Highlights of the Meeting
Unusually, there were no ceremonial presentations so the meeting started right out with the Consent Calendar (matters thought to be so uncontroversial as to warrant no discussion) which, upon Mr. Woiwode’s motion, was amended to include the banners celebrating the USS Coronado. However, Mr. Woiwode asked that the item concerning the proposal to add a free public dock to the C Dock reconstruction project be removed from the consent motion to permit separate consideration. The Consent Calendar items passed with unanimous consent, except that Ms. Denny explained that she was abstaining from approving the warrants paying City bills as she had concerns about the adequacy of internal controls (Note: see the City auditor’s remarks about the adequacy of the City’s controls - City’s controls above average - under the section on the City’s financial statements below). The Consent Calendar included an authorization to staff to install “keep clear” pavement markings at frequently congested intersections. It also including a one time only waiver of the City’s alcohol prohibition on public property to allow wine and beer to be served at a Friends of the Library event.
Free Public Boat Dock Proposal
Several meetings ago the City Council determined to proceed with the CEQA evaluation process for the reconstruction of Boat Dock C. Initially that project was proposed to include a free public dock as part of C Dock or adjacent to it, however current C Dock tenants expressed concerns about security issues in connection with this proposal. City Staff has had discussions with the Coastal Commission Staff about the C Dock reconstruction project and learned that the Coastal Commission will likely require a free public dock component in order to get approval of the C dock project. The Staff presented to the Council various public dock design alternatives near the existing Glorietta Bay boat launch ramp, such designs to be further developed as part of the C Dock CEQA analysis. The free public boat dock will be paid for with $121,000 from the Port.
Although there was general support from Council members for this proposal, Ms. Denny brought up a lengthy and detailed letter from resident Kevin Reilly making many specific design suggestions. Mr. Ritter, Assistant City Manager, said that many of Mr. Reilly’s suggestions have been incorporated in the design.
Mr. Ritter also said that the City had obtained a grant from the State of California Department of Waterways to pay for the reconstruction of C Dock as well as money from the Port for this project.
Ms. Denny and Mr. Bailey both asked about the possibility of installing a freshwater hose to permit boat owners to rinse off their boats, another suggestion made by Mr, Reilly. City Manager Blair King said that Staff was aware that people have requested a fresh water hose but he thought the regulatory agencies might have concerns and asked that the Council not tie his hands in dealing with the regulators on this issue.
One more significant issues came up in the public comment period on this matter: Resident Tom Pray said that this facility was being constructed right next to the children’s beach where children could be in the water and might be hit by an unskilled boater. Mr Woiwode expressed concern that the analysis of design alternatives take this issue into account. He was assured by City attorney Joanna Canlas that it was not necessary to determine all the design specifics at this time and that the Staff just needed enough direction to start the CEQA process.
The project was approved 4-1 with Ms. Denny voting no.
Zoning Waiver for Historic Home Addition
The owners of the historically designated residence at 1030-1032 Olive Avenue had obtained an Historic Alteration Permit to put an addition on the main structure on the property. During the Staff plan checking process it was determined that, because a second smaller structure on the same property was a separately permitted single family dwelling, the zoning rule requiring 20’ of space between dwelling structures would be violated by the addition. The Historic Resource Commission had considered the matter and recommended that the Council grant a zoning exception to permit the previously approved addition to encroach 11 feet into the 20’ distance. There were no comments from the public on this matter and the zoning exception was unanimously approved by the Council.
Presentation of the City’s Audited Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the Year Ended June 30, 2013
Although City Treasurer Leslie Suelter has previously presented an interim financial report on the June 30, 2013 Fiscal Year to the Council in October, the City’s audit had been completed and the final results were as reported in October. A representative from the City’s independent auditors, Lance, Soll and Lunghard, LLP was present to answer any questions. The City’s financial statements had received what used to be called an “unqualified opinion,” now called an “unmodified opinion,” attesting that in the auditor’s opinion the City’s financial statement fairly represent the City’s financial position in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. The City’s financial statement may be found on the City’s web-site under Administrative Services.
The City’s financial statements had been prepared in a somewhat different format this year in order that the City could apply for an award for excellence in financial statements from the Government Finance Officers Association. Ms. Suelter particularly complemented Christine Zinn of her staff for her work in producing the financial statements in the new format.
The audit firm’s representative, Mr. Rick Kakuchi (not sure about the spelling) mentioned that there is a new accounting rule to be effective for 2016 which will require the listing of City pension liabilities as part of the financial statements. Ms. Denny said she had taken an on-line course on pensions and thinks that the City’s pension liabilities will exceed total assets. She said it was her understanding that the new rule could be complied with earlier than 2016 and she asked if this was possible. Mr. Kakuchi said that the City needed an actuarial analysis from CALPERS in order to do this and CALPERS had not provided this yet.
Ms. Denny also asked about the revenues in the City’s “enterprise funds” which are supposed to be self supporting. She said it appeared that revenues were down and expenses are up. Ms. Suelter said that actually revenues were flat. City Manager King said that reserves were used to complete a wastewater project and that the Staff would be coming back to Council with a study on the wastewater fund.
Mr. Bailey asked how Coronado’s internal controls compare with other cities. Mr. Kakuchi said that Coronado’s financial controls were stronger than average.
Mr. Bailey also asked about a slide which appeared to show that revenues were less than expenses and transfers. Ms. Suelter explained that the City had made an extraordinary optional pension payment to CALPERS in order to reduce future pension liabilities and, if the City had not decided to do so, revenues would have exceeded expenses and transfers.
