Laurie Black speaks in front of San Diego City Council during a meeting for Informational Update on Civic Center Revitalization Project (District 3) in downtown on Oct. 17, 2022.
Laurie Black speaks in front of San Diego City Council in downtown on Oct. 17, 2022. The Council heard an informational item on the Civic Center Revitalization Project. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

This first appeared in the Oct. 18 Morning Report. Get the daily newsletter in your inbox here.

The San Diego City Council on Monday discussed their goals for the redevelopment of the city’s downtown civic core, six blocks in and around City Hall. 

Those blocks include the recently-acquired (and controversy-plagued) 101 Ash St. and Civic Center Plaza buildings plus crumbing City Hall and City Operations buildings. The city has projected those four buildings collectively need more than $260 million in repairs.

The state of the city’s shoddy assets helped inspire what city leaders and boosters hope will be a massive facelift to the city’s center. 

The project is also quite possibly one of the city’s most challenging infrastructure and land-use projects yet. And on top of that, council members made it clear that homelessness and housing should be top priorities for how the city moves forward with the project. 

The redevelopment must follow the state’s Surplus Land Act, which requires a  minimum of 25 percent of the proposed housing to be affordable. That means the housing must be affordable to San Diegans making no more than 80 percent of the city’s area median income – or roughly $104,100 for a family of four.

Councilman Stephen Whitburn said during the meeting that shelter beds should be the No. 1 priority, adding that prioritizing homelessness would be the “make or break issue” for him.

Councilmember Stephen Whitburn for District 3 during a meeting for the Informational Update on Civic Center Revitalization Project. (District 3.) in downtown on Oct. 17, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler
Councilmember Stephen Whitburn during a City Council on the Civic Center Revitalization Project in downtown on Oct. 17, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

“How are we going to get people off the streets if there’s nowhere for them to go?” Whitburn said. “This is our chance to fix that.”

Councilwoman Marni von Wilpert called for a new homeless service navigation center as part of the project. She was critical of the current facility — a shuttered indoor skydiving building turned homeless service hub. 

But City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera said a navigation center wouldn’t be the best use of the land.

Mayor Todd Gloria created Civic Center Revitalization Committee last month that will provide input to the council on how to redevelop the area. Their final recommendations are expected to be presented to the council at the end of the year.

Correction: This post has been update to correct the City Council meeting date. It was Monday.

Tigist Layne is Voice of San Diego's north county reporter. Contact her directly at or (619) 800-8453. Follow her...

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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  1. What about housing for the homeless? If you look around the project area now you will see the homeless. How do they benefit from this? Or is this just another gift to the developers, who will get the land at a discount because of a campaign donation?

    What about doing a land swap for sufficient land at the proper location to put in homeless housing for 400 – 500 people. Enough to make a real impact on our problem? San Diego must get serious about homeless housing if it is to address the problem.

    If you go to the intersection of Pacific Hwy and Sea World Dr., there is an unimproved city owned parking lot of about 8 acres, that sits empty most of the year. There is no nearby development, Fiesta Island is across the way and
    I – 5 on the other side. You could put a lot of homeless housing here and it is in an area were no neighbors would complain.

    1. That’s prime land and homeless garbage people DO NOT deserve to be placed on that property. Find them places in East County or in YOUR home!

  2. Housing doesn’t reduce homelessness. When a normal person is priced out of San Diego they move to Texas, they don’t pitch a tent on Broadway. Someone living in a tent along MTS tracks isn’t going to live in housing built there and if you think they are, you should not be determining public policy.

  3. Confusing Headline! The City Council wants to INCREASE HOMELESSNESS with this “Civic Center Redevelopment”? That sounds about its intelligence level! Especially with this MORONIC “HOUSING FIRST” policy!

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