With the newfound attention came ideas for how to make the process more inclusive and effective. This year, for the first time, the city is calling on the public to participate in the budget allocation process for CIP projects, including street and facility repairs and upgrades, libraries, park and recreation centers, utilities undergrounding, water and sewer facilities and pipelines, and other construction projects that enhance overall quality of life in San Diego.
For La Jollans, that means weighing in on the importance of large-scale projects — like the Torrey Pines Corridor improvements to relieve traffic congestion and increase pedestrian safety; the Coast Boulevard walkway project to improve coastline parks; or the Belvedere Dip project to create a pedestrian promenade at the confluence of Prospect and Girard streets — and smaller-scale projects like installing street lights, upgrading traffic signals or fixing sidewalks in the village.
“The projects are likely to be as diverse as the interests of La Jollans and will give us a taste of the difficult decisions that the mayor and the City Council make in balancing competing needs,” said Joe LaCava, chairman of the Community Planners Committee. “La Jolla is fortunate to have community funding of projects that would otherwise be candidates such as library expansion, fire station upgrades, Kellogg Park restrooms and others.”
Input for CIP projects will be gathered by the city’s 42 community planning groups and submitted to the city’s Public Works for ranking and assessment of possible funding sources. Factors like health and safety, shovel-ready projects, community consensus and matching funds from other sources are used by the city to prioritize the projects in its ranking system.
“This is an extraordinary change in the city’s approach that the public needs to grab hold of. If the public wants the budget process to be inclusive and participatory, we need to show that we can provide meaningful input,” said LaCava. “Going through the process this year will allow us to navigate the steep learning curve, as well as test our public outreach efforts. Next year, when we hope the city’s finances will start improving, we will have the opportunity to start sooner and have an even better process.”
The La Jolla Community Planning Association will gather input at its regularly scheduled meeting on Oct. 4 at 6 p.m. at the La Jolla Recreation Center. Further details about the process are available at www.lajollacpa.org/cip.html.
La Jolla Village News spoke with Joe LaCava, chair of the Community Planners Committee, about the public input process for Capital Improvement Program (CIP) projects. To learn more about the history of CIP, the process for community input, funds available, and challenges, see our Q&A below:
LJVN: CIP only deals with construction/infrastructure projects, such as road upgrades, new facilities, etc. What are some of the things in La Jolla that fall in this category that people might be interested in prioritizing as a community?
LaCava: The projects are likely to be as diverse as the interests of La Jollans and will give us a taste of the difficult decisions that the mayor and the city council make in balancing competing needs. Projects can be as large as the Torrey Pines Road corridor improvements for congestion relief and pedestrian safety or improving our coastline parks, such as the Coast Boulevard walkway project. The Belvedere Project (plaza at the Prospect dip) or fixing the sidewalks in the Village are also candidates. Ten years ago, La Jollans supported a long list of projects (http://www.sandiego.gov/planning/facilitiesfinancing/plans/pdf/ljfacsummary.pdf), but many of those have never received any funding; perhaps, those are not important to us anymore. Projects don’t have to be large; they can be as small as installing a streetlight or upgrading a traffic signal. La Jolla is fortunate to have community funding of projects that would otherwise be candidates such as library expansion, fire station upgrades, Kellogg Park restrooms and others.
LJVN: What is the history of CIP?
LaCava: During the last decade the city’s finances were so troubled that there was little if any discussion about CIP budgets; only the bare minimum was funded. As the city emerged to more normal operations, attention turned to CIP projects again. The mayor’s office and the city council found the CIP implementation and the CIP budget development processes lacking and sought to make improvements on both fronts. When a $100 million bond was sold, the city could not respond fast enough to implement that level of projects, so the city streamlined its project approval and implementation process. The city also realized there were inefficiencies because city departments were not talking to each other. The city formed Capital Improvement Project Review and Advisory Committee (CIPRAC) comprised of the directors of all of the city’s departments and required them to meet monthly to coordinate their projects. The changes also increased the public’s awareness of the budget process, and there were calls for a public participatory process. Traditionally, the mayor’s office begins work in December on the next year’s budget and releases the draft budget on or about April 15th. The release triggers the city council’s and the public’s opportunity to review the project and propose changes over the next two months. Everyone agreed that two months was not adequate. As a step towards a robust public participatory process, the mayor’s office sought to gain public input before the budget work begins December. The city recommended the Community Planners Committee and the community planning groups take the lead as the only organized citywide structure that reflected true local input rather than creating a new public outreach campaign.
