The Dec. 1 Coronado City Council meeting began with a ceremonial recognition of the City’s 130th anniversary of incorporation on December 11, 1890. The milestone anniversary was commemorated with a five minute historic video and a city-wide exercise challenge that encouraged people to get outside and exercise during the pandemic. After the video presentation, Jamie Monroe of Easy Day Sports reported that 2,677 people had signed up for the 130 Virtual Challenge. The goal for individuals is to complete 130 miles running, walking, swimming, or biking between July 4 - Dec. 11.
The agenda item that drew the most public attention, with 16 written comments attached to the agenda and one phone-in during the meeting, was the Ocean Boulevard Street Improvement Project. The public comments recorded were 11-5 against improvements; however, many of the letters in both opposition and support were nuanced in support of different variations of improvement.
The subject of relieving congestion issues along the Ocean Boulevard has been discussed by Council since 2015 and funding for a street improvement project was identified in spring of 2019. The details and scope of the project were last visited at the Aug. 18, 2020 meeting. Unable to build a consensus at the time, the council voted to allocate $40,000 for visual simulations to be brought back in December.
Prior to the staff presentation and council deliberation, City Manager Blair King made a plea to the councilmembers requesting that action be taken following their discussion. “We do need to have an up or down vote on the preferred alternative. We have been at this for several years and we do think that we are at the point, especially with the coming changeover of Council, that while Mr. Benzian is still on [Council] he is able to participate in the direction given.”
The City’s Principal Engineer, Jim Newton, presented three options with images created from multiple vantage points along Ocean Boulevard.
Option One: ‘Street Furniture Relocation’ creates space in the rocks adjacent to the sidewalk for the relocation of street lights and trash cans. Cost is estimated at $350,000.
Option Two: ‘Sidewalk Widening toward Ocean Blvd.’ widens the sidewalk along the entire length of Ocean Blvd., replaces existing sidewalk, relocates street furniture to the beach side of the widened sidewalk, and creates curb bulb-outs to improve pedestrian crossing. Cost is estimated at $1.9 million.
Option Three: ‘Sidewalk Widening over Rock Seawall’ removes portions of the rock revetment that extend above the sidewalk, widens the existing sidewalk by eight feet over the remaining rocks below, and leaves street lights and in their existing locations. The cost is estimated in excess of $5.6 million.
Starting off the discussion, Councilmember Sandke declared his opinion that “option two is the best win for the community,” but shared citizen concerns about narrowing the width of the street. He said that although narrower streets are proven to help to calm traffic, too narrow is also unsafe. He suggested option two with a “modification that maintains current existing minimum width.”
Councilmember Benzian offered a similar opinion in favor of option two. “We should be improving our infrastructure not for visitors but for ourselves, and if they benefit from that, that’s well and good... if we get stuck thinking that when we improve our town we are doing it for visitors only then our town will decline. They are not mutually exclusive.”
City Attorney Johanna Canlas added that certain design elements and ‘wishlist’ items in the project would be dictated by compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
“I am in agreement with my colleagues with option two… and would offer that we put the caveat ‘to maintain a minimum 11 foot width lane along Ocean Boulevard’ in the motion,” said Councilmember Heinze. He turned that comment into a motion which was seconded by Sandke.
With Sandke, Benzian, and Heinze all stating their intent to vote for option two, the outcome of the vote was assured. Prior to voting, Mayor Bailey and Councilmember Donovan shared that they were not in support of the action, although both had different reasons.
Knowing he was on the losing side of the vote, Councilmember Donovan stated that he supported option one. “The problem we are trying to solve here is to put more room on the sidewalk,” he said. “And with option one we can do that for $350,000.” He added that he thought option two would cost over one million dollars just to push the problem into vehicle traffic space.
Mayor Bailey said he was definitely in favor of making improvements and investments along Ocean Boulevard. and that he supported the idea of option two “conceptually.” However, he disagreed with where the additional sidewalk space should come from. “I think it makes more sense to take two feet from the ocean side than to push traffic two feet closer to the resident side.”
Ultimately the motion to adopt option two and advertise the project for bid carried in a 3-2 vote with Bailey and Donovan voting no.
In other business:
City Council voted 5-0 to transition to ‘Action Minutes’ form of recording of meetings. Action minutes record only the final decision made and lists the speakers names and whether or not they supported or opposed an issue. Video minutes will still be available and archived on the website.
Director of Administrative Services, Jim Krueger, presented the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the year ending June 30, 2020. The Certified Public Accounting firm of Davis Farr, LLP performed an independent audit of the CAFR. Senior Accountant Shannon Ayala was available to answer questions. “Our team of auditors spent approximately 500 hours over the last couple months working with [City staff]” she reported. “As a result of our procedures, we issued an ‘unmodified opinion’ which is the highest level opinion that can be received.”
Council took action to fill commissioner positions that expire at the end of the calendar year. Jamie Jamison was elected to serve a three-year term on the Historic Resource Commission. Helen Kupka and Deborah Kaller were reappointed to serve on the Cultural Arts Commission. Carol Rud and Stephen Clark were reappointed to serve on the Civil Service Commission. Francis King and Morgan Miller were reappointed to the Mobility Commission. Peter Jensen and Ed Weisbrod were reappointed to the Planning Commission.