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Faulconer Wants San Diego To Go From 'No' To 'Yes' On Affordable Housing, Helping The Homeless

January 31, 2019 1:42 p.m.

GUEST: Mayor Kevin Faulconer, city of San Diego

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Related Story: Faulconer Wants San Diego To Go From 'No' To 'Yes' On Affordable Housing, Helping The Homeless


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

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Those are two words that have been used to describe San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulkner's new bid to build more affordable housing and to get there the mayor is directly challenging some powerful city constituencies who don't want huge housing projects built in their neighborhoods. K PBS is a myth. Sharma spoke with Faulkner about his vision.

So give me the bullet points of your plan to get more affordable housing built in San Diego first and foremost it's about saying yes it's about saying yes to more housing throughout the city but particularly focused in our transit prior to ours. And that's my focus right now is to remove those barriers remove those restrictions to say no to the constant NIMBY movement to say yes to say yes to quality housing that San Diego can actually afford. And so we're doing several things that are going to be a sea change. We're going to make more of it.

By right. We're gonna be moving height restrictions for housing that is affordable in our transit priority is going to be increasing density in those areas with a real focus on making it by right. So you don't have to constantly go through all of the bureaucracy and struggles that make housing not exist sometimes because people fight it and make it not affordable.

So what percentage of housing in San Diego needs to be affordable in order for the city to meet all of its housing needs.

If you look at the total numbers that we are short the number is about fifty five thousand units and of that 24 percent needs to be affordable. That's why these policies are so important to actually get those units constructed to not do that just you know nibble around the edges but to have a complete overhaul that changes the status quo to get these units constructed. So San Diego families are working families can actually afford to live here.

The housing shortage in San Diego has been ongoing even at the helm since 2014. Why pitch this proposal now. What has changed.

It's time and we've spent a lot of time on really trying to streamline the process in terms of cutting the time that it takes two to go through permitting to go through processing. We've made a lot of positive changes but it hasn't been enough. We haven't made the debt that we need. And as I said it really is a combination of so many factors. Folks that don't want any changes folks that say I do I just don't want it here. And so I said we need to have a comprehensive approach that provides those incentives that actually gets the units constructed and where they should be along transit areas transit corridors so people can get out of their cars that they can use transit.

It's going to help with our climate action goals and let's do it. We should be doing.

The vacancy rate at San Diego's newest apartments is around thirty seven percent as of September. What does that tell you.

You know we need apartments at all income levels but we need a particular focus on apartments that are affordable. And so when you look at that and the absolute shortage that we had the waiting lists that we had. That's why actually constructing units next to transit so people can have that option is what we absolutely have to do for the future to get those units in places where San Diego s want them and where they can afford them.

California's new governor Gavin Newsom has threatened to withhold transportation dollars from cities that don't do enough to build new housing. Did that threat play a role in the drafting of this plan.

No. I mean we've really looked at it as a lot of various state proposals happening right now. I've really said what is it that we need to do and what can't. What actions can we take at the local level to actually make the production of more housing and affordable housing a reality. And so as I said it's not enough just to do additional streamlining. We have to get rid of the anti housing bias that stops so many projects from even starting. That's why I'm asking for a very significant change on how we do this to begin with.

With that focus on transit areas throughout the city to actually get the housing construction so that San Diego is and our kids can have a place to actually live here in San Diego should they want to as you've already said your proposal includes the elimination of height restrictions on new housing development near transit and the elimination of minimum parking requirements on new housing development. Some people say look that is just a giveaway to developers is it.

No it's about creating housing that we can actually get constructed with that emphasis on affordability. You know there's been plenty of homes for folks on the upper end of the spectrum. We need to do more to actually construct homes who are working families or folks that are just starting out. We're doing so much on our innovation economy here in San Diego so that those folks have a place that they can actually call their own house and they can buy rent that that's that's what's been missing. You cannot you cannot make a dent if you don't increase the supply and do it in areas that make sense along transit corridors.

And so that's why I think what we've tried to say is we're gonna make a sea change in how we do this but we're gonna be smart about it.

How much pushback are you expecting from both the public and the City Council on these two points.

You get pushback with anything you propose when you want to make changes. But as I said very clearly the status quo isn't working. Issue of housing and homelessness. Those are the top issues facing the entire state of California particularly us here in San Diego. And I've said we're going to change what we've been doing business as usual is not working. And so I'm putting forth policies that I think are important for us to do and to do now. It's not about Republican or Democrat. It's about what's the right thing that we should be doing for San Diego to increase that housing supply and do it in the areas that make sense.

I realize when we're talking about changes like this it's changes are never easy. It's status quo isn't working.

How vital is the elimination of those two requirements to your overall housing plan.

It's a combination. They're all important. And as I said it's about it's about density in the areas that it makes sense. It's about making a lot of these ability so you don't have to go through some of the endless delays and the endless bureaucracy that unfortunately stops too many projects from happening. We need to say let's have that conversation let's say here's where we want the growth and density is just as important. Here's where we don't. But then let's make the policy so you can actually get it done and get it constructed.

And if you don't do that then we're not going to achieve what we all want which is the ability of housing that we can afford.

What does your plan say about where California is right now. These are the housing. I think our our plan shows that how incredibly incredibly needed this is now because we need to take action.

When I get my State of the City speech a couple of days ago I said we need to make bold movement and if we don't do that we're not going to achieve where we need to go as a city. So far you know the the the conversations and the support has been has been very positive. But I'm under no illusions that anytime you want to make change you're going to have somebody that doesn't want to change that status quo. That's OK. But at the same time when we've had these discussions about transit we've had what we want to be doing on climate action we will want to encourage the construction of units that are affordable.

We have to take this type of action to achieve meaningful change and results to do nothing was not what I'm about.

So in your state of the City address he also proposed additional help for the city's 5000 homeless people. Tell me about that.

I did. I said we're going to build on what we've been doing but that's been the focus of action bridge shelters that have got 700 people off the street that storage center that's helping with personal belongings. Our first ever Navigation Center with the city and the county working together to provide wraparound services all of those working in every single one of those was fought by people in those different locations that did not want to see that action. What I've said is we are going to help people. We're going to provide those services.

This is a citywide you know a community wide effort. Doing nothing is no longer an option.

Mayor Faulkner thank you so much for speaking with me today. Thank you.

And that was PBS as I mean Sharma speaking to San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulkner.