By Craig Benedetto & Marshall Anderson, Legislative Advocates
New mask guidance: The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced a new set of guidance for the wearing of masks. The new guidance means that most Americans will no longer be asked to wear masks indoors unless they meet a new set of criteria. New metrics for determining when masks must be worn will consider caseloads, hospitalizations, and local hospital capacity. Masks will then only be required when COVID community levels reach a certain threshold.
Updated travel recommendations: In light of more virulent versions of the COVID virus, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its guidance for domestic travel. The agency said that anyone traveling within the United States should think about “getting tested as close to the time of departure as possible,” no more than three days ahead of a trip. The CDC previously only recommended testing for those not up to date on their vaccinations but is now urging testing for all travelers regardless of vaccination status. The CDC is also keeping the preflight testing rule in place for international travel into the United States. You can learn more HERE.
New COVID-19 variant makes landfall: Three recent San Diego infections have been attributed to a new BA.4 variant, a coronavirus strain that has been known to evade immune protection in Europe. BA.4 and a newer BA.5 strain are both descendants of the Omicron variant, which have been known to spread more quickly than their predecessors. So far, experts have determined that the new variant, while more contagious, has been less lethal than its predecessors. Nevertheless, various health agencies are renewing their calls for caution. Whether that leads to reinstating requirements or restrictions will likely depend on the state of the health care system. For now, no changes in San Diego.
SAN DIEGO PLANNING COMMISSION HEARS CLIMATE ACTION PLAN UPDATE AND RECOMMENDS CHANGES
The City of San Diego’s Planning Commission moved forward a plan to change the development process for Climate Action Plan (CAP) compliance. The action was to support the staff recommendation, which included some amendments to the original proposal following discussions with impacted stakeholders and move it forward to the City Council for consideration. Some BOMA members have had difficulty, as has staff, in utilizing the current process which utilizes a CAP “checklist”. The newly envisioned process would eliminate the CAP checklist and replace it with a regulatory compliance process. The new process is the result of numerous changes at the state level, including building code changes that rendered the CAP checklist duplicative and unnecessary.
The new requirements relate to shading of walking areas in front of development projects, providing electricity for bicycle parking, and pedestrian amenities to make it more convenient to walk between adjacent properties. It was the latter that garnered the most attention, as the original staff proposal included a requirement for the provision of pedestrian access between properties beyond just frontage access. BOMA pushed back on this requirement for a number of reasons, including logistics between different properties owners, existing development constraints, planning challenges, necessity and reduction of usable space. Staff and the Planning Commission agreed and amended the requirement to provide enhanced pedestrian amenities along the frontage of subject properties.
It is anticipated that the proposal will go to the Council sometime in June. To read the staff report to the Planning Commission, please CLICK HERE. To review the update staff memo that includes the changes to the original proposal, please CLICK HERE.
MAYOR GLORIA RELEASES REVISED CITY BUDGET
After weeks of City Council budget deliberations and community input, Mayor Todd Gloria has released his revised budget, known as the “May Revise”. Due in part to a projected increase in tax revenues and unspent American Rescue Act funds, the Mayor is proposing the following new allocations:
- $547,000 for a City Attorney units focused on employing conservatorship for individuals suffering from extreme mental illness and substance abuse, or otherwise unable to care for themselves
- $331,000 to hire the City’s first Chief Behavioral Health Officer
- $200,000 for a Safe Camping Pilot aimed at providing a safe campground for homeless individuals
- $5.4 million to expand shelter operations Public Safety:
- Public Safety
- $4.1 million to increase police overtime
- $388,000 for security at park and restroom facilities
- $528,000 for five lifeguard sergeants
- Real Estate
- $725,000 for additional analysis of the City’s downtown office needs • $500,000 to hire a consultant to assist with Sports Arena negotiations
You can view the full May Revise, HERE. BOMA San Diego has voiced its support for the Mayor’s budget specifically related to funding for DSD service improvements, which includes new staffing, as well as money directed to both homelessness and police protection.
