San Diegans dealing with 2016's unfinished business - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

San Diegans dealing with 2016's unfinished business

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The upcoming year will see San Diegans dealing with 2016's unfinished business, like determining the future home of the Chargers football team, resolving an apparent spike in homelessness and overcoming a projected shortfall in the city's budget.
   
With voters defeating the Chargers' plan to raise hotel taxes to help finance a downtown stadium project, team chairman Dean Spanos now has about two weeks to ponder his upcoming moves.
   
National Football League owners granted Spanos a one-year option in which he could pursue a stadium solution in San Diego or become the second team in Los Angeles along with the Rams. That window closes Jan. 15.
   
Spanos recent told a reporter he is leaning toward leaving San Diego, the franchise's home of 56 years, and agreed to lease office space and land for a practice facility in Orange County.
   
One the other hand, it's been reported that a recent meeting between Spanos, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, county Supervisor Ron Roberts and San Diego State University President Elliot Hirshman was positive. SDSU was represented because school officials have for years eyed the Qualcomm Stadium property for expansion.
   
"It's a short timeline. What we said very clearly -- and I delivered this message -- even though 'Measure C' didn't pass, it wasn't a rejection of the Chargers, it was a rejection of that plan,'' Faulconer said. "I remain confident that we can develop a plan that can keep the team here for the long term, and I think San Diegans want that.''
   
Meanwhile, the annual census of the homeless living on the streets or in shelters is scheduled for Jan. 27, which should provide data on whether the problem has worsened over the past year.
   
The total number of nearly 8,700 homeless tallied last January was roughly the same as the year before, but the percentage of those living on the streets was up 19 percent.
   
Tent cities springing up in the East Village have made it appear that the problem is growing despite new programs designed to get the homeless off the streets and into housing that's paired with social services, like substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling and job assistance.
   
The Regional Task Force on the Homeless, which organizes the count, is seeking volunteers who are willing to venture out in the early morning hours. The results are used to determine the amount of federal funding for homeless programs that comes to San Diego.
   
Whether additional city funds can be spent on the issue is questionable, because after recent good financial times, the city of San Diego is staring at a shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1. City financial staff is already working on plans for the proposed budget, which will be released in April.
   
As projected by a recent five-year financial outlook, city officials will have to overcome a nearly $37 million shortfall for the upcoming fiscal year. A report from the city's Independent Budget Analyst's Office found that, when certain priority expenses are added in, the problem could grow to more than $57 million.
   
The turnaround in San Diego's financial picture is primarily blamed on a change in calculations by the board of the municipal employees' retirement system, which will raise the city's annual contribution far above what was expected.
   
In the current fiscal year, the city's contribution was $191.2 million. In the next fiscal year, the payment will climb to $227.9 million, a jump of more than $36 million.
   
The city of San Diego isn't the only government entity facing financial problems going into the new year. Not long after approving pay raises for employees, the San Diego Unified School District is up against a projected deficit of $117 million for the next school year.
   
Other issues likely to make news in 2017:
   
-- local governments will consider regulations designed to implement voter-approved state Proposition 64, which legalized the recreational use of marijuana in California;
   
-- civil rights advocates plan to push city of San Diego officials to take concrete steps to address findings of a study that quantified the amount of racial profiling in police traffic stops and found that minority drivers were searched more often than whites after being pulled over;
   
-- while a private committee raises funds to begin construction on a project meant to divert traffic from Balboa Park's central plaza, a lawsuit filed by opponents will challenge the plan;
   
-- the oft-delayed opening of the county courthouse could take place sometime in the middle of the year; and
   
-- city staff will develop regulations on the much-debated topic of short-term rental properties, which have proliferated in San Diego's beach areas, sometimes creating conflicts with neighbors.
   
A proposed ban on short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods was rejected by the City Council, which ordered staff to come up with a set of rules for such properties.

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