Universally Accessible Playgrounds, Historic Alteration Permits, Pool Data and Financial Report Discussed at City Council

One of the most discussed and debated topics of this week’s City Council meeting, of which Councilmember Benzian was absent, was moving forward with Universally Accessible Playground equipment for Mathewson and Spreckels Parks.

Jim Fabiszak, and his wife Veleria who has long been a champion for this cause, along with their children, Jameson, Hannah, Abby, and several other community members, all spoke up in favor of creating a high level universally accessible playground for Spreckels Park, which is the most central of Coronado parks. It currently has an accessible swing. The Fabiszaks are advocating for using Shane’s Inspiration, which is an organization that has helped build more than 60 universally accessible playgrounds in the U.S.  Jim said “Spreckels park should be the gold standard for Coronado.” The Mayor thanked the children for their poise and passion.

Cliff Maurer, Director of Public Services and Engineering, gave a presentation citing that City Architect Ruby Carr had already begun a design for Mathewson Park, which is slated to be next in the rotation for updating. He noted that there are different levels of universally accessible playgrounds and features can include parking, ramps, approaches and a variety of equipment options. He emphasized that “Safety is our number one concern,” and pointed out that the equipment at Mathewson Park is the oldest and replacement parts are no longer available. Maurer wanted the council to understand the cost differential of updating Matthewson Park with regular equipment for $135,000 versus universally accessible equipment for $240,000 – $275,000 which is about double, to be able to plan for future park updates. With $145,000 currently budgeted, an additional $200,000 from grant monies could fund the project. Councilmember Heinze asked what the time frame was for the completion of Mathewson Park and Maurer said that it could realistically be ready by late summer or early fall, with no major roadblocks. City Manager Blair King and Maurer both emphasized that using one firm for design and installation helps with continuity, safety and liability issues.

There was much discussion among the council with regards to completing the Mathewson Park remodel next or move up the renovation at Spreckels Parks to the top of the list. It has already been moved up in the rotation. Councilmember Donovan advocated for keeping Mathewson Park next in line, because of the older unreplaceable equipment. He also said that with it being a smaller park, they could learn from it and then be ready to move forward with Spreckels Park. The Council members agreed and voted on two motions. The first motion was to direct staff to replace the playground equipment at Mathewson and Spreckels Parks with universal design playground equipment, soliciting public input, and the second motion was to approve submitting a Prop 68 per capita park program fund grant. The Council unanimously approved both of these motions to move forward.

The other lengthy discussion was on Historic Alteration Permits. The first property at 825 Alameda Blvd. was quickly approved concurring with the staff and Historic Resource Commission (HRC) recommendation for a historic alteration permit for a remodel and addition, with zoning standards exceptions, after a presentation by Associate Planner Tricia Olsen.

Olsen then presented the next historic alteration permit request for the house at 936 J Avenue that also included a remodel, addition and zoning standard exemption, but did not come with staff or HRC endorsement, because they did not feel it met all of the Interior Standards for Historic Preservation Projects. Architect Kevin Rugee showed the renderings and explained the project pointing out that the standards are open for interpretation and the house is really designed in reverse, so he came up design elements from the more decorative rear exterior to incorporate into the front of the home. He also said it was prudent to incentivize homeowners to keep historic homes and improve their properties and this remodel would make the 1934 home function for today’s standards. The mayor agreed saying “I don’t think the intent is to keep old homes antiquated.” Seven neighbors, as well as the homeowners, also voiced their approval for the project. After much discussion among the council, they voted against the staff recommendation and approved the project.

Police Chief Charles Kaye gave a report on efforts to address vehicle noise enforcement, noting that new legislation went into effect at the beginning of the year that now makes it mandatory to issue tickets to offenders. Prior to this, police officers issued “fit it” tickets, allowing motorists to fix their vehicle’s exhaust system within 30 days, provide proof, and avoid paying fines. Now, fines are mandatory and can range upwards of $1,000. The department has seen an increase in calendar year 2018 to 2019 from 15 to 32 citations for loud exhausts; modified exhaust citations increased from 10 to 28; and loud stereo tickets increased from four to 17. When asked how loud 95 decibels measures, Kaye equated it to a lawn mower and cited a vacuum cleaner at 70 decibels for comparison. The department is using signs and social media to educate the public.

Jim Krueger, Director of Administrative Services, introduced Finance Manager, Emad Gewaily, who presented the comprehensive annual Financial Report (CAFR) for the year ending June 30, 2019. Gewaily pointed out that the report was 154 pages long so he would just share the highlights: Cash in the General Fund is $123,288,572, which includes a nearly $34 million increase from paying off loans to the Successor Agency, most of which is allocated for capital projects. The city property taxes increased by $1.6 million and the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) increased by $400,000 and Interest Revenue was up $1.1 million, with expenditures also up $1.5 million, combined for a $2.1 million savings for the General Fund, which is available for the mid-year budget. He also pointed out that the city government’s positive fiscal position has increased over the last 10 years from $122,156,733 in 2010 to $311,704,029 in 2019. Next, Jennifer Farr, from the CPA firm of Davis Farr, said that they had completed an exhaustive 500-hour audit and that they gave the city an unmodified, clean audit opinion, which is the highest level given.

City Pool statistics were presented by Kellyn Sanderson, Senior Management Analyst, per the council’s previous request in October. The analysis compared the number of swimmers and lanes in October 2018 versus October 2019. The council wanted to see the impact of the addition of Coronado Swim Association (CSA) team swimmers. In general, the numbers indicated that on average there was one swimmer per lane with a few exceptions like Mondays at 4 pm. The council discussed the need to continue monitoring, especially in busier months of spring and summer, to make sure that there is sufficient space for residents. Several members of the community spoke up to say that the noise level of the CSA coaches is distracting to swimmers and locker rooms are often left with wet floors after swim practice.

The council questioned why pool admissions had declined from 50,000 in 2014 to 27,000 in 2019, to which Director of Recreation and Golf Services Roger Miller pointed out that heavier rain and BBMAC swimmers could help account for those numbers. City Manager Blair King pointed out that they want to make it available to families and have added additional features in the summer like inflatable slides. They offer “Mommy and me” and kids’ swim lessons and are looking for other concessionaires to offer advanced swimming lessons. “We want to make it a combination of competitive and recreational swimmers.”

There were 10 items on the Consent Calendar.  Some of the highlights include:

  • Approval of a green bike lane at the Coronado Yacht Club entrance.
  • The consolidation of two bus stops on Orange Avenue to one to be located between R.H. Dana and Churchill.
  • Contract awarded for construction of ADA compliant pedestrian ramps along A, B and C Avenues.

 

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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: manager@coronadotimes.com