City Council votes to form committee to take up homelessness problem

SAN DIEGO — The City Council Tuesday voted unanimously to form a special committee to address homelessness issues in San Diego.

The committee, proposed two months ago by council President Myrtle Cole, will meet for one year — with a potential six-month extension.

Under Cole’s plan, the panel will be chaired by Councilman Chris Ward, whose district of downtown, Hillcrest and North Park is particularly affected by the homelessness problem. Ward is also vice chairman of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless.

Council members Chris Cate, Georgette Gomez and Lorie Zapf will also serve on the committee, which will bring recommendations for addressing the problem to the full City Council. Gomez will be the vice chair.

“The committee will give the city an opportunity to revisit our policies and processes, and work with the community on how we can strengthen and clarify our role in housing our homeless,” Cole said.

“The city of San Diego’s comprehensive policy on homelessness has not been updated since 1995,” she said. “I believe it’s time that we revisit this policy, and ensure that our policy reflects today’s values and needs, and that we have a policy that is putting us on an effective path to helping those in need.”

The homeless committee will also support a six-point plan by the San Diego Housing Commission that will result in 500 more housing units, stronger prevention programs and coordination of outreach programs by the various agencies involved in homelessness, according to Cole.

Formation of a special City Council committee has recent precedent in San Diego.

From January 2015 to May 2016, Cate and colleague Mark Kersey, along with then-Councilwomen Marti Emerald and Sherri Lightner, comprised a panel that scoured the City Charter to clarify and consolidate San Diego’s primary governing document.

Lightner chaired the Charter Review Committee, which produced numerous amendments that were approved by voters.