Thursday, February 22, 2024

Council Refuses to Endorse Bridge Lighting

At its November 7 meeting the city council amended the accessory dwelling units (ADU) ordinance, refused to endorse the Port of San Diego’s “Illuminate the Bridge” project, and rescinded a 2018 ballot measure to increase council salaries.

Accessory Dwelling Units. The council voted to add new provisions to the ordinance it had approved last month and signaled that it wanted to consider other aspects at a subsequent meeting. The vote was 5-0.

The revised ordinance establishes the length of time the ADU has to be rented; where it can be built and wastewater connection costs. Tenants must reside in an ADU for at least 26 days. People who add an ADU must live on the property, either in the main house or the ADU. ADUs detached from the main house must have their own sewer line. The fee for the connection was set at $3,816.

The council also clarified rules it had already put in place. For example, people are not allowed to put an ADU on top of a detached garage. They can though put an ADU on top of one that is attached to the main house, Downey pointed out. City parking requirements apply to all ADUs, except when one is built near public transportation. This is a state rule. The assumption being that if there is a bus stop nearby people living in an ADU won’t need a car. Even with the revisions, the council was not completely satisfied with the ordinance and wanted more time to consider it.

“This is a complex issue,” City Councilman Mike Donovan said. He suggested the council revisit limiting ADUs to 800 square feet. The state allows them to be 1,200 square feet. Downey still wants to prohibit renting an ADU for a short-period of time. “Twenty-six days doesn’t cut it,” she said. “It’s still a vacation rental. It’s not affordable housing.”

Bridge lights and barriers: It was not so much that Coronado opposed the port’s Illuminate the Bridge project, for most it was a matter of timing. “If they wait a while, we can put beautiful lights on the bridge in conjunction with the suicide barrier,” said Wayne Strickland, President of the Coronado San Diego Bridge Collaborative for Suicide Prevention.

Rendering of bridge lighting option

The port wants to complete the project in time for the San Diego-Coronado Bridge’s 50th Anniversary. It was seeking the city’s endorsement to help bolster its fundraising efforts. It needs to raise $10 million, so far has raised $1.2 million.

“Fifty years is not the end all and be all,” said Downey. She stressed that she was not opposed to lighting the bridge, but she wanted to make it clear that suicide prevention was the council’s first priority. “We don’t object as long as it’s not before suicide barrier,” she said.

Not everyone agreed with her. “We have to show some support for the groups trying to raise funds for this,” said Councilman Whitney Benzian. Mayor Richard Bailey wonder if all mattered. The city doesn’t really have a say. The bridge is on port land and Caltrans has jurisdiction over it. “The port is going to do what the port is going to do. Caltrans is going to do what it is going to do,” he said. He suggested the council endorse both the lights and the barrier.

Councilman Bill Sandke objected. “These are two diffident projects. One has an artistic, iconic goal; the other a noble goal,” he said. “Let’s keep this a clean motion. They will come together as part of the permit process.”

Councilman Mike Donovan would have none of it. “The bridge is a piece of public art as it stands. He compared the project to ‘putting Christmas lights on Mount Rushmore.’ ”

Realizing there was not a consensus, Bailey suggested withdrawing the motion. Benzian insisted on a vote, one he knew he would lose. “I thinks it’s a terrific project. It’s something I believe in.” The vote was 3-2. Sandke joined Benzian in supporting the project.

Salary increase initiative: The council returned council salary adjustments to an administrative process by removing a ballot initiative that had been approved for the November 2018 ballot. The vote was 5-0.

At the urging of then Mayor Casey Tanaka the council had voted 4-1 to place a measure on the ballot asking voters to approve raising their salary to $800. Sandke was the lone hold out. The council’s salary had not been adjusted since 1996. It was Tanaka’s last council meeting. The council appeared to want to give deference to the outgoing mayor.
Donovan, who asked that the issue be reexamined, was not on the council when the vote was taken. He opposed the measure then and now because he said it “takes flexibility from future councils; takes money, time and effort.” Once established, future councils would have to put every raise up to a vote. Approving raises administratively would not exclude the public. The council would have to vote on the raise and the public would have a say. Requiring a plebiscite would actually “limit public input,” Donovan said. “A voter might not approve $800, but might agree to a $200 increase“ if asked at an open meeting.


Gloria Tierney
Gloria Tierney
A freelance writer in San Diego for more than 30 years. She has written for a number of national and international newspapers, including the Times of London, San Diego Tribune, Sierra Magazine, Reuters News Service and Patch.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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