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News from the City of Carlsbad | May 25, 2023

We’ve had a healthy dose of May gray this week as we head into Memorial Day weekend, but I am confident we won’t let that prevent us from enjoying all Carlsbad has to offer over the long weekend. In today’s update, I’ll share the holiday schedule for city services and tips for staying safe as our roads get busier over the weekend, along with information on these important topics:

  • Breaking down the city budget
  • Permit-ready plans approved for accessory dwelling units
  • Objective design standards for multifamily projects ready for public review
  • Checking in with our future environmental leaders
  • Celebrating our unseen heroes
  • Holiday weekend safety tips
  • What’s open and closed on Memorial Day
  • Grow your garden series returns
  • Last chance to view a colorful Cannon Art Gallery exhibit
  • Upcoming meetings

Breaking down the city budget -At this week’s City Council meeting, city staff spent about two hours going over the proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts July 1. As I have said before, I believe the city budget is the single most important document we produce. That’s because it is more than numbers; it’s a detailed explanation of where the money comes from, our proposed work plan for the coming year and our overall financial health.

Here are some things you might not know about the city budget:

We use the same basic principles you might use for your household budget.

Even though the city budget can seem very complicated, the basic premise is not unlike how you might manage your own finances.

  • We create a budget each year that ensures we don’t spend more than we are taking in. I know that sounds basic, but that’s where it all starts – a balanced budget.
  • We set money aside for big expenses we know are coming. The line item for this is called “transfers,” because our goal is to transfer about 6% of our gross revenues into different funds each year dedicated to future maintenance needs, big projects and, most recently, the city’s digital infrastructure.
  • We have a rainy-day fund – officially called the General Fund reserve. Just like financial experts suggest having six months’ worth of living expenses in your savings account, our City Council has set a target of maintaining the equivalent of at least 40% of our annual General Fund operating budget so it’s on hand in case of an emergency. We have steadily grown our reserves, which are now estimated to be at 59%, comfortably above the target. Having adequate reserves is one reason why we have received an AAA credit rating every year since 2009.
  • The city budget is greatly affected by the economy. For instance, just like the cost of milk and gas has gone up, so have pool chemicals, steel, fertilizer and other commodities needed to keep our city running. Likewise, during an economic downturn, the cost of construction and other services can be more affordable, which makes our dollars go further.


Most of the money that funds day to day services comes from just three sources.

I mentioned we have different funds for different types of spending. The one that covers basic city services is called the General Fund. The three main sources of General Fund revenue are property taxes, sales tax and the tax visitors pay when they stay in local hotels and short-term vacation rentals. This is another way we are affected by economic conditions.

General Fund revenues

BTW, most people think we get the full amount of these taxes, but we really only get a small portion. Most goes to the state and county. School districts and other special districts also get a cut. 

The city runs several “enterprises.” Enterprise funds refer to services provided by the city that are funded by fees rather than taxes. For example, the fees you pay on your water and sewer bill fund the operations of our water and sewer systems. That account is kept separate, and we conduct regular studies to verify we are charging the actual cost of providing the services and maintaining these systems. Fees from your water bill can’t fund the library, and sales tax revenue can’t pay for the water system. It needs to be kept separate.

We get audited every year. Most people dread the idea of being audited, but for the city, it’s a normal occurrence. Once we close the books for the year (after June 30), we reconcile everything and get ready to prepare our annual financial report. We can’t call it final until our external audit is complete. The findings of the audit are included with the report, which usually comes out around November. On top of that, we recently created an internal audit program. An internal auditor presents the City Council with a plan every year for the functions he plans to audit. At that same meeting, he shares the findings and recommendations from the previous year’s audit. So far, he has audited things like the use of city credit cards, the golf course, code compliance and payment of the visitor’s tax I mentioned earlier. All these reports are on the city’s website.

You make a difference. Public input we receive throughout the year influences where the resources go. For example, over the past several years, reducing homelessness has been a top community priority. So, the City Council has directed resources toward programs, services and specially trained police officers. You can see how this spending has changed year over year by looking at the budget. Of course, the City Council must balance a lot of requests and needs. The City Council’s 5-Year Strategic Plan helps define priority areas: quality of life and safety; preserving our community character; environmental sustainability and the natural environment; economic vitality; and organizational excellence and efficiency.

