The Coronado City Council meeting on Sept. 21 began with recognizing community member Sue Gillingham who served as executive director of Coronado’s Chamber of Commerce from May of 2015 until June of this year. To recognize her leadership, advocacy for the island’s small business community, and dedication to Coronado’s economic vitality and strength, especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Mayor Bailey issued a proclamation on behalf of the council: “Now, therefore, on behalf of the City Council, the city of Coronado, I do hereby proclaim and recognize Sept. 21, 2021, as Sue Gillingham Day in the City Council.”
Gillingham was present to receive the proclamation and was thankful for the honor of the council’s recognition for her work. “Thank you, Richard, thank you all. I’m very blessed to live in Coronado. …To have this job at the Chamber for my swansong, to work with the businesses and the City Council, and the City Manager,” she began.
Gillingham also introduced the Chamber of Commerce’s new executive director, Rena Clancy. “She will do a fabulous job,” Gillingham commented. “Anyway, thanks to all of you. I recognize so many people here, I appreciate the great support over the years and I know you’re all jealous that I’m retired and you’re not. Thank you.”
Following the proclamation, the council discussed Item 5E regarding the budget for a new license plate recognition system. Councilmember Marvin Heinze sought clarification between this $117,000 proposed bill and the bill the council approved on Oct. 6, 2020 for $125,000 dealing with similar license plate recognition technology. Coronado Police Chief Kaye was present to answer questions and mentioned that the 2020 bill was specifically for parking in regards to license plate recognition, whereas the item up for discussion would be for criminal justice license plate recognition data collection. The goal would be to bring these two systems together for Coronado and would account for all bills for such technology for the next five years as currently anticipated. Heinze then made a motion to approve the item which as seconded by Councilmember Bill Sandke and was approved by the council unanimously.
A period of public comment afterwards saw Jason Sevier speak on behalf of public services workers in Coronado. Sevier is a public services employee in the Wastewater Division and extended a welcome to the new city manager as well as inform the council and city that the public service worker’s latest bargaining proposal was in and the group looks forward to a decision from the council and the bargaining team for good faith bargaining.
The meeting then moved on to introduce and receive an update from Coronado’s new City Manager, Tina Friend. “I would like to take a moment to thank some of the people who came before me because I feel I am inheriting a very well-run organization, with excellent staff and moving in a very positive direction,” Friend began as she was welcomed to her first council meeting. “To the community members out there, I can’t wait to meet as many of you as possible.”
Friend, addressing a concern from a citizen during the public comment period regarding SB 9, also mentioned that the city would be doing an applied analysis, internally, to gain a full understanding of what it could mean for Coronado. The city has a number of its own restrictions and other elements that may affect how SB 9 applies to Coronado, and once this analysis is complete the city will present their findings to the city council and share them with the community for future discussion. SB 9 was recently approved by the California State Legislature where a total of four dwellings could be built on what was formerly a single residential lot.
(On Sept. 16, 2021 Governor Newsom signed into law Senate Bill 9 (SB 9), which was sponsored by State Senate Pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). The law supersedes local jurisdiction and allows homeowners to split their lots and build duplexes on lots currently zoned for single-family housing.)
The council then received a presentation from Best Best & Krieger representatives led by Andre Monette on the topic of the Tijuana River environment issues and federal lobbying efforts to resolve those issues. Monette began by recapping the issue with sewage and wastewater runoff flowing from the Tijuana River into the Tijuana Estuary in Imperial Beach and South San Diego and into the ocean. Efforts to solve the problems currently focus on the San Antonio de los Buenos Wastewater Treatment Plant, wet-weather flows into the channelized Tijuana River, the canyon collectors built in the 90s, and Tijuana’s sewage collection system for the city which has seen an uptick in frequency of breakages over the last few years spilling raw sewage into the river.
