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San Diego's Infrastructure Backlog Soars To $1.86 Billion

A flooded sidewalk is seen here in North Park, Jan. 15, 2019.
Andrew Bowen
A flooded sidewalk is seen here in North Park, Jan. 15, 2019.

San Diego needs an extra $1.86 billion over the next five years to fix city sidewalks, put in new streetlights, build new libraries and solve a host of other infrastructure problems, according to a report scheduled to be presented to the City Council on Monday.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer has long said infrastructure is one of his top priorities, and declared last year that his proposed budget included the largest amount dedicated to infrastructure in city history. But the so-called "infrastructure deficit" — the amount of money the city needs for its infrastructure minus the amount of revenue it expects to take in — has still been growing.

Just over half the city's infrastructure needs are in the city's Public Utilities Department, which is responsible for sewage, water and the city's ambitious water recycling program, Pure Water. The city expects to have all the money it needs in those areas because they are funded by water and sewer rates.


The picture is far less rosy for infrastructure that has less reliable revenue sources. The city is short $719.8 million for stormwater infrastructure — by far the biggest unfunded capital need in the city. The City Auditor's Office last year called out crumbling stormwater infrastructure as a growing problem in the city, which frequently deals with sinkholes as heavy rain events cause storm drains to collapse.

RELATED: San Diego's Biggest Infrastructure Need Isn't Streets — It's Storm Drains

"(T)he city continues to lack a significant dedicated funding source for stormwater infrastructure," the city's Independent Budget Analyst's Office said in a report reviewing the city's infrastructure outlook.

The second largest shortfall is in repairs to city facilities, such as police and fire stations, rec centers and municipal office buildings. The city needs to find an additional $251.5 million over the next five years to fully fund those repairs.

Last October Faulconer announced he had made good on his promise to repair 1,000 miles of streets before he left office, and had done so ahead of schedule. The accelerated pace of street repair was aided by the recent increase to the state gas tax, which Faulconer opposed. Voters upheld the gas tax hike last November, and city officials now expect to have all the revenue they need to improve the pavement quality of streets over the next five years.


Yet there is a staggering funding gap for other transportation infrastructure: Streetlights, sidewalks, bike facilities, bridges, traffic signals and modifications to existing roads are all short a combined $674.8 million.

RELATED: San Diego Bike Advisory Board Bids Farewell

The mayor's office said Faulconer has taken the city's infrastructure needs far more seriously than previous administrations, and that major drivers of the increased backlog were the economy and rising construction costs.

"The city's infrastructure deficit is the result of decades of neglect by past city leaders who prioritized special interests over neighborhoods," mayoral spokeswoman Christina Chadwick said in a statement. "Making neighborhood improvements his top priority, Mayor Faulconer has overseen the largest infrastructure investment in San Diego history over the last five years, including an unprecedented level of road repair and dozens of new parks, libraries and fire stations across the city."

A separate report to be presented to council members Monday finds the city has exceeded its budget for staff overtime by $13.8 million in the current fiscal year, which began last July. Most of that overtime pay — $8.6 million — went to the police department, which is still struggling with high vacancy rates despite a series of pay raises that began last year.

San Diego’s Infrastructure Backlog Soars To $1.86 Billion
San Diego is short $1.86 billion when it comes to fixing the city's crumbling infrastructure, according to a recent report. The biggest unfunded needs are in stormwater infrastructure and repairs to city buildings. You can hear this story and other local news every morning by subscribing to San Diego Stories, KPBS’ daily news podcast. Subscribe via iTunes, Google Play or your favorite podcatcher.