I go for a walk almost every morning. Just a block from our church, under the Commercial Avenue freeway overpass, I have to move to the middle of the street because the sidewalks are clogged with tents. The smell of human waste chokes the area.
Then, I head up 16th Street, where families are just waking up. Kids with their sleepy, messed-up hair tumble out of tents and veterans whose vouchers are useless in an overpriced, scarce rental market wander down the street. They rub shoulders with the whole range of mentally ill, addicted, alcoholic and recently evicted brothers and sisters who all start their day trying to organize their little sidewalk space.
In this short walk, I pass hundreds of the thousands who are forced to call the streets of San Diego home. It wasn’t always this way; it was much different when I came to Barrio Logan almost 20 years ago.
“Invest in conventions and tourism,” some of our city leaders are telling us. “Everybody wins.”
That’s not true. Study after study has shown that as you replace affordable homes in low-income communities with restaurants, hotels, a ballpark, parking and places for tourists and convention-goers to stay and spend their dollars, you displace people who live in those neighborhoods. In the areas adjacent to these new developments, you drive up the price of renting and draw down the stock of housing. In other words, in a short 20 years or so, you create a homeless crisis. Now, thousands of people are forced into the street and families must double or triple up in small apartments.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s latest attempt to help the thousands of people experiencing homelessness is yet another failure to recognize this basic economic reality. He proposes increasing the hotel tax, and two-thirds of the money generated from the tax hike would go toward expanding the San Diego Convention Center. The other third would be split between homeless services and street repairs.
We Stand Up for You. Will You Stand Up for Us?
Here Here Lets separate the homeless issue, and therefore funding, from the inconvenience of tourists and conventioneers and in turn The Convention Center! Its very revealing that these 2 are bound together- it certainly doesn't address the socio economic issues that stress fixed income seniors and SSI recipients. And Streets we have a street budget and I am VERY tired of listening to construction at all hours of the early morning. Every gosh darn street is ripped up whether it has pot holes or not.
I agree with the sentiment if not necessarily with the premise. I don't believe that conventions and tourism have been a major factor in the loss of affordable housing stock. However, I think the problem lies more in the city's priorities by putting so much emphasis and subsidy into this industry. If the City put as much focus and subsidy into inclusive economic development and higher education growth, it would also generate tax revenue for the city (sales, payroll, property taxes, and TOT) but would generate more jobs and more high paying jobs. The UCSD / Torrey Pines Mesa land grants were perhaps the greatest economic moves the city ever made. Universities have a high multiplier effect - some studies have shown 5 private sector jobs created for every one university job. If we give this subsidy to the hoteliers, then we should give the Qualcomm land to SDSU, not FS Investors.
The proposed Convention Center expansion is on the waterfront on Port District land. You may disagree with the expansion proposal and you may disagree with the usage of the money, but there's really no need to make up facts or create straw man arguments. Does the proposed hotel tax increase propose demolition of any affordable house units? I've seen no evidence of that.
Convention center and related industry supports a lot of ten dollar jobs. More important that the council focus on higher paying jobs. Such as high tech, biotect and education. We already have enough low paying tourist jobs.
We need to challenge the assumption of the hotel industry that because they are the collectors of the TOT, they should be able to say where the money goes. Visitors to San Diego pay the tax, and the hotel industry is merely the mechanism of collection. The money goes to the city, and the most pressing municipal needs of this community do not include an expanded convention center. Replacement of affordable housing lost to redevelopment is a far more pressing municipal need.
Pronouncements by those in the tourist industry that they would not support a measure that supports funding for homeless programs, unless it includes the convention center expansion, is reprehensible. How about being good citizens, help improve the city and have a little compassion for your fellow man? Besides, hotel managers have said that the homeless problem has caused visitors to say that they are unlikely to return. In other words - the homeless problem is also bad for business!
Thank you for a great piece. I think the best thing to do would be to remove all current TOT and TMD funding from the municipal code. Set the TOT at 15.5%. Put 4.5% to homeless issues, 4.5% to infrastructure, 4.5% to the General Fund and 2% to marketing the City. It's not perfect but a lot better than is being proposed by the Mayor.