5 Things Kevin Faulconer Has Done

5 Things Kevin Faulconer Has Done

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Kevin Faulconer at a mayoral debate in Barrio Logan.

Mayoral candidate Kevin Faulconer is the city’s most veteran councilman so he’s had plenty of time to establish a record.

Faulconer represents many of the city’s beach communities, including Mission Beach, Pacific Beach and Point Loma and has been vocal about several citywide initiatives since he took office in January 2006.

That’s not to say he won’t need to boost his profile to win the mayor’s race. Even Faulconer has admitted as much.

Here’s a look at five things Faulconer has worked on or promoted since he was elected to the City Council.

Bolstered Park Funding

A decade ago, the City Council approved a plan that appeared likely to funnel lease revenue from businesses on Mission Bay toward improvements at Mission Bay Park.

But Faulconer, who once chaired the Mission Bay Park Committee, and others learned that was rarely the case.

Though the ordinance was supposed to set aside a percentage of that lease revenue for parks, it didn’t mandate that, and the city could technically use the money for other purposes.

Shortly after Faulconer was elected to the City Council, he approached former Councilwoman Donna Frye about the issue, which had long frustrated residents and park users. Portions of the park fell in both their City Council districts.

Frye and Faulconer soon began working together to draft an initiative to ensure city parks got the money they’d been promised. Not everyone was thrilled with the idea.

“There was quite a bit of pushback, not just from many of our colleagues but from management because they wanted to have the money and the freedom to do what they wanted with it,” Frye said.

The result, Frye and other proponents say, was lots of compromising. For example, the final version of the initiative allowed other regional parks to get funding too.

Voters agreed with Faulconer and Frye on the need for reform. About 67 percent of them approved the measure, known as Proposition C, in 2008.

Thanks in part to the initiative, the city set aside about $2.4 million for Mission Bay Park improvements and another $2.5 million for other regional park projects in 2012.

A Break with the GOP Bloc

In May 2011, former Mayor Jerry Sanders reached a blockbuster agreement with the city’s unions to cut health care benefits for staffers post-retirement.

Sanders and Democratic City Council members hailed the unprecedented 15-year deal, saying it would save the city more than $320 million. Though it would preserve benefits for retirees, the plan called for city workers to begin contributing to their retiree health care benefits for the first time.

But City Council Republicans Carl DeMaio and Lorie Zapf weren’t having it.

They said the cost savings didn’t go far enough. DeMaio and Zapf argued employees were receiving benefits far cushier than the San Diego taxpayers footing the bill. DeMaio, who held a press conference the day the deal was announced, also raised concerns about potential lawsuits and said the city might be unable to pay all its bills in the future.

Five City Council Democrats, while cautious of the city’s past financial stumbles, committed to support the deal but Sanders needed another vote to seal its fate.

Faulconer joined the Democrats after assurances from City Attorney Jan Goldsmith that it was best to go with the deal rather than risk a loss in court, and that the City Council could reopen the agreement in 2014 if it proved problematic.

“Our city attorney made an analogy to gambling and what you can have and what you can’t have but from my standpoint, I have not been and am not interested in rhetoric,” Faulconer said before casting the crucial vote in support of the deal. “I’m interested in results and I’m interested in guaranteed savings for taxpayers.”

Banning Alcohol on Beaches

San Diego was long among the only cities in the state to allow alcohol on its beaches and Faulconer supported the city’s decision.

After he was elected, Faulconer formed a task force on beach issues that decided against an all-out ban.

But Faulconer’s position changed after a drunken melee on Labor Day 2007 that led police to show up in riot gear.

Faulconer called for a booze ban immediately after that fight and pushed fellow City Council members to halt beach drinking for a year. He was later the driving force behind a permanent ban that voters approved in 2008.

So what’s been the effect?

Here’s what we wrote in a recent post examining the measure:

Since 2008, alcohol crime has gone down at the beaches, though no one can say whether the ban’s the cause. Beach businesses seem to have suffered, too, though it’s similarly difficult to nail down whether the ban is responsible for the slump.

