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San Diego’s four major mayoral candidates have broad jobs ideas. To help you understand what they’re proposing, we’ve defined their plans, explained their key ideas and called out potential weaknesses in a series of posts. See our posts on Bonnie Dumanis, Bob Filner, Nathan Fletcher and our introduction.
The Candidate: Carl DeMaio
The Word: Cut
DeMaio believes the biggest barrier to economic development in San Diego is government in San Diego.
“The mentality of elected officials and city regulatory officials, state regulatory officials, is that businesses are ATM machines,” DeMaio told an entrepreneurs’ group in December.
DeMaio founded and sold two government consulting companies before being elected to City Council in 2008. He’s tried to cast himself as the champion of business while deriding other politicians as money grubbers hostile to industry interests.
His plan focuses on cutting business permitting rules and development fees and radically changing contracting rules to promote outsourcing of city services. He packages his philosophy in a glossy 100-page plan, but the pitch is simple: Companies hire more people when government charges them less to do business.
The Ideas: Like he does on other big issues, DeMaio separates himself from the rest of the field with his details.
Who knew, for instance, that in some cases you need a special permit to park two cars in front of each other in one space at new housing developments? DeMaio wants to eliminate that permit to promote greater density. It’s a small restriction, but also one that Marney Cox, chief economist at the San Diego Association of Governments, independently called out as hindering growth during last week’s committee hearing. Cox said parking rules account for a huge difference in building costs.
Most of DeMaio’s substantive changes involve reducing or eliminating fees and reorganizing the city’s permitting and contracting bureaucracy.
Every homeowner who wants to put solar panels on their home pays up to $445 for city staff to review and inspect their installation. DeMaio wants to eliminate that fee entirely. When commercial and industrial developers build in the city they have to pay a fee to promote affordable housing. For example, Walmart just announced it planned to open a 75,000-square foot store in Otay Mesa. Under current rules, it would owe the city $48,000 for affordable housing. DeMaio wants to eliminate that fee, too.
Similarly, he wants to give the mayor the authority to waive fees and regulations on particular projects if they create jobs.
DeMaio wants to make it easier for contractors to win bids for city services and bring in private firms to compete with San Diego’s entire streets and permitting departments. The latter is part of his proposal to reorganize city permitting, redevelopment, small business and housing departments under a deputy mayor for job creation. This plan aims to save businesses money and time by granting them city permits quicker.
DeMaio’s rebranding effort extends to advocacy. He wants to market the city as: “San Diego — The Perfect Climate for Business” to promote awareness of his reforms.
The Weaknesses: How much is too much?
Companies look at the costs of doing business in a city before deciding to relocate or expand there and local economists have said the city could do a much better job with permitting and land-use rules to lessen the burden on businesses.
But there’s more to it than that. Companies increasingly also are looking for a strong quality of life for their employees. By sharply reducing the fees businesses pay, DeMaio could be reducing the city’s ability to maintain San Diego’s quality of life.
“There’s a balancing act,” said Erik Bruvold, who heads the National University think tank. “We could cut those fees to the bone, but then traffic would suck, we wouldn’t have parks and libraries wouldn’t be open.”
Next up: Bonnie Dumanis
Liam Dillon is a news reporter for voiceofsandiego.org. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.550.5663.
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