Economy & Jobs

Full Policy Plan

San Diego is in a crisis due to COVID-19, with high unemployment, businesses suffering, and city revenues down.

We will build on our strengths – our diverse population, great universities, thriving technology industries, proximity to the border, a vibrant cultural sector, a spectacular natural environment, and a set of unique neighborhoods. These advantages will enable us to effectively reopen and rebuild the economy. We will emphasize expanding professional opportunities for young people, attracting new investment, advancing environmental justice, and creating a culture of accountability and transparency in local government. COVID-19 has created a new playing field.

As Mayor, my priorities will be to restore and re-invent our local economy and get our people back to work, while addressing historic inequities and protecting our most vulnerable residents.

San Diego’s biotech industry has been at the forefront of developing treatments, test kits and vaccines to fight COVID-19.  Our city’s future depends on building a vibrant biotech, tech and healthcare sector downtown and in Otay Mesa and making these high-paying jobs accessible to San Diegans who historically have been excluded from participating in our city’s innovation economy.  Economic prosperity includes access to quality, affordable health care that covers pre-existing conditions-- which is what I’ve fought for my whole life.

Here are a few priorities included in the Roadmap to Recovery:

  • Citywide broadband Internet access to all families and small businesses
  • Developing a regional strategy to allow for an effective remote workforce
  • Ensuring equitable professional opportunities across racial, gender, and age groups starting at City Hall
  • Reforming the Police Department through an independent police review commission, emphasis on community policing, and transferring non-crime functions to other city staff
  • Addressing homelessness by treating its root causes, including providing mental health and substance abuse treatment, job training, and transitional housing
  • Promoting housing supply and affordability through local planning, converting of surplus commercial space for residential use, and enforcing the existing Municipal Code against short-term-rentals
  • Making cuts to the City’s expensive, bureaucratic, and unnecessary middle management

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San Diego Must Build on Its Strengths

We are fortunate to have a highly diverse population, bringing together a collection of cultures and professional skills that make San Diego a uniquely attractive place to live and work. The combination of home-grown talent and immigrants has produced a highly energized, entrepreneurial economy.

The innovation economy creates high-paying jobs and good service sector jobs around it. This is where I spent over 30 years of my career -- first as an executive at CONNECT, helping to launch hundreds of tech and biotech companies, and then as an entrepreneur launching my own businesses. As Mayor, I will apply that experience by leading efforts to raise investment capital, to promote our city as a home for job-generating businesses, and to preserve the quality of life that will continue to attract productive workers.

At the same time, we must recognize some weaknesses, which made us vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 and which will make recovery more challenging.

Our economy is over-dependent on tourism, which is subject to disruption and produces many lower-wage jobs. It is uncertain when our Convention Center will again host events, and it is likely that attendance will be reduced for a long time to come. While the visitor industry will remain a critical component of our local economy deserving of support, I will work to diversify that economy to mitigate the impact of disruptions to this sector.

Our lower-income communities and minority populations continue to suer from historical inequities, including exposure to environmental hazards, lack of internet access, poorer schools, access to employment centers and inadequate social services. These inequities have been magnified during the shutdown, as the industries employing many people from these communities have seen the highest level of closures and job loss. Meanwhile, communities of color have had disproportionately high infection and death rates, on account of less access to quality healthcare and a higher level of exposure in many of their workplaces. My administration will strive to address these inequities through improved services and increased emphasis on economic development targeting the most impacted communities.

Our future growth is more likely to come from our children and grandchildren than from new people moving here, so we must develop our local talent. As Mayor, my office will include a School Engagement Coordinator who will develop partnerships between employers and schools so that, from a young age, children are aware of the opportunities available to them.

The Work Environment

Working from Home. Businesses and public agencies should capitalize on the experience of recent months and maximize opportunities for employees to work from home. Some major companies already have announced their intention to make this arrangement permanent. Doing so will have multiple benefits for the businesses and for the community, though it also raises some new issues that need to be addressed.

