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Council also advises public that Prop A transportation initiative would double road repairs in Lemon Grove

By Jonathan Goetz

Pictured: Karen Beth Pearlman, UT Reporter, taking pictures of a Connect Main Street Powerpoint 9/20/16

View the Powerpoint here

September 22, 2016 (Lemon Grove) – Lemon Grove’s City Council approved a theme for the Connect Main Street concept to commemorate the city’s historical heritage, limit traffic and create a walkable heart for the city between Broadway and Central Avenue.  Council members also informed the public that Proposition A, the regional transportation initiative, would double street repairs in Lemon Grove as well as funding freeways and bringing the trolley to UCSD.

In addition, the Council agreed to pitch in $422,106 for Lemon Grove’s share of the Next Generational Regional Communication System (NextGen RCS) and apply for $522,500 in water protection funding from Proposition 1 water bonds passed by California voters in 2014.

Council, with Mayor Sessom absent, approved a short term theme drafted by Michael Baker International for complete construction drawings of the short-term concept for Connect Main Street, between Broadway and Central Avenue. The theme for this portion is “yesterday,” focusing on the early pioneer period with 20th Century wagons, barrels, etc.

Thirty percent of the $279,500 will be spent on these construction drawings in the City’s no-bid no-RFP (request for proposal) agreement with Michael Baker International, which is common for projects of this size. Staff indicated the contractor must expedite the work, since funds that the City is working with for this portion of Connect Main Street expire in June.

Broadway to Central Avenue, which covers City Hall and the Lemon Grove Historical Society, will have brown colored concrete, wooden arches, more trees, period-style lighting, period wooden gateway signs, and no north-bound traffic on Main Street. This eliminates cars being dropped off at the one-way turn on Broadway adjacent to the bus yard, trolley station, and the light on Lemon Grove Avenue and Broadway.

Councilwoman Mendoza commented, “Long term we do need to make that safer and just a better flow. I envision a little closer to home--downtown Julian, downtown Ramona, just keeping those kinds of pioneer areas in mind this area could reflect those styles as well, and it will incorporate some of the older buildings we have in that area…We have some historic properties in that area that I hope will be included in those plans.”

Eliminating north-bound traffic will make re-entering traffic safer and allow the City to expand the side-walks to make a walkable central route through the city, the goal of Connect Main Street Lemon Grove. The southernmost part of the project starts in geological time, moving up to indigenous history, the Old West and other historic periods.

Gastil replied, “The timeline starts in the South and goes up to the North, but we’re starting in the North and going South so it’s almost like we’re going back in time.” He also spoke to the benefits of a walkable corridor through central Lemon Grove.

New resident Alice Jefferson asked City Manager Lydia Romero how much of this input was vetted by the community to which Romero replied, “We have had multiple community meetings on each segment and these are definitely concepts initially designed by our citizens and not staff.”

Councilmember Jerry Jones issued some stark words regarding the long-term concept of blocking off all vehicular traffic for Main Street just south of Broadway. “If you block off all traffic on the street, those business owners at the end will have us for supper.” He ultimately voted for the short term concept, which only blocks off north-bound traffic, and not all vehicular traffic, on Main Street dumping off at Broadway in front of the light. The contract with Michael Baker International to design a short-term plan for the portion of Connect Main Street between Broadway and Central Ave. passed 4-0.

During Councilmember reports on meetings attended, all four Council members spoke on Proposition A, the proposed regional infrastructure improvement half-cent sales tax that will last for 40 years.

Councilmember Mendoza first mentioned Proposition A and informed the public that Proposition A will double Lemon Grove’s roads budget. “I always hear people complaining about potholes and the conditions of the streets, and so you need to know Proposition A will double Lemon Grove’s budget for street maintenance.”

Vasquez explained Proposition A and said her favorite part was that it lowers some transit fares, at least temporarily.

Gastil added that expanding the trolley to UCSD will transform the way transportation works in that area. He also spoke of his work on the MTS Board.

Jones, after announcing his three sanitation meetings regarding maintaining Lemon Grove’s sewer system, stressed the importance of letting everyone know that Proposition A will double Lemon Grove’s budget to repair roads.

Earlier in the meeting, Gastil moved Item 3 in front of Item 2 because Councilmember Mendoza, who has strong opinions on the project, was running late from downtown.

Item 3 involved pitching in for Lemon Grove’s share of a regional communication system. The San Diego County-Imperial County Regional Communications Systems Partnership was entered into in 1995 at the prompting of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors and includes 18 San Diego and and seven Imperial County cities, including Lemon Grove. Lemon Grove’s share of NextGen RCS will be financed over ten years at $48,954 per year.

Councilmember Racquel Vasquez asked city staff, “if we finance the amount over 10 years, is there an option to pay this off early if we want to?” to which Lemon Grove City Manager Lydia Romero responded, “Yes, absolutely.”

Councilman Jerry Jones followed up with “Don’t hold your breath on that,” to which Gastil chimed in, “If the interest rate is lower than inflation, then it might not be in your best interest to pay it off early.”

Vasquez responded that since there was no pre-payment penalty she would vote in favor. The motion passed 3-0. Since neither Sessom nor Mendoza were present, any councilmember could have defeated the proposal from staff by voting no.

Unless the loan is paid off early, this will reduce the amount of general fund money available to the next Council. The General Fund is vital to fund road repairs and maintain public safety, as well as other responsibilities generally assumed by Cities.

Prior to all of this, the consent calendar passed 3-0, including authorizing a grant request from Mike James, Assistant City Manager, for $522,500 to restore the Bakersfield and San Altos channels. The money would come from a $20 million bond passed in 2014 by voters to improve water quality.

Two Lemon Grove residents spoke during public comments. One stressed the importance of flag etiquette at Bob Baker of Toyota which he does not feel is adequately lit at night. LaniJane Stacks was concerned with factory farm conditions. Mayor Pro Tem George Gastil, who was running the meeting in Mayor Sessom’s absence responded, “It would be fine with me if we wanted to have animal welfare as part of our agenda as we do goal setting.”