One year in, Mayor Gloria looks to focus on more than just the pandemic
Speaker 1: (00:00)
Today marks one year San San Diego mayor Todd Gloria took office to become its 37th mayor. Here he is. After being sworn in last December. Today is
Speaker 2: (00:10)
A day that Mark's a new chapter in San Diego's history. Today is the day that we start building a San Diego. That truly is for
Speaker 1: (00:19)
All of us. K P as Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen caught up with the mayor to take a look back at the year he's had, along with the current issues he's working on as he starts his second year in office.
Speaker 3: (00:30)
Mayor Gloria, thank you for joining us today. Thank you for having me. It's been about a week now since your COVID vaccine requirement for city employees took effect. And this is something that police officers union had tried to fight. How are those last minute holdouts who were still UN vaccinated responding to this policy so far?
Speaker 4: (00:49)
Well, we're seeing some progress in just the five days after the council adopted the vaccine mandate over 400 reported becoming vaccinated. We've gotten additional numbers in the last few day and I'm encouraged by that hopeful that the remainders of folks will choose to get vaccinated for themselves, for their coworkers and for their city. My goal is not to terminate employees. It may come to that. My preference is that folks get vaccinated, uh, so that they are not at risk of both acquiring COVID 19 and to spreading it to their coworkers, into the public that we're entrusted to
Speaker 3: (01:22)
Serve. The pandemic has made this quite a first year in office for you. When you look at what you set out to accomplish in that first year, and you compare it to what you actually were able to accomplish, how would you rate yourself?
Speaker 4: (01:35)
? Well, I'll leave ratings to, uh, folks like yourself and to the general public who are my boss, but you know, these are very, very difficult times. You know, I ran to bring transformational change on homelessness, housing infrastructure climate. We've been able to make progress on all those fronts, but of course the main focus has been on defeating the pandemic and restarting our economy and from the unanimous bypass and passage of my back to work SD budget and invested millions of dollars in economic recovery to our relatively high vaccination rates. I think that we've been able to, uh, be leaders in this space of recovery and I'm anxious to put the pandemic behind us and focus all of our time, attention and resources on the crisis. That is our homelessness situation, our housing affordability crisis, uh, as well as the need to invest in infrastructure. I feel like when we hit our spot, our marks, when it comes to housing and to infrastructure, we will, of course be making progress on climate action, which is, uh, an urgent need.
Speaker 3: (02:33)
Last month, the state of California put out a call for ideas on how to redevelop two blocks of property downtown. Now you've had your eye on this piece of land for, uh, several years. You authored a bill on it, uh, when you were in the state assembly, but because this land is actually owned by the state government, you as mayor, don't get to have final say over what happens there. What would you like to see happen on this property? Well, I
Speaker 4: (02:58)
Don't have final say, but thanks to an exceptional relationship with governor Newsom, we will have some say in this process, and these are two full city blocks and downtown San Diego that are only occupied by a small office building on one half of one block. Uh, this is in the context of a housing crisis where we have people who are not just living on our streets, but struggling, uh, to make ends meet month to month. And don't know if they too may end up homeless. I believe these public assets need to be used to their highest and best use. Um, I believe that that will naturally include a substantial amount of housing housing that should be affordable, not just to extremely low and low income San Diegos, but also middle income San Diegos, uh, who I think we need to do a lot more, uh, for, or when it comes to housing production.
Speaker 3: (03:41)
And again, because of that, uh, strong relationship with our governor, uh, I believe that the city of San Diego will have input in this process to make sure, uh, that this meets our expectations as a city when it comes to infrastructure, housing and climate action. I'm hopeful that we can get swift action, uh, on these parcels. The crisis, as I mentioned is here it is now it is present. And government has to lead by example, as we ask communities and private property owners to do their part, to help solve our housing affordability crisis, naturally government must do the same. And I believe this is an area where we can, uh, lead by example, actually be class leading when it comes, uh, to the provision of additional housing, that is a take able to most San Diego. There's been a legal setback recently to some of your plans for the midway district. A judge last week issued a tentative ruling that could block the city from implementing measure E and this of course is the ballot measure that voters approved last year that would lift the 30 foot height limit in midway. If that ruling is finalized, what happens next?