Workplace Physical Changes. To the extent workers need to be in congregate environments – offices, manufacturing plants, construction sites –physical changes will be necessary. These may include reconfigured floorplans, better separation of work spaces, increased cleaning and sanitizing, improved ventilation, and touchless access systems. Extra protective measures will be needed for employees who have to operate in close quarters, such as food handlers and utility plant workers. The Governor may issue standards for such changes. If not, my mayoral office will.

Use of Surplus Space. Even with those changes to work places, there likely will be significant amounts of surplus office space. Companies and government agencies will need to plan for how to convert that space to new uses. Satellite offices and parking structures may be converted to community facilities or residential use, for example. Some space may be converted to community facilities or residential use, for example. Some space may be converted to on-site childcare, health services, or convenience stores. I will instruct the Development Services Department to facilitate permitting for such changes, to ensure that the best use is made of existing structures and spaces.

Job Restructuring. City government itself can contribute to these shifts. Through job sharing and staggered work schedules, we can further reduce the need for office space and parking. And upgrading technology will allow us to increase productivity with a smaller workforce. By applying these same methods, I will make sure the City keeps important facilities like libraries, recreation centers, and parks open for longer hours, including weekends.

Economic Development

Small Business Assistance. Small businesses are being hurt especially severely by the lockdown. The impact has been greatest in lower-income, minority, and immigrant neighborhoods. My experience as Associate Director of the CONNECT organization, on behalf of new companies in the tech sector, will be particularly useful here. The City will support small businesses by providing them with technical assistance to obtain state and federal financial aid and by reducing wherever possible local regulations for businesses below a certain size. In order to maximize the benefits of these measures, the outreach, design, and implementation of programs on financing and professional development for small businesses, many of which are owned by recent immigrants, must be conducted in a manner that maximizes access by the target audiences. Further, by improving the access of small businesses to city contracts, and by assisting development of those that hire from and serve their immediate communities, I will ensure that many of them will be able to recover and thrive.

Job Development Priority. As Mayor, I will promote job creation activity in areas south of I-8 and particularly areas closer to the international border and closer to affordable housing. Increasing jobs there will reduce the need for travel northward, including workers crossing daily from Mexico. Otay Mesa, for example, can become a manufacturing hub for such clean and vital products as pharmaceuticals. Most major pharmaceutical companies already have a presence in San Diego by virtue of having acquired or invested in a San Diego biotech company and/or having a research facility here, so this would be a natural growth opportunity for that industry and would generate high-paying jobs in the ideal location. The federal government is seeking to have more of that manufacturing occur domestically, so the City should pursue financial and other incentives to bring those companies here.

U.S.–Mexico Border

Border Synergy. San Diego and Tijuana comprise a single economic region, and the border must be seen as an economic asset. Synergy between businesses and workers on both sides is key to a thriving regional economy, and especially to the localized economy of areas such as San Ysidro. Massive public investment in the border crossing facilities already has occurred. As we recover from COVID-19, we must build on that investment to make legal movement of people and goods as seamless and efficient as possible. Proximity to the border is an advantage to a variety of service, trading, and manufacturing businesses, so the City will actively identify and recruit such companies to generate jobs and bolster the economy in the southern part of the City. I will collaborate in every way possible with my counterpart in Tijuana, as well as with the appropriate state and federal agencies, to make all this a reality.

Restoring Tourism. We need to restore the tourist economy as rapidly as safely possible, as it currently accounts for about 200,000 jobs in the region and draws about $12 billion annually in visitor spending. The City, along with other local governments, must work with the visitor industry to make certain its gradual reopening now underway is done strictly according to plan, so that an influx of visitors doesn’t cause a second surge of infection and a further shutdown.

