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Re: Community Budget Alliance Response to the FY22 Proposed Budget

Dear Mayor Gloria,

Thank you for meeting with the Community Budget Alliance to discuss the FY22 Budget Proposal. We appreciate your willingness to work with us.

While we understand that hotel tax revenues are down, that should not stop you from taking bold steps to end systemic economic and racial inequality. Your proposed budget does not meet this goal. The low-wage workers, immigrants, communities of color, as well as unsheltered and incarcerated individuals, who were all disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, will find no significant expenditures to improve their standard of living or fortify them so that they can better weather the next crisis.

Instead, the police continue to be your #1 funding priority. As community members and advocates, we have witnessed cuts to community programs and services every year while the police budget increases. We are tired of seeing community needs dismissed and other City department budgets picked apart line by line while the police budget continues to grow with little to no accountability. It is time to make communities who have been impacted by systemic underinvestment the City’s top priority. The City should do this by reallocating funds from the bloated police budget to community-based solutions and prioritizing long-term solutions to economic and racial inequality. Well-funded communities are safer communities.

We ask you to include the following additional budget priorities outlined in this document in the May Revise of the budget.

1. Create meaningful changes within the San Diego Police Department by reallocating funding to community-based responses and a youth violence prevention program.

If the City is committed to alternatives to arrest for low-level offenses, policies that limit the use of pretextual stops and consent searches, changes to calls dispatched to SDPD, eliminating gang injunctions, and moving functions out of the department, these initiatives should lead to a marked reduction in the police budget. Furthermore, many of these priorities, such as hiring practices and bias training, attempt to reform what we know to be an inherently biased system.

Instead of continually propping up this system, it is time to implement community-based solutions now. We already have research and examples from other cities that tell us what successful community safety measures are. The City must invest in community-led violence prevention programs and ensure that the right professionals can respond to crises. The City must develop programs for non-police responses to situations including, but not limited to: public health crises, people experiencing homelessness, mental health crises, intimate partner violence, substance use, natural disasters, and other quality of life issues like traffic stops and noise complaints. The City can also tap into existing resources by establishing a grant program for Community Based Organizations promoting trauma-informed responses to local emergencies, de-escalation, and harm reduction techniques for these situations. We call on you to reallocate and redirect police funds, such as in the Street Gang Unit, Gang Intervention Unit, and Overtime budgets, to invest in real community safety and use the May Revise to move functions out of the Police Department.

2. Build the infrastructure needed to support long-term housing solutions such as a rent registry and vacancy tax feasibility study.

In addition to funding allocated to help individuals experiencing homelessness, we need long-term solutions prioritizing keeping people housed. Annual funding for CBOs to conduct housing education, counseling, and outreach to tenants and landlords in every community and language in San Diego will help ensure all residents are aware of new policies affecting tenants and housing rights. In addition, we need innovative solutions to begin addressing our City’s housing crisis. Developing a rent registry and instituting a vacancy tax are two creative solutions for our region. We have requested that you fund the required feasibility studies to assess the costs of implementing these proposals in this year’s budget. These are low lift initiatives (approximately $75,000 each) that would set up a long-term plan for addressing essential aspects of our City’s housing crisis.

3. Protect funding and invest in community resources like parks and libraries.

Our City parks and libraries are a significant resource to our communities and foster a sense of belonging. The City must take the initiative to invest in parks in low-income areas of the City that lack sufficient green space. Although the Proposed Budget supports summer funding for recreational centers, we need long-term solutions to the lack of park space in many communities. The following parks need relatively small funding amounts allocated to move to the next development phase:

a. Emerald Hills Park (District 4) – Begin a community-led design process with the $400,000 of FY2020 approved funding.

b. Boston Avenue Linear Park (District 8) – Create a Capital Improvement Project and allocate $120,000 for the General Development Plan process.

c. Berardini Field (District 9) – Create a Capital Improvement Project and allocate $50,000 for a General Development Plan process.

d. Chollas Creek Watershed Regional Park Masterplan – Create a Capital Improvement Project and allocate $350,000 to update the plan.

e. Castana Street Natural Park (District 4) – Create a Capital Improvement Project and allocate $130,000 for an Engineering Design Study/General Development Plan.

f. Kelly Street Neighborhood Park (District 7) – Create a Capital Improvement Project and allocate $100,000 for the General Development Plan process.

