Thursday, August 6, 2020

Budget, Wireless Facilities, and Historic & Construction Issues Dominate City Council Meeting

Mayor Bailey presented a proclamation proclaiming June 4, 2019 as “Tom Ritter Day”

Wireless communication issues, the annual budget, historic preservation, and construction extensions filled the recent City Council meeting agenda with Councilmembers Sandke and Benzian absent. Mayor Bailey presented a proclamation proclaiming June 4, 2019 as “Tom Ritter Day.” Ritter was recognized for his 32 years of service in municipal government; he has served as Assistant City Manager for Coronado since 2009. His management skills included addressing issues of Coronado’s short-term rentals, the aging Glorietta Bay Marina Dock C and public dock rehabilitation program and helping improve summer traffic congestion by coordinating the Free Summer Shuttle program since it began in 2012. He was commended for his professionalism and humor and implementation of the city’s wayfinding signage program, providing staff support to the city’s Transportation Commission, managing the city’s participation in a national citizen satisfaction survey, assisting with two concessionaire changes at the Golf Course and coordinating the city’s Avenue of the Heroes recognition program.

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Mayor Bailey presented a proclamation and commended Amy Steward and her newly formed organization Emerald Keepers proclaiming June as “Emerald Green, Ocean Blue” month. Emerald Keepers are concerned citizens who work to educate fellow citizens of all ages to develop more sustainable practices for the health of our oceans, our beach community of Coronado, and the world. Steward, the founder, and the first youth Emerald Keeper Jesse Hill, encouraged everyone to check out their website to learn more about 30 things you can do to be part of the solution.

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The highlight of Blair King’s City Manager’s Report was the 2019-20 budget video, which the Mayor called a good way to capture the excitement of the budget. King pointed out that Coronado has a strong financial base with a balanced budget. He smiled and said, “We always end the budget video with fireworks.” The total budget is $98.6 million with $91.7 in expenditures. The General Fund has revenues of $61.1 million with expenditures of $61 million, which include 51 percent for public safety, 23 percent for construction and maintenance, 17 percent for administration and seven percent for culture and leisure.  Highlights include: reducing the impact of pension liability, additional funds for major facilities replacement, $5.4 million in new capital projects, contributions to future vehicle replacements and technology updates. Challenging issues on the horizon are State Affordable Housing Mandates and the Storm Drain Fund solvency.

The city’s major revenue sources include:

  • Property Taxes $32.8 million   +5 percent
  • Hotel Taxes $16.7 million       +4.5 percent
  • Sales Taxes $3.6 million         +3 percent

Upcoming activities in the approaching year are: Ocean Boulevard sidewalk improvements, Climate Action Plan, Universally Accessible Playground, Reclaimed Water Facility and the Free Summer Shuttle. The council unanimously voted to adopt the budget. The budget video can be viewed here

When the Mayor asked for a show of hands of who was in the audience regarding wireless communication facilities, the majority of people raised their hands, so he moved those two presentations up on the agenda. The first was by Kevin McGee and Richard Porras from AT&T. They apologized for not being at the last council meeting but said that they had gotten the dates mixed up. McGee explained that Coronado has four macro sites, located at Sharp Coronado Hospital, Rite-Aid, the Coronado Beach Resort and the Fire Station, with two additional sites on North Island. They have 10 proposed small cell sites, with an additional one at Tidelands Park on Port of San Diego land. Eight of these site proposals have been submitted with the other three pending approval. These sites are all 4G and McGee said that 5G is not part of the applications but will most likely be requested in 2021.

McGee indicated that there is no master plan at this time because the need is “capacity driven, so that more usage drives more sites.” AT&T does evaluations three times per year, but the proposed sites will provide capacity through 2020. He addressed the issue of FCC radio frequency (RF) emissions compliance and said that they are at five percent or below what the FCC allows.

He said that in December 2016, AT&T worked with the city to walk the sites to anticipate issues and be sure to comply with the city code. Orange Ave was one of the original proposed sites, but it was not supported aesthetically. Councilmember Donovan asked about the public’s concerns regarding 4G versus 5G technology. McGee commented that 5G operates on a different radio frequency at 39 gigahertz, and will require additional equipment and antennae, some on existing sites and some on new sites. 4G operates on a variety of frequencies from 850 to 1700 to 1900 megahertz.

When the Mayor asked about the number of sites needed in Coronado, McGee said that the volume is capacity driven and dictated by network use. He said that there are approximately 700 cell sites in San Diego County. When asked if combining multiple companies’ antennae had an additive effect, McGee replied that “We have to take the other carriers’ information into consideration and comply with FCC regulations.” Councilmember Heinze asked how they ensure good coverage to which McGee responded that drive by tests are done by the company. “Everyone is always trying to provide the best coverage,” he said. Heinze also asked about the necessary safe distance from people and McGee said that the FCC guidelines regulate that people are made aware and a general guideline is to “stay back one foot from small cells.” The Mayor said that residents have requested a point of contact at AT&T that they can communicate with directly and AT&T provided Richard Porras at

The floor was then opened up for public comments and seven residents asked questions and spoke on the subject. James and Pat Murphy again expressed their concern over having two sites located on their property. Other issues raised were the testing results and health affects on children and adults. The Mayor summarized the resident’s questions and asked why the required poles are so tall. McGee said that the “optimal sweet spot is to get above 27-30 feet, and they must work around other bands, like cable, phone, etc.”

