As San Diego Unified School District struggles to get out from underneath the weight of a $92 million budget deficit next year, it decided to start selling off land. We’ve debated the wisdom of that but now Will Carless finds that, in the rush to sell some of its land, SD Unified could be shorting taxpayers millions of dollars.

One land parcel in Paradise Hills is up for sale at $10 per square foot (for a total of about $3 million), while some nearby property is valued at more than three times that amount. That’s because SD Unified’s property has been “underzoned,” which limits what developers can do with the property unless they get it re-zoned.

“A sophisticated investor would have instead hired a consultant to rezone the land themselves before selling it,” said Gunder Creager, a land broker with Colliers International in San Diego.

Filner: ‘I Love You, Jan.’ Goldsmith: ‘Let’s Sing Kumbaya’

Hotel owners and Mayor Bob Filner have reached a deal (NBC 7 San Diego) to end the Tourism Marketing District standoff. Filner thanked councilmember David Alvarez for brokering it.

Alvarez’s policy advisor posted the rough outlines of the agreement. It appears many hotel owners have agreed to individually indemnify the city should the 2 percent surcharge on hotel rooms at the center of this controversy be ruled illegal. And they’ve agreed to consider a grant of up to 10 percent of the money they raise from it for the big 2015 Balboa Park celebration.

Now lawyers have to finalize the deal and then City Council must meet again to approve it.

You can catch up on the scuttlebutt with our San Diego Explained on the topic.

You Can’t “Tax” Pot, Man

Medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego are non-profit collectives. The people they serve aren’t customers, they are members. And those members don’t “buy” pot, they donate to the non-profit and receive charitable distributions. So when Mayor Filner proposed taxing medical marijuana, our Scott Lewis got to wondering how that would work.

“How you tax a donation is just the first awkward thing,” Lewis writes. “The next is that the city is not allowed to raise taxes on anything without a vote of the people.”

Does the mayor plan a vote, as San Jose did for it’s marijuana tax?

Lewis asked the mayor’s office what the details of his plans were, but was treated to the same response many other journalists have complained of getting: nothing at all. “Crickets,” wrote Lewis.

• Bonus: For the story, Lewis talked to the president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, Jon Coupal, and he took the chance to also ask Coupal about the mayor’s contention that hotel room surcharge mentioned above was illegal.

“I don’t see how they can do this without voter approval,” Coupal said.

City Auditor Inquiry Goes Into Overtime

“The nine-month investigation into the conduct of City Auditor Eduardo Luna and his top deputy Chris Constantin will extend into another month,” reported Liam Dillon. He’s been watching and waiting as the investigation into Luna, which completed months ago, has continued to be kept shrouded in secrecy by city officials.

San Diego’s Small Share of Homeless Funding

We recently reported on how the amount of money San Diego is eligible to apply for from the Department of Housing and Urban Development doesn’t match up to how many homeless live in San Diego relative to other cities. “San Diego had the third-highest homeless population among major U.S. cities last year, but 15 cities with fewer homeless people could apply for more federal homelessness funding,” reported Kelly Bennett.

Bennett teamed up with NBC 7 San Diego’s Catherine Garcia to lay out what the problem is and what local politicians are doing about it in our newest San Diego Explained.

The Big Read: ‘Fahrenheit 451’

Voice of San Diego is hosting community opinions related to The Big Read: Fahrenheit 451 re-introducing Ray Bradbury’s dystopian novel, “Fahrenheit 451,” to San Diego. The Big Read encourages everyone to read literature just for the joy of it. Events include guest authors, community reads, book discussions, workshops and much more.

“To witness the artistic response of young readers to Bradbury’s spare and sharply-etched characters is to feel a sweep of faith in the resilience and questing spirit of today’s young minds,” wrote Roy de Vries. “Come to one of the city’s libraries in April to see how these readers are responding in real time to a crisis of consciousness and social organization spotted long ago.”

