City of Coronado

At their second council meeting of the year, councilmembers again debated the scope of the Ocean Boulevard Improvement Project. Action was taken in December 2020 to widen the sidewalk by two feet, followed by a vote to reconsider the action and re-open discussion at the Jan. 5, 2021 meeting. It was decided then to ‘continue’ the item to the Jan. 19 meeting.

City Manager Blair King clarified the status of the improvements. He explained that work on the street itself, including resurfacing, was previously scheduled and would be done regardless of the council’s decision on sidewalk improvements.

The majority of public comments on the subject were submitted in writing and categorized by city staff as “opposed.” A few residents opted to speak via telephone during the meeting, including Stefan Freeman and Veleria Fabiszak. They both advocated from the perspective of wheelchair access to the sidewalk, offering that the north end of Ocean Boulevard narrows to the point of being impossible to accommodate a wheelchair passing in the opposite direction of other alternative modes of transport. 

After hearing from the public and city staff, the council deliberated for the better part of an hour. Looking to find a compromise that incorporated ideas and opinions among the five decision-makers, Mayor Bailey attempted to summarize with a motion for action. 

His proposal was to direct staff to redesign the sidewalk plans: to maintain a minimum driving lane of 11 feet; replace existing sidewalk with a maximum of 8 feet unless the current sidewalk width is already wider, in which case replace/repair in-kind; relocate light posts [street furniture] to rock side of sidewalk; and update ramps to fulfill Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. 

Councilmember Heinze seconded the motion. The vote carried 4-1 with Councilmember Tanaka opposed. City staff will bring back designs for final review prior to advertising the project for bid. 

In other business:

Council voted to appoint Tillie Vuksich to the Cultural Arts Commission to serve an unscheduled vacancy through Dec. 31, 2021. Bailey added that a second position will be vacant soon and encouraged applications from the public.

Police Chief Chuck Kaye presented 2020 Traffic Enforcement Activity. Some highlights of the presentation included: an 82 percent increase in speeding violations; a 40 percent increase in total citations; DUI arrests decreased by 22 percent; and injury accidents decreased by 21 percent. Chief Kaye also spoke of the effective use by the police department of the city funded initiative which pays for a bed at St. Vincent de Paul for those experiencing homelessness in Coronado. The bed is available 365 nights per year and was used 11 times in 2020. 

The council conducted a public hearing on a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) for the Strand Water Main Replacement project. City Manager King provided context for the hearing, “We have a multiple step process for review of projects subject to the California Environmental Quality Act [CEQA]. In this particular case [City Council] is serving as the lead agency to review a project that is being pursued by the California American Water Company [Cal-Am].” Cal-Am has asked Coronado to take on the project on its behalf and will reimburse the city for project costs. The 18 month project will replace the 100 year old main water line that provides potable water to the city with a new adjacent line. The initial environmental study showed that all environmental impacts could be addressed appropriately to less than significant with identified mitigation issues. The staff recommendation to prepare a Draft MND was approved unanimously by council. The documents will be available to the public during a 30 day review period.

The City’s lobbyist, Andre Monette, and his colleagues Ana Schwab and Lowry Crook of Best Best & Krieger LLP, presented an update of federal lobbying efforts and potential changes with a new administration. Monette shared the most updated information on the Tijuana River Sewage System. The presentation can be found on the City’s website at Item 10d [coronado.12milesout.com/meeting/council/1-19-2021].

The discussion of federal changes was followed by a presentation from Director of Community Development Richard Grunow updating the council on proposed and enacted legislation at the state level. The council discussion mainly focused on the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) law and its impact on local building regulations. 

Mr. Grunow explained how state requirements were causing issues for the city in issuing building permits. He said that “opportunistic applicants” are exploiting the ADU law and applying an expansive interpretation by claiming: ADUs proposed with new projects are exempt from the Floor Area Ratio (FAR) - which allows for larger buildings; the city is required to deduct square-footage of existing and proposed ADUSs to allow new additions and structures without FAR compliance; the city must allow single family properties to develop ADU, Junior ADU, carriage house - allowing for four units/property; the city is obligated to allow legal, non-conforming properties with two single family residences to develop ADU/JADU for each non-conforming house. 

Grunow outlined options for the council to consider which would help clarify confusion in local interpretation and enforcement. A general sense of frustration with state lawmakers and their broad stroke regulations that override thoughtful local planning was shared by all councilmembers. “Sacramento’s attempts to deal with the housing crisis have undermined the codes that we have put in place over decades,” voiced Councilmember Tanaka. “I want to avoid increasing housing density while being in compliance with state law.” 

After detailed consideration of different actions which would tighten local regulations, Councilmember Donovan proposed a motion to “direct staff to prepare an amendment to the city’s ADU ordinance to clarify that development proposals that include a new primary residence with an ADU or JADU shall be required to develop within the city’s established regulations including Floor Area Ratio limits.” The vote was 5-0 in favor of the motion.

Finally, the council discussed a request from city staff to revoke future opportunities for sidewalk dining accommodations for businesses reported to be in violation of the County of San Diego Public Health Order prohibiting indoor and outdoor on-site dining. Pete Joseph, owner and operator of McP’s Irish Pub on Orange Avenue, called into the meeting to share his experience with the County Health Department. McP’s does not serve seated customers but allows take-out food to be eaten on its patio in tables set at least six feet apart. Mr. Joseph detailed his experience with the county’s “Safe Reopening Compliance Team” which has made two visits to McP’s. He said the restaurant has followed appropriate protocols, complied with all safety requirements, and has been given approval from County Public Health to continue operations. All seven public comments on the agenda item were opposed to imposing future penalties on restaurants. The council did not support the staff request to impose local penalties.

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