Kevin Faulconer
Mayor Kevin Faulconer appears at the US Grant Hotel on the night of the June 2018 primary election. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

On Tuesday, the mayor will make his state of the city speech, highlighting what he sees as his major accomplishments and laying out his priorities for the remainder of his tenure.

Here are the main issues we’ll be watching and details we’ll be looking for in the speech:

The Homeless Crisis

The city this past year has dramatically increased spending to provide more temporary aid for thousands of homeless San Diegans. Those investments haven’t led to a dramatic reduction in homelessness but have highlighted the need for more permanent solutions to address a seemingly intractable crisis.

On Tuesday night, homeless advocates and fiscal hawks alike will be watching to see whether Faulconer unveils strategies to deliver more holistic, long-term solutions to homeless San Diegans, including the hundreds now in one of three shelter tents and two city-supported safe parking lots.

Among the more urgent needs: a new site for Father Joe’s tent for families and single women, which must come down this spring, and more pathways to long-term homes.

The mayor is also facing another shelter-related challenge. A change in federal immigration policies has forced hundreds of asylum-seeking families onto city streets without cash or a place to stay before they connect with sponsors elsewhere. Local nonprofits have scrambled to respond with temporary shelter beds and other resources and urged government leaders like Faulconer to help.

Earlier this month, the city announced it had offered a shuttered juvenile detention in Alpine as a potential shelter site for asylum-seekers. Faulconer may have more to say about that suggestion or how federal immigration policies are affecting San Diego.

The Convention Center’s Future

It also wouldn’t be a State of the City speech without a discussion of expanding the Convention Center and how this year, this year definitely, will be the year — totally — when we finally make a deal to expand the Convention Center. However, we may not get it. The mayor and his allies succeeded last year in qualifying a measure for the ballot that would raise hotel-room taxes to pay for the expansion, homeless services and roads.

But it didn’t qualify in time for the November ballot. The mayor worked the City Council hard for a special election this year but it seems like we would have heard about it by now if that was going to happen. So … do we skip Convention Center talk this year, or will he just rally troops to be ready for the big 2020 vote?

2020 Ballot Watch

The mayor’s plan to increase hotel taxes to expand the Convention Center and pay for increased homeless services has already qualified for the 2020 ballot. Assuming Faulconer doesn’t announce plans to schedule a special election, that’s when the city will finally weigh in on the mayor’s great white whale.

But will it have any company on the ballot?

MTS is preparing a potential sales tax increase for transit projects and operations funding. The mayor has not yet said whether he supports that effort, but it could use a lift if it’s actually going to voters next year. Or, Faulconer could further flesh out his vision to bring transit to the airport. SANDAG is pursuing a plan that would be costly and difficult, and the agency is already in a rough financial situation. Maybe there’s a move to put up a SANDAG-led measure as early as 2020.

And the city itself has toyed with measures that would help build more homes for low-income residents to alleviate the region’s housing crisis, something that the Convention Center measure would not do. Other large cities in the state have already adopted major housing measures, putting San Diego in a bind competing for state housing funds. The question isn’t going away, so it’ll be worth seeing if the mayor decides to jump into it or continues to focus only on his Convention Center measure for the next two years.

The State of the SDSU Deal

We’ll be listening for what, if anything, the mayor says about a deal between the city and San Diego State University for the Mission Valley stadium site. In November, voters approved a ballot measure meant to force the city to sell the university 134 acres of land. On the land SDSU promised to build a stadium, a river park, housing and research space.

So far, little is known about how those negotiations are going, beyond some strongly
disputed rumors Councilman Scott Sherman passed along that the city would try to give away the site. During the
heated campaign for the ballot measure, the university and its allies promised
to pay “fair market value” for the land, but the ballot measure itself created
a number of ways to lower the price from what a recent appraisal said the site was worth.

If the mayor says anything detailed about SDSU’s
plans, it’d be interesting to know about timelines to build a new stadium and
other facilities and whether the university has a clear way to pay for its
expansion yet

Lisa is a senior investigative reporter who digs into some of San Diego's biggest challenges including homelessness, city real estate debacles, the region's...

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

Ry Rivard was formerly a reporter for Voice of San Diego. He wrote about water and power.

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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