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Cannabis Once Again Topic At City Council Meeting

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Posted: Friday, August 30, 2019 12:05 pm

During the past council meeting Aug. 21, cannabis was a major topic. City Attorney Jennifer Lyon summarized what has happened so far. In 2018 the city approved one cannabis outlet to open in the city. This decision was precipitated by pressure by a 2017 citizen’s initiative that collected signatures in the community and threatened to sue the city if it did not allow cannabis operations like outlets, manufacturing and consumption lounges to open. To avoid the lawsuit and be ahead of the game the city allowed one cannabis outlet to open, an action still in the works with seven applicants currently undergoing background checks. The council decided to leave the option on the table to open a second outlet after one year of the first one opening, following collection of data on crime, and effects on school children.

While the citizen’s initiative was originally rejected by the Superior Court, the decision was overturned by the Court of Appeal in Feb. 2019 which means that the city has to accept the initiative which in addition to outlets asks for consumption lounges and manufacturing of cannabis. Lyon explained that the city council had three options at this time: adopt the initiative and implement the new regulations; place the item on the November 2020 ballot at a cost ranging from $15,000 to $30,000; and order a report under the election code that will study fiscal impact, effect on city’s general and specific plan, impact on transportation, schools, parks and open space. The report may include whether this action could result in increased costs in infrastructure, maintenance to current residents and businesses, and has to be completed within 30 days.

Lyon said if the council chose option three, order a report under the election code, the item would be voted on to be placed on the ballot during the Sept. 18 meeting. During the public comment period four speakers were against allowing any more cannabis outlets, one speaker was in favor. It was discussed placing a competing ballot measure at the next election as well in addition to option two, placing the item on the November 2020 ballot.

Councilman Mark West said on this issue, “We’ve had the opportunity to take care of this in the past. We kicked the can around…we did not want to get this out of control of the council…now we are being dictated and …painted into a corner.”

“I’d react this way if any big corporation came in and dictated to us. This industry is picking on a small town, they have no integrity, no moral, no ethics, no values and are anti-democratic. We’ve worked with our residents in an open and transparent way… they’ re acting like a cartel… taking resources out of hands of our kids considering we’ve so little to work with,” said Mayor Serge Dedina.

A motion to move forward with option three was approved unanimously.

Port of San Diego Commissioner Dan Malcom made a presentation and gave an update on port projects. Malcolm said that the Pond 20 mitigation bank is at 60 percent of the drawing stage and it is expected to begin construction in 2021. The cost is estimated at $15 million and he said the port is looking at creative ways to finance the project.

“This is an important initiative for the Port of San Diego, a model to show how we are good environmental stewards and fiscal stewards…after the port is paid back for the construction, proceeds will go to the economic development fund that benefit the city of Imperial Beach and the city of San Diego,” he explained.

Malcolm also said he is working on the municipal service agreement for the tidelands maintenance and for public safety with the city of Imperial Beach. That includes landscaping, and repairs within port property. The port also pays a share of the Sheriff’s department costs and almost 100 percent of the lifeguards services. This year the city received $4.9 million from the port and next year it will go up to $5 million. Over the past eight years the city has received $37 million in reimbursement by the port. The current agreement between the port and the city expires in June 2021 and Malcolm would like to renew the agreement every nine years versus the current two to three years.

He also discussed the pier improvements. Although the port hired the firm Civitas to come up with ideas to spruce up the pier he said the port currently does not have enough funds to do a lot of work and it would be mostly cosmetic upgrades like painting. He went on to describe other projects being planned for the bay, not in Imperial Beach.

Spriggs asked whether the funds that were being set aside for the comfort station at Beach Avenue can be reallocated to do work on the pier. Malcolm said he would work on doing that. The comfort station at the end of Beach Avenue has been a hot topic among the residents of the area who do not want a restroom near their homes which can attract homeless and other dubious activities in addition to removing parking spaces from the street. Residents of the area wore red shirts to show their unity and the council received 19 public comment cards against the project. Former Mayor and Port Commissioner Mike Bixler, who owns a home nearby, was the spokesperson for the residents opposed to the comfort station. Spriggs summarized that what was heard from the community - the comfort station should not proceed and the funds from that project should go to the pier instead.

Assistant City Manager Steve Dush gave an update on the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) and the impact on the city based on the recommendation of the SANDAG Board of Director’s meeting on July 26 of this year. The State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) decided that the region needs 171,685 housing units in the years 2021 to 2029. In December 2018 the SANDAG Board of Directors formed RHNA subcommittee to look at methodology. The subcommittee then reported to the SANDAG board and the results were shared with the public as follows: 1.65 percent of housing units should be relocated near transit including rail stations, rapid bus stations and major transit stops. Due to this report, the impact to Imperial Beach translates to an increase in housing from 569 to 1,375 units.

The definition of major transit stop is “a bus stop served by two or more major bus routes with 15-minute frequencies at peak periods,” (Imperial Beach has 6 bus stops). Seventy-five percent have to be allocated to jurisdictions with rail stations and Rapid Bus stations and 25 percent to jurisdictions with major transit stops.

Another factor, 35 percent of the total units allocated to jurisdictions based on number of jobs adjusted to account for military housing on base; the allocation should apply an equity adjustment, which means, for example, that cities that have higher low income units would receive less of those type of units. The redefinition of a major transit stop resulted in 26,504 units south of I-8 compared to 1,395 units north of I-8.

There are concerns for the city of Imperial Beach are the methodology used, greenhouse gas emission (GHG) with a disproportionate amount of GHG emissions in the four cities of IB, Chula Vista, National City and San Diego. There appears to be a disproportionate increase in housing from previous RHNA cycles where Imperial Beach was supposed to have 569 units. Disproportionate Vehicle Mile Travelled south of I-8 compared to communities north of I-8;

Then there is achievability; based on the recommendations Imperial Beach would need 173 housing units every year. Building 1,375 housing units was compared to building a Beazer Homes housing development a year. A complication is that if the city does not comply, it could lose transit funding and possibly suffer penalties.

During the council comments Spriggs pointed out the increased burden on the city, sewer and water systems. He said, “This imposes an obligation the city would not be able to meet, and if met it would destroy the community.”

“The county as a whole has to shoulder more of the solution,” said West.

Spriggs also raised the concern of increased commuting by car and the resulting emissions and that the units should be placed along a permanent transit line like rail rather than bus line which can be changed. It was suggested to partner with other cities going through the same problem and writing a letter with map to show what the community would look like with the increased housing units.

In other business:

The final map for 15 new residential condo units at 1166 Holly Avenue was approved. Patton abstained from the vote because he pointed out he had voted no on this item the first time. This item was approved.

Capital Improvement Projects were presented for a total funding of $8,352,289 and asked for the authorization of the city manager to amend fiscal year 2020-2022 budget to add the funding. This item was approved unanimously.

A detailed resolution implementing crosswalk and pedestrian safety improvements to ensure uniform practice and transparency was approved unanimously.

A contract with Western Audio Visual for upgrades to the council chamber equipment was discussed. The expenses include an amount for the contract not to exceed $270,000, an amount not to exceed $35,000 to award to a contractor and subsequent annual fees of $16,140 for streaming engine and agenda management software. The contract was approved unanimously.

The next city council meeting will be held Sept.4 at 6 pm. in the council chambers at 825 Imperial Beach Boulevard.

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