2021-22 Recommended Operational Plan


Helen N. Robbins-Meyer

Chief Administrative Officer

L. Michael Vu

Assistant Chief Administrative Officer

Nora Vargas


District One

Joel Anderson


District Two

Terra Lawson-Remer


District Three

Nathan Fletcher


District Four

Jim Desmond


District Five

2021-22 Operational Plan Executive Summary

CAO Recommended Operational Plan Message

It’s a new day at the County! We have built an operational plan that is more responsive to community voices than ever and builds upon a bold new Framework for the Future established by the Board of Supervisors.

As we introduce this new budget, you will see that the framework places equity at the forefront of all that we do and strengthens outcome-based programs and services to best meet the needs of our region. It also focuses on helping our residents and businesses come back strong after the devastating impacts of this pandemic.

Consistent with the framework, this budget sets a new foundation built upon racial equity, social and environmental justice, sustainability and economic opportunity. We are also examining all we do through a renewed focus on transparency and inclusion, one that brings community to the table and one that will strengthen our operations.

We remain focused on fiscal responsibility while prioritizing our resources based on data analysis and community need. While we continue to hold our core values of integrity, stewardship and service commitment at the forefront of our operations, we are also re-examining all our policies and programs to tear down structural racism and ensure equity is considered at every level of government programs and services.

The County of San Diego’s recommended budget is designed to help improve the lives of all San Diegans, especially the most vulnerable. This year’s budget will increase by 7.3% or nearly $0.5 billion over last year’s budget to more than $7 billion in Fiscal Year 2021-22.

Our top priority has always been and remains serving the residents of San Diego County by striving for excellence in everything we do.

The future is promising. Together we are strong, and together with the community and our Board, we will build upon the lessons learned in 2020 and strengthen our vision of a County that equitably builds better health, ensures safe living and thrives.

Helen N. Robbins-Meyer

Chief Administrative Officer

Our Values

The foundation for all County programs and services

Equity & Inclusion


Racial, Social & Environmental Justice


Outcome Based

Diversity & Inclusion Partnership Model

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion

The County is committed to creating a culture of equity, belonging and racial justice. The County’s equity, diversity, and inclusion work includes six key components, comprised of offices, groups, and a commission, working to foster these principles and engage our community.

Human Relations Commission (HRC)

31-member commission established to promote positive human relations, respect and integrity of every individual in the County of San Diego.

Office of Equity & Racial Justice (OERJ)

Devoted to engaging the community to cocreate transformative, enduring, structural and systemic change in San Diego County government.

Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

The County of San Diego has ten thriving Employee Resource Groups that play an important role in advancing our commitment to diversity and creating and sustaining an inclusive workplace. ERGs provide employees networking and professional development activities, support County initiatives, and promote cultural awareness.

Diversity & Inclusion Executive Council (D&IEC)

Diverse executive leadership creating a culture that keeps diversity and inclusion at the forefront for leaders throughout the enterprise by guiding the County’s diversity and inclusion strategy.

Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Unit (EDI Unit)

Integrating EDI into County culture and becoming an internal support specifically in areas of:

  • Recruitment
  • Hiring
  • Professional
  • Development/Advancement

Office of Ethics & Compliance (OEC)

Department dedicated to fostering a culture of integrity, implementing the Code of Ethics, promoting ethics and compliance through developed policies, programs and trainings, and reviewing discrimination, fraud, waste and abuse complaints.

  County of San Diego REGIONAL DATA

Incorporated Cities

Median Household Income

2017: $70,588

2018: $74,855

2019: $78,980





2018: 3,337,456

2019: 3,340,312

2020: 3,343,355

Civilian Labor Force

2019: 1,590,600

2020: 1,538,400



Median Home Price

Single Family Homes

January 2019: $615,000

January 2020: $670,000

January 2021: $744,000

Attached Homes

January 2019: $415,000

January 2020: $435,000

January 2021: $485,000

Unemployment Rate

2019: 3.2%

2020: 9.2%

2021: 7.2%

San Diego County Population Distribution by Race, Ethnicity and Age 2019 Total Population: 3,340,312

Chart available in Arabic, Chinese,  Filipino, Spanish, and Vietnamese

  • SANDAG projects San Diego’s population will continue to grow in diversity by 2035, estimating: 36.3 % White, 41.4% Hispanic, 13.9% Asian and Pacific Islander, 4% African American and 4% all other groups including American Indian.
  • San Diego County has the largest number of Indian reservations of any County in the United States – 18

2021-22 Recommended Budget











$0.6 BILLION *

Appropriations total $7.03 billion in the Recommended Budget for Fiscal Year 2021-22. This is an increase of $480.2 million or 7.3% from the Fiscal Year 2020-21 Adopted Budget.