We have made a concerted effort to make Carlsbad’s budget easy to follow, using plain language with plenty of charts and graphs (okay, we do have a glossary of jargon in the back). We list all the various city funds, how much money is in them today, and how much we anticipate having in the coming years. There is a section on economic conditions and how they affect the city, and a breakout of all our different services and their individual budgets.

Here’s what it looks like inside

Community budget workshop – If I have successfully convinced you to learn more about the city budget, please consider coming to our workshop next Thursday. The City Council asked city staff to present the proposed budget, answer questions and listen to feedback in an informal setting for the community. 

Community budget workshop – Thursday, June 1 at 5:30 p.m. -Faraday Center, 1635 Faraday Ave. Please come by. I would love to see and meet you. LEARN MORE

Permit ready plans for ADUs –

Accessory dwelling unit used to be one of those government jargon words I tried to avoid. However, with all the talk about creating more affordable housing, the term ADUs has become more common.

If you haven’t been following recent changes to state housing laws, we have some information on our website that summarizes the main pieces of legislation that have passed in the last several years, all designed to create more affordable housing in the state. (This page on our website has excellent summaries of the legislation and other issues related to development in Carlsbad.)

• In response to these mandates, we have something called a Housing Element, which is a plan for how we will accommodate the number of new housing units assigned to our city.

One of the new state laws require cities like Carlsbad to encourage homeowners to consider building accessory dwelling units, which can be attached to the main house or a stand-alone housing unit.

  • These used to be called granny flats or garage apartments.
  • The City Council approved permit ready building plans that homeowners can use to build a stand-alone ADU through an expedited process.
  • As a bonus, these plans were created with Carlsbad in mind, so the finished product will blend in well with the surrounding neighborhood.
  • The program was developed based on community input gathered last summer.

During Tuesday’s meeting, the City Council also started the process of updating several other city laws and regulations to align with changes in state housing laws. These changes affect group homes, residential care facilities and housing for people at risk of being homeless.

Objective design standards for multifamily projects ready for review -Preserving Carlsbad’s unique community character is one of five goals in the City Council’s 5-Year Strategic Plan. That’s why the city is working with the community to update the language of design standards for apartments, condos and mixed-use projects.

  • The state has changed how new apartments and condominiums are approved. One change is a requirement to expedite the approval process to facilitate more of these kinds of projects being built more quickly.
  • Cities can require certain design standards, but only if they are considered “objective.”
  • The proposed language changes are intended to meet this requirement, but they don’t change the rules for things like building heights, density or setbacks.
  • By having enforceable design standards, the city can help ensure new multifamily and mixed-use projects built in Carlsbad fit with the city’s character.

Two draft proposals are now ready for public review.

The draft Village and Barrio objective design standards include seven proposed architectural styles developed based on input gathered from the community last summer and the citizens Design Review Committee, formed by the City Council.

Feedback is due end of day on June 19. Here are the details. LEARN MORE

Next generation of environmental leaders –

Environmental sustainability is another one of the five goals of the City Council’s strategic plan. This week, a group of local students presented projects highlighting creative ways to protect our lagoons and ocean from pollution. WATCH THE VIDEO

These students have spent the last school year learning about the importance of protecting our watersheds, which are land areas that drain water to a creek, lagoon and eventually the ocean. Students used the same strategies developed by the state and used by city staff to conduct field observations and collect data on trash and pollutants in their communities.

After they collected data, students created sustainable solutions to reduce trash and other pollutants at school and in their neighborhoods:

  • Washing your car at an official car wash instead of in your driveway to avoid urban runoff, which affects turtles and other marine life in our ocean
  • Placing educational posters to reduce litter at trash “hot spots,” which are areas that may have more trash
  • Planting native vegetation that can prevent erosion and reduce pollutants

Some of their catchy slogans included:

  • Don’t be the “U” in Pollution
  • Pick Up Trash so the World Doesn’t Crash
  • Don’t Litter or You Hurt the Critters
  • Compost to Protect the Coast
  • Urban Drool is Not Cool
  • You are the Solution to Pollution
  • Be a Queen, Keep it Clean

A big thank you to our City of Carlsbad environment sustainability team for providing this opportunity for local students to learn about environmental leadership. LEARN MORE

Celebrating the unseen heroes –

Carlsbad’s Environmental Sustainability Department is one of several departments that make up our Public Works branch. At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the city was proud to honor their work as part of a National Public Works Week proclamation.

Public Works takes care of delivering water to our homes, keeping our streets well maintained, and caring for city buildings and Carlsbad’s natural open spaces. They oversee construction, make sure sewage is treated properly, keep the streetlights on and so many other things that can easily be taken for granted.

