LaCava’s priorities for upcoming budget include lifeguards, code enforcement and many La Jolla projects

San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava's District 1 includes La Jolla.

From more lifeguards and other city staff to street projects to adding a handrail to a beach access on the south side of La Jolla’s Marine Room, San Diego City Councilman Joe LaCava outlined his budget priorities in a recent memo to Mayor Todd Gloria’s office.

LaCava, whose District 1 includes La Jolla, is calling for 15 new lifeguard positions because “safe access to our ocean, beaches and bays is not just a priority, it is an obligation for our city. Our lifeguards are constantly watching those in the water, they are our first responders and must be staffed to meet the needs and save lives. … Our beaches and bays are world-class and attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, providing millions for our city and local economy.”

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, beaches became a haven for those seeking something to do outside, and the increased usage resulted in “all-time-high call volume in cliff and marine rescues in 2021,” LaCava said.

He also requested funding for additional staff in the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, treasurer’s office, child and youth services and others, and an “as needed” consultant for the independent budget analyst’s office.

His memo also listed increasing the salaries and salary adjustments for city employees “to help optimize recruitment and retention and fill budgeted positions.”

“District 1 residents, employers and businesses submitted 18,500 Get It Done requests in 2021,” LaCava wrote, referring to the city’s app for requesting maintenance and similar services. “Requests in the thousands included trash collection, streetlight maintenance and pothole repair. Most issues raised require no new funding but rather recruiting and hiring the staff to deliver city services. Whether it be public safety, park and recreation services, streets or environmental services, we need already budgeted positions to be fully staffed. The requests from my D1 constituents can be fulfilled not by new funding or positions but by filling the budgeted positions.”

Reflecting a long-held concern about the efficacy of city code enforcement, LaCava’s budget memo also asked for a “complete evaluation of code enforcement activities provided across multiple departments,” including “how many full-time code enforcement staff positions are filled by department” and “duration of open requests/cases.”

His La Jolla-specific priorities include:

  • Building the UC San Diego-funded Torrey Pines Fire Station
  • Adding the long-awaited beach access handrail on the south side of The Marine Room restaurant
  • Repairing or replacing the railing at the beach overlook at Moss Lane
  • Repairing dwindling cliffs along Coast Walk Trail
  • Completing the parking realignment and vehicle turnaround at the terminus of Coast Walk
  • Replacing ocean access stairs at Sun Gold Point/Camino de la Costa
  • Repairing drainage at the northern restroom facility at Kellogg Park
  • Securing the parking lot at Kellogg Park to prevent overnight parking
  • Widening the sidewalk along Coast Boulevard at Scripps Park
  • Updating the traffic evaluation of the La Jolla Parkway/Torrey Pines Road intersection (aka “The Throat”) and surrounding streets to resynchronize the traffic signals and identify any needed surface improvements
  • Constructing a sidewalk from Azul Street to Poole Street
  • Completing the next phase of the Torrey Pines Corridor Improvement Project
  • Building roundabouts on Prospect Street at Silverado Street and Draper Avenue
  • Repaving Neptune Place between Nautilus Street and Palomar Avenue

Citywide items include increasing the percentage of hotel occupancy tax that goes to the Penny for the Arts Program, which provides funding to arts and culture programs; increasing the library materials budget; funding SDAccess4All, which provides free public Wi-Fi; items to support the city’s Climate Action Plan; and funding for the city’s efforts to fight homelessness.

“Whether it be public safety, park and recreation services, streets or environmental services, we need already budgeted positions to be fully staffed.”

— Councilman Joe LaCava

Gloria is scheduled to release a proposed budget April 15 for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1.

Gloria will have more money than previously expected to potentially honor council members’ requests, thanks to surging tax revenue and a shrinking pension payment because of stock market gains last year.

The annual pension payment will be $31 million lower than last fiscal year, giving Gloria more flexibility when he proposes an operating budget of roughly $1.7 billion.

Finance officials say the city is projected to have $26.7 million in cash left over when the current fiscal year ends June 30, primarily because revenue from hotel and sales taxes has come in higher than expected.

The city also is projected to have $179 million in federal pandemic relief left over, significantly more than the $150 million expected when the budget year began last July.

The projections, however, don’t include San Diego making any scheduled payments to increase the city’s reserves to recommended levels.

After Gloria unveils his proposed budget, council members will discuss his proposal and vote on a final spending plan sometime in June.

San Diego Union-Tribune staff writer David Garrick contributed to this report.