Roundtable: SANDAG Investigation; Transit Hits, Misses; Disappearing Affordable Housing; Vegas Raiders
Friday, March 31, 2017
SANDAG Investigation, Taking Transit, Affordable Housing, Las Vegas Raiders
Andrew Keatts, land-use reporter, Voice of San Diego
Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS News
Alison St John, North County /bureau, KPBS News
Jay Paris, San Diego sportswriter
The San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG, kept quiet for more than a year after discovering it had relied on outdated cost projections and miscalculated revenues for its successful 2004 TransNet tax measure.
Voice of San Diego reported last October that SANDAG was at least $1.75 billion short of funds for the TransNet projects it promised voters.
Further, it used the same faulty revenue projections for 2016’s Measure A, which was defeated.
SANDAG board members, who are elected representatives of the area's cities, have said they were just as in the dark on the status of TransNet revenues as the voting public.
SANDAG is in the process of finding a firm to investigate what it did or did not do and why.
Two San Diego legislators have offered legislation to reform SANDAG. A bill from Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, AB 805, would do the following:
—Make each city’s vote proportional to its population.
—Make the mayors of San Diego and Chula Vista the permanent chair and vice-chair of SANDAG and the Metropolitan Transit System.
—Mandate that the representative from each city be the mayor, not a council member.
—Create a SANDAG audit committee and an independent auditor.
—Make it possible for the MTS and the North County Transit District to levy their own transit taxes.
A bill from Assemblyman Todd Gloria would allow SANDAG to tax a smaller area within the county.
Transit hits and misses
San Diego adopted its Climate Action Plan in December 2016 with the goal of shifting commuters away from cars and toward public transit. The city's plan calls for 12 percent of those living near transit stops to take a bus or trolley to work by 2020.
But in 2016, San Diego's Metropolitan Transit System logged 4 million fewer passenger trips than in fiscal 2015, and ridership for fiscal 2017 is also down.
The North County Transit District is also losing riders. It estimates its ridership is down 3.7 percent this year and is moving to eliminate some bus routes.
The downturn in transit takers is a national one, fueled by low gas prices and ride services like Lyft and Uber.
In the past, MTS has not made it easy to use the trolley or bus. But this week, both MTS and NCTD are launching Compass Cloud for the purchase of monthly or daily passes. Riders still cannot store value on this app to purchase single-ride tickets, and they can't get transfers.
To meet its climate goals, San Diego will also have to change its policies to encourage density and transit-oriented development.
Not happening, say many community planning groups, which oppose density and taller buildings.
The case of the disappearing affordable houses
San Diego County has lost 3,500 affordable units in the last 20 years and may lose 2,000 more in the next five years.
Housing is considered affordable if it is priced for and available to people who make below 60 percent of the median income in the area.
Affordable housing includes HUD Section 8 units and units built using low-income housing tax credits. These must remain as low-income units for up to 55 years. After that, they can revert to market rates. They are, therefore, very desirable investments for for-profit developers, who buy the units and wait out the restrictions.
But there are nonprofit developers who compete in the market, find the financing and put the profits into renovations, rather than to investors. These developers, such as Community Housing Works, preserve these units and keep them from being bought up by private equity firms.
The Las Vegas Raiders
Many San Diegans were thrown for a loss when the NFL allowed the Chargers to move to Los Angeles. But their loss was nothing like Oakland's.
That city, which endured a previous move by their beloved Raiders to LA, had offered the NFL 55 acres for a stadium, private financing and major improvements, a great deal by most standards.
But Las Vegas, scorned for its gambling culture by major league sports for decades and anxious to diversify its economic base, raised taxes for a $750 million public subsidy for a new stadium.
At the same time, the city's school district increased class sizes and closed a school for at-risk kids because of lack of funds.
Under the Oakland deal, the Raiders and the A’s, the city's major league baseball team, would have had homes in neighboring stadiums. But the NFL wanted the city to evict the A’s, which have been in Oakland since 1968. The city said no.
In San Diego, the Padres are rebuilding this year, but then, when aren't they lately?
Star first baseman Wil Myers is still here, one of the few holdovers (there are 83 million reasons for that).
But General Manager A.J. Preller is counting on Latin American players and the draft to do the rebuilding. This is going to take a while.
Meanwhile, FS Investments continues to gather signatures for its "Soccer City" plan in Mission Valley. They have roped Landon Donovan, one of America's few genuine soccer stars, into the ownership mix.
The one big mistake they have made thus far: asking the internet to name the team.
To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.