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San Diego Council Members propose race- and gender-conscious contracting program

CA News - Published Jun 01, 2022

California's Proposition 209, a ballot initiative prohibiting the giving, by state entities, of preferential treatment based on race, sex, or ethnicity, was passed in 1996 and has remained on the books since that time. However, two City Council Members for the City of San Diego have stated that they wish to develop such explicitly preferential contracting programs, in order to remedy outstanding contracting disparities in City procurement.

Council Members Raul Campillo and Monica Montgomery Steppe have both supported the creation of a program that applies race and gender-conscious remedies to resolve disparities in City contracting. The proposal follows a 2019 disparity study which found that minority- and woman-owned businesses received only 19 percent of contract dollars during the period examined by the study, when availability figures indicated they should have received 31 percent. 

Previous attempts to challenge Proposition 209 have not succeeded, due in part to the current legal need to demonstrate "intentional discrimination" as a precondition for establishing race- and gender-conscious remedies.

Following the findings of the 2019 study, the City has recently approved new race- and gender-neutral measures for addressing outstanding disparities, including unbundling large contracts, reducing bonding requirements, and increasing outreach efforts. Despite these measures, however, Council Members Campillo and Steppe want to do more.

"The City of San Diego must take aggressive action to address these disparities through the creation of race and gender-conscious contracting programs," Council Member Campillo said in a statement.

Read a press release from the office of Council Member Campillo at https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/cd7newsrelease220518.pdf.