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Mayor Todd Gloria's 2022 State of the City Address

City of San Diego Seal

 
 

State of City Address

SAN DIEGO MAYOR TODD GLORIA

 

Mayor Todd Gloria's 2022 State of the City Address

Good evening.

Council President Elo-Rivera, Council President Pro Tem Montgomery-Steppe and the members of the City Council, City Attorney Elliott, Chief Operating Officer Goldstone, Acting Independent Budget Analyst Kawar, City Clerk Maland, and City Auditor Hanau.

I’d also like to welcome our state and regional elected officials; military leaders; local tribal leaders; international officials from Baja California, throughout Mexico, and around the world, and our outstanding City of San Diego employees.

My fellow San Diegans…

Last year, I spoke to you just one month into my service as your Mayor and acknowledged that the State of our City was “fragile.”

I did so amid rising COVID-19 cases, a housing and homelessness crisis, a budget emergency due to the pandemic, careless and possibly fraud-tainted real estate deals with no accountability, an uncertain economy and rock-bottom morale among our city workforce.

Of course, I wish this year I could deliver this address to you in-person with the news that most of our woes were behind us.

I am able to report that, yes, we’ve made a lot of progress on the issues I’ve just mentioned – as well as many more.

However, we still find ourselves in the midst of the pandemic. The difference this year is that we now have widely available vaccines that can spare us from the worst of the virus that's upended our lives, and I’m proud to say most San Diegans have chosen to get vaccinated, including 86% of our City workforce.

To all those who have gotten vaccinated – thank you. Thank you for doing your part to wake us up from this nightmare that has claimed 4,500 precious lives here in San Diego County.

Climate

In 2021, Mayor Gloria launched “Our Climate, Our Future”, an initiative that includes a major update to the City’s Climate Action Plan with a commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2035. Another component of the initiative is the Municipal Energy Implementation Plan that will deliver significant emissions reductions and allow the City to save on energy and maintenance while enabling key community benefits.

Additionally, Our Climate, Our Future includes Climate Resilient SD, the City’s plan to prepare our communities for the impacts of climate change like extreme heat, wildfires, flooding, drought and sea-level rise. With the resilience plan adopted last month, we are moving swiftly to implementation.

Like the pandemic, none of the challenges that face our city have fast or easy fixes, and all of them are going to take a unified, concerted effort for us to truly solve.

Over the last year, we’ve seen that we have it in us to do just that. Let me explain.

I’m speaking to you tonight from the San Diego Convention Center.

Early in the pandemic, when thousands of homeless San Diegans needed refuge from COVID-19, it was here that we came together – City workers, County workers, social service and healthcare providers – to get folks off the street and keep them safe.

We served 5,000 people over that time as part of Operation Shelter to Home. In the end, more than 1,400 individuals and families were connected to permanent or long-term housing.

It was also here that our region came together to provide shelter to thousands of children who arrived at our border without their families, fleeing horrific violence in their home countries.

Together, we cared for more than 2,400 children until they could be reunited with family or sponsors in the United States.

Both of these operations had dozens of partner agencies and nonprofits that tapped San Diego’s talent, compassion and political will to get things done. And they reminded a pandemic-battered region that we can handle a crisis and solve big problems.

It’s this can-do attitude, spirit of collaboration, and focus on results that has guided my first year as mayor and our approach to tackling the challenges we face.

Now, a State of the City address is typically an opportunity to rattle off a list of accomplishments and give a sunny account of the year ahead. But these are not typical times.

I’d love to rehash the past year's many wins on climate, transportation, fiscal discipline and more -- and to celebrate the people and organizations who made them happen because I’m proud of them.

But the last two years have left all of us short on patience for happy talk.

I listen to San Diegans every day. I know they love our city like I do. But it’s also clear they’re impatient for solutions to the many longstanding problems we face.

And believe me, I am too. When I leave my home every morning, I see what you see:

I see cracked and buckling sidewalks outside my front door, and I ride over rutted and potholed streets on my way to work.

Like you, I see people camping on our sidewalks -- many who are obviously sick and cannot take care of themselves.

I see everything getting more expensive, from gas to groceries to rent.