* The Recommended Budget excludes the Air Pollution Control District (APCD). Effective March 1, 2021, the APCD transitioned from the Land Use & Environment Group (LUEG) to an independent agency, removing its staffing and budgeted amounts from LUEG with no impact to service delivery.

Total Staffing by Group/Agency

18,450.25 (+2.8%)













Chart available in ArabicChineseFilipinoSpanish, and Vietnamese

This chart highlights select staffing increases that reflect the County’s commitment to justice system reform, with additional staff dedicated to medical and mental health care for those in custody, as well as reentry support.

Other staff additions focus on helping those who are vulnerable, as well as services that improve our communities, like libraries, parks and roads.

* The Recommended Budget excludes the Air Pollution Control District (APCD). Effective March 1, 2021, the APCD transitioned from the Land Use & Environment Group (LUEG) to an independent agency, removing its staffing and budgeted amounts from LUEG with no impact to service delivery.

To see the full operational plan visit: www.sandiegocounty.gov/openbudget

Spending Priorities


A total $613.2 million will go toward a increased need for eligibility and self-sufficiency services. Staffing will increase a total 166 positions for safety net services, Adult Protective Services, In-Home Supportive Services and Child Welfare Services. The budget also includes a new County Office of Immigrants and Refugee Affairs.


A total budget of $812.7 million will help those with mental health and substance use issues by reimagining programs and services, including lowering staff to client ratios and increasing mobile outreach. Funding also calls for enhanced crisis stabilization services and ensuring behavioral health clients are placed at the correct level of care to reduce the use of emergency rooms.


The budget includes funding to prepare a new Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and waste, more than $41.2 million to protect the County’s waterways and coastline, and $11.8 million to add at least 500 acres of land to the region’s open space. The budget also calls for $0.5 million to broaden the Environmental Justice Element in the County’s General Plan to reduce pollution exposure and promote environmental safety in underserved communities.


$226.9 million for COVID-19 response with a focus on health equity and diverse outreach including the Test, Trace, Treat (T3) program for ongoing vaccination and tracing efforts, and the Great Plates Delivered program to provide meals to at-risk seniors, as well as an anticipated allocation of $650 million in American Resue Plan Act funding focused on economic recovery. The funding will provide senior and youth services, small business stimulus funds, permit fee waivers for the events industry, expanded broadband access, infrastructure, child care subsidies, food assistance and mental health services.


To address homelessness, funding will allow the creation of a Department of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities. A $2.5 million increase will augment housing assistance and care for youth, veterans, and individuals with high behavioral health and physical health needs, and the Board of Supervisors has created a framework for American Rescue Act funds, with $85 million currently earmarked for services to support those who are homeless.


Continue to use the federal allocation of $107 million to support rental assistance through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The CalWORKs Housing Support program will see a $0.4 million increase. An additional $0.5 million will go toward creating a regional housing strategy to improve housing supply and affordability.


As part of juvenile justice transformation, $75 million will go to phase 2 of the Youth Transition Campus. More than 141 new Sheriff positions will be added for medical and expanded mental health services for individuals in custody and Mobile Crisis Response Teams will receive $10 million to go countywide. The teams provide an alternative to dispatching law enforcement when an individual is in a behavioral health or substance use crisis. Funding will also support One Safe Place: The North County Family Justice Center, a centralized care facility for trauma survivors and their families.


The budget calls for a renewed emphasis on capital projects with an increase of $149.8 million or 115.5% over last year for a total $279.6 million.

Projects include:

  •  $75 million Youth Transition Center
  •  $18 million East Otay Mesa Fire Station
  •  $21 million Casa De Oro Library
  •  $11 million Tijuana River Valley Smuggler’s Gulch Basin
  •  $10 million Animal Shelter
  •  $9 million Trails
  •  $65 million Parks
  •  $20 million Maintenance

A Closer Look at Justice System Reform and Public Safety

Resources are added to the Sheriff’s Department to expand medical care and enhance access to mental health services throughout the jail system and to open three housing units and dedicated medical facilities in the Rock Mountain Detention Facility. These actions continue the department’s progress in achieving National Commission on Correctional Health Care accreditation by adding needed medical and mental health staff to the jail system. The addition of beds and medical staff also facilitates jail system compliance with the Board of State and Community Corrections capacity requirements and makes it possible for the department to carry out critical repairs and maintenance at major jail facilities to support safe operations for individuals in custody and for staff.

