SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Heading into the November election, San Diegans will decide on who will serve as the city's next mayor.
ABC 10News asked Barbara Bry and Todd Gloria about four issues facing San Diegans moving forward: the housing crisis, homelessness, police reform and inequity, and a pandemic-hit city budget.
Bry, a current City Council member for District 1 and Pro Tem President, serves as chair of the government budget and efficiency committee, as vice-chair of the Rules committee, and on the committee on Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods. She has also worked in the tech industry as an educator and as a business journalist. (For more information on Bry, visit her website.)
Gloria, a current California State Assemblymember since 2016, serves as the House majority whip. He started his career at the county's Health and Human Services agency before serving two terms on the city council representing District 3. During his role as Council President, he served as interim Mayor of San Diego in 2013. (For more information on Gloria, visit his website.)
Below, Bry and Gloria have provided ABC 10News with responses to how they plan to lead the city over several key issues if elected.
How do you plan to address San Diego's housing crisis and affordability for families of all sizes?
"Building new housing along existing transit corridors is the smartest, most effective strategy for increasing housing supply and reducing — or at least holding the line — on housing costs. Mission Valley and the Morena District are two good examples, and I also think the proposed “3 Roots” development in Mira Mesa is a model for future development. With 3 Roots, residents and developers worked together on a project that improved the neighborhood’s infrastructure and added amenities, in exchange for more density. The result is good planning and smart growth.
But we also need to protect residential neighborhoods from oversized development, like high-rise towers. I will also enforce restrictions on short-term vacation rentals that have taken 16,000 units out of our housing supply. Sacramento politicians want to dictate land use in San Diego and eliminate single-family housing, allowing as many as eight units on a single-family lot. San Diegans know what’s best for their own neighborhoods. As mayor, I will pursue creative housing solutions like adaptive re-use of commercial and office buildings that are largely vacant. And I will establish a first-time homebuyer program to help families make their down payment on a home or condo."
"In order for working and middle-class San Diegans to have a future in this city and an ability to build wealth, they must be able to climb the rungs of the housing ladder. Over the course of this campaign, my opponent has claimed that I support the elimination of single-family zoning. It’s a patently false claim that she knows is untrue because I’ve said over and over again that we need more housing of every type—apartments, condos, granny flats, duplexes, and single-family homes. We are in a housing crisis, and we need more housing, not less.
As Mayor, I will set a robust housing production goal that prioritizes appropriate new housing construction near jobs and transit. We will continue to update community plans so that development is planned appropriately with the full participation of the community. I will work to identify areas where the City can cut red tape without sacrificing environmental protections and leverage local dollars with state and federal resources to incentivize more housing production.
As a member of the California State Assembly, I have focused on developing policies that encourage the creation of housing that is affordable at market rates to middle income families. As Mayor, I will implement policies like the ones created by my legislation, AB 2372, which allows smaller units within authorized building footprints so that a greater number can be built without increasing heights. I will create incentive programs for the construction of homes at prices that are affordable to families earning 80% – 120% of the Area Median Income (AMI). My administration will establish a Middle-Income Housing Trust Fund, financed by local anchor institutions, to provide capital necessary to build middle-income housing. This will create jobs and better enable local employers to attract and retain workers. My objective will be a roof over the head of every San Diegan at a price they can afford. By building appropriate housing in the right locations we will encourage economic prosperity, social equity, and environmental sustainability while protecting the quality of life in our neighborhoods for ourselves and for future generations."
What types of solutions do you plan to use in order to address homelessness in San Diego and bring individuals off the streets?
"'Housing First' has failed to solve our homeless crisis, and I will not make empty promises to end homelessness in four years without a plan that works. We need a seamless system of coordinated services that includes putting trained mental health professionals on the street 24/7 and focuses on the root causes of homelessness, including substance abuse and mental illness.