I see our city falling short of what it could and should be. And like you, I refuse to accept that this is the best we can do.

So tonight is not the time for a typical speech because these are not typical times.

Instead, I’m going to focus this address on four of the most pressing problems facing our city. The issues that are front of mind for San Diegans right now. And I will tell you how we’re going to fix them.

Let’s start with the decades-long backlog of critical infrastructure repairs our City faces – and that I will not put off any longer.

By and large, these core systems are aging, outdated, often neglected, and in some cases in danger of failing.

In 2021, we budgeted nearly one billion dollars for critical infrastructure work. That’s four-and-a-half times the amount we put toward infrastructure a decade ago.

Last year, we broke ground on Pure Water San Diego, the largest infrastructure project in our city’s history, that puts us on the cutting edge of drinking-water technology.

Decades in the making, this project will supply nearly half of our city’s water by 2035 and reduce the amount of treated sewage we’re sending into the ocean by upwards of 50 percent.

Phase 1 of Pure Water includes 11 construction projects that provide more than 1,000 high-quality jobs – good union jobs – that pay competitive wages and support working families.

When Pure Water is complete, our city will be far less vulnerable to droughts, natural disasters and the impacts of climate change. It is an example of what we can do when diverse groups – environmentalists, labor and business – pull together to make big things happen.

This is the kind of all-hands-on-deck approach we need to repair our stormwater infrastructure. The fee we charge to maintain our pipes, culverts, drains and treatment facilities hasn’t been updated in almost 25 years, and as a result, we’ve fallen far behind on critically needed improvements to protect our beaches and waterways.

We added 40 positions to the City’s Stormwater Department to help us catch up, and we’ve made real progress on a funding strategy and a path forward.

Infrastructure investments ensure our city is safe and functioning, but they’re the kind of investment that traditionally gets neglected because it hasn’t been considered “sexy.”

For years, the response to our poor street conditions has been to slurry-seal as many miles as possible and call that road repair -- when actually, it’s just maintenance.

Our road network needs more intensive and costly repairs – I’m talking about repaving and reconstruction. In communities like Mira Mesa and Midway, we’re now making the investments and doing the real work that needs to be done.

Rather than chalking up miles of easy fixes in cul de sacs, we’ll be diligently restoring segments of the roads most traveled, like Euclid Avenue, Skyline Drive, Orange Avenue, Balboa Avenue and Clairemont Mesa Boulevard.

And for the first time ever, the City is using equity as a key factor in where we allocate our road-repair funding – ensuring that historically underserved neighborhoods get the investments they need.

My Sexy Streets initiative prioritizes these neighborhoods and will result in 54 additional miles of quality road repairs across the city, from San Ysidro Boulevard in the south to Highland Valley Road in the north. You’ll see my administration is focused on making sure our investments reach all communities.

We will also update our Street Preservation Ordinance to ensure that when anyone digs into our roads to do underground work, they repair their excavation and reimburse the City for its costs.

For years, the City hasn’t recouped the full cost of these repairs, and taxpayers have had to pay the bill. This changes now.

Updating our Street Preservation Ordinance will reverse the slow degradation of our streets, minimize long-term damage, and make sure everyone pays their fair share.

And because we can’t fix the damn roads fast enough, this spring, we will present to the City Council a new initiative aimed at delivering infrastructure improvements faster and more equitably across our city.

Similar to my "Parks For All of Us" master plan that was adopted by the City Council this past year, we'll create a citywide infrastructure funding program rather than the old, siloed system that has left some communities behind and millions of dollars unspent.

This will streamline funding availability and project prioritization citywide, which in turn allows for faster improvements for all our communities.

And we know help from the federal government is on the way.

I want to thank President Biden and our congressional delegation for passing a once-in-a-generation Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill.

Transit and Mobility

As vice chair of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) Board of Directors, Mayor Gloria championed a Regional Transportation Plan that will help transform the way residents travel around our county. By making more efficient connections between our homes and our jobs, it will be a critically important strategy for meeting the City of San Diego’s climate goals. A significant part of the region’s transit network is the San Diego Trolley, and this year, SANDAG and the Metropolitan Transit System proudly opened the expanded Mid-Coast Trolley (Blue Line), completing a one-seat ride from the U.S.-Mexico border and the job-rich University City community.