Several businesses opposed the permanent beach ban as Faulconer campaigned for it, and at least some have argued it’s affected their bottom line.

Mark Arabo of the La Mesa-based Neighborhood Market Association, which represents groceries and some liquor stores, said one Ocean Beach grocer saw a 30 percent drop in customers in the wake of the ban. Arabo and other business leaders are hesitant to blame decreased business solely on the ban — the overall economy certainly plays a role, too, as well as other factors — but most acknowledge it’s had at least some impact.

Faulconer stands by his push to ban alcohol. He recently told VOSD it’s made city beaches cleaner and safer.

“From my standpoint, I’ve never looked back, nor has the community,” he said.

Pushing Pension Reform

Years after San Diego’s pension woes made national news, city Republicans and business leaders struggled to agree on the best route for reform.

Faulconer stood beside Sanders as he announced what he called their preferred plan in March 2011, which aimed to replace new employees’ pensions with 401(k) plans for non-public safety workers.

Both men said pension plans were crucial for public-safety employees because 401(k)-style plans wouldn’t provide sufficient death and disability coverage, and would harm recruitment.

Meanwhile, DeMaio floated a plan that switched all new workers to 401(k) plans, attempted to cap staffers’ base pay and mandated that future pay increases come in the form of non-pensionable bonuses. An attorney working with Sanders and Faulconer said that plan could be found illegal.

For a time, it appeared both measures would end up on the ballot but the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and the Lincoln Club of San Diego County pushed the two sides to agree to a single measure. Sanders and Faulconer initially refused to speak directly to DeMaio but ultimately, the two groups reached a deal.

Faulconer and Sanders got only some of what they wanted. The final version of the measure later known as Proposition B exempted police officers and provided death benefits for firefighters but also relied on DeMaio’s preferred tack for its primary cost-savings: the five-year pensionable pay freeze for all city staffers.

Faulconer and fellow Republicans campaigned heavily for the measure ahead of the June 2012 election. About 66 percent of city voters ultimately supported it.

Big Land Swap

It was 2009, and the Barnes Tennis Center in Point Loma was eager to build.

The facility, operated by the nonprofit Youth Tennis San Diego, had received large donations to build an education center that would allow it to expand its after-school and summer programs for children.

Executive Director Linn Walker and others soon learned the expansion wouldn’t come easy. The land they hoped to use was considered a protected tideland under the state Coastal Act.

In 1992, the Coastal Commission agreed to allow the group to build its tennis center if the facility and the city did one thing: work with the State Lands Commission to find another property that could be protected in exchange for allowing the tennis project to go forward.

That never happened.

Supporters contacted Faulconer in March 2009, hoping he could help them wade through layers of regulation.

He and City Council staffers made many phone calls to state regulators, hoping to help the nonprofit.

By July, Faulconer, a council district staffer and a few other tennis center supporters flew to the state capitol to meet with State Lands Commission officials to discuss a solution.

The following month, city and state workers started working together on a plan to declare a 31-acre wetland area in Point Loma known as the Famosa Slough (which also happens to be a popular bird-watching spot) a protected area in exchange for allowing development on the tennis center property.

The City Council and the State Lands Commission later approved the plan, allowing the tennis group to build its education center. The Booth Education Center opened in late 2012.

Walker believes the opening could have been delayed much longer without Faulconer’s assistance.

“He just started to see what he could do to help us along and eventually it was lots of help,” Walker said.

More than 5,000 children now use the tennis facility annually and Faulconer visits often, she said.

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Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa Halverstadt

Lisa Halverstadt is a reporter at Voice of San Diego. Know of something she should check out? You can contact her directly at lisa@vosd.org or 619.325.0528.

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31 comments
Ed Harris
Ed Harris subscriber

Let me know when you want to take a swim.

Ed Harris
Ed Harris subscriber

Your comparison of San Diego to Clear Water Florida clearly shows your lack of knowledge when it comes to surf rescue. Do some comparisons on surf and topography. We rescue lots of people that learned to swim at 5, but lack an understanding of currents and surf. We rescue "rescue swimmers" from the military who are in great shape but do not know how the surf zone works. Each year we rescue tourists that get swept off or fall off the rocks in LJ or Sunset cliffs, they are not drunk, just out on a walk. You are correct that not all the 5,000 rescues would have resulted in fatalities, but many would.

