“It’s going to be a difficult year,” District 2 County Supervisor Dianne Jacob told those attending the Ramona Community Revitalization Steering Committee on Friday.
“I’m worried about excessive federal spending and the state of California being upside down again with their budget. If those two things can’t get in line, the money has to come from somewhere,” Jacob said, adding that it will come from tax-paying citizens and local government “unless we force a change at those two levels of government.”
With local property tax and local sales tax revenues down, Jacob said the county is estimating a loss of $16.5 million out of a $5 billion budget. She noted that amount is a loss of discretionary money that funds the sheriff’s department, parks, libraries and services that unincorporated communities rely on.
Jacob said she looks to the community to set aside priorities “cause there’s not enough to do everything all at once.”
The steering committee, made up of representatives from subcommittees, meets twice a year with the county supervisor to review issues that need funding or policy decisions by the county supervisors.
Topics at the meeting fell under the areas of infrastructure and transportation, parks and recreation, health and human services, economic development, and public safety and law enforcement.
Infrastructure and Transportation
Noting there are several road improvement projects in the works, Dawn Perfect, representing the transportation subcommittee, stressed the need for improvements on 13th Street with the construction of the new library and the proposed Palomar Pomerado Health satellite building.
“We’d love to be able to access PPH and the library and we’d really like to be able to do it without traveling Main Street and stopping at every light,” said Perfect. “We’re using that road already.”
Referring to the library as a “gem,” Perfect said, “This is just a completely unimproved section of road that would link our pretty nice industrial area on one side of the creek with this gem that we’re creating on the other side.”
Jacob said the need for improvements on 13th Street has been discussed but it is a matter of priorities.
“Thirteenth Street falls in those priorities, but it’s not at the top,” Jacob said.
Sirous Deylamian, with the county’s Department of Public Works capital improvement program, said the project would be expensive with a bridge over the creek. Jacob said the idea of a dip section instead of a bridge has been discussed and should be priced out. They can determine the next step for 13th Street and how much it will cost to proceed, she said.
Other improvement needs are the intersection of state Route 67 and 14th Street, where the new library and proposed PPH building are expected to significantly change the flow of traffic, and a right turn lane at Montecito Road and Main Street, said Perfect.
She also suggested that alleyways behind businesses be improved to take some traffic off Main Street. “Using some of those back ways into the businesses would definitely help our traffic flow,” she said.
Deylamian said that by January 2011 design and environmental reports should be completed for three projects: the Dye Road extension, the Ramona Street extension and the San Vicente Road extension.
Deylamian said 70 percent of the design has been completed for the Dye Road extension and the environmental document should be available for public review in late May. After January 2011, he said the department’s work on that project will be concluded until funding is available for construction. Preliminary construction cost is estimated to be $8 million.
The design is being revised for the Ramona Street extension, Deylamian said. That project will be presented to the Ramona Community Planning Group (RCPG) in June, he said, adding that the department wants consensus by the RCPG and the residents. The project is fully funded, Deylamian said, and the preliminary construction cost is estimated to be $3.25 million.
The San Vicente Road project, from Warnock Drive to Wildcat Canyon Road, is also fully funded and construction should start by October 2012, said Deylamian. Preliminary construction cost is estimated at $3.25 million.
LaVonna Connelly, who serves as Ramona Transportation Action Committee (RTAC) coordinator, addressed the lack of public transportation within Ramona and to travel outside of Ramona. She pointed out there is no taxi service and very little transportation service for senior citizens. Many people cannot get to medical appointments or to public services, she said.
“This is an issue that’s going to affect us more and more as time goes on,” Connelly said.
She asked the supervisor if access to transportation could be added to the revitalization efforts, offering to work on the issue.
Jacob agreed with Connelly and said she sees this trend occurring in other unincorporated areas. She suggested Connelly attend Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) board meetings and make a case for transportation, and also work with county Health and Human Services which is looking at transportation for seniors. Jacob encouraged Connelly and others to attend the upcoming Aging Summit (see box, page 3) where transportation as well as other issues will be discussed.
Public Safety and Law Enforcement
Sheriff’s Lt. Duncan Fraser said deputies are being trained in radar enforcement and in handling driving under the influence (DUI) cases. Fraser said the sheriff’s department is working in partnership with the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and focusing on safety along Route 67.
During a mention of the proposed Santa Maria Creek Greenway Park, sheriff’s Sgt. Jason King said he has been sending deputies down to the creek bed in the past month, resulting in two felony arrests and four misdemeanor arrests.
“This is an area that is continually draining resources,” said King, adding that the fire department has responded to fires started at transients’ campsites. King said the development of a park could be a key piece to sustainability in that area.
“If we don’t make good use of the land and bring people into that area, the element will just come back,” King said.
Parks & Recreation
Jeff Miller, senior vice president of the Boys and Girls Club of Greater San Diego, which operates the Ramona branch of the youth organization, talk ed about the club’s proposal for an outdoor soccer arena in Collier Park and a plan to convert a dilapidated tennis court into a basketball court. Plans were completed in April 2009, he said, and he has been waiting about seven months for a lease agreement with the county, which has caused the project to be at a standstill. Jacob said she would be in contact with the county Parks Department to see that the project can proceed.
Richard Tomlinson, Ramona Community Planning Group member representing the parks and recreation subcommittee, said the idea for a skate park in Ramona is again being considered, but finding a location and getting insurance are the biggest issues. Perfect said there is an area by the ARRIBA teen center on Montecito Road that has been recommended as a site for the skate park.
Jacob suggested a possible skateboard association, a nonprofit, could be formed to take on the responsibility of maintenance.
Trail systems were also discussed, including trails that will connect the Ramona Grasslands to the San Pasqual Valley and then to the San Dieguito River Park. Jacob said the planning group and others will have a chance to review the proposed trails.
“You have the chance, I think, to put in a first class trail network in that area,” Jacob said.
Ramona Chamber of Commerce member Bob Hailey addressed economic development and the work done by the Ramona Village Design Group to improve downtown Ramona.
The design group, which is in need of funding to continue with its work, recently applied for a $150,000 CalTrans grant. Jacob said she believes the group has a good chance at receiving that grant.
Hailey said the tiered winery ordinance will be a big part of creating Ramona as a destination. Jacob said the ordinance is going before the county planning commission on Friday, April 30.
According to Hailey, there are about 65 vacant storefronts. There are concerns by the economic development committee and the chamber that county transportation impact fees (TIF) stifle the expansion of businesses, he said.
Jacob responded that the county supervisors have deferred the TIF charge to the time of occupancy to help out businesses.
“Our hands are tied,” said Jacob, explaining that the TIF is in response to state law. If the county doesn’t charge the TIF and a lawsuit is filed, there will be a moratorium on building, she said.
Hailey asked about a proposed satellite county office in Ramona for services and permits. Jacob said that is not financially viable at this time, as building permits are down and the county has temporarily closed other area permitting offices.