Sheila Pell 11 a.m., Oct. 22
Downtown San Diego Partnership to spend $110,000 of PBID funds on Director of Homeless Outreach
Position will be the eighth salaried position for the PBID.
The Downtown San Diego Partnership is willing to spend any amount of money, taxpayer money that is, to cut down on panhandlers in downtown and to end homelessness.
The agency is looking for a person to fill a newly created $110,000 a year position as Director of Homeless Outreach for the Clean and Safe program, also known as the Downtown Property and Business Improvement District.
The new post will be the eighth salaried position for the Clean and Safe program. The other positions include the Executive Director, Director of Operations, Director of Finance, District Director, Human Resources Manager, Homeless Outreach Lead, and Executive Assistant. Some downtown residents say the number of employees is just another example of the Downtown Partnership running wild with taxpayer funds.
According to the PBID's annual budget for this current fiscal year, approximately 38 percent of revenues are spent on salaries. That 38 percent, or $1.53 million, is without the salary of the Director of Homeless Outreach.
In recent months board members and executives at the Downtown Partnership have shown their preference to hire as opposed to spending revenues from assessments on specific benefits.
In March of this year, board members for Downtown's Clean and Safe program stated that they aren't in "the business of taking care of public restrooms," thus rejecting a proposal to use $24,000 to pay for yearly maintenance for a Portland Loo in Downtown. The loos are considered a much needed and long-delayed amenity for downtown.
The board members, however, felt the $4 million in property-based assessments collected each year through the Downtown PBID should not be used to maintain restrooms.
A better way to address homelessness in downtown, said board members, was to use PBID money to create a new $110,000 per-year position called the Director of Homeless Outreach. The new position, according to documents passed out during a May 14 meeting, will be responsible for supervising the current Homeless Outreach Lead and oversee the Downtown San Diego Partnership's Movin' Home Strategy.
Over the past year, executives at the Downtown San Diego Partnership have done everything in their power to fill the void left after the dissolution of San Diego's Redevelopment Agency. In October of last year, those same executives spent $19,000 in PBID assessments on a consultant tasked with developing a business plan for the Downtown Partnership.
Kathy Casey has been a long-time critic of the Downtown San Diego Partnership's management strategy. In the past, Casey has objected to the use of assessments to pay for high-priced consultants, or for the agency's flashy website and logo.
"It's fine if the Partnership wants to hire another full time homeless outreach worker, just don't pay for it with with tax dollars," writes Casey in a May 18 email.
Casey's thinking seems to be in line with California's Property and Business Improvement District Law of 1994. The law is strictly meant to provide improvements and promote activities. The assessments benefit real property or businesses are not taxes for the general benefit of a city, but are assessments for the improvements and activities which confer special benefits upon the real property or businesses for which the improvements and activities are provided."
Non-profits in charge of managing Business Improvement Districts and other assessment districts have come under fire in recent years, locally and in cities throughout the state. Last year, residents in Golden Hill and South Park were successful in dissolving an illegally formed MAD in their community. In that case, a judge questioned the difference between general benefits versus actual benefits for those residents paying the tax. And, just last month a judge in Los Angeles dissolved a Business Improvement District for that same reason.
Local attorney and open-government advocate Cory Briggs says the same can be said for the management of the PBID by the Downtown San Diego Partnership. When asked about the decision to create a Director of Homeless Outreach, Briggs replied, "It is totally illegal."
Janelle Riella, spokesperson for the Downtown San Diego Partnership, did not respond to a request for comment.