Mayor Gloria’s unanimously approved budget included $1.2 million to create the Safe and Sustainable Transportation for All Ages and Abilities Team. Once fully staffed, this 12-member unit will be dedicated to creating new connected and protected bikeways across San Diego. In 2021, Mayor Gloria also opened the 30th Street Bikeway and protected cyclists on Pershing Street and Washington Street. Initial data after the installation of protected bike lanes show that ridership increased by almost 300 percent, proving that if given a safe alternative, San Diegans will take it.

Because infrastructure is a regional issue as much as a local issue, and to ensure success, we can’t go it alone.

That’s why I have launched a collaborative, regional working group with our transit agencies, the Port, the County and the Airport, to advocate as a region and ensure San Diego gets our fair share of these new federal dollars.

Working together as a region will help us fund major projects like the transportation improvements that accompany the Terminal 1 replacement at the Airport, an integrated electric vehicle-charging network, and enhancements to our trolley system.

It will help us compete for funding to address our aging water and stormwater systems, expand our City’s bike networks and make our streets safer and more accessible for cyclists and pedestrians of all ages and abilities.

Further, our infrastructure projects are being planned and executed in alignment with our updated Climate Action Plan and our Climate Resilient SD plan, to ensure that we’re moving forward sustainably and with the climate crisis in mind.

I’ll be honest with you: These improvements are costly, and they take time. But we are doing everything we can to streamline these projects to get them done as quickly as possible.

Our public infrastructure is the foundation for a high quality of life -- and improving our core systems is a top priority of mine.

Equally foundational to our quality of life is living up to our obligation to keep San Diegans safe.

Of course, COVID-19 has added a profound burden on that front as well, and we’re so grateful to all public safety personnel who -- at even greater risk to their own lives than usual -- never faltered in their commitment to our residents.

Our police officers, firefighters, lifeguards and paramedics have been handling an incredible surge in emergency calls over the past two years – and they have made us proud.

The past several years have also seen rising crime in cities across the nation, and that includes San Diego.

Crime rose here by 13 percent last year, with violent crime up nearly 11 percent. Shootings, assaults, homicides, domestic and gang violence – are all up. Disturbingly, hate crimes have also increased by 65 percent.

None of this is acceptable.

Lawlessness will not rule the day in our city.

We must get illegal guns off the street. We must disrupt the gang violence taking innocent lives. And those who commit crimes against the people of this city must be held accountable.

So, hear me clearly: We will continue to provide our police department and City Attorney the resources they need to keep you and your family safe, and respond to crime, and hold criminals accountable.

We'll pay them competitive wages, ensure they can retire with dignity – and most of all – we’ll make sure they protect every San Diegan.

You should be able to dial 911 and have an officer show up quickly to give you the help you called for.

And, this help should come without excessive use of force, racial profiling, or any abuse by the men and women who are sworn to protect and serve.

A great city can fully fund and support its law enforcement officers while also ensuring they honor their oath.

This is why I look forward to the City Council’s adoption of an ordinance that implements the voter-approved Independent Commission on Police Practices, which I’ve fully funded in the budget.

I will also be forwarding to the City Council a Privacy Ordinance that will allow us to deploy technology to keep communities safe without infringing on their privacy rights.

We can and will strike the balance between protecting our residents and respecting their civil rights and civil liberties.

San Diego has long been one of the safest big cities in America. As your Mayor, I’m determined to keep it so.

No one will be surprised that what’s highest on San Diegans list of worries is our homelessness crisis. It’s what residents across our city talk to me about more than any other issue – by far – and it remains my highest priority.

During my first year in office, I have deployed a more compassionate, person-centered approach to our homeless residents – offering them shelter and services while also carrying out our responsibility to enforce our City laws.

But folks, here is where I want to level with you: While the complaints about homelessness are common, the proposed solutions for it are wildly divergent and frequently contradictory.

At one end of the spectrum are residents demanding we criminalize homelessness.

On the other are those decrying any enforcement of our laws against setting up camp on the sidewalk.

