As the most recently incorporated city in California’s Contra Costa County, Oakley is well positioned to welcome a range of businesses and industries. Oakley has been steadily growing since its incorporation on July 1, 1999, and it has emerged as a tremendous location for not only established and emerging companies but also a community with reasonable home prices, excellent schools, parks and trails, restaurants and entertainment. These and other lifestyle amenities are rapidly making Oakley a great place to work, play and live.
Oakley is within San Francisco’s nine-county Bay Area but has advantages that make it stand out. The city has a wide range of housing choices, and homes here are generally priced between $200,000 and $300,000 less than comparable homes in areas just half an hour away to the east.
“Many people are coming out to Oakley because it is more affordable than other parts of the Bay Area,” says Economic Development Manager Dwayne Dalman, who says Oakley has a great deal to offer.
The name Oakley is derived from a combination of ‘oak,’ for the area’s many oak trees, and ‘lea,’ an Old English word for meadow. With the California Delta in its backyard, Oakley boasts much of the natural splendor and many of the business and lifestyle amenities to be found in larger cities but is considerably more affordable.
Although it has a less hectic lifestyle when compared to locales just an hour’s drive distant, Oakley is readily accessible via major roadways, rail and water, making it easy and convenient to move goods and people across California and the nation.
The city maintains a balance between commerce and lifestyle that is different from other metropolitans in the Bay Area. It has maintained a desirable small-town charm while being a hub for economic development and growth that attracts businesses to the area. Its current population of 41,199 is large enough to meet the needs of companies coming to the city, but still small enough to keep its atmosphere of warmth and hospitality. It is all summed up by Oakley’s slogan: ‘Big Time Opportunities…Small Town Feel.’
Oakley cannot be surpassed when it comes to outdoor activities for those seeking a more relaxed way of life for themselves and their families next to the San Joaquin Delta. The area, which stretches from the San Francisco bay all the way up to Sacramento, is very popular with boaters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts.
“If you’re a retailer, then you’ve got real estate people looking at all the numbers, but if you’re the CEO or part of a relocation team, then you are also looking at homes, schools, and community activities where your employees are going to live,” states Dalman.
Both the public and the private sector have been involved in the revitalization of Main Street and the downtown corridor. Oakley is striving for a vibrant, thriving downtown with plenty of pedestrian-friendly and readily accessible restaurants, entertainment venues, and shops. A $5.3 million streetscape improvement project is already underway, and will result in a downtown that has wider streets, new medians and sidewalks, trees and landscaping by this fall.
“The City is taking the lead on the public side; we are putting our investment in. And then on the private side, there are new projects in the works, including a 40,000-square-foot, mixed-use project on the east end of the downtown,” says Dalman. Work on this two-phase project will coincide with the completion of the streetscape project. The mixed-use space will have retail space on the ground floor and office space on the second floor.
The city understands and appreciates the needs of businesses and residents, and its goals for the community include making it more desirable for companies to locate downtown. Existing businesses that have already invested in the downtown include Guanatos Ice Cream, Ace Hardware, Black Bear Diner, Grocery Outlet and Mr. Pickles Sandwich. A new Italian restaurant, Buon Appetito is scheduled to open in June.
“People like the ability to go to a place and have entertainment, events, and dining, all in the same location,” comments Dalman of the downtown revitalization, which included an expansion of the Civic Center Plaza Park, right next to Oakley’s City Hall. The Civic Center expansion created a veterans’ memorial and a new outdoor amphitheater in the park, which is being used for concerts and movies.
As part of its multi-pronged, strategic approach to development and growth, Oakley is not just creating ways of getting people downtown and experiencing shops and restaurants and entertainment spots, but supporting quality residential construction. These include developments by respected builders like Brookfield Homes, DeNova, Claremont, Richmond American, Kiper and Seeno Homes. Over 450 new homes were built in Oakley in 2016, and over 200 homes are anticipated to be built in 2017.
Unlike some communities that have available land but do not want to grow it, the City of Oakley welcomes new companies to the area with a forward-thinking attitude that is beneficial to businesses, residents and the overall economy. The support from the City Council and the community foster a strong, pro-development environment.
Oakley has prepared an economic development work plan “to promote new opportunities for growth and development in the community while maintaining the small town character that residents enjoy,” according to the city. Among the objectives to foster growth, the work plan includes: comprehensive marketing of the city; attracting new business opportunities to the area; providing the necessary resources for investment and success; establishment of a downtown revitalization loan program; and the retention and expansion of existing businesses.
The area has plenty of room to expand with over eight hundred acres of commercially zoned land available. About 150 acres of this is a former manufacturing plant that is currently undergoing environmental cleanup so it can be repurposed into an office and industrial park. While still at the zoning stage, the project underscores Oakley’s commitment to development.
The city has implemented a streamlined permitting process, so fewer steps are required for approval compared to other cities. It has also reduced commercial impact fees, making it easier for commercial projects to pencil out. “We have a much quicker timeframe for getting projects approved in Oakley and shovels in the ground,” says Dalman. “On the residential side, we are still building a lot of houses out here, and the new homes help fuel the commercial growth.”
There is strong support from the community as residents eagerly welcome the arrival of goods and services they do not currently have.
Oakley’s current economy is primarily service and retail-based. There is a challenge of bringing more high-paying jobs to the area, so the city is targeting more office users, medical offices and light industrial/technology manufacturing. The aim is to provide more location opportunities for these types of companies to locate in Oakley, with workers residing in the community and not having to commute.
“One of the things we push is that there is opportunity for growth and development here in Oakley, but we also want to maintain that small-town type of character,” comments Dalman. “We are promoting the fact that people are already coming to Oakley to live here and enjoy the amenities that we have, and one of the amenities that we have is that small-town character. As we grow, we want to keep that feeling. We still have the old-fashioned parade down Main Street, and I think people like that aspect of it, but we still want to be able to offer them more goods and services. So as our community grows –more homes and more development – we still want Oakley to be the place that has that small-town charm.”