RANCHO SANTA FE — Supervisor Jim Desmond spoke about Ranch-related topics to the board and Covenant residents at the July 2 Rancho Santa Fe Association monthly meeting. The former mayor of San Marcos talked about the issues he has addressed since the start of his new post.
“It’s been a busy six months,” Desmond said, adding that he looks for positive ways to fix issues. “I have a great staff, and I’m learning a lot.”
Desmond noted he is currently overseeing a budget of $70 million — a sharp contrast to $6.2 million when he was mayor of San Marcos.
“Fire is going to be a big issue with all the rain,” he said, noting that the rain triggered vegetation growth which turns to fuel during fire season.
Desmond also said San Diego County has enforced new standards for housing vents, which are a high risk during Santa Ana winds since embers can blow into vents and start a fire.
In an effort to battle future wildfires, Desmond said the county is acquiring a new firefighting helicopter in North County. He said reducing fuel along evacuation routes will also be addressed this month.
Desmond also spoke about evacuations. “The weak link in fire evacuations is us,” he said. “CalFire is making sure we have a coordinated effort with the evacuations between our firefighters and sheriff’s department. We want to strengthen this.”
Desmond then reflected on the 2014 Cocos fire and how there was confusion regarding evacuations. Some people chose to evacuate on their own, he said, which led to “pandemonium” and traffic jams.
Desmond pointed out the county is working hard to make the evacuation process more fluid and more understandable to residents. He then recommended all San Diego residents download the Alert San Diego app to help residents navigate emergency issues, including evacuations.
As board supervisor, Desmond said he also serves on several boards including the San Diego County Water Authority, SANDAG and Airport Authority. He said he is still a pilot for Delta Airlines flying to Hawaii two weekends per month.
On the transportation front, Desmond talked about the “Big 5 Moves,” which is essentially a vision on transportation.
“SANDAG’s plan is to get everyone onto buses and trains for transportation, which I don’t think is actually going to work. Even if their big vision comes into place, it’s only going to get 10% of the people onto transit,” he said.
Even with the vision of 100 mph hour trains, Desmond said, 90% of county residents use the roads which is why he continues to support filtering money into roads and infrastructure.
Desmond then addressed the TransNet 2004 ballot passage of the half-cent sales tax to pay for the expansion of transportation and road projects.
“Many of these road projects haven’t been started or attempted,” he said. “We’re 11 years into a 40-year tax, and now we want to switch to transit. We want to make sure there is a balance and money towards roads and infrastructure.”
Desmond said he isn’t anti-transit, but areas in North County like Rancho Santa Fe should have a focus on road improvements and a balance needs to be in place.
“I’m down there fighting to make sure we still put in money for roads and infrastructure, and we just don’t put everything into transit,” Desmond said.