Brentwood City Manager, Tim Ogden, began his role in February 2020. Just six weeks later, COVID-19 created unprecedented challenges, as city funding, business restrictions, and economic uncertainty weighed on his mind. Yet, when he evaluated the current state of the city, he saw potential for smarter growth and continued success.
During past decades, economic development in America was focused on urban centers. Resources poured into high-density housing with shared, common space amenities. Communal living with walkable access to open floorplan workspaces were important trends. COVID-19 flipped this narrative. Suddenly, people were forced to shelter inside small apartments, gathering spaces were closed, and the idea of big city living became significantly less desirable (or even necessary). Americans wanted more space, fresh air, and distance.
Suburbs and outlying communities have been the biggest beneficiaries of this shift.
“This is a pivotal moment in time for Brentwood, and as I look ahead, I see opportunity.”
Walnut Creek, San Ramon, Dublin, and Livermore had seen growth, as affordability and access pushed more people and companies away from city centers. The pandemic amplified this, moving the boundaries out even farther.
“Now, it’s our turn,” said Tim Ogden. “This is a pivotal moment in time for Brentwood, and as I look ahead, I see opportunity.”
“The city has been well managed in the past. There are great people in City Hall,” Tim said. “Our finances are in a relatively good position. Our community is safe, and we have established a wonderful culture and neighborhood-feel. All of the right pieces are here for smart and sustainable growth. My goal is to stay laser-focused and do the most with it.”
A STABLE VISION
Tim wants to capitalize on current events as well as the city’s financial position to help make Brentwood the place of the future. “I see what we have here, and I think we can make it even better,” he said. There is a significant opportunity in the city of Brentwood, and I look forward to making it a reality.”
The city is highly focused on job creation and encouraging businesses to relocate or open satellite offices in Brentwood. Tim wants to make this process as enticing as possible for potential commercial landlords and tenants. He is open to sectors that will improve tax base, homeowner resale value and economic viability.
Priority Area One, the site of a planned multiuse development off Sand Creek, is one of the keys to realizing this vision. The nearly 400-acre property is not city owned, but Brentwood officials play a role in approving its zoning, environmental impact, construction, design, and traffic flow. Currently, the site will be home to The Innovation Center at Brentwood–a development that is gleaning concepts from the successful Bishop Ranch business park in San Ramon. This would attract employers and bring high-wage jobs to Brentwood.
“Brentwood has a talented resource base, with many high wage earners who have vast professional expertise,” Tim said. “We want to help these residents by reversing or stopping their commute to San Francisco, Silicon Valley, and outlying metropolitan areas. By bringing these jobs to Brentwood, we improve their quality of life while also building our tax base and economic viability.”
Tim encourages residents to visit www.innovatebrentwood.site to learn more about the opportunity. Information on virtual town hall meetings as well as project updates and timeline are readily available on the interactive website.
Additionally, the city just authorized an incentive program of more than one million dollars to help bring employers to the area. The city manager has authority to provide up to $50,000 to companies who meet certain criteria (higher amounts would need City Council approval). Incentives can be considered for businesses that agree to invest capital into the community, provide a certain number of high-wage jobs, and share some of their sales tax.
“We want to bring companies here that give back to the community, that offer us something we didn’t have before,” Tim explained. “We have an opportunity to become a regional player in office space with a thriving business and professional community.”
CURRENT STATE OF THE CITY
Despite COVID-19 restrictions, “Downtown Brentwood looks alive,” Tim said. “We want to keep the option of outdoor dining, even when regulations are lifted.” The city has more than $250,000 allocated to help businesses with personal protection equipment (PPE) and outdoor business furnishings. They are offering a grant program to restaurants, providing up to $5,000, to assist with this setup and infrastructure. Tim proposed to the City Council who approved an additional $75,000 for small businesses to help with tent rentals for inclement weather during upcoming winter months.
