San Diego Measure A: Voters' Guide

Posted on 10/19/20

ballot box

As part of AARP's commitment to keeping you informed about the issues that matter to 50+ Californians, we asked the campaigns supporting and opposing Measure A, a San Diego housing initiative that proposes to issue bonds to pay for additional housing, to provide their arguments for and against the measure. Please read on for a summary of what Measure A would do, as well as the arguments for and against it. Most importantly, don't forget to VOTE!

About Measure A

This November, voters in the city of San Diego will weigh in on Measure A, a $900 million bond to fund the creation of affordable and permanent supportive housing. Homes created with bond proceeds would serve vulnerable populations, defined as lower income seniors, families, veterans, youth, the disabled, the homeless or chronically homeless, those at serious risk of becoming homeless, and individuals suffering from mental health or substance abuse illnesses.

Measure A is designed to implement San Diego's Community Action Plan on Homelessness, which calls for 2,800 new permanent supportive housing units to end chronic street homelessness. Measure A proceeds would also help create affordable homes for the lower income, vulnerable populations described above.

Affordable housing is defined as costing no more than 30% of the earnings of a lower income household. Permanent supportive housing is affordable housing tailored to people experiencing homelessness. Permanent supportive housing also includes social services like drug and alcohol treatment, healthcare, and job placement. Homes created with Measure A funds must be kept affordable for at least 55 years.

Measure A funds would be repaid through a tax on all real property in the city of San Diego, estimated between $3.14 and $20.85 per $100,000 of assessed value. Based on these estimates, the median homeowner, at about $600,000, can expect to contribute between $1.57 and $10.43 per month.

The bond program would be administered by the San Diego Housing Commission, which reports to San Diego City Council. The bond program would be subject to external, independent audits, with all activity overseen by a Citizens' Oversight Committee. Annual Plans required under Measure A will forecast how all bond funds are to be used in the coming year. Annual Reports will document the past year's activity.

Argument IN FAVOR of Measure A

This November, you can help end homelessness in San Diego

By Stephen Russell

If approved by voters in the city of San Diego, Measure A will help create approximately 2,800 permanent and supportive homes for San Diegans experiencing chronic homelessness. An additional 4,700 affordable homes will be created for seniors, families, people living with disabilities, and other lower income San Diegans to prevent these neighbors of ours from sliding into homelessness.

Homelessness and housing affordability have been among the most pressing issues in San Diego for years. Today, there are over 2,200 unsheltered residents in the city of San Diego. More than a quarter of those are seniors over the age of 55 who live with disabilities.

Measure A can reverse this by implementing the city's Community Action Plan on Homelessness, which lays out how to end chronic homelessness. The Action Plan calls for approximately 2,800 supportive homes to permanently house the chronically homeless. Measure A was designed specifically to create these much-needed supportive homes, which have proven to be the most effective method for ending someone's homelessness.

Dr. Margot Kushel studies homelessness in-depth at the University of California San Francisco's Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative. Regarding permanent supportive housing as a solution for homelessness, she said the following: “It works. It improves people’s lives. It keeps people housed. It ends homelessness. Full stop.”

Many taxpayer protections have been built into Measure A, including independent and external audits, annual reports, and annual plans. A Citizens’ Oversight Committee will also be established so the community can ensure every dollar is used for what matters most and for what Measure A is intended to do – prevent, reduce, and end homelessness in San Diego.

But Measure A doesn't benefit just the recipients of these new, affordable homes. It benefits us all.

For years, people have been sleeping on sidewalks, in business doorways, and in parks and canyons. Measure A can help stabilize the lives of those who slept in storefronts, allowing them to gain employment. It will also help keep sidewalks and parks clean and safe for recreation. No one should have to sleep on the street or in their cars. It’s bad for our homeless residents and it creates problems for neighborhoods.

With Measure A, dignity can be restored to both unhoused and housed San Diegans. Vote yes on Measure A.

Stephen Russell is President & CEO of the San Diego Housing Federation

Argument AGAINST Measure A

No on Measure A: Another Blank Check Tax Hike

By Carl DeMaio

Due to the economic damage done during the Covid-19 pandemic you would think San Diego politicians would stop adding to our burdens with costly new tax hikes, right? 

Sadly, they are doing the opposite by RAISING taxes on San Diego’s working families with Measure A.

Measure A imposes a costly property tax hike that will impact every homeowner and renter in the City of San Diego.  Homeowners will pay for this tax with increased property tax assessments; renters will also eventually pay for this tax as rents increase as landlords pass along property tax costs. 

In just the first five years the average homeowner will see their property tax increased by $600 or more – and Measure A’s tax hikes extend more than 40 years into the future!

San Diegans already pay some of the highest tax rates in the country.  Measure A will only increase our cost-of-living in San Diego more and make housing less affordable.Measure A will also fund controversial government-subsidized housing projects. Many of these projects have been forced into areas that have not wanted them or who have had problems with the size, density, and management of the projects. Measure A provides the funding for a larger plan state and local politicians are pursuing to ban single-family zoning and strip neighborhoods of a say in the kinds of projects placed in their community.Measure A  will waste taxpayers’ money.  Under Measure A, taxpayers will authorize city politicians to take on $900 million in additional debt at a cost of $2 billion to city taxpayers!

Recent studies have shown the kinds of projects that would be funded by Measure A have been riddled with wasteful spending and financial mismanagement – and have resulted in absurdly high cost-per-unit costs for so-called affordable housing projects.

Measure A also has a deceptive label.  Politicians have become masters at the typical bait and switch game they play every election cycle, they promise to fix an issue if we give them more money. With Mesaure A they are trying to pretend to “solve” the homelessness issue.

Voters need to reject Measure A because we cannot solve the homeless problem by throwing even more money at the issue without fundamental changes in homeless service programs and strategies that clearly are not working.

Homelessness is not a housing issue; it is a mental health and substance abuse issue. By offering free housing units to the homeless without requiring them to make life-altering changes in their behaviors, politicians have coddled the homeless.

Worse, politicians have made it harder for police to enforce our laws and use the legal system as leverage to getting homeless individuals the treatment they require. Police officers can no longer enforce laws for vagrancy, loitering, panhandling, trespassing, nuisance, and other similar violations that once were used effectively to get homeless into transformational programs.

Throwing more taxpayer money at the problem with Measure A won’t solve homelessness – but it will enrich government housing project developers and consultants that profit from the current failed approaches to homelessness. 

Don’t be fooled by slick ads and promises from politicians and special interests who will profit from Measure A.  Addressing the underlying causes of homelessness is needed, but not a penny of funding in Measure A does that. Measure A is just another costly tax hike and a blank check for wasteful spending.  Vote NO on Measure A.

Carl DeMaio, a former San Diego City Councilmember, is Chairman of Reform California.

This story is provided by AARP California. Visit the AARP California page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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