Saturday, January 28, 2023

Q & A with John Duncan, Coronado City Council Candidate

Ahead of election day on November 8, 2022, The Coronado Times has asked the four City Council candidates to answer the following questions in their own words to give the community insight on their background and views. The Q&As will be published in the order received.

Q: How did your Coronado story begin?

A: I dreamed of living in Coronado since childhood, as both sets of my grandparents retired to San Diego in the 1970s and I spent much of my younger years visiting the area. I met my wife, Peggy, in law school here in San Diego in 1992. As our careers, marriage and growing family progressed, we knew Coronado was where we wanted to raise our children. We began renting here in 2006 and, in 2008, we were able to buy our dream historic home where we currently live. It seems not that long ago that our four children were attending Christ Church Day School and participating in Coronado youth soccer, baseball, and softball. Now my older son Connor is in college at USC and my triplets, Emma, Tara, and Colin, are all juniors in high school. As we draw closer to an empty nest, my wife and I are more committed to our community than ever. We picked Coronado to be the place we stay rooted long after our busy days of parenting, and we want Coronado to be the place our grandchildren eventually come to visit.

Q: Share an overview of your professional experience.

A: I am an attorney with over 25 years of experience in business, finance, asset management and real estate law. I am a seasoned negotiator with strong analytical and problem-solving skills. I have been a managing partner of both small and large law firms, including building a law firm from a few attorneys to over 100 attorneys, with 12 offices in 10 states. I have negotiated both multimillion-dollar business deals and legal settlements. I also run a small business investing in real estate. I pride myself on building consensus, and I have enjoyed great success bringing opposing parties to amicable resolutions. I received my BA in Political Science from the University of Southern California, and I graduated from the University of San Diego School of Law in 1995, having served as the Constitutional Law Chair on the Appellate Moot Court Board. I also studied law at Oxford University. I have been admitted to practice law in California, Washington D.C., Texas, and the State of Washington, as well as The United States Supreme Court.

Q: What are some highlights of your community involvement?

A: I am a strong believer in public service and giving back to the community. I am a Director on the Coronado Historical Association (CHA) Board of Directors and serve as Chair of the Heritage, Investment and Building Committees. I enjoy working with the amazing Coronado citizens who focus on the preservation of Coronado’s history through education, lectures, exhibits, and activities, such as the annual Historic Home Tour on Mother’s Day.  Also, I have personally preserved and ushered numerous properties through the Coronado Historical Resource Commission (HRC) to designation as Coronado Historical Resources.

In 2020, I was appointed to serve on the Coronado Civil Service Commission, and I am the current Chair. From 2016 to 2019, I served on Coronado’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, including a term as Vice Chair.

I volunteered in Coronado for over ten years coaching children in soccer, softball, and baseball, as well as serving on multiple Coronado youth sports league boards.

I am a Director on the FBI San Diego Citizens Alumni Academy Board of Directors and serve as Chair of the Governance Committee and the Academy Functions Committee. For my service, this year I received recognition from the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI San Diego Regional Field Office, which stated, “Your dedication is above and beyond, and it is individuals like you who help the FBI in meeting our mission…I have included my SAC coin as a recognition of your excellence and leadership.” Prior to my role as a Director, I attended the Coronado Citizen’s Police Academy in 2016, as well as the FBI Citizens Academy in 2017 as a participant. I am proud to be an active Coronado Rotarian.

Q: What motivated you to run for City Council?

A: I am motivated to protect our City for future generations, so that our grandchildren and all future families can enjoy our small-town history and charm, pollution-free beaches, and caring community. All of this is at risk if we lose our local control. We are facing many issues that require a complex understanding of the law, finance, and assets. We must listen to our neighbors, build consensus when we can and fight for our community when necessary. These are unique skills that I have honed through my professional career and community involvement.

Specifically, we must fight SANDAG’s unreasonable 900 new housing unit allocation on Coronado’s already dense community. As an attorney, I generally do not recommend litigation unless it is the only remaining option. Here, I support litigation over the unfair allocation, which does not properly give credit to Coronado for Navy Housing on base, yet penalizes Coronado for the Navy jobs on base.

Coronado City Council Members serve on inter-agency boards and commissions in the County of San Diego, including the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), and the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS), and their opinions and actions on these boards have significant impact on the City of Coronado. I believe my qualifications and experience would be of great help to Coronado serving on these boards and commissions to ensure Coronado’s interests are professionally and strongly represented.

Q: Please give us your brief perspective on the following issues and indicate your top priorities ~ beach sewage solutions, e-bike safety, infrastructure issues: including Satellite Watering Recycling Facility (SWRF) and utility undergrounding, Caltrans roadway relinquishment, ways to promote and maintain a balanced business district, and community grants.

