue at a future date.

·         Formally accepted a 2012 San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Award, given to the city for its renovation of the Carnegie Arts Center. The Carnegie Arts Foundation was on hand to receive the award.

·         Began the process to amend Turlock Municipal Code regarding prohibited wastewater discharges, and payment for those discharges.
A November 2011 Regional Water Quality Control Board report found that Turlock must amend its industrial pretreatment compliance program, clarifying that businesses with the proper permit may discharge wastewater with a greater pH range than the 5.5-8.5 range currently in the Municipal Code. The city previously allowed discharges outside that range, as noted on city permits, but code does not reflect the practice.
The penalty charge for delinquent payments would rise from $10 to $25 for sewer only customers. That delinquent payment fee was increased for water customers in August 2011, but “sewer only” customers, who are connected to the city wastewater system but own a private water well, were mistakenly excluded from the fee increase at the time.

The code amendment will return at the Nov. 27 meeting of council for a final vote.

·         Began the process to approve an amendment to the General Plan Land Use Diagram, allowing Yosemite Farm Credit to expand its development at the corner of W. Monte Vista Ave. and Dels Lane.
The approximately two-acre site is currently zoned Medium Density Residential, but Yosemite Farm Credit received approval to construct three office buildings on the site in 1989. To date, only two buildings have been constructed, and the 1989 approval for a third building has long since expired.
The new proposal would see Yosemite Farm Credit build a 15,000 square foot administration office building, and 4,000 square foot addition to an existing bank building.

The project was recommended to the Turlock City Council by a 6-0 vote of the Turlock Planning Commission on Oct. 4. The land use diagram amendment will return at the Nov. 27 meeting of council for final approval.

·         Received an update on capital projects and building activities. Public Safety Facility construction is on track for a June or July 2013 move-in, with interior framing, insulation, and sheet rocking underway. The Harding Drain Bypass project is currently on hold, due to the rainy season; work will resume in July 2013. Repairs to the City Hall balcony are scheduled to be completed this week. The project to landscape the Golden State Boulevard median is underway, with the irrigation system next to be installed.

·         Received an update on housing permits. In October, the city issued 93 permits. Over the counter permits accounted for 66 of those; a further 15 were granted through the five-day review process, while 12 required traditional reviews. In total, 87 percent of permits were granted in 5 days or fewer.
Additionally, the city performed 398 building inspections in October.

·         Heard a staff update on board, commission, and committee vacancies. Currently, Turlock has two vacancies for alternates on the Turlock City Arts Commission, and one expected vacancy on the Parks, Recreation, and Community Commission to replace Steven Nascimento, who was elected to the Turlock City Council on Nov. 6.

·         Authorized the filling of two vacant positions: a Plans Examiner, and a Staff Services Assistant, both in the Building Division. Both positions will be filled through in-house recruitment if possible, with outside recruitment if needed.

·         Assessed 14 properties a total of $7,236.57for abatement costs related to weeds, obnoxious growth, and debris on the properties.