CANDIDATE FOR CITY COUNCIL 2018 - ROBERT RADI
Candidate: Robert Radi
1. What project or projects do you propose to improve La Quinta and the quality of life of our citizens? Please explain:
1) What is the project?
2) What are its benefits?
3) How will it be achieved?
There are two major projects in the works that have overlapping benefits, and their achievement is somewhat intertwined: the Village Make Project and the upgrade of our storm drainage system. Therefore, my focus is on the execution of these two major projects as they combine the quality of life and public safety for our community.
I first proposed in 2012 and then again in 2014 ways to achieve walkability in the Village and the flow through major sections of our city. As we secured a $7.2 million ATP (Active Transportation Projects) funds, we will begin the construction of these improvements in 2019. This project is not only essential in functioning as a catalyst for the development of mixed-used in the Village, but it is fundamental in executing the upgrades necessary in our storm drainage system. Measure G has enabled steps in achieving an upgrade in our standard drainage system through the purchase of the Quail Ridge property adjacent to Legacy Villas, to provide a robust water retention facility. Progress has also taken place in addressing drainage issues on Washington by seeking collaborative alternatives to the direction of water flow and retention. We cannot forget the damages and public safety hazards caused by the weather phenomenon of September 8, 2014.
These projects will be achieved incrementally through the appropriation of funds under CIP planning (Capital Improvement Projects), the use of federal and state grants and the participation of CVAG in the case of the Village Make.
2. Citizens have expressed concerns over potential safety issues on heavily used Calle Tecate at the top of the cove. These issues seem especially acute during the season.
1) Please share your views on these safety issues.
2) Explain what steps, if any, you believe would increase safety at the top of the cove.
3) How can they be achieved?
There is no doubt that the beauty and accessibility of our trails have attracted more visitors, resulting in increased usage of street parking. The trails have been safe to use, and they have proven to be an economic development engine, as they are one of the favorite activities enjoyed by visitors and residents alike. However, public health and safety must be taken into account.
After the proposed construction of a parking lot on Tecate did run into opposition from residents living on that street, and after personally visiting with those expressing concerns, I did initiate discussions with two board members of the Coachella Valley Water District, President John Powell and Board Member Peter Nelson, to achieve the issuance of an encroaching permit. Through the work of the La Quinta Economic Development subcommittee (of which I am a member), the encroachment agreement was achieved, and the construction of the parking lot with entrance on Avenida Bermuda did mitigate some of the impacts.
At this junction, the issue is the robust level of usage by pedestrians, bicyclists, and automobilists of Calle Tecate. Some conflicting alternatives have been proposed, namely the continuing use of the street parking on Tecate vs. the retraction of the current parking allowance on Tecate. The city of La Quinta is actively engaged in communicating with stakeholders and organizing a workshop to gain input before a final decision is made to address the safety concerns. We don't want to discourage the use of the amenities at the Top of the Cove. However, given that widening the road is out of the question, we may need to look at sensible alternatives that may include intermittent restrictions on parking. Whereas, the north side of Tecate is dedicated to the use by pedestrians and bicyclists during the daytime to provide additional visibility to automobilists, and allow parking in the evening hours to facilitate parking by residents and those visiting those residents.
3. Economic development is a key element in the continued survival and success of any city. La Quinta faces vacant private commercial properties and is making plans for the Village and Silver Rock.
1) What specific steps can be taken to stimulate revival of vacant business properties?
2) What is the role of city government in the promotion of economic development on privately owned property?
3) What is that role in private/public partnerships like Silver Rock?
Steps to alleviate the vacancy rates have been taken by the city, including the consideration to change in zoning on a case by case. In case of blight on private properties, we have tools in place to take action through methodical code enforcement and legal actions. However, it is also important to be objective as most commercial property owners keep up their sites even when there are vacancies. In the past four years, commercial vacancies have been on the decline. As a city, through the efforts of the Economic Development Subcommittee (of which I am a member), we have produced numerous referrals and lease opportunities for commercial property owners by connecting them with regional and national brands, and operators. Regretfully, several of these referrals didn't materialize due to the above market pricing expected by the landlords. Regardless, we will continue to produce commercial property repurposing and repositioning opportunities, in the hope that owner of commercial development afflicted by a high rate of vacancies will make the necessary adjustments to their expectations based on actual market conditions to create win-win outcomes.
Deciding what businesses are permitted in the city is a function of zoning. Zoning guides what activities are permitted where, and while zoning can be changed, it is important that such activity occurs with proper vetting and the input of stakeholders. Hence, it is a case by case issue. In 2015 we undertook the task to revamp and retune all our codes, resulting in time and money savings for development and redevelopment projects. Additionally, to the aspects illustrated in the aforementioned, the city government role in economic development further hinges on the development of infrastructures, proper upgrade, and maintenance of amenities and facilities, a business-friendly attitude within the boundaries of state and federal laws, and accessibility to resources by the community stakeholders.
Regarding 3P (Public-Private Partnerships) there are some opportunities by allocating land owned by the city to projects that fit within the optimal tax revenues for the city and provide public benefit improvements through the utilization of some of the proceeds aimed at relieving the onus on developers to pay for the entire infrastructure. This mechanism is not as optimal as an RDA. However, it doesn't constitute donation of public funds and achieves the collaboration with the private party that needs to make the project pencil out. A practical example resides in the attempt that the city is making to strengthen the positioning of the car dealerships on HWY111, whereas, the city would make capital improvement that provides undisputable public benefit, as safe sidewalks are in the public interest, and the dealers would do their part to improve the visibility and proper display of their product line. The investment by the city facilitates the investment by the auto dealers, hence, ensuring the retention of a tax base that is beneficial to the city.
4. The largest single expense in the city’s budget is police service which continues to grow at approximately 11% annually.
1) What do you suggest the city should do to address this ongoing and very expensive challenge?
2) Should the city continue to pursue a city-wide surveillance camera system, and if implemented, what limits, if any, should be placed on its use?
3) What have you done to familiarize yourself with the city’s budget and operations?
I was sworn-in in December 2014, and by February 2015 we initiated an in-depth review of the contract with the Riverside County Sheriff through the hiring of Matrix, an organization with a proven track record and core competencies in law enforcement and public safety. This process allowed the city to make adjustments to the contract, by harvesting synergies and eliminating redundancies, resulting in increased efficiencies. Through this process, we have established $ 2 million per year savings, and while the increases have wiped out that saving its underlining is still in place. All options at this junction are on the table, and multiple explorations have been taking place, including innovative ways to leverage the economy of scale by collaborating with other cities, and alternatives to a contract with the Sherriff, including the formation of a separate Metro Police agency if determined that there are sustainable savings in the long term. We must persevere in our advocacy with Riverside County, and pursue the use of technology that would allow us to reduce patrol hours to 130 safely. Citizens can help us control public safety costs, namely through the reductions of false alarms which account for approximately $500,000 annually in aggregated costs.
The exploration of the use of cameras and related technologies must and will continue. These types of explorations must be conducted proactively when the luxury of time is still on our side, and not reactively when our back in on the wall. I did initiate this exploration, and I have engaged with groups of citizens that while supportive of the system in principle, do have reservations on the use of the technology and the need of clear and cohesive policies regulating the use of such technology. I couldn't agree more, and that is why I will continue to make use of their counsel. Monitoring systems are not meant to be used to harass anyone or to make anyone feel unwelcomed. However, it is important to realize that these types of systems are installed at strategic points to aid in three specific areas: 1) deterrence 2) efficient coordination during an event 3) triangulation of data points during investigations. The policy must be in place to regulate the retrieval and release of recordings, and the accessibility to such recording and data collected. Technology is an undisputed component in maintaining public safety and in mitigating the impact of rising costs.
The city is taking its time to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the potential implementation of this system. Even if we were to assess, after a comprehensive examination and additional public input on guiding policies, the acquisition and installation of this system would not occur until the fiber-optic infrastructure for traffic light synchronization is in place, and that will occur in Summer 2019 at the earliest, and we are awaiting certain approvals by CalTrans.
Lastly, I have been familiarizing myself with city's operations since 2008, and through community advocacy and civic involvement, I have worked with city staff well before being elected to the Council in 2014. Before running in 2012, I was attending most City Council meeting, averaging an 85% attendance. I have been studying and reviewing budgets since 2010, and to my knowledge, I was the first to define the potential budget shortfalls as structural. Since my election in 2014, I have been proactively involved in all aspects of city business by continuously learning, constructively debating, and proactively shaping policies. I have been proactively involved in every budget since FY 2015-16, and I have been providing input on best contemporary practices given the access to timely research I have access through my work as a professor in Finance and Economics and consultant in Private Equity.
La Quinta Mayoral and City Council
November 2018 Election