Issues Facing Our City
Aging infrastructure and deferred maintenance loom large in all San Diegans' minds. We see evidence of this daily in the form of potholes in our roads and cracked and buckling sidewalks. The local news contains repeated stories of bursting water mains and flooded streets during rain storms.
I will work with the Mayor, City Council and the Public Works Department to address these issues, now that the City has put its financial house in order and can again work toward solving these problems. The Rebuild San Diego ballot initiative is a good start and should help us remain focused on that goal.
However, even if we had all of the financial resources that we need to address our infrastructure and deferred maintenance shortfall, the City is ill-equipped to bring the needed resources to bear on these problems.
The City desperately needs reforms in purchasing and contracting to allow it to develop the needed capacity to deliver infrastructure improvements. This includes the development of infrastructure asset management software to better track our city's infrastructure, coupled with continuous infrastructure condition assessments. Constant monitoring of the condition of all our city's infrastructure means that we can identify and prioritize repairs and upgrades in an order that makes the most sense.
Technology can help solve these problems. I will apply my expertise in this area to ensure that the City moves its current procedures into the 21st century, replacing outdated computerized and manual procedures with state-of-the-art program management systems.
Fire and Paramedic Protection - Fire and paramedic coverage in the City of San Diego has not kept up with population growth in many areas of San Diego City, in particular District 1.
Of particular concern are the communities of Torrey Hills, Torrey Pines, University City, and UC San Diego. New fire stations are needed in these areas. This need has been verified by the 2011 Citygate report that laid out a five-year plan to rectify this shortfall in San Diego Fire-Rescue Department (SDFRD) resouces.
I pledge to work to implement the SDFRD recommandations and get District 1 residents the protection they deserve.
Police Department - The San Diego Police Department continues to have a problem with staffing as older officers retire in numbers not being offset by the hiring of new officers and the training of recruits from the San Diego Police Academy. By some measures, San Diego has only half the number of active duty police officers as similarly sized cities.
Overworked and over-extended police officers are not good for the crime rate, and this staffing shortage severely impacts the Police Department's push for "community policing," which is the key to proactive partnering with citizens to control neighborhood crime.
In addition, with the passage of Prop 47 in 2014, crimes that were formerly felonies, such as drug possession and theft, have been reduced to misdemeanors and have placed an added burden on our Police Department while leaving them with fewer tools to be able to combat this type of crime.
I will work with the San Diego Police Officers Association (SDPOA), the Police Department, the City Council and the Mayor to address this serious problem.
We need to continue to survey officers who leave the SDPD to find out why they are leaving the department, along with determining why recruits who go through our Police Academy end up taking jobs with other agencies.
We should consider additional incentives such as signing bonuses for officers who go through the academy and stay with the San Diego Police Department, along with bonuses for officers who reach milestones with the department, such as five, ten, fifteen and twenty years.
We also can increase our recruiting efforts at local high schools, colleges, athletic teams, churches, and among members of the military and new veterans.
In addition, we are currently facing a crisis with our police dispatch situation. Wait times for 911 calls are sometimes stretching for several minutes during peak times. Pay for dispatchers has been frozen for the last several years, making it hard to attract and retain staffers. Also it takes months to train new dispatchers. Current dispatchers have been faced with working mandatory overtime shifts for the past few years with no relief. The fastest way to address this issue is with additional merit pay for dispatchers. Plus we need to recruit additional dispatchers from around the country and provide incentives to trained dispatchers who are currently working in other positions in the city to pick up shifts while we train and hire additional dispatch staff.
San Diego needs a sustainable and affordable water supply. My wife Sherri Lightner created San Diego's first comprehensive water policy that has allowed the City to be proactive instead of reactive with respect to managing our water resources. I pledge to continue this important work.
I will work to fully implement the approved Water Policy Implementation Plan created by Sherri Lightner and unanimously approved by the City Council in 2013. This includes water conservation, improved local water storage capacity, recycled water for irrigation purposes (i.e., "purple pipe"), encouragement of the installation of greywater systems for home water reuse, large-scale desalination (e.g., Carlsbad and Sweetwater "desal" plants), and the Pure Water program to create drinking water from our recycled waste water.
The San Diego region has made far more investments than most of the state in creating resilient local water supplies in the last few decades to combat California's historic drought. We should not be subject to the same severe water reductions as other regions of California, and I will push for the State to acknowledge this by reducing our region's mandatory drought restrictions.
I will also work to ensure that the San Diego Public Utilities Department continues with its now stepped-up program to replace aging (and failing) City water mains, both obsolete cast iron and cement pipe.
Quality of Life
As a 50+ year resident of San Diego, most of it living in District 1, I have watched the quality of life in the region gradually decline as measured by increased traffic, over-development, loss of neighborhood identity and destruction of historical resources.
