An alternative to the city of San Diego’s high-profile pension reform initiative won’t make the ballot.

Council President Tony Young said he will not allow discussion on a proposal released this week by City Councilman David Alvarez, effectively killing the plan.

“I just don’t see trying to rush something on the ballot, especially something like this,” Young said.

Alvarez’s plan mirrors a pension reform initiative already on the June ballot, except it caps new employees’ maximum pensions at $99,999 instead of shifting them to 401(k)s. Because Alvarez’s plan calls for changes to worker retirement plans, it requires negotiations known as “meet and confer” with city unions before it could face voters. The council has until March 9 to place measures on the ballot.

“If you’re going to do a true meet and confer and not a fake one, it’s going to take longer than three weeks,” Young said.

Alvarez, a Democrat, proposed his alternative to undercut the Republican and business-backed initiative that made the ballot following a $1.1 million campaign to qualify it. His measure has the advantage of saving more money in the short term by eschewing the estimated $94 million cost to transition to a 401(k) system. Backers of the original initiative argue that the price tag is worth it to guarantee greater retirement cost certainty.

Even if Alvarez had proposed his plan earlier, Young said he wasn’t sure he would have allowed a discussion on it. Young said he was concerned that Alvarez’s proposal could be seen as an attempt to weaken the existing measure.

“There’s a risk that the council will be placed in a position where we’re there to confuse the public,” Young said.

Young said he remains undecided about whether he’ll support the existing initiative and is waiting for a city financial analysis. Supporters of the measure have argued it will save at least $1 billion over the next three decades. But their analysis was released before new figures from the city’s retirement system revealed lower than expected pension payments going forward.

Liam Dillon is a news reporter for He covers San Diego City Hall, the 2012 mayor’s race and big building projects. What should he write about next?

Please contact him directly at or 619.550.5663.

Like VOSD on Facebook.

Liam Dillon was formerly a senior reporter and assistant editor for Voice of San Diego. He led VOSD’s investigations and wrote about how regular people...

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.