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The plan was promoted as a way to ease the foreclosure crisis: allow San Diego’s housing agency to buy properties more quickly and with less oversight. The City Council approved it in 2009. But more than two years later, the agency has rarely used its new powers to deal with foreclosures. Instead, it has entered into risky partnerships for new development.

Now, some current and former City Council members say they were duped. Housing agency officials and three other City Council members say the ramifications were clear. One former councilwoman says the change in policy was a “Trojan horse.”

Still, “the need for the new power was never fully explained to the City Council or the public,” Will Carless reports in our special investigation. “Nor did the agency ever explain how the policy was actually supposed to help it fight foreclosures. The freedom was also granted at the same time the commission prepared to enter a new era as a heavyweight property investor and developer, an endeavor that was far riskier than simply buying up foreclosures.”

The commission has bought or invested in 756 units since March 2009. Only 45 of those (eight single-family homes and 37 apartments in one project) were in foreclosure.

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Read the first installment of this investigation, which focused on the high costs of affordable housing. Find more on our special report page.

Rancho Peñasquitans Can’t Stop Split

They don’t want to be split into two, even if it helps the city of San Diego create the first-ever City Council district with a powerful Asian-American electorate. They offered many reasons why, including one you might not expect: they said they have nothing in common with the Mira Mesa neighborhood.

But the residents of Rancho Peñasquitos who spoke up at a meeting this week didn’t get their wish: a redistricting commission went ahead and assigned some of the neighborhood to a district with Mira Mesa and the rest to another. It also spared Scripps Ranch from an identical fate. (Some of them didn’t want to be lumped with Mira Mesa either, which must hurt Mira Mesa’s feelings.)

The map of the city’s new districts, which include a new ninth one, will be made final on Thursday. “The process highlighted the political push and pull of redistricting,” Adrian Florido reports, “which requires convincing the commission’s seven appointees that one interest, like race, is more important in defining a community than another, like income or crime rates.

Commenters Appalled by Trustee’s Vote

Commenters let loose on San Diego school board member Shelia Jackson yesterday. As we reported, she voted last year to approve a contract for a company that employs her daughter. “How could this possibly stink more?” writes Kevin Flynn. “How much more impropriety is the board going to put up with from Shelia Jackson?”

John de Beck, who was on the school board at the time of the vote, said he now understands Jackson’s actions that day. “The real issue is how Kendra (Jackson) got the job in the first place and what qualified her for the construction job … no doubt it was who her mom was/is,” he wrote.

• The bright colors of a modern apartment complex captured my attention in Kearny Mesa yesterday as I drove by on the way north from the children’s hospital. The place looked familiar, and then I caught sight of a street sign: Shelia Driveway. That’s right, Shelia with the l before the i.

This complex is where school board member Jackson lives, at least part time, with her daughter. We ran the photo (below) of her leaving in the morning a few weeks ago in a story about how she uses an address at the complex, which is outside the city region she represents.

The name of the street raised eyebrows. Her first name is fairly unusual: an index of more than 90 million dead Americans only lists 2,181 people named Shelia.

We haven’t been able to find any connection to Jackson. The city says it’s a private street named by the project’s developer, Simpson Housing LLP of Seattle.

Crosses Too Much for Caltrans to Bear

Caltrans has removed three crosses that it says were encroaching on its right-of-way just off Route 79 near Julian. A local church will get the crosses. Some advocates are looking to sue. (Union-Tribune)

So Much for Hands-Free

Cell phones have allowed us to isolate ourselves in our own personal bubbles, complains a well-known street photographer. What? Huh? I couldn’t hear him, too busy checking the weather on my iPhone. (It’s sunny outside? Well, that saves me a trip to the window!)

Our photographer Sam Hodgson thinks people with cell phones might still be worth shooting — with a camera, that is — and he captures one who also has a less common vice.

Tell Your Beloved He or She is No. 101

San Diego Magazine, our news partner, has created an interactive guide to “100 Works of Art to See Before You Die in San Diego.”

Oddly enough, one of my favorites, the fantastically kitschy “Our Lady of Shoes” statue at Mt. Hope Cemetery, didn’t make the list. Here it is for your viewing enjoyment (yes, that’s the trolley going by), and check out a couple of 2009 stories for more about what it is and the serious reason why it’s there.

Tom Keeps Listeners Wait-Ing

Gravelly voiced rock singer Tom Waits, the most famous person to come out of Chula Vista who isn’t named Mario Lopez (my time will come, you two!), is out with an unusual online preview of his upcoming album. He appears in the video and seems to be listening to one of his new songs but then shuts it off and complains about how his supposed “private party” — on, you know, the internet — isn’t private. (Union-Tribune)

Basically, he stops something interesting to gas on about who-knows-what and waste your precious time. Sheesh. That’s my job.

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

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