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The Mayor’s Corner

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Posted: Friday, April 26, 2019 10:45 am

One of the organizations in Imperial Beach that does so much for the community is the San Diego Small Business Forum. Edel Vernazza founded the forum to provide support for entrepreneurs in our community. The mission of the forum is “to help, support, educate and inspire small business owners to establish and grow a great business.” With its innovative Artisan Market held at the People’s Park across from Pier South Resort, the Forum provide a place for local entrepreneurs to market their products to residents and visitors alike. The IB Artisan Market is also the perfect use for a once trash filled empty lot on Seacoast Drive that featured a hideous and rusty chain link fence along its perimeter.

Edel and her team were out in force at the Pier Plaza last Saturday for another event that included a fundraiser for the Burn Institute as well as an Easter Egg Hunt. The success of Edel and the Forum is a prime example of how critical it is to support local organizations that carry out programs that support residents as well as our local entrepreneurs.

The City of Imperial Beach has done a lot to support local residents and businesses over the past five years. We have simplified business license applications, made it easier to operate home-based businesses, and eliminated many fees for home improvement projects. This has helped local contractors and fostered the greatest increase in business license applications in Imperial Beach history. The more that the City can foster community innovation and entrepreneurship, the more robust our economy will be, and the greater opportunities for our residents to chart their own economic future. The more that we can eliminate blight, clean up our neighborhoods, and provide spaces for entrepreneurs and the local community to carry out programs and projects, the more we create the kinds of lasting bond and friendships that results in community happiness and a high quality of life.

With an increase in city revenues, we have been able to reinvest those funds right back into the community. Improvements include new playground equipment at our parks, a new dog park, a half-pipe at the skatepark, new parks and rec programs, new restrooms at Veterans Park, and new outdoor workout equipment throughout the city including the new Fitness Court at Dunes Park. The most important improvements have been new sidewalks in our neighborhoods, new crosswalks on our streets, paving dirt alleys throughout the city, making our streets safer, a new commercial shopping center at 9th and Palm, and forcing absentee slumlords to clean up their run-down properties. Painting murals throughout the city (thanks IB Arts Bureau!) has created a sense of place and brightens up neighborhoods. All of this effort has helped to reduce crime to the lowest levels in the history of Imperial Beach.

The biggest issue besides ocean water quality and climate change that we have to tackle is affordable housing. Speculators, vacation rentals, and a huge deficit in the number of available housing units statewide have distorted the housing market throughout California, jacking up rents and home prices (although the housing market seems to be leveling off at the moment). One issue that we addressed at the April 17 City Council meeting was that of short-term or vacation rentals. These holiday rentals are only permitted in the commercial zone in Imperial Beach but have illegally proliferated throughout the city. A firm is now assisting in cracking down on illegal short-term rentals but we must evaluate how to make sure vacation rentals don’t take over our city as they have done in Mission Beach.

On April 17, the city council rejected a proposal to expand the areas where vacation rentals are allowed. In the future we will be evaluating how to make sure that future market-rate and affordable housing projects will not be taken over by outside speculators who then turn entire buildings into short-term rentals, further locking local residents out of the housing market. This is a big deal for Imperial Beach and just about every coastal city throughout the state. We must be vigilant to create housing opportunities for our residents rather than out of town speculators.

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