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An interview with 2020 San Diego mayoral candidate Rich Riel

San Diegans will choose a new mayor on Tuesday, November 3. Hear what the candidates had to say.

SAN DIEGO — News 8 sat down in January 2020 with Rich Riel, who formerly worked for the San Diego Housing Commission, and is now running for San Diego Mayor. We asked him multiple questions that are important to San Diegans. 

They included: 

  • One of the biggest issues in San Diego is the housing crisis. Whether it is a shortage of inventory or residents being priced out of the market. What is your plan to deal with this issue? 
  • What do you see as the biggest issue right now with San Diego’s infrastructure? What is your plan to improve the overall quality of San Diego’s infrastructure?  
  • Climate change is an important issue for many San Diegans. Where can San Diego improve when combatting climate change? 
  • How will you deal with the differences and the particular needs of San Diegans when it comes to the White House’s policies on immigration and the border? 
  • Why should San Diegans vote for you?

Check out the full interview with Rich Riel. A full transcription can be found below. 

Rich Riel (R)

Carlo Cecchetto [00:00:01] I'm Carlo Cecchetto, joined today by Rich Riel running for mayor of San Diego. We want to give you an opportunity to let people know a little bit about you. We've put together some questions. I just want to start this out. Get into it right away. San Diego is facing a significant housing crisis. There are not enough homes available, and the ones that are available are too expensive. People are leaving San Diego and people are ending up on the streets in increasing numbers. How are you gonna fix this?

Rich Riel [00:00:24] I will. First of all, I'm the only candidate running that has housing experience. I worked for the San Diego Housing Commission. I worked for Contrasts Brothers Development Corporation, which was one of the largest low and moderate-income housing developers in San Diego in my lifetime. I probably built many thousands and managed many thousands of low and moderate-income units. And I understand what the problem in the housing is. [00:00:49]First of all, we have to address the issue of land. Land cost in San Diego wherever you go, are the driving forces for what we have today. The solution to low-income housing is taking land that the city already owns and leasing that land to a developer for 100 years. Then we build housing that we leased to human beings that work in the city and are not you know, they fall within the guidelines, the HUD guidelines for mid and moderate-income families here in San Diego. By eliminating the 25 percent cost of land, we can reduce the cost of housing and both in rental housing and in for sale. [38.1s] And if you do a leasehold estate for 50 years, a family can raise their children in that house knowing that they own that house for 50 years. Irvine Ranch up the coast here is a perfect example. They never sold the land. It's a leasehold estate. It comes back to them and they keep selling the land and they can afford to sell low. Twenty-five percent below market rate prices for housing. That is the best way that I know of to solve the high cost of housing in San Diego.

Carlo Cecchetto [00:01:56] Piggyback on that was the issue of what we have immediately to deal with with the homeless. How would you deal with that as well?

Rich Riel [00:02:03]  Well, you know, I've got the report right here. And this is just another. [00:02:07]This is the city of San Diego's Community Action Plan on homelessness. And the first thing we got to recognize is there's only 5,000 people in the city of San Diego that are homeless. There is another 5000 in the county. Now, this plan and every plan that I have watched in my career of living here in this city treats the homeless as a commodity. They don't treat them as human beings. [22.6s] And before we can solve the homeless problem, we need to identify the fact that most people are homeless for one of four reasons. First reason is they're mentally ill. They haven't got the ability to hold onto a job or much less stay in housing. Second reason is they have an addiction problem, and that's another reason that they can't stay inside the housing. They are addicted. The third reason is temporary economic dislocation. Those people are looking for jobs. They need jobs. We can help them. And the fourth ones are what I call the grifters. The grifters are going to be homeless no matter what we do. They're looking to live off the system. Until we address the basic needs or the basic reasons for homelessness, we're just going to spend money and we are. This report here is asking us to spend a billion dollars over the next 10 years on 5,000 people. I mean, this the smart way to deal with homelessness. And I have to tell you this. When I was dealing with a homeless person in the navigation center, which is by the way, another boondoggle in the city, anybody who's gone to that navigation center realizes that we got rocked when we bought that property. And more importantly, it doesn't serve the homeless as the way it as it should be. But I met a guy there and the guy was I ask him, where do you come from? And he says, I've been in Maine three days ago. I was in Maine. I said, Really? And he had this beautifully expensive wheelchair on him. And he says, Yeah, I lost my leg. I froze my leg off in Maine. And my campaign, my caseworker found me this wheelchair and he asked me where I wanted to go. And I said, well, I used to live in San Diego. So he bought him a ticket for San Diego. And he's here with this beautiful wheelchair in San Diego. And a lot of the homeless people are migratory. They come during the wintertime and they leave. We need to address the reasons they are rather than thinking of them as a commodity to be housed. That's the solution to homelessness.

Carlo Cecchetto [00:04:19] Mayor Kevin Faulconer. He's touted his road repair program as his big infrastructure initiative and saying he's made great headway on it. What is your plan for the infrastructure? What do you see as a big issue and how are you going to attack it?

Rich Riel [00:04:35] [00:04:35]This is our budget. Mayor Faulconer has been lying to us for the last eight years. The major story in today's San Diego Union is it's a three billion dollar liability that the city is facing. So when he says, oh, I got a great program, I'm going to fill in the potholes. What he's not saying is we're funding PR representatives for city council. We have the mayor and city council bloated staffs. It's easy to spend more money on potholes if we take away all of the bells and whistles that we can't afford in city government and concentrate on spending them on filling the potholes. And that means hiring more employees. The real problem, the city of San Diego is that we are top heavy in management, which is one of the reasons my campaign promises to use the mayor salary, which is one hundred thousand dollars a year and it's going to two hundred thousand dollars a year next year. Can you imagine giving one hundred percent increase to a mayor that is running a city that is a three billion-dollar deficit? I mean, that's insane. So the real solution is to put more people on the street working and less people in management positions. [66.4s] And that's what I propose to do as mayor, and that's how I will address the infrastructure of the city of San Diego.

