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Mayor Faulconer Lays Out Ambitious Plans For Final Year In Office

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Faulconer focused on housing and homelessness. He said he'll ask the City Council to approve an initiative that would let developers build denser and taller housing near transit stops.

Speaker 1: 00:00 In his final state of the city address. Last night, mayor Kevin Faulkner proposed an active agenda for his last year in office. He's asking the city council to approve more housing development by introducing a complete communities plan. The mayor also wants to address homelessness by partnering with the County on expanding mental health services and providing residential housing for drug addicts. Despite the challenges ahead. Mayor Faulkner's summed up his years in office as a comeback story for San Diego. No longer a city plagued by scandal and now a model for other big cities across the nation. Jordy Mays, KPBS, Metro reporter Andrew [inaudible] and Andrew. Hi. Hi. Thank you. Now, once again, the mayor devoted much of his state of the city speech to homelessness. Were there any major new initiatives unveiled in his speech last night? There were a couple of things that we hadn't heard yet before. Uh, so one of them is that he says the County will be providing mental health teams to, uh, the, uh, bridge shelters that the city is running.

Speaker 1: 01:02 These are, um, three industrial sized tents plus a portion of golden hall, a building that sits downtown right next to city hall that are sheltering homeless people, individuals and families. Um, and those shelters already provide meals, laundry, shower services and, and other health services through some nonprofits and the county's public health nurses. But the addition of mental health services is something that appears to be new. You also mentioned a public private partnership that is going to be done in collaboration with a County supervisor, Nathan Fletcher, who represents the downtown area and much of the city of San Diego, um, for the first County bridge shelters. So the County, you know, if, if this thing actually becomes a, realized the County would have its own shelter that's running. Um, and then he of course took some time to promote my measure C, which is, um, one of his sort of biggest issues that he is always wanted ever since he got into the office of the mayor to expand the convention center. And, uh, of course, measure C also provides a not insignificant amount of funding for affordable housing and homeless services. Now, the mayor also blamed part of California's homeless crisis on state laws that lowered criminal penalties for drug use. Here's the mayor.

Speaker 2: 02:14 These laws are letting people slowly kill themselves right in front of our eyes. These are cries for help and folks are not going to change without consequences for their actions. So I am building a coalition to craft a statewide initiative that brings solutions to our homeless crisis directly to California voters.

Speaker 1: 02:34 So yeah, Faulkner spent, uh, quite a bit of time in his speech speaking out against, uh, propositions 47 and 57 and these were, uh, initiatives on the state ballot that reduced several crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and also made some other changes to the criminal justice system. And I think this is where we saw a bit of the Republican side of, of the mayor. He's really sticking with his law and order approach to homelessness using the San Diego police department to manage that, a homelessness crisis through issuing citations for encroachment on the public right of way, illegal lodging. Um, he also brought back the city's, uh, vehicle habitation ordinance, which makes it illegal for people to live in cars. The critics of the mayor and there were a few protesters outside the speech before it got underway. Um, say that this is criminalizing poverty, but Faulkner says that, you know, as we heard in that clip there that some people need consequences to actually change, um, about that voter initiative. This was something that we hadn't heard about before. So I'm certainly, I imagine details will be forthcoming on that. Um, it, but he did frame it in the realm of this, this, uh, issue that he has with, uh, criminal penalties for drug use. I'm actually contributing to the homelessness crisis.

Speaker 3: 03:49 Housing was a big part of the mayor's speech and he's proposing a new idea to change NIMBYs into [inaudible]. And here again is mayor Faulkner. We are in this predicament because for far too long, we have been caught up in a false debate. Housing versus communities. We are conditioned to believe that communities that get more homes lose and communities that stayed the same when, so tell us about the mayor's complete communities plan.

Speaker 1: 04:16 This is a concept that was actually first floated at last year's state of the city speech and it would get rid of the city's regulations on height and density for a new development in transit priority areas. So Atlanta, that's within a half mile of a major transit stop. If the developers set aside more affordable housing or housing for homeless than would otherwise be required and also pay for neighborhood infrastructure improvements. When I say eliminate regulations on height and density, that doesn't mean we're going to get skyscrapers in, in a single family home neighborhoods. Um, this new housing would still be regulated by other factors that might be a little bit less clear or that listeners might be a little less familiar with like the square footage of a building, which called the floor area ratio. It's a little bit complicated, but there are other design guidelines that that will still apply to new development.

Speaker 1: 05:10 But a a hard cutoff at let's say 45 feet or 50 feet or whatever the case may be is something that this plan would eliminate if the developer then agrees to pay for neighborhood improvements. And he says that this is a way for, uh, to, to basically convince those skeptics of new development in their neighborhoods, uh, to get on board with it because that new development will mean quicker and faster and better infrastructure in their neighborhoods. He didn't give a lot of details on this complete community, his initiative in the actual speech, but [inaudible] after the speech, the city then unveiled a new website, a complete communities, sd.org and I was poking around at last night trying to get some more details on this. There's a lot in there and a lot more to research, so we'll be certainly following that as it makes its way to the city council in the spring.

Speaker 1: 05:58 Um, but the bottom line is the mayor is really sticking with this approach to encourage developers to build compact, walkable neighborhoods near public transit, uh, to both, uh, alleviate the city's housing shortage and, uh, to promote the goals of the city's climate action plan to get more people out of cars and taking bikes and walking in public transit to work. Now you've kind of city hall and mayor Faulkner for several years now. Is he right to take credit for what he calls San Diego's come back? I think that he certainly deserves credit for, uh, stabilizing the leadership at city hall. Uh, you know, voters will remember that the, uh, he was elected in a special election after the re the resignation of Bob Filner in a sexual harassment scandal. Um, before that there was the pension scandal that got San Diego named and run by the sea and, and really decimated the city's finances.

Speaker 1: 06:51 Uh, and so he has managed to, uh, keep library hours stable, uh, other neighborhood services afloat during, uh, the fallout of, of that pension scandal. And we're still paying for it nowadays. Um, but on the other hand, the city's infrastructure deficit has actually grown. The mayor has repaved a fair number of streets, and he's been, you know, very proud of that. Um, but there are other sort of unseen or less visible, uh, problems with our infrastructure, like dilapidated police stations, fire stations, a shortage of fire stations or storm water infrastructure that carries a, you know, storm water out into the ocean or, uh, what have you, um, is, is in really bad shape. And so, uh, you know, I think that he's provided that stable leadership, but, um, ultimately we won't really know what voters think of, of his final years in office because as he mentioned in his speech, he's not going to be on the ballot. And he can say pretty much whatever he wants. I've been speaking with KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Andrew. Thank you. Thank you. Maureen.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.