Currently, $300 million has been granted to work with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) towards infrastructure to address cross-border sewage flows. Cities around San Diego helped compile a list of studies and projects that the EPA has reviewed and currently refined to three potential solutions that are currently under environmental review – the stepping stone to any major federal action. According to current projections of the studies, Alternative I for a Comprehensive Alternative (vs. a Wastewater Treatment Alternative only or a simpler Hybrid Alternative) will be the most effective solution in reducing the percentage of sewage flows and doing so in the long-term.
As the best solution, Alternative I is also the most expensive, however, with projections sitting at a cost of $556 million for completion, and additional upkeep costs in the future. Monette mentioned that it would be possible to pursue any option in parts as the budget allows, and the EPA has endorsed such an approach for Alternative I and begin with an expansion of the international treatment plant with the 300 million dollars already secured. This approach would lay the groundwork piece by piece while stakeholders work to secure additional funding to complete each step until finished.
In discussion of the update, Councilmember Casey Tanaka wondered if there would be a possibility of a private venture getting involved that could operate the San Antonio de los Buenos Wastewater Treatment Plant for profit in the future that could negate upkeep and maintenance costs of a new or refurbished facility for cities involved. Monette agreed this could be a viable option to pursue in the future once a plan is approved and begins to move forward.
In the final item for the meeting, Albrecht updated the council on regional developments on the enforcement of anchoring regulations at Zuniga Jetty, which falls under the jurisdiction of the City of San Diego. In 2019 the City of San Diego amended their municipal code to restrict unoccupied anchorage in the jetty to no more than two hours. The restriction proved to be very effective in minimizing boats being left for prolonged periods of times or abandoned off the coast near North Island which in high winds or rough weather have led to these boats (often in poor condition) to sink and/or drift onto Coronado beaches or the Navy base, resulting environmental hazards from oil leaks and debris from the boats on the ocean floor and beaches.
Albrecht explained a proposal between Coronado, the City of San Diego, and the Port of San Diego to reinstate this enforcement program for a one-time cost of $200,000, of which Coronado would make up for a projected one-time contribution of $50,000 for the Fiscal Year of 2021-2022. “From preliminary conversations,” Albrecht stated, “the thought is that this would allow the jurisdictions to start considering long-term funding that’s not tied to direct funding from the jurisdictions. Some kind of way of monetizing the program so that it would be self-sufficient.”
Sandke spoke to the success similar programs have had in the past in reducing such issues in the anchorage areas of Glorietta Bay and South Bay and create an environment that now hosts a more responsible boating public. He sees the endgame of the proposed program to create such an environment for Zuniga Jetty at which point there would then be no need for an enforcement program and any associated funding for it.
Tanaka asked what the cost estimates are based on to which Albrecht responded that data was compiled from the 2019-2020 period in which the enforcement program was instated that showed the costs of abating boating vessels came in at around $150,000, with an additional $50,000 for staffing, labor, and resources. Tanaka also mentioned that a one-time cost might be more effective than paying for Caterpillar and other machinery the city has had to rent in the past to remove boats for the foreseeable future, noting that money will have to be spent either way and this could be an investment to solve the issue all together.
Heinze and Councilmember Mike Donovan are hesitant to spend Coronado taxpayer dollars for something in the jurisdiction of the City of San Diego, however both conceded that it is an issue that affects Coronado, and especially the Navy, and would be willing to discuss costs further in order to contribute to the regional effort to solve the problem. Donovan spoke to the fact that Coronado is receiving grants to abate these vessels that wash up on Coronado’s shores which Assistant City Manager Albrecht explained have historically been about $50,000. These grants are generally happen in April and about $15,000 currently remains from the 2021 grant as we head into the winter season where more boats typically wash up due to the stronger weather conditions.
Sandke made a motion to direct city staff to continue negotiating with the associated parties and see how Coronado can be a responsible partner. Bailey seconded the motion, with an added emphasis on the understanding that the council has an interest in hearing more about what the long-term solution would be that wouldn’t involve the city adding to a yearly budget. The motion passed unanimously, after which, the meeting was adjourned.
Coronado City Council is set to meet again on Oct. 5 at 4 p.m. For more information, visit https://www.coronado.ca.us/government/city_council.