Saturday, July 13, 2024

City Allocates $1 Million in Community Grant Funds

Independence Day at Centennial Park

After a laborious process of grant application, review, and deliberation, the Coronado City Council has allocated its approximately $1 million in community grant funding for the fiscal year of 2024-2025.

Safe Harbor Coronado took home the largest grant, at the city’s maximum of $125,000 in funding. Other organizations awarded six-figure sums were the Coronado Chamber of Commerce, Coronado Historical Association, and Coronado International Film Festival.

Ultimately, 22 organizations were granted funding during the June 18 meeting of the Coronado City Council. Four applicants were given nothing.

Coronado’s community grant program helps to subsidize nonprofits in the categories of arts and culture, community pride and sense of place, economic development, and social services.

Grant allocations heavily skew toward the first two categories, but that is reflective of grant applications: Just 9.53% of grant requests fell into the economic development category, for example.

Funding recommendations are informed by the scores of three independent grant readers, who assess applications against a council-approved rubric to determine an overall score. Grants whose score is under 75 are not recommended for funding.

However, in the past, people have questioned this strategy: Last year, for example, Emerald Keepers received a disqualifying score. (City Council agreed that this was a mistake, and reallocated about $38,000 for the environmental advocacy organization.)

This year, to prevent such issues, the city attempted a more holistic approach at allocating funding. In addition to the grant readers’ scores, city staff also considered history, community value, and outlier scores in its assessment. One outlying low score from a reader didn’t necessarily disqualify organizations from funding.

“We have everything in place to make this (process) as objective as possible,” said Kelli Maples, management analyst for the city, “but it is still inherently subjective because at the end of the day, these are humans with opinions and perspectives. So this year, we used the scores a bit more qualitatively.”

The city also consulted the city’s Cultural Arts Commission for art-related grant requests.

City Council members unanimously praised Maples for this year’s report, with Carrie Downey calling it the best she had seen in her tenure.

Another change to the 24-year-old program was a funding cap of $125,000, an amount that only Safe Harbor Coronado was awarded.

However, council members still had their criticisms. Downey, a proponent of allocating across funding categories as equally as possible, questioned whether organizations could apply for grants outside of their true category in effort to secure more funding.

“When the council’s goal was to delegate our money into each of the pots, this is a way to get around the intention of council,” Downey said, adding that the only way to stop it would be to prevent applications in categories in which they didn’t belong from receiving funding.

“I’m not suggesting that we do that this year,” she said. “But I find this very disconcerting, and I will not reward it again next year.”

Meanwhile, Mayor Richard Bailey had a recurring question for applicants: Why has your funding request increased over the years? He suggested that nonprofits work toward being sustainable in raising funding through other revenue sources, rather than relying on city funding. That way, he said, funds could get organizations up and running, and then be reallocated elsewhere.

“I will point out that the biggest musical events in the community that attract the most people are the Concerts in the Park, and they’re not here,” Bailey said. “And I say that because I think all the various organizations – especially the musical ones – that are asking for funds should have looked at Concerts in the Park.”

Each organization had the opportunity to address council ahead of its decision, and Bailey often outlined how much their grant requests had increased over the years before asking whether the council should anticipate those requests would remain the same in future years.

Using scores from the independent grant readers, city staff prepared a recommended funding structure, which included a surplus of about $20,000 that the council could reallocate. After reviewing each recommendation (and eliminating some), the council was left with a surplus of $52,000, which it then reallocated to Safe Harbor Coronado, Coronado Mainstreet, Coronado Foundation for the Arts, Coronado Philharmonia, KMAC, and COSA.

The city received 38 applications from 26 organizations, requesting, in total, approximately $1.8 million in funding.

Three of those organizations were new applicants: Camarada, the San Diego Historical Society, and the Coronado Junior Arts League. The city granted funding to the junior arts league, but not the other two.

Safe Harbor Coronado: $125,000

This mental health nonprofit has been serving Coronado for 26 years, and focuses on youth services. A third of Coronado High School students report chronic sadness or hopelessness, said Danielle Maske, the organization’s executive director.

“Mental health challenges are at an all-time high,” she said. “Your are disproportionately impacted.”

The 10-person organization will use $75,000 to fund its healthy family program, which hosts preventative outreach in schools, parent education, and community outreach events. This year, Safe Harbor hosted its first mental health and wellness fair.

The remaining $50,000 will be used for Safe Harbor’s counseling program, which is enough to cover 513 subsidized counseling sessions.