We should not ask police to deal with a problem they weren’t trained to handle; we need their expertise to solve violent and serious crime. And the city should not have allowed demolition of 9,000 single-room occupancy units, which forced thousands of low-income tenants out on the street, to make room for market rate condos that few families can afford.
As mayor, I will also work closely with county supervisors, who have the responsibility and the resources to add mental health and recuperative care beds. We already have a Housing Commission, so I will not create yet another City Hall bureaucracy, especially during the pandemic budget crisis. I’ll pay special attention to the children in homeless families, to make sure they have the protection and the schooling they desperately need. My coordinated and results-oriented approach has earned me Father Joe Carroll’s endorsement, and I’m very proud of that."
"I am the only candidate in this race who has committed to the goal of ending chronic homelessness in San Diego. Other cities have done it and San Diego should too. This problem is solvable with strong leadership, data-driven decision-making, and accountability for all stakeholders. A problem as large and complex as homelessness can only be solved if it is understood to be the City’s top priority. Cities that are making progress toward ending homelessness have mayors that are directly and personally involved in the matter. That’s why I will move homeless services into the Mayor’s office in my first 100 days. This action is meant to send an unambiguous message to the entire city that this issue is the focus of my administration. I will personally ensure we make progress on this issue and hold those carrying out the work of housing the homeless accountable every single day.
San Diego is spending more money than ever reacting to the homelessness crisis, but we are not seeing the results we deserve. As Mayor, I will implement radical transparency to ensure that limited taxpayer resources are being spent efficiently and effectively on programs that are getting people off the streets and keeping them housed for the long term. Those who are not delivering the results we expect will be defunded and we will redirect those funds to programs that are working.
Further, we must implement an aggressive housing first strategy that combines housing with wrap-around services. Emergency shelters should be for triage only. It’s common sense that the fastest way to end the condition of homelessness is to give someone a home. With supportive services added, we can ensure the individuals remain stable and do not return to the streets. Lastly, we must address the mental health crisis head-on and implement real solutions for those who cannot care for themselves. As Mayor, I will work with County officials to match MHSA funds to City housing dollars to incentivize the creation of housing first opportunities for the homeless. Housing providers and health and behavioral health care providers can coordinate to connect patients to resources and care as quickly as possible."
How do you believe San Diego can address police reform, underserved communities, and other structural inequities?
"My administration will develop a comprehensive public safety strategy that starts by revitalizing neighborhood policing and helps officers build trust by being immersed in the community they serve. San Diego was once a national leader in neighborhood policing; when I’m mayor, we will regain that leadership. We must recruit new officers who are committed to that approach, and give them the training, support, and compensation they deserve. But we must also hold bad cops accountable. That’s why I voted for an independent citizens’ police review board. It was politically risky, but it was the right thing to do.
To correct the structural inequities that plague our underserved communities, my Roadmap to Recovery focuses on economic equity, especially in communities south of 8, to help low-income families find well-paying jobs and give their children the tools they need to succeed."
"First, we need decision-makers who understand the struggles these communities are facing and won’t shy away from the difficult work of reversing decades of underinvestment in the Black community and communities of color south of Interstate 8. My plan for racial justice will not only reform the way in which police officers provide law enforcement, but seek to deal with the structural inequities that inhibit the opportunities of Black people and other people of color. On June 5, I took President Obama’s pledge to address police use-of-force policies as Mayor. Within my first 100 days, I will review the San Diego Police Department’s use-of-force policies and hold meetings with the community to discuss them. I will look to ensure these policies prioritize de-escalation and are compliant with state laws like AB 392, legislation I supported in the Assembly that changes California’s use-of-force standard. We will also pursue efforts to demilitarize local law enforcement, curb excessive surveillance that violates individual privacy, and stop overcriminalization.
