by Photo by Sarah Berjan

The Chula Vista City Council unanimously approved the placement of a proposed comprehensive city Charter update onto the November 2022 ballot. 

For a little over a year, the city’s Charter Review Commission (CRC) and the City’s Attorney’s office have worked on a comprehensive review and update on the city’s Charter. According to the City’s Attorney Glen Googins, the group worked to address legal changes, align with modern best practices, incorporate amendments supported by previous Charter Review Commissions and public surveys, and make the Charter easier to understand and use. 

Multiple individual Charter amendments have been approved by voters since the Charter was originally adopted in 1940, but it has not been comprehensively updated since 1978.   

These updates will cost an estimated $195,000 along with a link to clean and underline/strikeout versions of the proposed Charter language on the City’s website. The City Clerk’s office has no funding for these ballot measures, so the council voted to use general fund revenues. 

CRC Chair James Scofield proposed the charter amendments on July 1 to the city council. On July 12, the CRC and City Attorney’s office received initial comments and questions from Mayor and Council members regarding the proposed changes. 

The group returns to the city council on July 26 with additional supplemental information for direction and additional feedback. According to Googins, Level 1 is on-substantive, correction, clarifications, elimination of redundancy, and reorganization. Level 2 is minimally substantive, reflects changes in law, technology, and best practices, and would not alter current City practices or genre intent of the existing Charter provision. Level 3 is more substantive, mostly derived from previous Council referrals or recommended by the Charter Review Committee presented to Council in 2020.

The Mayor and Councilmembers expressed support for all Level 1 and 2 changes at the meeting. A majority of the council voted to support three of the level three changes, which include removing the requirement that board and commission members be qualified electors, requiring the City Attorney to be a City resident, and increasing the legal experience requirement from 7 to 10 years, and allowing mail only ballots for special elections to fill a vacancy.

The majority of council members voted not to proceed with the following level 3 changes: Conversion of Legislative Counsel to Conflict Counsel and suspension of elected officials with felony charges pending. 
According to Deputy City Attorney Megan McClurg, there was an expressed interest in the one-year residency requirement for elected officials if it was legally possible.

The resolution amends a previous resolution adopted on July 12, which called for the special municipal election to be consolidated with the statewide election. 

“This resolution amends that previous resolution in order to submit a ballot measure or to the voters at that same election,” McClurg said. 

The resolution does not include a durational residency requirement Due to the legal issues involved, McClurg explained.  

“Our office did a re-review relevant law regarding the durational residency requirement and can confirm that any charter provision that requires residency in excess of 30 days has been found to violate the Fourteenth Amendment and would be highly vulnerable to legal challenge,” McClurg said. “The resolution also includes the actual ballot question to be submitted to the voters.”

Additional resolution actions include directing the City Attorney, along with the City Clerk, to prepare an impartial analysis of the measure by Aug. 19.

 The City Clerk will have until Aug. 18 to prepare and publish a notice of the measure to be voted on, with ballot arguments in favor and opposing the measure. 

“It's been an extraordinary effort. Not just for me, but everyone in the city, and I think all the different offices, especially the City Attorney's office has put in a lot of time, effort and sweat into this. I think it was Mr. John Moot who said last time that this was a herculean effort. I thought ‘really?’, but it is a pretty big effort,” Scofield said.

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