LJVN: What amount of money are we talking about in the CIP budget?
LaCava: To be candid, there is not a lot of money at play. Three-quarters of last year’s $215 million CIP budget was sewer and water projects – projects that are funded through our water and sewer bills. The remainder comes from matching funds that target specific kinds of projects. Some communities have well-funded developer impact fee programs (aka facilities benefit assessments), but those don’t offer much help to older built-out communities like La Jolla. For the FY2013 budget, the city was able to allocate only $3 million towards the CIP budget, not including a one-time “find” of $8.3 million. When you compare that against an estimated $900 million infrastructure deficit, you realize the city is only making a small dent. Until the city can increase net revenue by streamlining government, an improving economy, or financing through bonds, projects – and those who want them – will have to be creative in competing for grants or seeking public-private partnerships.
LJVN: You mentioned that this year is more about the process to build a long-range plan that works for the community. Why is it important for people to get involved this year if there's no money to really play with?
LaCava: This is an extraordinary change in the city’s approach that the public needs to grab hold of. If the public wants the budget process to be inclusive and participatory, we need to show that we can provide meaningful input. Going through the process this year will allow us to navigate the steep learning curve as well as test our public outreach efforts. Next year, when we hope the city’s finances will start improving, we will have the opportunity to start sooner and have an even better process. Building consensus on a list also helps La Jollans rally around our infrastructure needs and provides a basis for us to be an advocates at city hall. Some might suggest that the 2009 LJCPA effort was the spark to re-ignite the Torrey Pines Corridor Project.
LJVN: How does the LJCPA plan on gathering public input, organizing it in a meaningful way, and shipping it off to the city for review? Where does the input go from there, and when can they expect to see any results?
LaCava: The LJCPA will set aside time at its October meeting and perhaps hold a second hearing at its November meeting if needed. We have been advertising the October meeting at La Jolla’s community organizations. We have prepared a webpage, www.lajollacpa.org/cip.html, to provide further details and links to city information. This process worked well when we tried something very similar in 2009 under a LJCPA initiative. Citywide input from the 42 community planning groups will be submitted to the City’s Public Works for ranking and assessment of possible funding sources. Planning groups are encouraged to also submit their lists to their councilmember as well as directly to the mayor’s office. The schedule will bump up against the incoming new mayor in December, so we will have to await if that changes the process. Traditionally, no information is released until the draft budget is published on or about April 15 of next year. Communities will have to stand ready to lobby for their lists if the city doesn’t find funding for their project.
LJVN: How will the city prioritize input on projects from all 42 planning groups?
LaCava: The city uses a ranking system to prioritize projects based on various factors such as health and safety, ready for construction, community consensus, matching funds from other sources, etc. At this time the rankings are applied without regard to which community is making the request. In light of the city’s constrained budget, projects that are funded are driven more by the availability of funding from other sources (sewer and water fees, state and federal funds, infrastructure bonds, transportation sales tax, etc.) than by their priority.
LJVN: Can people track projects they are interested in at the city level?
LaCava: The city has two web pages that are available to the public. That’s the good news. These are works in progress as the city transforms the information from bureaucratic lingo and acronyms to the plain language that anyone can understand. Last year’s budget can be viewed at http://www.sandiego.gov/fm/annual/fy13/fy13vol3.shtml, while mapping of all capital improvement projects, whether funded or not, can be viewed at http://www.sandiego.gov/cip/projectinfo/index.shtml.