Next up was Dr. Jonathan L. Kramer, from Telecomm Law Firm, who had also given a presentation in August 2018. With impressive credentials, he is a wireless engineer and attorney who has 35 years’ experience and has represented over 2,000 clients, including San Francisco in their most recent aesthetic case which they won. He gave a summary explaining that the increasing number of wireless communication facilities is due to the growing number of cell phonies versus home phones, and companies don’t share frequencies and equipment. He is currently representing several entities in lawsuits in California and Oregon, but he doesn’t know what the outcomes will be. He cited the example of Palos Verdes Estates which approved 40 sites but denied two and are being sued. He said that Coronado is ahead of the game with the AP 29 provisions which allow the city to dictate location and design standards, and discourage locations, and encouraged the city to keep that in place. He emphasized that “Coronado has crafted a set of policies that will not encourage litigation.” He answered Councilmember Donovan’s questions about how the city could deny these new sites by saying that “there is some control in the public right of way, but there is no absolute prohibition. He also indicated that the city has the right to require RF reports.” Heinze asked about the necessity of the city conducting ongoing monitoring to which Kramer said that it isn’t necessary because it only changes if the equipment is upgraded. He said that the FCC sets the standards for the public and some countries have higher and others lower standards.

The public was once again allowed to asked questions and five people came to the podium. Kramer finished by saying that he thinks eventually there will be in excess of 100 sites, encompassing all providers. For the future, the FCC is anticipating fixed wireless services where “fixed wireless will be mounted on homes to compete with cable television companies.” He said that “the genius of 5G is that it combines signals on multiple frequencies.” He pointed out that Congress is the only entity that can tell the FCC what to do, short of having a court overturn the current standards, and said residents can lobby their Congressmen and Senators to help effect change on this issue. The council approved a motion to accept this report.

Tricia Olsen, Associate Planner, Historic Resource Commission (HRC) liaison, gave a presentation on the Historic Alteration Permit for a remodel and addition at 520 J Avenue. The house was originally historically designated under Criterions B, C, and D for being identified with Brigadier General Ivan Miller, for possessing distinctive architectural characteristics of the Spanish Revival Eclectic Style, and for being a notable work of builder Saul H. Brown. She outlined the changes to the facade, door, and materials being proposed and said that the staff recommendation is that these are not consistent with Mills Act rules. The homeowner, Scott Helmers, and his architect also spoke about the project and said that the changes to the door in the turret is due to poor drainage and water damage. They also pointed out the proposed shutters are more in line with the style of the architecture than the original ones. Emily Talbert, HRC Vice Chair, and two neighbors spoke in favor of the proposed changes. After a lengthy discussion, the first motion to uphold the HRC decision did not pass because with only the mayor and two councilmembers in attendance, a 3-0 vote was needed. Councilmember Donovan then made a new motion to have the applicant keep the original shutters and tiles to maintain the historical integrity and his motion passed.

The council approved a Golf Course Green Fees Revision which will be effective July 1, 2019. Highlights include: For the regular fee schedule, the general play green fee will go from $37 to $42 with a $7 increase also for prime-time green fee. For residents, the general play green fee will go from $35 to $38, with the prime-time green fee also going up $3.

The council approved separate three-year construction extensions for the properties located at 876 E Ave and 956-960 F Ave. The E Ave property originally asked for a six-year extension; the neighbors spoke up and said the property was not properly maintained and that the city had been notified on numerous occasions and it was noted that they would work with the contractor on resolving this issue.

The Council voted to fill an at-large vacancy on the Discover Coronado (CTID) Board.  The candidates were David Spatafore and Robin MacCartee. The council unanimously voted to appoint David Spatafore to fill the three-year term, which expires on June 15, 2022.

On a lighter note, Mayor Bailey gave a shout out to Coronado High School graduate Connor Wertz, who watches from China where he is currently in the Peace Corps.

The vitally important SANDAG Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) report was continued until the next council meeting.



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Jennifer Velez
Jennifer fell in love with Coronado as a teenager while visiting a college friend. She vowed that someday she would make it her home, and that dream has recently become a reality. Fast forward through completing college with a BA in Journalism, Public Relations and Communications, she then went on to work with a variety of clients. She also taught Journalism and coordinated fundraising for her children’s school, and was a staff writer for San Diego Family Magazine and contributed to other parenting publications. Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to:


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