City Council passes new Rec Council funds policy

The San Diego City Council narrowly approved (with a hefty list of amendments) a new policy that changes how rec councils citywide collect and distribute money. As of Jan. 2, 2018, the City will be the agency that appropriates and expends the revenue collected by the 52 recreation councils, instead of them holding the purse strings.

All future funds from permits will be managed by the City, and rather than having the various rec councils pay contractors directly, the City would pay for such services. Previously, the rec councils served as financial agents and carried out these duties. Funds from donations would be kept separately if the rec council is a 501(c)3 nonprofit (which La Jolla Park & Recreation, Inc. is).

Action was swift, some say rushed, because the San Diego City Attorney opined the previous system was in violation of the Municipal Code and needed to be corrected by the end of the year. In October, the City Council took up the discussion, but could not take action due to questions that remained. During the October meeting, there was more than two hours of testimony, largely in opposition to the policy change.

When the item returned to Council Chambers Dec. 13, Council member Barbara Bry (District 1) said she worked with the City Attorney on a list of amendments to the proposed change.

Among them: adopt an Interim Standard Operating Procedure and responsibilities for rec councils, until a permanent one can be implemented; establish a working group to recommend changes to related documents, such as a permanent Standard Operating Procedure, Special Use Permit and Council Policy 700-24 (which governs recreation councils) and provide a proposal to City Council; recommend that until amendments to Council Policy 700-42 are adopted, the Park & Recreation Department work closely with recreation councils to maintain programs and events consistent with the status quo; and more.

The working group would have two representatives from each Council district, to be decided by the representing council member. La Jolla Park & Recreation, Inc. members Gail Forbes and Bill Robbins have applied for one of the two spots.

Despite the amendments, some City Council members were still left shaking their heads. Council member David Alvarez (District 8) questioned whether “we are creating more problems than solutions by replacing a system that seems to work,” but acknowledged the opinion of the City Attorney. “I think there will be consequences to this.”

The City Council voted 5-4 to pass the amended policy change.

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