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Welcome to the 2016 campaign season.
Not really, but I did have a long talk with Council President Todd Gloria on this week’s podcast about some of the biggest issues facing San Diego and how they’ll materialize following Tuesday’s election.
One major issue he helped usher through the City Council — an increase of the minimum wage in San Diego — will be on the ballot in 2016.
Minimum wage hikes passed in four red states this week (Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota), as well as in San Francisco and Oakland, giving proponents of San Diego’s wage hike reason for optimism.
Podcast co-host Scott Lewis recently has challenged local Republicans who oppose the hike to propose an alternative – any alternative – that represents their suggestion for how the city should deal with the fact that many working San Diegans can barely afford to live in San Diego.
I put a similar question to Gloria, based on recent comments from Los Angeles’ Democratic Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Housing costs in L.A. are simply too high for most people, Garcetti said, so the city needs to build 100,000 new homes by 2021. The dramatic increase in supply will push prices down, he said, and along with his push to raise the minimum wage, combat poverty in the city.
Does San Diego need a similar coordinated push to confront the city’s housing costs, something more specific and direct than the city’s development plan, which says the city should direct new development into the city’s urban core, but which hasn’t produced much in the way of results?
“I’ve never represented that minimum wage is the only part of this overall agenda,” Gloria said. “It’s just one component part that’s very necessary as folks grapple with the fact that, rising energy costs, rising water costs, rising housing costs, all these things have to be addressed. My hope was we could address minimum wage and then move on to these other component parts.”
On housing costs, though, San Diego hasn’t done a good enough job of articulating a clear vision for how it intends to address the problem. Gloria agreed, but said opposition is related to another gigantic issue facing the city: its massive list of infrastructure needs.
“I think in every case, no matter your political stripe, the anger about enriching developers is often about the fact that, ya know, my neighborhood looks the same as it did 30 years ago, just older,” Gloria said. “And the city’s done nothing to help it. So why should I have to deal with greater traffic, more density, more people, more noise, if you’re not doing something to fix my sidewalk, or my street, or expand the park, or fix the library up or the fire station? And those are valid concerns. I don’t know that it necessarily means we shouldn’t do development, particularly when you know that much of those infrastructure improvements are funded through developer fees.”
Broken promises on infrastructure improvements are undoubtedly a major source of opposition to new development.
But another recurring one is that any individual project, and its, say, 250 new apartments, can’t possibly have an effect on the city’s housing costs, so why should we support something that’s really just going to make developers rich at the expense of our quality of life?
Gloria said that’s what’s important about a citywide plan that defines an overall objective — something like Garcetti’s plan to build 100,000 homes by 2021.
“The goal here is not about simply enriching developers, although I support free enterprise and, God bless you, you should be able to make a little bit of money in the work that you do,” Gloria said. “But it has to be targeted to broader goals, whether that is the housing goal, and the affordability issue that you’re raising, our responsibility to the environment and our natural resources, the preservation of them or just neighborhood revitalization, there are a number of ways we can help to explain why some of these projects are necessary, and that we all have to do our part.”
Give a listen to the rest of the interview. We also discussed the politics of the minimum wage hike in 2016, and how this week’s election results will affect the dynamics on the City Council and how it interacts with Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
If you’re interested in sponsoring the podcast, please reach out to Emily Tillson.