“When people think of San Diego, they think of sunshine,” said San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders. “I’m here to tell you we can make money off that.”

At a press conference held at City Hall, Sanders said the city could raise “a substantial amount of cash” through a “sale-leaseback” arrangement focused on the sun.

Under Sanders’ proposal, San Diego would receive a large, lump-sum payment for its sunshine rights. A year later, the city would begin paying a daily sunshine royalty — but only on days when the sun comes out.

“Climate change could turn this into a real winner for the city,” said Sanders. “Last summer, for example, with all the cloudy days, we hardly would have paid anything.”

According to Sanders — who said “I must be getting hungry” after his stomach growled audibly during the question-and-answer portion of the press conference — a sunshine sale-leaseback will help San Diego meet its short-term obligations and also pay for downtown developments like a new City Hall, a new library, and a new Chargers stadium.

“We’ll still enjoy all the benefits of the sun — warmth, light, unlimited free tanning — so why not sell to the highest bidder?” Sanders asked. He then asked reporters to “give me 30 or 40 seconds” and quickly devoured a steak sandwich that an aide had provided.

City Councilman Carl DeMaio seemed skeptical but willing to consider Sanders’ idea.

“As the Council’s self-described taxpayer watchdog, I’ll have to give the mayor’s plan a thorough sniff-sniffing,” DeMaio said. “But on first glance, I do like that it commits money away from city employees.”

DeMaio added that “we have been getting a lot of rain lately.”

Sale-leasebacks originated in corporate finance but increasingly have been used by cash-strapped municipalities and states to raise funds. For example, in early 2010, Arizona sold many state-occupied buildings to investors and will now make regular lease payments to occupy the buildings going forward.

“These deals do feel a bit like a trip to the pawn shop,” Sanders said. “But we need governments to run more like businesses, and businesses sell things all the time.”

Toward the end of the press conference, Sanders said he’d also like the city to consider selling off naming rights for area beaches.

“We’ve got all these generic names we could monetize, like Ocean Beach, La Jolla Cove, the Silver Strand,” Sanders said. “Wouldn’t folks have just as much fun at BioMed Beach, Cox Communications Cove, and the Sempra Strand?”


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