State of the City 2024
THURSDAY, JANUARY 25, 2024
5:30 PM | RIVERSIDE CONVENTION CENTER
The State of the City Address is scheduled for Thursday, January 25, 2024 at the Riverside Convention Center. The Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce and Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson’s Office are excited for this in-person event. The address will also be streamed virtually on RiversideTV and social media, giving more local residents and businesses the opportunity to tune in on January 25th.
The address combines a review of the prior year’s accomplishments with an outline of major issues facing the city in the coming year. Mayor Lock Dawson will also present the honoree of the new Innovation Award, which is given to a group or individual who epitomizes the spirit that helps make Riverside the City of Arts and Innovation.
*Please note, the program will be conducted in English.
January 25, 2024 | State of the City Script
Good evening, Riverside! Let’s give it up for the very best Chamber in all of California and its exceptional President—Nick Adcock.
To my friends and colleagues on City Council: Erin Edwards, Clarissa Cervantes, Ronaldo Fierro, Chuck Conder, Gaby Plascencia, Jim Perry, and Steve Hemenway. Thank you! I so enjoy working with and alongside you. Thank you for your dedicated support to a city we all call home—Riverside.
And to our no longer “NEW” City Manager—Mike Futrell, thank you for your leadership to Riverside and the guidance you provide to our wonderful city staff that keep this city running!
And most importantly, thank YOU—our businesses, residents, and community members that choose Riverside every single day and have instilled in me the greatest honor of a lifetime.
One year ago, I stood on this stage and challenged all of us to design a better Riverside. Powered by our people, rooted in disciplined ideas, and driven by intentional action. So now, here we are, one year later. Let’s check in. How are we doing?
Last year, I told you I was tired of hearing that Riverside was a city that was close to everything, and I told you that Riverside is a city that HAS everything. I also told you I was tired of hearing that we were a city on the cusp of greatness. And that I thought we already were great. And that continues to be true, Riverside is a big city! Did you know that as the 12th largest city in California we are larger than 99% of all cities in the USA? We’re bigger than Cincinnati, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Boise, Baton Rouge, St. Louis, MO. In fact, in almost half of the states in the country we would be the biggest city in the state! No longer are we a small town, waiting for our turn or recognition. Riverside has arrived and we’re in motion. We are moving forward, leading the way locally, regionally, and nationally on development, technology, arts, parks, transportation, public safety—you name it. Riverside is innovating and is setting the bar. We are a force, out in front, rising above the rest as a leader at every level. So, let’s get things started and talk about how Riverside is in motion through our mission, opportunity, talent, inclusivity, optimism, and why our time is now.
We often talk about mission statements. Every good organization has one. But here in Riverside, we don’t just have a mission statement, we live our mission every day. Our mission is to make Riversiders lives better every day. Let’s reflect on our top priorities: homelessness and public safety. I want to talk about our mission to combat homelessness. First, I want to introduce you to one of our residents, Debora Mickelson. In 2021, Debora lost her sister Becky to suicide after begging multiple courts and for the authority to care for her and got nowhere. Becky had been living on the streets, fighting mental illness, and could not care for herself. No longer able to live with the pain, living alone, and suffering in a tent, she took her own life. After Becky lost her life, Debora took this devastating loss and turned it into a force for good and launched a non-profit called Project Becky to advocate for changes to our mental health laws. It was stories like Debora’s that ignited a passion in me to work with our governor, state legislature, my colleagues on city council, and my local Bipartisan Forum to change our horrendously outdated mental health laws. Because of our advocacy, Riverside County was one of the first counties in the state to launch CARE Court. We got additional mental health laws enacted this past year and will see a measure on the ballot in March to create acute psychiatric care facilities. These are the first meaningful changes to our mental health laws in over 50 years and Riverside has led the way. Debora is here with us tonight and I want to applaud her courage for sharing her story. Debora can you please stand? If you are so moved, please consider supporting her non-profit by visiting projectbecky.org. Thank you, Debora. Homelessness is our number one challenge. In fact, it is a challenge for every city across the country. In 2023, homelessness rose 12% across the nation but only 6% here in California. Still, it is truly a national crisis. Here in Riverside, we are tackling this crisis with a 3-pronged strategy: prevention, intervention, and enforcement. And while we are already seeing promising progress like a 12% reduction in chronic homelessness in the past year alone, we still have work to do. We need to prevent people from becoming homeless in the first place. We need strategies for intervention, so people don’t become homeless again. We need to hold people accountable by enforcing the law. One way we are preventing people from becoming homeless is by focusing on populations that are at high risk such as those leaving our downtown jail. This past year, we partnered with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and Victory Outreach, a non-profit organization to launch Project Connect. Project Connect links former inmates with services and helps return them to their communities to get the help they need. So far, we’ve seen a 50% success rate in accepting services and are looking to expand this coming year. We were recently awarded the 2023 Safety and Security Award by the Riverside Downtown Partnership for the impact of Project Connect on public safety. Thank you RDP. Another population at high risk of becoming homeless is aged out foster youth. Last year, I announced my Mayor’s Challenge to End Youth Homelessness. Through a collaborative partnership with the County of Riverside, we have been successful. In fact, while the rest of the state’s homeless youth population grew, we saw a stunning 27% drop in youth homelessness here in Riverside County because of our efforts and were recently recognized by the California State Association of Counties with its competitive Challenge Award. Now, let’s talk enforcement and public safety. Public safety has been and continues to be our highest priority in Riverside. Keeping our streets safe is critical to having a prosperous city. So how are we doing that? By making historic investments in our