SAN DIEGO — Todd Gloria delivered his third State of the City address on Wednesday from the San Diego Civic Theatre. During his remarks, Gloria touted the city's progress on issues ranging from infrastructure, public safety, homelessness and housing affordability.
Gloria announced that just moments before taking the stage at the San Diego Civic Theatre, he signed an executive order that will expedite City approval of affordable housing projects to 30 days.
“None of tonight should come with the suggestion of mission accomplished,” Gloria said. “Our city has crawled out of the deepest of valleys, and we now find ourselves climbing the highest of mountains. The summit may be far in the distance, but San Diego is taking steps every day to reach it – and we will.”
After delivering his first two State of the City addresses virtually to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Mayor Gloria gave this year's speech in front of a live audience at the Civic Theater, which sits smack in the middle of Downtown's civic core that the City plans to redevelop into a new City administration hub and thousands of homes for working-class San Diegans.
WATCH FULL VIDEO: San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria’s 2023 State of the City Address
"This once-in-a-lifetime transformation will revive the Downtown civic core, create a welcoming place of beauty and culture that will serve generations long into the future and that is emblematic of the big-city energy we must embody," Gloria said.
The mayor came down hard on the use and sale of fentanyl, a powerful opiate which has seen a massive increase in use, as well as overdoses and deaths in the past five years.
Fentanyl overdoses claimed the lives of more than 800 San Diegans in 2021, 113 of them homeless, according to the mayor's office and the SDPD. Five years ago, there were only two reported deaths of homeless people from fentanyl overdoses.
WATCH RELATED: Your questions answered by San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria | Jan. 12, 2022
"We need stronger laws at the state and federal level that give teeth to law enforcement's efforts at the local level," he said. "Current laws do not fully take into account the game-changing reality of how potent and deadly it is, nor its outsized impact on our most vulnerable residents."
In November, he signed an executive order to strengthen and prioritize enforcement around illicit fentanyl, and he has asked federal leaders to permanently classify it as a Schedule 1 drug.
Gloria touted the city's declining crime rates, down 7.5% in 2022. Property crime went down by 9.7%, while the most serious violent crimes were down by 13%, according to the latest data from the San Diego Police Department.
He then tied the drug into the city's homelessness crisis, saying fighting its proliferation in the community worked with his strategy to get people into safe housing by investing in robust street outreach, increased shelter capacity and more permanent supportive housing, as well as advocacy at the state and federal levels to reform and strengthen mental-health and substance-abuse interventions.
Gloria said street outreach and shelters serve as important and effective connections to housing.
"I am so proud to report that in 2022, more than 2,200 people ended their homelessness through the city's outreach and shelter system," he said.
The vast majority of those people -- nearly 1,900 -- had moved into permanent housing, according to city data.
"The problem we face is that, for every 10 people we get off the street and into housing, 13 people become homeless -- many for the first time," Gloria said. "The reality is, there are San Diegans who simply are not able to keep up with the rising cost of living.
"It's clear that we must focus more attention on the upstream causes of homelessness to give people a better shot at remaining housed through tough times," he said.
The city has created more than 658 shelter beds for people experiencing homelessness since April 2021 -- a 61% increase -- yet has also set records for the most homeless on the streets of downtown San Diego -- 1,839 in December -- and number of homeless deaths -- more than 574 in 2022.
Gloria announced that, as early as next week, the city will open part of the old central library in Downtown as a temporary shelter for women and soon will open a large shelter with private rooms for families. He also announced that the city plans to open a fourth site in its Safe Parking Program for people who have vehicles but not homes.
Deacon Jim Vargas, president and CEO of Father Joe's Villages -- one the city's largest homelessness-focused organization's -- said Gloria's actions were in the right direction.
"Mayor Gloria committed to programs and initiatives that have been proven effective, and Father Joe's Villages knows first-hand how these endeavors have a positive impact," Vargas said. "We support the city in its plan to increase street outreach, expand and diversify its network of shelters to adequately accommodate the number of those falling onto the streets and address individual circumstances, and invest in housing that those in need can afford.
Gloria said he will continue to support Gov. Gavin Newsom's CARE Court initiative -- which is intended to connect people struggling with untreated mental illness with a court-supervised care plan -- and will work with Sen. Susan Eggman, D-Stockton, to reintroduce conservatorship reform legislation.
"We are more closely aligned than ever before on how to best deliver county behavioral health services as a resource to the city as it works to address homelessness," said San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. "We're looking forward to continuing those relationships and identifying new opportunities where partnerships can be effective."
Moments before stepping on stage, Gloria signed an executive order directing all relevant city departments to complete their review and approve 100% affordable housing projects within 30 days -- a process that right now can take upwards of six months.
This was an additional step in his efforts to increase affordable housing supply in the city.
"We all know where our failure to build more homes has gotten us: sky- high rents, homelessness, families moving out-of-state, bright people leaving us for lower-cost cities," he said. "It causes many of our residents to not see a future for themselves here."
To address this, Gloria said that this year, he and City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera will build out their recently announced framework to strengthen protections and assistance for renters to prevent additional homelessness. He also announced that the San Diego Housing Commission will double the funding for homelessness prevention programs from $2 million to $4 million.
"Increasing the number of affordable homes available to San Diegans is key to ending homelessness, and another major factor is ensuring that our neighbors don't lose their current housing as rents and other prices rise across the county," Vargas said of Gloria's address. "His assurance of tenant protections will prevent more people from falling into homelessness."
In December, San Diego was one of seven cities in California to earn the state's Prohousing Designation, a recognition for committing to policies and practices that will help remove barriers to housing production and one which gives San Diego a leg up when applying for housing grants.
Gloria highlighted the potential to add to the region's housing stock through the redevelopment of the Sports Arena area, with its promise of 4,000 new homes -- roughly half of which will be affordable -- as well as the revitalization of Downtown San Diego's Civic Center.
For infrastructure, Gloria was bullish, announcing the city is doubling the number of miles of freshly repaved streets compared with each of the prior two fiscal years. When including slurry seal, the city intends to resurface 283 miles of resurfaced streets this fiscal year -- more than a 40% increase over the previous fiscal year.
"I recognize there will always be roadblocks of some kind," he said, "Our job is to find a way around them - or over or under or through them - so we deliver for San Diegans," he said.
Gloria pointed to his proposed update of the city's Street Preservation Ordinance as an additional tool to improve San Diego's road conditions. The amended ordinance would require utilities that dig up the streets to repair them more fully and quickly and pay for the expense.
He also announced a new initiative to streamline permitting and reduce fees for property owners to repair sidewalks in front of their homes or businesses.
Gloria's second address in 2022 was virtual due to the COVID pandemic. Watch the full 2022 San Diego State of the City Address (Jan 12, 2022):
WATCH: San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria signs executive order for housing projects