SAN DIEGO — A plan for a first-of-its-kind child care center, approved Monday by San Diego City Council, could help bolster the local police force in a benefit intended to help recruit and retain officers.
Council voted to approve a 60-month lease between the city and the San Diego Police Officers Association for a property with indoor office space and an outdoor playground area at 4020 Murphy Canyon Road. It comes at no cost to the city after it received a $3 million grant from the state to open and operate the Murphy Canyon Childcare Facility, a staff report shows.
It offers a clear benefit to officers with young children, as child care facilities typically only operate during regular business hours from Monday through Friday with little to no availability for nights and weekends.
San Diego police Lt. Brian Avera, who serves as director of the SDPOA, helped get the effort off the ground. As a father of a 4-year-old girl and a 6-month-old boy, Avera said it’s a needed service for officers.
“Part of the SDPOA will never forget the phone call that a member made that needed assistance with child care,” he said. “This phone call got the attention of the SDPOA and we wanted to do something about it.”
The new center will offer SDPD employees extended hours and affordable rates. As is, child care can be one of the most expensive costs for parents with Avera noting at least one SDPOA member was paying in the ballpark of $2,800 a month.
“We know that’s borderline a mortgage,” he said.
The program comes as SDPD struggles to recruit and retain officers. City Councilmember Vivian Moreno said it effectively “removes a barrier that currently exists for some women who hesitate to become police officers because of concerns about child care.”
Some callers Monday questioned the plan.
“I have (to) ask on public land, 100% taxpayer subsidized: Why limit it to San Diego Police Department employees and their children?” caller Lori Saldaña said.
The center will offer hours from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. and serve children ages 5 and younger. It may care for as many as 50 children, according to the city.
“It’s just getting more and more difficult to attract people to come to our organization, and then once they’re here to retain them, to have them stay,” Avera said. “This child care solution will do that.”