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Mayor Faulconer Focuses On Homelessness, Housing In State Of The City Address

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer speaks during a news conference about the city's NFL football team in San Diego, Jan. 13, 2016.
Associated Press
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer speaks during a news conference about the city's NFL football team in San Diego, Jan. 13, 2016.

A "different" way of doing things is required to tackle homelessness, increase access to affordable housing and bolster the city's economy, Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in his State of the City address Thursday night.

Faulconer celebrated the accomplishments of his four years in office, including fixing streets, building parks and controlling the hepatitis A outbreak, and provided what he said would be solutions to some of the city's most vexing problems during the annual speech.

Last year, he said, it became clear that the status quo wouldn't cut it when dealing with skyrocketing homelessness and housing prices and understaffing in the city's police department.

"I learned firsthand the old ways of tacking these issues don't work anymore," he said. "So we're embracing new ideas and taking new approaches."

A "big flaw" for San Diego was that there is no central access point for those experiencing homeless to navigate services, the Republican mayor said. The city will build a permanent housing navigation center at 14th Street and Imperial Avenue. There, trained staff will direct clients to government and nonprofit services that would assist them the best, he said.

The city is also constructing a storage facility for use by homeless people so they can safely store their belongings while going on job interviews, to the doctor or school, he said.

Those services are coupled with efforts begun last year, including the addition of 15 city staff to perform outreach in the streets and the construction of three temporary bridge tent shelters that house up to 700 people each night.

Mayor Faulconer Focuses On Homelessness, Housing In State Of The City Address

"America's Finest City will no longer tolerate the use of a sidewalk, a riverbed or a tarp as a home," Faulconer said. "Do not confuse our resolve with a lack of compassion — for those without a home trying to lift themselves out of extreme poverty, our city is ready to help by preserving services with dignity. There's a place for you, and it's not on the streets."

For this strategy of "connect, support, house" to work, collaboration among governments and nonprofit organizations must continue and grow, Faulconer said. Forty percent of the region's homeless population lives outside of the city limits, he said.

Additional housing for people — whether they're homeless or struggling to pay their rent or mortgage — will be necessary to ensure the city's future wellbeing, he said.

Faulconer said he would send legislation to the City Council that would restructure permit fees to encourage construction of smaller, more affordable homes, change parking mandates for housing built near transit centers and modify zoning to encourage live-work developments.

That is on top of other initiatives he said have already encouraged the construction of affordable homes, including the streamlining of city permitting.

Another big problem that could turn into a "crisis" is the 200 open positions in the San Diego Police Department.

A contract approved last year has already encouraged retention and increased applications, he said. Faulconer said an aggressive, national recruitment campaign he will launch will eventually create a fully staffed department for the first time in over a decade.

Faulconer threw his support behind a ballot initiative effort begun this week that would expand the downtown convention center and generate funding to alleviate homelessness and repair streets.

The "Yes! For a Better San Diego" measure would increase the visitor tax by 1.25 percent for lodging facilities on the periphery of the city and 3.25 percent for those in the downtown area.

Faulconer said it would be the "most important decision" before voters in November and would help create jobs, spur development and protect those who are vulnerable.

Housing And Homelessness Expected To Be Addressed In State Of The City Speech
Housing And Homelessness Expected To Be Addressed In State Of The City Speech GUEST:Carl Luna, director, University of San Diego Institute for Civil Civic Engagement

>>> I am Maureen Cavanaugh . It is Thursday, January 11. Our top story on Midday Edition , the San Diego Mayor's office released some information about tonight's State of the city address saying tonight's speech would be very different from last year's speech. Having said that, the themes the mayor says he will address a somewhat similar to those of last year including the issue of homelessness and housing. Earlier I spoke with a non-partisan political commentator. >> Carl, welcome back. >> Good to be here. >> Last year the announcement that got the most attention was the mayor's hotel tax increase proposal to fund the convention center expansion. It was also supposed to be the city's response to the homeless crisis. Tell me what happened to that? >> It did not. That was the bottom line. And never made it through the Council. It didn't make it to the voters. Some version of that is supposed to come back. You have a citizen group trying to push through version themselves. This is like the catchall. Take care of two realms at once. Do something for the downtown homeless. Critics say it doesn't do a notch -- enough of each other either. Maybe should focus on the homeless independently. People don't like the taxes being increased. This was unfinished business. They are going to hope to finish it in 2018. >> Now, in the year since the proposal about the hotel tax increase, the homeless population suffered a devastating hepatitis a break that also tarnish the city's reputation. How has that changed the stakes on what the mayor says tonight? >> It is definitely unscarred -- underscored. This was definitely a black eye on San Diego. People were dying. This this was something that was preventable. It was something that was predictable. If the same people had died in La Jolla, there would've been an outcry. The problem would've been solved immediately. There is a lot of blame to go around. I'm surprised nobody has lost their job. A surprise that nobody has filed a lawsuit over this issue. If you don't resolve this, San Diego has another hard time selling itself as the Americas -- best America city. >> Do you expect to hear anything about the housing crisis tonight? >> There should at least be rhetoric to address it. We need a comprehensive plan to look at increasing densities in the city. Pulling it off as the ultimate thing. That will create a lot of political capitol, leadership to resolve the problem. >> What are some of the new topics the mayor might address? >> The elephant in the room is that good times might be over. We recovered from the 2008 recession. He finally got to the point where you could pave streets, please got a raise. There seems to be a looming hole in the city budget. You're starting to look at cuts again. More than likely, sometime over the next 2 years we could see an economic downturn. We have had a long expansion. What are you planning for a rainy day? We could get a stormy day fiscally even if we are going through a drought. >> The mayor has been handed some defeats from the city Council with the Democratic majority this year. Thinking of the sucker city development and that regional convention center expansion panned -- plan didn't get on the ballot. Do you foresee any changes in the power balance? >> Right now the mayor enjoys the fact that the Council does not have a vetoproof majority on him. You have a Democratic swing. There's a good chance that the Democrats will pick up enough seats to override the mayor's veto. If they tip to a decisive Democratic veto majority, it will be harder for the mere -- mayor to deal with the console. You have the 2020 election looming. No Democrat wants to give the mayor a win between now and 2020. There will be people that want to run against him in 2020. You have until November to get stuff done. >> This time last year, there were rumors that tread 33 would be a good candidate for governor. He took his name out of the race. So you are saying that he needs to accomplish something definitive this year in order to maintain a good grace into the 2020 election. What would that be? >> Solve the homeless problem or take a serious dent out of it. Not just directing tenants by coming up with a comprehensive plan to try to reduce homelessness in San Diego. Tackle affordable housing. Settled the Stadium issue and come up with a resolution of that. And also, come up with a way to make sure we are not bleeding Frisco red ink -- fiscal red ink. >> The city of it -- address takes place tonight. I've been speaking with Carl. Carl, thank you very much. >> Thank you.

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