A proposal to ask voters for approval to raise $205 million in bond funds for fire station construction in San Diego that was to be heard Tuesday by the City Council was postponed.

Councilman David Alvarez. Photo by Chris Stone

Councilwoman Marti Emerald, who has been meeting with community groups around San Diego to drum up support for the proposal, said the delay stemmed from the absence of colleague David Alvarez, who she said was ill.

She said the item would likely be rescheduled for July 11.

The council was to decide whether to direct staff to draft a measure for the November general election ballot that would authorize two bonds totaling $205 million. The revenue would fund construction of nearly 20 fire stations designed to fill geographical gaps where response times are longer than the standard of 7 minutes, 30 seconds.

Because the bond would raise property taxes, two-thirds voter approval would be necessary for passage.

A Folsom-based consultant, Citygate, found in 2010 that San Diego was in need of 19 new fire stations, of which 10 were considered critical.

It was discovered since then that the mechanism used to judge response times was flawed, so Citygate was rehired to provide an update of their report. According to San Diego Fire-Rescue Department Chief Brian Fennessy, the results won’t be much different, but they could revise planned locations, priorities or even the number of stations needed.

Still, the new data may not be available until fall, so voters might not have all of the information when they go to the polls, he said.

Emerald said the average homeowner would pay $5 for every $100,000 in assessed value. That’s around $25 a year, she said at a meeting in April, calling it “a real value for greater public safety going forward.”

She said the city is building a fire station every five years. At that rate, it would take nearly a century to complete the number currently needed. Funding from her bond measure would allow the stations to be built in a decade.

According to city officials, the average cost of a new fire station is $10 million — $2 million for land acquisition and planning, and $8 million for construction. The price tag varies depending on whether the city already owns the land, property values in a given neighborhood, and topography.

— City News Service

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