SDCNN Editorial Board
Although most voters won’t be punching tickets at voting booths until June 7, residents who vote by mail began casting their ballots May 9.
Mission Valley News and its parent company San Diego Community Newspaper Network do not give candidate endorsements. Instead, the newspaper paper provides information about candidates running for the local offices that most impact our readers. This year, that office is the San Diego City Council District 7 seat.
To get an idea of what kind of councilmember they would be if elected, Mission Valley News asked the candidates — incumbent Republican Scott Sherman and Democratic challengers Justin DeCesare and Jose Caballero — to weigh in on the most pressing issues that face the city.
Is there a Chargers stadium plan you would support?
Sherman: Yes, I supported and continue to support the Citizens’ Stadium Advisory Group plan the Mayor [Kevin Faulconer] and the city put forward in the beginning. It is the most financially responsible plan for taxpayers.
DeCesare: I support the initial Citizen’s Initiative as released by former City Councilwoman Donna Frye. While it’s not specifically a stadium proposal, it provides an avenue for funding and
building a new stadium and creates California Environmental Quality Act exemptions to do so. I am against any attempt to sell city-owned land to developers under the guise of keeping the Chargers in Mission Valley in a new stadium.
Caballero: The Chargers are welcome to stay in San Diego — but the city should not give them a penny of public money. The only circumstance where I support public funds for stadium construction and maintenance is if the NFL gives ownership of the team to the city of San Diego (like what happened in Green Bay), where the city receives all profit from ticket sales, naming rights, parking, concessions, and other team revenue streams. Otherwise, it is flat out wrong to give the very wealthy Spanos family millions of dollars of public money — regardless of where that public money comes from.
Same question for the Convention Center expansion.
Sherman: The Convention Center is a vital part of San Diego’s economy. Conventions like Comic-Con and the Society for Neuroscience bring in millions of dollars in economic impact to San Diego. I am open to all ideas for expanding the Convention Center to help generate funds that the city can reinvest into our neighborhoods — as long as it is contiguous.
DeCesare: I will certainly support a Convention Center expansion that makes sense for San Diego’s economy, as long as it considers and protects environmental aspects. This is why I prefer a noncontiguous expansion.
Caballero: If expanded, the Convention Center should be expanded across the street, not toward the Bay. The waterfront is an important public resource and should remain open to the people of San Diego. I do not support the Convadium plan that puts San Diego taxpayers on the hook for a billion dollars, between construction and maintenance costs. There are far more pressing needs for public funds, like fixing our streets, solving our homelessness issue, and implementing our Climate Action Plan.
How do you think the city should address the homeless problem?
Sherman: We have seen a real influx of homeless not only in areas such as Downtown, but also in our community parks and canyons. I have worked with the San Diego Police Department to increase staffing to our HOT (Homeless Outreach Teams) to start providing the introductory services to help get the homeless off the streets, I worked with my council colleagues and Mayor Faulconer to create a full-time shelter Downtown, and to implement a plan to end all veteran homelessness in San Diego. However, I continue working to reform a broken system where the cost of building affordable housing is twice as expensive as the construction of regular housing. Our region is in dire need of more housing in San Diego. To truly fix the problem, we must give the homeless all the tools they need to re-acclimate into society, including a housing-first model similar to what Salt Lake City implemented, which decreased homelessness by 91 percent.
DeCesare: As a city, we need to realize that we can play a large role in cultivating resources for those who live on the streets, especially with regard to housing. The answer is not to pack up entire homeless encampments right before a large rainstorm as we saw the city do last month.
The many service providers and nonprofits that work tirelessly to end homelessness in our region will tell you that there’s not enough funding, and there’s a great deal of competition for limited resources. Our city leaders need to engage these organizations by bringing together providers in a network that allows groups to collaborate. We need to change the way we approach homelessness, and view this problem as more than just a nuisance.
Caballero: Housing first. We need to ensure people are provided with a home and the mental and physical health services that will facilitate them getting back on their feet. The city’s current approach of shuffling homeless around the city isn’t working, and people deserve better.
Albuquerque [New Mexico] has a program where the city goes around to panhandlers and homeless and gives them employment for the day, cleaning up the city and other public service jobs. At the end of the day, the city pays people cash for their work and connects them with any services they may need. I pledge to bring this program to San Diego. It helps those in need, gives them a sense of purpose and of contribution, while also benefitting the city through their work.
What are your views on developing more transit options? What is your position on the SANDAG ballot proposal that includes a half-cent sales tax increase and prioritizes public transportation over highway funds?
Sherman: I support providing San Diegan’s alternatives to driving. I support the trolley extension into UTC, the Bicycle Master Plan Update, and the Grantville Master Plan update which allows for more public transit options through District 7. With that said I think District 7 residents already pay some of the highest taxes in the country and I do not believe another tax will solve the problem. We need to be responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars and find creative ways to work with what we have, just as they do in the private sector.