Additionally, no cost telephone and video visitation services will be provided throughout all seven county detention facilities as of July 1, 2021. These investments support the goal of improving outcomes for individuals returning to our communities, thus improving overall public health, and reducing recidivism.

Completion of the new Youth Transition Campus will enable the Probation Department to move away from a traditional correctional, punitive model that looks, feels, and operates like a jail to one that will embrace a trauma-informed, positive youth development framework that is demonstrated to better support youth outcomes. The new campus replaces a more than 50-year-old facility. Phase I will, and Phase II proposes, to embrace national best practices recommended by Georgetown University’s Center for Juvenile Justice Reform and the Council of Juvenile Justice Administrators. Phase I of the campus, which will be completed this year, features 12-bed housing cottages, standalone school and career technical education capabilities, indoor and outdoor recreation areas, family visitation lounge, cafeteria, and more open spaces in a natural environment to promote youth well-being, rehabilitation, and better youth outcomes. The campus will also feature an updated administrative center, allowing Probation staff to work closer to the youth they serve. No cost telephone and video visitation services will be provided throughout all Probation custody facilities beginning July 1, 2021. The more contact that young people have with caring adults, the more youth experience positive outcomes.

The opening of the District Attorney’s North County Family Justice Center “One Safe Place” will facilitate a single location where survivors of trauma and their families can receive acute crisis-care, advocacy, counseling, legal services, childcare, connection to shelter and housing, and social service benefits – all under one roof. One Safe Place will revolutionize victim services in San Diego County because, for the first time, a nationally accredited Child Advocacy Center will be housed under the same roof as a nationally known health care provider, along with law enforcement and other general victim services. This is important because research shows that children who suffer abuse are more likely to have unhealthy outcomes later in life.

An increase in positions at the District Attorney’s Office will also expand workers’ rights as part of the Workplace Justice Initiative which includes prosecuting criminal wage theft cases and stopping labor trafficking. The budget includes four staff to support this effort including a victim advocate and crime analyst. Additional positions will also support the Juvenile Pre-File Diversion Initiative to keep youth who commit misdemeanors and some felonies away from the justice system and connect them with the services and support programs they need. Additional positions at the Public Defender will support the Defense Transition Unit and create an assessment staff to ensure early recognition and timely treatment of the justice-involved population needing behavioral health treatment.

Additional Public Defender attorneys are requested to provide conviction relief to clients seeking to clear their record through a program called Fresh Start, and to provide legal services to immigrants and refugees. All these programs will target some of the county’s most vulnerable populations to provide access to support programs and services.

Through the Pandemic and Beyond in Health and Human Services

While the global COVID-19 pandemic is not yet in the rearview mirror, signs of progress are evident in addressing the threat on the health and economy of the region. Our community is resilient, but our work is not done to assure that all County residents have the health and self-sufficiency supports they need to equitably Live Well and lead healthy, safe and thriving lives.

Equity will be at the center of the County’s evolving response to COVID-19. Our vaccination emphasis will be on the vaccine hesitant, underserved, children as they become eligible and, potentially, booster shots. We will also allocate American Rescue Plan Act funds to support the economy. This funding will provide senior and youth services, small business stimulus funds, child care subsidies and mental health services. In addition, we will use the federal allocation of $107 million to support rental assistance through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. And, we will plan for the future, with an investment plan for an anticipated federal allocation of $123 million in Public Health Services to prepare for new emergent public health issues.

The focus on equity doesn’t stop with COVID-19. Our organization is creating a strategy for addressing the complex factors that influence health and equity including educational attainment, housing, transportation options and neighborhood safety.

We will continue to work with the hardest-to-reach and the most vulnerable populations to ensure all children and families have access to services and information so they can better manage challenging situations. Expanded outreach will boost the availability of essential safety net services including the CalFresh and Medi-Cal programs to reduce food insecurity and help our most vulnerable residents meet their health care needs. We will support seniors through programs like the Great Plates Delivered program to provide meals to at-risk seniors.

