Westmont Magazine Giving Cities a Second Chance
Closing coal mines and cutting steel production creates economic challenges for cities like Pittsburgh. Once the center of California’s steel industry, this East Bay community seeks new opportunities for its citizens.
Randy Starbuck ’80 leads this effort as redevelopment manager. The 80 projects he oversees will help revitalize an outdated, declining downtown and encourage more affordable housing in the community.
One of the biggest Pittsburgh proposals will transform three blocks downtown. Handsome five-story buildings that reflect the city’s architectural heritage will combine 195 residences with 40,000 square feet for commercial enterprises. Other new developments include a bed and breakfast and a waterfront hotel. Randy also hopes a new company based in Italy that builds light rail equipment will expand its Pittsburgh operations.
But Pittsburgh goes beyond real estate development in seeking economic vitality. City officials have taken the unusual step of creating the Pittsburgh Power Co. “We’re an entrepreneurial city,” Randy says. “We operate transmission lines that allow Pittsburgh Power to sell electricity on the statewide grid. We also have approval to construct a new line to sell electricity to San Francisco.”
Recruiting new residents requires no special effort, however. The median housing price (just under $450,000) attracts people from other Bay Area communities where homes cost much more. But the price is high for a city in recovery, so Randy includes affordable housing in many of his projects.
He finds his work satisfying. “Redevelopment has always appealed to me,” he says. “It’s one way to shape a city. When you change the community, you change lives. I like to see the visible signs of success such as new buildings, jobs and housing. The Scriptures teach us to reach out to people with physical needs. My work does that so others can meet spiritual needs. It’s also the one area of government where everyone likes you!”
Public service wasn’t Randy’s first choice as a career — an inorganic chemistry class at Westmont derailed his desire to be a doctor. Taking public administration from Professor Dave Lawrence led him to land-use planning instead. After graduating with a degree in political science, he got a scholarship to attend graduate school and completed a master’s degree in public administration at Northern Illinois University. “Westmont was the best four years of my life in terms of getting a great education and making great friends,” he says.
Randy’s experience in redevelopment is extensive. Just out of graduate school, he created one of the first redevelopment areas in Geneva, Ill. He has shuttled back and forth between California and the Midwest with positions in East Moline, Ill., Ottumwa, Iowa, and El Cerrito, Napa and Suisun City.
Randy and his wife, Elizabeth, plan to stay in Suisun City while their children, ages 18, 16 and 12, are in school. They attend Parkway Community Church in Fairfield together and follow the Christian rock band Apologetix. The musicians are family friends, and the Starbucks enjoy traveling to their concerts.
Watching his children grow and mature gives Randy the same satisfaction as seeing a city develop. “The opportunity to shape lives is such a blessing.”