By Andrea Papagianis
A budget update report for 2014-2015 before the five-member City Council Tuesday night included adjustments to the city’s two year operating budget but not a commitment to fund the second phase of the Lantern District improvement project many had hoped for.
Regardless, after hearing concerns from residents and business owners that funding for streetscape improvements along Del Prado Avenue wouldn’t come, the council voted 3-2 to reallocate monies from various reserves to fund the estimated $7.7 million project.
Councilmen Bill Brough, Carlos Olvera and Steven Weinberg opted to transfer $1.475 million for the state budget impacts reserve, $2.5 million from the capital projects sinking fund reserve and the $3.725 million needed to round out the $7.7 million estimate from the undesignated fund balance.
Mayor Lisa Bartlett and Councilman Scott Schoeffel dissented. Schoeffel raised concern the transfer would take reserves to record lows and questioned how long funding replenishment would take. Due to Weinberg calling the question, Bartlett did not speak on the matter until a later item, in which she said her “no” vote was not against the project but she was also concerned about depleting reserves.
The council unanimously approved sending the project out to bid. According to staff, bids will be structured with line items that the council can look at more closely.
Last year, the council unanimously approved spending $9.2 million dollars to add bus pullouts, replace sidewalks, add medians and return two-directional traffic to Pacific Coast Highway. Construction began in September, following the South Coast Water District’s preempted replacement of sewer and water utilities, as well as storm drains, along the roadway.
The council will now decide on funding the project’s remaining construction on Del Prado Avenue, considered by supporters as the crux of the city’s revitalization efforts.
An estimated $7.7 million is needed to create a pedestrian-friendly environment down Del Prado, where medians will be added, stoplights replaced with stop signs and traffic slowed through the business district.