Police Department and Public Safety Engagement Teams, which we have done this year. And also, by ensuring our police have the support they need to enforce our laws. You’ve probably heard me say that you can’t just throw your sleeping bag anywhere you’d like and set up camp. And that’s because, in the past year, the City Council has enacted a number of ordinances that limit - and have invested in cleaning up - encampments in the river bottom and other parts of the city. We invested $13 million in our Wildlands Public Safety Engagement Teams. Because of their work, we’ve seen a dramatic drop in fires in the river bottom this past year as illegal encampments have been moved out and folks connected with services. We’re working to ensure our police department is 100% staffed for the first time in 20 years. We’ve hired 60 new police officers, fully staffed our 20 parks and neighborhood specialists, provided 55 new police cars, and put two new police helicopters in service. We also invested in a new Security Resource pilot program to help businesses stay safe. This program has been rolled out in key business areas such as our downtown and Magnolia corridor, with patrols during critical hours of the day, providing support to our local businesses struggling with safety concerns. This program has alleviated the burden on our Riverside Police Department, allowing them to respond faster to other areas in need. Creative ideas for this and other programs came from you! And what you told us was that it’s critical that we continue the conversation about public safety. That is why this month we’re launching the Mayor's public safety neighborhood tour. Together with the Riverside Police Department and city staff, I will be attending neighborhood meetings throughout the city to provide updates on the latest information and resources for public safety solutions. But we need to hear from you! As I travel to different neighborhoods, be on the lookout for a date and meeting location near you and make plans to join us to provide your input. And lastly, we need to make sure we are monitoring our progress. How do we know if what we are doing is successful? We need to make sure our solutions are effective, backed by data, and make the best use of our dollars at work. I’m pleased to announce that we will be launching our first ever real-time crime dashboard in the next few months. Thank you, Riverside Police Department. And finally, before I move on, I need to say a little something about how we will achieve our mission. This is our general plan. I mentioned this last year and I’m here again to ask for your help in crafting a blueprint for our community’s long-term future. This year we will be kicking off our General Plan Update, which will serve as our guide towards building a Riverside that works for everyone. Scan this QR code to receive the latest updates on how to participate. This will be your opportunity to provide input and help us lay the foundation for what the city will look like in 2050. We want to hear your ideas for improvements to major areas of commerce, environment, mobility, and of course, housing. Now let’s talk about opportunity.
Riverside is one of the fastest growing cities in California and businesses are taking notice. I’m pleased to announce we’re embarking on a new economic development strategy. We kicked this year off with our first ever Summit of Excellence on January 8th, to hear from our business owners, industry experts, and residents across the region on how to build out Riverside’s economic success. Over 200 people attended, participating in breakout sessions focused on 5 sectors of our economy that are poised for growth: clean and green technology, general technology, arts and tourism, aerospace, and health care. Please stay involved as we continue this important work. We are continuing the conversation from the Summit by asking our business community. What attracted you to Riverside? Why did your business choose Riverside? The overwhelming response is our low cost of living, coupled with the lowest water rates in the state. Plus, our own public utility, which is keeping our electric rates low. I heard a story last year from a business owner who moved to Riverside who said he is saving $75,000 a month in utility costs! These are the incentives to relocate your business here to Riverside and it is working! With over 3,500 business licenses issued in the past year alone, Riverside is outperforming its peers by 75%. The number of renewed accounts has also hit an all-time high, surpassing 23,000! We all know that time is money. For Riverside that means we need your plans checked and your permits issued fast. So, this past year we’ve added 8 new staff positions, including a Plan Check Manager, who can act as a concierge to help businesses and residents move through approvals and permits with ease. Did you know that in 2023, the city processed over 6,000 building permits valued at over $335 million? That is a level of economic activity we haven’t seen since 2006. Business is booming in Riverside. And our award winning one-stop shop continues to evolve, elevate, and improve its in-person and virtual services through a “refresh” in collaboration with our business and community partners. This means faster, more transparent service to ensure businesses can open, operate, and do what they do best: grow our economy and drive dollars into our city! Riverside is a hub for emerging businesses. But don't just take my word for it - my good friend Dean, the CEO of Ohmio, is here tonight! He first connected with Riverside at the international conference Select USA 2023. Let's listen to what he has to say! Ohmio Video Interview with CEO Dean. Thank you Dean! Our city is confident that companies like yours will attract others to participate in the booming Riverside economy. Just like we understand time is money, we also understand it is continued investment that creates our future. The reality is companies, especially small and micro businesses, still feel the effects of the pandemic. So, we are putting our money where our mouth is by investing in the backbone of our community—small businesses! We’ve put our ARPA dollars to good use to help build resilience in our small businesses by launching a new small and micro business grant program, putting $6 million directly into the hands of business owners, providing opportunities for workforce training, facade improvements, equipment and system upgrades, and strategies focused on attracting new customers. In 2023, we also awarded almost $1.8 million to non-profits and faith-based organizations that were negatively impacted by the pandemic to support services, labor, supplies, and operations. Our investments also include funding for our parks as well! Over $20 million will support improvements to Bordwell Park Gymnasium and more. Such investments are critical for sustained growth—we need to provide interesting and cool experiences for our residents! Which is why I am bringing one of the very first public private partnership workshops in the nation—to Riverside! Through my participation