Speaker 4: (04:42)
We'll fight. And we'll fight like, hell, this is important. The revitalization of the midway district is critical to the future of our city, not just for a new sports venue, but again, for the provision of housing that is attainable to low in middle income, San Diego. And as you mentioned, the, the ruling is tentative. We will know soon, uh, final ruling. If it does not go our way, we will appeal it, uh, and we'll fight it. And I believe that we'll be successful. The future of the midway district is in, uh, at that site. Uh, we want it to be catalytic. We want it to, um, help create not just relief for our housing crisis, but to bring revitalization to an entire community. And I have to point out, um, that ballot measure was, uh, passed by a strong vote of San Diego, uh, voters, uh, last year. Um, I think that is worth something. I believe that we are, uh, in a strong position on the legal merits of our case, and we will, uh, fight that as much as we need to fight it in order to get the change that the people of the city voted for, that the residents of that community want. Uh, and frankly, what will help us to address our urgent homelessness and housing affordability crisis?
Speaker 3: (05:45)
Well, as you noted, the timing of this ruling was particularly ironic because the city was just about to receive proposals for redeveloping, the sports arena and those proposals, pretty much all of them include affordable housing market rate housing, a new sports arena, retail and office space. And it's likely none of those ideas would work without the ability to build taller than 30 feet on that land. So how concerned are you that this ruling could be a real setback to your desire to redevelop the sports arena property?
Speaker 4: (06:16)
It would be a setback if it was the final word, but we do have the appellate process if it is necessary to pursue. And I think that the fact that we've gotten such robust interest, um, from a multitude of high quality partnerships that really could help us drive the kind of change that San Diegos want to see on that site, uh, gives me optimism. Yeah, the, the 10 of ruling, uh, is not, uh, good news for us, but I think the responses we received, um, is good news. Uh, I choose to focus our attention there and know that, uh, in concert with our city attorney and with the city council, uh, that we will push this issue as far as it needs to be pushed in order to get the change that we need on that site. The future of the midway district is not a handful of retail use and large, uh, expanses of surface parking.
Speaker 4: (07:00)
The future is a, a fair amount of housing, a sports venue, uh, that can attract high quality, talent, and the kinds of quality of life, uh, things that, you know, make us a destination, not just for residents, but for tourists. Um, an iconic development that people can be proud of. This cannot become a San Diego specialist, something we just continue to discuss, uh, ad nauseum. I'm gonna do everything in my power to make sure that we get a resolution to this litigation. And then ultimately we get some shovels in the ground shovels that will produce the housing that average San Diego can afford to live in.
Speaker 3: (07:31)
It's a big day at the SANDAG board of directors. You're going to be voting on the 2021 regional transportation plan. You've been a supporter of this vision for a long time. Why?
Speaker 4: (07:42)
Because I am a native San Diego, and I know where our city has been. And, uh, it also informs where I think it needs to go. And that is not a status quo approach to mobility, but one that really recognizes the dynamic nature of the way people get around these days. You know, just a few years ago, we didn't have a host of options that San Diego's used all the time. Now, whether that's mobility apps and, uh, Uber, Lyft, scooters, and other things, we have to have a regional transportation plan that takes into account the innovation that's happening in this space that accommodates our needs to have, uh, aggressive climate action. And that helps us to facilitate the housing and infrastructure that we need to maintain our quality of life. I believe this plan can and do that. It is bold. It is audacious and some see that as something to, uh, criticize.
