Stephen Russell is executive director of the San Diego Housing Federation. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Affordable-housing advocates are putting the brakes on a $900 million property-tax measure they had hoped could fund 7,500 homes for homeless and low-income San Diegans.

The San Diego Housing Federation said Monday it has decided to instead pursue the measure in 2020, when the group expects to face a less crowded ballot and a more favorable electorate.

Stephen Russell, the group’s executive director, said advocates became convinced they’d have a greater chance at success in two years.

Earlier this year, backers of a potentially competing tourism-tax hike had pressured the Housing Federation to back down out of fear both measures could fail in November.

Russell said challenges including a packed November ballot, including San Diego Unified’s recently announced school bond ultimately forced the decision.

  • The city could still see two other homelessness-related measures on the November ballot. The county Registrar of Voters is continuing to review signatures submitted earlier this month by the labor and business coalition backing a hotel-tax hike that would fund homelessness programs and a Convention Center expansion. The City Council is also expected to vote on City Councilman David Alvarez’s proposed 1 percent hotel-tax hike to bankroll homelessness programs in coming weeks.

What’s Up With the Water Department? We Should Have Answers Soon

For months now, San Diego residents have wondered just what is wrong with the city’s water department. Prompted by wildly high bills that customers began noticing last year, the department is now the subject of three separate audits and another internal review.

Already, the problems are prompting calls for changes at the department, Ry Rivard writes in this weel’s Environment Report.

“The water department has lost the public’s trust,” Councilman David Alvarez said in a statement.

In coming days, residents may finally get some answers as these audits become public. Two are by city staffers – one by the city auditor and the other by the Performance & Analytics Department – and the third is by an outside consultant, West Monroe. The exact problems the various auditors are looking at vary, but the general focus is on whether the department knows how much water each customer is using and can bill customers accordingly – a basic function of any utility. The audits will examine whether software and equipment are to blame.

Partially because of an investigation by Voice of San Diego and NBC 7 Responds, Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s administration also ordered another review to look more at personnel issues. The investigation revealed that the head of the department, Vic Bianes, tried to dodge oversight after only weeks on the job.

San Diego Unified Set to Renew Supe’s Contract

San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

San Diego Unified trustees are set to extend Superintendent Cindy Marten’s contract by four years Tuesday night following a closed-door evaluation and public report. If approved, Marten’s new contract will end June 30, 2022, and carry the same salary of $259,600, district records show. Marten’s five-year tenure has been marked by highs and lows.

Lemon Grove Might Not Want to Be a City Anymore

The city of Lemon Grove is broke, and now that two proposed tax measures won’t be on the November ballot, the radical idea of disincorporating is being floated as a very real option.

The city had been mulling putting two tax measures on the ballot this November, but as NBC 7 reported, neither got the Council votes needed on Friday.

City Councilman Jerry Jones, who voted against the measures, said the city needs to do more research before asking voters to approve a tax hike. He also suggested that the two proposed measures would not have raised enough money to make a dent in Lemon Grove’s budget deficit. Jones suggested voting again on putting just one of the proposed taxes on the 2018 ballot, a 5 percent tax on marijuana business revenue, and then doing research and getting community involvement before putting a one-cent sales tax increase on the 2020 ballot.

Lemon Grove’s budget is in bad shape, as the Union-Tribune has reported, and this year the city is filling the gap by pulling from its $5.2 million reserve fund.

This isn’t the first time the city’s budget troubles have forced the disincorporation conversation. City leaders considered taking the dramatic step back in 2010, as the Reader reported. Instead, the city cut its recreation department and other costs to balance the budget.

Jones, along with Helen Ofield and Mary England, two longtime community leaders in Lemon Grove, have all said the city should again consider the option of disincorporating and going back under the county’s purview.

“Talk about disincorporation and what it means, how long it takes to do, and the long term financial prognosis of returning to the county,” Ofield wrote in an email to the city.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby and Kinsee Morlan.

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