One of the more interesting topics the Coronado City Council has considered of late, occurred during their meeting of Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017. The city’s Cultural Arts Commission requested an endorsement for the Port of San Diego’s proposed $10 million ‘Illuminate the Bay”’ Project, in the form of a city council resolution. That somewhat over-stated project title is for the lighting of the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge, which is tentatively scheduled to be completed in time for the 2.12-mile span’s 50th Anniversary on or around Aug. 3, 2019.
The San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge is owned and operated by Caltrans, which entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Port of San Diego in 2011, for the Port to raise money for completion of the project. No public funds can be used for ‘Illuminate the Bay’ and all financial contributions to the project must be from grants or private funding.
Both Cultural Arts Commission Chair Jeff Tyler and Vice-Chair Doug Metz spoke in support of the public art project. Tyler said, “We have looked at a lot of public art and we have looked at the Bay Illumination project for a long time. There has been a lot of discussion, we feel very strongly about it and we would like to move forward with the resolution from the council in support of the project.”
Councilmember Carrie Downey, who has long been a strong proponent of suicide barriers for the Bridge, was the first of the councilmembers to speak and said, “I don’t know why there is such a rush (for an endorsement). I have been working on this for three years. I have no problem lighting the Bridge, but I don’t know if we want to encourage more people to come to the Bridge. I appreciate the work of the Arts Commission, but the timing is off. The lighting project shouldn’t be done before the suicide barriers are installed.”
Mayor Richard Bailey said, “We should prioritize the suicide deterrent over lighting the bridge. I’m not opposed to the lighting, but suicide prevention is our first priority.” Councilmember Whitney Benzian, espoused a slightly different view and said, “We can move forward on two different tracks. This is a 10-year-old proposal that went into hibernation. We can show some support to the groups that are fundraising for this. Caltrans and the Port are going to do what they are going to do.”
Councilmember Bill Sandke advocated a different approach. “These are two distinct projects with different funding paths. Fundamentally, there is no linkage between the two projects. I support suicide prevention, but this is an art project.” Yet another view came from Councilmember Mike Donovan, who said, “I don’t support the lighting project in the way that it has been presented. The Bridge is a piece of art as it stands. It would be like placing Christmas lights on Mt. Rushmore. I support soft lighting on the stanchions that support the bridge. I am voting against this supporting this. Caltrans has the final say and the Port will have a lot of leverage on them. If the lights go up, they are a magnet for more suicides. I support soft lighting to show off the architecture. I think we should get some public input on this.”
Bailey withdrew his original motion in support of the resolution of support, saying, “I’m not sure I want to have a divided council take a vote on this issue.” Benzian then added, “I wish we could support the project,” and made the motion to approve the resolution of support. By a 3-2 vote, with Bailey, Downey and Donovan voting no, the motion was defeated. Benzian and Sandke voted in favor. Bailey said before the council moved on to the next topic, “The council isn’t against the lighting project, we are just not voicing our support.”
The second topic of interest was a request by Donovan to re-visit city council pay increases. The last council voted to send the proposed pay increase to the voters and include it on the ballot for the Nov. 6, 2018, Municipal Election. Donovan expressed the thought that a pay increase is an administrative function and that the vast majority of the cities in San Diego County treat it that way. Donovan said, “I contend that pursuing it the way we have until now, allows public input. I’m not a fan of making decisions or taking flexibility away from future city councils. The state statute limits raises to five percent per year, and it’s not compounded.” Bailey added, “The cost to put this in front of the voters would exceed the cost of what the council would give itself.”
The council, which has not had a pay increase since 1996, is currently paid $435 per member, per month. If increased by the allowed five per cent annually since that date, according to the city staff report on the subject, the new per person total would be $891.75 per month, plus a modest expense allowance for each councilmember. Two separate motions were made relating to the pay increase. First, a motion was made to remove the pay increase issue from the ballot, which passed 5-0. Second, a motion was made by Benzian to bring back the discussion of the salary adjustment to a future city council meeting. That vote was also 5-0 in favor.
In other council actions:
• As part of the Consent Agenda, the council approved $110,000 for the sole-source purchase of 15 valves for the Transbay Pump Station Evaluation and Repairs Project.
• Also included on the consent agenda was the purchase of a new street sweeper for the city at the not-to-exceed cost of $297,000.
• Via a public hearing and subsequent action, the council further increased the limitations imposed on Accessory Dwelling Units in the city. The three new limitations include: limiting transient rentals of ADUs to a minimum of 26 days through a recorded covenant on the property; also through a recorded covenant, the owner of the property must live in either the primary dwelling unit or the ADU; and each new ADU construction that involves a detached (as opposed to an in-house) ADU, will required a separate independent sewer connection, with an appropriate new sewer connection fee.
• The council approved several city committee appointments including three new members for the Bicycle Advisory Committee. John Duncan and Russell Boelhauf were both appointed to a first, three-year term, and David Sweeney was appointed to a second three-year term. Patricia Cowett was reappointed as the city’s representative to the Port of San Diego’s Arts and Culture Advisory Committee. Kevin Crikelair and Jane Simeral were appointed to three-year terms on the Street Tree Committee.
• As the meeting was about to conclude, Bailey, who represents the city on the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) Board, noted that increased costs for approved projects coupled with the over-estimation of revenues from Transnet Taxes passed for transportation projects, has created a shortfall of $17.5 billion for the agency. An estimated $5.5 billion may be forthcoming from the state of California’s new gasoline tax. Bailey said, “That leaves an estimated $12 billion in yet-to-be identified funds for projects to be completed.”
The City Council will be dark for their normally-scheduled meeting of Tuesday, Nov. 21. The next Coronado City Council meeting will be held Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2017, at 4 p.m. City Council meetings are held at City Hall, located at 1825 Strand Way in Coronado.