The construction on Palm Avenue and the housing element were discussed during the last city council meeting on Jan. 20.

Commuters and residents have put up with construction and traffic backups on Palm Avenue for the past six months but there has been a lot of progress made. A number of projects have already been completed but there are still a few left.

The SDG&E circuit upgrade started in October 2020 and is scheduled to end next month. The city worked with SDG&E to include its own conduit to be installed within the SDG&E trench. This was done to create a connection between traffic signals spanning 13th Street to Rainbow Drive. The city is also working on installation of its own fiber optic connection project. This project will upgrade the existing traffic signal equipment and the city will also install a traffic operations center in the public works department. Both projects are planned to be completed early this year.

The city is currently working on the sixth cycle housing element for the period of 2021-2029. The housing element is part of the city’s general plan and is state mandated. The housing element has to be updated every eight years and contains the city’s policies and programs to accommodate SANDAG’s Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) allocation.

The city had identified a number of programs to achieve the goals of the sixth cycle. They are as follows.

Program 1: Housing Repair Loans and Grants Program

Program 2: Neighborhood Improvements

Program 3: Conservation of Existing and Future Affordable Units

Program 4: Coastal Zone Monitoring

Program 5: Affordable Housing Incentives

Program 6: Housing Choice Vouchers

Program 7: Homebuyer Assistance Programs

Program 8: Residential Sites Inventory and Monitoring of No Net Loss (Modified)

Program 9: By-Right Approval for Projects with 20 Percent Affordable Units (New)

Program 10: Lot Consolidation Program

Program 11: Density Bonus Ordinance

Program 12: Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) (New)

Program 13: Housing for Homeless and Special Needs

Program 14: Fair Housing Program (Modified)

The city has been assigned 1,329 units through RHNA. The original number assigned was actually higher at 1,375. Mayor Serge Dedina reminded attendees that the city has filed a lawsuits along with the cities of Coronado, Solana Beach and Lemon Grove over the high RHNA numbers. City Manager Andy Hall clarified that the lawsuit was initiated because of a weighted vote by SANDAG. The city had asked during the appeal process for its RHNA allocation to be reduced. The vote was approved by 14 to 5 - which meant and the RHNA number would have gone down to 650. However SANDAG has a provision that votes can be tallied based on each city’s population. The 4 cities who voted in opposition of the appeal outnumbered the other cities by population.

“The lawsuit questions whether the weighted vote should be used in a judicial setting. If it was one city one vote, it would have held,” he said.

Dedina commented on the issue, “The RHNA process is focused on wealthiest communities that don’t want to build affordable housing…for the last six years, cities like Imperial Beach who wanted to build affordable housing had zero money to do that…without state funding…without redevelopment funds or state support developers can’t build affordable housing…The big picture is that the working class is being squeezed out of the housing market.”

The city’s 1,329 units are broken down as follows: 225 units classified as very low income; 123 low income, 183 moderate income; and 798 above moderate income.

The city will send the housing element draft to California Department of Housing and Community Development for review and will have to adopt it within 120 days of the April 15, 2021 deadline.

In other business:

The consent calendar was approved.

A COVID update was presented. The city has one vaccination center at city hall and is working on opening a second site in the Mar Vista High School gym. City expenses related to COVID are about $400,000 and CARES Act funds have been used but the city continues to have pandemic related expenses and staff is keeping track of them, in case another round of funds comes through, said Assistant City Manager Erika Cortez.

A Municipal Services Agreement between the city and the San Diego Unified Port District to provide municipal services on the tidelands under the jurisdiction of the port was approved. The city provides maintenance, law enforcement, fire services, ocean and beach safety and animal control. The port and the city have a 10-year agreement for the services. The city will receive $5.125 million in the year 2021 with a 3 percent increase every year. Hall explained that the city would have liked to have 700 extra hours of law enforcement on the pier but the port decided against it.

An update on the post office building was presented by Tyler Foltz Community Development Director. The city has met with the property manager of the building and areas of concern were discussed like façade, roof, trim and landscape. A number of upgrades have been agreed upon and the property manager is working on bids and obtaining contractors.

The next city council meeting will be held via teleconference on Feb. 3 at 5 p.m. For more information log on wwww.imperialbeachca.gov.

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