By Dr. Helen Horvath
November 28, 2020 (Lemon Grove) -- On November 17, the City of Lemon Grove held its bimonthly City Council meeting virtually through Zoom, addressing several hot topics including take-out alcohol sales, block grants, COVID-19, marijuana taxation and more.
Modifications to the City Council Agenda: Institute of Public Strategy (IPS)
The City modified the agenda without notice to include an initial presentation by the Institute of Public Strategy (IPS) and the Responsibility Hospitality Coalition (RPH) before the start of the scheduled items. This agenda modification was made to provide key information to the Council and City staff to address potential issues associated with alcohol beverage sales in the city. The focus of the presentation centered upon implementation and potential modification of the Responsible Beverage (RBS) Training Act (Assembly Bill (AB) 1221), as permitted by AB 1221 in Lemon Grove.
AB 1221 requires that all alcohol licensees, servers, and managers within California hold a valid RBS certificate of training by 2021. The mandatory start date was changed to 2022 by the State due to COVID-19 under AB 82. AB 1221 and AB 82 permit modification of the laws at the local level. One of the critical aspects of this training is teaching licensees and their staff to recognize underage drinkers, know when to stop service, and other key issues. California Alcohol Beverage Control estimates that more than 1,000,000 onsite alcohol licensees, servers, and managers within California will be required to hold a valid RBS certification.
David Shorey, East County IPS Program Manager, Craig Reed Director, IPS Binge and Underage Drinking Initiative, and Marian Novak of the RPH provided an overview presentation of how the programs could be implemented within Lemon Grove. AB 1221 and the training program have been implemented locally by El Cajon, Solano Beach, and Carlsbad.
Shorey discussed active steps taken by the ABC to create responsible beverage sales. These steps are tied to Direct to Consumer (DTC) sales or eCommerce websites and Apps selling alcoholic beverages. Currently, there is no clear system in place to ensure that the person delivering and receiving the eCommerce alcoholic beverages is of legal age to deliver or pick up alcoholic beverages. Mr. Reed stated that ABC has reviewed the delivery of alcohol by minors and initially found a 70% failure to check identification to ensure that the delivery person was of age to deliver alcohol; this has been reduced to 35%. There is no currently mandated training requirement for DTC sales. Further Beverage Industry research shows that DTC/eCommerce alcohol sales have grown by 234% as on premise sales have been curtailed due to the pandemic.
The City Council discussed cost and availability of the program with the presenters. The ABC has a free course online currently to meet the bi-annual training requirements of AB 1221. Due to COVID-19, the free course will eventually cost $20 per employee and is generally paid for by the employee as the law does not require the employer to pay for the training. Mayor Pro Tem Jennifer Mendoza commented on the training that it is time to consider alcohol related ordinances that have previously been discussed. She hoped that the Council would place this on future agendas after a review of what other cities have done and the direction Lemon Grove should take.
Mendoza recommended that the process be put on hold to permit newly elected Council members, who will be sworn in during December, to weigh in on the process. Mayor Racquel Vasquez agreed that the process should temporarily be delayed until after the first of the year with a target date of February 2021.
Teresa Rosiak-Proffit asked that Lemon Grove City Council agendize a request to discuss access for the homeless to the promenade restroom facilities, which have been closed for several years. This request aims to provide Lemon Grove homeless residents with a dignified place to use restrooms instead of urinating on the business owners’ properties. Rosiak-Proffit stated that the Lemon Grove Improvement Council will partner with Lemon Grove for monitoring.
Council members, the Mayor Pro Tem, Mayor, and City Manager discussed key events that impact the Lemon Grove community. Highlights include Mayor Pro Tem Mendoza’s attendance at key meetings to include the Lemon Grove Interfaith Clergy meeting and SANDAG’s transportation meeting.
During the meeting, the Port of San Diego provided information about the draft Port Master Plan Update review and process to revise the current plan. The Port is requesting public comment.
Mayor Vasquez reiterated COVID-19 requirements to wear a mask, wash hands, and keep at least six feet apart. Mayor Vasquez recommended that residents review the CoronavirusSD.com to learn more about COVID-19. Additionally, the City Manager provided information to the community regarding movement into the purple tier on the City’s COVID-19 update website and recommended that the information be included in Lemon Grove’s social media pages. The Mayor asked the community for suggestions to keep each other safe. She reiterated that Lemon Grove is required to follow San Diego County health mandates.
City Manager Report
Lemon Grove’s City Manager, Lydia Romero, provided an update to the Utility Undergrounding Project that removes overhead utility poles and moves the utilities underground. SDGE had not provided the city with an activity report as of November 6, 2020. SDGE learned that the energizing system work will be delayed until December 3, 2020 due to circuitry integration issues. ATT continues to cable as scheduled and work is projected to be completed by December 4, 2020. Cox Communication continues to work to complete all cable removal, splicing, and other task with a target completion date of the 3rd week of November 2020. Poles in the city will be removed by March 2021.
Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Application for FY 2021-2022
The City Council opened a hearing to discussed adopting a resolution to authorize the submittal of an application to the Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program for FY 2021-2022. The City is required to partner with the County of San Diego to receive CDBG funding. Lemon Grove staff discussed the reduction in funding for Crane Street in 2020. This removal impacted the community development and improvement. Currently, $105,000 is available from the County for FY-21. Crane Street was still not back on the list of community development and improvement. The city allocated the block grant funding that is pending approval to redevelopment of Crane Street. The City Council passed a resolution to submit the grant to the CDGB Program for FY 2021-2022.
Open Space Easement at 7010 Lermas Court
A public hearing was held regarding the open space easement vacation at 7010 Lermas Ct, Lemon Grove. Staff presented information about the easement and city staff’s recommendation to provide partial vacation of the open easement.
The City Council voted to grant partial vacation of the open space easement at 7010 Lermas Court, Lemon Grove.
Municipal Code – Sign Ordinance Update
Noah Alvey and the City Council discussed this issue during the City Council meeting. City staff stated that during recent budget workshops, the City Council discussed the proposed updates to Title 18, Sign Ordinance, Lemon Grove municipal code.
City staff and Council members stated that all signs must meet Lemon Grove’s objective and policies tied to the aesthetics of Lemon Grove. A public hearing was held regarding updating the Sign Ordinance, specifically temporary signs, within Lemon Grove. The current code requires a temporary use permit that costs $136 per permit with a maximum of two permits a year. The temporary signage would be the feather signs and other temporary signs used within the business corridor. The approved Sign Ordinance removes the permitting requirement for temporary signs during specific holiday period such as Thanksgiving.
Recreational Marijuana – See ECM’s separate article on this agenda item.
Dr. Helen Horvath is a psychologist, organizational development consultant and published author on a variety of psychology and business topics. A military veteran, Dr. Horvath has authored articles for East County Magazine focused on how the COVID-19 pandemic is impacting our military healthcare system, local nonprofit organizations, businesses, and tribal enterprises. She has also examined COVID-19 research/innovations.