Mayor Calls for New Approaches to City’s Biggest Challenges
State of the City: Mayor Outlines Action Plans on Homelessness, Housing, Public Safety and Neighborhood Quality of Life
Thursday, January 11, 2018 - NEWS RELEASE
San Diego – Calling for new approaches to San Diego’s biggest challenges, Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer on Thursday outlined plans to reduce homelessness, make housing more affordable, protect public safety and improve quality of life in his fourth State of the City address.
“The old ways of tackling these issues don’t work anymore,” Mayor Faulconer said. “So we are embracing new ideas and taking new approaches.”
Mayor Faulconer highlighted progress in serving historically underserved communities, maintaining healthy credit ratings through strong fiscal discipline, and building up the largest general fund reserves and cash balance in city history. The speech also took a candid look at areas where City Hall needs to do more, with Mayor Faulconer largely focusing on what his administration is doing differently in 2018 to move San Diego forward.
“We’ve spent the past three years laying a solid foundation for our city. A city that’s fiscally responsible, governed inclusively and focused on results,” said Mayor Faulconer. “But San Diegans are asking their city to do even more. So I will be demanding more. More of myself, more of my administration, and more of our civic and community leaders.”
New Solutions to the Homelessness Crisis
Taking aim at homeless strategies that mean well but take too long to enact, Mayor Faulconer pledged to continue with the same type of swift action that led to the opening of several new homeless services last fall, such as three new bridge shelters, a transitional camp area and an expanded safe parking program.
“America’s Finest City will no longer tolerate the use of a sidewalk, a riverbed or a tarp as a home,” Mayor Faulconer said. “For those without a home trying to lift themselves out of extreme poverty, our city is ready to help by providing services with dignity. There is a place for you, and it’s not on the streets.”
Mayor Faulconer laid out an action plan to “connect, support and house” San Diego’s homeless. The comprehensive strategy connects individuals to stabilizing programs that provide temporary relief from the streets, supports them with services, and helps them find a permanent home.
“What I’ve outlined is a housing first plan, but not a housing only plan,” Mayor Faulconer said. “It’s a comprehensive ecosystem, with solutions for everyone.”
He made several announcements:
- The region’s first Housing Navigation Center – a one-stop facility where homeless individuals can access supportive services and be connected to service providers who specialize in addressing their specific needs. Location to be announced later this year.
- The City will open a new storage facility this spring to help decrease clutter in public spaces by allowing homeless individuals to safely store their belongings while they work toward permanent housing.
- Fifteen additional outreach ambassadors have been hired to walk the streets, building relationships and trust with homeless individuals to connect them to the regional care system.
The Mayor also declared that people who are simply choosing to live outdoors in San Diego’s hospitable weather, and criminals who victimize residents, businesses and the homeless, will not be tolerated.
“Let me be clear, things are different now. For individuals who refuse shelter and services, for criminals who hide among our homeless population, these are not options in our city anymore,” Mayor Faulconer said. “Do not confuse our resolve with a lack of compassion. We must reduce homelessness, not enable it. End suffering, not condone it. Punish crime, not ignore it.”
An Aggressive Plan for Housing Affordability
Building on early successes from the “ Housing SD” plan he introduced last year, Mayor Faulconer continued to emphasize actions that will speed up and increase the creation of new housing supply.
Mayor Faulconer laid out a 2018 housing agenda which includes:
- Revamping fees to encourage developers to build smaller, less expensive units
- Changing outdated parking mandates for projects near transit centers
- Zoning changes to combine workspace with living quarters
- Expanding the housing-density bonus program to include units available to first-time buyers and the middle class
“Countless government regulations have been created around the premise that more housing is the cause of our problems,” Mayor Faulconer said. “But more housing is a solution to our problems. If you’re in the business of building homes, we want to put you to work.”
Implementation of the “Housing SD” plan has already shortened project review times, reduced fees, authorized millions of dollars for affordable housing, and made it easier and cheaper to build renter-friendly companion units – resulting in a 375 percent increase in applications.
Fixing SDPD’S Recruitment and Retention Dilemma
Mayor Faulconer negotiated and gained City Council approval last October for the largest police recruitment and retention package in city history, increasing compensation for all sworn officers over the next two years. Tonight he went a step further, announcing the rollout of a national recruitment campaign to help attract and hire even more police officers and fully staff the San Diego Police Department by 2020.
“San Diego is one of the safest big cities in the country and overall crime is at its lowest point in half a century, but we can never take that for granted,” Mayor Faulconer said. “There are over 200 open positions in the San Diego Police Department. It could turn into a public safety crisis if we don’t act now.”
Filling these positions will help ensure San Diego crime stays low. More staffing will also allow the SDPD to address more quality-of-life issues, such as responding faster to non-emergency calls, engaging in proactive policing, and establishing stronger ties with the communities they serve.
Repairing Neighborhoods and Cleaning Them Up
The infrastructure reforms Mayor Faulconer launched after taking office are producing exceptional results. In 2014, City Hall was investing about $180 million annually in neighborhood improvements; now it invests nearly half a billion dollars each year. A decade ago, the City only repaired 25 miles of streets in an entire year; under Mayor Faulconer that’s about how much crews repair in a month.
“We’ve reformed the entire system to finish projects faster, use taxpayer dollars more efficiently and move shovel-ready projects to the front of the line,” Mayor Faulconer said.
The Mayor also announced the creation of “Clean SD,” a new mayoral program designed to take City efforts to keep neighborhoods clean and safe to the next level. This four-pronged strategy focuses on community hot spots across the city, conducting weekly street abatements in downtown, clearing the San Diego River of debris and bolstering sanitation efforts.
“A healthy and clean environment is part of San Diego’s DNA,” said Mayor Faulconer. “This aggressive, sustained approach is the new normal going forward. We are going to clean up our communities, scrub graffiti from our streets and sidewalks, and restore the San Diego River to its natural beauty.”
To date, Clean SD has:
- Ushered in an unprecedented cleanup of the San Diego River, with twice-weekly abatements that have hauled out 50 tons of trash since September
- Dramatically cleaned up downtown streets and sidewalks, with 82 percent less waste identified by crews after weekly abatements were expanded to twice per week
- Removed hundreds of tons of litter from streets and sidewalks
- Sanitized the equivalent of 350 city blocks in downtown and other areas to ensure clean and healthy public spaces.
In total, crews have removed more than 700 tons of trash from neighborhoods and the San Diego River to date.
CONTACT: Greg Block at (619) 227-3752 or [email protected]