And so it begins. The city of San Diego kicked off its six-month-long budget process Wednesday, and council members representing neighborhoods south of Interstate 8 were first up at the podium.
Each budget season starts with the city's nine council members finding consensus on what to fund and then forwarding their recommendations to the mayor.
In a joint memo, Council members David Alvarez, Myrtle Cole and Marti Emerald came to this consensus: more money should flow to their districts. At a press conference, Alvarez said residents in City Heights, southeastern San Diego, Barrio Logan and San Ysidro aren't just seeing their infrastructure crumble — they're not seeing it at all in some cases.
"While most of the conversation about fixing our broken city has focused on existing city infrastructure, existing city streets, existing community buildings, we represent the nonexistent sidewalks, the missing parks and the neighborhoods that have no paved streets," Alvarez said.
His district includes the now-infamous stretch of road where San Ysidro students walking to school must navigate a steep drop and fast cars without a sidewalk.
Jennifer Fleming works for the City Heights Community Development Corporation and said recent development in that neighborhood shouldn't fool you.
"The new buildings that went up really are about ten years ago," Fleming said. "So that infrastructure located in one very specific zone we call Fairmount Village has completely ignored the rest of City Heights, which is a very large community."
The memo underscores the council members' support for spending on efforts to keep more police officers from leaving San Diego and efforts to chip away at backlogs in street and storm water maintenance. Both priorities have unanimous support from the council. But it also lays out specific projects in Districts 4, 8 and 9:
February: Council adopts budget priorities resolution and transmits to mayor
February and March: Mayor develops annual budget working with city departments
April: Mayor releases proposed annual budget
April and May: Council holds public hearings and committee meetings to deliberate the budget
June: Council adopts the budget
July 1: New fiscal year begins
The council members' requests could mean not every district gets an equal slice of the pie, but Alvarez said the strategy will achieve equity.
"Our priorities will ensure that every community is on a level playing field," Alvarez said.
The mayor projects a $58.5 million surplus next fiscal year, but still faces a $300 million shortage to cover street repairs and $700 million shortage for its storm water system.
The mayor's draft budget is expected in April and, if all goes as planned, his final budget in June.