Beach Fire Policy Review
At a prior Council meeting Ms. Denny had requested to put on a future agenda a review of the City’s beach fire policies and whether they should be changed to keep the beach healthier and safer. She had suggested consideration of whether the fire rings should be removed and other beach fires prohibited, whether there should be limits on types of fuel, consideration of whether coal bins should be added or removed and other possibilities for improving fire policy. The Staff had prepared an extensive report detailing the history of the City’s fire policies, current conditions, enforcement issues and the City’s maintenance policies for the beach and a review of fire policies for other coastal cities in the area as well as applicable laws. The City’s report suggested a series of actions that the Council might consider from removing the fire rings and prohibiting portable BBQs and portable fire rings to limiting the types of fuel, the height of the fires and adding hot coal containers.
During the public comment period beach activist Ben Siegfried said he thought the fire rings should be removed. He said people in the community have asked the Council to pay attention to this issue and had been ignored. He said there were not enough policemen patrolling the beach to provide enforcement. He referred to his web-site, coronadocleanbeach.com for more detail about the problems.
Another resident, John Julius, said he lives overlooking Sunset Park and thinks the fire rings should be kept as they are. He remembers when there were 18 fire rings on the beach and there were problems but, now that the fire rings have been reduced to 8 and a curfew established, he thinks the problems have gone away..
Shores resident Trish Trowbridge urged the Council to remove the fire rings. She had special concerns with portable BBQ’s and fires near the Shores because of the narrowness of the beach at this location and the proximity of residences, She said that Florida has banned all beach fires and this has made Florida beaches clean and safe.
Resident Tom Pray said he believed there is a problem with lack of enforcement and he favored reducing or removing the fire rings but, if they are not removed, he suggested a system of requiring a reservation to use the fire rings which would require a payment of deposit which would be refundable if the site was properly cleaned up.
There was much discussion by the Council. The Mayor started the discussion by saying he favored maintaining the existing fire rings - he said removing them would require Coastal Commission approval which he doubted would be forthcoming - and he would also add some additional hot coal containers nearby but would prohibit the portable BBQs and portable fire rings. He would step up enforcement and liked the idea of a “beach concierge” to ensure proper use. He did not want to limit fire material except for toxic material, and was willing to consider limits on the height of fires.
Ms Denny asked the City Attorney about the Coastal Commission’s position on the fire rings and Ms. Canlas said the Coastal Commission would oppose the removal of the fire rings, but the BBQs could be prohibited. Ms. Denny gave an lengthy explanation of her views - which appeared to try the patience of the other Council members - on why the fire rings should be removed, saying that the beach would be cleaner and safer and the air would be cleaner without beach fires. She said the City should not permit beach fires without stepped up enforcement and maintenance and she thought it was too expensive to increase enforcement and maintenance staff to assure a clean, safe beach.
The other Council members generally were in favor of the fire rings and also permitting the use of portable BBQs and other portable fire devices, subject to some limitations on height of fires and type of fuel. There was also sympathy to reviewing enforcement policies. Mr. Woiwode was interested in Mr. Pray’s suggestion for a fire reservation system in order to have some accountability for cleanup. City Manager King noted that using the police for enforcement of beach policies was a very expensive way of dealing with enforcement issues, and suggested other enforcement alternatives such as contract enforcement personnel.
During the Council’s discussion Mr. Siegfried repeatedly tried to provide additional comments from the audience which the Mayor refused to permit. Ms. Denny expressed dismay about this and asked if Mr. Siegfried could return to the podium to answer some questions. The Mayor refused to permit this. He said Mr. Siegfried had his chance to speak during the public comment period and refused to give him more time.
After the Council’s discussion, the Mayor offered to make a motion but Ms. Denny interrupted and offered to make a motion which she said would capture the prevailing views but which she might not support. The Mayor expressed frustration that Ms. Denny would make a motion that she would not support, but Ms. Denny said that she felt that since she had initiated the review of this issue, she thought it was appropriate that she be permitted to make the motion. The Mayor allowed her to make the motion - which did not propose any change in the fire rings or portable fire device but proposed more hot coal receptacles and asked the Staff to come back with recommendations for a limit on types of fuel, height of fires and enforcement personnel and possibly an earlier curfew in the summer. Immediately thereafter, the Mayor said he would propose a substitute motion and then asked if anyone would second Ms. Denny motion. No one seconded Ms. Denny’s motion so the Mayor made a substitute motion, which in truth was not much different than Ms. Denny’s motion, except that it expressly, rather than implicitly, maintained the City’s current fire rings and portable BBQs. The Mayor’s motion also proposed adding more hot coal receptacles, proposed limiting permissible fuel to charcoal and clean wood (as defined in the Staff memorandum but not requiring fuel to be purchased from the City) and restricting fire material to a height of 12”. In response to a concern expressed by Mr. Bailey, the Mayor’s motion was amended to request the Staff to come back with a range of options for dealing with the issue of burning pallets (which have caused problems with nails in the sand or splinters on the sidewalks when they are broken up prior to taking them on the beach). The Mayor’s motion also asked the Staff to propose a range of options for improving enforcement of beach fire policies. The motion passed 4-1 with Ms. Denny voting no.
This article is reprinted by permission as part of a collaboration between Coronado CAN! and eCoronado.com to enable residents to stay more informed about civic issues, with the ultimate goal of better protecting and preserving Coronado's small town character and charm.
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