DeCesare: As our city has recently adopted a Climate Action Plan, I can’t stress enough the importance of focusing our infrastructure efforts on creating new, renewable, public options for transit that can be used and enjoyed by all of our neighborhoods and residents.
There are many positive aspects to the SANDAG plan, such as the allocation of long-term money for open-space preservation and public transit options, but the proposed tax increase places far too much emphasis on the expansion of highways.
We consistently apply “Band-Aid” solutions to our city, but we are at a crossroads. If we don’t prioritize transit that protects our environment along with smart growth projections, we will never meet our goals and will continue to expand outward, putting even more pressure on our freeways.
Caballero: We need livable, walkable, bikeable neighborhoods. This means prioritizing barriered bike lanes, pedestrian crossings, and appropriate zoning. Our public transportation needs to serve the areas people want to go, like our beaches and the airport — neither of which are currently connected to the trolley. We need more frequent buses, more bus routes, and safer bus stops.
I do not support the current proposal though, because it still includes significant money for road and highway expansion, which will only worsen congestion and increase the number of cars on our roads. We need a plan where the tax increase focuses 100 percent on road repair, public transportation, and environmentally-friendly solutions.
What are your ideas/thoughts on addressing the affordable housing crisis?
Sherman: Affordable housing is an integral part of resolving the homeless issue and housing crisis in San Diego. I support increasing the amount of affordable housing, but we must first address how to build these houses closer to the actual cost. A recent study showed that building affordable housing costs about double of market-rate housing. It is important that we remove red tape on the government side to help make housing more affordable.
DeCesare: There are two sides to this problem, and they are not mutually exclusive. First, we have income that is growing at half the rate of inflation in San Diego. This means our money is worth half as much this year as it was last year. Let’s start by focusing on growing the monthly income of families.
Second, the red tape is burdensome and the cost to develop is too high, specifically for well-meaning, smaller developers. It’s time we focus on updating our community plans (to match our Climate Action Plan and current smart growth projections) so developers who are seeking to develop in the RIGHT way have access to a fair and unbiased process. For too long, the only people who are able to navigate this maze have been those with enough capital to wait out a lengthy and often litigious process. By giving the owner of a single-family home on a multi-zoned parcel the peace of mind that his or her investment in creating additional units will meet current goals, we can help increase the market supply at a development cost that doesn’t put as much burden on the consumer.
Caballero: I will make fighting for rent stabilization the top priority of my first 100 days in office. Too many people who work in San Diego can no longer afford to live here. Yet big out-of-town developers make huge profits for new developments and are buying up apartment complexes that have been managed by local families for decades. Enough is enough. We need to build a city that works for everyone. And that means making sure people are not forced out of their homes by disproportionately large increases in rent.
Where do you stand on the Rebuild San Diego Plan, the infrastructure “mega bond?”
Sherman: The Rebuild SD Plan is not a bond or a tax, it is a new way of allocating funds over the next 30 years to address our infrastructure deficit. I fully support Rebuild SD, and seconded the motion at Council. This plan will prioritize and address the much-needed repairs to our roads, sidewalks, and city facilities.
DeCesare: In my opinion, just because the plan is named “Rebuild San Diego” doesn’t mean that the plan will do much in the way of improvement, and San Diegans will likely continue to find themselves driving on terrible roads and over potholes.
The plan itself calls for no new revenue, so it has to draw from city coffers where money is already being spent on crucial services. It’s time we have an honest discussion about where the money is going to come from to pay for a billion-dollar infrastructure gap. Taking money away from our fire stations or parks isn’t an option, not to mention we’d still fall well short of adequate solutions to the problems at hand.
Caballero: This plan kicks the can down the road, in that we have no way to know if the three funding sources would actually come through. The residents of San Diego need more than just wishful thinking 30 years from now. We need a concrete plan that fixes our streets and infrastructure now. The revenue sources are unfair to the working class of San Diego, as it relies on future increases in taxes and cuts to pensions. The plan is unspecific on where the general fund growth would come from, and is nothing more than political theater.
What is the best way the city can address water/drought issues?
Sherman: The city is implementing the Pure Water Program and the Carlsbad desalination plant, which will help with water usage, but we must address our capacity on the other side of the issue with building more reservoirs.
DeCesare: We need to focus on building our water infrastructure, specifically the implementation of Indirect Potable Reuse. It’s a big investment, but will be paramount in maintaining water independence in San Diego.
Caballero: I pledge to fight for water capture and recycling — build an Indirect Potable Reuse facility (Pure Water San Diego program) that will purify our wastewater and provide us with 30 million gallons a day.
[Use] native plants in city landscaping — save water and money by installing native plants with low water and maintenance needs.
