Gloria sets sights on homelessness, crime, infrastructure in State of the City
Speaker 1: (00:00)
San Diego mayor Todd Gloria chose to avoid much of what he called happy talk in his second state of the city address last night in a speech delivered at the downtown convention center, he spoke of seeing the same problems, all San Diego, sea cracked streets, homelessness, and what he called the city falling short of what it be, but he says the state of the city is ready to address four of its most pressing problems, crumbling, infrastructure, homelessness, rising crime rates, and a lack of housing. Joining me is mayor Todd, Gloria mayor. Welcome to the program.
Speaker 2: (00:36)
Thanks so much, Maureen. When
Speaker 1: (00:38)
It comes to the pressing problems that you spoke about in your state of the city speech, how is your proposal to fix San Diego's cracked streets different from what we've heard before?
Speaker 2: (00:49)
Well, I would argue it's dramatically different. My predecessor did try to prioritize streets, but he was very enamored with quick fixes on very poor, low traveled roads. Uh, so what you saw over that administration was a lot of slurry ceiling of cul-de-sacs not the reconstruction that is necessary on so many of our major arterials. Uh, so what I laid out, uh, was my initiative to boost, uh, our infrastructure repairs, but focusing them on main corridors like Euclid avenue, Claremont, Mesa Boulevard, skyline drive roads that many, many San Diegos travel over. And whereas slurry seal just, isn't gonna cut it. We have to get serious about the, uh, extreme nature of our failing infrastructure. And I believe that we can, uh, another thing that is different is my proposal to, uh, take a citywide approach to our infrastructure projects. Uh, right now what we have as a siloed system, that really means that projects move at a sales pace and literally millions of dollars. Sit unspent out, bringing a proposal before the city council later this year to streamline that process in order to get those dollars into the community, start improving this stuff as quickly as possible.
Speaker 1: (01:55)
How does equity factor into your, uh, infrastructure proposals?
Speaker 2: (01:59)
Equity is a part of most of our decision making here at city hall. Uh, because as we recognize that our existing status quo really has left some neighborhoods behind as it pertains to roads, you know, one might think that all roads and all, all the neighborhoods are the same, but that simply isn't the case. What we have in the city of San Diego are a number of unpaved roads. Unfortunately they're concentrated in districts like 4 8, 9, which really calls out out for this equity lens on our infrastructure spending my sexy streets initiative, which is 54 additional miles of road repair are concentrated in those communities to make sure that they get the quality road repairs that have long been put off and help us to become a bit more equitable when it comes to the built environment in all of our neighborhoods,
Speaker 1: (02:42)
One of the infrastructure repairs, you spoke about concerned upgrading the city's storm water system to prevent flooding. And you admitted that it's not a sexy topic, but it also may be the topic of a new proposed tax this year will that proposed tax beyond the November ballot.
Speaker 2: (03:00)
It's unclear at this point, if that will be the case, uh, we do know that there are citizens that are mobilizing to try and tackle this particular issue. And I would be extremely supportive of that, but that's independent and separate from anything going on here at city hall. My focus has been on making sure that we're setting the stage for success. Should we try to tackle, uh, the need finance this and Maureen? What that means is much like I was mentioning a moment ago, ensuring that we can actually execute upon the projects that we need to do. We have to eliminate bureaucracy red tape, streamline the process, make sure that we're staffed appropriately so that we can adequately explain to people why new revenue may be necessary. In the case of storm water. It's pretty evident. That's the case. As I met, we have not adjusted our storm water fee in a quarter of a century. And that means that the seasonal flooding that you see in communities like mission valley and their degradating effects that they have on our beaches and our waterways are pretty significant.
Speaker 1: (03:53)
Homelessness is one of San Diego's most visible problems. And in your speech last night, you said you you've heard widely different solutions from advocates and residents. What have you been hearing?
Speaker 2: (04:06)
Well, you have are really two extreme sets of voices. One group of folks that wanna criminalize homelessness and another group of folks that want us to do nothing and seem to be okay with people living on the sidewalk. Uh, neither of those points of view are correct. We have, have to be laser focused on the solutions that actually, uh, can get people off the streets and that's permanent supportive housing. That's expanding our existing shelter network and it's working to make sure that the most vulnerable and the most informed on our streets, uh, are assisted right now. In many ways, our hands are tied by our state's conservatorship laws and we should do everything we can to change that. Yeah.
Speaker 1: (04:39)
Talk to us about the us idea to renew and update conservatorship laws to address, I guess, chronic homelessness is that right?
