The Morning Report
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The city of San Diego and the county are both falling short of the funds they need to fulfill their pensions obligations, but they’re not the only public entities in town in trouble.
VOSD’s Ashley McGlone details the 10 worst-funded pension plans in the county – all of which only have 60 to 70 percent of the funds they need to pay out their retirement promises to their current and former employees.
When the city of San Diego reached that level, it kicked off a decade of political upheaval and high pension bills have been the reality ever since. A big bill next year is blamed for an impending budget shortfall.
The city of San Diego’s local pension fund is currently 70 percent funded, and the county pension fund is 71.5 percent funded.
At the bottom is Valley Center Municipal Water District. The water agency’s total pension liabilities exceed $49 million, but with only $30 million in assets, leaving the agency a nearly $19 million unfunded liability.
Otay Water District and the City of El Cajon’s safety employee pension plans follow. Also included on the list are the city of Chula Vista, the city of San Marcos, Padre Dam and San Diego Regional Association of Governments (on top of its other revenue issues that we’ve previously reported on).
To keep up with its payments, the general manager for Valley Center Municipal Water District, said he is likely to ask employees to contribute more towards their pensions when contract negotiations open again in two years.
Sacramento Report: San Diego’s Partisan Split Over Gas Tax
Late Thursday, the state legislature approved its first increase in the gas tax in 23 years. Along with increased vehicle fees, it’ll raise $5.2 billion a year to repair the state’s roads, highways and bridges.
In this week’s Sacramento Report, I explain what the transportation bill says it will do and lay out where San Diego legislators stood on the legislation.
VOSD’s Ry Rivard also took a look at Assemblyman Brian Maeinschein’s bill to improve Denti-Cal.
Podcast: Why We Should Care About the Convention Center
Gil Cabrera, vice chair of the San Diego Convention Center Corporation, joined hosts Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts on this week’s podcast to make the argument for why voters should care about the Convention Center expansion.
In November, San Diegans will be voting on a proposed hotel tax hike that would go towards funding a Convention Center expansion, road repairs and projects and services to help alleviate homelessness. The bulk of the money would go towards the estimated $650 million bay-front expansion of the Convention Center.
Cabrera said that the center could have a huge economic benefit for the city and that tourists would be footing the bill.
Lewis and Keatts also discussed the historic building boom in East Village and how the 2018 election is starting to take shape.
Op-Ed: Granny Flats Can Help Solve Housing Crisis
In an op-ed for VOSD, Mark Powell, one of the board of directors for the San Diego Association of Realtors, makes a case for why making it easier to build and permit granny flats can help the region address its housing woes.
Accessory dwelling units – or granny flats as they’re more commonly called – are smaller, independent units on the same property as a single family home. These units are, in general, more naturally affordable than houses or apartments because of their size.
Powell writes that San Diego municipal codes have yet to be updated to be in line with SB 1069, a state bill signed last year by California Gov. Jerry Brown that sought to reduce barriers facing homeowners who seek to build granny flats.
San Diego’s City Council, Powell argues, should go above and beyond to reduce as many barriers as possible to building granny flats.
Brown: Drought Over
Gov. Jerry Brown declared an end to the drought emergency in 54 of California’s 58 counties.
On Friday after an unusually wet winter, the governor said, “This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner.”
Brown still considers there to be an emergency in Fresno, Kings, Tulare and Tuolumne counties. Ironically, rural Tuolumne is home to part of the Sierra mountains, the source of much of the state’s water, but that water is exported out of the county and used by farmers and city slickers elsewhere in California.
The San Diego County Water Authority, which has been lobbying for the governor to declare an end to the drought for over a year, praised the decision. Environmentalists have expressed concern that California could face another drought soon enough, so we must continue to find ways to save water.
Remnants of the drought linger, though: Gloria Sandoval, a spokeswoman for the state’s parks department, said they have yet to determine if and when they would turn the free showers back on at state parks, like San Elijo State Beach in Cardiff.
Brown first declared an emergency in January 2014. In April 2015, he ordered urban water customers to cut their water use by a quarter as it became clear a historic drought was covering the state.
— Ry Rivard
Quick News Hits
• Southern California Edison has agreed to start negotiations over relocating tons of radioactive waste from the North County coastline. (Union-Tribune)
• A major development proposal across from Fashion Valley that would include 243 apartments, 70 condos and shops will be considered by the city’s Planning Commission later this month. (10 news)
• Encinitas is trying to expand alcohol restrictions (Union-Tribune)
• Feeding San Diego hired the ex-Chief of Staff of former Mayor Bob Filner, Vince Hall, as its new CEO. It gives a definitive answer to the long-running food bank merger debate – that Feeding San Diego isn’t interested in a full-on merger with the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank.
• The California Public Utilities Commission has given the OK to Sempra Energy to lobby government agencies that are considering buying their power from someone other than Sempra subsidiary San Diego Gas & Electric. The state limits the lobbying utilities can do in this area. Recent activity by Sempra lobbyists triggered an investigation by the state energy regulators. (CPUC)
The Week’s Top Stories
These were the most popular Voice of San Diego stories for the week of Apr. 1-Apr. 7. Click here to see the full top 10.
1. Undocumented and Upper Class: A House in Bay Park, But No Hope of a Green Card
Jose and Linda own 11 properties, including a home in an affluent neighborhood overlooking Mission Bay. But despite achieving financial success and marrying a U.S. citizen, Jose is now a priority for deportation. (Mario Koran)
2. Goodbye Warehouses, Hello High-Rises: Look at the Massive East Village Building Boom
East Village is in the midst of an unprecedented building boom. People of the neighborhood are filled with hopes, and concerns, about how the neighborhood will look once the cranes come down. (Kinsee Morlan)
3. The 20 Schools in San Diego Unified Facing the Most Teacher Layoffs
Looming layoffs at the San Diego Unified School District would disproportionately hit lower-income schools. Of the 20 schools facing the most layoffs, 13 have a student body with at least 75 percent of kids receiving subsidized lunch. (Mario Koran)
4. New and Improved (and Taxpayer-Funded) FieldTurf Fields Are Still Failing
School districts spent a lot on fancy turf fields, then bought expensive upgrades when they fell apart. Now, those premium fields are falling apart, too. (Ashly McGlone)
5. Mayor Tosses Proposals for the Old Central Library, Which Now Could Become a Homeless Shelter
The city asked for proposals for the old Central Library, which has been vacant since the new one opened in 2013. Three groups responded but the mayor tossed them out. Now a new group of power brokers is scoping the property out for use as a temporary shelter for the homeless. (Lisa Halverstadt)