“We have a beautiful downtown,” he said. “There is still work to do, but it looks great. There are not many vacancies, and development plans for a few empty lots are in the works.” Tim watches the lease rates as a sign of a market downturn. He said the many business owners as well as the Brentwood Chamber of Commerce and Downtown Business Coalition are doing a tremendous job maintaining economic strength in the area. He has seen some challenges with the smaller businesses being affected by COVID-19, but overall, the latest sales tax report (from April to June) looked more favorable than estimated earlier in the year.
Tim also sees potential in the agricultural sector of Brentwood. He and the city are excited about the Harvest Time initiative and promoting the area as a destination for agritourism. He wants to continue to build these relationships, support the farmers, and assist with marketing efforts that support growth. Specifically, he supports offering grants to farm stands to help them open retail centers. The city is also pursuing farm-to-fork initiatives.
“Vineyards and wineries are another positive that Brentwood can use to harness future growth. Many are talking about Brentwood being the next Napa,” Tim said. “We certainly have the base for this and hope to attract more visitors. COVID- 19 has postponed some events and makes gatherings more difficult, but this is only a temporary hurdle.”
While growth is on the forefront of Tim’s mind, he also wants to balance development and maintain open space. Brentwood’s numerous parks and walking and biking trails are an asset and differentiator he wants to protect.
“He wants to continue to build these relationships, support the farmers, and assist with marketing efforts that support growth.”
CHALLENGES TO CONSIDER
When discussing potential challenges above and beyond COVID-19, Tim mentioned the uncertainty of the pending election. This November, Brentwood Mayor Bob Taylor will retire after serving for 16 years.
“Mayor Taylor has done an amazing job at shepherding growth and development and leading regionally for transportation improvements. I am hoping the future Mayor and Council continue the great efforts of the recent past,” he said.
Tim is also concerned about maintaining the right balance, knowing that some residents are opposed to growth and zoning updates. He is making a concerted effort to listen to opposition and ensure a well-managed and planned city, with proper traffic flow and infrastructure.
“Respecting the general plan is critical, and where changes are needed to accommodate the market and today’s visions of the broad community, the city needs to be responsive,” he said. As one of his initiatives, Tim created the Brentwood Leadership Roundtable, which was recently formed as a way for community leaders to meet monthly to collaborate and work on community-wide issues.
In other challenges, limited land availability will always play into the equation. Tim explained that Brentwood is projected to hit build-out in approximately 30 years. The city can accommodate 15,000 homes with 100,000 people at most, without additional land annexations. “With limited resources, we need to do our best to ensure the proper use of every square mile,” Tim said.
GETTING TO KNOW TIM OGDEN
Tim relocated to Brentwood with his family in April, shortly after accepting the position as City Manager. With nearly 20 years of experience in city government, Tim has previously held positions as City Manager of Manteca, City Manager of Waterford, Director of Economic Development and Housing for the City of Riverbank, and administrative analyst for the City of Modesto. He has a BA in family studies and an MBA in finance.
Tim and his wife, Heather, have been married for 22 years, and they have four children, the oldest is attending Brigham Young University. Two sons attend Heritage High School, and their daughter is a student at Bristow Middle School.
A proud dad, he joked that he spends his free time with his children and managing drama at home, especially during the pandemic. He added that they have recently played more board games than ever. He and his family enjoy basketball, soccer, water polo, swimming, hiking, and playing piano. All three sons are Eagle Scouts, as he is, and he previously served as a Scout Master.
Personally, he also likes to read, dance, and participate in service projects with local community clubs. His family is active in their church, and he currently serves in a regional leadership role.
Growing up with a father in the U.S. Air Force, Tim moved frequently. By the time he was 30, he had lived in 30 places including Italy, Greece, Canada, Alaska, Washington State, Utah, Texas, Colorado, and Maryland as well as a brief stint of being homeless (after his father retired from the Air Force) sharing floor space with siblings and living in their vehicle. His travels shaped his worldview and have given him a unique perspective. He continues to use that insight to guide and build thriving communities.
Photos by Melissa Van Ruiten