San Elijo Life email Interview with Chris Orlando Candidate for Mayor of San Marcos
Here is an email interview with Chris Orlando who is running for Mayor of San Marcos. San Elijo Life has invited all candidates for Council in District 2 and Mayor to answer the same set of email questions.
Why should the residents in San Elijo Hills vote for you?
As a 16-year resident of San Marcos and the San Elijo Hills community (Promontory Ridge), I am running for mayor of San Marcos to ensure that the residents’ voice is always the most important voice at city hall.
As a resident of this community and during my 12 years on city council I have worked to enhance and protect the quality of life in San Elijo Hills. I first became involved in local government by working to get the fire station at the top of San Elijo Road built and by standing with residents who opposed and helped defeat a second Walmart at the corner of Melrose and Rancho Santa Fe.
Once elected to city council in 2006, I continued to work for the San Elijo community. One of my first accomplishments on city council was to get the stop sign installed at Questhaven and Hollowbrook/Brightwood, making that intersection safer for kids walking to school. When the newly opened Chevron was painted an awful turquoise color (yeah, that’s right, it was turquoise), I worked with the developer and the city to have it repainted.
When progress on the Town Center lagged, I met with the developer dozens of times to urge them to build. That effort helped get the first phase (the east side where Shane’s and Vine & Tap are located) built sooner. As the middle portion of the Town Center stalled, I was in continual communication with the developer and the city to re-craft the development plan to something that would bring much needed amenities to San Elijo. As with the rest of the community, I was very happy to see it open this year.
Because school safety is incredibly important, I was very thankful that the council approved my request in this year’s budget to work with SMUSD to fund an additional school resource officer (SRO). The new SRO will be stationed at San Elijo Middle School and help improve the safety of students throughout San Marcos.
There’s still more to do. The truth is, San Elijo faces significant development pressure from nearly every direction. As the only candidate for mayor to vote against projects that negatively impact our community, I will continue to fight for our quality of life.
As mayor, I’ll take a resident-first approach to every decision – putting what’s best for residents before everything else. My agenda will be to implement solutions to our traffic problems, enhance parks and trails, and protect our neighborhoods by only supporting developments that bring needed infrastructure or amenities. I’ll take concrete steps to ensure the city’s budget remains balanced, actively promote economic development to attract and retain businesses, and support our fire and public safety personnel.
How can the council/mayor help address cut through traffic and school traffic in San Elijo Hills?
Both of our sons have attended San Marcos schools since kindergarten (SEES, SEMS, and SMHS – our youngest is a junior at SMHS and our oldest graduated from SMHS in June), so I understand the school traffic issue first-hand. As a longtime resident of this community, I also know cut-through traffic is only getting worse. These are significant concerns in San Elijo, but also symptoms of our city-wide traffic issues.
To address traffic congestion, we must first stop adding to the problem. That’s why I voted against projects that will add cars to our crowded roads without bringing new infrastructure. As mayor, I’ll take an infrastructure-first approach to new development to make sure we have the roads to support our growth.
Second, we need to work collaboratively with the school district to find solutions to help minimize the impact on residents. There will always be some traffic at school sites at peak times, but I’ve been a leader on the council in urging the city to create a more productive dialogue with the school district so that we can address these issues together.
Finally, we need to develop more transportation options in San Marcos. That’s why I supported and helped pass a Congestion Management measure that requires developers of large projects to contribute to a fund that supports transportation improvements. The first project supported by the fund will be a walking bridge over Barham, connecting the North City development and Cal State. It will give students another way to get to campus, taking pedestrians out of traffic, easing a bottleneck, and making that intersection safer.
My opponent opposed and has repeatedly voted against this Congestion Management measure yet is now suggesting it be used to help bring back school busing. A report presented by the school district says it will cost $3.8 million to re-start busing and $4.5 million annually to operate district transportation. The Congestion Management Fund currently has only about $500,000 available. But cost is not the only factor in the school transportation conversation. It is highly regulated by the State, in terms of being equitable to all, as Randy Walton has said. This is obviously a complex issue.
Unfunded, unrealistic and incomplete proposals won’t solve our traffic problems. We need real solutions, like completing key road projects and only approving new development that brings needed infrastructure.
What is your position on future housing and commercial development around San Elijo Hills?
