Ex-San Diego mayor, police chief call for more action on homelessness
Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and ex-Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman joined with local business leaders Monday to decry the persistent homelessness "crisis" in the city and the "failure" of elected officials to address it.
Speaking at the downtown Alpha Project Bridge Shelter, Faulconer said the recent point-in-time count figures "are deeply troubling and reveal the gravity of the homelessness crisis in our city, and reflect what we've seen with our own eyes: a humanitarian crisis spiraling out of control."
"The city administration's failure to effectively address this crisis is unacceptable," Faulconer said in a statement.
On Thursday, the Regional Task Force on Homelessness announced that no less than 10,264 people were experiencing homelessness across the region. That number includes 5,171 unsheltered San Diegans with 5,093 individuals in shelters and transitional housing.
Faulconer, who served as mayor from 2014-2020, called a proposed ordinance going before the City Council Tuesday to address the homeless crisis "highly flawed."
If the council passes it, the "Unsafe Camping Ordinance" would prohibit tent encampments in all public spaces throughout the city if shelter beds are available and would ban tent encampments at all times in certain sensitive areas — parks, canyons and near schools, transit stations and homeless shelters — regardless of shelter capacity.
Faulconer said the proposal lacks 24-hour, seven-day citywide enforcement and additional shelter capacity, making it effectively useless.
Zimmerman said there is an urgent need for collaborative solutions.
"If their proposal passes as written, this will pit street against street and neighborhood against neighborhood throughout the city of San Diego," said Zimmerman, who Faulconer appointed as police chief in 2014.
"We need and deserve a consistent approach to enforcement throughout our entire city, for the sake of all residents, homeless and otherwise," added Zimmerman, who served as chief until 2018.
David Rolland, a spokesman for San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, said the mayor "has done far more to address homelessness than anyone in our region's history — including increasing shelter capacity by 70%, significantly expanding the Safe Parking program and the creation of two safe sleeping sites for hundreds of people to camp legally and safely to go along with a prohibition on tent encampments.
"Our new comprehensive shelter strategy, which Mayor Gloria is bringing forward (Tuesday) before the City Council, lays out our plans for the short, medium and long term and demonstrates the diligence and intensity of the city's efforts to address the crisis," Rolland said.
The mayor’s proposed ordinance allows for enforcement in areas that are most impacted by encampments regardless of shelter bed availability. Additionally, the mayor’s comprehensive shelter strategy will ensure that we have sufficient beds available to fully enforce this ordinance.
Mina Desiderio, owner of the Local Eatery & Drinking Hole, said she has witnessed the consequences of the homelessness crisis.
"The city's failure to take decisive action exacerbates the challenges faced by local businesses," Desiderio said. "We need immediate and comprehensive solutions to ensure the well-being of both the homeless population and the economic vitality of our community."