Morning Report: Vacancy Tax Déjà Vu

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Morning Report: Vacancy Tax Déjà Vu

A view of buildings in the Gaslamp Quarter / Image via Shutterstock

Several San Diego City Council members have expressed interest in a new tax that would pay for more low-income housing by charging property owners who leave their homes vacant.

In 2019, the San Diego Housing Commission made plans to study that very issue, but never did.

What happened? In short: “The agency turned out not to be so nimble. Bureaucratic roadblocks kept it from ever starting the study, let alone generating new policy ideas from what it found,” Lisa Halverstadt and Andrew Keatts write.

The commission issued a request for proposals but never awarded a contract. Instead, it went looking for, and found, the data it needed to conduct a study on its own and plans to finalize agreements with contractors this month.

The result is that the city doesn’t yet have the study at its disposal as it confronts the housing crisis with new urgency.

Other cities have made much more progress on instituting a vacancy tax in the time since the Housing Commission first made plans to do its study. Los Angeles voters will consider a ballot measure in 2022. Vancouver increased its tax in that time.

Mayors Call on State to Prioritize Vaccines for Teachers

In a letter California’s legislative leaders, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and others called on the state to prioritize vaccinations for transitional kindergarten through second grade teachers and school employees, and require school districts to reopen those classrooms as soon as the first dose has been offered.

“Our children, working families, and economy deserve a clear strategy to reopen schools safely,” Gloria tweeted Wednesday.

He joins a growing chorus of Democrats, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, pushing for a phased-in approach that ensures educators come back to the classroom before the year is over.

Will Huntsberry took a closer look at the ongoing dispute between the governor and California Teachers Association in last week’s Learning Curve. The state’s largest teacher’s union insists that all teachers be “provided the opportunity to be vaccinated before students return to campus.”

In semi-related news: The Board of Supervisors rejected a proposal to immediately provide vaccines to law enforcement officers, and a new vaccine superstation is expected to open Friday at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, reports the Union-Tribune. 

Border Pollution Is Officially a Public Health Crisis

San Diego County has declared pollution in the Tijuana River Valley a public health crisis. Though the problem has roiled San Diego and Tijuana for decades, county officials had previously not taken this step.

City News Service reports that any recommendations proposed by the South County Environmental Justice Task Force to clean up the Tijuana River Valley would first need approval by the supervisors. But at a meeting earlier this week, each expressed support for taking a harder look at what have been decades-long contamination problems.

The cross-border sewage spills routinely led to beach closures and exposed people to hazardous materials. Several public agencies came together in 2018 to sue the federal government over its inaction.

KPBS also reports that federal officials have proposed spending up to $300 million on pollution control projects at the border, but it remains unclear when those projects will begin.

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