By Craig Benedetto & Marshall Anderson, Legislative Advocates
MAYOR GLORIA DELIVERS STATE OF THE CITY ADDRESS
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria gave his latest State of the City address earlier this month. During his speech, Mayor Gloria recapped his highlights from 2023 and announced several new initiatives aimed at tackling some of San Diego’s toughest challenges:
- Housing: The Mayor announced that the City permitted around 8,000 homes in 2023, a 51% increase over 2022 numbers. Just before his speech, the Mayor signed a new executive order requiring that permit applications for projects utilizing the City’s Complete Communities program be reviewed within 30 days rather than the 12 months the Mayor said it’s taking on average to review now. You can learn more about Complete Communities HERE.
- Project Labor Agreement: The Mayor announced a deal with the San Diego County Building Trades Council on a citywide project labor agreement for all City construction projects. While the new PLA requirement will not apply to private construction or ongoing operations, it will be important to monitor as the item comes before City Council in the coming weeks to determine if city infrastructure required for development is covered. BOMA will share ordinance language once available.
- Homelessness: The Mayor set a goal of increasing shelter beds for those experiencing homelessness by 1,000 this year This includes a proposal to transform the H Barracks site off of Harbor Drive into a temporary shelter location in addition to the old Central Downtown Library.
- Public Safety: Perhaps the most surprising announcement came with the Mayor’s support for statewide action to amend Proposition 47, a voter-approved measure that reclassified certain forms of theft and drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Despite originally supporting Prop. 47, the Mayor stated that the law is being exploited and needs to be reformed in order to stem the illicit drug trade and organized retail theft.
You can read more or watch a recording of the speech HERE.
BERKELEY COURT OVERTURNS NATURAL GAS BAN
As previously reported, the City of Berkeley’s reach code banning natural gas in new homes and buildings has faced weeks of litigation, halting regional efforts to update local climate action plans and the passage of similar mandates. Last week, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the ban on new natural gas installations was unlawful. Several local municipalities will be forced to go back to the drawing board with respect to their own proposed natural gas bans. Encinitas, which passed a building electrification ordinance in 2021, is exploring revisions to the ordinance to provide incentives rather than impose a strict requirement. Solana Beach is now encouraging compliance rather than requiring it. Carlsbad, after contemplating a ban, is participating in the California Energy Commission’s process of updating statewide building and energy codes. Both San Diego and Del Mar have placed their expected gas bans and existing building retrofits on hold. The County of San Diego has proposed an electrification mandate for new construction in its Draft Climate Action Plan Update, but hasn’t yet reacted to the Court of Appeals decision. BOMA will continue to encourage incentives over mandates, and oppose full electrification mandates. To learn more, click HERE.
NORA VARGAS RE-ELECTED AS CHAIR, STATE OF THE COUNTY SET FOR JANUARY 31
Nora Vargas was unanimously re-elected to the position of Chair of the County Board of Supervisors. The move comes on the heels of former Supervisor Nathan Fletcher leading the county for two consecutive terms. In prior years, the position would rotate every year. Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer will remain in her position as Vice Chair. The board also approved appointments to various boards, commissions, and committees. Newly-elected Monica Montgomery-Steppe will join the Metropolitan Transit System board and the Airport Authority, while Nora Vargas and Joel Anderson will continue serving on the San Diego Association of Governments. To learn more about each appointment, click HERE. Chair Vargas will give her State of the County Address on January 31 at 5:00pm. To register, click HERE.
SAN DIEGO RELEASES LAND DEVELOPMENT CODE UPDATE
The City of San Diego’s proposed Land Development Code changes have been released. The proposed update contains 92 changes aimed at clarifying development regulations, ensuring compliance with new state laws, and corrections and reforms aimed at easing the development process. Notable changes include allowances for residential to be a primary use in EMX zones and the addition of Density Bonus incentives for commercial developments that contribute to the construction of affordable housing. While the high-level changes have been released, we await the specific language, which is expected to be released in the coming days. To view the proposed thematic changes, please click HERE. Comments may be submitted HERE.
