Chugging along at nearly three hours in duration, the Coronado City Council meeting of Tuesday, June 18, 2019, addressed two primary topics and several smaller issues which deserve mention. The most time, one hour and 11 minutes to be exact, was devoted to the subject of utility undergrounding.

The Undergrounding Master Plan, commissioned by the City of Coronado, and prepared by Harris & Associates, was presented to the Council Sept. 4, 2018. The plan divided the city into 12 priority areas for the undergrounding of utilities and ranked them in order of importance by criteria approved by the Council. The Master Plan, which identified 148,570 linear feet (28.14 miles) of utility lines that could be undergrounded in Coronado, came complete with a hefty price tag of $175.5 million. Coronado, although in a very solid financial condition by almost any measure, comes well short of having that amount of cash to cover that projected cost. However, as of June 30, 2019, the City’s General Fund will have $35.5 million in funds made available from the repayment of a loan to the now-defunct Coronado Community Development Agency.

Harris and Associates ranked the 12 priority areas, with the top four areas for undergrounding deemed to be No. 1. First and Second Streets; No. 2 Margarita/Bay Circle; No. 3 Pomona, and No. 4 The Silver Strand. The totals for those four areas comprised 40,810 feet of undergrounding (27.5 percent of the Undergrounding Master Plan total) and $44.2 million (25.2 percent of the total project cost).

The Staff Report presented June 18, came with a five-part recommendation for the Council to consider, prepared so that each part would be voted upon separately. One of the recommendations, called for a three-month period, subsequently modified by the council to six months, to allow for property owners to circulate a non-binding petition to express their interest in creating their own Assessment Undergrounding District. This would require 60 percent participation from 65 contiguous parcels as a first step. According to the staff report, “All undergrounding districts must be implemented through SDG&E, which either directly or indirectly will develop the engineering plans. From the initiation of design through implementation will be a multiple year process.”

Faced with a potentially expensive project, which from the Councilmember’s remarks on the issue faces some opposition in the community, Mayor Richard Bailey suggested the utility undergrounding concept be put to a vote of the public. He later advocated a mailing to all property owners in the city, tailored to the 12 areas outlined in the Harris & Associates report, detailing how citizens could express interest in creating their own assessment districts, along with a sample petition. City Manager Blair King suggested the addition of an area boundary map to the mailing.

After considerable Council discussion and virtually no public input, Councilmember Marvin Heinze made a motion to accept, for the next six months, non-binding petitions from at least 60 percent of participants from a minimum of 65 contiguous parcels, to form an Undergrounding Assessment District. In addition, the city will create a mailing to property owners including a boundary map and sample petition. The motion passed 5-0. 

Next Councilmember Mike Donovan made a motion to direct King to take prerequisite actions to initiate the design and detailed cost estimates to underground the Silver Strand Highway Overhead Utilities within the timeline prescribed by SDG&E. The response deadline is August 16, 2019 or the SDG&E price estimate of $95,600 for engineering costs will expire. That motion passed 5-0.

A third motion, which called for the city to wait six months, take into account any petitions of interest to form an Assessment District, then commence forming City-initiated underground district boundaries using designated City funds for the top ranked areas pursuant to the 2018 Utility Undergrounding Master Plan, passed 3-2. Councilmembers Whitney Benzian, Bill Sandke and Marvin Heinze voted for the motion.

Immediately prior to discussion of the utility undergrounding, Bailey indicated to the Council that SANDAG had lowered Coronado’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation number from as high as 1,800 units that would be required to be built in the city between 2021-2028, to the current level of 800. Bailey added, “We may be able to lower the number even more. Once the final number is in front of the SANDAG Board, there will be a public review period that could be as short as 30 days.”

The state-mandated plan requires local agencies to meet projected housing needs, and includes affordable housing for seniors, families, workers, and disadvantaged populations. Coronado is the region’s second smallest city by land area and has little capacity to increase new housing units in the city. Coronado’s previous eight-year new housing goal was 50 units for the period 2014-2021.

In other City Council actions:

Mayor Bailey read a proclamation to 97-year-old Coronado Resident SSGT Tom Rice, who parachuted into Normandy, France on D-Day June 6, 1944 as a member of the 101st Airborne Division. June 6, 2019, Rice replicated his jump on the 75th Anniversary of the Invasion. Rice was the subject of considerable attention and adulation in France during ceremonies honoring returning World War II Veterans. June 18 was designated Tom Rice Day in Coronado and Bailey also presented Rice with a Coronado challenge coin.

By adding the agenda item to the Consent Calendar, the Council authorized King to execute a third amendment to the Management Services Agreement with the Pacific Animal Welfare Society of Coronado (PAWS) for the Coronado Animal Care Facility.

On the Consent Agenda was the award of a contract to PAL General Engineering, Inc. in the amount of $795,945 for construction of the street, curb, and gutter project for Country Club Lane, Coronado Avenue and Cajon Place. In addition, Psomas was awarded a contract not to exceed $51,300 for construction inspection services.

The Council authorized King, also on Consent, to execute purchase agreements for information equipment and software in FY 2019-20 for $200,000 with Dell; $550,000 with CDWG; $125,000 with Verizon Wireless; $125,000 with Central Square; and $120,000 with Advanced Imaging Services. On a separate Consent item, the council authorized King to spend $80,000 over a two-year period with Savant Solutions for Arctic Wolf Networks Cybersecurity Services.

Via a public hearing, the City Council approved a rate increase for EDCO Disposal, for solid waste and recycling services. Single-family residential solid waste costs increased by $1.74 per month; Multi-family curbside service went up by $0.49 per month; and Commercial three-cubic-yard bin services will increase by $6.58 per month. At the approved single-family residential rate, Coronado continues to rank among the lowest of comparable San Diego County cities.

The next meeting of the Coronado City Council will be held Tuesday, July 16, 2019, at 4 p.m. The Council will not meet July 2 due to the July 4th holiday. City Council Meetings are held at Coronado’s City Hall located at 1825 Strand Way in the city.

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