4. Prioritize actions that address environmental justice. Fund a Grant Writer and Transportation Justice Planner in the Sustainability Department, invest in street calming infrastructure to enforce the City’s Truck Route, and allocate funding for meaningful engagement on the City’s Environmental Justice Element.

The effects of climate change are real, they are here, and they are growing. We need investment in environmental justice communities to mitigate and prepare for climate change. To help address this, we urge the City to fund a full-time grant writer position in the Sustainability Department, which will bring in new revenue to support Climate Action Plan implementation and CAP 2.0. This position is fiscally smart and will pay for itself in revenue to support our City’s climate goals. We also urge the City to add a full-time transportation justice planner to support and lead CAP implementation and coordinate transportation equity efforts across relevant departments.

While we address more long-term goals through the climate action plan, we also need immediate solutions for communities that are hit the hardest by climate change and toxic pollution. That is why we call on you to specifically allocate $100,000 to construct street-calming infrastructure on Beardsley Street (from Logan Avenue to Harbor Drive) and Boston Avenue (from 28th Street to 32nd Street). Infrastructure investments are needed to reduce pollution, increase residents’ safety, and physically keep trucks off residential streets and away from schools and medical facilities.

5. Create a cash assistance fund for undocumented families excluded from relief efforts. Our City needs to allocate funding for families in the City of San Diego. Our San Diego immigrant families need aid since many have lost all or part of their income due to the coronavirus pandemic and stay-at-home orders. As part of the Back to Work SD effort, we need to focus on workers that need the most support – low-income workers excluded from most state and federal relief due to their immigration status. These workers have also been on the front lines of the pandemic, making up large proportions of the essential workforce in San Diego. To address this need, we urge you to include a cash assistance fund for excluded workers in the May Revise of the budget.
6. Create an Office of Child and Youth Success. Those who are born, grow up, come of age or choose to raise a family in San Diego deserve to thrive. An Office of Child & Youth Success will help the City invest in family and youth health, wellness, and safety. By allocating $350,000, the City can support the hiring and creation of a new Executive Director and facilitate the community design process for the office’s first year. This new office would establish a central place for collaboration among agencies addressing youth, ensure that the City is competitive for federal and state funding opportunities, facilitate policy changes to benefit children and youth, and drive changes in long-term bottom-line metrics (early learning, health, social and emotional development, school readiness, etc.) of child, youth, and family success.
7. Provide all information and city communication in the languages of our communities. City residents deserve ease of access to civic processes and City programs and resources. The FY22 Budget should include funding to expand the Office of Immigrant Affairs to pursue language access initiatives for city council meetings, publications, public outreach, and community participation efforts. The office should conduct a city-wide, district-by-district linguistic diversity study to guide City hiring practices and outreach efforts. It should translate city agendas, public communications, and press releases into multiple languages and provide closed-captioning for City Council meetings on Webcast/City TV/Zoom to improve access to government events, communications, and services. In addition, it should provide a mechanism to provide real-time translation when accessing services and government in San Diego. The FY22 budget should also protect the $50,000 allocation (approved in FY 2021) to Community Planning Groups to expand language access and community participation in San Diego.

While a few CBA priorities have been included in the Proposed Budget, it is not enough for our communities that have been underfunded for years. By including these additional priorities, the City budget can begin to provide long-term solutions to San Diego’s most pressing issues by ending biased policing and inappropriate police responses, keeping people housed, taking action on environmental justice, and ensuring working families can thrive. We are and will continue to be advocates for the communities we represent. Throughout this budget cycle and future budget cycles, we will continue to show up to make our vision of transformative change in the City a reality.

The Community Budget Alliance

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Written by CPI San Diego

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