I stood with the San Elijo Hills and Discovery Hills residents who opposed the Brookfield MU4 project on Twin Oaks Valley Road. I was the only councilmember and only mayoral candidate to vote against the new development which will add to traffic congestion, increase how long it takes to get from the top of San Elijo Road to the 78, and make school crowding worse. I believe we need to be very careful about any future development that will push more traffic through the San Elijo community.
The question is not “Is development good or is development bad.” As a city we are going to grow. The question is how we’re going to grow. Do we approve every project that comes through, or do we take a more thoughtful, incremental approach – working hard to make sure the projects that come forward benefit our communities and our businesses?
As mayor, I’ll ask the hard questions about new development and make sure only projects that bring new infrastructure or other benefits to the city are approved.
How can you work with San Marcos Unified School District to solve school crowding?
I was the first councilmember to raise concerns about school crowding and I have been the strongest voice for working collaboratively with the school district. With a junior at SMHS, I see and hear first-hand about crowded parking lots, hallways and classrooms. As mayor, I will continue to work in partnership with SMUSD to help address school capacity issues.
Our student population in San Marcos has grown from 12,800 in 2001 to more than 20,000 today. To keep pace with this growth and add capacity, the school district has built, rebuilt or remodeled 10 schools since 2004. Even with these additions, we need new schools in San Marcos. As mayor, I will actively work with the school district to ensure the city does all it can to help them locate and build additional schools.
But it will take more than the city and the school district working together. Despite saying they wanted to be a partner in addressing the problem, the Building Industry Association, which is actively supporting pro-growth candidates in this election, is suing the school district. Developers argue that asking them to do more to support new school construction is “unjustified and grossly excessive.”
I’ve called on the developers to drop their lawsuit and to work with the city and the school district to address the problem. Any candidate for mayor or city council in San Marcos who is serious about helping our schools should do the same.
Our highly regarded schools are critical to keeping San Marcos a thriving city. The city needs to work collaboratively with the school district and the development community to address our school capacity issues.
What are your goals to improve the quality of life in San Marcos-(events, parks, trails)?
In my time on city council I have been a strong advocate for improving our parks and trails and doing more to enhance our quality of life. As mayor I will continue that work.
I have been working for years to get South Lake Park opened, so kids can (legally 🙂 fish there. I have engaged community members to hear their ideas to enhance San Elijo Park by bringing new amenities to underutilized areas of the park. I encouraged the city to create a fitness event which became the Double Peak Challenge. And I was the strongest voice on the Council pushing for the completion of the Town Center, meeting the developer dozens of times to express the concerns of the residents about the lack of progress.
We enjoy a high quality of life here in San Elijo Hills and I will work hard to maintain that.
If elected what are the top 3 issues you would focus on for San Elijo Hills?
As mayor of San Marcos, I will focus on several priorities for the entire city. The top 3 issues that impact San Elijo Hills are:
- Take a common-sense, incremental approach to new development and reduce traffic – I am the only candidate to vote against projects that will add traffic to our roads and increase crowding in our classrooms, without adding to our infrastructure. As mayor, I will push for an update of critical parts of our General Plan. I voted for and consistently supported a congestion management program that requires developers of large projects to offset their traffic impacts by supporting transportation options. My agenda includes implementing new transportation solutions and making sure we grow in a way that doesn’t make our traffic problems worse.
- Keep our Community Safe – Throughout my time on the city council, I have been a strong supporter of our fire and sheriff professionals. I will continue that as mayor and ensure they have the resources they need to keep our city safe. We will face another fire event like the 2014 Cocos Fire. I will make sure the city continues to be prepared and takes appropriate measures to protect our community.
- Protect our parks, trails and open space – I supported and helped pass our Ridgeline Protection Ordinance and have been a strong voice for our parks. I will continue that support as mayor, and seek to continually expand our parks, trails and open space.
As mayor, I will work to achieve these objectives by having an honest conversation with residents about how we’re going to grow as a city, what the impacts of that growth will be, and how we will manage those impacts to maintain our quality of life.
I believe I am the only candidate for mayor who will stand with residents and protect our quality of life. That’s what I have done in my 12 years on city council and that is exactly what I will do if elected as your next mayor. I appreciate your support and your vote in this election.
Editors Note: We have invited all 2018 District 2 – City of San Marcos City Council and Mayor Candidates to answer the same questions. Please search our site to read interviews.