in the US Conference of Mayors P3 Task Force, our city has been selected to partner with the Association for Improvement of American Infrastructure to sponsor the first of a series of workshops throughout the US. Next month, we’ll bring together cities and private partners to learn how to deliver impactful projects in our community. Through our advocacy efforts—Riverside is getting noticed on a national scale, and partners are bringing innovative models to develop creative experiences for our residents. Like putting the River back in Riverside. A project that is near and dear to my heart! The namesake of our beautiful city, the Santa Ana River. A couple of years back, we received $2 million in grant funds for the River Gateway project, which included improvements like trail heads and drinking fountains at Fairmont Park, Mt. Rubidoux, Ryan Bonaimio, and Martha McClain. This grant kicked off the idea for the River District. Just imagine the possibilities for the namesake of our beautiful city, the Santa Ana River. The River District envisions the Santa Ana River as a destination. We’ve kicked off a study for development in the River District, like what can we do with the Armory? We will explore opportunities for restaurants, nature-based activities, biking, and other forms of recreation and attraction. Stay tuned because more funding is on the way, as legislators have prioritized these projects in their budget requests. These investments create opportunities for development and growth that just make living in Riverside more enjoyable. In the meantime, there is plenty to see and do here in Riverside and tourism is a big part of our local economy. That’s why we are launching the Visit Riverside initiative. Visitors will discover Riversides distinctive charms and learn about places to eat, see, and explore. The webpage is coming soon but businesses, we need your help. Submit your information through VisitRiverside.com. But we can’t talk about opportunities without mentioning the biggest opportunity for residents and families looking to call Riverside home—housing opportunities! As the fastest growing region in California, we are experiencing explosive growth in housing at all levels. We have over 3,000 entitled units in the pipeline, with 680 completed this past year, and over 900 under construction, and with another 3,000 units under conceptual review. Having an adequate supply of housing, at all levels, is key to attracting and retaining employers, keeping our students, creating homes for growing families, and ensuring our seniors have security in their golden years. And making sure that talent lives, works, and plays in our city!
Riverside is fortunate to call itself a college town. We have 3 universities and one community college all within the city—that means 4 higher education institutions dedicated to training our future workforce, providing resources for research and entrepreneurship, and producing graduates that are prepared to shape and contribute to an evolving 21st century economy. In 2023, each of our collegiate institutions achieved important breakthroughs, milestones, and recognitions; demonstrating their efforts to grow, modernize, and adapt in a changing educational landscape.
Riverside Community College was recently named #1 in 2023 as the best nursing school in Inland Southern California by the Press Enterprise.
Cal Baptist University’s spring commencements came on the heels of a record year of enrollment that totaled over 11,500 students. Go Lancers!
La Sierra University saw its placement climb across three categories in the most recent U.S News & World Report for Best Colleges.
And my alma mater (Go Highlanders!), UC Riverside, climbed 13 spots in the latest US. News college rankings!
And not to mention, Cal State University San Bernardino’s incredible support of our small business and entrepreneurial community! In June of 2023, the Inland Empire Center for Entrepreneurship at Cal State San Bernardino moved its Small Business Development and Women’s Business Centers to Riverside providing vital resources to local small businesses. We have incredible talent coming out of our higher education institutions, but I am particularly proud of the talent we are cultivating through our Youth Job Corps. Last year Riverside received $4.4 million to support our young residents who would not normally have access to a job or career pathway. With the Youth Job Corp, we have been successful in mapping out a future for them. This program has been life changing for young talent like Alexandra Diaz, who shares her experience with us today. Video interview of Youth Job Corps program success story – Alexandra Diaz. Experiences like Alexandra’s and others in our program demonstrate how successful we can be when the state invests in us directly. We’ve now also secured ongoing funding from the state of $1.7 million, which will sustain this workforce pipeline for the youth in our community to develop careers like Alexandra’s. Key to ensuring that our talent stays local is connecting our students with job opportunities and internships in the city. In 2021, I launched Campus Riverside, an initiative that partners with our local businesses to help our students. If you are a business and you’d like to get involved, please contact my office.
Riverside has always been an inclusive community since our founding in 1870 by abolitionist John North. And we continue that tradition by honoring our civil rights heroes on our Main Street pedestrian mall in downtown Riverside. Last year, I announced that we applied for a $3.4 million grant for the idea of a Civil Rights Walk to better connect our statues on main street honoring heroes like Cesar Chavez, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Ghandi, and Dosan Ahn Chang Ho, along with other cultural sites such as the Cheech, and the Civil Rights Institute. And I’m excited to announce that this project is now fully funded and underway! Estimated to be completed in 2026. It will bring new pavement markings and wayfinding stations to connect 17 points of historic interests over 3.4 miles, making it easier and safer for pedestrians to travel along the route. Also in this last year, the City of Riverside and the Dosan Memorial Foundation signed an agreement to explore development of a Korean Cultural Center in honor of our connection with South Korea and its founder of Democracy, Dosan Ahn Chang Ho. We are proud to celebrate our civil rights icons and heroes in Riverside, and I am grateful for the leadership of the Dosan Foundation President, David Kwak and Vice President, Connie Paik, for stepping up to lead the charge on this important project. Riverside is also a leader in inclusive business practices, last year we secured fourth place nationally in Lending Tree's list of cities where minority entrepreneurs are thriving. Over 50% of Riverside businesses are minority-owned—that’s a remarkable 170% more than the national average. Now that’s something to be proud of! Now, let’s talk about the things that continue to lift Riverside up, and continue to make us optimistic about our future!
I am particularly proud of our successful advocacy efforts that have secured millions in state and federal funding for infrastructure and capital improvement projects. Across the city, we are repaving our roads, initiating projects that will create more walkable neighborhoods and addressing traffic bottlenecks caused by train crossings. We’ve invested in our parks—a record $23 million to spruce up our playgrounds, bathrooms, and one of my favorites, bringing Fairmount Park back to its former glory. But nothing instills optimism like feeling good about your community and your surroundings, which is why last year I launched Beautify Riverside initiative, a privately funded program to reinstate civic pride through murals, clean ups, and celebrations. We raised over $80,000 in private donations, held 14 community clean-ups, and employed LOCAL artists to create 16 murals. Thank you ALL for helping make this initiative a success.
And another perennial crowd pleaser, the Festival of Lights saw a return to record levels of attendance with 65,000 people attending the switch-on ceremony and 700,000 people enjoyed the festival over the holidays! I am thrilled to announce the total economic impact for the Festival of Lights in 2023 was $154 million, up 20% from the last study in 2017. We will have a full report available soon with more information on what that impact entails!
Ok, now I want to talk about infrastructure. It seems to have been the word of the year for 2023, but what does that mean? Infrastructure is the glue that connects our neighborhoods and provides accessible routes to parks for our children. It moves our water and sewer. Infrastructure is the foundation of our historic streets that runners, walkers, drivers, and cyclists use daily. We have been hard at work bringing more resources for key projects such as the much-anticipated 3rd Street Grade Separation, so you don’t have to wait for trains anymore! And the Adams State Route 91 freeway project, which will improve traffic flow and accessibility for major access points in our city.
In 2024, we are kicking off several projects like the much anticipated Van Buren Sewer Project and a Citywide “safe routes to school” for all elementary and middle schools in Riverside. Our roads in Riverside will soon be smoother and easier to drive on. With one of the largest infrastructure investments in Riverside’s history, we will be improving key travel corridors and streets such as La Sierra, California, Martin Luther King, Indiana, Jurupa, Chadbourne, Rutland, and the list goes on! In 2024, we are not slowing down. We have over 51 miles of road repaving and repairs underway! You can find out when your street is scheduled to be repaved through our interactive portal that shows our public works schedule throughout the city. Just click on a street to see when it will get its glow up! Every day, every, every, day, I fight to make sure Riverside has a seat at the table—that we are getting noticed—and that we are getting our fair share of funding as that has not always been the case. I worked collaboratively with my colleagues on city council, our city leadership as well as regional, state, and federal partners to secure over $300 million for our city since I took office! And this year alone, we’ve seen an over 60% increase in grant funding with over 50 grants received. This includes: $35 million for housing and homelessness efforts, $14.7 million for our libraries, $41.2 million for our parks, and $105 million for public works and infrastructure. These historic figures are just another reason that point to Riverside’s time being now!
Riverside is being increasingly recognized for our exceptional planning and growth. Our River District and efforts to restore the river have been highlighted statewide, underscoring our commitment to sustainability. UCR has also made headlines with its groundbreaking OASIS center. The Opportunity to Advance Sustainability Innovation and Social Inclusion (OASIS) is a public-private partnership led by UCR to drive regional economic development through applied research, innovation, entrepreneurship, and workforce development. OASIS secured $65 million in funding toward building a clean tech park which will transform our region, making us THE global leader in sustainability. The Cheech Museum saw its first anniversary in 2023 and exceeded expectations. Over 110,000 people visited the Cheech in its first year, generating over $200,000 in revenue back to the city. This amazing partnership continues receiving accolades and awards across the state and nation. Like the Helen Putnam Award for economic development in the arts from the League of California Cities. And the National Medal for Museum and Library Science – one of the highest recognitions in the field, awarded to the Riverside Art Museum at the White House this last July. We have many to thank for these astounding achievements, but none more than someone whose legacy will be remembered forever, Ofelia Valdez Yeager. Please join me now as we thank her family who are here tonight. Ofelia was a champion of Riverside, a do-er, but most important a friend. Ofe, we will miss you. A recent study by Americans for the Arts for the City of Riverside found that a community with vibrant arts and culture drives the local economy, improves the quality of life for its residents, strengthens attraction for business, and improves visitor draw. When people spend time in Riverside enjoying the arts, they spend an average of $41 not including ticket prices—up 68% since 2015! Events such as Dia de los Muertos, that just celebrated its 20th year, the Lunar Festival coming up this weekend, and a return of a Citrus Festival in partnership with the Friends of California Citrus Park, and many other festivals and celebrations, which validates what we already know: Riverside IS the city of arts and innovation! Leading at all levels. Riverside is not just on the move, it's the city to watch out for!
