Former NBA star Bill Walton speaks at a press conference at the University of San Diego Institute for Peace and Justice Theatre at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace Studies on Sept. 27, 2022.
Former NBA star Bill Walton speaks at a press conference at the University of San Diego on Sept. 27, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

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San Diego’s most famous booster has also become the most prominent San Diegan voicing boiling frustration over a humanitarian scourge that appears to be surging.

Basketball legend Bill Walton erupted at a Tuesday press conference with the nonprofit Lucky Duck Foundation, calling for Mayor Todd Gloria to resign and coining “Gloria-ville” to describe homeless camps that have popped up on the mayor’s watch.

Walton noted that Gloria pledged as a candidate to take meaningful steps to address the homelessness crisis, but said he’s concluded Gloria “does not want to do the job” or to crack down on homeless camps, trash and sanitation issues.

“We need new leadership,” Walton said. “Todd Gloria should step aside.”

A spokeswoman for Gloria, who is this week on a trade mission in the Netherlands, responded by deeming the press conference a ”tantrum full of self-aggrandizing hyperbole and outright lies.”

“San Diegans are frustrated with the worsening homelessness crisis, and Mayor Gloria shares that frustration,” Gloria spokeswoman Rachel Laing wrote in a statement. “But unlike Mr. Walton, the mayor is translating that frustration into decisive, sustained action to improve the situation.”

She wrote that the mayor has added hundreds of new and diversified shelter beds including beds for women and people with behavioral health conditions, championed state-level behavioral health reforms, invested city funds in 10 affordable housing projects and has directed increased enforcement to try “to protect health and safety in our public spaces.”

Yet Walton and others aren’t seeing the evidence of that work. They want immediate action – yesterday.

Former NBA Star Bill Walton (left), Executive Committee Member, Dan Shea, (center) Lucky Duck Foundation and Executive Director Drew Moser (right) speak at a press conference at the University of San Diego Institute for Peace and Justice Theatre at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace Studies on Sept. 27, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Walton’s comments came during a press conference where the Lucky Duck Foundation announced a new initiative to hold elected leaders accountable for their action – or inaction – on homelessness. The foundation noted that it stands ready to help those leaders deliver more solutions.

Walton’s comments focused more on his exasperation with Gloria.

“Our neighborhood is under siege,” Walton said Tuesday, referencing a homeless camp in a corner of Balboa Park close to his Hillcrest home. “Everything in our lives is dictated by the homeless.”

A week ago, Voice of San Diego visited a Park Boulevard homeless camp Walton has decried. Unhoused residents staying there said they were prepared to move the next morning ahead of a planned city clean-up operation. They said they planned to return to the area after the operation because they found it safe and appreciated the community they had found there.

“If you don’t want us here, give us a place to go,” said Damon Nice, 50.

Lisa Halverstadt

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...

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22 Comments

  1. Oh brother. Bill Walton goes off with a ridiculous diatribe blaming Mayor Gloria for our homeless issues, despite the fact that Mayor Gloria has done more for dealing with the homeless issue than any other San Diego mayor.
    Walton compromises his position by sharing NO solutions, not to mention he NEVER called out Kevin Faulconer for the same thing.

    Bill Walton might be famous, but he overplayed his hand.

    1. I’m surprised you’re able to comment I figured you would be busy on your useless trip to the Netherlands paid for by Qualcomm.

    2. Perhaps I missed it when Bill Walton campaigned for mayor promising to fix the homeless problem. Perhaps I missed Bill Walton collecting $206,000 salary per year while ignoring his campaign promises. Oh wait… I didn’t miss any of that. It is not Bill Walton’s job to supply or even suggest solutions for fixing the homeless problem. But there is somebody whose job it is. Todd Gloria has that job. And he’s failed completely.

    3. What neighborhood are you in!? I am willing to bet you work for Gloria! He may have done this and that but it has not worked. His own neighborhood and mine has gone down the drain!

  2. Walton, like many San Diegans, want the homeless off of our parks and streets, but cannot offer a single constructive idea of how to do that. You chase them away and they go to another neighborhood or comeback later, after the cops are gone. The City and county are currently building more shelters for the homeless, increasing outreach and mental health counseling and building more permanent supportive affordable housing (albeit slowly, due to the lack of available land and community opposition). What more would you do Bill?

    The problem is intrinsic to our economy. Although, the city has helped house thousands of the homeless, the newly homeless keep coming. When the minimum wage is $15 per hr. in an area where the median rent is in $2,300, what do you expect will happen?

    1. Shelter and use the many services available to restore yourself to human form, or jail. Problem solved

    2. ?? 95 percent disagree.. the people Bill is talking about dont want homes or housing options, they want dope and booze. Tons of options, except our county is more and more being run by liberals who only have certain ways to handle so they stay within there agenda. How bout allowing cops to enforce they laws for a big #1. The major just this week ordered tents to be taking down during business hours. He has ordered cops not to do so. Cops are ordered not to enforce laws in less it a radio call. On the state level, drugs were made infractions. It is a crime. Break the law go jail! We are paying billions state wide thinking that more beds = less bums. It’s never happened, and wont. Follow the law or go to jail. Lets try it for a year?! Warm regards…

  3. I just sent a letter to Kleske on this issue. The genesis of the scourge on homelessness is not what you think. Mr. Walton is a great American by my standards and I drove him several times in my limo plus visited and solicited his support while a SDCC D2 candidate. I wrote a 3-point viable plan in collaboration with a very knowledgeable San Diegan. No one bothered to read it because the fundamental roadblock is at the ballot box. Voters are manipulated by high priced consultants to vote the brand and voters follow like the blind followers. Gloria is only a scapegoat for these consultants. Quite frankly, I’m surprised that Mister Walton apparently does not recognize this fact. Supervisor Remer is now a player with the help of papa Larry I presume. San Diego has a long held political club and you folks every one of you are not invited just used as cannon fodder in getting elected. SAD! Your comments here like mine are meaningless!