City staff originally recommended granting $116,000 to the organization, but council decided to use surplus funds to increase its grant to its requested $125,000.

Coronado Chamber of Commerce: $109,000

Council members praised the Chamber for supporting local businesses, attracting visitors to the city, and collaborating with other nonprofits to accomplish their goals (for example, by partnering with the Coronado Schools Foundation for the Coronado Art and Wine Festival, which this year brought more than 12,000 visitors to the city).

Other events include the annual holiday parade and tree lighting ceremony, which last year boasted 17,000 attendees and and resulted in best sales days for some small businesses, said executive director Rena Clancy.

The Chamber of Commerce represents more than 200 businesses at its monthly networking events, hosts ribbon cuttings for small businesses, and sip and shop events, which bring customers into local stores.

“We believe that local business and our community are one, and everyone benefits from the work of the Chamber” said Clancy.

The Chamber requested the maximum funding of $125,000, and city staff recommended $94,000, which the council adjusted slightly up.

“The Chamber of Commerce went down (this year) from their previous request, and I want to applaud and reward people who do that,” Downey said.

Coronado Historical Association: $104,000

The CHA submitted three grants: One to keep admission to the museum it operates free, and the other two for upcoming exhibitions on the history of cross-border architecture and on the restoration efforts and discoveries at the Hotel del Coronado.

A recent exhibition, “An Island Looks Back,” explored the history of black residents in Coronado. Since it opened, the exhibit has welcomed more than 46,000 visitors – more than double the usual numbers – and stories from it received national press.

Coronado Fourth of July: $96,000

The city’s beloved Fourth of July celebration initially requested full funding to support its free parade, concerts, naval demonstrations, and fireworks show. However, through donor support and cutting costs by moving its concerts to Spreckels Park, the event is on budget at the staff recommendation of $96,000.

Council members praised the Coronado Fourth of July, and were amenable to increasing funding, but Jamie Hartnett, the organization’s president, said it was unnecessary.

“I just wanted to come here with gratitude,” Hartnett said to council.

Coronado Floral Association: $92,000

Historically, the city covers the cost of rentals for Coronado’s longrunning annual floral show.

This year, the 102nd anniversary of the Coronado Flower Show, yielded about one thousand more visitors than the previous year (for a total of about 6,000 attendees).

A challenge for the organization is that they apply for grant funding 14 months ahead of the actual floral show, so their grant funding request is an educated guess. For the most recent show, for example, the CFA expected rentals to cost $84,000, which is what the city allocated, but it ended up costing $89,000.

This year, they applied for $84,000 – which city staff recommended approving – but said they anticipate the rentals to cost closer to $92,000.

City Council allocated more funding to bridge that difference.

Lamb’s Players Theatre: $75,000

Although the council agreed to allocated $75,000 in funding, City Council Member John Duncan asked whether Coronado should encourage the theater to become self-sustaining, a sentiment that Mayor Richard Bailey supported.

“The last mayor let it get up to $90,000,” joked Casey Tanaka, current council member and former mayor.

“What was wrong with that guy?” Duncan asked.

“He was a real free spender,” Tanaka quipped, and the room – likely weary from a long meeting – laughed.

Jokes aside, the council agreed that Lamb’s provides an important service to the community, but agreed that they would like to see it find ways to increase its own funding so it relies less on city grants.

Emerald Keepers: $70,100

“I have more yesterdays than tomorrows,” said Dave Landon, one of the board members of Emerald Keepers, an environmental advocacy nonprofit. “I do this not for the impact on me, but for the impact on my granddaughters.”

The organization requested $102,000 for public engagement, education, and workshops. It has also funded 82 initiatives this year. The nonprofit hosts student clubs and art programs and does not receive funding from the school district.

Landon referenced a recent City Council meeting in which Emerald Keepers interns asked their elected officials to consider a plastic waste reduction ordinance. (Duncan later filed a Policy No. 2 request to bring the matter to council.)

Emerald Keepers is a heavily supported nonprofit. However, some council members said that funding the organization made them uncomfortable due to the organization’s lobbying efforts.

“I do have some reservations about the notion that we’re using public dollars to finance an organization, to help support an organization, that lobbies on pending policy decisions,” Bailey said. “I’m a bit uneasy with that. I’m not sure that that’s the most appropriate use of taxpayer funds.”

Though supportive of funding, Tanaka agreed.

“There is a common sense line of how far you take your advocacy before you start to make people up here feel uncomfortable,” he said. “And I have felt uncomfortable at times.”

