Water Rates, a Theme Park, and Restrooms

Last night’s City Council meeting was the first I had attended in six months. It was depressingly similar to the last meeting I attended, although Mayor Sam Abed seemed more smug than usual, if that’s possible.

It was a bit interesting to listen to SDGE representatives tout the benefits of the Palomar Energy Center, while presenting an enlarged check for the $200K, SDGE is contracted to pay to Escondido. SDGE agreed to pay the City of Escondido a total of $4 million, over an eight year period, for the privilege of building the first power plant to be built in San Diego County since 1960. Why was Escondido the chosen city? Were they fortunate or the only city willing to accept more air pollution for a price? The plant was built in the Escondido Research and Technology Center, which now, after fifteen years, is the home of said power plant, Palomar Hospital, and Stone Brewing Company. Wonder how much research goes on at Stone?

Ed Gallo had a question about Item 13 “TAX EQUITY AND FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY ACT HEARING FOR CYPRESS COVE APARTMENTS.” Evidently state law requires that the city involved must approve bonds issued by the California Statewide Communities Development Authority (CSCDA). Why, Gallo asked, did Escondido need to be involved? Then, in his unique way, he digressed. He bemoaned the fact that tenants who lived in properties that were not maintained to health and safety standards, did not complain to the City. According to Gallo, if the tenants had exercised their rights, and forced the landlords to maintain those standards, then CSCDA wouldn’t have to issue the $35 million in bonds to pay for the renovation of Cypress Cove. So, why wouldn’t the tenants exercise their rights? Could it be because they live in a City that seems to take a harsh view of undocumented immigrants? And why doesn’t the City enforce building codes? Could it be that code enforcement is underfunded?

Most people in the audience last night were there to speak on item 15: WATER AND WASTEWATER RATE ADJUSTMENTS FOR 2015 AND 2016. Several farmers encouraged the Council to vote for the option that allowed agricultural water rates to remain the same. Others complained about what they considered to be excessive sewer fees, including a laundromat owner who wondered why he was charged so much more in sewer fees than owners of apartment buildings with similar facilities. I had the impression that none of the complainants were very satisfied by the answers they received either from the staff or Council. The council did vote for a staff recommended option with rate increases for all but agricultural use.

The next item was a presentation on the “Grape Day Park Conceptual Master Plan and Playground Design”. Considerable community outreach had elicited over 40 recommendations for improving the park. The Conceptual Master Plan seemed to include all of the recommended changes, a sort-of theme park on the cheap. The Council did approve funding for the new playground equipment and the acceptance of the plan, but both Councilwoman Olga Diaz and Executive Director of the Escondido History Center Wendy Barker, believed that the most crucial need in Grape Day Park would be adequate restrooms. Most parents won’t bring their children to the playground, when there are no safe, clean restrooms.

The last item on the agenda was the appointment of a white male, who is in the building industry, to the Building Advisory & Appeals Board. No surprise there. Really, no surprises at all in this meeting.

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