The San Clemente City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday, Feb. 21, to instruct city staff to apply for grant funding aimed at supporting zero-emission transportation projects, improve public health and strengthen the economy.
Mayor Pro Tem Steve Knoblock was the main force for wanting to pursue a grant from the Clean Mobility Options Voucher Pilot Program, a first-come, first-served public initiative that has awarded nearly $1 million each to community shuttle programs in Chula Vista and National City.
“I’d rather be at the front of the line than the back,” said Knoblock.
Clean Mobility Options (CMO) is funded by California Climate Investments and the California Energy Commission’s Clean Transportation Program, both of which have pledged billions of dollars to activities involving the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the establishment of clean transportation infrastructure and workforce development.
The first of two application phases for the Clean Mobility Options Mobility Project Voucher, of which $33 million will be available, begins on March 1. Voucher recipients could see up to $1.5 million in their direction.
The vote comes after the council heard from a representative of public affairs and government relations firm Curt Pringle & Associates at its previous Feb. 7 meeting about the rideshare service Circuit.
A client of the Curt Pringle firm, Circuit proposed bolstering San Clemente’s existing trolley system by providing last-mile transportation with an on-demand app and fleet of electric vehicles.
Circuit administers services across the United States, including in numerous California cities such as Huntington Beach and Oceanside.
At the Feb. 7 meeting, Knoblock noted that the rideshare company “could be a great supplement” to San Clemente’s trolleys.
Paul Simonds, vice president of the Curt Pringle firm, came to Tuesday’s meeting after incorrectly noticing that the application deadline was on March 1 while working with city staff on an application. He also noted that if the city did receive funding, it would not be required to match the money.
“We were moving right along through this process, but it came to our attention today that there is a hiccup and that (with) any grant application, there needs to be direction from the City Council to proceed,” said Simonds.
Later in the council meeting, acting Public Works Department Director Zach Ponson confirmed the March 1 opening date and that the city had until March 24 to submit.
Even so, City Clerk Laura Campagnolo found from the minutes of the Feb. 7 meeting that the council had assigned to staff a project regarding an electric vehicle on-demand app and available grants, and Simonds was strictly asking for direction in relation to the grant application deadline.
Councilmember Mark Enmeier motioned for the council to agendize discussion of the grant even though it was not previously listed on the agenda. The approval of at least four councilmembers, according to City Attorney Scott Smith, would legally allow for discussion.
Councilmembers Victor Cabral and Gene James initially voted against it. Cabral would later change his vote to set the debate in motion, but James said it was “highly inappropriate” for the matter to arise how it did.
“My issue, Mr. Mayor, is (that) I don’t have a report,” said James. “We’d be discussing this blindly.”
Now assured that the city technically had more time before it needed to send in an application, Enmeier said that the council could provide direction at the March 7 meeting with more information in front of them.
However, Mayor Chris Duncan pointed out that San Clemente would likely fall behind other cities if it waited too long.
Knoblock interjected to say the grant would give the city funding for it to use at its own discretion and that would “tie in beautifully” to the existing trolley system. He added that the money could be allocated with the guidance of City Manager Andy Hall.
“I thought at our last meeting, we instructed the city to pursue the grant request,” Knoblock said, adding: “I think it’s a no-brainer. It’s something that helps our citizens, it’s free state money, and it could be continued or it could be terminated.”
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