Three Recipients Have Received Over $1,785,345 in Grants from the City Over the Last Three Years

The Coronado Visitors Center, operated by the Historical Association, is co-located with the Association’s Museum and Gift Shop on Orange Avenue.


Three organizations associated with Coronado’’s business community and promoting tourism in Coronado are the recipients of $595,115 (or over 44 percent) of the $1,347,250 given in community grants by the City in the current fiscal year. The Coronado Historical Association received the largest single grant of any recipient, $381,350. The Chamber of Commerce received $110,000 and Coronado MainStreet received $103,765. All of these organizations received the same amounts in the two previous years, for a total of $1,785,345 over the last three years.

As stated in the City Council requested staff report that compares the level of funding Coronado provides to community organizations, it is unconstitutional to provide a gift of public funds. The report goes on to state, “However, courts have determined that City Councils can make expenditures of public funds if they serve a public purpose pursuant to a bona fide contract with adequate public value.” Therefore, key determinations in making grants are whether the services sought will serve a public purpose and, second, will the cost of these services be reasonable relative to their value to the community. In its budget development guidelines, the City states that it will consider contracting and alternative service delivery methods that will improve service and reduce cost. These guidelines suggest that the opportunity to improve service and reduce costs should be applied to the contracts that are awarded to grant recipients including the opportunity to eliminate redundant services.

The contract with the Historical Association states that the City requires the services of a contractor, “to provide information to the community regarding activities, events, cultural resources, and eating and lodging establishments in the City of Coronado.” The contract with the Coronado Chamber of Commerce states that the City requires a contractor to gather and provide “information related to City history, events, services, businesses and other recreational venues for residents, businesses and visitors to the community.” Finally, the contract with Coronado MainStreet states that the City requires a contractor to provide the services of “Managing, coordinating and maintaining certain community events and projects for the benefit of City residents, City businesses and visitors to the community.”

In addition to the foregoing general descriptions of the desired services, each contract includes a specific Scope of Services.

The scopes of work for the Coronado Historical Association and the Coronado Chamber of Commerce are essentially identical with two exceptions. The Historical Association’s scope of services includes the requirement to develop new events, exhibits and activities including self-guided community tours, workshops on Coronado arts and architecture, and educational activities. The scope for the Chamber of Commerce requires it to manage the Holiday Open House and Snow Mountain Event.

The major task in the scopes of work for both of these two organizations is to respond to requests for information from visitors and residents. Both scopes include a lengthy list of the topics of these inquiries. The lists of topics are largely the same including information on restaurants, lodging, activity schedules for public events, and general tourist and visitor information. Both lists include the catch-all “Other City of Coronado-related information.”

Both scopes call for the development and maintenance of a website, with the website operated by the Historical Association referred to as the Coronado Visitor Center website. The website operated by the Chamber of Commerce is required to carry information on the topics of inquiry. No specific content is specified for the Coronado Visitor website.

Both scopes of work require the development and distribution of printed material. The Historical Association is required to prepare a monthly events calendar and to distribute it to Coronado hotels and retail establishments. The Chamber of Commerce is required to produce “information packets” consisting of hand-outs and brochures developed by the City and other community entities.

Other provisions of the scopes of work are also nearly identical concerning the timeliness of responding to inquiries, presenting an appropriate public image, training staff employees so that they can give accurate and complete responses to inquiries, hours of operation, records and reporting and handling referrals.

The gardens in the median of Orange Avenue are maintained by Coronado MainStreet while the grass is mowed and the trees are maintained by City Staff or City contractors.


The scope of work with Coronado MainStreet contains five specific tasks. The first is meeting its obligations under its agreement with the California Main Street Alliance. The second is to manage two events: Motorcars on Mainstreet and Downtown Goes Ghostly. The third is to manage and maintain the “white rooftop lights” program and the gardens in the median on Orange Avenue. (The trees and grass in the medians are maintained by City staff or contractors.) In addition, MainStreet will work with City staff on the implementation of the Downtown Specific Plan. The fourth task is to coordinate with the other agencies, specifically the City, Chamber of Commerce and Coronado Historical Association to ensure consistency among the various projects and programs administered by each of these organizations. Finally, MainStreet will “coordinate all responses to business relocation inquiries with other organizations including the City and the Coronado Chamber of Commerce.” The scope of work for the Chamber of Commerce requires it to “coordinate all responses to business relocation inquiries with other organizations including the City and MainStreet.

Each of the three organizations engages in fundraising to support itself. The Historical Association charges for admission to its museum, invites donations, and has several levels of membership that range from $60 to $5,000. The Chamber of Commerce also charges for membership. Its rate schedule is tied to the type of business seeking membership. MainStreet conducts an annual garden party for which it charges admission. Despite these efforts they are still highly dependent on funding from the City. The Historical Association receives 41 percent of its budget from the City. The Chamber of Commerce receives 31 percent from the City while MainStreet receives 57 percent.

The dependence of these organizations on public funding raises a number of questions. First, is the extent of financial support by the community a reflection of the value that the residents of Coronado place on these organizations and their activities? (By comparison the Coronado Promenade Concerts, aka Concerts in the Park, are supported entirely by private contributions.) Second, is the magnitude of the City’’s financial support commensurate with the value it receives for the services provided, or does it simply represent the amount required to make these organizations whole? Should the City assess the reasonableness of the cost of the services provided by the grantees by exploring other opportunities for acquiring them, for example, bidding the maintenance of the gardens in the median on Orange Avenue and competing the operation of the Visitor’s Center? Bidding the operation of the Visitors Center could eliminate the apparent duplication of services between the existing grants to the Historical Association and the Chamber of Commerce by resulting in a single agreement to respond to requests for information by visitors and residents and operating a related website.


If you would like to weigh in on the subject of community grants you are invited to take an online survey at


Previous articles on Coronado’s community grant program include What is the Opportunity Cost of Coronado’s Community Grants?, Provide Your Views as the City Council Reconsiders Community Grants, Coronado’s Community Grant Program More Generous Than That of Other Jurisdictions, and City Council Poised to Approve Over $1 Million in Community Grants.


John Tato
Staff Writer

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John was born and raised in Coronado. He graduated from Coronado High School in 1965. He received a Bachelor of Arts with a major in architecture and a Master of Architecture degree from Stanford University. In 2005 he retired from the U.S. Department of State but continues to serve as a consultant to the department.He is a member of the Coronado Transportation Commission. John also volunteers with the San Diego Human Society and County Animal Shelters. He and his wife, Barbara, who is retired from the Central Intelligence Agency, have two sons: Army Captain John W. Tato who is serving with the First Special Forces Group (Airborne) and Navy Ensign Michael R. Tato who is in flight training with VP-30 at NAS Jacksonville.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: