GrokSurf's San Diego

Local observations on water, environment, technology, law & politics

Posts Tagged ‘San Diego City Council’

San Diego Water Policy Implementation Task Force meeting July 5

Posted by George J Janczyn on July 3, 2012

The Water Policy Implementation Task Force, created by the San Diego City Council on May 22, will hold its next meeting on Thursday, July 5. The agenda and supporting material were distributed by email to task force members and individuals who requested to be on the mailing list. Since the task force does not yet have a web page, I’m posting the agenda packet here.

Cary Lowe, the task force chair, also included a message to accompany the agenda. It reads, in part:

“The primary discussion at this meeting will concern setting priorities for our work over the coming months. Attached is a draft work plan prepared by Vice-Chair Glen Schmidt, with input from members Dawn Guendert and Gordon Hess. Please review it closely, in preparation for this discussion. We have designed an exercise to help identify and rank priorities from the list in the working paper.”

“We also have some procedural and administrative matters to resolve. First, Councilmember Lightner is encouraging us to elect a Task Force Secretary, to be available to take minutes on occasions when her staff us unable to attend. Second, I would like to discuss further my previous proposal to break into small working groups to analyze specific policy areas and make recommendations to the full Task Force. Third, we need to decide whether to set a standard meeting date and time.”

Posted in Water, Water Policy Implementation Task Force (San Diego) | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

San Diego’s Natural Resources and Culture Committee hoists new website

Posted by George J Janczyn on February 14, 2011

The San Diego City Council’s Natural Resources and Culture (NR&C) Committee has a new website:

Click on image to visit the website

The NR&C committee has new membership following last fall’s city elections. David Alvarez replaces Donna Frye as chair, and Lorie Zapf takes Marti Emerald’s place. Carl DeMaio and Sherri Lightner retain their previous memberships.

This committee plays an important role in shaping water policy issues for the San Diego City Council. Whether this new website evolves into a useful resource remains to be seen. For now it’s a template with basic meeting and membership information.

The first meeting of NR&C in 2011 was Feb 2, but the group managed only to dispense with a few items of routine business at that meeting. The most important agenda item (in my opinion), a discussion of the committee’s important priorities for the coming year, pretty much never happened other than to acknowledge receipt of memorandums from each member on the subject. DeMaio didn’t even stay at the meeting for that part of the agenda (here’s my earlier report from that meeting).

On the subject of water, Sherri Lightner’s memo has the most information, mostly recalling her previous efforts to reconcile conflicting water policies and to generate a renewed comprehensive water policy. Carl DeMaio’s memo simply highlights water pricing issues that his mayoral campaign has centered on, and newcomer Lori Zapf’s memo is largely silent on water issues. Chairman Alavarez’s memo mentions water conservation.

I would have expected some attention to wastewater treatment, seeing as San Diego is living on its final EPA waiver from having to provide secondary treatment at the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant. Are we planning ways to further avoid doing that treatment or are we preparing to shoulder the cost of doing it?

The Water Purification Demonstration Project (Indirect Potable Reuse) is another area this committee should be following closely. All aspects of water recycling in SanDiego could use an infusion of energy and support. Previously, Marti Emerald and Donna Frye were the committee’s strongest proponents for IPR and they’re now gone. Zapf and Alvarez have yet to weigh in on this.

Water conservation. The committee could provide more leadership in helping to change local residents’ attitude about water use. Too many people think conservation is needed only during crisis and that everyone should be able to “return to normal” now that reservoirs that supply us from northern California have benefited from winter rains and snow. Donna Frye’s effort to strengthen the city’s water use regulations last fall was unfortunately weakened after the committee was pressured by special interests, but her basic idea should be promoted.

The next NR&C meeting is scheduled for March 2 (although no agenda posted as of this writing). I’m glad that Mr. Alvarez took the initiative on getting a committee website up, and having seen him in action at the first committee meeting I’m staying optimistic that this committee will rise to the coming challenges.


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Committee on Natural Resources and Culture stalls over action plan

Posted by George J Janczyn on February 3, 2011

The first meeting of the reconstituted San Diego City Council Committee on Natural Resources and Culture (NR&C) was held Wednesday February 2. The committee reorganized after last November’s election that brought in two new members to replace outgoing councilmembers.

David Alvarez, Chair, is taking the place of Donna Frye who termed out of her council position. Lorie Zapf is getting Marti Emerald’s seat (Emerald is still a Councilmember but received different committee assignments for this year). Carl DeMaio remains the Vice Chair and Sherri Lightner continues with her membership.

The NR&C Committee’s area of responsibility includes Clean Water Program, Energy, Water, State and Federal Endangered Species Acts, Arts and Culture, TOT, Solid Waste Disposal, Recycling, APCD/Air Quality, Hazardous Waste, MSCP, and Regional Parks and Open Space. I follow the Committee’s doings because it is deeply involved in operations of the Public Utilities Department and especially with water.

Last December, Council President Anthony Young sent out a memo asking committee chairs to submit a 90-day action plan for their respective committees.

David Alvarez responded for NR&C on December 30, indicating that he was soliciting input from colleagues on the Council, the Mayor’s Office, City staff, and other stakeholders and hoped to have it ready by the end of January. He also stated that his own initial three priorities were: 1) Promoting water conservation; 2) Flood protection and environmental preservation; 3) Promoting energy efficiency and renewable energy.

Wednesday’s agenda included the 90-day action plan as a discussion item.

For this meeting I thought the committee members would talk about feedback Alvarez had gotten from the various stakeholders mentioned in his memo, then discuss their own priorities and negotiate a final 90-day action plan for the committee. That’s not what happened, though.

While they were working on the last agenda item before the action plan, Carl DeMaio slipped out of his chair, exited the room, and never returned.

I don’t know if Alvarez had other plans and changed because of DeMaio’s absence, but he asked Lightner and Zapf only to mention highlights from their memorandums, and then he had a few comments about his items. That was it. No discussion. No debate. No action plan. In effect, that made everything a priority.

There are plenty of water-related issues in those memorandums. If you examine them, you’ll find there’s a great deal there, perhaps even too much for a 90-day plan.

Lightner wants to completely overhaul obsolete and conflicting water policies and to develop a comprehensive policy for a sustainable water supply in San Diego. Her ideas alone could take six months to plan and prioritize. Carl DeMaio is crusading to reform financial management of the Public Utilities Department and for lower water rates (it will be interesting to see how he balances Council work against his 2012 mayoral campaign). Alvarez has water conservation and flood control concerns along with Zapf.

Nobody mentioned planning a future for indirect potable reuse after completion of the Water Purification Demonstration Project, although Lightner mentions IPR in a generic sense. It’s only a one-year project and I hope more advance planning is done not only for the subsequent production phase but for possibly wider application of IPR beyond that.

An action plan should be fairly specific about things to do. A priority such as “Promoting Water Conservation” needs to be translated into concrete steps. As things now stand, the committee has a collection of memorandums with numerous ideas all competing for attention. It will be difficult for the committee to focus on a selection of them, especially with complex and sometimes mundane demands from a never-ending workflow of projects and requests from the Public Utilities Department.

Aside from the planning deficit and despite the loss of knowledge and experience that Donna Frye and Marti Emerald contributed, I think the committee shows promise.

In his role as Chair, Alvarez performed competently and cordially, the committee members were otherwise well-prepared for some difficult and complex agenda items, and they seem to get along with each other. So despite the committee lagging on a coordinated action plan for important water issues, I’m hopeful that in the coming weeks and months they’ll be able to regroup, organize their ideas, and implement their plans successfully.


Posted in Environment, Natural Resources and Culture Committee, Water | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

San Diego’s IPR water treatment facility sidetracked by DeMaio and Lightner

Posted by George J Janczyn on June 16, 2010

Councilmembers Sherri Lightner and Carl DeMaio took advantage of councilmember Marti Emerald’s absence at today’s Natural Resources and Culture Committee meeting and threw a wrench into the gears of San Diego’s Indirect Potable Reuse/Reservoir Augmentation Demonstration Project (IPR Project).

The IPR Project is a City Council-approved study seeking to determine whether the Indirect Potable Reuse process can be used to give San Diego an additional high-quality and reliable source of drinking water.

Months ago, the City Council approved a contract for project management for the IPR project. The next step in the project was to identify who would construct the advanced water treatment facility required for the project. The San Diego Water Department put that out to bid in February, evaluated the candidates, and in April made a selection.

A contract for the new treatment facility was on the agenda for today’s committee meeting (I wrote a preview about it on Monday). It was on the agenda as a routine informational consent item that would be sent to the City Council for approval. Marsi Steirer, Deputy Director of the Water Department (morphing into Assistant Director of the Public Utilities Department under a reorganization), was on hand to answer questions.

When Donna Frye, chairing, summarized the agenda for the day, Sherri Lightner announced she wanted to pull the item from the consent agenda because she wanted to ask questions. Shortly, she had her chance.

“What’s the difference between this facility and the one they have in Orange County?” she asked. Answer: no real difference, the same technology is used.

“Then why do we need a study if we already have that information from their facility?” Answer: because Orange County is augmenting groundwater supplies while San Diego would be augmenting reservoir water, and because the source water for San Diego’s project is from reclaimed tertiary water while the source for Orange County is from secondary treatment water. Also because of regulatory requirements.

Lightner didn’t seem to care for these answers and said she doesn’t see why we can’t partner with Orange County and have some kind of cooperative venture with them and that she’d like to see more “philosophical” background information on how that might be accomplished.

At this point, Carl DeMaio made a motion…for a continuance. When pressed to say what for, he indicated that he thinks this project needs more examination, and besides, he thought Marti Emerald really should have the opportunity to vote!

Continuing, Frye allowed that the committee would hear the people who had signed up for public comment. Obviously they had planned their comments without suspecting this untoward development, so they had to think on their feet quickly. They all opted to address DeMaio’s motion to suppress (er, continue).

Jill Witkowski and Bruce Reznik from San Diego Coastkeeper, Jim Peugh from the San Diego Audubon Society, Marco Gonzalez from the Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, Angelika Villagrana from the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Cary Lowe from the San Diego River Park Foundation, Amy Harris from the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, all took turns standing before the committee to plead for them not to use a continuance to impede the project.

Lightner seemed quite annoyed by the comments and at one point indignantly asked the chair, “are they actually commenting on the motion to continue?” To which Frye replied, “It sure seems like it to me. Try listening to their words.” (or something like that). Lightner obviously wasn’t pleased having the public enter the debate on the motion!

The pleas were unheeded, however, and when Frye called the vote, she was alone in voting against a continuance.

So there you have it. Even though the IPR project was vetted and approved by the City Council, DeMaio and Lightner have decided to question the premise of the project just as it’s getting under way, with questions that sound like they’re from someone who is hearing about it for the first time. Further, the stalling technique employed with Marti Emerald conveniently absent seems like immature politics, not the behavior of one with a sincere desire for understanding. Such questions, if genuine, could and should have been asked when the overall project approval was being discussed.

I don’t know if the committee will meet in July; if not, it could be August before the matter can even be sent to the full Council.

I wonder if DeMaio and Lightner will come to understand that this is not a useful way to handle taxpayer time and money. I have a feeling this would not have happened if Marti Emerald had been present.


Posted in Natural Resources and Culture Committee, Politics, Water | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »