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Riverside Mayor Sees a 'Powerhouse'

January 27, 2006|Susannah Rosenblatt | Times Staff Writer

The Inland Empire's largest city needs more high-paying jobs, top-end office space and housing, Riverside Mayor Ronald O. Loveridge said in his state of the city address Thursday.

Loveridge also said he supported efforts to establish a medical school at UC Riverside.

The mayor, who was elected to his fourth term in November, described Riverside as "the Inland Empire's economic powerhouse" when he addressed more than 800 local leaders and city employees at the Riverside Convention Center.

With the city's population nearing 300,000, the mayor pledged to build 2,000 housing units in the next five years and annex as many as 10,000 acres into the city limits before then.

Rapid expansion has snarled local traffic, and Loveridge cited the millions the city was spending on building interchanges, widening roads and synchronizing traffic signals. He said he wanted to coordinate with local, regional and state leaders to find traffic solutions and said that every year the city would build a bridge or tunnel to separate a street from train tracks.

"We need to do more, and we need to do better" to unclog roads, Loveridge said during the 45-minute speech, which was peppered with applause. Riverside's mayor does not vote with the seven-member City Council but has veto power, which Loveridge has never used.

Loveridge said he hoped to draw a new medical school to UC Riverside by cleaning up University Avenue and nearby neighborhoods.

"From now on, the city will not turn its head and allow University Avenue to be a retail site for drugs and prostitution," Loveridge said, vowing to tear down at least one motel on the strip a year.

The former UC Riverside political science professor said he hoped to fund local arts with money from the city's hospitality taxes and asked the city manager to develop a ballot measure proposal to establish more parks and open space. The 100-mile Santa Ana River trail, from the San Bernardino Mountains to the coast, should be complete by 2007, Loveridge said.

"He's right on target," Councilman Dom Betro said of the mayor's plans.

"People are going to be really surprised in a couple years just how quickly his city has moved into a major force."

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