County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher
County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Nathan Fletcher, chair of the county Board of Supervisors, on Tuesday urged San Diegans to come together to attack the region’s foremost challenges during the county’s big annual speech.

“If we can seek out our better angels, embrace the fight to challenge our most vexing and challenging problems and never be afraid to drive bold solutions,” Fletcher said. “If we can do that, then the state of our county will continue to get stronger — every single day.”

Here’s a rundown of Fletcher’s biggest announcements on issues including homelessness and the region’s childcare shortage during the county’s annual State of the County address. You can also watch the speech here

A New Shelter: Last year, Voice of San Diego revealed that Chula Vista would return a homeless shelter tent that nonprofit Lucky Duck Foundation agreed to allow the city to use free of charge. Fletcher revealed Tuesday that the county, city and foundation will team up to now move that structure to county land in the Midway District, where neighbors have recently raised concerns about increasing street homelessness. Fletcher expects the 150-bed shelter to open by July.

An encampment after city workers conducted a homeless camp clean-up in the Midway District / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

New Push for Homeless Services Regionwide: More cities across the county have been talking about new shelters and services. Fletcher on Tuesday pledged that the county will offer $10 million in grants to give those efforts a shot in the arm. He said the county will also share a standard agreement with all 18 cities in the region to pledge county behavioral health services for new shelters and other services.

More Housing on Government Land: Fletcher said he plans to partner with Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer to pave the way for a lot more affordable housing on surplus land and partner with government agencies to find land to do so. This follows recent moves by the county and San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit System, which Fletcher also chairs, to offer up nine properties for affordable housing. Fletcher said the San Diego Foundation has pledged $10 million to help spark the expanded initiative. “Bring your surplus land and let’s put together a package to master plan 10,000 units of affordable housing,” Fletcher said.

Bolstered Childcare: Families countywide are struggling to find and pay for childcare. Fletcher said county supervisors next month will vote on a $10 million investment to bolster the workforce, facilities and options. He said the county has also dedicated funding to back the first childcare center for county employees and has secured $1 million in federal cash to help expand smaller childcare facilities. Fletcher said he’s also planning to call a special county board conference on the childcare shortage co-chaired by the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, the region’s leading business and labor groups.

Action on the Opioid Crisis: Drug overdose deaths are soaring. Fletcher revealed Tuesday that the county is nearing a settlement via legal action against opioid giant Purdue Pharma that could bring $100 million to the county. Fletcher pledged to develop a comprehensive plan to invest those funds and save lives. Fletcher said he’ll partner with Supervisor Joel Anderson, whose East County district has been hit particularly hard by the scourge, to launch gatherings countywide to discuss that response before the funds flow into the region.

Community Colleges Eying Affordable On-Campus Housing 

The Academic Success Center at San Diego City College / Photo by Megan Wood

San Diego area community colleges are getting into the housing game. Or at least they’re planning to. Earlier this month it was announced that San Diego City College received a $344,000 state grant to conduct a feasibility analysis for a proposed 13-story student housing facility at 16th and B streets, on its downtown campus. 

The proposed facility would be reserved for registered City College students and contain 209 units capable of housing 613 students. John Parker, vice president of administrative services at City College, told KPBS that rent would be below market value, and priority would be given to low-income students. Southwestern College also received nearly $1 million in state grant funding to perform similar analyses on potential affordable student housing on its four South Bay campuses.

In a March 28 San Diego Union-Tribune op-ed, San Diego Community College District Chancellor Carlos Turner Cortez and Board of Trustees President Maria Nieto Senour wrote the district is working to create an affordable housing strategy that loops in each of its campuses, local and state government agencies, housing advocates and more. 

The two wrote that developing affordable housing specifically for community college students, who are generally lower income, is particularly critical. And doing so could ultimately help with regional sustainability goals by reducing the number of cars on the road. 

Student housing has been a priority for Cortez since the beginning of his tenure as chancellor. In a July interview with Voice of San Diego’s Will Huntsberry, Cortez argued the district could potentially even make money from the construction of student housing, and that all they needed was the funding.

But, as Cortez and Nieto Senour wrote in the op-ed, “while the SDCCD does not have significant funding to build new housing, what it does have is real estate at 10 campus locations across San Diego.”

