By Doug Porter
His plan is just perfect for sound-bite coverage. Mayoral candidate Kevin Faulconer rolled out his miracle cure for San Diego’s housing crisis focus on the homeless population on Wednesday and the local media dutifully reported his talking points without challenging any assumptions. It should have been easy to ask a few questions; after all here were no specifics, facts or dollar figures cited.
Today we’ll take a look at some of those assumptions, with a big assist via remarks made by by former mayor Jerry Sanders at a panel discussion sponsored by Torrey Pines Bank. Candidate Faulconer’s plan is simply a gussied up version of “trickle down” economics. And by now hopefully you’ve figured out how that hasn’t worked for 99% of the population. What’s going on here is that the GOP candidate is hiding his true intentions behind a “feel good” press release about the homeless.
A 2012 report by the Center for Housing Policy does a good job of outlining the problem, which extends way past the homeless population. While nearly one in four working households nationally are defined as having severe housing cost burden, 37% of San Diego residents are paying more than half of their income for housing. Much of the working population is one mishap away from being homeless, so when you’re talking about housing in San Diego, you may as well talk about the whole problem.
Real wages, according to a Business Insider story on the latest Economic Report of the President, declined again in 2013 for the fortieth year in a row. A worker making $341.73 a week (in 1982-4 dollars) made $294.83 last year. As the BI story says, “This decline is especially amazing when we consider that private non-farm productivity has doubled in this period.”
Meanwhile, the median (inflation adjusted) price for a San Diego, California metropolitan area house has nearly doubled over the past 27 years.
So prices are up (demand is greater than availability) and income is down. The central premise of Kevin Faulconer’s plan is to “reduce the regulatory burdens that increase construction costs.” The other end of this equation, income, is completely ignored. Well, except for the fact Faulconer’s opposed to any increase in the minimum wage. Or any city deal that would effectively raise wages.
Nowhere does the plan talk about exactly what regulatory burdens would be reduced. Would it be the requirements for lead paint abatement in rehab projects? Rules governing limitations on storm water runoff? How about electrical inspections? (I know, I know, some of these aren’t city regulations, I’m speaking figuratively!)
Another part of his plan talks about amount of “land-use regulations associated with housing construction.” In plain English, this means loosening up zoning. The city is already going through a period of self-examination via the resurrection of community plans, but as you’ll see in a minute that’s not necessarily a good thing in Faulconer’s vision for San Diego.
Here’s the money quote from the UT-San Diego story:
Faulconer unveiled his plan to make housing available to a larger portion of San Diego’s population than ever before. It calls for reducing regulatory burdens that increase construction costs and home prices, creating more affordable housing through private investment and implementing new policies to address homelessness.
“Creating a San Diego where the possibility of buying a home is a reality for all San Diegans will take an experienced leader who understands how to work with the private sector to reduce construction costs, incentivize private investment in affordable housing and find permanent supportive housing solutions for San Diego’s homeless,” Faulconer said.
The Chamber of Commerce Solution
In case you haven’t figured it out already, Kevin Faulconer’s candidacy is aimed at restoring business as it used to be in San Diego. And the spokesperson for the “business community” supporting this premise is former Mayor Jerry Sanders. You’ve seen him in Faulconer’s TV ads and, as CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, he’s been a leader in beating the drums for the downtown set.
There was a great little story in yesterday’s San Diego Daily Transcript, wherein Sanders laid out his vision. And we have to assume, given who’s putting up much of Faulconer’s support, this is what we’re looking at for the future should the GOP candidate win.
Speaking at a panel discussion sponsored by Torrey Pines Bank, Sanders, who now heads the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, urged businesses to elect politicians who “understand the entitlement process,” a reference to the concept that landholders should have greater latitude over how to develop their properties.
As mayor, Sanders dismantled the city’s Planning Department in 2011, merging it with the Development Services Department, which focused more on issuing permits than developing long-range plans involving the rezoning of neighborhoods, drafting of community-wide building codes and development of public services and infrastructure.
The Planning Department has since been revived, headed by Bill Fulton, a nationally known advocate of “smart growth,” who promotes long-range plans as a way of giving developers a clearer picture of each community’s vision for its future, which should streamline the approval process. But Sanders said the current planning process, which relies on many community meetings and public hearings, allows too many “gadflies” to slow developments.
So to sum up: get those damned city groups out of the process, neuter and spay Bill Fulton and worry about how fast permits can be issued instead of the impact developments have on the surrounding community.
It’s also interesting to note that the SDDT article quotes Brian Seltzer, chief operating officer of the law firm of Seltzer Caplan McMahon & Vitek (can you guess what they do?), complaining about the limitations of the strong mayor system and pining for the good old days when a city manager was in charge. Jerry Sanders responded by telling the audience the Chamber of Commerce is currently drafting recommendations for changing the City Charter regarding the mayor’s powers.
Oh, boy. I can’t wait to see those proposals.
Faulconer’s Record at Play
Lest you think I’m engaging in hyperbole regarding Mr. Faulconer’s real feelings towards citizen involvement, let me cite an example from BikeSD’s endorsement of David Alvarez. Both candidates are bike enthusiasts. But when push came to shove for San Diego’s cycling advocates, actions (or lack thereof) spoke louder than words.
Our board member, Nicole Burgess, has had the opportunity to work with Faulconer and his staff in addressing barriers to bicycling in District 2 for over three years. However in the three years that Burgess has been involved in advocacy, despite repeatedly highlighting the urgent need to make bicycling safe on Nimitz Boulevard on the three critical blocks between Chatsworth and Wabaska – Faulconer and his team have been unable to direct city staff to make the needed improvements. In fact the improvements that were implemented were not requested by the District 2 bike/pedestrian advisory committee or the Peninsula Community Planning Board. The resurfacing contract for Nimitz has been postponed at least thrice in 2013 which has delayed any potential improvements on the above mentioned critical blocks. Burgess rides with school children every day and avoids Nimitz as much as possible in order to ensure a safe ride, but these three blocks along Nimitz are the unavoidable sections of her route. In short – we lack the confidence that Councilmember Faulconer as mayor would be as responsive as Councilmember Alvarez has been to date.
Is the GOP Ready for Immigration Reform?
Word out of Washington DC is that the Republican leadership is pushing hard for some kind of action on immigration reform legislation that includes some kind of legal status for the 11 million undocumented people already living in the United States.
Via the Huffington Post:
“The problem has been around for at least the last 15 years and turned into a political football — I think it’s unfair,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters at a press conference earlier in the day. “I think this is the time to deal with it. But how we deal with it is going to be critically important.”
Actually getting anything done may be more difficult, as this article from Buzzfeed points out:
And although there are a variety of reasons for inaction, one Republican lawmaker recently offered a frank acknowledgement that for many House Republicans, there’s one issue at play that’s not often discussed: race.
“Part of it, I think — and I hate to say this, because these are my people — but I hate to say it, but it’s racial,” said the Southern Republican lawmaker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “If you go to town halls people say things like, ‘These people have different cultural customs than we do.’ And that’s code for race.
And then there’s this reaction, posted prominently at the conserv blog Drudge yesterday:
On This Day: 1876 – All Native American Indians were ordered to move into reservations. 1940 – The first Social Security check was issued by the U.S. Government. 1979 – The Clash began their first North American tour with Bo Diddley as their opening act.
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