San Diego's natural resources committee met on May 12 to discuss a proposed ordinance that would make the current level 2 drought response and mandatory water restrictions permanent.
"We do live in a desert," said chair of the committee, councilmember Donna Frye, as she introduced item 8 on the agenda. "We have also seen the commercials the mayor has put out talking about 'no time to waste and no water to waste.' We on the [natural resources] committee agree. We want to begin that discussion."
Since last May, water usage has decreased 11 percent citywide, said water resource manager Luis Generoso.
After the presentation, councilmembers shared their opinions on permanent conservation. Councilmember Carl DeMaio supported the initiative but opposed sending the proposal to city council before collecting more input from "stakeholders." Likewise, councilmember Sherri Lightner was concerned about school fields and wanted to hear feedback from community planning groups before proceeding.
And while Frye and councilmember Marti Emerald disagreed with DeMaio and Lightner and were prepared to move the proposal to the full council, all councilmembers took issue with statements from Mayor Jerry Sanders’s office included in a May 12 article that ran in the San Diego Union Tribune.
In the article, spokesperson for Mayor Sanders and former staff writer for the Union Tribune Alex Roth said the proposal to make the current water restrictions permanent is "extreme and will cause more problems than it [would solve]." Roth also said permanent restrictions would "confuse people" and could be "scaring away potential businesses."
"This proposal was greeted in this morning's paper with rhetoric rather than reality," said councilmember DeMaio. "To label this as anti-business is highly reactionary and is not visionary."
Councilmember Emerald agreed. "I read that article and I was taken back by comments that said it would be confusing to other cities if we made this permanent. We are the big dog in the yard. We need to stand up and be a model to other cities."
The issue will return to the natural resources and culture committee for additional discussion in June.