Gloria looks back on 8 years on council before leaving for Assembly

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Interim Mayor Todd Gloria

SAN DIEGO — Todd Gloria’s eight-year term on the San Diego City Council will end one week early when he’s sworn-in as an assemblyman on Monday.

Gloria will step into the seat formerly filled by ex-Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, who will succeed Marty Block in the state Senate.

The Democrat won 69 percent of the vote in last month’s general election, and will represent an Assembly district that covers the coastline from Solana Beach to the border, along with his familiar council grounds of downtown, Hillcrest and North Park.

His two terms included stints as interim mayor for six months after the resignation of scandal-plagued Bob Filner and as council president, where he fostered a mostly bipartisan environment. He also helped the city recover from the recession as the longtime chairman of the council’s Budget Committee.

“I couldn’t have anticipated what would happen,” Gloria told City News Service as he reflected on his council tenure. “I wanted to do good work, pass some good legislation.”

He said he came to the council to work on housing issues — including homelessness — but ended up in those other roles as well as tackling transportation — in which he was noted for his “sexy streets” expression when discussing repaved roadways.

The steadily increasing amount of community plans that have been updated over the past year will go a long way toward helping the housing affordability problem, though it will take some time for the effects to be felt, according to Gloria.

“They lay the foundation for more production (of housing) and I’m convinced that’s really the only way to meaningfully attack the affordability problems we have with housing,” Gloria said.

“We’ve built plenty of subsidized units — a lot of stuff for very low- income, fixed-income, disabled, homeless — not enough but there’s certainly a track record there,” he said. “It’s that middle area that is so persistent and it’s what I get stopped the most about — these are folks who work fulltime jobs, don’t qualify for public assistance, and don’t make enough to live in some of these towers in downtown, and they want to know that there’s a place here for them.”

The community plans provide certainty for builders, which should spur housing growth and drive down prices, he said.

Meanwhile, people have a right to hold him and other elected officials accountable for the swelling numbers of people living on the streets, which he called a continuing crisis.

He conceded that while things appear to be improving for the homeless who are in shelters, the needle isn’t moving for those living on downtown sidewalks. Among the culprits he identified were the economy, rapidly growing numbers of people with mental health problems, the state’s prison realignment and abolition of the redevelopment system, which took away a tool for building affordable housing.

“I am proud of what we’ve been able to do — when I got here the city’s commitment to the homeless was, I think, in many ways characterized by a tent that we put up over wintertime and that was about it,” Gloria said.

He pointed out that the city has since opened year-round facilities for the homeless in which they’re not only housed but receive social services designed to keep them off the street. There is also a place where the homeless can store their belongings when they go to job interviews and medical appointments, and expanded other programs.

Gloria plans to ride in holiday parades in North Park and Ocean Beach on Saturday, and fly to Sacramento Sunday to attend a Latino Caucus event. He’s scheduled to be sworn-in at noon on Monday.