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City signs onto sustainability program, increases staffing

SOLANA BEACH — Never ones to pass up an opportunity to be more environmentally sustainable, council members unanimously agreed at the Nov. 12 meeting to participate in a program aimed at increasing energy options, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and safeguarding against climate change impacts.

To help communities in those efforts, the state Office of Planning and Research earlier this year launched CivicSpark to help local governments, faced with budget constraints and limited staff, take action in response to climate change.

The Local Government Commission will work with nine California regions, 48 AmeriCorps members and more than 200 volunteers to implement sustainable community strategies, respond to climate change and advance clean-energy initiatives.

Teams of three to six AmeriCorps members will be assigned to the nine areas to provide research, planning and implementation plans.

Solana Beach, Del Mar and Encinitas, along with the San Diego Association of Governments and the San Diego Foundation, have partnered to collaborate on an iCommute project for residents and small businesses in North County.

The goal is to reduce congestion, parking issues and the number of vehicle miles traveled by encouraging the use of alternative transportation.

The program will include public outreach on the existing SANDAG iCommute program and ridesharing, public transportation and bicycling resources for commuting within the North County coastal corridor.

North County Transit District has expressed interest in supporting the CivicSpark project, expected to take place for the next 12 months.

The cost of the program is $25,000. SANDAG and the San Diego Foundation are contributing $15,000 and $5,000, respectively. Solana Beach, Del Mar and Encinitas will each pay $1,667.

In other news, council members agreed to convert some part-time positions to full time in the Code Enforcement and Marine and Public Safety departments.

A part-time code compliance specialist, whose primary responsibilities are parking enforcement, recently left that position.

Following an evaluation by staff in response to requests, mainly from businesses, for more parking enforcement, it was determined the vacated position should be reclassified as a full-time code compliance officer for an additional cost to the city of $20,000.

The person hired to fill the position will have increased responsibilities. With greater enforcement of all city codes there likely will be an increase in revenue to offset the cost.

The Marine Safety Department is currently limited to three full-time employees and several part-time workers, including a senior lifeguard and junior lifeguard program director.

City Manager David Ott said beach attendance has increased significantly in the past few years because of more sand on the beach from a replenishment project and more sun and less rain for longer periods of time.

Capt. Craig Miller said there have been between 100 and 200 ocean rescues annually for the past 10 years. So far in 2014 there have been nearly 400.

The junior lifeguard program has also grown from about 200 participants 10 years ago to 950 this past summer.

Council members agreed to add a full-time sergeant who will take over the junior lifeguard program, eliminate the part-time junior lifeguard director position and reduce the hours of the part-time senior lifeguard for an overall cost to the city of $35,000.

City staff also recently evaluated a part-time administrative assistant position in the Public Safety Department and recommended converting that to full time at a cost of $29,000.

Ott said the Public Safety Department is “bursting at the seams.” He said the additional staffing is “conservative” but “we definitely have a need to increase … somewhat at that operational level.”

General fund money will pay for $73,700 of the increased salaries. The remaining $10,300 will come from the junior lifeguard camp fund.