Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to make it clear that passive beach activities will be allowed once the County of San Diego allows those activities.
The focus of Tuesday’s City Council meeting was decision making on the ever-changing environment of state and county health orders related to coronavirus. A report was presented by City Manager Blair King. The first approval was for the opening of the city’s Tennis Center at 1501 Glorietta Blvd. The following precautions will be in place: reservations must be scheduled, face coverings must be worn when interacting with staff, and courts will be monitored by trained staff who will conduct temperature checks. Play is limited to two individuals or one household on the court at a time. Councilmember Donovan asked to add an addendum for city staff to look into opening the Cays tennis courts as well and come back with a report. The high school tennis courts will not be opened at this time due to logistics.
Parking meter enforcement was also unanimously approved. Enforcement will begin immediately with written warnings given the first week, and on Thursday, May 28, citations will be issued. The council also voted to waive the commercial use permit fees for FY 20-21 which will help local businesses. The fee is $903 per business for a total of $15,000 in waived permit fees.
The letter requesting state and county health orders to be applied equally for large and small businesses was unanimously approved. Although this might be a moot point because things are loosening up, the Council still felt it was important and they added the County Supervisors, Economic Development Department and Health Office to the distribution list. They also approved a letter from the city in support of the county requesting to move forward as a pilot program for the Phase 3 opening. To expedite this, Councilmembers Benzian and Sandke were appointed to a subcommittee to approve a letter drafted by city staff. The letter will be sent shortly and then brought back to the next council meeting.
King said that they entered into a temporary agreement with Coronado MainStreet for business monitoring services to assist local businesses in their efforts to comply with public health requirements by the state and county during the COVID-19 crisis as they reopen. In an email sent to local business by Coronado MainStreet on the morning of May 21, MainStreet stated, “Coronado MainStreet has been contracted by the City of Coronado to monitor the reopening of businesses, and will be coming by each business in the following days and weeks to provide education and answer any questions you may have.”
King pointed out additional emergency issues as of Tuesday and they were added to the agenda. All were approved with the first being asking the Port of San Diego to reopen Tidelands Park, Grand Caribe Shoreline Park, and the Ferry Landing beach area to be consistent with the county park openings and to help spread out park users.
One of the major discussions was the reopening of dining in at restaurants as state and county health officials begin to allow it with safety protocols. The council voted to suspend parking requirements so restaurants could use the additional space for dining, as they put the required distance safety precautions in place. King said that they realize parking will become more congested, but this will greatly help the restaurants accommodate more guests and generate additional revenue. The time limit on this proposal was until August 1, unless regulations change sooner. Councilmember Benzian proposed getting even more creative with possibly closing an area around 10th and C Ave., and between 1st and 2nd Streets on the weekends to better support the restaurants. It was decided to identify other outdoor dining spaces and bring them back to the next council meeting.
Coronado Beaches were also discussed, and the council voted to allow passive activities if and when the County of San Diego allows those activities. Beach hours will be extended as soon as staffing can be adjusted. Councilmember Benzian pointed out “it’s important for the public to comply and know that things can be changed. It’s an experiment.” With regards to opening dog beach, there was a lot of discussion. It was pointed out that Del Mar and San Diego dog beaches are open, but King and the council felt that it is harder to social distance with dogs. They even discussed opening it only on weekdays, but the issue was tabled for now and will be revisited.
Councilmember Donovan asked about opening up parking on Ocean Boulevard to help ease congestion near the beach and surrounding areas. The council voted to adopt Councilmember Sandke’s suggestion of opening up half the street, on the north side, away from the beach, down through the keyhole. Councilmember Heinze suggested the same for Cays Boulevard to be open on the side away from the park. The parking for Glorietta Bay Park and the boat ramp were also discussed and 50 percent of the parking will now be open.
Also unanimously approved was to relax the parking standards at the South Bay Bird Sanctuary parking lot in accordance with allowed County Park protocol. This allows for half of the parking lot to be utilized.
