Issue Three

Infrastructure: Is the City slowly falling apart?

By Theresa Acerro, President of SWCVCA http://www/


          People who have been waiting for up to 45 years for sidewalks and/or street repairs  would certainly disagree with the adjective slowly, but the fact is the streets in Eastlake and Rancho Del Rey are on the path to destruction unless more funds are allocated for basic maintenance. The Engineering, General Services and Public Works departments issued a report on April 5, 2007 at a workshop held at the Public Works building on Maxwell. The PowerPoint presented to the SWCVCA on April 26, 2007 to convey this information is available in PowerPoint and pdf on this site.   A $369-$396 million partial infrastructure funding need has been identified. This uses 2006 dollars and is only an estimate for fixing roads, sidewalks and drainage deficits (slide 5). There will be another report coming out next year covering the rest of the infrastructure deficits. Obviously the city does not have this much money when its total General Fund budget is under $200 million and 81% of the money in the General Fund goes toward paying for salaries and pensions.  This is not atypical of cities and school districts. Chula Vista now has severe financial problems that will require more cuts in staff and services.

          At the SWCVCA meeting on September 24, 2007 Councilman Rudy Ramirez expressed the opinion that Redevelopment would help solve this problem . Jose Preciado, the president of Southbay Forum expressed his doubts .(Please see Issue One for a more thorough treatment of this subject. Here are some excerpts from the Infrastructure Report: flooding problems, erosion that development in the east has caused in the east, and information from the map with a quarter mile circle around each school in the city that has pedestrian infrastructure problems and the amount of money it would cost to fix these problems. (You can see large version of the maps at meetings of the SWCVCA.))

          Assistant City Manager Scott Tulloch explained in detail the Pavement Management Plan the city has adopted on 9/24/07  at the September meeting of SWCVCA. Basically it is no more worst first, because economically it makes no sense to spend one million dollars to fix one block of failed street without sidewalks and gutters when that one million could keep twenty streets from failing. This slide shows how much different road treatments cost per square yard. Slides 19 to 21 in the PowerPoint presentation explain that $19.2 million per year for ten years is needed to clear up the backlog and raise the average quality of the streets in Chula Vista to Pavement Condition Index 81. (The average is now 75 with a $43 million backlog. It is important to remember that this is an average skewed by all the new streets in the east.) Unfortunately the city is not able to spend this amount due to budget problems. Assistant City Manager Tulloch told me at meeting on 9/24/07 that no money could come from General Fund for anything except fixing potholes. (Please call 397-6000, to report a pothole.)

          Staff recommended the following on page I-33 of the Infrastructure Report and the council adopted it. Since then several councilmen have insisted that these funds not be cut: A two year pavement management program based on $11, 504, 665 million in FY 2007 and $9.5 million in FY 2008 by transferring $2 million from the North Broadway Basin Reconstruction Project STM354 and $5 million from the 4th Avenue Reconstruction between Davidson SR54 Project STL309 into Pavement Rehabilitation Program.” The chart assumes spending would then revert back to today’s inadequate amounts (around $4 million supplemented by grants and loans.)


Scenario 5: Recom. Budget: 2 year high
(Ending PCI = 68 Backlog = $115 million)




Most of the money spent on roads comes from TRANSNET and PROP 1B funds. If the city spends the same amount they have in the past (or less) our backlog will increase and the average Pavement Condition Index (PCI) will go down.  This means we will pay considerably more to fix a problem that will be considerably larger in the future.

{“To introduce the PCI concept – we use a 0-100 scale, with 0 = failed condition, and 100 = excellent condition.

What we decide as acceptable depends on the City. The analogy I use is the math grade your child brings home from school – 80 may be acceptable to one parent, but not to another. Similarly, what the acceptable PCI should be for a City’s network is a policy decision.” From Infrastructure Assets PowerPoint}

          This is a list of streets scheduled to receive CHIP SEAL this year. This is a type of slurry streets should receive every six years or so in order to prolong their life. This is a list of streets to receive REAS (Rubberized Emulsion Aggregate Slurry) this year. This is another type of relatively inexpensive way to keep streets from failing. (Click here to learn more about REAS and CHIP SEAL.) The streets are both in the west and the east. It is important to keep the streets in the east from failing. Some of them are getting to be twenty years old.