COUNTYWIDE HALF-CENT SALES TAX QUALIFIES FOR THE BALLOT
A citizens' initiative to raise the sales tax by a half-cent has qualified for the November 2024 ballot. The measure, a redux of the 2022 failed Transit Tax, seeks to fund county-wide transportation, infrastructure, and safety projects. As a citizens’ initiative, the measure only needs to garner over 50% of the vote to pass. Other tax measures, including a real estate transfer tax to fund affordable housing projects, a rumored City of San Diego sales tax increase, and a second transfer tax to raise parks and library funds have yet to qualify for the ballot. To learn more, click HERE.
SAN DIEGO LAND USE & HOUSING COMMITTEE CHAIR REQUESTING INPUT
Councilmember Kent Lee, the new Chair of the City of San Diego’s Land Use and Housing Committee (LU&H), is requesting the public’s input on this year’s committee priorities. One of the more impactful committees to issues BOMA tracks, LU&H is charged with reviewing development projects and analyzing code changes associated with real estate, land use, planning, and community and general plan amendments. To submit input directly to the Councilmember’s office, click HERE. Input must be submitted by January 31. BOMA will be working separately with the Councilmember’s team to provide input, as well.
SAN DIEGO EXPLORING CHANGES TO HISTORIC DESIGNATIONS
The City of San Diego Planning Department is launching an update to rules aimed at protecting historic homes and buildings. The move comes as historic preservation requirements are often to blame for impeding development. The proposed changes include amendments to the City’s General Plan and revisions to the Historical Resources Board's governing regulations. Any changes must be approved by the City Council before going to the state’s Historic Resources Board. It’s a process that’s likely to last through the year, if not longer. BOMA members have expressed interest and will be involved in this discussion. To learn more, click HERE.
CITY INITIATES MID-CITY COMMUNITY PLAN UPDATE PROCESS
The City of San Diego is launching its first update to the Mid-City Community Plan in 25 years, an effort that will strive to identify opportunities for new homes, businesses, parks, and infrastructure improvements. Mid-City communities include City Heights, Kensington-Talmage, Eastern Area, and Normal Heights. To sign up for updates, click HERE. You can view a fact sheet HERE.
STATE WATER RESOURCES BOARD FACES CRITICISM FOR PROPOSED CONSERVATION MEASURES
The state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office released a report criticizing the State Water Resources Control Board for proposed water conservation measures. The report calls the proposed measures costly, overly complex, and difficult to implement. The proposed regulations, known as "Making Conservation a California Way of Life," require urban water suppliers to meet increasingly stringent targets for reducing water use between 2025 and 2035. The Water Resources Board is expected to release an updated draft proposal this spring. To learn more, click HERE. To read the Legislative Analyst Office’s report, click HERE.
- Chula Vista to Consider Encampment Ban: At a city council meeting earlier this month, Chula Vista residents expressed concerns about the growing number of homeless encampments in the Harborside area. Councilmembers discussed potential solutions, including a ban on tent camping that would replicate the recently approved ban passed by the City of San Diego. Staff will return to city council in the coming weeks with a draft proposal.
- Annual Point in Time Count Scheduled for January 25: A census of sort, the region's annual homelessness count, where volunteers survey individuals sleeping outside, is scheduled for January 25. Coordinators are still seeking roughly 1,200 volunteer participants to help with the count. The count, a federal requirement, tends to influence key budget and policy decisions. Volunteers can register by clicking HERE.
- Downtown Unhoused Population in Decline While Numbers Rise Regionally: The number of homeless individuals sleeping downtown has dropped below 1,000 for the first time in over two years. The shift is partially attributed to measures like the recently adopted encampment ban and the erection of additional shelter locations throughout the city. The trend, countywide, differs, however, as the number of people reporting homelessness for the first time has consistently outpaced those finding housing for the past 21 months.
SAN DIEGO DEPARTMENTS ASKED TO MAKE CUTS
The City of San Diego's Chief Operating Officer, Eric Dargan, has ordered municipal departments to suspend "nonessential" spending in the current fiscal year and cut their budgets by 2% in the next budget cycle. This direction comes as the city faces a projected shortfall of $171.9 million in Fiscal Year 2025. The City's five-year financial outlook forecasts annual deficits totaling $1 billion over five years. BOMA will be tracking to ensure cuts don’t impact services our members use. It should be noted that Development Services is an enterprise fund department, and since users fund the department, services shouldn’t be impacted. Other departments, like Planning, are not full cost recovery, so ensuring their efforts continue is an important priority. To learn more, click HERE.
