Thursday, June 13, 2024

Whitney Benzian Announces Candidacy for Coronado City Council

This coming November, longtime Coronado resident Whitney Benzian is hoping to win a seat on the Coronado City Council.  Whitney’s academic and professional resume illuminate his enthusiasm for local government.

You can learn more about Whitney's candidacy at votebenzian.com
Whitney Benzian

While studying governance and public policy in graduate school at Pepperdine University, Whitney focused his interest specifically on local government. Whitney realized that the best place to have a positive impact on his community, and the best place to have efficacy was at the local level. Whitney said local government suits him perfectly because “he likes to get things done,” rather than debate theories.

After graduation, he had an extensive career serving in a policy and media role for the San Diego City Council President. He also worked as a public relations practitioner at a prominent San Diego firm.

Whitney Benzian City Council
You can learn more about Whitney at votebenzian.com

Here in Coronado, Whitney has served as the President of the Coronado Historical Association and served as Director of the then named Coronado First Bank.  He is currently on the Board of Directors for the Coronado Island Film Festival and is a real estate agent here in town at Willis Allen Real Estate.

Whitney grew-up here in Coronado from the age of three, ultimately graduating from Coronado High School in 1998.  He moved back to Coronado in 2011. Whitney sites this long affiliation and deep connection with Coronado as one of the assets he would bring to City Council.

Whitney Benzian, candidate for Coronado City Council, and his wife, January, and daughters, Annie and Emma.
Whitney Benzian, candidate for Coronado City Council, and his wife, January, and daughters, Annie and Emma.

Whitney has a strong interest in the environment. He grew up surfing our beaches and wants to work with regional leaders to ensure our ocean and beaches are safe and clean. “My family and I use our beaches regularly. We must ensure that when we are at the beach with our families it is a healthy environment,” Whitney said.

Whitney’s interest in the environment was borne out when he served a stint on the board of WildCoast, an environmental conservation organization.

Given that Whitney was very much at home discussing local politics and specifically the issues that Coronado residents care about, we jumped right into some of the most discussed topics in town.

Traffic on Third and Fourth Street

Some ideas that Whitney would like to see explored are:

  • creating a morning and afternoon HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle/car-pool) lane on the Bridge and on 3rd and 4th Streets.
  • incentivizing commuters with a rewards program. For example, there may be federal or state grants that encourage a decrease in pollution and traffic congestion that could be used to pay for these financial or holiday rewards.
  • establishing a stakeholder working group with Congressman Peters’ Office, the Navy, our State legislators, Caltrans and residents to creatively address traffic congestion. Whitney acknowledged that if a remedy is to be found it will require a number of actions, not one silver bullet. Traffic is a problem that Coronado has been battling for a long time so there is no easy answer.Coronado Traffic
  • Whitney argues that government stakeholders need to realize this is more than a traffic issue.  It is also a health and public safety issue.
  • He also believes that SANDAG (San Diego’s Regional Planning Agency) should be a financial resource and stakeholder too. Whitney states that the main purpose of SANDAG is to address transit problems in the county, and given that SANDAG is one of the most powerful government bureaucracies in San Diego and that they have a big purse, they should be a vital of piece of solving the traffic problem on Third and Fourth Streets.

On the issue of traffic, Whitney explained that he gained experience working on the issue with Caltrans when he was working for the San Diego City Council President, as they began considering the same issue on Palm Avenue.

While he doesn’t think a City of Coronado takeover of Route 75 makes sense (due to liability issues and expense) he feels it’s worth looking at a no-cost report prepared by Caltrans to make sure.

He is against stoplights along the Third and Fourth Street corridors.

If elected, Whitney promises that he “will make sure they put the Coronado traffic problems front and center.”

Tourism

Whitney made it clear that we cannot turn Coronado into Balboa Island. In line with that perspective, he said he would not have supported the proposed bike bath on the beach, arguing that Coronado is one of the last calm and idyllic beaches in Southern California.

The Benzian Family
The Benzian Family

However, in almost all other ways, he supports a bike culture in Coronado, arguing that it reduces traffic and supports a healthy lifestyle. While Whitney does not want Coronado to become unlivable as a tourist trap; he also confirmed that our local businesses need to thrive. Whitney noted that the hotels pay a bulk of our taxes which keep our parks and streets clean. Whitney said what’s important about tourism is that “it’s all how we manage it.” He reminded me that some of the best restaurants in town were founded and owned by Coronado locals, Rick Chapman’s Coronado Brewing Company, David Spatafore’s Stake Chophouse, Moo Time, Village Pizzeria, and more, and Mary Ann Berta’s Tartine.

“And, in the end, while the strength of our businesses is vital, my decisions will be made with an eye toward what it best for the residents and our quality of life.”

Historic Preservation

Whitney believes we are striking a pretty good balance between historical preservation in Coronado and the rights of property owners: “The City has a decision-making process that is accountable to appointed and elected citizens with lots of room and time for community discussions, but like all government bodies not everyone will like all the outcomes.”

He is a strong supporter of the Mills Act and notes that “without preserving our historic homes, we would lose the character of our city.”

Whitney says he brings not only a deep respect for the history of the Crown City, but also a “fresh set of eyes to the oldest problems.” He is committed to preserving the unique character of the island, but acknowledges that there is inevitably going to be change.

During our discussion, Whitney emphasized that he wants to work collaboratively with Coronado residents. He notes that we have an active and passionate citizenry here in Coronado and that this is one of the many reasons that Coronado is such a wonderful place to live.

Annie and Emma Benzian
Annie and Emma Benzian enjoying the Bay Front.

If elected, Whitney plans on having open coffee hours around town at least once a month. This would be an opportunity for residents to informally stop by and share with Whitney their perspectives on local issues.

As we finished up the interview, Whitney emphasized that he “is passionate about Coronado…and is looking forward to campaigning and meeting voters and hearing what their priorities, passions, and concerns are for Coronado going forward.”

You can learn more about Whitney’s candidacy at votebenzian.com. You can find him on Facebook and Instagram under his name.  Also running for Coronado City Council is Mike Donovan.

 



Ann Marie Bryan
Ann Marie Bryan
When not writing, Ann Marie teaches World History and Western Civilization at Grossmont College. A job she loves as much as she loves "island life".Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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