As I’ve shared with you tonight, Riverside is a city in MOTION. We’re constantly on the move, pushing, fighting, striving for excellence. Over the course of this next year, my challenge to you is this—let’s tell our Riverside story. Together, let’s ask ourselves: what is it that makes Riverside important? Valuable? And a worthwhile place to live? Let’s ask ourselves—what kind of Riverside do we want to build together? Join me as I share stories monthly on social media and recognize the people, places, businesses, and organizations that positively impact our community.
Use #MyRiverside and follow me @MayorLockDawson to join the movement! I have never been more confident in the state of our city than NOW, but also the city that lies ahead, the Riverside of the future. A place for which I am proud…proud of our ability and determination to lead and to move forward despite our differences and the gravity of challenges we face. Proud that we are a big city now, leading our region and our state in so many ways showing the world how it’s done, the Riverside way. Proud to celebrate what is happening throughout our city and invite others to join us in this movement. Each of us has a story to tell about what makes Riverside unique and why we love it!
My Riverside—is a place where my children can live, work, play, and comfortably raise their families.
My Riverside—is a place where we believe in where we are going and honor our yesterdays.
My Riverside—is a place where I feel safe and at ease and hopeful for the future.
My Riverside is a city in motion! WE are all Riverside! And we are just getting started.
January 26, 2023 | State of the City Script
Good evening, Riverside! Thank you for joining me at this year’s State of the City Address! Finally live! And in person! We’re back baby!
To our City Councilmembers: Erin Edwards, Clarissa Cervantes, Ronaldo Fierro, Chuck Conder, Gaby Plascencia, Jim Perry and Steve Hemenway. Thank you for your commitment and service to Riverside.
And a heartfelt thank you to the best Chamber in California! Thank you to the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce for hosting this event each year and in particular, President & CEO Nick Adcock.
A welcome aboard and thank you to our new City Manager Mike Futrell who joined us a few weeks ago. Thank you for choosing Riverside, Mike. I am looking forward to what we can do, working together for Riverside.
And most important, I’d like to thank each of you— residents, businesses, educational institutions, non-profit organizations, and our community partners—thank you! Thank you, for allowing me the honor and privilege of serving my hometown as the 18th Mayor of Riverside.
The last state of the city looked a little different than what I’d hoped.
And no doubt, we’ve faced challenges, but I am happy and confident to stand here tonight and say the State of our City is spectacular. We are positioned for investment, opportunity, and prosperity.
Riversiders. We are resilient. ready for action. and committed to designing a better tomorrow. Our theme, Riverside by Design, draws on the basic definition of design which all of you can see on the screen: “to create, fashion, execute, or construct according to plan.”
Ladies and gentlemen, we are going to design a Riverside that works for ALL OF US. Plans and designs require timelines, so I thought it best to tell you the story of our work, through a timeline. Let’s kick things off with some important dates and milestones.
December 2020 Well, we all remember 2020. I was fortunate enough to inherit an exceptionally easy first year as mayor. Yeah…not so much.
But that never slowed us down.
In July 2021: We launched the Mayor’s Big Tent Tour in La Sierra to engage residents in places most comfortable and convenient for them. These 14 listening sessions in our major neighborhoods were designed to empower residents to identify what is working in the city – and what isn’t.
In October 2021: We launched the Mayor’s Bipartisan Forum. The Forum comprises 14 community members with very different political ideologies but they’ve come together to tackle intractable problems. The Forum was instrumental in supporting legislation to modernize the state’s approaches to mental healthcare.
In January 2022: We received $4.4 Million dollars to launch our youth job corps program
In January 2022: We received $4.4 Million dollars to launch our youth job corps program
In May 2022: We raised $200,000 in private donations to redesign our Military Wall of Honor and Veterans Plaza. Thank you all for your support. And thank you to all who serve in our military.
And in June of 2022 who can forget we opened the CHEECH!
Later in June 2022: We secured historic levels of state funding for projects in our city. This major win for all Riversiders included funding for:
- • The historic Trujillo Adobe
- • Cesar Chavez Community Center
- • California Citrus State Historic Park
- • UC Riverside Campus improvements, and
- • California School for the Deaf, Riverside sports complex
In August 2022: Our office launched the Campus Riverside initiative to bring a greater awareness of local job opportunities and professional networks to our college students and graduates.
Later in August 2022: I launched an initiative called Beautify Riverside to lead community service projects and install public art—and all privately funded. We are proud of the nine community cleanups and twelve murals produced by Beautify Riverside.
In September 2022: I joined my fellow Big City Mayors and the Governor in San Jose for the historic signing of CARE Court. Which ushered in a new tool to treat severe mental illness. This is the first significant change in our State’s mental health laws since 1967.
In October 2022, we welcomed the Mission Heritage Plaza, which boasts affordable housing, with allocated housing for veterans, and the Civil Rights Institute of Inland Southern California.
In November 2022: Riverside became the first city to partner with DoorDash to launch Project Dash, delivering food to people who are experiencing food insecurity. Since Project Dash’s launch, our partner food pantries have provided 7,000 meals to people in need.
In December 2022: The Mark had its grand opening in downtown at the historic corner of Market Street and Mission Inn Avenue.
Riverside continues to rise as the 12th largest city in California and the number one destination in the country for new residents in the last two years. That’s not the only recognition we’ve earned:
- Riverside is the #1 city in North America with the Greenest Fleet of city vehicles.
- Fourth in the nation for using technology to improve delivery of city services.
- We are in the top 5% of safest metropolitan areas in the country!
- And we’ve installed more public art across our city this year than ever before.