City Manger Blair King gave an overview of the preliminary fiscal year 2020-21 budget with Director of Administrative Services Jim Krueger answering questions. King said this year’s budget preparation “was like putting it together in the middle of a whirlwind. We have spent years preparing for a storm and we have a sustainable plan.” He emphasized that the city and city council have been about consistency, predictability, and sustainability and emphasized that the prudent financial decisions made in the past will help the city move forward, with not too many major changes, even with a $12.2 million decline in revenues this year. The decline is due in part to the loss of Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) associated with the major construction at The Del, but mostly from the impact of the COVID-19 crisis basically closing our downtown. The bright spot in the budget is the $33.9 million in property tax expected for the year.
King emphasized that they are projecting no cut in services, library hours, no hiring freeze or layoffs, no deferred maintenance and they will honor labor obligations, unlike what other cities are having to do during this difficult time. Some of the places that will be cut are the Vehicle Replacement Fund, the Information Technologies Fund, the Storm Drain Fund, the Recreation Fund, Community Development Fund, Facilities Replacement Fund, and the General Fund Capital Improvement Program.
The General Fund Reserves are in decline from $61,135,410 on May 14, 2019 to $48,909,800 on May 19, 2020, but that still leaves the city with at least six months in reserve. It is anticipated that the General Fund balance will be approximately $40 million on June 30, 2021, accounting for approximately 76 percent of General Fund expenditures with approximately $24 million in committed services for emergencies and economic sustainability, and $15 million as an unassigned undesignated balance.
There were two options presented with regards to the Pension Stabilization Fund. Option one was to not give an additional contribution into the Pension Stabilization Fund, and option two was to take $2,728,000 and put it in the fund, leaving the General Fund Balance at approximately $37 million. After discussion, it was decided that with the current market, it would be prudent to go ahead with option two and fund the Pension Stabilization Fund.
There will still be $2 million in capital projects on the docket from other sources, including the Ocean Blvd enhancement project, the B Avenue, Adella, and Cays street curb and gutter projects, needed road repair and slurry seal, Transnet street curb and gutter projects, an emergency generator for John D. Spreckels Center, parking lot lights and equipment replacement at the Golf Course. There is also $800,000 allocated for Community Grants in the budget.
There was discussion on requests to redo the lawn bowling green, and even though there is some seam damage from mitigating a fungus problem, at least two-thirds of the green is still in decent shape and this will be deferred for now. The Library north lawn project will also be tabled for this year. King did say that he expects some personnel changes, but that they have not been identified as of yet. With regards to the Caltrans Relinquishment Plan, Caltrans originally offered the city $14 million, and have now upped that to $20 million, but they are still in the negotiation process. The city feels that creating a new Relinquishment Highway Fund with $30 million would be sufficient to sustain the Caltrans roads maintenance obligation. Regarding utility undergrounding, matching funds are still available for districts that are already designated, but it doesn’t look promising that the Navy will contribute to this.
King said they hope to adopt the final budget at the June 2 council meeting and must have it completed by June 16. The mayor commended the city for keeping the same levels of services, and cited the prudent decision of previous councils that have left the city in a good financial position to weather this storm.
Originally discussed in January at a council meeting when a Cays homeowner asked for a Cays building second story variance, this issue was sent to the Cays Homeowners Association (HOA) to hold meetings and recommend a plan that would standardize current inconsistencies in the building code. Council Member Heinze had to recuse himself for this issue because of his house location. There was discussion brought up by Councilmember Sandke about whether Cays Homeowners had been properly notified. Councilmember Donovan said, “I put a lot of weight on the HOA recommendation.” After approval, this will now go to the Planning Commission and then will come back to the council for final approval, so there is still time for homeowners to submit comments.
The council unanimously approved the assessment levying for Coronado Tourism Improvement District (CTID) I and II as part of the required annual protest public hearing. Councilmember Sandke recused himself because of his Hotel del Coronado association.
The Consent Calendar was unanimously approved with these items of note:
- Adopted a resolution using Community Development Block Grant Program (CDGP) monies to be used for coronavirus related projects. The city receives approximately $65,000-75,000 annually in CDGP monies.
- Authorized $45,624 for a shelter bed at St. Vincent de Paul for homeless individuals in Coronado as needed by the Police Department.
- Twenty-six public comments were received prior to the council meeting on a variety of topics. The majority of them, totaling 16 in favor, were regarding the council sending the equality letter to open small businesses to the county and state; six regarding Cays building standards, and other issues included CTID, construction noise, and lawn bowling. These can be viewed in detail on the city’s website.