Carlsbad residents a little less satisfied with their city

The results of the city of Carlsbad’s annual resident survey, presented at the Feb. 14 City Council meeting, revealed a 5% decline in satisfaction over the previous years’ averages in the main categories, according to a city press release.

According to Josh Williams, president of BW Research in Carlsbad, the survey showed differences in resident satisfaction and confidence in local government, depending on location, age and gender.

Women between the age of 45 and 54 tended to have a lower level of confidence in local government while younger men had the highest.

Residents of the two northern ZIP codes, 92008 and 92010, were generally less satisfied with city services and less confident in local government than those who live in the southern parts of town.

When it comes to traffic and growth, the two areas of greatest concern, residents who have lived in Carlsbad longer were less satisfied with the city’s handling of these issues than residents who have moved to Carlsbad more recently.

The Carlsbad City Council conducts the survey every year prior to its annual discussion of city goals. This year, the City Council discussed goals at its Feb. 21 meeting at 1635 Faraday Ave., with a second meeting scheduled for an upcoming Saturday, to allow more citizen participation.

Among the expensive, long-term goals up for discussion are aproposal to trench the railroad tracks in Carlsbad Village and build a new City Hall. Carlsbad residents also are waiting for a new Village and Barrio Master Plan to replace an earlier one, prepared by out-of-town consultants, that the city last year decided to scrap.

According to Williams, who conducted the survey, the results represent the views of Carlsbad’s adult population within a 3% margin of error. Williams added that although surveys do a good job of reporting responses with a high level of validity, surveys aren’t as good at explaining why people feel the way they do.

For example, satisfaction with traffic and growth was lower in the parts of Carlsbad that saw major road projects and construction of two of the last major master planned communities to be built in Carlsbad. In an open-ended question, some residents mentioned frustration with construction on El Camino Real, near the new Robertson Ranch residential development being built by Toll Brothers, which has taken much longer than planned. Others expressed concern about maintaining the city’s character.

“There is a correlation between these things and satisfaction in the survey, but I can’t say for sure these are causing the lower satisfaction,” said Williams. “Last year was also the year of Carlsbad’s special election on the controversial lagoon project, and we had a contentious national election.”

In 2016, 74% of residents were confident in city government to make decisions that positively affect the lives of community members, a 10-point drop from the all-time high in 2014.

Williams said major events have tended to coincide with higher or lower ratings from the public in previous years. For example, the city received record high marks in 2014, the same year as the Poinsettia Fire. Anecdotally, residents felt the city handled that emergency well, which could have affected the survey results.

Observers say the lower satisfaction rating for 2016 stemmed from the City Council’s approval of a controversial plan to develop a mall on the south shores of Agua Hedionda Lagoon, a decision that led to a citizens referendum which ultimately overturned the Council action.

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