In anticipation of Mayor Richard Bailey being absent, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Donovan was set to preside over the April 19 City Council meeting. Even though Mayor Bailey was able to attend the meeting at the last moment, Donovan chaired the meeting, with a full chamber, mostly filled with parents, children, coaches, and others who are involved with youth sports, wanting to weigh in on the Cays Park Master Plan. Multiple proclamations were also presented, honoring worthy community groups.
Donovan presented the first honorary proclamation for the 2022 Host a Hero Program to Nancy Ratcliffe, Bella Moffatt, Jack Elardo, Grace Elardo, Madison Parma, Brooklyn Parma, Dominic Parma, and Kennedy Parma. 13 years ago, “The Old Goats,” a group of retired Navy veterans and Naval Academy graduates, partnered with the “Kids Who Care,” a group of former kindergarten students of Ratcliffe to honor wounded warriors during an annual Veteran’s Day weekend. During the pandemic when things were shut down, they shifted their focus and created the Host a Hero Program to support local Coronado restaurants and recognize America’s Armed Forces, honored veterans, City of Coronado First Responders, and local Coronado heroes by delivering desserts and snacks, to thank them for their service over the past 16 months. They plan to continue to look for opportunities throughout 2022.
Executive Director of Safe Harbor Coronado Georgia Ferrell accepted a proclamation from Donovan for Coronado Mental Wellness Month. She highlighted that Safe Harbor Coronado is dedicated to providing prevention and interventions that improve the emotional and behavioral health of youth and families. During the month of May, many events and activities will be offered, and details can be found on their website at safeharborcoronado.org/.
National Volunteer Week is April 17 to 23, and was recognized as Reserve Officer Don Theriault, Senior Volunteer Steve Berger, and Senior Volunteer Ignacio Rivera accepted a proclamation from Donovan. The annual week has been celebrated nationally since 1974. Volunteers are essential in the Coronado Public Safety arena. The Coronado Reserve Police Officers donated 210 hours of service participating in routine patrol shirts, answering calls for services, and assisting during special events. Senior Volunteers contributed 3,234 hours of service to conduct vehicle and foot patrols, assisted at special events, and responded to emergency call outs. Cadets donated 62 hours of service participating at special events and assisting with the Ride to Live training courses. Chaplains dedicate their time and service, making themselves available 24 hours a day, to provide support to the Police Department.
The most anticipated agenda item was the Coronado Cays Park Master Plan update with regards to field use data and analysis and then direction from the council on the three proposed concepts to be created by Van Dyke Landscape Architects (VDLA). City Manager Tina Friend said that staff found that reliable field analysis was not available prior to December 7, 2021, so data provided to VDLA for was from that time period up to current usage. She commented that the large turnout for this item was a “testament of how much the community cares about this park.” The heaviest field usage, approximately 90 percent, for the Cays Park is for soccer leagues after school and on weekends. Before turning the microphone over to Denise Armijo from VDLA, Friend said, “We are at the start of this process. We want to get community engagement, which will help refine the final plan.”
Armijo said they have looked at all the data, conducted community meetings, and analyzed the community surveys. They have concluded that if field space is reduced, it can’t be made up elsewhere in Coronado. They suggest a continued spatial approach for reservations. The pandemic dramatically increased usage and has given people a greater appreciation for parks. She noted that public comments indicate that people want more seating, shade, and not to lose the ocean view or change the park’s character. She suggested that after the three concepts are presented, ideas can be mixed and matched, based on public feedback. Some initial thoughts include adding signage and visual clues, as well as landscaping buffer areas. She pointed out that the park should provide the most flexibility and please the most people. Mayor Bailey pointed out that it would be helpful for the council to know what percentage of the park was programmed versus non-programmed, to which there wasn’t a definitive answer.
When Donovan called for public comments, due to the number of speakers, he limited comments to two minutes, rather than the standard three minutes. A combination of parents, coaches, and students made up the 23 public comments, to which there was clapping in-between, and council also received more than 15 letters on this issue prior to the meeting, mostly in support of keeping existing field space. The main sentiment of the speakers was that with the limited park and field space in Coronado, the same amount of programmable space needs to be maintained. Many highlighted the positive mental health effects sports provide our youth. It was pointed out that post pandemic, it is especially important to empower kids to thrive. The majority of the public comments were made by those involved in soccer leagues, who wanted to maintain sufficient areas. A few people spoke in favor of a 50-50 compromise of passive versus active recreation, and it was proposed that Tidelands could potentially be redesigned to accommodate more fields by taking out sidewalks. It was pointed out that this is not in the city’s purview because Tidelands Park is run by the Port of San Diego.
Then came council discussion, started off by Councilmember Tanaka who proposed keeping all four areas (see image above) but adding trees and benches. He also stated that potentially lopping off one of the areas for passive use could still maintain the space for sports. Councilmember Sandke suggested looking at moving the tennis courts, but after discussion, it was deemed too costly and beyond the scope of the project. Donovan pointed out that this began as a simple irrigation and turf upgrading project and has now turned into a years-long project, with a much larger price tag. He went on to say, “No one wants to reduce youth sports, but we want to be equitable in how we use our parks.” Councilmember Heinze said he was not looking for three variations of the same theme and encouraged VDLA to be creative in their concepts.
