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Vik Jolly

The San Diego Tourism Authority is expecting an additional $7 million through the San Diego Tourism Marketing District in the next month, money it plans to use for a national campaign to promote the city to leisure travelers. If approved by the City Council, it would bump up the overall spending on media by the Tourism Authority to about $30 million annually.

Authority President and CEO Joe Terzi recently outlined a couple of challenges facing San Diego as peak summer travel season rolls around: A competitive environment (for example, Disneyland Resort unveils its Star Wars land at the end of May) and the transient occupancy tax or bed tax plateauing in San Diego.

Among features the Tourism Authority aims to capitalize on is Balboa Park, what officials call the “crown jewel” of the city that is much loved by those already in San Diego but not as well recognized outside the area.

“We’re going to change that,” Terzi said. “We are committed to Balboa Park. We believe it is of tremendous value to San Diego.”

With the San Diego Convention Center expansion via an increase in hotel taxes slated for a public vote in March 2020 – Tourism Authority officials are optimistic the measure will pass — the city at present has no “new demand driver.” Officials hope the ad campaign will be just that.

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Deacon Jim Vargas, president and CEO of Father Joe’s Villages and secretary of the executive committee of the board of directors of the Regional Taskforce on the Homeless, says while the results of the latest point-in-time count of the homeless in San Diego County is not to be discounted, we should not be fixated on it either.

“It’s not meant to be an all-inclusive count,” he said.

The results released last week by the taskforce pegged the number of homeless at 8,102. While the number is 5.5 percent less than the 8,576 recorded in 2018, it is not a like comparison due to changes in the count methodology. New federal requirements called for counting “people experiencing homelessness not vehicles or structures,” according to the taskforce. Workers surveyed the homeless in tents and vehicles by directly engaging with them.

The actual number of the homeless is more than likely much higher. Approximately 14,500 homeless utilized the nonprofit Father Joe’s Villages’ various services in 2018 alone.

Vargas noted that among metro areas in the country, San Diego has the fourth largest homeless population behind New York City, Los Angeles and Seattle. “We need to come up with a comprehensive plan to address” the situation, he said.

The impact of the homeless is felt in many sectors of the economy and the solutions likely will also have to be broad based.