CARLSBAD — The Carlsbad City Council on June 21 approved a ballot measure for the November general election to help fund much-needed renovations at the Monroe Street swimming pool.
The 38-year-old pool has become a hot-button issue in recent weeks as the facility requires upgrades and maintenance to remain operational and in compliance with health and building codes. The city is estimating the project will run between $22 million to $24 million, triggering a citywide vote under Proposition H.
If the ballot measure is successful in November, Prop H, which requires voter approval for any capital improvement projects surpassing $1 million in General Fund costs, gives the council authority to spend the money, although it doesn’t compel the body to act.
The city’s last Prop H vote was in 2016 when residents approved rebuilding Fire Station 2 in La Costa.
The project calls for expanding and upgrading the Monroe Street pool with amenities similar to those at Alga Norte Aquatic Center. In March, Kyle Lancaster, director of parks and recreation, described plans to widen the pool to 33 meters, install new shade structures, replace tile and plaster and install solar panels, among other upgrades.
In January 2021, the council selected the most extensive renovation option, which was also favored by residents who participated in an online survey.
The discussion soon shifted to ballot language, specifically in anticipation of further inflation or a deeper national recession.
“The estimate staff provided was conservative,” City Manager Scott Chadwick said. “Eight or nine months from now could be a drastically different ballpark.”
The council approved keeping “up to” the current estimates, although Mayor Matt Hall urged the council to remove the language in case project costs skyrocket, requiring the city to return to voters for further approval to make up the excess cost.
“We’re in an economy where we don’t know what we can or can’t do,” Hall said.
Lancaster said the project cost estimate prior to the Jan. 26 meeting was between $20 million and $21 million, but the city’s consultant recommended increasing the estimate to $22 million and $24 million. The goal is to have the project completed by 2026.
The council also discussed the strategy of the ballot measure. Hall suggested adding the South Carlsbad Coastline Project, or linear park, to the ballot. However, Hall’s motion to add the item to a future agenda for ballot consideration was defeated, 3-2.
Councilman Keith Blackburn, who voted in support of the motion, said he believed including the South Carlsbad Coastline Project on the ballot would likely give the pool the best chance at citywide approval.
Councilwoman Priya Bhat-Patel said she would be more comfortable with a plate of options regarding other potential goals or large-scale capital projects.
“It’s about being strategic about what we want to put on there,” Bhat-Patel said. “We will be adding costs to it.”
The council declined to put the ballot measure on the June 7 primary ballot, opting instead to work through a strategic planning process to prioritize the city’s capital projects.
According to city staff, the ballot text for the November general election must be submitted Aug. 12 to the San Diego County Registrar of Voters. Arguments for and against the measure are due by noon on Aug. 18. The Registrar of Voters estimates the measure will cost between $65,000 to $95,000 to place on the ballot. The savings from the city’s current budget will be carried over to cover the costs.
In addition, the council approved a resolution to consolidate the city’s election with the statewide general election. The clerk’s office released the dates for this year’s election filing period, which covers races for mayor, city council, treasurer and the clerk.
The city’s ballot measure to transition the clerk to a hired position by the city manager failed in the June 7 election by a 51-49 margin.
Regardless, the period opens at 8 a.m. July 18 and runs through 5 p.m. on Aug. 12. If an incumbent does not file nomination papers, which covers the mayor, District 3 (Bhat-Patel) and treasurer (Craig Lindholm), the filing period will be extended to 5 p.m. on Aug. 17.
Currently, Blackburn is running for mayor, while Bhat-Patel is being challenged in D3. In D1, Melanie Burkholder, Tracy Carmichael and Sam Ward have announced their campaigns. No candidates have yet emerged for clerk or treasurer.