Journalism won’t die if you donate. Support Voice of San Diego today!

Almost ten years after state experts flagged hundreds of school buildings for possible earthquake risks and structural engineers recommended inspections, less than a third of San Diego County school buildings have been reviewed, repaired or demolished.

That’s the key finding of a joint special report by and KPBS.

The years-long lapse has been compounded by bureaucracy and mistakes. For one thing, the state lagged in getting the information out and offered little money to inspect and repair the buildings, which could cost from $15,000 to $25,000 to fix each.

Some schools didn’t know their buildings might at risk because they were listed in the wrong districts.

There was no requirement for an official follow-up, either.

In at least one case, a school simply didn’t want to spend money on inspections. “I don’t want to drop a couple million dollars on something that just might be,” an Escondido school official said. “If somebody had said, ‘You have unsafe buildings,’ this school district would have stopped the train immediately.”

Subscribe to the Morning Report.
Join thousands of San Diegans who get the day’s news in their inboxes every morning. Get the Morning Report now.

State experts ultimately flagged more than 7,500 structures — 14 percent of school building space statewide — for possible problems because they were built before California beefed up its building codes in 1978.

When inspections have been done, they have turned up everything from perfectly sound structures to classrooms that had to be vacated.

For a statewide perspective on the issue, see California Watch’s thorough multipart investigation.

Taxpayer Grant for North County Church Camp

CityBeat is questioning the county Board of Supervisors’ decision to retroactively authorize funding of repairs at a church summer camp in Vista. Last year, the county cancelled a grant to an anti-abortion organization after CityBeat uncovered it.

The ACLU told CityBeat that the grant violates the separation of church and state.

The top county lawyer “stands by the grant, claiming that it doesn’t support religious purposes because religious activities do not occur in pools, cabins and food-service areas. Without actual worship, he says, it is not a religious activity.”

A representative of the camp said non-Christians have, in fact, used the facilities. But he was vague on details: “I can’t tell you names, and I can’t tell you when.”

Despite Outcry, Water District Approves Big New Benefits

Speaker after speaker told the board of the Otay Water District to forget about awarding big new retirement benefits — lifetime health care — to its union workers after already giving them to executives. There was muttering of a recall, gavel-banging and plenty of anger among the 21 speakers, who all urged a no vote. The board was unswayed yesterday by the outcry: it voted 4-1 for the benefits.

The Otay Water District, which serves a big chunk of the South Bay, had said it wanted to keep employees happy and recruit new ones by embracing health care benefits other governments are trying to shed. But neither employee morale nor recruitment appear to be a problem at the moment. In fact, a survey last year found that employee satisfaction “is at the very highest level.”

Attack on Labor Leader’s House

A local labor leader says a rock was thrown through her living room window this week. While she seems to consider it linked to a local conservative blog post that identified the community where she lives and noted her salary, she also considers that it might be a strange coincidental “meeting of the universe.”

“Bring it,” Lorena Gonzalez writes in a Facebook post reprinted in the U-T and at the blog OB Rag. “Your intimidation inspires me.”

Don’t Worry, Mid-City, City Attorney Says

The city attorney says several mid-city San Diego neighborhoods won’t lose representation on the City Council when new district boundaries become permanent.

Assessing the Petition-Identity Theft Link

Labor may not seem to have an obvious interest in identity theft, but it’s supporting a new radio ad that warns of the supposed dangers of giving your name, address and signature to a stranger collecting signatures for a ballot measure. Unions have opposed some recent ballot measures that supporters have tried to push with the help of petition drives, including San Diego’s pension reform initiative.

San Diego Fact Check examines the claims in the ad and finds that “the factual inaccuracies, stretched truths and overall lack of context should…give you reason to pause when this minute-long ad comes on the radio next time. Don’t take it simply at face value.”

The Also-Rans Find a Champion

“Who died and made the mainstream media king of who among mayoral candidates gets to air their ideas?” It’s a cri de coeur (well, technically a cri de CityBeat) about the heavy focus on only four of the 14 declared candidates for mayor.

Three get brief write-ups in the alternative paper, including a real-estate broker who claims to have read the city budget and a car dealer who thinks city workers are lazy: “I’m down at the city all the time, and these people are always just sitting around, doing nothing. And on Fridays? Forget about it. It’s like just a part of the weekend! Yes, there would be lots of cutbacks.” There’s also an attorney “who boasts being two courses short of five college degrees.”

I’m still mulling my own mayoral bid — send me slogan ideas! — although I’m not really big on the idea of running for office. Sounds too exerting. Is it possible to saunter? Or skip? I’d totally sit-on-the-recliner for office.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.