The Coronado City Council began its Feb. 16, 2021 meeting with two proclamations. The first honored the 50th anniversary of the Silver Strand Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America and the second proclaimed the day as ‘Rita Sarich Day.’ Sarich served as Coronado MainStreet’s Executive Director since 1999 and her efforts were instrumental in executing the mission of the organization “to revitalize Coronado’s downtown through preservation and beautification for the benefit of the entire community.”
The three most significant discussions of the meeting focused on the strategy for meeting the state’s 2021-2029 housing allocation requirements; how or if to proceed with relinquishment and acceptance of State Routes 75 and 282; and the replacement of the lawn bowling green at the Spreckels Center.
2021-2029 State Housing Element Plan:
The State of California mandates that an eight year Housing Element Plan be submitted as part of a city’s General Plan. The plan is required to be adopted by April 15, 2021, and certain state and SANDAG funding are contingent upon its certification. The council discussed a first draft of the plan prepared by staff. City Manager Blair King asked for input and changes so that a final draft can be presented to council before the deadline.
The Department of Housing and community Development [HCD] is responsible for allocating a housing needs assessment to each metropolitan area in the state. HCD allocated 171,685 units for the San Diego region and it was SANDAG’s responsibility to allocate those units among the jurisdictions in the county based on a ratio of jobs to housing in each community.
SANDAG determined that jobs on military bases counted in the ratio but base housing did not apply on the other side of the ratio. Coronado, along with Imperial Beach, Lemon Grove, and Solana Beach, appealed their allocations to the SANDAG Board of Directors who, implementing a weighted vote in an arguably flawed and political procedure, denied the appeal. In a small victory Coronado’s allocation was reduced from an original 1,001 to 912 units (still an increase of 1,700 percent from the previous cycle when Coronado was allocated 50 units). The cities also lost a subsequent lawsuit but are likely to continue their opposition and seek legal solutions as they proceed with their state required plans.
The city staff presented the council with options to reach the 912 unit requirement which is divided among three categories (Very Low/Low, Moderate, Above Moderate). In an already built-out city with most lots being 3,500 square feet, it is nearly impossible to adhere to the state’s parameters that limit affordable units to properties greater than .5 acres. In an analysis of all parcels in the city it was determined that, with existing zoning, there is a current capacity of 326 new dwelling units.
Despite a clear community desire for less density and congestion, Coronado is being forced to identify new areas for growth and increased density. Staff prepared and presented ideas for identifying the 912 units as follows: Increase Accessory Dwelling Units [ADU] and Carriage House conversions; Permit Live Aboard boat slips; Rezone (Broadstone north parking lot and Smart and Final site); Upzone (500 and 700 blocks of Orange Avenue); City property (City Hall and Fire Station at 6th and D); Military sites (undeveloped property south of Lincoln Housing on Silver Strand).
All five council members voiced frustration about lack of local control, state overreach, and the impossible situation handed down by the SANDAG Board of Directors.
Mayor Bailey declared, “The housing allocation [RHNA] process is largely a paper chase with no hope of ever coming to fruition. In my opinion it’s government at its worst… and why people have no confidence in government and why central planning never works. Our part of this is to allow these units to be planned on paper.”
Councilmember Tanaka agreed, but advocated for removing the Smart & Final site from the list. Sandke disagreed with the removal of that particular site from the list, stating that the property provides an opportunity to meet the goals in the area of Very Low/Low income parcels that are required to be a certain size.
Eventually Mayor Bailey proposed a motion for staff to move forward to the next step with the site inventory summary provided in the draft plan, but with latitude to withhold units if it is determined the numbers meet minimum state mandates. Tanaka seconded the motion. The motion passed 5-0.
Relinquishment of State Routes 75 and 282:
City Manager Blair King provided a brief update on the effort to gain local control of the two State Routes than run through Coronado. Last month it was revealed that the Navy had unilaterally added language to the legislative bill that the city deemed ‘unacceptable.’ The added language mandates the City to obtain Navy “concurrence” to any activity including repairs, changes, or events on the state routes. The process of obtaining approval would be delineated in a Memorandum of Agreement [MOA] between the two parties and attached to the bill. Because it would not be written into the bill it would have the advantage of being amended or changed as needed without further legislation.
King added that while the situation seems to be a stalemate, there is still time to negotiate details of an MOA. “My recommendation at this time is to continue dialogue, knowing you are not committed to anything at this point,” he advised.