What Newsom’s Drought Actions Mean for San Diego

It rained almost two inches over Monday night in certain parts of the San Diego region, but the drought is not over. In fact, Jeff Stephenson, water resources manager at San Diego County Water Authority, said residents should consider turning off their sprinklers for the next seven days.

Of the six levels of emergency actions taken during a drought, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday moved California from the first to the second level. That means local water suppliers must act like supplies have dipped by at least 10 to 20 percent, as CalMatters explained. 

But he isn’t requiring everybody to cut water use by the same amount across the board. This time he’s letting cities and jurisdictions trigger their local plans for action during drought prepared back in 2020.

That’s welcome news to San Diego, which has been celebrating its “drought-proof” water supplies since the latest bout of exceedingly dry conditions ensued last June. 

“That’s what water agencies were asking for instead of mandatory, statewide cuts. You had us develop these tools, let us use them,” Stephenson said.

The first test of those 2020 so-called water shortage contingency plans is now. The Water Authority won’t be the one dictating how each of its 24 water purchasers (representing cities and regions) advise customers to conserve water. Instead, San Diego cities would independently tighten water use under those drought response plans.

The city of San Diego, for instance, has had permanent water restrictions in place for all customers since 2016 to promote conservation. And there could be more required conservation as the city reviews Newsom’s order.

The State Water Resources Control Board is also reviewing Newsom’s call to ban irrigation of landscaping or ornamental turf and grass on large industrial or commercial properties. That decision could come down in late May. 

The governor could decide to make changes to his executive order at any time, for instance, if it rains a lot between now and May. 

Stephenson isn’t hopeful. The reservoirs and mountain snowpack, which feed the main rivers that quench California’s thirst, are so low already and there’s so little time left in the rainy season that it’s likely the state won’t pull out of the drought by summertime, he said. 

In Other News

  • A federal jail downtown got the go-ahead to remain open for another 90 days just a week before its planned closure. (inewsource)
  • The city’s Planning Commission and Community Planners Committee last week separately called for the city to dig into how infrastructure reforms proposed by Mayor Todd Gloria to shift more spending toward low-income communities could affect the city’s housing shortage before moving forward. (Union-Tribune)
  • San Diego home prices surged more than any other large city nationwide in January. (Times of San Diego)
  • A Superior Court judge on Tuesday said he will reconsider a March 18 ruling that would have led to another deposition of a prominent lobbyist who has been trying to help the city’s 101 Ash Street landlord negotiate a legal settlement with the city. (Union-Tribune)
  • After an hours-long debate Tuesday, California’s first-in-the-nation task force on reparations voted 5-4 to limit state compensation to the descendants of free and enslaved Black people who were in the U.S. in the 19th century. The narrow vote rejected a proposal to include all Black people regardless of lineage. (Associated Press)

This Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, Jakob McWhinney and MacKenzie Elmer. It was edited by Megan Wood.

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3 Comments

  1. ‘..“If we can seek out our better angels, embrace the fight to challenge our most vexing and challenging problems and never be afraid to drive bold solutions,”..’

    i’m available – mike and amy that work with the homeless are also available – we are the county’s ‘better angels’ – but NOBODY in the government is seeking us out because the government knows exactly what they are doing, which is pillaging the taxpayers ..

  2. ‘..More Housing on Government Land..’

    simply allocating government land with bathrooms for people to park and camp – and live without government oppression – would immediately provide relief to the homeless community – but the government REFUSES – because a big part of the cops and sheriff’s budget is to prey on the homeless .

  3. Building 10,000 affordable housing units is great and needed, however, it’s not enough to help with folks living in the 30% and under AMI band or for the thousands upon thousands of people waiting for a desperately needed Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) option living unsheltered on these San Diego #SexyStreets

    I also don’t think a 150 congregate tent is a solution to homelessness. It’s a temporary shelter option that is incredibly unhealthy for anyone, especially those most vulnerable to illness and those who are disabled. We can do better than cramming 150 strangers into an enclosed space without privacy or dignity showing no regard for health temporarily before cycling them back to the street.

    Boosting childcare capacity is desperately needed for our families fleeing domestic violence in shelters and people returning to the workforce but more than capacity we need staff. Incentivize staffing. Maybe grants to help pay student loan debt or some other worker needs to draw them to or retain them in childcare. This is an essential service, we need to demonstrate how we value these workers as they are foundational to the survival of families as well as our economy.

    This mayor needs to demonstrate to us that he means what he is saying.

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