Ed Harris
Ed Harris subscriber

Some towns in Florida outsourced. Read up on it. They stopped outsourcing for good reason.

Ed Harris
Ed Harris subscriber

Many people live by the ocean and fail to understand it. Each part of the California coast is different. The way the currents pull, population and topography caused each city to approach beach safety differently. Because of the wide range of duties San Diego Lifeguards do, the city gets a great deal. SDLG perform over 6,000 water rescues per year, 60 cliff rescues and thousands of medical aids. In addition, we write citations on the beach and bay. This frees up more expensive police officers for other crimes. Lifeguards recover underwater evidence and bodies, stop boats from sinking and protect Mission Bay boats and marinas with two fire boats. Lifeguards are the lowest paid safety service, but have the highest injury rate. I can tell you that if it were not for professional lifeguards, we would see a lot of tragedy on our coast. Let me know when you want to take a ride or a swim. Maybe you would like the lowest bidder coming to get you.

Ed Harris
Ed Harris subscriber

I think you drank the punch.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Mayor has zero power in public schools, only Sacramento can change public schools, and Sacramento will never be anything but a union lapdog. As far as Lifeguards, they get too much already. Good going not to give in to them.

Don Wood
Don Wood

Kevin Falcouner should also get credit for chairing the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan Joint Powers Authority Board and helping lead the Port and the City's effort to upgrade our downtown waterfront. That said, his close financial ties to downtown developers and hotel owners bring into question his suitability to lead the city as mayor.

Don Wood
Don Wood subscriber

Kevin Falcouner should also get credit for chairing the North Embarcadero Visionary Plan Joint Powers Authority Board and helping lead the Port and the City's effort to upgrade our downtown waterfront. That said, his close financial ties to downtown developers and hotel owners bring into question his suitability to lead the city as mayor.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross

Kevin has done some positive things for his district outside of the downtown but he has erred in several major areas. His main focus has been on downtown which favors developers pocketbooks. He supported the unneeded strong mayor return to that corrupt form of 1920's San Diego government. That has led to adding an unneeded 9th council district all of which has added to our high cost of government. He also supported the fiscally irresponsible Jacobs/Sanders Balboa Park plan with no provision for maintenance of the historically destructive bypass bridge and the unneeded and underfunded parking garage (see IBA report). The latter was all in the face of Balboa Park's $240 million dollars in arrears in maintenance with the 2015 celebration at our doorstep.

Richard Ross
Richard Ross subscribermember

Kevin has done some positive things for his district outside of the downtown but he has erred in several major areas. His main focus has been on downtown which favors developers pocketbooks. He supported the unneeded strong mayor return to that corrupt form of 1920's San Diego government. That has led to adding an unneeded 9th council district all of which has added to our high cost of government. He also supported the fiscally irresponsible Jacobs/Sanders Balboa Park plan with no provision for maintenance of the historically destructive bypass bridge and the unneeded and underfunded parking garage (see IBA report). The latter was all in the face of Balboa Park's $240 million dollars in arrears in maintenance with the 2015 celebration at our doorstep.

Ed Harris
Ed Harris subscriber

If you are looking for a champion for your issues Kevin will not be it. Lifeguards could not get him to champion public safety at the beaches. He voted to cut staff, training and hours. We went to him over the last 4 years to get a new fire/rescue boat to protect Mission Bay. While he is always verbally supportive of issues, he does not champion the issues or follow through and push to get them done. He will if it benefits big business, but not for the neighborhoods. This has been true of trash pick up in Mission and Pacific Beaches, Police staff and the selling of the Mission Beach school.