Traffic - This affects just about anyone who must use a vehicle in their daily lives. Freeway and surface street traffic has been getting gradually worse in San Diego for decades. There are no easy fixes for this.
Promoting the use of public transportation and bikes, and ride sharing, while important steps, will make little difference in the short term. Synchronizing traffic lights and improving freeway on-ramp access also offers no real solutions to the overall problem, which is an overloaded road system that is a result of poor development management and overdevelopment.
Given the current traffic situation, what can be done? Advances in technology, on multiple fronts, can and will solve our current transportation issues in a surprisingly short time.
We are just beginning to see a major shift in how vehicles will be controlled in the near future. Self-driving cars are here. They are not in your garage yet, but that is sure to change. The federal government has just mandated that in the near future control of your car's brakes will revert to your vehicle's computer if a rear-end collision is imminent. That is just the first step in what many predict will be an eventual prohibition against "human-driving" on our roadways in urban areas.
I and others predict the rapid adoption of this technology, most likely first by "ride sharing" services like Uber and Lyft, and later by individuals. In fact, some predict that vehicle ownership by individuals will become the exception rather than the norm in the coming decades.
Studies show that full adoption of "self-driving" vehicles will dramatically reduce the traffic on our existing freeways! This means we may currently be overbuilding freeways and other transportation infrastructure that will soon become outdated and unnecessary.
As your Council representative, I will encourage the incubation and adaptation of new and emerging technologies that can solve not only our "traffic problems," but the looming issue of climate change. After all, transitioning from fossil-fueled individual vehicles to solar and wind-powered all-electric shared vehicles that are always at your beck and call---and which will recharge and park themselves---makes both economic and environmental sense.
Community Development - Many of San Diego's older communities are under attack by large developers who seek to overturn existing master-planned zoning and community plans by over-developing properties which they own.
The most recent publicized examples in the coastal zone include Carlsbad's Agua Hedionda Lagoon luxury shopping center and Kilroy's One Paseo commercial and residential project in Carmel Valley (see below). Staggering amounts of money are being spent by developers to promote these projects over the objections of the communities which will have to live with the after-effects.
The City's Development Services Department repeatedly approves projects which are out-of-scale with their communities and in violation of the guidelines dictated by local community plans, over the strong objections of the local planning groups.
Our coastal communities in District 1 are quickly changing their character, becoming a hodgepodge of "McMansions" that are built out to the maximum height and floor area that can be slipped past Development Services. Typically, the first over-the-top project is used to justify an endless number of similar successive projects. These same projects are "rubber stamped" by the San Diego Planning Commission, an organization controlled by the Mayor and development interests---that consists of several individuals who have inherent conflicts of interests between their profession and their ability to make impartial and objective decisions. Over and over again, the only recourse for the community is to sue the City and/or the developers---or use the initiative and referendum process to place these projects on the ballot.
There are no consequences when Development Services Department personnel approve projects that result in lawsuits or end with ballot initiatives seeking to overturn these projects. Repeatedly, we see Development Services Department personnel retiring from the City to become well-paid lobbyists for developers who promote these unacceptable projects.
This whole process needs to be reformed. The Planning Commission needs to do its job, which is to examine projects and act in the best interests of the residents of our city.
We desperately need to initiate a program to update community plans, with a funding mechanism in place to ensure that this happens without delay. A moratorium on additional changes to current community plans needs to be put in place until complete community plan updates are finished. Otherwise, inappropriate development will continue to plague our City.
In addition, infrastructure in the form of water, sewer, schools, parks, roads and other transportation options needs to be properly matched to what the City and County allow developers to build, both residential and commercial. And, this essential infrastructure needs to be planned for and funded before construction is allowed to proceed.
I pledge to continue my wife Sherri Lightner's efforts to bring sensible and sustainable land use decisions to the planning and project approval processes.
Short Term Vacation Rentals - As someone who has lived near a short term vacation rental for years, I know firsthand how they affect the quality of life in our single family residential neighborhoods, especially with respect to noise and parking impacts. The simplest solution is to ban short term vacation rentals in single family residential zones by strengthening the existing language in our Municipal Code and then enforcing that language.
The strength of our economy is in our small businesses---over 90% of our businesses---and our local entrepreneurial spirit. My goal as Councilmember is to ensure the City fosters innovation, creativity, and economic growth, in every way it can. San Diego will have good jobs in the future if we focus on becoming the tech hub of the world. We have defense and military, high tech, bio tech, clean tech, cyber tech, sport and active lifestyle tech, blue tech, beer tech, brew tech (as in coffee), and film working for us. We need to partner internationally---not just cross-border with Mexico---to grow these tech sectors. This calls for reliable and affordable water, energy, housing and transportation. We need an educated local workforce. And, we need to continue to maintain San Diego's exceptional quality of life.