It’s this kind of conflict that has historically paralyzed leaders on this crisis.

To get past the paralysis, we must first acknowledge that our unsheltered population is as diverse as the general population. They’re people -- people who come from a vast array of circumstances, with different backgrounds, upbringings, and traumas.

Some are merely down on their luck and landed on the street because of a financially crippling medical bill or job loss that led to eviction. All they need is a job and minimal case management, and they're on their way.

Many others are deeply distrustful and traumatized, or perhaps they struggle with substance abuse or mental illness and refuse offers of help.

But let’s be clear: Under no circumstance is it compassionate to let a person live on the street.

No one wants that. You don’t want that. I don’t want that.

So, this is what we are going to do. First, we will continue to aggressively increase the amount of permanent supportive housing in our city.

Housing with services ends homelessness.

In 2021, we created 132 units of permanent supportive housing, and we have nearly 1,000 more in the pipeline.

Last year, San Diego partnered with other big California cities to push for a massive state investment in homelessness response. Governor Newsom and our state delegation came through with a 14-billion-dollar package.

Binational Affairs

As Mayor of America's largest border city and an international hub for trade and commerce, innovation, and tourism, Mayor Todd Gloria created the city’s first Office of Global Affairs to increase San Diego’s engagement around the world and foster a truly global city. Front and center is nurturing San Diego’s strong relationship with Mexico and furthering San Diego-Tijuana region as a single economic and cultural center.

In 2021, the Mayor was heavily engaged in the successful efforts to lift COVID-19 border restrictions, which interfered with our dynamic economy and impacted many families that were separated for months by the restrictive policy. The binational region also worked together to apply for and secure the World Design Capital designation for 2024.

Learn more about Binational Affairs

From that, San Diego will receive nearly 55 million dollars, as well as a portion of 3 billion dollars from Project Homekey, which will enable us to purchase hotels and other facilities to bring on an additional 300 units of permanent supportive housing.

In addition, through the American Rescue Plan, the City has received 21 million dollars in federal funding to create new homes for low-income residents, as well as 480 new housing vouchers.

Now, as much as permanent supportive housing is the solution to end homelessness, we have to be realistic: This housing won’t be built overnight.

That’s why, as we work to create more housing, we are expanding shelter bed capacity to get folks off the street now.

After we closed Operation Shelter to Home, we had approximately 1,100 shelter beds across our system. Today, we’ve increased our shelter beds to over 1,300 – a 21 percent increase in capacity.

In addition, thanks to an unprecedented level of collaboration with the County of San Diego and Chair Nathan Fletcher, we opened our first Community Harm Reduction Shelter specifically for people who struggle with addiction and co-occurring mental illness.

This year, we remain focused on exploring every feasible option to expand our shelter inventory. This includes city-owned sites like the Old Central Library in Downtown.

We’re working to add Safe Haven centers in collaboration with the County to provide longer-term care for our unsheltered population with the most acute behavioral health and substance abuse needs.

The bottom line is: The street is not a home – and we will not be a city that's content with allowing people to sleep on the sidewalk, or in a riverbed, or along a freeway.

Our objective will be to make sure there is a safe, supportive place for people experiencing homelessness to go.

It’s also important to note that our shelter system relies on effective outreach to fill those beds. Last March, we launched our Coordinated Street Outreach Program, and then nearly doubled the program in the budget that took effect in July.

These outreach workers are the folks who do the painstaking work of getting an often-reluctant population to accept shelter and get on a path to end their homelessness for good.

We’ve already seen the results of this outreach surge in the increasing occupancy of our shelters which now are regularly 90% full.

It’s encouraging that more and more people are accepting offers of assistance and shelter. It’s not a given that everyone will take steps to improve their situation, but the progress is a hopeful sign.

We’ve working with our homeless service providers like the Housing Commission, Alpha Project, PATH, City Net, the Regional Task Force and Father Joe’s Villages – as well as our local community colleges – to expand outreach in order to reach more people experiencing homelessness.

It saddens me to say that there are people our teams will never be able to reach, and we need to be honest about that.

The truth is there are people on our streets who are not capable of taking care of themselves or making the conscious decision to seek help.