Cultural Tourism. As we restore this sector of our economy, I want us to diversify it further. Our variety of ethnic communities, coupled with our outstanding art and cultural oerings, provides us with the opportunity to promote cultural tourism in addition to recreational visits and conventions. We will enhance this opportunity, and also better serve our local communities, by aiding a wider variety of cultural groups in obtaining financial and technical support, and by encouraging partnerships between community-based groups and larger institutions. This form of tourism will support local businesses and cultural institutions far beyond whatever hotel taxes it may generate.

Economic Diversification. As much as we value our tourist economy, however, we must acknowledge that we are too reliant on it for jobs and tax revenues. In the 1980s, city leaders realized that our economy was overly dependent on defense and aerospace, so they worked with UCSD to form CONNECT to capitalize on commercializing the research coming out of UCSD and institutes like Salk and Scripps. In 1986, we had fewer than a dozen local life science companies. Today there are hundreds, and the research conducted in San Diego continues to develop new industries such as bio-algae, genomics, cyber-security, and autonomous vehicles. I want to make this highly successful public-private partnership a model for future development in other economic sectors. This is our city's future.

Key Workers. We have seen during the lockdown how dependent we are on certain groups of workers whom we usually take for granted, especially those involved in health care, food sales, sanitation, and deliveries. Most are among the lowest-paid professions. I will advocate for living wages and affordable housing so these important workers will be able to stay in San Diego.

Reducing Commuting. In the long run, we need to develop a regional model for dispersed employment centers, one not so concentrated in the northern parts of the City and in North County, especially when so much of the workforce lives far to the south and currently commutes long distances. While many office workers will continue to work from home, those in research, manufacturing, and construction, among others, will continue to commute, so I will prioritize shortening those work commutes. In addition to establishing new job centers south of I-8, we should incentivize development of a tech-focused job center downtown, where much of that industry's workforce already lives and where the amenities exist that are desired by younger tech workers. And, citywide, we need to facilitate locating small-to-medium size businesses close to residential areas.

Childcare. The spread-out nature of our communities and our workplaces makes childcare a regional issue. Every family with young children faces the challenge of finding quality, affordable, conveniently located childcare providers. That diculty dominates decisions about housing, employment, and social interaction. It impacts women especially, as a large proportion work in lower-wage service jobs and struggle to afford childcare. It also forces them to give up jobs if their spouse or partner has a better-paying job and one of them has to assume childcare responsibility. All of this threatens to set back women’s economic gains by decades. I experienced this myself years ago as a working mother of two young children. As Mayor, I will initiate collaboration among our city, the County, and other local cities, to promote development of more childcare programs and facilities, located where they can best serve our residents’ needs, and facilitate establishing a larger network of private in-home childcare facilities.

Workplace Equity. Just as the City can play an important role in dealing with childcare needs, it can address continuing pay equity issues. Women and racial minorities continue to be undercompensated at most professional levels and underrepresented in higher-level positions. State and federal law govern in these areas, but the City can set a strong example by ensuring that its own workforce is representative of the community, that its employees are treated equally as to compensation and professional advancement, and that city contractors and suppliers are strictly held to compliance with fair employment laws.

Youth Opportunity. Ensuring that our youth receive the necessary training is vital to the economy we are building. On-line learning during the lockdown has proven to be less eective than classroom instruction and interaction, so I want to see the public schools reopened as soon as safely possible. At the same time, I will encourage school officials and administrators to use this as a chance to consider how their curriculum and methods can be revised to make them more relevant to the needs and opportunities presented in the local economy. This must include a greater understanding of the intersections among dierent educational disciplines and various economic sectors. With the right learning foundation, the partnerships I have proposed between employers and schools will give students access to paid internships in tech, biotech, non-profits, local government, health care, and other higher-paying industries, thereby launching them on the best possible career tracks.

The Roadmap to Recovery is the product of months of work by a diverse group of community and business leaders, designed to make clear what my priorities will be as Mayor – so you can hold me accountable for it!

Read Barbara's Full Policy Plan

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