Nathan Fletcher’s Fall Touches All San Diego Politics

County Supervisor’s resignation is an ongoing news story, and reverberates everywhere–even on efforts to abate homelessness
Disgraced San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. (Photo by Sal Giametta)

The messy political flameout of philandering San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher promises to continue generating local headlines. 

The Republican-cum-Independent-cum-Democrat admitted to an extramarital affair with a young staffer at the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System. Grecia Figueroa is suing. She alleges that Fletcher’s predatory workplace advances were sexual harassment. 

Talk about timing: Days before that lawsuit, Fletcher announced he was taking a leave of absence at a medical facility to deal with PTSD and alcohol abuse. 

From an out-of-state medical facility, Fletcher then resigned from the County Board of Supervisors, possibly sooner but no later than May 15. Supervisor Jim Desmond has called on Fletcher to resign immediately.

Not only does Fletcher’s exit leave the local political landscape in muddled disarray, it’s yet another missing puzzle piece in downtown San Diego’s losing battle against homelessness.

Before his rising star fell from the sky, Fletcher had thrown his jaunty cap into the ring to run for the District 39 state senate seat being termed-out by Toni Atkins. One of his platform rungs was advancing the plight of homeless veterans.

His office is currently being run by staff–a team that was further depleted when two members quit after Fletcher’s head-shaking booty calls were made public.

Fletcher did receive credit for paying more attention to, and leading efforts on, abating homelessness than previous board members. There’s no immediate indication Fletcher’s resignation will erase the county’s efforts in this area, though it’s a distraction at the very least.   

Outgoing city director of Homelessness Strategies and Solutions Hafsa Kaka. (Courtesy photo)

Another missing puzzle piece on the homelessness front is the recent departure from city government of Hafsa Kaka. She was hired in 2021 as San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria’s director of Homelessness Strategies and Solutions.

When she was hired, Gloria adamantly announced that Kaka would report directly to him. And that proximity to his office would help produce positive results.

Yet in February, it was announced that Kaka’s department would move back to the city’s neighborhood services division. It was now reasoned by the mayor that this reorganization would best align city departments to work together on issues like homelessness.

City Hall veteran Sarah Jarman has taken over the role. Whoever the point person has been–and now Jarman is the fifth person in the job over the past half dozen years–the numbers keep getting worse.

Tent structures and mini encampments are omnipresent in downtown San Diego. The Downtown San Diego Partnership counts nearly 2,000 people living on city streets. That’s nearly doubled during the time frame that the city has played musical chairs in the homelessness czar role.

An all-too-common sight on downtown San Diego Streets.

While politicians and their subordinates come and go, those in power need to at least look like they are doing…something. The latest smokescreen in the “fight” against homelessness is a proposed city council ordinance that will ban tent encampments on public property.

It’s backed by downtown’s city councilmember Stephen Whitburn and by Gloria. The mayor is also resuming a ban against people living in their cars.

Naturally, the moves resonate with the public. Those of us who live downtown know the daily frustration of walking off the curb and into the street to navigate around tents pitched on sidewalks all over the city, especially in East Village.

But the idea comes at a time when minor increases in local shelter beds are about to be offset by the closure of downtown’s Golden Hall shelter, which holds some 400-plus homeless residents. 

Whitburn says a team is evaluating plans to create a city-sanctioned campsite for people who would be moved from downtown tents. 

The Lucky Duck Foundation has proposed a parking lot at Inspiration Point in Balboa Park as a site for two industrial-sized tents that could house hundreds.

The city has yet to make a decision on Inspiration Point. But a Balboa Park advocacy group has already vehemently denounced the idea. It’ll be a struggle to site the tents in Balboa Park.

So while the city is aiming to make it illegal for people to live in tents–which, yes, we all recognize is the number-one blight on downtown living–there is literally nowhere those on the streets have to go.

Maybe a few could get bunks next to Fletcher? Or, take the job as City Hall’s next in-house homelessness expert.

All serious solutions are welcome.

Breaking news: Whitburn’s chief of staff, Jesus Cardenas, has just confirmed he is leaving that position. Cardenas had been warned about working for the city and a political consultancy at the same time. He’s choosing the latter. SDSun

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