One of our society’s most egregious failings is neglecting to care for people suffering from severe mental illness. This problem has been exacerbated by the explosion of opioids, fentanyl, and methamphetamine on our streets.

This is not a problem unique to San Diego. It is a crisis born half-a-century ago, as large psychiatric institutions closed, involuntary commitments were ended, and a sufficient network of community-based treatment centers failed to materialize.

The result has been decades of homelessness, with jails and emergency rooms becoming de facto housing for those who are too mentally ill to care for themselves.

It is long past time for our society to come to grips with this enormous problem and actually do something.

That’s why I’m working with City Attorney Mara Elliott to use conservatorships in cases of extreme mental illness among our unsheltered neighbors.

But the fact is, current state law on conservatorship is too restrictive.

So, this year, I am pushing for state action on conservatorships so that people who cannot help themselves aren’t left vulnerable to the dangers of life on the streets.

Solving homelessness is made more difficult by the housing crisis we are experiencing – a shortage created over many decades as we failed to build to accommodate our growth.

The shortage of homes everyday San Diegans can afford is splitting up families, making it harder for our businesses to attract and retain workers, and threatening to deprive our region of the talented young people we work so hard to educate in our world-class universities.

We are tackling this issue aggressively, with policy changes and programs that will meaningfully address a disastrous failure to plan for the growth we have long known was coming.

We knew it was coming because most of our growth is from people born and raised here in San Diego. Residents who grew up here and want to remain here to raise families of their own.

And so, we cannot lose our resolve to house our own children in the face of people who fear change and mobilize to block improvements in our neighborhoods. That’s not how a thriving city works.

In 2021, we issued building permits and entitlements that will create as many as 12,000 new homes, with more than 6,500 in the pipeline right now.

Building on that momentum, this past year, I launched my “Homes For All of Us” housing initiative – more than a dozen separate proposals aimed at making it easier to build homes that working and middle-class San Diegans can afford.

One of those proposals, Blueprint SD, will modernize the way we update our community plans -- the plans for how our neighborhoods accommodate population growth.

Blueprint SD will dramatically reduce the time it takes to update them – from more than five years down to as little as two.

This means we can plan for new housing where it makes the most sense for our communities, and then build it, faster than ever.

“Homes For All of Us” also features two Housing Action Packages that include policy changes such as:

Making it easier to include housing above City facilities like libraries and fire stations; creating affordable housing in communities that don’t have it, and implementing Senate Bill 9 -- statewide legislation authored by Senate Leader Toni Atkins that permits duplexes on lots that currently allow just one.

I’m also excited to announce tonight that the City of San Diego will officially opt-in to Senate Bill 10, which will make it far easier to build apartments close to mass transit.

My first Housing Action Package will go to the City Council for consideration tomorrow, with additional proposals coming soon after.

Taken together, “Homes For All of Us” will allow us to build far more homes that San Diegans can afford -- close to transit options, and in all of our communities.

Tonight, I’m also announcing another City housing program – “Bridge to Home.”

This is a program administered by our City’s Economic Development Department – and is so named because it helps bridge the gap that affordable-housing builders face when trying to make their projects work financially.

Seven projects across the city have been selected to receive financing assistance from the City.

Race, Equity & Inclusion

All San Diegans should have an access to the opportunities that will help them thrive in our city, but we know that unfortunately isn’t always the case. To create an equitable and inclusive local government that serves all San Diegans, Mayor Todd Gloria’s administration is addressing the institutional structure and practices that have excluded communities from City resources.

To guide City of San Diego Departments, Mayor Gloria created the Office of Race and Equity tasked with creating a culture of inclusivity, dismantling policies and procedures that perpetuate inequity and systemic racism, and advancing equitable outcomes.

The office will help us to embed equity in City operations and public programs, guiding our City departments to identify who will benefit or be burdened by decisions made by City leaders, examine potential unintended consequences of decisions, and develop strategies to advance racial equity.

Mayor Gloria Announces Hire of City’s First Chief Race and Equity Officer.

These seven projects alone will add 662 rental homes to our supply of affordable housing – 193 of which will be reserved for folks experiencing homelessness.

