A construction worker levels concrete for a new San Diego sidewalk. Image courtesy mayor's office
A construction worker levels concrete for a new San Diego sidewalk. Image courtesy mayor’s office

The City Council Tuesday directed the City Attorney’s Office to develop language for a proposed ballot measure that would set up a method for funding infrastructure projects in San Diego over the next few decades.

Councilman Mark Kersey’s “Rebuild San Diego” plan would amend the City Charter to dedicate future sales tax growth and money from reduced pension payments toward neighborhood upgrades, including streets, sidewalks, storm drains, parks, libraries, recreation centers, and police and fire stations.

In addition, it would preserve half of all new major general fund growth for infrastructure projects — formalizing a commitment made by Mayor Kevin Faulconer in his first two budgets.

The money dedicated by the measure would close a gap in funding for fixing billions of dollars of neglected roads, sidewalks, municipal buildings and other city facilities that have been ignored until recently.

Kersey, his Infrastructure Committee and the mayor’s office have spent the past couple of years trying to figure out the scale of the problem, and to streamline the city processes meant to deal with the issue.

“When my team and I first began putting together this measure, we agreed on one overarching goal — to never let the city’s infrastructure get this bad again,” Kersey said. “We realized pretty early on it would not be good enough to just invest in new projects or to just close the deferred maintenance gap, because as we now know, simply building new projects doesn’t break the cycle of deterioration, which is how we got in this mess in the first place.”

The plan doesn’t include a tax increase — so if it goes on an election ballot — possibly in June — it would require only a simple majority for passage.

Faulconer has endorsed Kersey’s plan, which also received conditional support from the city’s Independent Budget Analyst and San Diego County Taxpayers Association. Both the IBA and SDCTA have suggested tweaks.

The City Attorney’s Office is scheduled to return Feb. 9 with draft language, at which time the council will determine whether it wants the Rebuild San Diego to last 20, 25 or 30 years. Kersey initially proposed 30 years, but several council members expressed a preference for a shorter time frame.

The City Council has until early March to decide whether the proposed measure will actually go on the ballot.

–City News Service