Mike Donovan, candidate for Coronado City Council, wants to return Coronado to the residents.
He hears the voices of those in town who are tired of the increasing number of cars on Orange Avenue, the constant siren call for more tourists, the inexplicable painting of bike lanes.
Donovan wants to represent the residents of Coronado because he believes the current representation on the current Council is not always adequate as far as residents are concerned.
A key point of Donovan’s platform is that the businesses in town have two points of advocacy: The Coronado Tourism Improvement District (CTID) and the Coronado Chamber of Commerce; but no established advocate exists for the residents of Coronado.
He offers himself as that advocate.
Donovan explained to me that he is a “data driven engineer,” and that was my first impression of him as we talked for over an hour about the issues that affect Coronado residents the most.
Donovan struck me as a smart, thoughtful, and with no other agenda than wanting to preserve and perhaps return to the Coronado that he has known and loved as a resident for over 40 years.
As evidence of his desire to be an advocate rather than a politician, I had trouble getting Donovan to send me some “press photos.” He sent me a picture of himself at Spreckels Park, his campaign poster, and a picture of the bridge.
However, there was not a Coronado-sensitive topic that I raised that Donovan could not state the research he had done on the issue, his position, and his own process for coming to his conclusions.
Relationship with the Navy
Donovan is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and has a Masters degree in Naval Architecture and Marine Engineering from MIT. A retired Captain (O-6), Donovan had a 30-year career in the Navy. Donovan has managed ship design contracts of over $5 million.
Donovan acknowledged that both civilian and military employees on North Island want to get to work and then they want to get home – just like the rest of us.
He acknowledged that the problem has definitely grown at North Island and at the Amphibious Base. With BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure), bases like San Francisco have closed, so the mission and work has moved to North Island.
As his mailer explains, Donovan wants to work “together to resolve Navy commuter traffic issues, including excessive noise and speed.” He also wants to expand “dialogue with the Navy to address impact of base operations [including the …] new South Campus [and] flight paths on residential neighborhoods.”
He also intends to work “closely with the …Airport Authority in preparing the Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan for NASNI to mitigate negative consequences for residents and businesses.”
Route 75 Relinquishment
As far as taking back Route 75, Donovan knew all the fine details of this issue. When I posed my questions, he drew me street grids of Coronado on a napkin to make sure that I visually could comprehend his understanding of the issue. Donovan explained: “We need to have all the facts and data regarding Coronado taking over responsibility for SR 75 and SR 282 to make that decision.”
Donovan said he believes in having the facts: What would be the cost of Caltrans relinquishing SR 75 and SR 282 to the city and what would be the liability to have Caltrans relinquish these routes? He explained that in the Council’s 2015 Traffic Study, it was recommended that the Council work with Caltrans to do a study so we have the hard facts on the issue.
Short Term Rentals
Donovan was clear that short-term rentals are a problem in Coronado. He argues that it ruins our neighborhoods with folks that are not invested in our community. He wants a strict enforcement of City Code regarding vacation rentals: “They are illegal [and] they add to congestion. They also take away occupancy rates from hotels and Transient Occupancy Tax due the city.” He sited the statistic that of the approximately 8,500 abodes in Coronado, only 53% are owner occupied.
After his career in the Navy, Donovan entered the corporate world working for Solar Turbines where he ultimately retired at the director level. As his mailer explains, he has managed operation budgets over $10 million and capital budgets of $50 million.
He wants to bring this fiscal experience to balancing the monetary needs of businesses in Coronado, the city’s financial needs, and the needs of the residents.
Donovan believes the council needs to stay away from local advertising. Donovan feels that “the city needs a long-term management strategy with meaningful measures to control tourism. And the strategy should not be to get as many people in town as possible.” Donovan said: “The city should be working with residents to understand what kind of tourists residents want. Probably that would be tourists with a low impact.”
He believes the city needs to develop metrics that, for example, assess the number of cars that enter the city each day and how much city sales tax does each car that actually garner.
Overall, Donovan believes that promoting day-trips to Coronado is not a good tourism strategy and the city should focus their efforts on groups that will typically take a cab, rather than have their own car, sight-see and shop, and spend money in our city between their meetings.
He pointed out that in 2010 the council approved a one-half of one percent tax on guests at our major hotels with those funds to go to attracting more tourists. He acknowledge that this was initially because of the recession. In 2015, another half of one percent tax was approved.
The result was that $1.4 million was spent marketing Coronado, including to people who visit just for the day. Donovan emphasized that “we have a beautiful beach and we ought to share it,” but he also believes that many residents are frustrated because this also brings more traffic and more trash, and that many residents are not convinced that these visitors bring any large benefit to our local businesses.
He believes the council needs a more specific strategy about tourism, not just “more!”
Donovan “still sees older homes we should be keeping, being torn down.” He has given a lot of thought to balancing owners’ rights with reducing the size of new homes’ footprints. He believes that with the small set-back (on 25 foot lots, the set back is only 3 feet), “we need to have some control over the architecture of the new homes so that a 30-foot wall is not constructed next to a smaller home.”
Donovan said we need to “look at the building codes and put them in perspective with…blocking peoples’…sun and space.”
Donovan is a straight-forward guy, but he is not glitz and glamour. If you agree with him on these issues, you might want to start spreading the word yourself.