Mayor Kevin Faulconer has made big commitments in his State of the City speeches – ranging from housing 1,000 homeless veterans to a surprising pledge to end Alzheimer’s disease.
We checked in on the status of some of his more memorable promises from his past State of the City addresses.
The 2016 Promises
The Pledge: “I’m proud to announce the Housing Our Heroes initiative – a call to action to help 1,000 homeless veterans get the housing they deserve!”
The Progress: The Housing Our Heroes initiative kicked off last spring with a goal of housing 1,000 veterans by March 2017. Since then, about 470 homeless veterans have found homes. About 280 are searching for housing, which brings us to the big challenge the program’s faced: finding homes for veterans with vouchers in hand. The city’s set aside millions of dollars for cash incentives with the goal of spurring landlords to house the homeless veterans but more landlords must step up to help Faulconer reach his goal to house 1,000 veterans.
The Pledge: Help 100 more San Diegans get high school diplomas through the San Diego Public Library’s Career Online High School program.
The Progress: The Career Online High School, run through the San Diego Public Library, provides full scholarships to qualified adult learners who want to earn their high school diploma or a career certificate online. Faulconer allocated funds for the creation of the Career Online High School program and the scholarships.
In the past year, 25 students have graduated from the Career Online High School and 101 students are currently enrolled.
The Pledge: Create a new website that will allow you to report a pothole, or look up library hours.
The Progress: Faulconer launched a new, improved website last year that boasted many of these features and provided a sorely needed aesthetic makeover of sandiego.gov.
The city also launched the Get It Done app, which made it easier to report potholes or other basic infrastructure problems to the right department, as the mayor discussed in his speech.
An app was just one of the things the city committed to implementing, however, after a 2015 audit recommended creating a centralized system to handle such complaints. It also suggested a new 311 phone line; in cities like San Francisco that have both an app and a phone line, residents enter complaints over the phone far more than through the app. Such lines have also been shown to alleviate wait times for 911 calls, which was a major problem in the city last year.
As of June, Faulconer’s staff was dragging its feet in implementing the 311 call line, but hadn’t said outright that it no longer planned to do it. This fall, city staff recommended the City Council implement the full service, including the 311 call line.
The Pledge: Partner with the San Diego Unified School District, Northrup Grumman, Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute and Raytheon to launch five labs in 2016 that offer local youth hands-on learning opportunities.
The Progress: Four Learning Labs are up and running – two through the San Diego Unified School District and others by Raytheon and SeaWorld. Three more are being discussed with other companies.
The Pledge: Streamline permitting process at City Hall so you can open a business, remodel a home or get a permit without unnecessary delay.
The Progess: Permit processing times have improved at the city in recent years, a trend that began before Faulconer’s speech last year. Last fall, the city also launched a beta version of a website that would let a business owner enter a few details about a company and where it’s located to assess what new permits were needed to alter existing offices. The city intends to expand that service in the future.
The Pledge: “San Diego will find a cure for Alzheimer’s! As mayor, my job is to create an environment where opportunities are plentiful and people can realize their dreams.”
Faulconer said he wanted to establish San Diego as the nation’s top medical research hub” for Alzheimer’s disease
The Progress: San Diego hasn’t found a cure for Alzheimer’s.
But Faulconer’s been one of several regional leaders trying to establish San Diego as an Alzheimer’s-fighting hotspot. In October 2015, he was on hand for the launch of Collaboration4Cure, a grant program to encourage local researchers to pursue new drug and treatments for Alzheimer’s. He’s also been a cheerleader for San Diego County’s Alzheimer’s Project.
In the midst of these efforts, UC San Diego’s been engaged in a legal fight with USC after the Los Angeles school scooped up a top Alzheimer’s research team working on a major clinical trial on a potentially game-changing Alzheimer’s drug.
The Pledge: “We’re going to get local employers involved in hiring San Diego’s young adults. Tonight, we are launching the One San Diego 100 – a campaign to unite 100 local businesses to offer jobs to San Diego high school and college students. With a focus on our low-income neighborhoods.”
