WALNUT CREEK -- The City Council continued its journey toward securing financial sustainability and clarifying the city's mission in the coming years while looking at the city's existing services through a different lens.

Council members, city personnel and a handful of citizens held an all-day workshop Friday where they were urged to take a consensus-based approach on how to best serve the city's residents. The workshop was part of the two-year City of Walnut Creek Work Program, approved by the council in October.

Workshop facilitator Stacey McLaughlin told council members, "This requires intentional leadership given the scope of making some hard decisions."

At Friday's workshop, council members instructed city staff to delve more deeply into exploring a wide range of options for administering 12 of the city's 27 existing service categories. These include technology, asset management, performing and visual arts, aquatics and other recreation programs, parks and open space, library services and senior support.

"We built a consensus that's given us a path for our next work," said Assistant City Manager Lori Tinfow. "This was a critical first step."

No specific actions were taken at this workshop.

City Manager Ken Nordhoff noted that, since 1992, the city has lost an estimated $39 million in revenue due to state-mandated money diversion, including the recent dissolution of city redevelopment agencies. Further constraints have come from nonfunded requirements, including Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and regulations governing solid waste or clean water and air quality.

Tinfow said the work program follows two budget cycles characterized by major reductions.

"We've made substantive changes in how we're spending the money," she said.

The council also got a history lesson, courtesy of Nordhoff. The city's configuration and corresponding infrastructure started in 1872 with Homer Shuey's initial subdivisions of what would become Walnut Creek, Nordhoff said, with electricity turned on in 1910, predating the incorporation in 1914, with a population of 450.

The city's naysayers tried unsuccessfully three times to disincorporate early on, he said.

The 1920s was a period of more growth of the city's infrastructure and requisite, voter-approved bonds. The 1960s experienced another boom, Nordhoff told the council, with the addition of such amenities as the Lindsay Wildlife Museum, Heather Farm, the library and John Muir Medical Center.

Another significant date, reflective of the city's ongoing commitment, came in 1974 with its voter-approved, $6.75 million allotment for acquisition of open space.

Meanwhile, the future of the city that is mostly built out will include "up-not-out development" and a 2025 General Plan serving as a guidepost juxtaposed with an inherent "period of ambiguity over what's to come," Nordhoff added.

The city's population now stands at somewhat more than 65,000.

As for Friday's session, "It was very productive," said newly elected Councilman Justin Wedel. "These strategy-based discussions are sometimes frustrating, but in the end we came together as a team."

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