Bill Walton
Bill Walton speaks about San Diego’s homeless crisis as photos of encampments are projected behind him. Photo by Chris Jennewein

An angry Bill Walton, the legendary basketball star and San Diego booster, on Tuesday called for Mayor Todd Gloria’s resignation over an “out-of-control” homeless population.

“I have challenged Todd Gloria to prove me wrong. I have given him every opportunity,” said the 69-year-old UCLA and NBA champion at a press conference.

Walton said he had been harassed, chased and attacked while riding his bike in Balboa Park near a large homeless encampment he dubbed “Gloriaville.”

“Things are worse now that ever before. Our lives are being dictated by a large and unruly homeless population,” he said. “We want the homeless population off the streets, out of the parks, off the sidewalks and bike paths.”

He said he has repeatedly raised the issue privately with Gloria and decided it was time to go public because “to Todd Gloria, we don’t count.”

Walton appeared at the fiery news conference alongside Drew Moser, executive director of the homeless-focused nonprofit Lucky Duck Foundation, and Lucky Duck Executive Committee Member Dan Shea.

“Plain and simple there, needs to be more immediately available beds,” said Moser, whose organization has funded two homeless tents in the East Village. He said that once the homeless are housed by the city, services can be provided to change and improve their lives.

He said Lucky Duck had launched a new initiative called “Shamrocks & Shipwrecks” intended to hold elected leaders accountable on issues related to homelessness. The first shamrocks and shipwrecks will be given out on Dec. 8.

Shea said Lucky Duck wants to hold public officials accountable if they cite progress but don’t follow up with proof. “A lot of money is spent on public relations folks to make it sound good, make it sound nice,” he said.

“It’s up to the politicians to come up with the plans,” he added, accusing city leaders of “counting on small nonprofits to do their job.”

Gloria is on a trade mission to the Netherlands, but his director of communications, Rachel Laing, criticized the press conference for advancing what she called “self-aggrandizing hyperbole and outright lies.”

“San Diegans are frustrated with the worsening homelessness crisis, and Mayor Gloria shares that frustration,” Laing said. “But unlike Mr. Walton, Mayor Gloria is translating that frustration into decisive, sustained action to improve the situation. To say that he has done nothing on homelessness is objectively false.”

She went on to list Gloria’s accomplishments in the arena of homelessness, including increasing the city’s network of shelter beds, launching and expanding a street outreach program, increasing sidewalk cleanups, and making it easer and faster to build affordable housing.

Updated at 2:15 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022

City News Service contributed to this article.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.