A: It is essential that the City Council stays focused on the transborder sewage problem and keeps pressure on the appropriate agencies and county, state, and federal entities to push final resolution to completion. Despite recent commitments by Mexico to fund almost $150 million dollars, as well as the $350 million in funding by the United States via the USMCA, the EPA has estimated that it will take a minimum of $627 million in funding to resolve the vast majority of transborder sewage flows from Tijuana. While it is great that Mexico and the United States are working together, that considerable funding has been obtained and the EPA is expected to start projects in the near future, we must ensure the additional funds needed are secured to complete the solution.

E-bike safety is a serious issue for Coronado and its citizens. Many cities are grappling with this newer mode of transportation. The City of Carlsbad recently declared a local emergency following a 233% increase in collisions involving bikes and e-bikes since 2019.  It is clear that enforcement and additional attention is necessary as, unfortunately, it is very likely that serious e-bike accidents will increase in Coronado. I am pleased to see that the City is launching an e-bike safety campaign. This is just the beginning. It will be important to keep an open mind and analyze the remedies that our neighbor cities are implementing to deal with e-bike safety.

Coronado has quite a bit of crumbling underground infrastructure on both private and public property that will need to be continually addressed. Fortunately, the City is working on the pump stations and has recently approved the building of a parallel replacement station at the Parker Pump Station. I support the City Manager and staffs’ focus on repairing Coronado’s infrastructure sooner rather than later.

The Satellite Watering Recycling Facility (SWRF), also known as the water treatment or the sewage treatment plant on the golf course, is a project facing two huge obstacles. First, the estimated costs to build it came in dramatically higher than expected and it may be prohibitively costly to build. Second, the project is the subject of a lawsuit against the City of Coronado. Assuming the lawsuit is resolved, and the cost benefit is acceptable, I would support the project so long as it was done in a manner that would not cause resulting noise, odor, or visual blight issues. I do believe the technology to create recycled irrigation water works and it has been successfully implemented in other cities.

The current status of utility undergrounding is that three areas are scheduled for undergrounding, though the timeline is long. Realistically, the areas on 1st Street, the Strand and Adella business district will not be completed for two to three years. The ultimate costs and project length of these three projects will help determine if it is fiscally prudent and feasible to continue with further major utility undergrounding projects. It would be great to rid Coronado of the visual blight, but we need to ensure it makes financial sense.

Local control of Coronado’s major streets should happen, and it will help to resolve traffic congestion and improve safety. It would also provide opportunities to improve the Orange Avenue corridor for small businesses and citizens. There are issues that remain to be resolved with the Navy and Caltrans. I look forward to working on these issues and I am hopeful relinquishment will occur in 2023.

Coronado would not be Coronado without our wonderful small and mostly independent businesses. While it is true that the residents of Coronado will be my first priority on Council, it is important to remember that most residents want a vibrant Orange Avenue business district with successful restaurants that serve good food and are able to survive. Many of the businesses are still recovering from the financial impacts of the pandemic. I am fully supportive of the City’s efforts to help the small businesses, including emergency loans during Covid and reasonable outdoor dining accommodations. Another way to help local businesses is to ensure that our beloved small-town charm is not eroded. I am confident that I have the skills to assist with ensuring the proper balance of maintaining Coronado and helping the local businesses.

The community grants given by the City each year are a special aspect of Coronado that many other cities cannot afford. Fortunately, the City of Coronado is in strong financial shape and revenues are rising both in TOT (the hotel tax) with increased businesses past the worst of Covid and increased property tax revenue. I applaud the City for reviewing and revising its process for awarding grants, but it is still a work in progress. I am concerned that the City maintain the appropriate amount of funding for local nonprofits that provide valuable support to our City.

Q: What is your favorite thing about Coronado?

A: My favorite thing about Coronado is the vast amount of truly engaged people that live here and care about the community. Of course, Coronado’s small town historic charm and beach community is the first thing that draws people to Coronado. However, it is the people that make Coronado a truly special town. I was very close to all of my grandparents, and I was fortunate to have all four of them in my life until I was an adult. As my grandparents lived through the depression and World War II, I am thankful for the lessons they taught me, including the value of hard work, community involvement and appreciation for our country. Now, being heavily involved in community activities including Coronado Rotary, the Historical Association and serving on commissions, as well as newer activities such as the Island Film Festival and the Island Beer Club, I continue to meet and absorb so much from the Coronado citizens and community leaders with similar values.

Learn more about the candidate here:

[email protected]

The Duncan kids Emma, Tara, Colin, and Connor a decade ago here in Coronado.
The Duncan family now.


Jennifer Velez
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: [email protected]