3 takeaways from Imperial Beach's 2023 State of the City address
Imperial Beach Mayor Paloma Aguirre gave her first state of the city address on Thursday.
Cross-border sewage crisis
The mayor said the cross-border sewage flow from Tijuana to south San Diego was her highest priority. She acknowledged recent efforts by the federal, state and local government to address the problems, but she also said that “the pace of progress is frustratingly slow.”
Recently, Mexican officials replaced a sewer line, which will likely significantly reduce the amount of tainted water flowing into San Diego. But costs for a comprehensive fix continue to rise, and not enough funding has been secured.
“It is disheartening that the state of California and federal government have allowed our communities to endure the conditions that are caused by the Tijuana River pollution for far too long," Aguirre said. "Our children, families and each resident are entitled to the same privileges and protections as any other community in our nation.”
She said the city would continue to advocate for an “expedited implementation of a comprehensive solution.”
Improvement projects underway
The mayor touted progress on several efforts to benefit the city of Imperial Beach.
She said the passage of Measure I, a voter-approved ballot measure from 2020 for a 1% sales tax increase in the city, has led to several improvements including retention of fire safety and emergency response personnel and the creation of the new Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department.
Aguirre also said the city added a new playground at Veterans Park, replacing one that was 30 years old along with a new senior fitness station. Construction of a multipurpose field is also underway at the park. The city hopes to have a new accessible restroom at Sports Park in the spring of next year.
The mayor said the city was working to transform its streets with several renovations. This will include upgrades for multiple streets such as diagonal parking and landscaping, among other changes planned.
Housing projects and unsheltered residents
“In the span of just this year, the City Council has given the green light to housing projects that will introduce a minimum of 76 new housing units in the city,” Aguirre said.
The mayor added some will be dedicated to affordable housing, but city officials did not confirm the total number, saying some projects had yet to be approved.
Aguirre also said the city continued to move forward with the Wakeland Housing and Development and Neighborhood Center Project, which includes tearing down an old building and constructing a new one with 50 affordable senior housing units. This project was first approved in 2022, and the city anticipates that it will start in the first half of next year.
The mayor added that the city’s Housing Department has a new position dedicated to helping residents experiencing homelessness.
The latest 2023 WeAllCount Point-in-Time Count for the city shows a drop in the unsheltered population, from 25 people in 2022 to 19 this year, and an overall 54% decrease since 2013.
Aguirre said a team made up of multiple city departments conducted weekly surveys and provided services to unsheltered residents.
“We are looking forward to a partnership opportunity with the city of Chula Vista to provide shelter to unhoused residents in Imperial Beach and eventually be placed in permanent housing,” the mayor added.
Aguirre announced several new initiatives that the city will consider, such as adding pickleball courts. She also said her administration would prioritize the economic recovery of local businesses following many recent challenges — including the cross-border sewage crisis. Plans include collaboration with key groups to explore innovative strategies to support community entrepreneurs.