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin

The Beach Ban was an example of cutting ones foot off because of a sore toe. The Majority of Law abiding beach goers having a beer or a glass of wine having their liberties revoked because of an incident. No effort on Faulconer's part to protect the liberties of the Majority through compromise but rather use the momentum of the incident to cast a dark shadow on the majority of law abiding citizens as part of his overall quest to appease Factions of the community that Wanted the Ban. Big negative in my book. His Arrogant response Seems to indicate just how much he values the average citizens perspective. Average Joe doesn't count with him.

Mark Giffin
Mark Giffin subscribermember

The Beach Ban was an example of cutting ones foot off because of a sore toe. The Majority of Law abiding beach goers having a beer or a glass of wine having their liberties revoked because of an incident. No effort on Faulconer's part to protect the liberties of the Majority through compromise but rather use the momentum of the incident to cast a dark shadow on the majority of law abiding citizens as part of his overall quest to appease Factions of the community that Wanted the Ban. Big negative in my book. His Arrogant response Seems to indicate just how much he values the average citizens perspective. Average Joe doesn't count with him.

Judy Neufeld-Fernandez
Judy Neufeld-Fernandez

Public Education Safety Advocates are looking to Faulconer to be a champion of kids in schools. Currently, adults who harm children experience a safe haven in schools with a broken false "investigative" process that does little to separate dangerous adults from kids in schools. Parents are calling for independent investigations of abuse allegations within schools. LA in the wake of horrendous "sperm feeder" Mark Berndt is demanding the same. We need a mayor who will go Bloomberg/Villagrosa in regard to being a public safety advocate for kids in public schools. Is Faulconer up to taking this on? Will he forge new ground here or go silent?

Matt Finish
Matt Finish

He supported the beach ban after the media sensationalized the labor day fight by replaying the same 15 second clip several thousand times over. Which means he blows with the wind and is susceptible to emotional, biased media propaganda. He won't be receiving a vote from me.

Matt Finish
Matt Finish subscriber

He supported the beach ban after the media sensationalized the labor day fight by replaying the same 15 second clip several thousand times over. Which means he blows with the wind and is susceptible to emotional, biased media propaganda. He won't be receiving a vote from me.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Sorry Ed, but every overpaid public union employee claims some sort of voodoo reason to support their abusive costs. Other states do it cheaper, even without outsourcing. I'm looking at the budget right now, the city spent nearly $300k to restore 3 relief lifeguards, nearly $400k for four lifeguards at blacks beach (with binoculars no doubt). It's spending out of hand, abusive to the taxpayer, and it can be and should be reduced with no loss of safety. You guys sure don't need new toys, someone in charge needs to step back and look at what you cost and how the taxpayer can be treated more fairly.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Ed, I am a boater, swimmer at 5 years old and certified sport diver at 14. No one is going to need to come get me because I'm not a drunken idiot, but if someone does come tow me in due to mechanicals, I'll pay for it, if the coasties ever have cause to rescue me (which they never will), they get paid a lot less than you. Most of your 5,000 or so water rescues are unneeded, maybe all of them some years, and if citations need to be written do we really want someone drowning while the lifeguard is busy writing some petty ticket? Lifeguards have a purpose, a job, and it isn't a difficult one. It can be done well by someone who is paid like a civilian rather than like a public union taxpayer gouger. As far as outsourcing, the only recent news story I read about outsourced lifeguards was about Hallandale Florida, where they outsourced lifeguards, cut the amount they spent on lifeguards in half when they outsourced, and have had zero drownings since outsourcing. I looked at the drowning stats for here and for clearwater florida, where I have been, and where lifeguards make around $20k a year. They have had 0 guarded drownings since 1966, SD has had 37 in the same time period. Tell me what we are paying a lot more than $20k a year for again? Lifeguards who write tickets? No thanks.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Ed, I have lived by the ocean my whole life, much of it in other states. We spend WAY too much on lifeguards here, especially compared to other areas. Lifeguard isn't a job that requires a high paid, pensioned staff, and we are foolish to get suckered in by unions into making those life guard towers golden thrones. Outsource it, that would serve the public better.

Ed Harris
Ed Harris

Let me know when you want to take a swim.