    1. Gloria is a puppet. He is used by other groups who have larger agendas. He doesn’t have San Diegans best interests. He allowed San Diego school children to remain at home for 2 years! When private schools remained open for in person learning. He has alot of issues where he did San Diegans wrong. Glad Mr. Walton is pointing him out. He should resign

      1. You can’t blame Mayor Gloria for school issues – the Mayor does not control the San Diego Unified School District. The decisions regarding COVID and remote learning were made by an the independent SDUSD Board.

  4. Walton does more for San Diego than worthless Todd Gloria has done in his entire life. Once again, Walton tells us Empower Gloria has no clothes – his homeless efforts (spend money) have been a complete failure …unless the goal was to attract more.
    TIme for some tough love with the vagrants .

  5. Another suicide took place in the library on Monday. No reporting anywhere. Administration with the same old “homelessness is bad everywhere, drugs are bad everywhere, mental health is and everywhere” song and dance. Wonder if they got the talking points from Todd Gloria’s office?

    What staff and patrons want is a clear articulation of what management will do to prevent people from jumping off the roof.

  6. If Gloria has no ability to solve the homeless issue then he should come out and say that. People are giving Bill grief for blaming Gloria but not giving Gloria and his team flack for constantly trotting out “homelessness is bad everywhere” talking point.

    At what point are we allowed to hold him accountable? Also, the folks saying Gloria’s done more for homelessness than any other mayor— by what metric? So what. It’s not enough. Also, I wouldn’t necessarily describe allowing the Central library to become a homeless center and forcing library staff to be social workers as doing more. How many people will need to throw themselves from the 9th floor until he does something about it?

    It’s not the job of citizens to come up with solutions! What’s the point of electing someone if I have to do their job as well? Maybe if he participated in 25% fewer photo ops we’d see more progress on this issue.

  7. Happy to see Bill Walton saying something but it is odd to me that he has been silent on this issue until now. Homelessness in San Diego has been a serious problem for well over a decade and he is just now so irate about it?
    It seems to me like he is upset because he seems homeless encampments near where he lives and doesn’t like it and then shouts about failed political leadership while failing to offer any constructive solutions.
    I think the biggest issue here is that voters (yes I said it!) have had their heads in the sand for too long on this by opposing housing construction and homeless shelter construction near where they live. It is a sad case of NIMBYism IMHO

  8. I’d guess the people criticizing Bill haven’t been downtown or seen the part of Balboa Park that Bill lives near. He said it as plainly as possible when he asked if you believe your own eyes or how Mayor Gloria continues to rationalize the crisis. I live across the street from Peter Seidler’s ballpark. We are surrounded by squalor that has affected every downtown neighborhood. The sidewalks have never been this bad with tents and camps everywhere. And of course the urinating and defecating that goes along with people living without bathrooms.
    The few beds that the mayor talks about providing doesn’t make a dent in what we see with our own eyes every day. Bill is rightfully frustrated and so are the thousands of taxpayers living with this homeless/street people crisis in our neighborhoods.

  9. REGARDING: “County to recast Homeless as health crisis” (Front Page, 09.27) Here is the unvarnished truth. The politicians and their high-

    priced consultants have kept the homeless issue simmering for the past forty years. Here is more truth. Very few people living on the street can

    function in a civil society. The citizens of this great city with their crocodile tears are delusional and playing the card of hypocrites. Nobody wants the

    homeless in their neighborhood. Yet, everyone wants the homeless in some other neighborhood. The homeless fiasco can only be solved by

    criminalization, incarceration and for the few willing a benevolent helping hand out of their dilemma. It’s time to stop bouncing the ball down the road by

    politicians who use the downtrodden for votes. This is immoral. Daniel Smiechowski Bay Ho

  10. San Diego and the whole state of Ca. has been a magnet for the nation’s homeless for too long. We have provided them needles for their drug habits, rooms, charitable food, rehab facilities, and all for nothing. They will keep coming no matter what the City or organization does. They have an extensive communication network, and they will keep coming until we make S.D. undesirable. It is a State problem. Let the State establish tent cities with barbed wire over in the desert and let them support themselves .

  11. San Diego is not safe. I can’t walk my 1 year old down the sidewalk, take him to a park, or library. What if the solution was to offer help and resources and enforce the laws for people who don’t want the help offered…?

  12. Blaming Gloria for the homeless situation is like blaming your missing so many games that the Clippers moved to LA.

  13. Walton is correct except 40 years late and ought to have spoken truth to power while a Celtic or Trailblazer.

  14. Why haven’t our “Leaders” been able to lead us to a solution of this THORNY problem? Because they are POLITICIANS and they are afraid of burning bridges. I have logical solutions. WE HAVE THE RESOURCES. We need to implement the right plan. I am busy. I do not want anything except a forum where I can express some positive, “No brainer” ideas, that can help solve our homeless problems.

  15. That is only one of the reasons that politicians have been ineffective. More later. Trying to reach Nathan Fletcher and Bill Walton.

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