Here’s a short video taking you through a day in the life here in Carlsbad, highlighting the many ways Public Works makes the lives better of everyone who lives, works and plays in our city.

Holiday weekend safety tips

Memorial Day weekend is a busy time in Carlsbad as residents and visitors celebrate the unofficial start of summer. The end of May also marks the end of National Bike Month, when we’ve been highlighting traffic safety tips for drivers and cyclists

No matter how you get around, if you plan to visit the beach, city parks or trails, or anywhere else this weekend, please be extra alert and follow these safety reminders. Watch the video

  • Share the road. When safe, change lanes to pass people on bikes.
  • If you’re traveling on two wheels, follow all traffic signs and lights. If you’re on an e-bike, please review our e-bike rules of the road.
  • Curb your distractions, including your cell phone. Driving or riding a bike while you’re on your phone is illegal and can have tragic consequences.
  • Park legally and carefully. Failing to do so can block traffic and create dangerous conditions.
  • When parked, always check for cyclists or other cars before opening your door.
  • Watch your speed and slow down. Speeding is the top cause for serious and fatal collisions.
  • Plan for a safe ride home – designate or use rideshare services. Carlsbad Police will be looking for DUI drivers.

Remember, each of us plays a role in keeping our streets safe. A little patience and kindness will go a long way on a busy holiday weekend. Carlsbad Police will be out also helping to keep our community safe. Here are more traffic safety tips for people who drive, bike and walk.  

Memorial Day observance and city hours

I hope everyone has a safe weekend as we honor all those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. City offices in Carlsbad will be closed on Monday, May 29, in observance of Memorial Day. A full holiday schedule for city services is listed below: LEARN MORE

  • City offices: Closed
  • Emergency services: Regular service
  • Trash pickup: No delay
  • City pools: Close at 2 p.m.
  • Libraries and Cultural Arts facilities: Closed
  • Community centers: Closed
  • Senior Center: Closed
  • Leo Carrillo Ranch: Closed
  • Transit: For the holiday transit schedule, please visit www.gonctd.com or call 5-1-1

Let the library help Grow Your Garden

Here’s another example of how city libraries provide more than just books. If you’re looking to improve your gardening skills and add new plants to your collection, the Carlsbad City Library’s Grow Your Garden program can help.

  • Participants can swap succulents, seeds, fruits, vegetables and herbs, and learn new gardening techniques.
  • The next session is this Saturday. It will focus on garden-to-table eating and be led by Chef Kyle Dixon.

Saturday, May 27 – 10 a.m. to noon Georgina Cole Library, 1250 Carlsbad Village Drive

Free seeds are also available through the library’s Seed Library program. You can pick them up at the public service desks at all three Carlsbad library branches.

Learn more about the city’s gardening resources on the library’s website.

Last chance to see Colorful Dream exhibit

This Saturday is the final day of the Cannon Art Gallery’s A Colorful Dream exhibition, so if you haven’t been to this immersive photography experience you only have two days left to see it.

A Colorful Dream – Cannon Art Gallery, 1775 Dove Lane, Final days: Friday and Saturday -Noon to 5 p.m.

A Colorful Dream is a family-friendly, interactive exhibition by contemporary fine art photographer Adrien Broom. It features a suite of photographs, some of them large in scale, detailing a young girl’s journey as she discovers a series of monochromatic fantasy worlds exploring the rich hues and associations that we have with every color in the spectrum. LEARN MORE

Get involved: Upcoming meetings

The next regular City Council meeting will take place Tuesday, June 6, starting at 5 p.m. in the City Council Chamber. A link to the full agenda and staff reports will be available on the city’s website by the Friday before the meeting.

In addition to the community budget workshop I mentioned earlier, there are two other city meetings happening next week.

June 1, 9 a.m. to noon – Special City Council meeting*

*A “special” meeting is one that is not on the City Council’s regular schedule, which is approved for the calendar year. This meeting is to receive a presentation regarding implicit bias, review the City Council Code of Ethics and Public Service Values, and provide feedback for changes to Carlsbad Municipal Code Chapter 1.20 – Meetings. The agenda should be available on Friday.

June 1, 3 p.m. – Senior Commission

Be safe, and I will be back next week with more updates.

Scott Chadwick

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City of Carlsbad | 1200 Carlsbad Village Drive, Carlsbad, CA 92008 www.carlsbadca.gov

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