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When Mayor Kevin Faulconer took office in early 2014, homelessness wasn’t on his list of top priorities. That changed in 2017 when the city and county’s fumbling response to a deadly hepatitis A outbreak pummeled San Diego’s homeless population made national and international headlines.
Faulconer then rushed to expand homeless services and to increase police enforcement to clear out the tents that once lined some downtown sidewalks. More recently, he has also directed the city to open its Convention Center to homeless San Diegans during the pandemic and to purchase to hotels to permanently house hundreds who have stayed there — and has touted his record on homelessness as he eyes a bid for governor.
Lisa Halverstadt looks back at Faulconer’s dramatic shift in his approach to homelessness and evaluates the impact he’s had as he prepares to leave the mayor’s office.
Halverstadt found that Faulconer’s legacy on the crisis is complicated by his reluctance to take a leadership role before hepatitis A hit homeless camps, and that changes in methods used to conduct the annual homeless census make the results of policies he is now touting much murkier than he’s suggested.
Speaking of housing the homeless in the Convention Center … Faulconer’s office announced Saturday that 53 homeless San Diegans staying at the Convention Center shelter tested positive for the coronavirus. Another test was inconclusive and a staffer who had worked at the shelter also tested positive. Faulconer spokeswoman Ashley Bailey said the 54 shelter residents moved to county public health hotel rooms on Saturday. Bailey said all were asymptomatic when they were tested Thursday and testing continued over the weekend.
As of late last week, 872 homeless San Diegans were staying at the Convention Center shelter and hundreds were preparing to move into hotel rooms the city purchased with the help of state Project Homekey funds. Until Saturday, 27 clients and staff at the Convention Center had tested positive for coronavirus.
As Andrew Keatts and Scott Lewis explained in this week’s Politics Report, Mayor-elect Todd Gloria has said he wants to keep the Convention Center shelter open after funds run out for the facility at the end of this month but he has yet to identify how he’ll pay for it amid tough budget times for the city.
Our last podcast of the Faulconer era was dedicated to, well, the Faulconer era.
With the mayor stepping down, Scott Lewis, Sara Libby and Andrew Keatts discussed what could become of the local Republican Party. The GOP has been bleeding local elected seats in recent years and has only one member on the City Council.
Leadership atop the Oceanside Police Department is overwhelmingly White and male, and that lack of diversity is one reason why community leaders have insisted the search for a new police chief be expanded. The city manager has scrapped plans to hire internally and announced an open recruit process last month.
Kayla Jimenez took a closer look at the police department’s demographics as well as a new survey intended to guide city staff while they look for a new chief. There was little support for reducing the police department budget and lots of support for improved de-escalation training, homeless outreach and more.
Most said they were satisfied with the police department but wanted to see reforms rather than more of the status quo.
One faith-based group, however, criticized the survey because only a fraction of the responses came from Spanish-speakers.
State lawmakers were expected to return to the Capitol on Monday at roughly the same time the governor was expected to issue new shutdown orders. In the Sacramento Report, Sara Libby highlights the things she’ll be watching as the new session gets underway.
Several bills related to police reform and transparency are expected to come back for discussion. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez announced her first new bill of the session, allowing unemployment benefits to be distributed via direct deposit. Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins said she’ll revive legislation related to housing production and sea-level rise, which got cut last time around as legislators shifted their attention to the pandemic.
Republicans, in the meantime, are gearing up to challenge the governor over the emergency powers he’s wielding.
Also: Libby reports that a former staffer in Sen. Ben Hueso’s Chula Vista office has filed a legal claim — a precursor to a lawsuit — alleging discrimination and harassment based on her race.
The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx and Lisa Halverstadt, and edited by Sara Libby.