Feb 2, 2024 - Climate

Elo-Rivera promises stormwater tax measure

Cars in flooded streets in Point Loma.

Cars travel through flooded streets last week in Point Loma. Photo: Kate Murphy/Axios

A ballot measure to fund stormwater repairs and flood recovery will be put before voters in November if City Council president Sean Elo-Rivera gets his way.

Why it matters: Hundreds of southeastern San Diego residents have been displaced or suffered significant property damage from last week's historic flooding due to the failure of a stormwater system that local officials have long known was inadequate and underfunded.

What he's saying: "Those storms will keep coming, and the climate won't stop changing, while we get bogged down by politics and bureaucracy," Elo-Rivera said Wednesday at a meeting of the Council's rules committee. "The time for action is now."

  • He provided few details, promising to introduce a measure to the committee in the coming months, and that its specific tax or fee structure was undetermined.
  • "I'm proposing this measure because as a Council member this is the tool available to address major issues, and I refuse to let another election go by without trying to solve a problem that's plagued our city for generations."

Flashback: Elo-Rivera's office pursued a similar measure in 2021, following an audit that dinged the city for a funding deficit that's since reached $1.6 billion.

Between the lines: Residents of single-family homes pay 95 cents per month in San Diego for stormwater management.

  • Chula Vista was the only California city surveyed by auditors that paid less, while San Jose and Sacramento each charged more than 10 times that.

Details: Previous efforts examined two ways to charge fees — one charging a flat rate for every property, and another would charge a rate per square foot of impermeable area.

  • The property-based structure would have charged $5.67 to $7.42 a month, while an impermeable area method would range from $10.67 to $13.33 monthly.

State of play: Old San Diego political wisdom holds that multiple tax measures on a ballot cannibalize support from one another, leaving proposals in the run-up to an election competing among officials to be selected to go before voters.

  • That could leave three other revenue measures eyeing Elo-Rivera's commitment — a countywide sales tax for transportation, a property-transfer tax on mansions for low-income housing, and a citywide sales tax for general services.

Yes, but: Mayor Todd Gloria and Councilman Raul Campillo have been backing the sales tax, but at a Wednesday press conference before Elo-Rivera's announcement, Gloria acknowledged the basic dynamic animating the measure.

  • "We have to have more revenue," he said. "There's no two ways about it. The size of the challenge is measured in the billions."
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