With irony befitting 2020, the first meeting of the post-Axelson era of Coronado City Council reporting for the Eagle & Journal was finished in a mere 34 minutes. Longtime local reporter Dave Axelson recently retired from more than two decades covering the council and one thing we all appreciated was his awareness of the length of time it took the council to do the public’s business in public. A 34 minute meeting would have been noteworthy. Possibly a headline. Whether Dave and his wife Sharon are traveling or playing with their new grandbaby, I hope he is no longer counting the minutes, and I wish them both good health and happy times in their well-deserved retirement. As the inheritor of Dave’s local government beat, I hope I can do justice to the legacy of detail and accuracy he established in covering local issues for our community newspaper. The following is a quick recap of a quick meeting.
More than six months since COVID-19 changed business-as-usual, councilmembers continue to search for best practices in balancing the health and safety of the community with helping local businesses adhere to State and County health guidelines while staying open. Prior to voting on an extension of the City’s current temporary COVID-19 accommodations for restaurants and fitness based businesses, City Manager Blair King reviewed current practices and how they related to San Diego County’s tiered opening guidelines. King recommended a continuance of the temporary accommodations, but added that if San Diego County moved to a less restrictive tier, then he would encourage businesses to move back indoors as much as possible to relieve pedestrian congestion on sidewalks. During his presentation King showed current sidewalk use regulations and said that local restaurants have been notified that outdoor dining areas are only to be placed on one side of the sidewalk and the use of No Parking signs or cones to prevent on-street parking in front of businesses is prohibited.
During discussion Councilmember Whitney Benzian suggested even more creative use of public areas, including the allocation of parking spaces for dining. Councilmember Bill Sandke encouraged the development of temporary parklets citing a more neighborhood feel to the downtown area. King pointed out that possible objections to this would be the semi-permanent elimination of parking. King said that a letter was sent to merchants earlier in the month inviting them to contact the City if they are interested in developing additional space along City-owned right of ways. As of yet, no businesses have shown interest in this opportunity. All five members supported the concept of additional development should merchants seek the option. The City generally owns all public streets and sidewalks except those along the 300-1400 blocks of Orange Avenue, which fall under Caltrans jurisdiction.
After discussion council voted 5-0 to approve the extension of temporary accommodations provided to restaurants regarding the use of public right-aways and to fitness-based businesses for the use of parks and beaches until San Diego County achieves Moderate Tier Three status.
As in most industries, there is an annual award season and local governments are no exception. The City of Coronado was recently recognized with awards of achievement in three areas: financial reporting, public works projects, and environmental practices. King announced the awards and recognized staff members who contributed to the achievements: the Award of Excellence for Financial Reporting Achievement from Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), credit to Director of Administrative Services Jim Krueger, and Finance Manager Emad Gewaily, and their staff; The American Public Works Association (APWA) Project of the Year award for the Transbay Pump Station, credit to City Engineer, Ed Walton and Director of Public Services, Cliff Mauer; and the Institute of Local Government (ILG) Gold Level Beacon Award for the totality of best environmental practices in sustainability and renewable energy, credit to all staff and elected officials for setting high standards in this area.
Other agenda items included an Arts in Education Week proclamation acknowledging the integral role arts education plays in Coronado, presented to Kelly Purvis representing the Cultural Arts Commission; and a brief update from Councilmembers Marvin Heinze and Mike Donovan reporting a 30 day extension granted by the Airport Authority to review documents related to the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan (ALUCP).
The next City Council meeting is scheduled for Oct. 6 at 4 p.m.