CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) -- As a plume of smoke from a 350-acre blaze spiraled over the South Bay on Thursday night, Chula Vista’s City Council leaders met to review a report that signals a potentially dark cloud in its future.
Members of the city’s Growth Management Oversight Commission presented its 2018 compliance scorecard that assesses how well Chula Vista is prepared to face the anticipated rapid growth trend across the county's second-largest city.
According to the GMOC’s report for 2018, four service topics are considered “not in compliance” with the city’s threshold and at risk of continuing to be non-compliant in the future: Libraries, Police [Priority 1], Police [Priority 2], and Traffic.
GMOC chair Duaine Hooker emphasized that police staffing levels is a major concern.
The report shows there is not enough police staffing to adequately respond to both emergency calls and urgent calls, as well as the volume of calls, thus leading to slower response times.
“It’s been twenty-two years in a row,” Hooker said about the police department’s failure to meet the threshold. Hooker also warned that he isn’t very optimistic about its 5- to 12-year plan.
“They [police staff] did not think they could [accommodate] the growth of the city, it’s not there yet," Hooker said. Hooker and members of the GMOC toured the police department and surveyed officers.
Councilmember Stephen C. Padilla, representing District 3, offered the most critical commentary on the rapid growth issues the city is facing.
"We know we're going to grow, and we know that we're constrained financially," said Padilla.
"We also know a scary statistic, and that is even with all the money from Measure A and even with reasonable growth we are a long ways off from getting even close to staffing up our public safety to the level, particularly on the police side, that it's going to make an impact," said Padilla.
"I just think we need to acknowledge that out loud," he added.
Measure A is the half-cent tax approved by voters in 2018 to secure funding for additional officers and firefighters, provide faster responses to 9-1-1 emergency calls, and increase police patrols.
A plan is in place to hire 43 officers over the next 10 years. So far, nine officers have been sworn in this year. 12 more "sworn and civilian staff" are budgeted in 2020.
The current pace falls short of the GMOC's threshold and is way off of the county average. To get to the county average of 1.29 police officers per 1,000 residents by 2023, Chula Vista will have to hire 148 more officers.
Padilla recommended to adopt a qualitative method of measuring the city's progress alongside the current GMOC standards.
Mayor Mary Casillas Salas followed up Padilla's comments by highlighting Chula Vista's public safety record -- Chula Vista is listed among the safest cities in the state.
"A look back at the way we have been measuring things, I think an important component of that is outcomes, not just throwing numbers out there but the actual outcomes and what it means to the quality of life for our community," Salas said.
The city's "rate of growth is projected to continue or increase over the next five years," the GMOC reported, citing Chula Vista’s 2018 Residential Growth Forecast.
TRAFFIC ALSO A PROBLEM ON THE WESTSIDE
Chula Vista's growth and congestion issues don't only affect the sprawling Eastlake and Otay Ranch areas. Councilmember Jill Galvez, representing District 2, used her time at the special meeting to push for a revitalization on the west side of town.
"Can we start to look at focusing on improving the infrastructure in northwest Chula Vista to make it safer and more attractive so that we can enjoy the experience of our city," Galvez said. "Our neighbors to our east are enjoying their fields and you don't see them walking around because they have trails set far back from where you typically drive."
"Here, we're all kind of using the pavement and even the streets to ride our bikes," Galvez said.
Councilmember Mike Diaz, representing District 4, sided with a recommendation made earlier in the meeting that the GMOC report should be heard before the city's budget review process.
"I'm not sure how much it's going to move the needle one way or the other, but I think we at least need to hear this before budget."
"It's going to be many many months before we start talking about [the GMOC report] again, and maybe we forget about those, so I certainly like to see that."