This is just the beginning. Funding of up to $20 million for Round Two of the program will be announced soon.

In 2022, we will continue our progress on major opportunities to provide housing where it makes sense as we update community plans for University City, Mira Mesa, Hillcrest, College Area, and – the neighborhood where I grew up – Clairemont.

These communities offer the possibility of growing smart with new homes near transit that will connect residents to job centers across our region.

We are legally and morally obligated to plan to add more than 100,000 new homes during the next eight years, and folks, we are getting it done.

I realize the report I’ve given you tonight is likely not what you expected. But this is not the time for telling you what you want to hear; it’s about telling you what you need to know.

And what you need to know is that the road ahead is full of hard work. But I’ve never been afraid of hard work, and neither is our city.

I’m as hopeful and optimistic as I’ve ever been because I do believe San Diego is on its way.

I ran for this office on the promise of reinvigorating San Diego with a jolt of big-city energy, fostering a culture of “YES” that will help us ascend to our rightful place as one of the greatest cities in the country.

We can see it unfolding already – with transformational projects across our city, large and small.

We see it all over town as restaurants take advantage of our new “Spaces as Places” program, establishing permanent outdoor operations, boosting their business and creating more vibrant commercial districts.

We’ll soon see it in the Midway community where we’ll build thousands of affordable homes to help address our housing crisis – along with a new entertainment venue to replace the existing Sports Arena – creating a walkable, bikeable community that is full of life.

We can see it the new innovation hub we are bringing to the Valencia Business Park in Southeastern San Diego. This new campus will host businesses and organizations that focus on sustainability and provide jobs and internships in the neighborhood.

We will see it this spring in Balboa Park, when we break ground on a major restoration of the iconic Botanical Building and usher in a new era of investment in our city’s crown jewel.

You can see it today in the Symphony’s beautiful new Shell on the waterfront, and the soon-to-be-completed Snapdragon Stadium in Mission Valley.

We can see the big city energy in our recently adopted Regional Transportation Plan that will transform our mobility network and protect our quality of life for generations to come.

So while we have daunting work ahead of us, we can see the fruits of our labor all around us.

San Diego, as I think about the people I’ve visited with over the past year, in communities across our city -- and as I consider the progress we’ve made and the work the lies ahead -- I can say that the State of our City is “ready.”

We are ready to responsibly put the COVID-19 pandemic behind us.

Ready to provide homes and services for those who are unsheltered and struggling.

Ready to build back our economy stronger than ever.

Ready to fix ensure our streets, pipes and public facilities.

Ready to fight the housing crisis and the climate crisis with everything we’ve got.

Ready to build equity into everything we do and make San Diego a place where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

Ready to say “yes” to positive, transformational change and become the truly great city that we should be – a city that others seek to emulate.

And to those who doubt our ability or our resolve, I’d refer you to what San Diego did right here, in this building, just a short time ago.

It would have been unimaginable that we could convert our Convention Center into a homeless shelter practically overnight to provide safety to homeless San Diegans during a pandemic. But we did it.

Some could never have envisioned that we could come together under this same roof to provide refuge to thousands of immigrant children and show them the very best of America. But we did it.

And in that very same year, after the worst economic slowdown in a nearly 100 years, pick ourselves up and welcome major conventions and events back to this center – including our beloved Comic-Con. But we did it.

All right here in San Diego.

This is why I have so much faith in our ability to drive change on the major issues I outlined tonight.

Because amid the darkest of times and under the most difficult circumstances, we’ve seen a challenge, stepped up, come together, and we triumphed.

This says to me that we can, and will, do it again.

Our challenges are great. The road ahead is long. And there is much work to do.

But San Diego, we are ready.

Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless our great city.

 


Comprehensive Progress Report

Addressing Homelessness

Led San Diego Through the COVID-19 Pandemic and Its Impacts

Building More Housing

Investing in Infrastructure

Strong Fiscal Discipline

Leadership on Climate Action

Reimagining Policing and Preserving Public Safety

Diversifying City Leadership

Strengthening Binational / Global Cooperation

Supporting Our Youth

Serving the People of San Diego