Thousand Oaks Mayor: city is bouncing back
By Madeleine Benn
The City of Thousand Oaks had a banner year, according to Mayor Bob Engler.
In a state of the city address Dec. 13. he spoke effusively of the ways he said Thousand Oaks has been bouncing back from COVID-19.
Engler commended the way the community was able to pull together throughout the pandemic but was also happy to see all the guests in one place once again.
A highlight of his address was when he pointed out that with the help of Athens Services, a waste collection and recycling company, Thousand Oaks has become one of the first cities in the state to meet the goals of Senate Bill 1383, a new law with regulations for organic waste reduction through techniques such as composting.
He then focused on the water conservation efforts of the city.
“As a city, we took aggressive action immediately to reduce our water usage by over 50%. We stopped watering our ornamental lawns out in front of City Hall, we updated our sprinkler heads to be low flow and focused on our most valuable landscape asset, our trees, by reducing water to our non-native plants,” said Engler. He continued, “We are dedicated to caring for our urban forest.”
Other issues Engler spoke on included affordable housing, shelter, and access to services.
“This year we made incredible strides to provide opportunities for those who needed the most. Our team worked tirelessly to complete the rigorous task of applying for Project Homekey funding. After months of review and feedback, the city secured $27 million to invest in the city’s first permanent supportive housing facility,” said Engler. He added, “The funding allowed for the acquisition of the former Quality Inn, which is currently under renovation to become 77 units of permanent supportive housing for people who would otherwise not be able to maintain a house over their head.”
The conference then played a small clip of the groundbreaking ceremony for that project. In the video, Engler states, “Securing that $27 million in Homekey funding to address homelessness in our community was a very significant event for our community… This project will help people begin again and provide significant support for whatever needs to build their confidence, give them stability and create a path for them to move forward.”
The project was seen as a marriage of private sector funding to what is usually a public sector problem.
Engler then went over more playful peaks of the last year, including the Rams Super Bowl win and the homecoming of Angel City, the first professional women’s soccer team in the area. Cal Lutheran University hosted Angel City at their start.
Additionally, Engler noted that in 2022, the public works department improved infrastructure, such as 55 miles of roadway paving, updated 16 miles of bike lanes, and increased overall safety by adding curb ramps and new crosswalks as well as upgrading old crosswalks.
Thousand Oaks continued their efforts to improve access to renewable resources and reduce their carbon footprint.
“Should we ever get another power safety shut off and be off the grid, the municipal service center now features three solar canopies that provide shade to our buses and other vehicles, and also generates the power needed to power these devices as we go forward and buy new EV buses,” the mayor said. He then continued, saying, “Expect those things to start rolling out in 2023, look for new quiet EV buses coming out soon.”
He commended the reopening of Thousand Oaks’ theaters.
“Our theaters, after two years of COVID, had a banner year with the difficult closures and limited access. Our Arts and Culture team is working full speed now,” said Engler. He cited the following statistics, “This year, the theaters distributed more than 106,000 tickets, welcomed 95,000 people through their doors and hosted 163 performances. The theaters were in use 247 days this year, featuring different activities from film and television production to rehearsals and performances.”
Some of those events included the fifth annual pop-up arts and music festival and the TOArts After Dark performances at the Stagecoach Inn.
The Thousand Oaks library system celebrated their fortieth anniversary with ‘80s themed events such as movie marathons and an impressive replica of an old tilt arcade in the community room.
“This year the library circulated 850,000 materials, saw nearly half a million visitors and continues to add special items to their circulation, including video games,” said Engler. He added, “They’ve kept a keen focus on digital materials as well as in person and virtual classes.”