The creation of well-paying jobs is of critical importance to the economic stability and future of our region. We should work to close the local skills gap through focused education and vocational training and build upon our existing highly skilled and creative workforce. Using the triple helix of public/private/academic collaboration, our region is poised to become the tech hub of the world.
District 1 is home to San Diego's economic engine: the Golden Triangle. The potent combination of UC San Diego, the many research institutes, big pharma, and bio tech on Torrey Pines Mesa is poised to make us the world's leading cluster not only of bio tech but clean tech in the coming years.
Despite the recent economic downturn, exciting new opportunities continue to emerge in the Golden Triangle, such as the opening of the privately funded EvoNexus technology incubator and the opening of the RNAi center at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology.
Efforts at the City include the collaboration of the Mayor and Council to highlight economic development. Specific efforts include the creation of the City's Economic Development Department and the creation of the City Council's Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee. Outcomes included the bi-national agreement with the City of Tijuana, the Go Global initiative, and the city's first economic development strategy in over ten years. I pledge to continue my wife Sherri Lightner's execution of this plan.
It is important that we as a region "collaborate to compete". This calls for the City to act as the facilitator and connector, working with our local business and government sectors, academic institutions and business advocacy groups, such as our Federal and State lobbyists, the Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Corporation, the Maritime Alliance, CyberTech, CleanTech, and BioCom.
Learning from the businesses what they need, stepping in to facilitate opportunities by providing economic incentives, and getting out of the way of our businesses by eliminating red tape are the ways in which the City Council can help with economic development. We also can leverage the incentives offered at the State and Federal levels and lobby for additional incentives that benefit local sectors. We should advocate for the region during any sequestration events---automatic federal budget cuts, especially those that impact our military and defense sectors.
The City's efforts with land use planning and resource allocation are important to economic development. Our land use and housing policies need to protect neighborhoods, while also keeping us competitive and promoting economic growth. The Economic Prosperity Element of the City's General Plan protects and preserves industrial lands, which allows for continued workplace development. We must ensure our industrial areas are protected and receive the City infrastructure and services they need---water, good streets, fire and life safety protection.
Not having sufficient affordable housing is one of the barriers to attracting and retaining workers and businesses. Incentives for market-rate affordable housing, San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) affordable housing and red tape reduction that leverages existing State mandates should be a priority for the City. Our transportation system should be more diversified to make it easier for commuters to get to and from their workplace. Incentives for businesses to allow flexible work schedules and telecommuting to reduce rush hour traffic should also be encouraged.
The City needs to facilitate partnerships with the business community to ensure they have the workers that they need now and into the future. Partnering with the academic institutions to provide degree programs (in fields such as Cybersecurity), vocational training (such as advanced manufacturing) and mentorships/internships (such as "Bridges to Education" and "Connect2Careers") will help to develop our local workforce. We as a City need to make STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education a priority. Education is where our region should stand out---fostering tech innovation and creativity.
New Chargers Stadium
I am not against public-private partnerships for projects that can benefit the community, but such associations only make sense if the public nets real benefits from their investment---benefits in terms of well-paying jobs, economic growth, quality of life and/or essential infrastructure.
A long-term investment of our dwindling real and potential tax revenues in a high-tech sports stadium is like taking out a 30-year mortgage to buy a motorhome---it makes no sense.
For that reason, I am against both the latest Charger's "Convadium" proposal as well as the Citizen's Initiative. Both use tax dollars to build and later maintain something of questionable long-term viability, which just like Qualcomm Stadium, likely will result in a drain on the City's limited General Fund resources for decades into the future.
One Paseo (Revised Project)
The One Paseo project is a perfect example of attempted "spot zoning" by Kilroy, a Los Angeles developer, in violation of the Carmel Valley Community Plan. The original plan called for a 510,000 square foot office building. Kilroy completely ignored the zoning restrictions, and proposed a massive over-development of the property for a project three times larger than what was allowed on this site. The San Diego Planning Commission and seven members of the City Council approved this project over the community's strong objections. The community then rose up in protest and collected enough signatures to place the project on a citywide ballot. When it became clear that the community would prevail, Kilroy backed down and has now offered a revised project.
While the litigants of the original project and Kilroy are supportive of a "New One Paseo" project, the affected community planning group did not approve the proposed project, even after requesting 15 conditions be placed on the project.
Now the San Diego Planning Commission cannot even hear the revised project because of conflicts of interest by so many of the developer-affiliated Planning Commissioners.
As currently constituted, the revised One Paseo project remains in clear violation of the original 510,000 square feet office-only plan for the property.The new project includes 1.2 million square feet of office, retail and residential space, including 608 residential units.
The unplanned traffic and infrastructure implications of the "revised" project are of grave concern to me. The sequence of steps which allowed this project to move forward over the strong objections of the community brings the whole development process into question.
I pledge to work to ensure that this seemingly flawed process is changed.