Alan Underwood, a music teacher, stands outside the City Heights house he and his wife purchased in 2018. / Photo by Jesse Marx
Alan Underwood, a music teacher, stands outside the City Heights house he and his wife purchased in 2018. / Photo by Jesse Marx

If you’re able to buy a house at all in San Diego these days, you’re among the fortunate. Prices have exploded in recent years. But thanks to a decades-old initiative in California, newer and often younger homeowners are paying considerably more in property taxes that help fund public services. 

For this week’s Fine City, Jesse Marx and Catherine Allen unpack the complexity and legacy of Proposition 13 on San Diego’s housing market. They highlight a recent study showing that newer homeowners on average spend $3,400 a year more than their longtime counterparts who live in identical structures. 

“Assessment limits,” as one researcher put it, “they create a lot of winners and losers.”  

Prop. 13 was pitched to California voters as a means of keeping people at risk of displacement, particularly seniors on fixed income, in their homes. But as other research shows, the property tax caps and rising property values have generated more wealth for whiter communities over communities of color while forcing the public sector to look elsewhere for revenue. 

Despite these problems and inequities, Prop. 13 has proven difficult to reform or abolish and one of the reasons is that the longer one stays in their home the less incentive they have to give it up. Some end up passing the homes — and the tax benefit — down to their children, who turn the properties into investments. 

The group that produced the study has proposed other ideas, including a program that limits property taxes bills to a percentage of one’s annual income rather than the value of the home when it was purchased. 

Read the rest of the piece here. 

Mayor’s Office: Receiver, Creditor Pledge Action on California Theatre

Graffiti dotted the California Theatre, seen here from C Street, which was partially surrounded by fencing that didn’t keep people from entering the building on Aug. 10, 2022. / Photo by Jakob McWhinney

Mayor Todd Gloria’s office says the parties now responsible for the blighted California Theatre have agreed to take immediate steps to secure the long-shuttered downtown venue as they prepare to demolish it.

Gloria spokeswoman Rachel Laing said the receiver and creditor that took over after an Australia-based developer liquidated and abandoned a city-approved overhaul of the site told city officials during a Thursday meeting that they will take rapid action.

Receiver McGrathNicol and creditor OCP Asia Hong Kong met with the city development services officials just over a week after the city sent a letter to developer Caydon Property Group describing an “alarming lack of action” on imminent safety concerns and highlighting the company’s failure to submit a plan to demolish the theater as demanded by the city. 

“They were told the mayor wants (the theater) demoed immediately but until then, they need a four-person fire watch to watch the building 24/7 and [to] note who’s coming in and out,” Laing wrote in a text message. “Every time someone exits, they have to ask if anyone else is in there. 

Once they’re confident the building is empty, they’ll secure it and make the perimeter fencing larger while preparing to demo.”

The city had previously requested that the owner adjust fencing around the theater to establish a falling hazard protection zone to ensure building ornaments and other features don’t drop on people around it.

Laing said she could not immediately share a specific timeline for the demolition the city has ordered.

For now, an investigation remains underway over the building owners’ failure to address concerns flagged by the city.

City Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Leslie Wolf Branscomb confirmed that the office’s Nuisance Abatement Unit is digging in following a referral from the city’s code enforcement division.

McGrathNicol and OCP Asia Hong Kong did not immediately respond to questions from Voice of San Diego on Thursday.

US and Mexico Sign Promises to Curb Cross-Border Sewage Spills 

Rep. Juan Vargas speaks at Minute 328 signing with IBWC Commissioner Maria-Elena Giner and CILA Commissioner Adriana Reséndez Maldonado and Sally Spener, foreign affairs officer for IBWC on Aug. 18, 2022. / MacKenzie Elmer

San Diegans knew Congress would send $300 million to help stop Tijuana sewage from spilling over the border. But it wasn’t clear how much Mexico was willing or should contribute to the problem until now. 

On Thursday, Mexico committed to spending $142 million fixing pipes, pumps and treatment plants on its side. That’s a lot of money for Mexico.

Importantly, the signed promise lists which pots of money Mexico plans to use on its share of the projects. Much of it would come from something called MECAPLAN. It’s a mechanism by which the federal government prioritizes municipal projects for federal funding, said José Dolores Gutierrez Ramirez, CONAGUA, Mexico’s federal water commission. 

The two countries enshrined these projects and who is responsible for financing them under another agreement, one that holds a bit more teeth than the signed promise, that’s Minute 328. These are sort of like addendums to treaties, which are legally-binding agreements that settle international disputes as menacing as war. 

Read more here.

Plane Problems

A small plane crashed in El Cajon Thursday morning, as NBC 7 San Diego reported. The Cessna crashed into a railing on Interstate 8 before coming to a stop under an overpass. Bystanders pulled the pilot, who was visibly injured, from the plane before he was strapped to a gurney and taken to the hospital.

A few hours later, Terminal 2 at the San Diego International Airport was evacuated and flights were grounded after a security breach, as the Union-Tribune reported. A TSA agent identified a passenger’s bag for additional screening after he came through security, but the passenger left the security area without undergoing additional screening. Officials evacuated the terminal to locate the passenger, which they couldn’t do immediately.

In Other News 

  • The per-room price of hotels sold across California hit a new record during the first six months of the year, but in San Diego prices actually fell 12 percent during that time. (Union-Tribune)
  • The price of homes sold in San Diego in July, meanwhile, slipped 2.5 percent from where they were in June – though that remains a whopping 50 percent above where they were in July of 2019, before home prices soared alongside low interest rates during the pandemic. (Fox 5 San Diego)
  • Seventy percent of young adults who grew up in San Diego stayed here, according to the 2020 Census, but the top destinations of the 30 percent of locals who departed were Phoenix, Seattle, Las Vegas, New York and San Jose. (NBC 7 San Diego)
  • A federal judge has thrown out an $85 million verdict against San Diego County over the death of Lucky Phounsy at the hands of San Diego County sheriff’s deputies in 2015. The judge ordered a new trial, arguing the size of the award didn’t fit the evidence that came out at trial. (San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Morning Report was written by Jess Marx, MacKenzie Elmer, Lisa Halverstadt and Andrew Keatts. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña.

Correction: This post has been updated to correct an error in Mexico’s spending.

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1 Comment

  1. Single residential homes that are being rented should be taxed at the current market value and that value should be adjusted yearly based on comparable sales in the area.

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