But, he added, local students – including this year’s valedictorian and one of two salutatorians – were involved with Emerald Keepers.

“While they may make me uncomfortable at times, maybe that’s what we want,” he said.

Downey also said that while she is a fan of Emerald Keepers and its leadership, said that the city should not be funding lobbyists.

“I’m happy to fund the work they do that’s not lobbying,” she said.

Duncan, however, pointed out that it’s not unheard of for governments to fund sustainability initiatives.

“I get your point,” he said, “but the work done by Emerald Keepers is work that isn’t done by us. Lots of cities do this work themselves.”

Coronado Philharmonia Orchestra: $50,543

Coronado’s orchestra hopes to expand its shows due to high attendance, as well as to learn to be more sustainable – a notion that council members lauded and rewarded by increasing its funding from the staff recommendation.

With its grant money, the Philharmonia hopes to expand its shows from five to eight annually, update its website, and hire a consultant to teach them how to fund raise in effort to become self-sustaining.

The orchestra’s last three concerts were at a 577-seat venue, and all of them were sold out.

Musica Vitale: $36,500

“Choral music brings people together to create something beautiful as a team,” said Jenn French, a board member of the choral nonprofit. “Just as a sports team works together to win games, singers work together to make music that can touch people’s hearts.”

The nonprofit’s operating budget is about $91,000, and the grant money will help bridge the gap to offer more in school programing, a main stage production, and to bring back its holiday concert.

Bailey, however, was critical, and said he’d support giving less than the staff recommended amount. He asked why an organization that has been around for two decades didn’t ask for money until 2020 – and then rapidly increased its asks annually. It first asked for $13,000, then $30,000, then $65,000.

“Labor costs have gone up,” said Musica Vitale Board Member Nicole Ballar, adding that the programs they wish to do require more singers, and they would like to use an orchestra.

The rest of the council supported using the staff recommended allocation based on the grant readers’ scores.

Coronado Junior Arts League: $30,000

One of Coronado’s newest nonprofit organizations was also the only new applicant to receive community grant funding.

It exists to provide stage performance and production opportunities to Coronado youth, particularly those in the 8-14 age range, in effort to fill the gap for younger kids before they become high school aged and can funnel into the Coronado School of the Arts.

Last year, the nonprofit produced two plays – The Wizard of Oz and Annie – which were performed in front of full houses. The first had 17 participants; the second 34. They have a waitlist for children to join.

The organization is planning two shows for next year (the next is Willy Wonka Jr.) and is planning for a gala. It also brings in early- to mid-career arts professionals to demonstrate to students what potential pathways to careers in the arts may be.

Coronado Schools Foundation: Art and Wine Festival: $24,850

This year, the third annual Coronado Art and Wine Foundation hosted 12,000 guests. The event is a collaboration between CSF and the Chamber of Commerce, and it brings visitors – and their dollars – to the city. All proceeds benefit STEM and art education.

Villa-Lobos Chamber Music Festival: $24,784

The international music festival will mark its tenth anniversary in Coronado next year. There was not much discussion on this item; council members supported approving the staff-recommended grant allocation. There was no representative from the organization to speak on behalf of its grant request.

Coronado Community Theater: $22,000

In another quick decision, council members agreed on funding for the city’s longest-running community theater. There was no representative in attendance to discuss the organization’s grant application.

Coronado Community Band: $20,000

“We get a lot of bang for our buck from the Community Band,” said Donovan. “They do a lot of performances.”

The staff recommended funding at $18,700. Donovan wanted to increase that amount, saying that the city often allocates much less than the band requests. This year, the organization requested $27,000.

Bailey, ever concerned about inflating grant requests, disagreed.

“I scratch my head and wonder if we’re taking over a lot of the responsibilities they had in house to fund raise for themselves,” Bailey said.

Duncan also supported maintaining the staff recommendation for funding, noting that no representative had attended the meeting.

“I don’t think it should be determinative of what we do,” Duncan said, “but I do think that when there’s a large increase (in funding requested), it is helpful if the organization comes. These other organizations are spending, six, five, four hours with us.”

At this point in the meeting, the council had about $8,000 in surplus funding left to allocate. The council opted to increase the band’s funding by $1,300 for an even $20,000, and allocate the rest to COSA.

Coronado MainStreet: $20,000

Established in 1989, Coronado MainStreet’s initiatives include Coronado Cash, downtown monitoring, and the popular Motorcars on Mainstreet event.

“We don’t really act to fix things, more to maintain things,” said Allen Osmialowski, president and chair of the organization’s board.

Though grant readers questioned what MainStreet’s economic impact was, Osmialowski used community events like the Tennessee music festival Bonaroo, to estimate that Motorcars on Mainstreet is worth $1 million to the city.

While council members praised the motorcars event, they were skeptical of both the nonprofit’s place in the city and of its impact. Bailey said the organization “copy and pasted” its grant applications each year, never making progress on the initiatives it accepted money for. Duncan said that many of its events could be Chamber of Commerce events.

“It’s an entity in search of a mission,” Duncan said.

Tanaka agreed, and said that while he respected longstanding organizations, MainStreet “needs to do better.” He supported funding the organization this year, but hoped that the nonprofit would take council deliberations as a “wake-up call.”

MainStreet also offers casual code enforcement: If residents complain about an issue, someone from MainStreet will go speak with the violator. The idea is that it saves city staff hours and is a less confrontational way to handle violations than a city code enforcer arriving. But Duncan pointed out that the city recently approved increasing its part time fire code enforcer to full-time, and questioned how necessary the service was.

The council decided to give the institution another year.

“There are a couple of their programs that aren’t really taking off, but they deserve one more year,” Donovan said.

Pacific Animal Welfare Society (PAWS): $17,700

While PAWS received funding for its animal services, it was denied a grant for retrofitting and wrapping a vehicle to be used for animal transportation, mobile vaccine clinics, and more.

The organization initially asked for around $55,000, but ultimately bought the vehicle itself for about $30,000. It still needed money for retrofitting and wrapping.

“It’s not just to move animals around,” said veterinarian Dr. Daniel Barber. “But it’s also to provide services and outreach like mobile vaccine services and to give care to people who can’t provide transportation.”

By bringing care to those pet owners who can’t provide transportation, the goal is to reduce pet surrenders.

With this grant, the problem was in category, Maples said.

“The readers felt that the proposal simply did not align with the social services category,” she said. “This was an interesting one, because the readers express support of PAWS and the program, but they felt that they couldn’t score it well because it did not align with the rubric.”

Classics for Kids: $17,500

No representative attended the council meeting. City Council approved the staff recommendation for the grant allocation.

Reading Legacies: $15,000

In another no-debate decision, council approved the staff recommendation for Reading Legacies, which works to instill a love of reading in children and connect loved ones through reading.

“Children learn that they are loved, and they learn the love of reading,” said Betty Mohlenbrock, founder and president of Reading Legacies. She also founded United Through Reading, an organization that brings recorded readings of books to children of deployed military members.

The organization supports children reading with, and to, seniors, as well as records adults or children reading books to their loved ones.

KMAC Foundation for Accessible Sailing: $15,000

Steven McDonald, a board member for the organization, addressed the council with his son, Malachi, a five-year-old who uses a wheelchair due to spina bifida.

“KMAC has stepped in and let me and my son participate in sports together,” McDonald said.

The organization provides accessible sailing experiences – and regattas. City Council increased its allocation from the staff recommendation by $5,600, for a total of $15,000. The organization did not receive funding last year.

Coronado School of the Arts Foundation (COSA): $7,223

The organization requested $10,500, but fell behind the grant reader score of 75 threshold and was not recommended for funding. However, the Cultural Arts Commission recommended full funding.

After eliminating some sources of funding, such as for Camarada, and reallocating funds to other organizations, the City Council allocated the remaining funds to COSA.

Memorial Day Ceremony Planning Committee: $2,800

This committee asked for what it needed for its annual Memorial Day event, and it was an easy yes from the city.

“I’d be willing to quadruple their money,” Bailey said.

Unfunded organizations

Islander Sports Foundation, Camarada, Storytellers of San Diego, and the San Diego Historical Society all submitted applications but did not receive money.

Camarada, a tango education nonprofit, was denied because it was not local, and the council preferred to spend money on Coronado organizations.

Storytellers of San Diego and the San Diego Historical Society both did not send representatives to the meeting.

Megan Kitt
Megan Kitt
Megan has worked as a reporter for more than 10 years, and her work in both print and digital journalism has been published in more than 25 publications worldwide. She is also an award-winning photographer. She holds BA degrees in journalism, English literature and creative writing and an MA degree in creative writing and literature. She believes a quality news publication's purpose is to strengthen a community through informative and connective reporting.Megan is also a mother of three and a Navy spouse. After living around the world both as a journalist and as a military spouse, she immediately fell in love with San Diego and Coronado for her family's long-term home.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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