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The race to replace outgoing City Councilman Chris Cate in District 6 is one of the more high-profile contests in San Diego this year because it’s the only open seat. The polling we’ve seen suggests that the cost of housing is a dominant motivation.
Most District 6 voters cite housing-related matters as a top concern. That’s also where Tommy Hough and Kent Lee, the two candidates running to represent the area, really distinguish themselves on policy.
Jesse Marx surveyed the candidates and found a few similarities. Both say the city needs more affordable housing and they both like the updated Kearny Mesa community plan. Both say housing and infrastructure need to be built simultaneously to meet the region’s climate goals.
But Hough has been much more vocal about the housing he doesn’t like and has criticized the strong mayor form of government, which he sees as a hindrance to community input. Lee, on the other hand, said the city should respect the character of neighborhoods but is unwilling to position himself as a defender of single-family zoning.
Reminder! We’re hosting a debate between these two candidates at Politifest on Oct. 8. The conversation will touch on housing and more, so get your tickets.
Bill Walton Calls for Gloria to Resign Over Homeless Response
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.
The Padres Chairman Weighs In: Peter Seidler, a Lucky Duck Foundation board member who was unable to attend the Tuesday press conference told us he wanted to clarify that he didn’t agree with Walton’s take on the mayor’s homelessness response.
Meanwhile… Supes Declare Homelessness Public Health Crisis
San Diego County supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday to formally declare homelessness a public health crisis.
County board Vice Chair Nora Vargas, who helped introduce the measure, said the declaration could help align local efforts and address housing instability and health issues.
Vargas and Chair of the Board of Supervisors Nathan Fletcher have also said they hope the declaration will spotlight the physical and mental health challenges facing the region’s unhoused population and encourage collaboration with the county’s 18 cities on solutions.
But as the Union-Tribune has reported, Tuesday’s vote will not make the county eligible for more funds to combat the problem.
-Supervisors on Tuesday also voted to launch a pilot program to give dozens of seniors monthly $500 subsidies to try to prevent them from falling into homelessness.
And… El Cajon Mayor Continues Stirring the Pot
El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells continued pushing back against a county hotel voucher program for homeless residents with a Tuesday morning press conference outside the county administration building, Fox 5 San Diego reported. 10 News reported that the El Cajon City Council later voted to create a subcommittee to study the hotel voucher program and whether changes should be made. The discussion followed a cease-and-desist order from State Attorney General Rob Bonta in response to El Cajon’s initial plan to fine hotels that didn’t decrease the number of homeless guests they were hosting.
County Eyeing More Behavioral Health Beds
The county wants to add hundreds of new community-based behavioral health beds to transform its currently clogged system.
County behavioral health officials on Tuesday briefed county supervisors on a plan that focuses on adding beds outside hospitals and instead in less-restrictive facilities such as skilled nursing homes and places they have dubbed respite centers. The goal is to, over time, reduce the need for expensive crisis services and connect those in need with care that can meet their needs at the least restrictive level possible.
Luke Bergmann, the county’s behavioral health services director, said the county and an outside contractor estimated the region needs nearly 400 new long-term care beds alone. He said a recent county pivot away from a plan to build a behavioral health hub on county property in Hillcrest and instead to a contract with Prime Healthcare opens up possibilities for the county to deliver resources such as dwindling board-and-care beds and recuperative care beds for people stepping down from hospitals at county-owned properties in Hillcrest and Midway. The county is considering a similar model in East County.
The Union-Tribune did a deep dive on the county plan and our Lisa Halverstadt last week explained how a years-long shortage of long-term care options has been exacerbated by the pandemic and the state’s new CARE Court policy could put more pressure on the system.
Bergmann said county officials will return to supervisors on Oct. 11 to provide more details on its strategy to add behavioral health beds.
In Other News
- KPBS reported on yet another item on county supervisors’ Tuesday to-do list: Directing county staff to create a pilot program to create incentives to build homes for middle-class renters and homebuyers.
- CBS 8 highlighted San Diego Unified’s pitch to voters to use some of a proposed November bond measure to supply homes for district employees.
- inewsource reports that officials in Imperial County are using back-to-back psychiatric holds for patients experiencing mental health emergencies. That practice is a violation of state law which requires a formal hearing for holds longer than 72 hours.
- Starting Monday, NBC 7 reports that vacation rental operators can seek one of the limited number of licenses the city will offer under its new short-term vacation rental rules.
The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx and Lisa Halverstadt. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña and Scott Lewis.