Speaker 2: (04:47)
Well, chronic homelessness amongst the extremely mentally ill who are not capable of helping themselves. It's a, it's a subset, a small subset of our overall population, but they're typically the folks that disturb San Diegos the most you're listeners see them all the time, right? These are people standing on street corners, screaming at the top of their lungs that no one in particular folks walking around and who are clearly infirmed, uh, people who are lying on our streets. And I see this sadly almost every day in our city of people who have open wounds and other serious conditions. And yet when our outreach workers approach these individuals, they decline assistance. That's some choose to say that they're choosing to be homeless that's far from true, but what they are is so informed to the point that they can't help themselves. And because our threshold for intervening, these situations is so high. It means that when we contact those individuals, once they tell us, no, there's nothing more that we can do. That's wrong. That is not compassionate. That is not humane and has to change. Most of our homeless, uh, can be assisted through existing services and programs and shelters. But we're talking about a, a subset of folks who are extremely vulnerable to life on the streets, and we can't leave them out there much longer.
Speaker 1: (05:56)
Now you mentioned in the state of the city address, that violent crime is up in San Diego, as it is in most cities around the nation. And you took a strong stance against
Speaker 2: (06:06)
Taking any resources away from the police department. How does that stance conform with efforts toward police reform and equity? I rejected the sort of binary a choice. If you have to do one or you do the other, but you can't do both. We're a big city and we're gonna act accordingly. And we will balance the needs of having, uh, robust and appropriately funded law enforcement with the accountability and transparency that San Diegos are expecting and deserve. So, you know, the data doesn't lie, right? We are seeing increases in crime, uh, across the, the board 65% increase in hate crimes. It's absolutely unacceptable. And that's why we have to make sure that public safety is properly resourced. But at the same time, the city council needs to implement, uh, the voter approved, uh, citizens commission on police practices. And we need to pass a privacy ordinance that would make sure that as we deploy technologies that help us to, uh, identify and arrest criminals that we protect, uh, the civil liberties of innocent San Diegos.
Speaker 1: (07:04)
And when will we see the city's independent commission on police practices get up and running.
Speaker 2: (07:08)
Maureen, I fully funded this commission in the current city budget. We are simply waiting for the city council to enact the implementing ordinance. As soon as they take that vote, I will sign it and we will get to work. We cannot wait any longer for the implementation of this. San Diego deserve to know that the folks who are sworn to protect and serve, uh, will be held accountable. If they violate that oath. I am prepared to sign that the moment the council approves it, the
Speaker 1: (07:34)
Fourth big topic in your state of the city speech was housing. And you say that you will want to see San Diego officially opt into the state housing measure, Senate bill 10. What would that do?
Speaker 2: (07:47)
Well, Senate bill 10 would make it significantly easier to build apartment homes near transit. Uh, this is a voluntary program that was passed by the state of California. Cities can choose to opt into it and I would like our city to do so. Uh, that will be a vote of the city council probably later this year. And I'm hopeful that it'll do it as we made massive public investments and things like extending the trolley up to the university city area. We need to make sure that we make all that we can out of that massive investment. And that means needing to put homes closer to those.
Speaker 1: (08:16)
You know, there is a lot to break down in what you said last night, about housing proposals from funding to updated community plans around the city. But what struck me is when we hear about affordable housing projects, they're usually focused on low income residents and rightly so, but you made a point of to focus on creating housing for San Diego's middle class. Why is
Speaker 2: (08:39)
That? That's where the most need is. You know, if you have a million bucks, Maureen, you can find a place to live in San Diego without a lot of difficulty. Interestingly, because we have aggressive, progressive policies like inclusionary housing and a affordable housing trust fund, we do build a significant number of low income housing units, not enough, but we do build them where we see little to no building is in the middle of housing that is priced for working in middle class San Diego. And that tells me that we need to implement strategies and solutions to try and juice up that part of the market. And that's what my homes for all of us housing package is intended to do, um, your listeners or experiences themselves. They likely have a good paying job, but they can't afford most of the new housing that is built. And they don't qualify for any of the low income housing, uh, that we have to offer. And so that missing middle as it's often referred to, has to get filled in. If we want to have a functional housing economy here in San Diego, and that's why our initiatives are focused on that part of the market. We can't be a great city if we don't have a thriving middle class. And that starts with providing homes for those people,
Speaker 1: (09:41)
What might be one strategy to create housing for the middle class in San Diego?
