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San Diego’s tourism industry has essentially ground to a halt during the coronavirus pandemic and hoteliers are hoping locals and regional visitors can help revive it once restrictions are lifted.
VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt reports that the Tourism Authority is planning to roll out a marketing campaign to try to sell the region’s hotels, restaurants and destinations to locals – and then will eventually begin targeting road-trippers from Arizona, Nevada and elsewhere in SoCal. Nationwide ads aren’t expected to debut until sometime next year.
Many questions remain about when and how reopening looks for one of the region’s biggest moneymakers. Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s revised budget proposal released Tuesday predicts tax collections on hotel stays to come in 30 percent less than initial projections for the current budget year – and to be down another 37 percent from what was initially envisioned.
Yet there are also signs demand for local hotels is growing as San Diegans get more antsy at home. Tourism Authority data shows hotel room night bookings have increased in recent weeks.
Supes Push for Broader Reopening
San Diego County supervisors voted Tuesday to ask the state to allow it to be a test case for more rapid business re-openings.
Supervisors approved a proposed pilot program that would allow the county to open research labs, outdoor religious services plus fitness facilities, outdoor youth sports, hair salons and condo swimming pools with restrictions.
Supervisor Nathan Fletcher was the only supervisor to vote against the pilot proposal. He said he preferred to first monitor the results of in-person restaurant and retail reopenings also approved by supervisors Tuesday.
The Union-Tribune noted that the county could move forward into those stage 2 reopenings because it met several criteria including a stabilization of new coronavirus cases and needed testing and hospital capacity.
Now the proposal will head to the governor’s desk. County Chief Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer said at Tuesday’s meeting that the county had spoken with state officials Monday night to brief them on their proposal and did not immediately get their full support.
“They indicated a willingness to at least evaluate our proposal,” Robbins-Meyer said.
County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to dole out $25 million of the $334 million in federal CARES Act dollars the county received to the 17 cities in the county that did not receive large checks from the feds to help with their coronavirus response. Only the city of San Diego received its own lump sum.
Board Chair Greg Cox said that the county for now expects the 17 cities to receive another $25 million from the state following the release of Newsom’s revised budget, which proposes that the state deploy $450 million of its CARES Act dollars to those smaller cities.
Supervisors also approved plans to spend the rest of its $334 million allocation, including $275 million on its coronavirus response and testing efforts, $17 million for stimulus programs for local businesses and $15 million for behavioral health services.
Faulconer Plugs Budget Shortfall With Help of CARES Act Funding
San Diego would spend nearly $270 million in state and federal relief funds under an updated spending plan released Tuesday by Mayor Kevin Faulconer, allowing the city to scale back proposed budget cuts as it faces an unprecedented shortfall.
The city’s combined revenue losses in this and next year are now projected at $350 million, up from $250 million a month ago. But the mayor now thinks he can avoid cutting hours at city recreation centers – and dipping into the city’s budget reserves – while maintaining other spending reductions.
That largely relies on aid the city has received from the state and federal governments. It wasn’t always clear that would be possible. Councilman Chris Cate argued the federal aid’s spending requirements were too restrictive, and others on the Council countered that the city needed to be aggressive in finding every possible way to spend the money.
Faulconer and his staff found ways to spend it all over the next two years. Cate tweeted Tuesday that he’s “happy to admit (he was) proven wrong.”
They’ll put the brunt of it – $189 million – to public safety, first responder costs and supplies needed to deal with the pandemic. The city will spend another $50 million operating the Convention Center as a shelter that allowed homeless residents enough socially distant spacing to avoid infection. The city will also replenish its pool of no-interest loans for small businesses, putting $13 million of the federal CARES Act funding into that fund.
The city’s current budget year was facing a roughly $140 million shortfall. Federal and state relief funds will plug $82 million of that. To cover the rest, the city will delay its general fund reserve contribution, institute a hiring freeze, pay for certain infrastructure projects with debt instead of cash from the general fund, and use money included in the budget that’s unlikely to be spent, due to issues like unfilled positions.
- The City Council voted Tuesday to extend a moratorium on residential and commercial evictions through June 30.
- A new report from advocacy group Circulate San Diego concludes a city program to encourage more affordable housing development is working, Times of San Diego reports.
- Times of San Diego reports that talks between the city and SDSU will continue after a Tuesday City Council vote to extend a contract with a firm meant to help the city with stadium negotiations.
- The Union-Tribune reveals that the Old Globe is canceling its summer season for the first time in 73 years.
- Two new COVID-19 test sites opened in El Cajon and Chollas View on Tuesday, NBC 7 San Diego reports.
- The pace of home sales in San Diego plummeted due to the pandemic, although the prices those homes sold for actually held steady. (Union-Tribune)
- County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar proposed weakening rules around millions of dollars in grant funding the county doles out, but a majority of the board rejected her proposal, citing the criticism the board came under that led to those rules being put in place to begin with. (Union-Tribune)
- A Los Angeles Times analysis found only about half of the 15,000 hotel rooms leased for homeless Californians during the pandemic are occupied, including about 200 of the 222 rooms in San Diego County specifically reserved for vulnerable homeless San Diegans. Another 135 of roughly 1,450 rooms for people who may have coronavirus but lack a safe place to isolate – a category that can include homeless people – were full as of Monday.
The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.