Last year the city got a $9.5 million grant/loan from HUD to use for improvements in the Castle Park neighborhood. They are now working on the Emerson Street drainage project ($2.5 million). No streets in areas affected by this project can be fixed until this project is done, since fixing the drainage involves tearing up the streets. They will then start on streets, sidewalks and gutters for main streets that have assessment districts. Council has said First, Second and Oxford are to be first, which should take $6.5 million. Next will be smaller streets. The council held a public hearing on First Avenue on September 11, 2007, but only 49% of the ballots were YES. State law requires 51% of the residents agree for an assessment district to be formed. The Council tabled the matter and the residents are trying for another vote. The residents pay $2,400 to $15,032 of the expense. They can pay it off over many years as part of their tax bill. The higher amounts are still more than many people can afford. The HUD loan will pay the rest in the Castle Park area. The problem with the loan is that the city had to start paying it back this year with most of the one million dollars of the Community Block Grant money that was previously used for a variety of capital projects. Part of the reason that the Infrastructure Report came out this year was that staff was very concerned that unless the city started spending more money streets would start failing in the east as well as the west.

            I know that many people, including me, feel it is unacceptable for the city to have such a huge growing backlog. People in the Southwest are rightly annoyed that so many pre-annexation problems have still not been fixed.  The fact of the matter is that the city needs more sustainable income. Development fees are not sustainable because at some point the city will be built out, and they can only be collected and used for expenses of specific projects. The public facilities fee is a bit more general in nature and was used to partially finance our new civic center and police station. The Independent Financial Review concluded that this was not the wisest thing to have done.

Fees are so high because since Proposition 13 cities have had to rely upon fees to make ends meet. The fact that so much new tax money goes to Redevelopment agencies instead of to General Funds has also helped increase building fees and with them the price of homes in California. It seems that either the state is going to have to come up with a more equitable manner of distributing tax money to cities or we are going to have to tax ourselves in order to come up with increased revenue to take care of infrastructure maintenance needs. A good piece of state legislation would be to distribute sales tax based upon population. This would give cities a stable source of income and reduce the competition for big box stores. Insufficient maintenance of infrastructure is not just a local problem. It is nationwide.

Of course Chula Vista cannot use the excuse that only Canada and Oregon have been keeping up with their maintenance. In the late 1980’s Dr. Cummings was successful in getting the Cummings Initiative passed in Chula Vista. This is now CVMC 19.80. The purpose and intent section of this ordinance states: B. It is the intent of the people of the city to better plan for and control the rate of residential growth in the city in order that the services provided by the city, school, park, utility and/or service agencies operating in the city can be properly and effectively staged in a manner which will not overextend existing facilities, and in order that deficient services may be brought up to required and necessary standards while minimizing, by means of long-range financial planning, the avoidable problems of shortsighted piecemeal growth. In order to accomplish this, this ordinance will guarantee that any fees collected for drainage, schools, streets, utilities, parks and recreation facilities shall be collected or assured by the developers in advance of development impacts and shall be properly utilized and spent by the city or agency in a timely manner to ensure that the impact of the development will not have a negative impact on the residents of Chula Vista.

The fact that we have a huge deficit in infrastructure seems to indicate that the city violated this requirement to “properly and effectively stage growth,” because it obviously has not brought deficient services up to required and necessary standards. We are now suffering the negative impact of growth in the east in the form of traffic congestion, poorer air quality(a violation of CVMC 19.09.010) and a host of drainage and other infrastructure challenges city wide. The report on CO2 clearly shows that residential development is the cause of 35% more CO2 in our air than in 1991. The city’s own facilities that are required to meet higher standards than regular development lowered their CO2 production by 18%. If all development was required to meet the same standards city buildings do we likely would have cleaner air.