Speaker 2: (09:47)
So what it means is that, you know, incentivizing developers to focus their products and that part of the market, providing density, bonuses, and things of that nature to attract their attention. We've used that successfully for low income housing. We need to do it for middle income housing. I think another area of potential innovation is that making sure as we tackle our infrastructure challenges, uh, that we consider housing. So for example, many of our neighborhoods, um, have outdated and undersized, uh, branch libraries. The city's extremely interested in rebuilding and expanding the those facilities. And often we can probably accommodate some housing on top of those facilities. And when you take the land acquisition costs out of the deal, the rents are able to come down and we can provide that dividend if you will, to working in middle class. People think about the opportunity for the librarian who works there to be able to live in the community that he or she serves. So that's the kind of opportunities. That's the kind of innovation we have to bring to this space. And if we're successful in doing so, we'll be a city where more working people can see themselves, uh, being able to live, being able to see a future for themselves here. I think that's really important for our long term success.
Speaker 1: (10:50)
Megan, Gloria, as you begin your second year as mayor, is this job what you thought it would be.
Speaker 2: (10:56)
I've had a lot of prep, but I think to the extent that there was a piece of this was unexpected, it's really around the pandemic. Obviously I knew during the course of the campaign, that if I was successful, I'd have to help lead the city through the pandemic. But the fact, the matter is this has gone on longer than most of us expected. And it consumes a lot of time, a lot of resources, uh, a lot of attention. I look forward to the day a that we can put this behind us responsibly, uh, and that we can turn all of our time and attention to the issues that I outlined last night in the state of the city address. I think that that's really important for us to be able to move forward and sort of embrace the big city energy that I talked about, uh, really embracing our size, the scope and the scale of what we are as one of the greatest cities in this country. I would daresay in the world, mayor Todd,
Speaker 1: (11:38)
Gloria. Thank you so much for your time. Thank you, Maureen.
San Diego's key issues in the coming year will be chronic homelessness, housing shortages, rising crime and increasing infrastructure needs, Mayor Todd Gloria said Wednesday in his second annual State of the City address.
Gloria's speech included proposals to make infrastructure repairs throughout the city, strategies for permanent solutions to the homelessness crisis, and methods to ensure more housing is built.
While saying that he and many other San Diegans were "short on patience for happy talk" that would be part of a typical State of the City address, Gloria said he felt the city was "ready" to tackle the challenges ahead.
Gloria first addressed the city's backlog of much needed infrastructure repairs to systems he said were often aging and outdated.
Gloria said his office would start a citywide infrastructure funding program that would prioritize improvements in the city's underserved communities.
Road repairs will focus on the most heavily traveled areas, particularly in communities long in need of restoration, Gloria said.
"Rather than chalking up miles of easy fixes in cul de sacs, we'll be diligently restoring segments of the roads most traveled, like Euclid Avenue, Skyline Drive, Orange Avenue, Balboa Avenue and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard."
Gloria said the city's street preservation ordinance would also be updated to hold that when crews work on city streets for underground work, they will reimburse the city for the costs, which Gloria said typically fell on taxpayers.
Regarding homelessness, which Gloria called "my highest priority," the mayor said the city would focus on increasing shelter bed capacity and housing opportunities with supportive services.
Gloria said homelessness in San Diego was exacerbated by a housing shortage, which he vowed to address by pushing for reforms that would speed up housing projects.
Gloria said the city would opt into Senate Bill 10, which allows local governments to implement a streamlined zoning process to build projects near mass transit.
Gloria also announced a "Bridge to Home" program that he said would assist affordable-housing developers attain financing.
Gloria also said more had to be done to reach unsheltered individuals suffering from mental illnesses, who often cannot care for themselves or seek out homeless services on their own.
To this end, Gloria said he and City Attorney Mara Elliott would work to pursue legislation that would reform California's conservatorship laws "so that people who cannot help themselves aren't left vulnerable to the dangers of life on the streets."
Gloria also vowed to address rising crime in the city, which he said rose by 13% overall last year, with violent crime up nearly 11% and hate crimes increasing by 65%.
"Lawlessness will not rule the day in our city" said Gloria. "We must get illegal guns off the streets. We must disrupt the gang violence taking innocent lives, and those who commit crimes against the people of this city must be held accountable."
Gloria promised to ensure the police department and City Attorney's office had the necessary resources to combat crime, including competitive wages for city law enforcement.
But Gloria said part of that promise included focusing on police accountability, and to that end, Gloria said he would sign an ordinance implementing the Independent Commission on Police Practices approved by voters in 2020.
"A great city can fully fund and support its law enforcement officers while also ensuring they honor their oath," Gloria said.
Gloria also said he would forward a privacy ordinance that would allow for the use of technology "to keep communities safe without infringing on privacy rights."
The city's use of thousands of Smart Streetlight cameras generated concerns from privacy advocates and led to a large number of the cameras being shut off in late 2020.
While Gloria did not delve into the specifics of his privacy ordinance, he said, "We can and will strike the balance between protecting our residents and respecting their civil rights and their civil liberties."