Now we’ve done a lot over the past two years, and I am extremely proud of all that work. My office and our city staff have been diligent and attentive to the needs of all Riversiders.
And we are determined to deliver results, alongside my colleagues on city council. While we continue to confront the challenges of this year, we should always be thinking – and designing – for tomorrow.
And so, we must focus on the priorities that are the cornerstone of every successful city:
Economic Development, Community Well-being, Education, Finances, and People.
Let me start off with one of the highest priorities of my office and the city—economic development.
You’ll see a wonky definition of economic development on the screen but let me cut to the chase, the key word is intentional--we must be intentional in our actions to attract, grow, and keep business in Riverside and we are doing just that.
By having a stronger voice in regional and national issues. My recent appointment as Vice Chair of the Community and Economic Development Committee at the National League of Cities will give us access at the federal level to bring much needed dollars to Riverside, as well as my appointment to the Southern California Association of Governments Community, Economic and Human Development Committee which positions Riverside at the table for regional resources.
We’ve also launched our “Coffee Chats with the Mayor” series focuses on the needs of our small business community. We will be at local coffee shops in each of our 7 wards where we will have an opportunity to listen, learn and share what is and is not working for businesses in the city.
And-good news for our business community
We are also ramping up with key hires— from a new City Manager Mike Futrell, new Community and Economic Development Director Jennifer Lilley to a new Economic Development Manager Jorge Barrera, and other important hires.
We continue to welcome new businesses. In this last year alone, we issued nearly 23,000 business licenses. Even with these successes we know we must continue to make Riverside an easier place to invest and do business.
This year the city will embark on a Comprehensive General Plan Update, which happens only once every 25 years. This will be the City’s strategic, long-range plan to guide growth to the year 2050. Most important, this will be your chance to weigh in on how we design Riverside’s future.
Of course, we aren’t the city of arts and innovation for nothing. Innovative entrepreneurs are choosing Riverside like:
- Starnav, a company focused on radio positioning technology,
- Photio, a one of kind paint additive that mimics photosynthesis,
- Deepbits, a different type of cybersecurity software,
- LV5A, a self-driving smart city hardware in the innovation district,
- And finally, The Tech STEAM Innovation Center, They all chose Riverside!
Community well-being in any city requires investments in public safety. I cannot stress this enough. Ensuring, our residents, businesses, and families are safe is my highest priority, which is why the city continues to fully support, fund and invest in our Riverside Police Department. Recent tragic events in Riverside County have served as bitter reminders of how our sense of security can be shattered in an instant. I thank our Police and Fire departments, as well as all first responders, for the sacrifices they make each day to keep us healthy and safe.
Now another foundational element to every successful city is robust infrastructure.
During my tenure as mayor, we’ve allocated more dollars for infrastructure projects than in the last 15 years. In 2022, nearly 25 miles of roads were repaved, nearly 160,000 square feet of new sidewalks installed, 127,000 square feet of potholes repaired, over 18,000 street trees trimmed with a doubling of our monetary investment in tree maintenance. And Riverside Public Utilities led a citywide street light replacement program that upgraded all overhead streetlights to LED illumination.
As for 2023, well, we are not slowing down! Major sewer replacement projects are taking place in the western and central portions of our city, along with a slew of road repaving projects. A few of the arterial roads being repaved are Martin Luther King, Van Buren, California, Jurupa, Olivewood, and La Sierra along with numerous collector roads in residential areas.
And let me stop here and say that it is not lost on me that all this great work would not be possible without the approval of Measure Z. Thank you to Riverside voters for saying yes to investing in our quality of life.
Beyond traditional infrastructure, we are making Riverside a modern, digital city of the 21st century. A $300 million private investment from the company SiFi will deploy nine-million feet, or almost 2,000 miles, of high-speed fiber internet citywide. This will bring broadband to every doorstep in our city—bridging the digital divide, dramatically increasing internet speeds in neighborhoods and for businesses. Just another way we are designing a city of arts and innovation!
Shifting to education. We are fortunate to have great educational institutions in our city.
Designing a sustainable future means Riverside must foster an environment that builds – and continues – close partnerships with our universities and invests in the long-term development of our students.
We can already see returns on the investments from each of our four higher-ed institutions. All of them are elevating the impressive workforce pipeline here in Riverside. By offering quality trade programs, providing vital business resources, tapping into our agricultural heritage with startup incubators, and innovating with renowned research operations. Our college institutions are preparing students for real-world experiences by providing employers with endless talent.
RCC, for instance, is making strides with their automotive trade program. Students work with potential employers such as Ford and Land Rover to learn automotive trade skills.
At CBU, the Jabs School of Business successfully launched the Family Business Center in partnership with the Office of Economic Development. Small businesses are the lifeblood of any city – but especially ours where we have a huge amount of family owned businesses.
La Sierra University is supporting student entrepreneurship through their partnership with Enactus, an international non-profit organization that empowers young entrepreneurs.
And over at UCR, the School of Medicine is adding another building – on an already expanding campus – expected to be completed this summer. This new facility will house classrooms and lecture halls to support the academic research essential for maintaining a healthy economy and robust public health system.
Tying all of this together:
Our Campus Riverside initiative enables students to be competent workers and experts in their fields. Campus Riverside provides a one-stop-shop for all things needed to incentivize recent and upcoming graduates to stay local by planting roots in the city where they received their education.
None of this would be possible if our city was not financially stable.
Stable finances are a critical component to running a city and with the unpredictability of the past few years, it’s been a challenging journey, but with the fiscal resolve of our city and of course the wise decision made by our residents in approving Measure Z, I am happy to say we are in a healthy financial position!
General sales tax revenues have increased by over 30% since 2019, exceeding revised estimates made earlier this year. Sales tax revenues for Measure Z funding have also increased by nearly 34% since 2019.
And for the first time, the City has funded a $20 million infrastructure reserve account to address unfunded critical infrastructure needs throughout the City.
But what does all this mean? Well, the city was operating in a reactive state due to strained financial resources.
But now, the city is operating in a proactive fashion, a pragmatic approach that allows us to live within our means while maintaining city services and proactively plan and design for the future of Riverside.
Pivoting to a different, but equally important source of capital— social capital, our people.
We often say we are a big city with a small town feel and that is due to our community.
We are a diverse city of faith-based organizations, businesses, non-profits and government. We are a city of families, college students, and retirees. We are a city of natives and transplants.
And yet, we still manage to get along and make great things happen.
Riverside has often been on its own, not receiving the recognition and resource commensurate with our size and significance. Because of that we’ve become incredibly self-sufficient and effective in our ability to solve our own problems.
When we have a problem here, we roll up our sleeves, enlist others in the community to help, figure out what needs to be done and we do it!
Organizations like the Latino Network, NAACP, Love Riverside, Sandals Church, the Raincross Group, the Riverside Arts Academy, Rivers and Lands Conservancy and many more work together, sharing priorities and resources.
Here’s a good example. In last year’s address I proposed a Civil Rights Walk to link the six memorials along the Main Street Pedestrian Mall that tell local and international stories of struggle and perseverance—the first of its kind. Each one of those statues started with a community group that worked together to raise funds and realize a vision.
A landmark Civil Rights Walk is now closer than ever to becoming a reality. The Riverside County Transportation Commission has recommended $2.6 million in grant funding to better connect these statues—and numerous other cultural sites—with a linked 1.8-mile pathway and unifying signage, to better tell our story and draw visitors to other experiences in our downtown, such as The Cheech, the Mission Inn, and the Civil Rights Institute—all part of the rich cultural experiences we offer the world.
And our people are making all of this happen—truly, the most valuable asset we have.
We cherish that small town feel even though we are larger than 99% of cities in the United States. We have a healthy business community, a growing college-aged population, and exciting new developments. But I didn’t run to be the Mayor of Riverside to just be good, I ran because I believed Riverside should expect excellence.
My good friend, Rose Mayes, recently reminded me that Riverside is doing good, but it is time for Riverside to be great.
So, let’s propel Riverside to greatness.
We no longer are just a “city close to everything.” We are the city with everything! Where everyone has what they need to be happy, to be safe, to do business, be financially secure, and to be hopeful about the future. But what does it take to go from good to great?
Well, like all things in life, it won’t be easy, but it is worth doing. Because Riverside is ready. It takes— disciplined people, disciplined thought, and disciplined action.
Let me start with, Disciplined People:
I call on our next level of leaders to step up and begin their service to Riverside by joining a board or commission. We need you to participate!
There is hard work ahead, but I believe in this City—this Riverside we all call home, and I know we are up to the challenge.
And while we are well on our way to building a team of disciplined people, we must deploy disciplined thought in our approach.
We do this by confronting the brutal facts. In our Quality-of-Life Survey, 88% of respondents called homelessness the number one challenge facing the city. I heard it throughout our big tent tour, I hear it from business community, I hear it from our residents. Yes, it is a national and statewide crisis that has been decades in the making, We are responsible for what happens here in Riverside.
This issue did not become a crisis overnight. So solutions must also come in increments as we work to correct 40-years of poor policies and social issues. We will continue to balance the need for increased public safety with the need for services. Yes, we all have rights, but we all have responsibilities, too. Our approach must continue to reflect both these realities.
We have a clear strategy to address homelessness based on data. We’ve employed a plan to address all facets of this complicated issue as directed by our residents. Such as in our Parks and Neighborhoods.
City parks are where our residents go to relax; where kids go to play. To ensure they can be enjoyed, we have invested in new parks and neighborhood specialists, who will oversee our 58 parks, spanning nearly 3,000 acres.
Our commitment to public safety has not wavered. In early 2019 we allocated $3 million dollars in Measure Z money to create the Public Safety and Engagement Team, known as PSET. This multi-disciplinary team has been incredibly effective in maintaining safety and cleanliness in our public places while offering services to those who need it. Over this last fiscal year, they have responded to nearly 5,000 locations in our city. This has led to multiple contacts with homeless encampments, resulting in 800 individuals accepting services, over 400 arrests, and incredibly almost 350 TONS of trash removed.
The City now welcomes a new Public Safety Engagement Team dedicated to the protection of our wildland spaces such as the Santa Ana River Bottom, Hole Lake, and Sycamore Canyon.
Fire risk in our wildlands has dramatically increased due to a number of factors including dry conditions and homeless encampments. This is unacceptable. And I reject the notion that it is inhumane to enforce laws to prevent these kinds of encampments. The reality is: it is inhumane to allow people to languish in conditions unfit for any human.
PSET will enforce the laws to protect the lives and safety of not only those who live in these spaces, but also the residents and businesses nearby.
Locally, we created a “Homeless Action Plan”, which identifies specific goals for housing, services, emergency shelter, and regional coordination. And just last week, I heard it was one of the best of the nation. The Homeless Action Plan makes one point clear: we will no longer invest in the status quo.
We signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the County to coordinate our efforts in the Santa Ana River bottom and increase security at facilities like County Emergency Treatment Services. And the City Council just approved “Project Connect” to connect those leaving the county jail with services by increasing coordination between the Sheriff and our nonprofit partner Victory Outreach.
Statewide, we were instrumental in the passage of CARE Court which updates our state’s mental health laws. With this piece of legislation, family members and care providers will be empowered to help individuals suffering from acute mental health challenges to finally get the care they need. And Riverside County will be among the first counties in the state to begin implementing CARE Court by the fall of this year.
These actions position us to address homelessness in new and significant ways in the coming year, but we cannot take our foot off the gas. We will do better, because the next generation of Riversiders is depending on us.
Now, the best way to address homelessness is to prevent it in the first place. Did you know foster youth and aged- out foster youth are particularly at risk of experiencing homelessness? More than one in four of the nation's youth and young adults who have no home reside in California, and 78% of those young people are unsheltered with little or no access to the services to make a permanent transition off the streets, out of poverty, and into a stable livelihood.
Since 2018, the number of our youth experiencing homelessness in Riverside has steadily increased. This, too is unacceptable. No young person should have to worry about shelter or sleep on the streets when they should be attending school or becoming a member of our workforce.
Our community is providing more affordable housing, such as the Aspire housing development which is exclusively for housing aged-out foster youth. Our newly launched Youth Job Corps enables us to construct a pipeline to self-sufficiency for disadvantaged youth who need a job and lack the resources to secure one. Youth homelessness is solvable in Riverside, and we will seize this moment to confront this crisis head on.
This is why tonight I am officially launching the Mayor’s Challenge to End Youth Homelessness here in the City of Riverside. Partnering with the County and School Districts, we have a plan to meet our goal of ending Youth Homelessness. Now I know what you are thinking, is this goal achievable?
The short answer is YES! We did it for our homeless veterans. Now we can do it for our youth.
Now let’s talk about the last element—Disciplined Action. We need disciplined action to move the city forward. We need to be proactive and intentional in our approach.
We must be laser-focused on job growth and economic development.
We must make sure everyone understands Riverside is open for business.
We must leverage our existing relationships with companies to maintain and grow a presence here.
We must focus on small businesses. We must attract capital investment and connect start- ups with financing.
WE must encourage investment in our city and market the effort nationally and internationally.
We must ensure our city is beautiful, clean, and welcoming with high quality entertainment and recreational opportunities—these things matter.
Having owned a small business for 20 years, I’ve had my fair share of challenges. I know many of you navigate the pressing challenges of owning a business. But let me be clear, as long as I am your mayor, you have someone fighting to ensure you have the resources to overcome those challenges and succeed in this City. As your Mayor, I’m putting my experience into action.
These three pillars of disciplined people, disciplined thought and disciplined action are what we need to move Riverside forward – together towards greatness.
And I know it may be difficult to imagine how we are going to achieve all of this. But here’s the difference, we’re not just envisioning a future, we are going to DESIGN IT by taking actionable steps to deliver a Better Riverside.
Now, in front of you on your tables is a program, and on the back of that program is a QR code. Scan the QR code. It leads you to a page where you can enter your information to learn how you can take action. Tomorrow, I will send you an email listing the ways you can help determine how our future is designed for Riverside, by Riverside.
But, before we leave tonight, reflect on why we’re here. We are here because we have a common desire to see the city we love continue to be a shining beacon of excellence.
I was born and raised in this city, I met my husband and later had three beautiful children—I never dreamed I would become the Mayor of my hometown, but every day I work towards creating a better Riverside that will be left behind for all our children. And I know many of you share that sentiment. But now, it is within our power to design a city we, and the next generation of Riversiders, can be proud of.
You’ve heard it many times before: Riverside is unique. But that didn’t just happen randomly, it was by design. You see—
We are a city that rejects the partisan politics that divides us and cripples progress. We are a city that values our businesses and furthers the arts.
We are a city that is hopeful about the future but cherishes our past. While we are a Riverside intentionally planned for innovation.
We are also a Riverside thoughtfully steeped in tradition. Because in the end, we are all working toward a common goal. A Riverside DESIGNED for ALL OF US.
WE ARE RIVERSIDE!
Patricia Lock Dawson was elected the 18th Mayor of Riverside in November 2020, following nine years of service on the Riverside Unified School District Board of Trustees. Her election makes history as she is the first University of California, Riverside alumnus to hold Riverside’s mayoral position and the second woman elected Mayor in Riverside’s 150-year history. Read more
About the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce
The Chamber is committed to helping local companies grow their business by taking the lead in programs and efforts that help create a strong local economy and make our community a great place to do business. The Chamber provides numerous opportunities for members to increase their contact base and have fun doing it through various meetings, networking events and committees. In addition, the Chamber makes hundreds of referrals to member companies every month.
As the leading advocate for business in the greater Riverside area, the Chamber also works to create and sustain a favorable business environment in which all businesses can grow and prosper. Read more