Speaker 4: (08:24)
I actually think that's a good thing. You know, this plan ought to be bold. San Diego is moving forward. We're a big city and we need to have a, a regional transportation plan that reflects the size and greatness of this community. I believe, uh, this plan, uh, would adopted and implement. It will make sure that we can continue to retain, uh, high quality jobs and employers in our community, uh, help us meet our obligations, uh, when it comes to climate action and we'll maintain our quality of life. Um, so I have long been a strong supporter. Uh, my hope is that we can adopt this, implement it and show San Diegos what can happen when you're actually finally given choices when it comes from getting from a to B. I think we all know that for most part, we really just have one way to get around and that's a private vehicle. And the good news is under this plant. You'll continue to have that option. But in addition, you'll have a host of other good options like walking in your community on something other than a bus at sidewalk that you could take high quality, public transit to get where you need to go in a reasonable amount of time, and you could ride a bicycle without taking your life in your hands. I think, uh, Sans are owed these kinds of options, and I believe this plan can delivered
Speaker 3: (09:26)
To them. You surprised a lot of people last week, when you announced you were opposed to a part of the transportation plans, funding strategy, specifically a 2 cent charge for every mile that a person drives in San Diego county. We've known about this charge as part of the plan for months, if not years. And I can't recall you ever expressing any doubt or skepticism about it. Why did you wait until the week before the plan was up for a vote to suddenly oppose this charge?
Speaker 4: (09:54)
I certainly have had concerns about how this is implemented. I think that there are really basic questions about how, uh, a fee of this kind would be assessed, how it would be done fairly and equitably and whether or not we could answer those questions on a, on the timeframe of this existing plan. I believe that, uh, the recent passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill at the federal level will provide us some relief when it comes to funding the projects that are envisioned in the plan. And I believe that staff, uh, have it, uh, the ability, uh, to present the board with other options on a go forward basis, uh, make no mistake. You know, I support the regional transportation plan. I believe it's necessary for us to adopt it on Friday in order to make sure that we continue to be able to be competitive for state and federal funding.
Speaker 4: (10:34)
Uh, so that's, that's important. Uh, but I, I think with, with a funding source, uh, like a, a road user charge where we have a lot of questions about how it would actually be assessed, whether or not it could be assessed on the timeframe of the plan. And importantly, the context we find ourselves in, where we are struggling to, uh, escape a pandemic, uh, and the resulting economic challenges that have come from it. I think we would do ourselves of us to, uh, take into account other new funding sources that have come, uh, into focus in recent weeks, uh, and rely upon those while we ask our federal and state partners to continue their work on trying to figure out how they actually would implement this. I believe we have some other options here locally that will help us to make this plan a reality for San Diegos
Speaker 3: (11:15)
Transportation is really the crux of whether San Diego succeeds or fails at the climate action plan goals that you yourself have had such a key role in crafting. Of course, transportation's the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions here. Do you think that we can meet those goals that you're setting? And by the way, they're 50% of all trips in the city being via something other than a car. Can we meet those goals with all carrots and no sticks? In other words, incentives to bike walk or take public transit, but no disincentives to driving.
Speaker 4: (11:47)
I think it's gonna take a lot to make these, uh, ambitious goals and never been unclear on that in terms of the methods that we will use to get there. I mean, this plan continues to have, um, a lot of options inside of it, but I would caution anyone from believing that the regional transportation plan by itself is how we will achieve our climate action plan goals. This is gonna require the city, uh, to, through its planning and development services department, to provide more housing, uh, close to transit. It's gonna require our streets department to take a more proactive approach in the installation of bike lanes. Like what you've seen on Persing on 30th street, north park and portions of downtown. It's gonna take an all hands on deck approach. It's not just the responsibility of SANDAG. It's gonna be the responsibility of the air pollution control district of MTS, of the city of San Diego, the county of San go.
Speaker 4: (12:33)
What I like about our potential of actually reaching these goals is the fact that, uh, in many of these agencies, we have an alignment in terms of our philosophies, our belief, uh, that climate change is real and that we must take action on it. Um, and so while the goals are certainly ambitious, I think the leadership is up to the task and we have made, I think, modest steps in this direct in just the last year. I think we can take more aggressive steps in the year head and a new regional transportation plan certainly will help. Uh, but it is not the entirety of how we will meet our obligations under the climate action plan.
Speaker 3: (13:04)
Where are you most looking forward to in 2022,
Speaker 4: (13:07)
I'm hopeful that we can get into a place, uh, where our vaccination rates are so high, uh, that COVID is seen as a manageable and that we can devote all of our time and attention to the things that I'm passionate about. I am like most San Diegos unhappy with the current state of affairs when it comes to homelessness, we need to transition more people off of our streets and into housing. I think in the coming days and weeks, uh, you'll see an expansion of shelter opportunities, the allocation of more dollars for more affordable housing, uh, for these folks, uh, I'm really anxious to make tremendous progress on that issue. And then to transition to my homes for all of us proposal, uh, which is a series of, of reforms that we believe will create more housing for everybody. But particularly for those in San Diego who earn too much to qualify for the programs that we offer through our housing commission, but don't earn enough to afford the market rate housing.
Speaker 4: (13:57)
That seems to be plentiful in San Diego. That's where our focus is. And I believe that we'll be having some key votes, uh, on that policy package early in 2022. Um, the sooner we can implement those, the quicker we can actually start bringing housing on online that people can afford. That is what motivates me to do this job every day. Uh, I'm proud, odd to be the mayor of my hometown. I'm delighted to pick up everyone's garbage once a week. Um, but I'm really here to try and drive change when it comes to issue of housing and homelessness. And I believe that, uh, with, uh, a pandemic more under control, uh, we'll have more time, attention and, uh, resources to do that.
Speaker 3: (14:31)
Lastly, on the surprise news this week, any thoughts on Sean E. Rivera taking over as city council president?
Speaker 4: (14:37)
First off, I want to thank former council president Dr. Jennifer Campbell for her leadership of the council over the last year, as you noted, this has been an extraordinary year to be in a position of leadership. And Dr. Campbell, uh, is, uh, been a wonderful partner in leading the city with regard to council, president, uh, ILO Rivera. I will just say very directly. I have come to really enjoy working with him over the last year. We have grown close together. We've been able to work on a multitude of issues, uh, uh, of importance to San Diego, whether it be homelessness, uh, accessory, dwelling units, housing affordability, our priorities align extreme only well. Uh, and I think that that bodes well for 2022, uh, in a year where I wanna see, uh, important change on housing and homelessness on infrastructure, uh, on climate, I believe Sean's gonna be a great partner in that regard.
Speaker 4: (15:21)
He's already been a great partner, uh, Lee and the council, uh, can only make that better. Um, and so, uh, I, I think this is, uh, a good thing. Um, I, I admire Sean, uh, person, like he has achieved a lot, uh, in a very short amount of time. Uh, and I think that, uh, as mayor of San Diego, having a council that's running, uh, aggressively on a, a progressive platform of policy ideas that align with mine. I like that a lot. And I think, uh, San Diego should stay tuned to see a lot of positive progress in our city.
Speaker 3: (15:47)
I've been speaking with San Diego mayor, Todd, Gloria, Mr. Mayor, thank you. And have be holidays.
Speaker 4: (15:52)
Same to you, Andrew.
Homelessness, housing accessibility, and climate are major priorities for the San Diego Mayor looking to move past the worst of the pandemic.
It has been one year since Mayor Todd Gloria took office, becoming the first person of color and LGBTQ person to hold the office. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen caught up with the mayor to talk about his first year in the job, as well as the current issues he is focused on as he begins his second year in office.
Following a year in office dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, Gloria hopes San Diego will be able to move on from the worst of the public health crisis in 2022, and focus on other pressing priorities for his administration. Gloria emphasized fighting homelessness and housing accessibility, as well his climate action plan in the coming year. Transportation is also of keen interest to the mayor, as SANDAG votes on its regional transportation plan Friday.
"These are very difficult times. I ran to bring transformational change on homelessness, housing, infrastructure, climate," Gloria said. "We've been able to make progress on all those fronts but, of course, the main focus has been on defeating the pandemic and restarting our economy,"