RETURN OF ANNUAL HOMELESS CENSUS SHOWS 10% INCREASE SINCE 2020
While no surprise to many of BOMA’s members, who witness first-hand the condition on the streets in and around their business properties, the results of the first homeless census in two years showed that San Diego County’s homeless population increased by 10% since January 2020. While the increase is steep, many suggest that the actual number is much higher pointing to the Downtown San Diego’s Partnership’s monthly count, which showed a 68% increase in Downtown homelessness since April 2021. The increase in homelessness comes after the city purchased two hotels to house 400 individuals, 271 interim shelter beds, and since Father joe’s Villages 407-unit housing project opened. To learn more, click HERE. Going back to the previous item on the city budget, it highlights the need for our organization and members to be actively engaged in both strategy setting as well as funding decisions to ensure more shelter and services are provided to help get those who are homeless off the streets.
SAN DIEGO CITY COUNCIL APPROVES BALLOT MEASURE TO OVERHAUL ITS HIRING PROCESS
The City of San Diego, which faces the daunting task of filling more than 1,700 vacancies, took steps to overhaul its hiring practice by way of the ballot box. The City Council voted unanimously to place a measure on the November ballot that would give the Mayor more power when hiring employees vs. the current process under an independent Civil Service Commission. Councilmember von Wilpert, who is spearheading the effort, said the Civil Service Commission will still have the power to investigate claims but noted that status quo is “disjointed, outdated, and overly bureaucratic.” The full staff report can be found HERE. BOMA will continue to monitor this effort, largely due to the concerns BOMA’s members have about the processing delays at the city for various permits, like those for tenant improvements (TI). One of the contributing factors to these delays is the large number of open positions in the Development Services Department. Reducing the length of time it takes to fill positions is a critical path to performance improvement.
CITY OF SAN DIEGO RELEASES DRAFT MIRA MESA COMMUNITY PLAN UPDATE
The City of San Diego’s Planning Department released a draft update to the Mira Mesa Community Plan. The Community Discussion Draft is a preliminary draft of the Mira Mesa Community Plan and contains the community vision, goals, and policies. The Draft Plan Figures contain maps, tables, and diagrams related to planned land use, zoning, mobility, public facility, parks, and community plan implementation overlay zone (CPIOZ) supplemental development regulations. The current plan was last updated in 1992. The community plan area covers a large swatch of the north mid-city, including points east to the I-15 all the way west to the I 805, including the Sorrento Mesa/Valley areas. The updated plan is expected to be reviewed by the Planning Commission in June and could be approved as soon as this fall. To learn more, please CLICK HERE for the plan update home page. To review the plan, please CLICK HERE.
SAN DIEGO COUNTY PASSES “CONTRACTOR TRANSPARENCY” ORDINANCE
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors on a 4-1 vote finalized the second reading of two ordinances that require contractors to provide more information on subcontractors working on projects in unincorporated areas of San Diego. The updated ordinance mandates collection of the following information before a subcontractor is on site:
- Subcontractor specialty, name and contact, license number, address and workers compensation policy
- Subcontractor work start and end dates
- Detailed scope of the work done
- Verification of Occupational Safety and Health Administration or wage violations • Subcontractor Disadvantaged Business Enterprise status
- Special safety licenses or training requirements for a subcontractor’s scope of work
Projects that will require greater subcontractor transparency are:
- Building permits for new commercial or residential tracts (five or more lots) and multifamily construction projects (five or more units), commercial tenant improvement projects over 10,000 square feet and projects associated with General Plan amendments
- Right-of-way permits for transport of energy, sewer or water projects subject to the state prevailing wage; and projects not subject to state prevailing wage (excluding driveways and retaining walls)
According to the County, the policies will take effect on June 10. It should be noted that the City of San Diego is considering a similar measure for projects within its boundaries. It should be noted that the City of San Diego is likely to consider something very similar this summer. BOMA will continue to track both efforts and provide information when available. For more information on the County’s action, please CLICK HERE.
INFLATION CLAUSE TO TRIGGER CALIFORNIA MINIMUM WAGE INCREASE TO $15.50
When California lawmakers approved an increase to the minimum wage in 2016, it was supposed to be phased in over several years. Today, the minimum wage is $15 per hour for companies with 25 or more workers and $14 per hour for companies with 25 or few employees; however, the fine print indicated that the minimum wage must increase to $15.50 per hour, across the board, if inflation increased by more than 7% between FY21-22. The California Department of Finance is projecting inflation for FY22 to be 7.6% higher than FY21. While those number won’t be final until this summer, the Newsom administration believes the growth will be enough to trigger the increase, which would take effect in 2023. To learn more, click HERE.
COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO RELEASED DRAFT $7.15 BILLION BUDGET
The County of San Diego released its recommended Fiscal Year 2023 Budget. The budget, which includes funding for additional mental health services, homelessness, and climate change, must be approved by June 30. Here’s what you should know:
- Additional $71.8 million (115 new positions) to respond to influx of mental health and substance abuse needs
- Funding for additional Mobile Crisis Response Teams
- $11.9 million to assist with the development of affordable housing
- $10 million for incorporated cities who wish to fund shelter facilities • $3 million to waive permit fees for accessory dwelling units
- $810,000 to create an inclusionary zoning ordinance that would require new developments to include affordable housing
- $25 million to support a variety of climate initiatives
- $1 million to support electric vehicle charging stations
- $40 million to address stormwater infrastructure
- $3.4 million for Tijuana River Valley
- Green building and solar energy will be promoted by waiving an estimated $2.1 million in permit fees
- $130 million for improved healthcare in jails
- $1 million to support de-escalation training
- Public Defender’s Office to receive $21.8 million (90 positions)
- District Attorney’s Office to receive $3.5 million (18 positions)
CARLSBAD VOTES TO BAN SINGLE-USE PLASTICS, BALLOONS, BAGS, AND BOTTLES
Carlsbad City Council unanimously voted to support three measures aiming to reduce plastic trash and pollution. Carlsbad’s new ordinances ban the release of any balloon filled with gas lighter than air, prohibit the distribution of single-use plastic bottles at city facilities and city events, and places a prohibition on retailers and food services providers from providing single use bags. To learn more click HERE.
COUNCILMEMBERS PROPOSE NEW ATTORNEY UNIT TO EXPAND CONSERVATORSHIP, TARGETING INDIVIDUALS WHO POSE DANGER TO SELF AND OTHERS
Councilmembers Jen Campbell and Marni von Wilpert are advocating for a new city attorney unit with the goal of placing more individuals into conservatorship programs aimed at treating mental illness and substance abuse. The “Conservatorship and Treatment Unit” would be tasked with processing those deemed to be a danger to self and others into guardianship programs where a judge appoints someone to oversee a person’s medication, financial decisions, and other activities like housing. Behavioral health issues have been on the rise for years. In one example, San Diego Fire-Rescue indicated that eleven individuals, one of which has already been placed in conservatorship, are responsible for over 500 emergency service contacts in 12 months, pulling vital services away from other pressing matters and putting a drain on city resources. BOMA has been interested in this issue, in part, because of the number of homeless who could benefit from programs like this. To learn more click HERE.
GOVERNOR URGES IMMEDIATE ACTION ON WATER USE REDUCTION
Governor Newsom has asked California water agencies to more to curtail water use in the face of an historic drought. This follows other efforts, like those by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California who recently declared a water shortage emergency and ordered outdoor usage to be restricted to one day a week. Those new restrictions, which take effect June 1, only
apply to parts of Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Bernardino counties. California’s three-year drought has given way to the driest year on record. While San Diego remains at “Level 2,” given the situation facing the state and the southwestern watershed, we could see greater restrictions in the future as major reservoirs diminish. The state water board will be meeting in May to determine if there should be additional statewide requirements that could impact the San Diego region. To learn more click HERE.
ESCONDIDO DISCUSSES SALES TAX INCREASE
Escondido, facing an $8 million budget deficit, is exploring options to increase revenue. At a recent City Council meeting, staff presented a potential sales tax increase of between a half-cent and full cent, which may appear on the November ballot. City Council directed staff to survey city residents to determine whether constituents would support the measure. The deadline to place the measure on the ballot is August 12.
SDG&E ANNOUNCES NEW “BUILDER SERVICES PORTAL”
SDG&E has announced a new on-line tool that allows builders to track and manage their projects with the utility. The on-line dashboard includes an online application, the ability to upload project documents, transparency in task progress, pay online and much more elements. BOMA has been working the utility on project processing issues. This is one tool that might assist. For more information, or to register, please CLICK HERE.