22 local organizations want rent relief, free broadband, money for undocumented residents, small business help
SAN DIEGO —
A coalition of nonprofit groups and labor unions is lobbying San Diego to make major revisions to the city’s proposed budget that would help renters, low-income workers, undocumented residents and small businesses.
The Community Budget Alliance, a partnership that includes 22 local organizations, wants the city to give rent relief to people struggling during the pandemic and provide free high-speed internet to low-income households.
The alliance also wants more money devoted to enforcing worker rights and wage rules, boosting small businesses in low-income areas and translating city communications into the many languages spoken across San Diego.
Other requests include reversing proposed cuts to parks and libraries by spending less on police, and conducting a comprehensive study of local rents, eviction rates, vacancies and related issues.
For undocumented families, the alliance wants a cash assistance fund, because federal and state relief efforts and stimulus programs don’t apply to them.
The alliance hopes to persuade the City Council to make major adjustments to Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s proposed spending plan when the council adopts a final budget for the new fiscal year on Monday.
Faulconer is proposing cuts to library hours and arts funding, but the mayor announced last month plans to restore funding for parks, pools and other services using $270 million in federal and state COVID-19 relief money.
In addition to the specific requests, the alliance is urging the council to focus more broadly on equity across the city. They contend San Diego has neglected neighborhoods below Interstate 8 for decades.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the existing inequities in the economy and the ripple effects on housing, health care and government,” the alliance says on its website.
“Although our current economic crisis is sparked by the coronavirus, it will be fueled and deepened if policymakers continue to enact policies that favor the wealthy and well-connected — leaving the vast majority of workers and families behind.”
Leaders of the alliance say the city needs to radically shift its priorities.
“This list is what our communities deserve,” said Andrea Gaspar, who is spearheading alliance efforts for the Center on Policy Initiatives. “Institutional racism has existed on the City Council since it was created, so we need to focus on making sure these neighborhoods get their fair share.”
The alliance was established six years ago, but it became more vocal and conspicuous this spring, as San Diego faces potentially deep budget cuts for the first time since the recession of 2008.
Many members of the alliance lobbied the council on Tuesday to reduce proposed spending on police in the wake of local and national protests about police misconduct.
Before the nationwide protests, members of the alliance lobbied the council during nearly a dozen public hearings on the proposed budget.
“Before this crisis many of us were already struggling to keep up with skyrocketing rent prices and stagnant/poverty wages,” Jose Lopez, of the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, told the council May 21. “Now it’s worse, and it’s getting worse every day as the debt continues to buildup.”
Lopez’s group is part of the Community Budget Alliance.
Other groups include Youth Will, the Emerald Hills Neighborhood Council, the City Heights Community Development Corporation and the Mid-City Community Advocacy Network.
The alliance also includes local chapters of Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, plus labor groups like the United Domestic Workers, the San Diego Building & Construction Trades Council and Interfaith Worker Justice.
San Diego has an eviction moratorium that the council recently extended through June 30. The council also approved Tuesday a rent relief fund but didn’t specify how much money would be devoted to the fund.