Committee takes initial look at city’s infrastructure needs

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. — A new City Council committee charged with tackling San Diego’s extensive backlog of maintenance and capital improvement projects held its first meeting Monday and passed a tentative work plan that calls for a thorough assessment of the city’s infrastructure needs.

The committee members asked the Public Works Department and the city’s Independent Budget Analyst to return in two months with an initial look at needs that have gone unmet. The plan calls for the various municipal departments to eventually conduct condition assessments of around 1,000 city-owned or managed facilities.

San Diego takes on infrastructureIn a recent memo to colleagues, committee Chairman Mark Kersey said the city’s unmet infrastructure needs could top $1 billion. Previous estimates of a deficit of $800 million to $900 million did not include work needed on Petco Park, Qualcomm Stadium, sidewalks, piers and water and wastewater improvements, he said.

Additionally, he noted, a consultant recommended that the city build 10 new fire stations in order to meet fire and safety standards.

“As we begin to emerge from our fiscal woes, we have to address cracked sidewalks, pothole-filled roads, broken storm drains and city facilities that are falling apart in our neighborhoods,’ Kersey said. “We will be creating strategies to deliver projects faster, going into the communities to listen to their priorities, and developing a five-year plan to fix our long-neglected infrastructure needs.’

San Diego was unable to fully fund its infrastructure needs over the past decade because of its fiscal woes. City workers have picked up the pace in fixing up streets over the past two years, however.

The work plan calls for the city to properly catalogue its infrastructure needs, identify one-time financial investments to pay for those needs, establish best management and fiscal practices, determine acceptable service levels and performance measures, hold community meetings to take public input, and come up with a policy that defines how a need becomes a project.

“We’re going to go and talk to members of our community and find out what projects are important to them,” Kersey said.  “We know we have a huge backlog of projects and we can’t do them all tomorrow.”

San Diego resident Jerry Hall can’t walk down the street without being reminded of campaign promises local politicians have made about potholes.  That’s why he attended city’s infrastructure committee meeting Monday.

“When a sidewalk issue shows up, it never gets repaired,” Hall said. “I’ve seen issues that have been here for at least 10 year.”

Hall and a group of volunteers think they have the answer. They would like to work with the city on a smart phone app that would combine all existing city databases. It would allow the phone’s GPS to send in the exact location of the problem.

Hall presented the idea at the meeting, but he’s not sure on if the committee will include it in their plan.

“The city pretty much wants to do everything on their own, but the problem is we don’t have the budget or the time to do that,” Hall said.  “This is a great way for residents to come in and say, ‘hey we want to participate and we want to pitch in.’”