Patch will ask IB City Council candidates one question a week until Election Day.
Last week's question:
This week's question comes from 2010 City Council candidate Tim O'Neal, and stems in part from a meeting held this summer in which developers encouraged the city to loosen its municipal code:
It has been suggested by developers that IB's codes are restrictive and should be loosened in order to stimulate development in the city. Do you agree with the developer's assessment?
Vying for two seats on council are Bobby Patton, Valerie Acevez and Erika Lowery, along with incumbents Jim King and Brian Pat Bilbray.
What kind of questions do you think council candidates should answer before Election Day? Share in comments.
In a word, no.
The codes should not be loosened. We have the “restrictive” codes to maintain our community in the way that the city has deemed. It is our long term plan that our predecessors determined.
Should we revise all of the codes to appease developers that are interested in Seacoast growth? What would be next–Boulevard and Cherry at the end of the bay? 5th Street where it meets the estuary? More oversized buildings that encroach on the views that we all pay for?
Improvements can be made, that is a given. Every system has some inefficiency, and we can address those to help stimulate the economy. Expedited and streamlined processes, efficient systems in place–those are improvements that can be implemented at this time to welcome businesses to Imperial Beach; and not solely on Seacoast or Old Palm, but all of Imperial Beach.
We also have to take into account our neighbor, the Navy’s Ream field. We have helicopters flying overhead and we need to account for their safety also. These are heroes that are willing to put their lives on the line for our freedoms. We cannot jeopardize it at home by exceeding a safe ceiling for all.
It comes down to if we want to look like so many of the over-developed beach communities in Southern California, or do we want to maintain our own small beach community under our control?
I think the latter.
I truly believe that redevelopment should be spurred by the community’s vision of the city, not a developer that has only a short term, minimum stake in the community. Help me reclaim the city for our community.
I am willing to work with the Chamber, Pier South, and the community to market Imperial Beach on its own merits, not the merits that are determined by developers.
I believe the developers are only looking at two areas of IB. Based on those two areas and what the developers are looking at would make it hard to put new commercial and residential housing in Imperial Beach.
There is a reason that the voters of Imperial Beach have kept the codes, especially for height restrictions. I am sure that if these codes and restrictions were not in place there would be less residential and more commercial building along the beach area.
I like the look of the beach with the different styles of residential buildings, and the commercial buildings that are currently there. It gives Imperial Beach its character. Do we need to clean up the street, and give some of these buildings a new facade?
Yes we do.
If you want to see what a person will see when they step out of this high-end hotel, the first time they stay here will say it all. Lets help the business in the area of Seacoast and Palm Avenue update their buildings to the scale of client we want to stay in Imperial Beach.
Drive Seacoast and Palm Avenue and see for yourself where we need improvement. We should be building to compliment what we have, not tear it all down. I believe that we need to use the resources available to Imperial Beach and finish the projects currently being built.
Provide incentives for businesses that could go to the vacant space at 9th and Palm, give incentives to current businesses that upgrade their current buildings, and bring in the revenue and jobs that are needed here in Imperial Beach. I believe that all of this can be accompllished with an open mind.
Imperial Beach is a great place to live and, hopefully, in the near future, a great place to visit as well.
Brian Pat Bilbray
Reasonable economic oversight is the issue at hand. How do we balance our small town feel with what our city needs in revenue to keep from being taken over by San Diego?
How do we become more user-friendly to potential businesses who would like to come to Imperial Beach? We need to take into account that certain developments such as mixed-use commercial and hotels yield more revenue for the city than strictly large scale residential or multi-family residential, and our planning process should reflect that fact.
We need to work with potential investors, not against them, realizing the potential benefits that they bring to our city. Making our city as user-friendly as possible will benefit all of our citizens. We need to form public-private partnerships to work with businesses and investors to cut through the red tape and ensure that both sides are benefiting equally from the joint effort.
The fact is mixed-use and hotels differ substantially in their benefits to the city from high density residential and this should be considered in the planning process. In order for us to afford our parks and core public services, it is a must to attract these types of investments and businesses into our city.
There is always a fine balance of development in our city, but we cannot be afraid to do the right thing to guarantee that future generations may enjoy Imperial Beach as our own city and not as a colony of San Diego. Reasonable economic oversight is the key to our future in Imperial Beach.
The panel of developers at the July workshop were asked to share their opinions on what they believed were the biggest impediments to growth in Imperial Beach.
Raising building height at the beach, relaxing building codes and removing regulatory roadblocks seemed to top the list of suggestions. Predictable and sensible–for a developer–whose business plan is to build projects in the least amount of time and at the lowest cost for the highest rate of return on their investment.
But good planning for a well-balanced community does not take place in a developer’s vacuum. Good planning is a balancing act–a process that involves our elected officials and Imperial Beach citizens.
Working together, we must consider all of the elements that are needed for a healthy and thriving community–shopping, jobs, tourism, recreation, parks and environment. It’s critical that we work jointly to maintain a balance within our community that responds to our fiscal, economic and quality-of-life needs. It’s our community and we control our future through these crucial land-use and zoning decisions.
The panel did, however, share constructive suggestions that could certainly be incorporated into current economic development plans. Applied properly, many of the ideas could enhance our current efforts. Our own commercial zoning amendments, started over five years ago, are near implementation and there is renewed interest in empty commercial buildings.
Continuing to “set the table” for economic development with public infrastructure improvements, visually attractive areas and pedestrian-scale lighting are all essential to attract residents, visitors and investors alike. I would encourage the review of our permit fee schedules to determine where efficiencies could be incorporated and situations where deferred fee payments would be practicable. Marketing of our community is a wise investment to attract investors to help us create a community of choice.
Many of our decisions, if made hastily as “quick fixes” to bolster our revenues, could threaten our long-term quality of life. It will take strong leadership, experience and a balanced approach to make these tough decisions, and I believe I have the qualifications to meet the challenge.
In particular, the discussion at the forum was in regard to commercial development opportunities and not residential zoning.
It does however, involve mixed-use zoned areas where residential uses are also present with commercial uses on the same property. There is no question that the fewer code restrictions, the greater the potential for developers to increase their return on investment. Also, increased design flexibility in terms of setbacks, densities, heights, parking, floor areas, to name a few, assist the developer in achieving maximum property potentials.
However, zoning and land use regulations play a vital role in protecting and promoting community goals and objectives. Having recognized the constraints and shortcomings of the existing commercial zoning ordinance, city staff and council have undertaken a comprehensive overhaul of the commercial zoning ordinance. This has been an ongoing process spanning the past four years and has resulted in significant increases in flexibility and simplification of the present ordinance.
The final draft has to be approved by the California Coastal Commission, followed by the drafting of a new code sections for adoption by the council.
These changes in zoning, coupled with other improvement projects such as the hotel, which is already in progress, substantially increases proeprty values and will further stimulate developer investments in the unique character of Imperial Beach. One of the important functions of the zoning code is to also protect and build upon that uniqueness as an important and vital asset to the community's future.