Things were looking up for those hoping to set up medical-marijuana collectives again, like the hundreds that dotted our cityscape in 2011. But now, those hopes may have gone up in you-know-what.

Mayor Bob Filner has flipped on a decision to stop enforcement of local codes against marijuana collectives likely pressured by a City Council unwilling to drop ongoing legal actions against operations. At the same time, the U.S. attorney shot down speculation that her comments about state law meant she could see a path for legal marijuana access.

And while it sounds like the city may be moving toward some leeway through an emergency law, “it will be based on the ordinance that marijuana advocates found too restrictive and forced the city to repeal two years ago,” our Scott Lewis reports. “And even if it is somehow passed, U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy’s reiteration that she’s not giving away any ground leaves the whole thing moot.”

Councilman Likes Height Limits

Journalists love anniversaries. They give us opportunities to look back at the past and update readers on how things have changed since an event happened. Even better: They happen every year! Very handy.

VOSD land-use reporter Andrew Keatts noticed that we had a big anniversary last year: It’s been four decades since the city imposed limits on how tall buildings can be near the coast. Thirty feet is tops.

His coverage sparked a war of words on our site and elsewhere, with supporters of the law complaining that we dared to bring up the issue in the first place. (The nerve!)

Our reporter yesterday turned to Councilman Kevin Faulconer, who represents most of San Diego’s coast, to get his opinion.

“Like a seeming overwhelming majority of San Diegans, Faulconer loves the coastal height limit,” Keatts reports. “He sees no threat to the law in sight but said he opposes even hypothetical attempts to change the law in the future.”

It doesn’t even need any tweaks, he said. Not for areas like Midway and the Sports Arena, where development of housing might someday be desired. Nowhere.

This still didn’t please all height limit supporters. One commenter wondered whether Keatts’ “jihad” against the height limit will now be put to rest.

The Stumblr Goes National

The Atlantic Cities, an online project of Atlantic Monthly, took note of our effort to collect San Diego’s worst sidewalks on The Stumblr. They put it under the headline “Public Shaming of the Day.” Tumblr itself, which hosts The Stumblr, also promoted the blog.

Oh and it keeps popping with new photos. Keep them coming. The national attention on our little innovation is a mixed bag for some: “Um, way to represent, I think,” tweeted Mark Cafferty, the CEO of the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corp. Voice of San Diego member Ben Katz offered a compromise: “Perhaps a disclaimer at the top: ‘Our streets & sidewalks suck but our beaches & beer are awesome.’”

We’ll consider it.

Fact-Checking a Geographic Claim

As we’ve been reporting, counting the homeless in San Diego County is a crucial task but also an extremely difficult one. One of the problems is that the county has so many isolated areas that are hard for the transient-counters to reach.

“Because we have so many canyons, because we have over 4,000 square miles to cover, because over half of that is rural, there are a lot of challenges,” a representative of the Regional Task Force on the Homeless told us for a recent story.

Are those numbers right? San Diego Fact Check decided to take a look and finds that the claim is true, although it wasn’t easy to confirm it since it took some digging to figure out a definition for rural areas. (No, they aren’t places where everyone drives a pickup and listens to country music. At least that’s not an official definition outside of my imagination.)

By one count, about three-quarters of the county is rural, with urban areas clustered along the coast.

By the way, the county as a whole is about as big as the state of Connecticut. We’re the fifth most populous county in the country, trailing only Los Angeles, Cook (Chicago), Harris (Houston), and Maricopa (Phoenix). Keep in mind, though, that New York City is home to several counties.

As for San Diego, we’ve dipped a bit in the U.S. city rankings. We’re now in eighth place, behind San Antonio and Phoenix. Hey, Alamoholics! Get out of our way!

Fun fact: Of the 10 most populous cities, only New York, Philadelphia and Chicago aren’t in the Sun Belt.

Culture Report:

The weekly Culture Report includes links to numerous stories about arts and culture, including a look at a juvenile hall prisoner turned playwright.

That story, by the way, comes from the San Diego County News Center (“Direct to You”), which looks at first glance like just another online news organization. But there’s a difference: you’re paying for it. The site is taxpayer-funded, run by the county government and hardly independent.

Also: Our Kelly Bennett, who writes the Culture Report, appeared on NBC San Diego to talk about the judge’s ruling that snarls plans to drastically remodel Balboa Park.

Letter: Missives from Transient Hit Home

In letters, a downtown resident writes this about the homeless: “I have… seen much of the population change, hardened under the influence of meth; and I have to admit that my heart has hardened along with it.”

However, she’s had a change of heart after reading a series of emails from a newly homeless woman who’s been writing to us: “I now see the older homeless men and women, the families hanging by their fingernails on the streets… Thank you for giving me back that sight.”

Quick News Hits

• Newly elected Rep. Juan Vargas, who represents much of the southern part of the county, tells the U-T that he likes a new immigration reform proposal that allows many undocumented immigrants to try for citizenship.

But he’s not a fan of what the paper describes as a “provision for a commission of governors, attorneys general and community leaders along the border with Mexico to monitor and effectively certify the proposal’s security measures.” Why? Because some of those folks don’t share his views.

• Remember when we tried to get local labor types to fess up about who’s part of the mysterious city-controlling “San Diego 20”? Labor honcho Lorena Gonzalez may be on her way into a power position, thanks to the president of San Diego State.

• A Scripps Institution of Oceanography researcher is one of the scientists behind a new study that suggests the heat produced by American cities actually rises northward and warms parts of Canada, the U-T reports.

Wow. The Morning Report has previously pondered the potential value of all the hot air created by San Diego’s various political pundits, but this brings up all sorts of new possibilities. Heck, maybe we could export all that excess heat to Saskatoon!

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Disclosure: Voice of San Diego members and supporters may be mentioned or have a stake in the stories we cover. For a complete list of our contributors, click here.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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