Water capture by private landowners — promote education initiatives about existing city and state programs for homeowners. Expand the rain barrel rebate program beyond a pilot initiative.
Create public-private partnerships to expand grass replacement and micro-irrigation rebates.
Focus on replacing broken pipes, that leak 40 percent of our water underground and into our streets.
Where do you stand on the city’s minimum wage increase?
Sherman: I am opposed to the city setting its own minimum wage. The state has rendered this point moot by setting a minimum wage higher than the previously proposed San Diego initiative. I feel this issue is something which should be set at the state level to avoid cities competing against each other.
When I was a single father raising my daughter, I knew firsthand the struggles of trying to get by. If I thought that this measure would help struggling San Diego families, I would be the first in line to support. Unfortunately, this job will do the opposite and hurt struggling San Diego small businesses that account for over 90 percent of businesses in San Diego
DeCesare: I fully support raising the minimum wage. Though California recently adopted a $15 minimum wage, San Diego’s Prop I provides a much-needed raise more quickly and serves to bring us up to the state standard. It also grants an additional two days of mandatory paid sick leave, and the wage increases are tied to cost of living adjustments unlike the state proposal.
The gains that will be seen by individual families affected by the increase will go right back into our local economy, not invested in other cities, states or countries, or placed in tax-deductible IRAs. It’s time we realize that a strong, well-paid workforce is the best way to keep our growing population thriving.
Caballero: I completely support the current ballot initiative and the fight for $15 movement. Even in light of the recent statewide legislation to increase the minimum wage to $15 by 2022, we still need the city’s increase. The city’s increase will provide support sooner to people who are working but still struggle every day just to make ends meet.
In addition to the $15 minimum wage, I propose a “Too Small To Fail” program to ease the burden of the minimum wage increase on those businesses that are small enough that the increase would cause them to struggle. This program would use increased sales tax revenue (from more people having enough money to spend on things) to subsidize for one year those businesses that would otherwise not be able to sustain the wage increase. This would give them time to retool their business to meet the new wage requirement.
Where do you stand on development density?
Sherman: There is no denying that San Diego has had a housing shortage for a number of years and building new houses not only addresses this problem but creates jobs. I have always been a supporter of transit-oriented development around mass transit options with pre-existing infrastructure such as trolley tracks and bus routes, which is how we will reach our Climate Action Plan goals.
DeCesare: We know that San Diego is facing a significant population increase over the next few decades, and we know we need to build. In many areas, increased density is a good way to ensure future development meets the needs of a growing population. Our city needs to focus on expanding public transportation now, and do so in line with where development density will be increasing, specifically in areas that are prime for urban infill development. What density should not be is just a way to make money by building units in the center of areas with inadequate transit options or access to job centers, forcing two more cars per unit onto the freeway. We must ultimately focus on the goals set forth in the Climate Action Plan.
Caballero: San Diego is the 12th fastest growing city in the country. However, that does not mean we need development for the sake of development. We need smart and mixed-use urban planning, so San Diegans can live, work, and play right here in our own neighborhoods. We need to make sure public transportation is available, and that our roads are safe to walk and bike on. We should take a strategic planning approach to zoning and new development, where we create entire communities, with parks, grocery stores, and local businesses within walking distance of our homes. We should not need to get in our cars just to pick up a gallon of milk or have our kids play outside. We need smart development that works for everyone, not development giveaways that line the pockets of rich, out-of-town developers.
Sherman: I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish in the last three and half years. We have filled over 11,000 potholes and over 100 miles of road in District 7 alone. I worked with Mayor Faulconer to develop a plan in the next five years to pave over a 1,000 miles of road — that’s paving a road from here to Yuma, Arizona and back. Our city is finally on the right financial track and is restoring city service back to their prior levels and community projects are back to being a priority. I am proud of the customer service we have brought to City Hall, and while there is still bureaucratic red tape which needs to be cut, no one will fight harder than me to make sure the residents of District 7 get what they need.
DeCesare: In 2014, after serving eight years in the U.S. Navy, and years of running a successful local real estate brokerage, I was elected to chair the Tierrasanta Planning Group and Community Council. I am a firm believer that our elected leaders shouldn’t run from challenges, and shouldn’t make every decision from behind a closed Downtown office door. I am running for city council because I feel very strongly that our collective voice as a community should be the guiding force behind the decisions of our city council district. If elected, I intend for all of our district’s residents to know that I can be the sounding board for our concerns and problems, and that together we can create a better future for all of us living, working, and raising families in our beautiful communities.
Caballero: I will fight to preserve the diversity and strength of all our communities, not just the tourist areas downtown. Our city is not for sale. Our City Council needs to return to prioritizing our communities, not the developers that pay pennies on the dollar for beachfront properties or that drive up housing prices beyond our reach. Your vote can make a difference. Rather than going with “more of the same,” together we will stand up for a vision that works for our whole community.