Faulconer, Zimmerman talk shop at La Jolla Meet the Mayor/Chief parley
by DAVE SCHWAB
Jun 20, 2014 | 1166 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
San Diego police chief Shelley Zimmerman disclosed the latest department news while Mayor Kevin Faulconer fielded largely La Jolla-centric questions at a special Meet the Mayor/Chief event, held June 16 at the La Jolla Recreation Center.

Several La Jollans took advantage of the opportunity to pitch their favorite cause or espouse their vision for the community. Questions and views were expressed on everything from the status of Children’s Pool to to bikesharing and cycling safety, combating drug abuse, traffic congestion and utilities undergrounding.

Zimmerman noted that policing San Diego, a 340-square-mile city whose 1.3 million people live in 133 neighborhoods, is a Herculean task. But she was quick to add that social media like Facebook, Twitter and Nextdoor are helping to greatly improve law enforcement’s outreach.

“If San Diego could get just 1 percent of people connected through social media, that’s more than 13,000 people all working together to make sure we’re the safest city. People should feel safe no matter where they live,” Zimmerman said.

Zimmerman pointed out it’s critical to “deter crime before it actually happens. My vision is to make San Diego the largest, safest [city] in the country.”

The police chief said her biggest problems with the department right now are recruitment and retention of officers.

“Half of our department is eligible to retire in the next four years,” Zimmerman said, adding “more than half of our patrol officers have six years or less experience. In some areas, that’s closer to 70 percent.”

Chief Zimmerman added that improving police response time is also critical in “getting officers to the scene to better apprehend criminals and achieve a positive outcome for everybody involved.”

Mayor Faulconer introduced his staff, then answered questions from La Jollans one by one.

In response to audience queries suggesting construction work on Cove and Children’s Pool lifeguard stations was taking too long, Faulconer noted, “I’m in the business of trying to make things happen.” He promised to get back to the community with specifics on both projects.

Architect and La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) trustee Phil Merten asked the mayor what direction the city was going in dealing with local land use regulations, which he pointed out have been ignored by city planners in the past.

“We need to have clear rules of the road,” Faulconer replied. “We need to follow those rules, and we need to get people through the process. Right now, the city’s taking too long to do that.”

“You’re never done changing the culture of a large organization,” added Faulconer.

Longtime La Jollan Melinda Merryweather urged Faulconer to look into opening the sluicegates at the Children’s Pool crescent wall to allow natural tidal flushing to gradually cleanse the pool.

Prompted by questions about potholes and other infrastructure woes, Faulconer said speeding up the undergrounding of utilities in La Jolla and elsewhere in the city is a priority.

“You can go on a city website and type in your address, and it will tell you when your neighborhood is scheduled to be undergrounded,” he said, adding, “My neighborhood is going to get undergrounded in 2054. We’re having barbecues getting ready for it.”

Faulconer said he intends to lobby to get utilities undergrounding fast-tracked.

“We’re doing one project or two a year per Council district, and that’s not the most efficient way to do it,” he said. “Not having overhead utilities is a safety issue. If we want utility lines undergrounded, we have to get smarter (about doing it).”

Mary Coakley Munk of the La Jolla Shores Association spoke about work on the North Comfort Station at Kellogg Park being stalled because of permitting issues and a policy change requiring construction work be done under “prevailing wages,” which she said has added $80,000 to the project’s cost.

Faulconer responded that “a lot of projects have been impacted by the prevailing wage requirement.” He pledged to look into the situation.

“If there’s any way I can help out with that issue, you can count on that,” the mayor said.

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