District 1 infrastructure concerns addressed with Kersey in UC
by Sandy Lippe
Published - 02/07/14 - 03:58 PM | 12337 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
District 5 City Councilman Mark Kersey, chairman of the Committee on Infrastructure, visited Nobel Recreation Center in University City on Jan. 22 to pitch his concerns about the city’s long-time neglect of its infrastructure. (Think cracked and broken sidewalks and potholed, bumpy roads, for example.)

Kersey solicited input from District 1 residents and weighed in on the types of projects the locals would like to see in their neighborhoods. He has visited each council district in San Diego, seeking ideas and handing out a list of 20 infrastructure suggestions.

Like any good professor, Kersey engages his “class” by asking students to prioritize the list. Then he goes over the list to find the top five subjects. Streets and roads are high on the list of many people in this Infrastructure 101 class. Stadiums seem to be very low. Finally, he collects the list that will be used to help decide what folks really want in their communities.

District 1 City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner introduced Kersey, sharing her admiration for his work on this issue. His main goal is to put in place a five-year plan that will be released this summer.

Former Mayor Jerry Sanders sought feedback in July 2012 from community planning groups and appointed La Jolla community activist Joe LaCava to spearhead that effort. LaCava polled the planning groups and came up with some projects that are priorities in communities.

Kersey, who was appointed infrastructure chairman by interim Mayor Todd Gloria several months ago, is in need of superhero skills to overcome a billion dollar backlog. San Diego neighborhoods’ infrastructure involves many challenges, including streets and roads, libraries and rec centers, streetlights and bike paths.

Infrastructure is the hard stuff in the city, the assets the city owns. The city is at a critical juncture with that $1 billion backlog, so prioritizing is critical.

Last year the City Council was committed 100 percent to using $120 million infrastructure investment surge after decades of neglect that has plagued neighborhoods. It is a down payment, with $1 million for sidewalks, $43 million for streets and roads, $20 million for new fire stations, $21 million for storm drains, and $4.5 million for ADA upgrades. With need for a bond measure to fuel some of the proposed and prioritized projects, Wall Street will be looking for a three-year turnaround with shovel ready projects. 

Historically, the city never had a multi-year plan for infrastructure, never looked at it as a strategic investment. Now, Kersey’s committee will present policies, price tag and projects in the spring for the City Council to vote on. He said he is dedicated to solving regional issues like this one, streamlining the process and cutting the bureaucracy.

In 2011, a streets assessment project assigned people to drive all the streets in San Diego and grade them with scores from 0-100, checking out potholes, bumps and other hazards to our tires and feet.

This year, 24 engineering interns at SDSU and UCSD will be paid to assess 5,000 miles of sidewalks, taking about a year to complete. Kersey’s committee, including Myrtle Cole, Scott Sherman and Marti Emerald, hopes to make San Diego a more walkable community.

The last updated sidewalk policy was in 1975. Many of our sidewalks were installed from the start of World War II through the 1970s, with some dating back to the early part of the last century. And only 6 cents out of each dollar of the general fund goes to infrastructure.

When the five-year plan is unveiled in the spring, the infrastructure committee will prioritize projects, set service levels and find funding. La Jolla residents brought up Torrey Pines Road as a concern, and U.C. locals resurrected the Regents Road bridge that remains unbuilt. 

Using more money from the general fund is a hope. Longtime residents have heard this song before from politicians, but Kersey brings a new energy and some concrete solutions. He can be reached at markkersey@sandiego.gov.
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