As Mayor, I will make sure we invest in Black communities and communities of color using initiatives like the new Complete Communities initiative. Historically, new developments are assessed development impact fees to help support community amenities, but those funds can only be used in the community in which the development was built. This has created vast inequities. Communities like Downtown, for instance, have seen more development activity than others. The Complete Communities initiative shifts away from tying development funds to specific neighborhoods and allows for pooling of resources. By taking a holistic, City-wide approach, we can get more projects done faster and target investment based on need rather than on the availability of local development impact fees. Opportunities for employment in the city have also been a barrier to growth in communities of color.
As Mayor, I will work with the Equal Opportunity Contracting department to ensure true local hiring is occurring throughout our neighborhoods in the city. I will work with stakeholders to ensure that our contracting procedures are in line with best practices for equitable opportunity. In addition, the City must help prepare our young people to enter the workforce and eventually become employed. That’s why my administration will partner with school districts and expand initiatives like the San Diego Workforce Partnership’s CONNECT2Careers program to ensure our young people are able to receive pre-employment training – such as resumé building and interview preparation – as well as job and paid internship opportunities."
With the pandemic straining San Diego's budget, what is your plan to address the city's economic recovery during and after the pandemic?
"My private-sector experience in building companies that created hundreds of good-paying jobs qualifies me to ensure a strong economic recovery. Back in June, I convened a group of diverse community and business leaders to help develop my Roadmap to Recovery. It has specific strategies to restore and re-invent our local economy and get our residents back to work, while addressing historic inequities that have been magnified by the pandemic. My administration will “grow the pie” to benefit communities throughout the city, and will produce more of the tax revenue we’re going to need to provide quality city services. We’ll do that by promoting job development south of Interstate 8, closer to where many people live and near transit centers. Specifically, we will bring biotech downtown with hubs at Horton Plaza and on the bayfront at IQHQ — and biopharma manufacturing to Otay Mesa. Those industries will produce thousands of jobs for both college and non-college graduates.
My Roadmap to Recovery also includes universal Internet access for all San Diego families and small businesses, and a School Engagement Coordinator who will develop partnerships between employers and schools so that, from a young age, families will know more about the opportunities for their children. Economic development is part of my DNA. I was part of the team that grew San Diego’s innovation economy as an associate director at UCSD CONNECT. As a founder of Athena San Diego, I helped women enter the male-dominated tech industry. I’ve also been a successful entrepreneur who has been providing economic opportunity for over 30 years. As mayor, I’ll bring my business skills and innovation mindset to City Hall."
"I have put together a comprehensive economic recovery blueprint called “Back to Work SD.” This 43-page plan is the product of a task force I assembled comprise of leaders in their professions and in the community. Our recovery will ultimately require a deep investment in what makes San Diego a great city – the people who live here. We must first recognize that there can be no real recovery without first addressing the needs of children and families. All of our efforts to reopen and return to some sense of normalcy must depend first on a safe, timely, and equitable return to school and childcare provision. This ensures that parents can work, seek employment, or further their own education.
Our recovery must also continue our focus on homelessness and ensure more residents don’t fall into homelessness by protecting struggling renters and property owners. Despite the many challenges caused by COVID-19, San Diego must not halt progress on major redevelopment and infrastructure projects. These opportunities will spark economic recovery in the short-term and eventually provide world-class places for San Diegans to live, work, and play. Projects like SDSU West and redevelopment of the NAVWAR site are major investments in education and jobs. A strong recovery for small business owners will necessitate minimizing red tape, empowering communities, avoiding “one size fits all” approaches, and innovating city operations.
Together, we will create a permanent streamlined outdoor business permit program; launch an “Invest in Local” campaign to highlight local businesses, entrepreneurs, manufacturers, and suppliers; and extend commercial tenant protections and look to provide commercial rental assistance. San Diego’s response to the tragedy of COVID-19 will become a part of our history. It is a time for bold, inspired leadership. San Diego has seen financial crisis before, and I was proud to serve as Interim Mayor during that time and get our city back on track. Now more than ever, we need steady leadership and vision to bring the city together and protect people’s health, strengthen our economy, and make sure people can make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. We know San Diego is up for the challenge, and I look forward to leading our city through our recovery."