Measure H hopes to address the shortage of local childcare in the San Diego County region. Experts told NBC 7 that even before the pandemic, there were only enough licensed daycare options for about half of families needing care for their young children.
If passed, Measure H would legally allow childcare centers to operate on city parkland, and in recreation centers, ultimately opening up more locations.
On paper, if this measure passes, it would be a small change in the city’s charter language, but in the community it could have a major impact on how families can access quality childcare moving forward.
Currently, in San Diego County, there are 190,000 children under the age of 12 who don’t have a stay-at-home parent and whose parents cannot find childcare, according to the YMCA.
City councilman Chris Cate, District 6, is spearheading Measure H.
“We know that quality childcare and access to quality childcare is lacking in our region and so we as a city have made a priority to figure out solutions and this is one of those solutions,” said Cate.
The measure asks voters to change the definition of what is allowed on parkland to include childcare facilities. A report by the San Diego Workforce Partnership found that 40% of San Diego families with two children living on a median income, spend up to 40% of their monthly income on childcare.
“What we saw during the pandemic was a huge loss of childcare spaces,” said Cate.
The YMCA, San Diego County’s state-contracted child resource, said since March 2020, families have lost access to 7% of licensed childcare programs due to closure or inactive licenses in the county.
Savannah Ryan, a stay-at-home mom of two boys in Ocean Beach, says she works in event planning which allowed her to take care of her children while making an income. Recently, she said a local afterschool program suddenly closed and she stepped in to help her friends.
“My phone was blowing up. My husband was like, ‘What are you doing? You need to get an afterschool daycare program going soon. These parents are desperate,’” said Ryan.
She has started hosting family events called OB Playdates for families looking to find ways to unwind and have fun. while also providing childcare. Most recently, Rincon Brewery provided the space including one of their private rooms, while parents enjoyed a beer.
“I just think there’s not much childcare out there. They’re constantly looking for classes. I see on San Diego mom’s pages, ‘Where can I take my kids? Where can I get a babysitter?’” said Ryan. “They have to go to work. They work in offices. They have meetings. They’re not staying at home anymore.”
Ryan told NBC 7 that she is pursuing a license and business to help fill the childcare gap. For now, she takes her events to different venues where can find availability. But if something like Measure H is passed, it might give her a chance to use one of the 42 recreation centers identified by the city as options.
“I’m like desperately looking for places to do playdate events, to do stuff like that,” she said.
Cate says Measure H is a small but important step in changing the charter, but the real work is still ahead.
“We’ve asked that our city staff be open-ended to that because again every neighborhood is going to have different needs. We don’t want a one size fits all approach. And I think going out and asking providers what they need is the best step forward,” said Cate.
Council would ultimately vote on whether to allow a certain provider on a property and all of the details associated with that specific service. Cate said this would include consideration of the programs already taking place at those centers. The process of seeking input from providers won’t happen until the measure passes.
No official argument or opposition has been submitted, according to City Councilman Chris Cate’s office.