Naval Base Coronado Commanding Officer Captain John DePree and Deanna Spehn of State Senator Toni Atkins office participated in the discussion via phone. Atkins is the bill’s sponsor.
Spehn said that “an MOA gives full discretion to the two involved entities and you have time to get an agreement.” She added that if an agreement can’t be reached by August the bill will die.
DePree stated, “The base is committed to working with the City…. And being a better partner than CalTrans… but the legislative language is firm to say that you shall gain concurrence from the Navy prior to doing an activity.” DePree added that the respective staffs would collaborate to determine the method and timeline for doing so.
Mayor Bailey said that he has confidence that reasonable minds on both sides can move forward in negotiating the MOA. Adding that “our concern is that we wouldn’t want to trade one bureaucracy (CalTrans) to get any work done on these roads for another one (Navy).”
Councilmember Tanaka expressed his frustration with the last minute changes to a bill that Coronado and the Department of Transportation had worked on diligently to come to an agreement. “It’s not being a good neighbor to jump in at the last minute and throw in something that is unreasonable. I wish to be on record that I do not agree that Naval Base Coronado should have control over roads and property that the city owns, controls and/or pays to maintain. If the Navy shared any of the responsibilities or costs then concurrence might be warranted. They don’t. I think they have unfairly hamstrung us.”
Bailey moved and Sandke seconded a motion for staff to continue negotiating an MOA with the Navy. Motion passed 4-0 with Tanaka abstaining.
Lawn Bowling Green Replacement:
The Spreckels Center lawn bowling green was constructed in 2010 and the artificial turf has reached its life expectancy and requires replacement. As part of the replacement, city staff recommended additional drainage enhancements to prevent premature failure of the green due to frequent flooding. Additionally, a recent diagnosis of ‘puffball fungus’ mounds, which left portions of the lawn unplayable, resulted in a staff adding a recommendation to remove four Canary Island pines along D Avenue adjacent to the green.
Councilmembers consented that turf replacement and drainage enhancements were called for, but questioned and debated the need for tree removal to solve the ‘puffball fungus’ issue.
Director of Recreation Services Roger Miller answered questions from councilmembers and cited findings and recommendations from pathology experts at Rutgers University, Pace Turf, and West Coast Arborists. Studies show there is a symbiotic relationship between the fungus and living and dead roots of conifer trees which are a nutrient source. The fungus grows underneath the green and pushes its way through to disseminate its spores. Compacting the mounds will lead to more mounds. A temporary solution is the use of fungicidal injections but that requires puncturing of the green.
Staff recommended replacing the Canary Island pines with an equal number of trees from the city’s Approved Street Tree list. Miller stated that community concerns that the trees were Torrey pines with heron nests were inaccurate and in fact the Torrey pines on the library side of the green were not recommended for removal.
Councilmembers sought options for preventing ‘puffballs’ without removing trees. “I’m just not convinced that taking out a bunch of trees will solve the problem,” said Councilmember Tanaka stating that even the experts were not sure if it was just those four trees causing the problem and that his preference would be to try to strengthen the barrier by adding more gravel base material and extra concrete, and keep the trees.
Councilmember Heinze stated, “As much as I love trees and want to argue always to keep trees; these trees, which are not even on our approved tree list, being removed and replaced with approved trees is the logical choice for the best chance of long term success.”
Ultimately Councilmember Tanaka made a motion to approve the staff recommendation for turf replacement and drainage enhancement; but keep the trees and use aggressive excavation and barrier materials underneath the green. Sandke seconded the motion which was approved 3-2 with Heinze and Donovan opposed.
The next City Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, March 2 at 4 p.m.
In other business the council passed a Consent Calendar which included a report on the Coronado Mobility Commission (CMC) 2021 Work Plan. CMC Chair Howard Somers attended the meeting by video and presented the group’s annual report and plans for improving the experience and safety for automobiles, bicyclists, and pedestrians. He summarized the written report highlighting a collaboration with Nature’s Bridge to Discovery and plans to widen the Strand portion and improve signage along the Bayshore Bikeway. Somers noted that as with all municipal and community entities “our efforts were dramatically affected by COVID19… and many potential traffic calming proposals are on hold until the relinquishment of State Routes 75 and 282 is completed.”
Councilmember Sandke noted that the report included a presentation from Naval Base Coronado and he is pleased that the Navy is interested in “pursuing a commuter ferry service to the base and is working with the Port of San Diego.”