CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KGTV) - A report says Chula Vista faces an immediate need for more police staffing to keep up with rapid growth, and that traffic congestion will worsen in the coming years.
At a Special Meeting called for Thursday evening, the city’s Growth Management Oversight Commission (GMOC) is expected to present to the city council its review for fiscal year 2018, which includes recommendations on how to properly address issues directly caused by the city's progression.
Chula Vista’s exponential growth over the past five years has led to a big increase in homes being built across Chula Vista. The city says “the number of residential building permits issued in Chula Vista averaged 1,008 units per calendar year” between 2013-2018.
"This rate of growth is projected to continue or increase over the next five years, according to Chula Vista’s 2018 Residential Growth Forecast, updated in April 2019," the GMOC says. "With growth comes the demand for additional services and facilities."
The GMOC warns that the Chula Vista's police department is not prepared to accommodate anticipated growth in the next 12-18 months or five years.
It also addresses concerns that road congestion will get worse along Palomar Street given that improvements will take a half decade to complete.
The GMOC’s annual reports, including the fiscal year 2018 report, “addresses compliance with delivery of services and facilities, based on threshold standards for the eleven service topics identified in the City’s Growth Management ordinance.”
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.
With the city’s continuing growth, the report shows there has not been 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.
The GMOC says the police department's response times for Urgent Calls for Service in fiscal year 2018 were calculated at 20:17, about 8 minutes and 17 seconds slower than the 12-minute threshold.
The report says it is imperative that the city make it a budget priority to make sure police department staffing levels “will be consistent with the County’s median staffing levels per capita.”
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.
Among the recommendations, the GMOC says the City Council should "direct the City Manager to support the Police Department to aggressively expand a new officer recruitment campaign, providing it with the proper tools, technology and resources to aid in the process of recruiting new police officers."
FROM THE REPORT:
Recommendation 1: That the City Council direct the City Manager to prioritize the City’s annual budget so that staffing levels per capita will be consistent with the County’s median staffing levels per capita.
Recommendation 2: That the City Council direct the City Manager to support the Police Department to aggressively expand a new officer recruitment campaign, providing it with the proper tools, technology and resources to aid in the process of recruiting new police officers.
Staff Response 1 and 2: On June 5, 2018, voters approved a one-half cent transaction and use tax ordinance that secures funding for additional officers and support staff. The City Manager’s Office is working closely with the Chula Vista Police to ensure proper staffing levels and together have developed a 10-year plan to add 43 additional positions to help improve response times. In FY 2019, the department was funded for nine new sworn and civilian positions. In FY 2020, 12 new sworn and civilian positions were approved to be budgeted. Additionally, the department is proactively seeking grant opportunities that will fund additional positions to help close the gap with the County’s staffing levels per capita. The City Manager’s Office has allocated funds to support the department’s recommended recruitment campaigns.
The GMOC report says that city libraries have not met the threshold standard since fiscal year 2002.
To be compliant, the city “shall not fall below the citywide ratio of 500 gross square feet of library space, adequately equipped and staffed, per 1,000 residents.”
With the city’s library expenses and staffing fall below the statewide average, the report indicates the current number of libraries won’t be sufficient as the city continues to grow.
The report recommends the city “prioritize Libraries, right below public safety” to meet the state average for staffing. Another recommendation is to allocate “any surplus from future budgets to supplement the library materials budget.”
The population boom in Chula Vista has resulted in more congestion on city roadways, the GMOC has expressed concern that growth will continue to slow travel speeds.
"The GMOC is concerned that continued growth and development will worsen existing traffic congestion on Palomar Street in future years, given that the planned grade separation improvements will likely take five years to complete," the report says.
The report specifically cites southbound Otay Lakes Road (from Ridgeback Road to Telegraph Canyon Road) and eastbound and westbound Palomar Street (between Industrial Boulevard and Broadway) as non-urban streets that are considered “non-compliant roadway segments.”
Urban street segments were not a part of the fiscal year 2018 report because of a lack of funding, the GMOC said.