By KENDRA SITTON | Uptown News
On Feb. 13, Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced the city is taking requests for proposals (RFP) to build up to 28 units of permanent supportive housing (PSH) at the site of the old Mission Hills Library. For Adrian Kwiatkowski, a Mission Hills resident running for City Council in District 3, discussing the conversion of the library into housing for homeless individuals requiring extra care was a constant while canvassing in his neighborhood. He said the majority of the people he talked to are opposed to it. Kwiatkowski has his own qualms about the site because the inclusion of eight parking spots for the fire department on the 0.189-acre site would shrink its footprint — and the number of units it could hold. He has a unique perspective on the issue because he helped usher in 40 units of permanent supportive housing for homeless veterans in Mission Hills.
The library is part of a citywide effort to add PSH units to each district but the Mission Hills Library was the only site in District 3 for this round of RFPs. Kwiatkowski believes the city should have done more to find other sites in Uptown. Even if nothing was found, the effort put into the search could be used to explain to the neighborhood why the housing must go there.
“Has Mission Hills done its part already? The answer is yes,” Kwiatkowski said. He thinks a better option could be partnering with the county and UCSD to bring a much higher number of units to the new behavioral health hub in Hillcrest.
“Why go through all this angst and uproar to not do anything really meaningful? And all the support services are going to be built at this mega facility in Hillcrest — doesn’t it make sense to do something over there?”
Kwiatkowski is running not just on his ideas but his past results as an insider to city hall. In addition to pushing through the veterans housing, he was behind the passage of the strong-mayor form of city government, smoke-free beaches and parks ordinance, and La Jolla Harbor’s seal pupping season beach closure.
“I tell people, ‘Judge me on what I’ve done, not what I’m promising you I will do.’ This should be a good beacon for how I can handle controversial issues when it comes to either density or affordable housing or homelessness, etc.,” he said. “I’ve had experience in a lot of these fields, where the people I’m running against, with all due respect, have not. None of them have actually ever had anything approved by the city council or got anything accomplished at City Hall. That’s a policy and that’s where I have a strength.”
While he is running on his record, Kwiatkowski has made interesting proposals in the lead-up to the primary. To fix Balboa Park, he wants to put forth a $500 million ballot measure to address the park’s deferred maintenance as well as set up a parcel tax to pay for maintenance and projects.
He said he would gather stakeholders to make a list of highest priority to lowest priority issues before putting a bond forward.
“We’re not gonna do it all in one swoop. What are the immediate needs? The buildings falling apart? Immediate needs. Better bathrooms? Immediate needs. Additional parking somewhere? That’s an immediate need. $500 million will only cover so many of those items,” Kwiatkowski explained. “Then actually get the projects done on time and on budget and build some trust with the voters that we can actually spend their money wisely. They can actually see the physical manifestation of the park being improved.”
Once that trust is built, then the parcel tax or some other permanent funding source could be found with the approval of the voters.
The Balboa ballot initiative is important enough to Kwiatkowski that he said he could see himself continuing to work on it even if he is not elected in November.
“There are a lot of voices and I think what’s needed is clarity of leadership here and someone willing to push something through,” he said.
Another idea he has is forming a dedicated climate change department at City Hall that would publicly demonstrate San Diego’s commitment to combating climate change and help meet the city’s climate action plan. While he does not know the specifics of how such an office would work with or apart from other departments in City Hall, it would help keep the focus on all City Hall decisions on the importance of addressing climate change and may only need a few employees to start.
“We need to have someone monitoring that climate action plan, and then coming up with new ideas of what the city can do to be a leader on preparing for climate change. The city has a lot of action items and we need people focused on making sure those action items are being met and being followed up on,” he explained. “It says that we are serious about this and we are serious about executing our plan.”
In addition, he would found a climate change commission that could evaluate the department and come up with new ideas. Since the department would be a part of the budget process each year, Kwiatkowski feels the city could use that as an opportunity to evaluate what steps it had taken and measure its effects on proactively combating climate change.
He also wants to make the budget process in general more efficient so the city can operate more effectively.
“One of the things I really want to focus on when I get elected is making sure the city hums, making sure the city operates efficiently, making sure that the city can deliver services, that our great city employees respond to constituents, that we start resolving some of these longstanding lack-of-focus problems out there,” he said. “So, I’m really going to work on making sure the city, as an organization, operates efficiently, delivers services, is responsive.”
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.