The County will enhance services and programs and work with partners and stakeholders to address the interconnected issues of homelessness, economic inclusion and criminal justice. We will broaden the availability of housing and related resources for persons experiencing or threatened by homelessness through the creation of the Department of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities. It will operate region wide, serving people in the unincorporated areas and in partnership with the 18 cities and other local agencies. The County will also dedicate additional resources such as wraparound teams, support, case management and outreach for the Housing and Disability Advocacy Program. The County is reimagining the delivery of behavioral health programs to improve outcomes by lowering staff-to-client ratios, increasing services to clients reluctant to engage in traditional settings, adding crisis stabilization units and deploying Countywide Mobile Crisis Response Teams.

Our commitment to addressing racism as a public health crisis is strong. Cross-departmental efforts will be critical in the coming year and beyond, especially those that support environmental justice, sustainability, climate adaptation, regional transportation and the food system. We will identify ways to enhance the role of advisory bodies to include a deeper community perspective. Collaboration and coordination will be strengthened throughout the region to ensure that individuals and families receive access to needed health care, food and safe and affordable housing opportunities.

A Closer Look at Land Use and Environmental Stewardship

With climate change already impacting our communities, bold steps are needed to reduce greenhouse gasses and preserve our natural resources. The process for updating the County’s climate action plan (CAP) is already underway and includes specific ways County facilities and the unincorporated community will reduce greenhouse gasses to meet and exceed state mandates. The County will also lead the creation of a framework to guide our region toward zero carbon. We will continue to work closely with community partners, stakeholders, agencies and residents in these efforts by offering workshops and meetings that support focused discussions around topics that include transportation/built environment, agriculture, conservation, energy/water/waste, equity and environmental justice.

The CAP builds upon other County efforts through complementary implementation-focused actions that improve access to healthy lifestyles, encourage physical activity, conserve open space, reduce waste, improve air quality, enhance community resiliency, conserve agriculture, and reduce water and energy costs.

Funding in this budget includes a variety of ways we work to attain our sustainability goals as a region, including finalizing a new CAP, planting 3,500 trees, installing more electrical vehicle charging stations, purchasing hundreds of acres of open space land, diverting trash from the landfills, supporting renewable energy projects, green building and solar power, and developing conservation and sustainable farming best practices.

We will continue to educate the public on how they can contribute to a greener future through biological, cultural, and historical interpretation park programs, and share how we protect and maintain County-owned open space to preserve sensitive biological and cultural resources. Collectively, these efforts will reduce our region’s carbon footprint and improve our region’s long-term viability for generations of San Diegans.

The County’s programs protect and promote our natural and agricultural resources, diverse habitats and sensitive species. Our strategic focus on enhancing the quality of the environment makes funding sustainability and pollution prevention a continuing priority.

The County also invests in the protection of our region’s beaches, streams, rivers and watersheds through advanced water quality testing, and preventing pollution from entering storm drains. We will continue to advance tangible solutions as a part of the international working group dedicated to resolving this water quality crisis in the Tijuana River Valley by preventing sewage flows entering the U.S. from Mexico.

This budget invests in protection of our $1.8 billion agricultural industry through important inspection programs that identify and eradicate invasive pests in plant shipments to nurseries, mailed packages and on private land that would cause agricultural, economic and environmental harm.

Our land use and environmental programs are dedicated to delivering more inclusive programs for the community that are shaped by outcome-based information derived from careful assessments and community engagement. From learning language preferences, to translating core program materials and training staff on equity, diversity and inclusion, LUEG is focused on the diversity of the community we serve. This includes the creation of an environmental justice element in the County’s General Plan to ensure land use decisions are being made with attention to addressing disparities in communities disproportionately impacted by pollution and environmental constraints.

We will also assess the needs of our most vulnerable communities to ensure they are not being negatively impacted from unpermitted hazardous waste facilities, have access to local fresh food through Community Supported Agriculture outlets, and offer library materials in a variety of languages spoken throughout San Diego.

Two Year Budget Comparison For Select Programs

Fiscal Year 2021-22

Chart available in ArabicChinese, Filipino, Spanish, and Vietnamese

Key Budget Dates

May 6

CAO Recommended Operational Plan Released to Public

May 26-27

CAO Recommended Operational Plan Budget Presentations

June 14

Public Hearings on Recommended Budget Begin

June 16

Evening Public Hearing on Recommended Budget

June 29

Budget Deliberations and Adoption

The public can watch the Board of Supervisors meetings on cable TV, online or listen by phone. Individuals can also submit comments to the Board through e-comment or request to speak via teleconference.

Language translation services for public speakers are available upon request to the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors at least 72 hours prior to the meeting. To find out more information about Board meetings, visit the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors website or call 619-531-5434.

To see the full operational plan visit: www.sandiego.gov/openbudget