Carlo Cecchetto [00:05:49] All right. Climate change is a huge issue to San Diegans, and we've experienced firsthand impacts from it. What more can the city of San Diego do to address it? Where are we failing at this point in time? What's the greatest need we as a city need to address with that?

Rich Riel [00:06:04] [00:06:04]All right. We have a climate plan that's that's included here in the budget. And here's the real problem. I look at the climate change as a political distraction. It distracts from the real problems that we have in this city. And I'd like to say, gee, if I had a balanced budget, if I was coming in with a mayor from a mayor who was competent and I didn't have a three billion dollar shortfall, yeah, I'd be working on a lot of programs that would address the climate issues. But before we could do that, we have to get our financial house in order. And more importantly, we have to provide housing for San Diego. And we have to deal with the homeless issue. So we have to prioritize it. And I have to tell you, I have to tell the voters the difference between me and the elected officials is I'm not going to promise you the world. I'm not going to say I can do this, this and this. I'm gonna tell you what I can do as a mayor, and I'm gonna do it. [48.9s] I'm 72 years old. I plan on running two terms and that's it. I will never seek another government job in anywhere. I'm finished working for the government or, you know, an elected official. But it's important we prioritize and we look at our elected officials in terms of are they telling us what we need to hear or are they telling us what we need to do?

Carlo Cecchetto [00:07:16] Mayor Kevin Faulconer has a I think the best way to put it would be a kind of a complicated relationship with the White House because of San Diego's unique position with a border that provides so much income for this county. How would you navigate those waters with the White House and things that make it difficult to operate that border?

Rich Riel [00:07:36] OK, well, first of all, let's identify. [00:07:38]Let's talk about a problem that San Diego and for that matter, Kevin Faulconer has failed to address in his entire eight years of being our mayor. The nice way to call it is the poop problem. And the poop problem is that if you live in San Ysidro, you have to deal with air quality, that is a direct result when the dry. When it gets dried up, the poop dries up. It's in the air. We have Border Patrol officers who are now getting sick, physically ill because of the air quality down there. The second thing we have to do, of course, we know is that we have sewage problems. So, of course, we have to deal with an international problem. And it's not just San Ysidro. We have to deal with the Imperial Beach, National City, the Mexican government, Tijuana. This is an international problem. [44.5s] And but before we do even that, we have to put a public health facility. Now, the county has got lots of money and the city has failed that there's not a public agency down there, a health agency. And in San Ysidro right now, monitoring the quality of water or for that matter, the quality of air down there. So we need [00:08:41]before we start dealing with all of this stuff in the White House, we need to deal it at home in Santa Ysidro. [5.1s] Now, I was on the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce back in the 80s. And this problem was it was right up there with the border with the wall. We campaigned to put in that fence and we did it so that we could have community safe from people coming across the border. People, poor people coming across the border were trashing the neighbors in the neighborhoods and everything else. But I'm digressing. The real problem is let's solve the problem for San Ysidro. Then we'll worry about the White House and everybody else.

Carlo Cecchetto [00:09:15] But can you solve the pollution problem without getting assistance from the White House? Something that big, especially you talked about the cross border stuff. Oh, we've got you have to have a teammate in the White House for that, don't you?

Rich Riel [00:09:26] I do. And I think that I would probably be a better teammate than any of the other candidates running for the simple reason that I am not going to be a career politician. I'm not looking to become senator, governor or whatever. So I am. I have the concerns of San Diego. And I think one of the important things is that I would have more factual data having real-world experience out in the world in San Ysidro as opposed to the people that are currently running who are just politicians running for another job.

Carlo Cecchetto [00:09:55] All right. So, you know, this is we get to the point. This is I like to call this the elevator pitch. You've answered some basic questions we're giving to everyone. But in a minute. Can you tell the voters out there why they should choose Richard Royal to be the next mayor of San Diego?

[00:10:10] I can in one minute or less. My fellow San Diegans. Thank you for taking the trouble to inform yourself on the issues that are facing the city we love. [00:10:20]I ran for mayor almost 40 years ago because, like you, I love this city. Three ideas that I campaigned for in the 80s were term limits, stop the sale of city-owned land, and a hiring and salary freeze on all city employees who make more than the mayor. Today, San Diego is faced with a three billion dollar budget shortfall that we are asked to pay back with higher taxes and more sales of city-owned land. [25.5s] The other three elected candidates running for mayor, unlike me, continue to draw a government paycheck while saying they can cure the problem they caused. [00:10:57]My ideas are timeless. We need to stop the sale of city-owned land to save open space for the San Diegans who are yet to be born. I propose a hiring freeze on all city employees making more than one hundred thousand dollars a year. I propose that all newly hired city employees be enrolled in Social Security. I cannot promise an overnight cure to our problems, but if you believe these ideals will put us on the road to financial stability and guarantee open space, open space for our children. Please vote for my ideas. Vote for me, [33.3s] Rich Riel.

Carlo Cecchetto [00:11:33] Rich Riel, thank you so much for time. Greatly appreciate it. It was a pleasure, Carlo. It was. Thank you. Thank you. 

To see the interviews with the six other candidates, click here.

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