More Padres Problems

Sandra Keener wrote in to tell us about another Padres headache she discovered. “I just found out that the normal schedule for half seasons was changed for the Yankees series only,” she wrote. “The Padres are proving why the fans around here get disgusted with the organization.”

More Pay, If You’re Special

Bilingual employees get a little bit more. So do “tree crews.” Police and firefighters get a little more, for their uniforms. These are some examples of “specialty pay,” or additional pay added to the checks of government employees all over San Diego whose jobs have been deemed to warrant the extra money. Specialty pay isn’t new, but recently its use has been going up in the county, KPBS reported. “These types of ‘specialty pay’ increased by 60 percent between 2000 and 2011 in 16 San Diego County cities,” they wrote.

The extra pay has ramifications for taxpayers in the form of increased pension costs, said Chris Cate, the interim president of SDCTA. “You can obtain these extra things and essentially boost up salaries to a level that’s higher than you normally would have and have your pension based off that,” Cate said.

Son of Redevelopment

Redevelopment, may it rest in peace, was tied to the idea of eradicating blight in neighborhoods by keeping property tax dollars from flowing outside of a neighborhood and investing them in building projects. While the original form that it took ended last year for California cities, the desire to divert dollars to neighborhoods remains strong.

“Whether we call it redevelopment or economic development, it’s really important how we create these types of projects, how we revitalize communities, how we take blighted areas and make them better,” Sen. Darrell Steinberg told a San Diego Foundation forum last week.

Instead of targeting blighted neighborhoods, Steinberg’s bill “would target support along public-transit corridors, such as El Cajon Boulevard, University Avenue and the San Diego Trolley’s Orange Line through Logan Heights, Mount Hope, Valencia Park and Encanto,” reported U-T San Diego.

News Nibbles

• Paul Williams, resident of Encinitas and a famous biographer and magazine founder, died on Wednesday.

• More brewery-friendly zoning laws could be coming to San Diego.

• The La Jolla Post Office building will be sold, despite much consternation over the proposed sale.

• Red-tailed Hawks have moved into a nest in the California Dome near the California Dome in Balboa Park. “Mama hawk is brooding over at least one egg,” the museum wrote.

• An artist will take pieces of the blown-up South Bay Power Plant and create a sculpture to commemorate the building.

Veterans Homeless Shelter Closing

Among all the good news of San Diego homeless shelters opening and staying open for longer, one shelter is wondering why they aren’t fortunate enough to receive funding to stay open when others are. A 150-bed shelter on Rosecrans in Point Loma run by Veterans Village of San Diego is slated to close April 8, the U-T reported. “About 140 people are sleeping at the veterans shelter now, but 40 of those are scheduled to enter Veterans Village residential treatment program next month. Keeping the veterans tent open longer would cost about $100,000 a month,” they wrote.

Back In My Day …

There was a power outage on Wednesday that affected Florence Elementary School in Hillcrest.

“The power outage lasted nearly 24 hours and affected 3,000 customers near Hillcrest,” NBC 7 San Diego reported.

So when all the classrooms at Florence went dark, the computers shut off, and there was no more iPads to be swiped or smart-boards to be digitalized; when their Kindles were snuffed out and there was no longer any multi to their media, what did the teachers do? “Teachers brought out books, paper and pencil,” NBC wrote. The superintendent said there was no reason to cancel class.

Students worked by natural light or, better yet, went outside (!) to do classwork. 5th graders working on a project about the Revolutionary War had to crack a social studies book instead of firing up Wikipedia.

iPads? Back in my day, we were lucky if we had enough old, heavy computers for each student to use! We learned to type uphill, in the snow, both ways. And smart boards? All we had were those high-resolution projectors that made loud fan noises. Kids these days, I tell ya, they don’t know how good they have it.

Seth Hall is a local writer and technologist. You can reach him at or follow him on Twitter: @loteck.

Seth Hall

Seth Hall is a local writer and technologist. You can reach him at or follow him on Twitter: @loteck.

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