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The end Staff | Sat, Jan 01 2011 12:00 PM

Car troubles

The year started with a slight, but significant, spat between the city of Chula Vista and a local car club.

For years the South Bay Cruisers enjoyed the run of Third Avenue during the summer, as car afficionados came out to enjoy looking at classic cars during the Blast from the Past car show.

The South Bay Cruisers said the city's police department changed the rules of the game, enforcing things like parking violations that used to be overlooked.

The city and the police department say they were trying to accommodate an event that had outgrown its small town ways, and wanted to find a workable compromise.

Robert Naranjo, who serves on the board of directors for the South Bay Cruisers, said the tolerant atmosphere vanished on the final day of the show in August 2009, when participants were issued what he estimates were 50 citations for meter violations, jay walking and parking on the grass in Memorial Park.

"We've been running the show for 30 years without any problems ... we don't understand why, where this is coming from," said Naranjo. He said members of the group felt harassed by a "gestapo-like presence" and heavy-handed enforcement tactics.

Eventually, the city and the cruisers worked out an agreement and the 2010 car show occurred without any major complaints.

Predicting the future

Port Commissioner Steve Padilla, Chula Vista's representative at the Unified Port of San Diego, announced early in the year that a long awaited land exchange would likely be up for a vote at the panel's February 2010 meeting.

The deal involved an exchange of land owned by the port for land owned by development firm Pacifica.

"I can say with about 99.999 percent certainty that the land agreement with Pacifica will be coming before the board for approval" at the next scheduled meeting, said Padilla. The former Chula Vista mayor said later he was confident both that the deal would come to a vote and that it would be approved.

Turns out he was right and the land swap was approved, setting the stage for further bayfront development in Chula Vista.

Job loss imminent, too

With the imminent closure of the South Bay Power Plant, one part of the plant's demise that is not talked about often is the people factor.

"I understand where (opponents) are coming from as far as trying to develop this property... I think one piece that seems to be missed frequently is just the human aspect," said Len Cigainero, who works for Dynegy, the company that operates the plant.

He noted that the plant has been a part of Chula Vista for decades, and many of his employees are residents here.

"I've got a bunch of my employees who have been here for 25, 30, 40 years," said Cigainero, and the closing of the plantwill have a cost... jobs.

Animal care improves

The Chula Vista Animal Care Facility held a ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating a major overhaul of the shelter on Beyer Way and the city's new partnership with veterinary college Pima Medical Institute.

In late 2008, the shelter was under investigation by the Humane Society and was beset with problems ranging from substandard medical care to an alarming euthanasia rate. Assistant City Manager Scott Tulloch, whose department oversees the shelter, said he was very pleased with the progress made in such a short time.

"You have to watch the operations every day, but I think those problems are behind us," said Tulloch.

Money for Goodrich

The Chula Vista Redevelopment Corporation was to vote on a proposal that officials say should help speed progress on the city's bay front redevelopment.

The agreement stipulated Goodrich Aerostructures, an aviation manufacturer in Chula Vista, will receive up to $5 million in taxpayer funds over the next 17 years to help clean up contamination caused by the company's activities on land it formerly occupied near the bay, as well as to make energy efficiency improvements to the plant's equipment.

The text of the agreement says the agency is "providing (Goodrich) a material inducement to undertake and complete ... an action to remedy or remove a hazardous substance" from the area, in an effort to speed up development there.

In return for financial assistance, Goodrich will withdraw its formal opposition to the city's Bay Front Master Plan.

Mayor Cheryl Cox said the site cleanup needs to happen before development on the bay front can move forward. She said Goodrich has been cooperative throughout the bay front planning process, and that the agreement represents a partnership, not a giveaway to a business interest.

"We're (the city) the ones who said we want to put people down on the bay front ... Goodrich is being exactly the kind of player the port and the city wants them to be," Cox said.

No accident tax

The Chula Vista City Council decided at the last minute to postpone discussion of a cost recovery plan proposed by the city's fire department.

The proposal would have required drivers who cause major accidents-those requiring the cleanup of hazardous materials, evacuations and other emergency service responses -to reimburse the city for its costs.

The item had been listed on a city council meeting agenda but was pulled minutes before the meeting was to begin.

The proposal would have hired a private firm, Fire Recovery USA, to collect funds on behalf of the city.

How about a utility tax?

Chula Vista City Manager Jim Sandoval discussed Proposition H, a utility tax ordinance that would affect five percent of customers who use cable-based phone services who do not pay the telecommunications user's tax on out-of-state landline calls. Cell phone users already pay the tax.

The tax would have would protect $6.3 million in utility users tax and is one component of the city's fiscal health plan to help increase revenues.

To date, the city has cut $40 million from the budget and eliminated nearly 250 positions.

The measure was defeated in the November elections.

The city faces an estimated $18 million deficit in 2011 and will beginn laying off city employees in January.

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