Faulconer committed to work with those businesses to employ 1,000 San Diegans.
The Progress: A mayor’s office spokeswoman said 1,035 youth have been placed in jobs and internships and 97 businesses have signed up for the program so far.
The Pledge: “We will put a legally defensible plan on the ballot to finance this (Convention Center expansion). It’s time to settle this once and for all – and get the Convention Center expanded.”
The Progress: This never happened – well, at least as the mayor originally envisioned it.
The Chargers pushed a failed ballot measure to build a convadium and Faulconer endorsed it late in the game. The debate over that measure swallowed up long-running discussions about expanding the current Convention Center.
Now, two years later, the prospects for the expansion are bleak despite hoteliers’ continued determination. Many prominent Convention Center expansion backers have changed their minds. The city no longer even controls the land needed for an expansion and those who do hope to build a hotel there.
The 2015 Promises
The Pledge: Assemble a group of San Diego companies, educators, innovators and workplace experts to develop an action plan to “help San Diegans move into the middle class and encourage our innovative companies to hire locally.”
Faulconer said the group would “recommend concrete actions and solutions” within six months.
The Progress: The mayor pulled together a group of civic leaders, educators and experts and dubbed them his OpportunityWorks task force. The task force produced a March 2016 report outlining steps the city could take to support San Diego’s growing innovation economy and more expansive job market. The report made eight recommendations and listed priorities, some broad, like setting “a summer jobs or youth employment goal.” The report didn’t propose a concrete action plan as promised.
The Pledge: Gather a team of civic leaders to recommend a location and a viable financing plan for a new Chargers stadium. “This is my commitment: For the first time, this year, we will have a real plan to consider for a new stadium. This is San Diego’s team and San Diegans will have the final say with a public vote.”
The Progress: Faulconer appointed a citizens task force, which did come up with a location and a financing plan for a new Chargers stadium.
But the Chargers rejected both the task force’s initial plan and another Faulconer later proposed.
Ultimately voters did get a chance to weigh in – on a plan proposed by the Chargers. They roundly rejected it and on Thursday, the Chargers announced their impending move to Los Angeles.
The Pledge: “This year, our goal is to have an indoor care center – providing shelter and services for 350 homeless men and women, especially our veterans. And it will be available every single night of the year.”
The Progress: The city opened its new, year-round shelter at Father Joe’s Villages Paul Mirabile Center in April 2015 and began offering up the full slate of beds that July. The indoor facility replaced winter tents operated by Alpha Project and Veterans Village of San Diego.
In the nearly two years since the year-round shelter opened, the city and Father Joe’s have struggled to find permanent homes for homeless clients and street homelessness in the area around the year-round shelter has more than doubled.
The Pledge: “We will make the (managed competition) program faster, more equitable and more effective.”
The Progress: Shortly after he was elected, Faulconer said he’d issue recommendations to simplify managed competition, a city outsourcing option approved by voters in 2006. Those recommendations have yet to emerge publicly and the city hasn’t pursued any competitions.
The Pledge: “I’m proud to announce the ‘Innovate San Diego Challenge,’ a collaboration with U-T San Diego and HeroX. This year, I will ask San Diego residents to join me in embracing our biggest challenges and opportunities. Housing. Entrepreneurship. Creating a 21st century workforce. The best solution will receive private funding to put their proposal into action.”
The Pledge: “Working with Infrastructure Committee Chair Mark Kersey, we will create the first-ever multiple-year plan for truly repairing our neighborhoods.”
The Progress: Faulconer and Kersey released the city’s first multi-year capital plan laying out the city’s infrastructure repair needs and a roadmap to address them the week after his 2015 State of the City address.
Andrew Keatts and Mario Koran contributed to this story.
Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the date by which the mayor sought to house 1,000 veterans. It is March 2017.
Correction: An earlier version of this post said the mayor proposed a ballot measure to fund a Convention Center expansion during his 2015 speech. He made the promise during his 2016 speech.