Mayor Bailey made a motion directing city staff and VDLA to develop “three concepts which maintain the existing programmable space, which is currently actively used, and that makes better use of the un-programmed and dead spaces with opportunities to create flex spaces.” He asked the council members if they were willing to maintain the current level of soccer activity, just like they previously guaranteed the dog park advocates. But he did not have the votes to get his motion approved, so Donovan spearheaded a motion that directed staff and VDLA to come back with one concept that looked at 100 percent of open space, one with 75 percent, and the third with 50 percent. Councilmember Tanaka commented, “I don’t know what I’m for or against until I see it.” Donovan’s motion passed 3 -2, with Mayor Bailey and Councilmember Sandke opposed. When the three concepts are complete, the public will have the opportunity to give input before the council makes a final decision.
New Port Commissioner Fran Urtasun said he has hit the street running and gave an update on the Port of San Diego, noting that some of the same issues still exist as when he was on the board 20 years ago. With regards to the Coronado Yacht Club, he indicated it will definitely be a priority and go to the Coastal Commission, once the Port Master Plan Update is complete. The Memorandum of Understanding for the Zuniga Jetty is close to completion, and they are seeking funding for the ongoing issue of abandoned vessels washing up on local beaches. Urtasun said that the Navy personnel he spoke to recently in Washington DC were appreciative of their efforts on this problem.
He next outlined that there are two parcels at the Coronado Ferry Landing, one which expires in 2026, and the other, with Il Fornaio, in 2037. There is still an additional available restaurant pad. Public workshops to show initial concepts were well attended, and he noted that the Port realizes that they “need to win the community over” to proceed. The Port received 360 letters, with 2300 pages of input, from the community which is still being analyzed. They hope to have the 30-year Port Master Plan done sometime after June to go to the Coastal Commission.
Discover Coronado’s Executive Director Todd Little gave highlights of their annual report noting, “What a difference a year makes,” with this being an on and off again year for tourists as different coronavirus variants have emerged. The four tourism strategies they are working on include: trade shows, client events, marketing, and research. The three-year strategic plan was developed with input from 30 different stakeholders and includes: increased sales, better communications, preparation, measuring (which includes quantifying guest volume and spending), and advocacy, which aims to elevate value and raise awareness. The plan details how to effectively emerge from the pandemic and The Del renovations. He said that Discover Coronado sponsors local events like the Summer Shuttle wrapping, the hospitality industry high school job fair, safety seminars, and the Orange Avenue banner program. They see a growing trend for people choosing to travel to coastal destinations and they are focused on conventions to increase the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) back to pre-pandemic levels, which is vital for the city’s general fund revenues. Little emphasized their motto is “Less is More ~ Choosing group quality over guest quantity.”
The council unanimously approved, with Councilmember Sandke recused due to employment at The Del, the continuation of levying two one-half percent (0.5%) assessment within CTID 1 and CTID 2 during fiscal Year 2023, on the four major hotels, including the Hotel del Coronado, the Glorietta Bay Inn, the Coronado Marriott Island Resort & Spa, and Loews Coronado Bay Resort.
Former Councilmember Carrie Downey asked that the agenda item regarding approving the 2022 Coronado apartment vacancy factor be pulled from the consent calendar. In response, Senior Planner Jesse Brown gave a brief report on this item that is required yearly by the municipal code for multi-family units with three or more units. He noted that surveys from February and March yielded 730 responses, a 45 percent return rate, with no response received from Bayside Coronado. This translates to a 1.7 percent vacancy rate, which is well below the five percent, which would trigger changes, like allowing apartments to be converted to condominiums, with exceptions for historic properties. Downey spoke of her personal experience of having more than 30 renters apply within two hours of posting her listing. She noted that this is a big problem, especially for military personnel, with base housing’s wait list of 18 to 24 months. She asked people to call her if they have rentals and she will connect them with the qualified people she couldn’t help.
Bill Schutt and his daughter Lydia spoke during Oral Communications to solicit support for youth beach volleyball tournaments in the summer on the beach here. He said that the current city recreation policy prohibits it, but he said they currently have to travel to other areas for tournaments, which attract between 50 and 70 teams, with approximately 140 athletes and their families.
Todd Little was appointed to the Library Board of Trustees to serve a three-year term expiring August 31, 2025.
Jeanmarie Bond was appointed to serve on the Cultural Arts Commission for the remainder of a term expiring December 31, 2024.
Russell Allen was appointed to the Parks and Recreation Commission to fill a term expiring on January 31, 2025.
The council unanimously approved Councilmember Sandke’s Policy #2 request for staff to review city policies for the use of public facilities, like event spaces. Councilmember Heinze suggested that staff also clarify any policy inconsistencies.
Councilmember Sandke shared that he attended the SANDAG Transportation Committee, where Caltrans Director Gustavo Dallarda reported that a grant request for $12 million for the Coronado Bridge suicide barrier had been submitted. They are expecting to hear back if it is approved in July or August 2022.