URTASUN SWORN IN AS CHAIR OF THE BOARD OF PORT COMMISSIONERS
The Port of San Diego has formally sworn in Frank Urtasun (Coronado) as Chair. Danielle Moore, one of the City of San Diego's three appointees, will serve as Vice Chair with Ann Moore (Chula Vista) serving as secretary. During his swearing-in, Urtasun named parks and prosperity as his focus for 2024. To learn more, click HERE.
SARAH AGHASSI TAPPED AS INTERIM COUNTY CHIEF ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER
Helen Robbins-Meyer, who has served as the County's Chief Administrative Officer for over a decade, has officially retired. While the search for a permanent successor is ongoing, the Board of Supervisors this week tapped Sarah Aghassi to serve in an interim role. Aghassi, a longtime county employee, most recently held the title of Deputy Chief Administrative Officer and General Manager for the County’s Land Use and Environment Group.
STATE PROJECTING $37.9 BILLION DEFICIT
The State is now facing a projected $37.9 billion deficit, which has been attributed to weaker-than-expected revenue, delayed tax deadlines, and overspending. The projected deficit is significantly less than the approximately $68 billion projected last month. After outlining a $291.5 billion budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2024-25, Governor Gavin Newsom requested access to the state's rainy day fund to offset lost revenue. The proposal anticipates using over $13 billion from reserves and $8.5 billion in spending cuts. To learn more, click HERE.
KEY SAN DIEGO CITY COUNCIL COMMITTEE POSITIONS CONFIRMED
Proposed appointments to City of Diego Council Committees have been adopted by the city council. The nine committees cover a myriad of issue areas and provide an arena for discussing items before they reach a full city council vote. The annual process of appointing members to serve on each committee is an important one, especially given that committee chairs hold immense sway in dictating what may or may not be docketed and how the rules of order are governed. The proposed committee leadership and composition is as follows:
- Active Transportation and Infrastructure Committee: Stephen Whitburn (Chair), Joe LaCava (Vice Chair), Kent Lee, and Marni von Wilpert
- Audit Committee: Vivian Moreno (Chair) and Stephen Whitburn
- Budget and Government Efficiency Committee: Kent Lee (Chair), Vivian Moreno (Vice Chair), Sean Elo-Rivera, and Joe LaCava
- Community and Neighborhood Services Committee: Jennifer Campbell (Chair), Marni von Wilpert (Vice Chair), and Raul Campillo
- Economic Development & Intergovernmental Relations Committee: Raul Campillo (Chair), Kent Lee (Vice Chair) and Jennifer Campbell
- Environment Committee: Joe LaCava (Chair), Marni von Wilpert (Vice Chair), Jen Campbell
- Land Use and Housing Committee: Kent Lee (Chair), Joe LaCava (Vice Chair), Vivian Moreno, Stephen Whitburn
- Public Safety Committee: Marni von Wilpert (Chair), Raul Campillo (Vice Chair), Jennifer Campbell, Stephen Whitburn
- Rules Committee: Sean Elo-Rivera (Chair), Joe LaCava (Vice Chair), Kent Lee, Vivian Moreno, Raul Campillo
Notably, Councilmember Kent Lee will assume leadership positions in two of the most influential committees: the Budget and Government Efficiency Committee and the Land Use and Housing Committee. To learn more about council committees and the role committee members play, click HERE.
CITY OF EL CAJON MULLING SALES TAX MEASUREEl Cajon is taking steps toward placing a measure on the 2024 ballot to extend the city's half-cent sales tax, which is currently set to end in 2029. The City Council approved a $182,000 polling contract to gauge public opinion on extending the sales tax and to convey the impacts if the measure doesn't pass. The current sales tax generates over $13 million annually. Last year, the city attempted to increase the sales tax to a full cent, but the ballot measure failed to garner the necessary two-thirds vote. To learn more, click HERE.