Ed Harris
Ed Harris

Your comparison of San Diego to Clear Water Florida clearly shows your lack of knowledge when it comes to surf rescue. Do some comparisons on surf and topography. We rescue lots of people that learned to swim at 5, but lack an understanding of currents and surf. We rescue "rescue swimmers" from the military who are in great shape but do not know how the surf zone works. Each year we rescue tourists that get swept off or fall off the rocks in LJ or Sunset cliffs, they are not drunk, just out on a walk. You are correct that not all the 5,000 rescues would have resulted in fatalities, but many would.

Ed Harris
Ed Harris

Some towns in Florida outsourced. Read up on it. They stopped outsourcing for good reason.

Ed Harris
Ed Harris

Many people live by the ocean and fail to understand it. Each part of the California coast is different. The way the currents pull, population and topography caused each city to approach beach safety differently. Because of the wide range of duties San Diego Lifeguards do, the city gets a great deal. SDLG perform over 6,000 water rescues per year, 60 cliff rescues and thousands of medical aids. In addition, we write citations on the beach and bay. This frees up more expensive police officers for other crimes. Lifeguards recover underwater evidence and bodies, stop boats from sinking and protect Mission Bay boats and marinas with two fire boats. Lifeguards are the lowest paid safety service, but have the highest injury rate. I can tell you that if it were not for professional lifeguards, we would see a lot of tragedy on our coast. Let me know when you want to take a ride or a swim. Maybe you would like the lowest bidder coming to get you.

Ed Harris
Ed Harris

I think you drank the punch.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Mayor has zero power in public schools, only Sacramento can change public schools, and Sacramento will never be anything but a union lapdog. As far as Lifeguards, they get too much already. Good going not to give in to them.

Ed Harris
Ed Harris

If you are looking for a champion for your issues Kevin will not be it. Lifeguards could not get him to champion public safety at the beaches. He voted to cut staff, training and hours. We went to him over the last 4 years to get a new fire/rescue boat to protect Mission Bay. While he is always verbally supportive of issues, he does not champion the issues or follow through and push to get them done. He will if it benefits big business, but not for the neighborhoods. This has been true of trash pick up in Mission and Pacific Beaches, Police staff and the selling of the Mission Beach school.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Sorry Ed, but every overpaid public union employee claims some sort of voodoo reason to support their abusive costs. Other states do it cheaper, even without outsourcing. I'm looking at the budget right now, the city spent nearly $300k to restore 3 relief lifeguards, nearly $400k for four lifeguards at blacks beach (with binoculars no doubt). It's spending out of hand, abusive to the taxpayer, and it can be and should be reduced with no loss of safety. You guys sure don't need new toys, someone in charge needs to step back and look at what you cost and how the taxpayer can be treated more fairly.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Ed, I am a boater, swimmer at 5 years old and certified sport diver at 14. No one is going to need to come get me because I'm not a drunken idiot, but if someone does come tow me in due to mechanicals, I'll pay for it, if the coasties ever have cause to rescue me (which they never will), they get paid a lot less than you. Most of your 5,000 or so water rescues are unneeded, maybe all of them some years, and if citations need to be written do we really want someone drowning while the lifeguard is busy writing some petty ticket? Lifeguards have a purpose, a job, and it isn't a difficult one. It can be done well by someone who is paid like a civilian rather than like a public union taxpayer gouger. As far as outsourcing, the only recent news story I read about outsourced lifeguards was about Hallandale Florida, where they outsourced lifeguards, cut the amount they spent on lifeguards in half when they outsourced, and have had zero drownings since outsourcing. I looked at the drowning stats for here and for clearwater florida, where I have been, and where lifeguards make around $20k a year. They have had 0 guarded drownings since 1966, SD has had 37 in the same time period. Tell me what we are paying a lot more than $20k a year for again? Lifeguards who write tickets? No thanks.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Ed, I have lived by the ocean my whole life, much of it in other states. We spend WAY too much on lifeguards here, especially compared to other areas. Lifeguard isn't a job that requires a high paid, pensioned staff, and we are foolish to get suckered in by unions into making those life guard towers golden thrones. Outsource it, that would serve the public better.