LOS ANGELES — San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer took aim at homelessness and police retention problems in his State of the City speech as he vowed to look for new solutions to existing problems.
Faulconer took a hard line Thursday night in discussing homelessness saying the city will “no longer tolerate the use of a sidewalk, a riverbed or a tarp as a home.”
Affordable housing advocates announced earlier in the week plans for a bond measure and the mayor has been drumming up support for a bond measure he proposed last year.
The $900 million bond measure proposed for the November ballot by the San Diego Housing Federation would fund 7,500 subsidized apartments and provide services.
They would be general obligation bonds backed by a dedicated property tax levy. The mayor’s bond measure proposed for November would raise hotel taxes to expand the convention center, repair roads and address homelessness.
Faulconer said he was unable to get a majority of the council to support his convention center expansion-homelessness bond proposal last year, but said he has a broad coalition of support this year that includes leaders from the lodging and tourism industry, the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, and leading homeless service providers.
Homelessness became a more urgent problem for the city in early September after a Hepatitis A outbreak sparked by unsanitary conditions in camps of homeless people resulted in 20 deaths.
San Diego health officials took aggressive action to combat the outbreak with paramedics scouring riverbeds and hiking canyons, and nurses going door-to-door to deliver vaccinations. Within a few months, the mayor said, more than 116,000 people were vaccinated.
Faulconer drew a distinction between people trying to lift themselves out of extreme poverty, who should be treated with dignity, and “people who are simply choosing to live outdoors in San Diego’s hospitable weather, and criminals who victimize residents, businesses and the homeless,” who will not be tolerated.
“Let me be clear, things are different now. For individuals who refuse shelter and services, for criminals who hide among our homeless population, these are not options in our city anymore,” Faulconer said.
The mayor outlined efforts to reduce homelessness that include establishing a Housing Navigation Center where homeless people can access supportive services, a storage facility for homeless people to store their belongings, and 15 additional outreach ambassadors to walk the streets and work with homeless people.
He also has been working to streamline affordable housing development by changing fees to encourage developers to build smaller, less expensive units; lowering parking requirements for projects near transit; and expanding the housing-density bonus program for units aimed and first-time buyers and the middle class.
The City Council approved a plan in October to increase compensation up to 36% over the next two years to help fill 200 open positions in the San Diego Police Department. The mayor announced in his speech Thursday night a national retention campaign with the aim of fully staffing the department in two years.
Fitch Ratings analysts said in an October report the substantial salary hike wasn’t likely to have budget implications.