San Diego county supervisor bid spotlights ex-mayor's homeless record
When former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced his county supervisor bid last week, he suggested the region was better off with his approach to homelessness.
What he's saying: "As mayor of San Diego I delivered real results on some of the toughest issues facing San Diego and made significant progress in reducing homelessness, even bucking the statewide trend," he wrote.
- Now, homelessness continues to hit new records and housing is unaffordable. Our county government must do better."
- He made similar claims regarding his record during a failed gubernatorial bid when California Gov. Gavin Newsom faced a recall attempt in 2021.
Why it matters: Faulconer is framing his challenge to Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer for the county's third district seat in 2024 around homelessness and affordable housing because those issues consistently rank as voters' top concerns ahead of the March 2024 primary.
Reality check: Faulconer claimed a meaningful decrease in San Diego homelessness during his time as mayor.
- There were 5,199 homeless people in the city when Faulconer took office in 2014. In 2020, the last year of his term, that number had fallen 6% to 4,887. Countywide homelessness outpaced that decline, dropping 10% during the same period.
- But, but, but: Homelessness increased in Faulconer's first years in office, peaking at 5,619 in 2017. That's the same year 20 people died from a Hepatitis A outbreak that swept through the city's homeless encampments.
- After the outbreak, Faulconer adopted an approach he's described as increasing shelter beds while ramping up the threat of law enforcement against people who refuse shelter.
Between the lines: Methodological changes in the annual homeless count explain some of the decrease.
Meanwhile, the citywide decline during his tenure might not have registered with residents because highly visible downtown homelessness didn't follow the same path.
- Downtown homelessness jumped from a monthly average of 606 people in 2014 when he took office to a monthly average of 809 people in 2019, before COVID-19.
- It declined to an average of 656 people during the pandemic, his last year in office, before surging again the next year.
The bottom line: Homelessness in San Diego worsened under Faulconer before it got better, but fell 6% during his term, while homelessness in California during that time increased 41%.
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