Mayor makes case for optimism, tax hike

Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas’s State of the City address Tuesday updated residents about the city’s future plans and developments.

Perhaps the biggest news on Tuesday night came when the mayor announced a proposal for a temporary half-cent tax increase to offset what she said is the city’s $270 million infrastructure deficit. The measure would be on the November ballot and, if approved by voters, Chula Vista’s sales tax would temporarily rise to 8.5 percent.

“This increase would be temporary — with a defined time limit — and would raise about $15 million per year to help us address these critical infrastructure needs,” she said. “It would be used to repair streets, buildings, vehicles, equipment and storm water systems.”

Additional infrastructure needs include fire stations, fire engines and police vehicles, she said.

Otay Ranch resident and business owner Darryl Anunciado said he would support a sales tax hike because the city cannot lose its positive momentum. Anunciado owns a drone manufacturing business in east Chula Vista.

“If they are going to keep the direction that they are on now I’d highly support it because there is just so many things that are happening in Chula Vista,” he said.

Eastlake resident Alma Lengyel said she is undecided if she would favor the proposal.

“We already pay 8 percent in sales tax, so I do not know about adding more tax,” she said. “But if it is for the betterment of the community I can be for it.”

Casillas Salas said infrastructure needs are a high concern for residents.

“The biggest complaint I usually get from city residents is the condition of our streets,” she said. “I hear about the potholes, the streets that need resurfacing, the block that don’t have sidewalks, curbs or gutters. But we don’t have the resources to keep up with all of these needs or to make these improvements.”

She said the potential sales tax increase would quickly improve the conditions of the roads and buildings.

Casillas Salas also used the nearly 30-minute speech to inform residents about the city’s progress with the bayfront, the university and the city’s takeover of the Olympic Training Center.

She also praised the work of the San Diego Dream Center and city staff for curbing the homeless issue by getting them off the streets and offering housing assistance and other services. She said the city has increased its resources and outreach teams to assist the homeless.

Speaking on developments, the mayor highlighted the bayfront project. She said she expects an agreement with RIDA Development for the hotel and convention center to be signed by August. She also said a land swap between Pacifica Development and the Port of San Diego will allow the construction of condominiums along the bay with construction beginning in 2018.

Casillas Salas also said the city is moving forward with a potential 375-acre binational university. She said the council took a big step earlier this year when it approved a vision statement and plan to establish an international university.

“No city is better prepared to take advantage of our central location in the California-Baja California region to develop a campus that can educate tomorrow’s workforce,” she said.

Casillas Salas also touted the city’s takeover of the Chula Vista Olympic Training Center for $1. It will soon adopt the new name Chula Vista Elite Athlete Training Center. Despite the name change, she said the center will continue to train Olympic and Paralympic athletes and provide residents with more access to all its facilities.

The mayor also noted the improvements in downtown Chula Vista with the second phase of street improvements nearly completed and a spruced up nightlife with the addition of Third Avenue Ale House.