It sure sounds like a nice deal: Allow homeowners with bad credit to borrow money to make their homes more energy-friendly though solar panels and low-water landscaping. Then let them pay off loans through their property tax bills.

That’s how Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, programs work. But VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt finds that there’s a hitch: the loans “must be paid off before mortgage collectors get what they’re owed if there’s a foreclosure.”

This has annoyed the feds, who run Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the agencies that sound like characters from “Beverly Hillbillies.” And it’s caused problems in Riverside County, where some homeowners have had “to pay tens of thousands of dollars to unburden themselves of PACE loans so they can sell their homes, and even scuttled some sales.”

Our story looks at the lessons San Diegans should learn as the program remains available here. Want to learn more about solar power? Check our entire quest, which features a bundle of stories we’ve published so far.

Deputy Cleared in Death Case

A federal jury rejected a “family’s claim that a San Diego County Sheriff’s deputy was negligent and used excessive force when he shot and killed a man during a confrontation with police in Oceanside three years ago,” the U-T reports.

Desalination Decried

Al Jazeera is the latest news outlet to write about Carlsbad’s mammoth desalination plant and includes this wallet-tightening tidbit: “The county and its residents will be paying a high price for 30 years. Monthly bills are expected to go up by an average of $5 to $7 a month per household to help the San Diego County Water Authority meet annual payments of at least $110 million. The payments have to be made whether San Diego needs the water or not.”

The story also quotes the executive director of the California Coastkeeper Alliance, who says, “Ocean desalination is extremely energy intensive,” and she notes that in Australia, “they built six desalination plants during their drought, and four of them are now shut down. It’s not the best solution.”

• San Diego is low on water snitches. Get it together, tattle-tales!

• Many farmers are blowing off a deadline “to confirm they stopped pumping from rivers and streams.” (NBC 7)

• Encinitas is having lots of success at cutting water use, KPBS reports, and the L.A. Times finds Santa Barbara is another success story.

Following Up on Power Disparity

Last week, the Morning Report linked to a story published in the L.A. Times and U-T (its sister paper) about the huge disparity in electricity costs across the state, with rates from SDG&E twice as high as those in Sacramento, according to one analysis.

Could the costs of highly paid executives at SDG&E be a factor in the big difference? The U-T followed up with a post examining that question. Its answer: “Company shareholders cover much of the cost of compensation, but even if it were evenly spread across customer bills, it would come to about $7 per year per customer, so it would be a marginal part of people’s electricity costs.”

Debating the Rights of Sex Offenders

NPR profiles an advocacy group that’s pushing for less strict laws about the state’s public tracking of sex offenders: “California has a lifetime registry, even for those convicted of low-level crimes like public nudity. The reform group favors a tiered registry, like those in other states, from which low-risk offenders would eventually be removed.”

As the story notes, “in March, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled that San Diego County restrictions on where sex offenders can live do indeed breach parolees’ constitutional rights.”

Tent City USA

The tents full of homeless people in downtown’s East Village are a testament to the city’s failure to make resolve San Diego’s homeless problem. But it could be worse, or at least very different. Seattle is home to “roving tent cities,” reports Grist via Vox. One, snarkily named after a former mayor, is home to about 40 people.

Here’s the twist: The city is actually allowing more tent cities to exist. “Tent cities provide an additional option for couples and families — and people who simply don’t feel safe or comfortable in shelters,” the story says. “They also create stability and safety for people.”

Quick News Hits: Taco Time

• Fire officials say we’re suffering from the worst fire conditions ever. (NBC 7)

• Which local political icon ranks at No. 25 on the conservative Newsmax site’s list of the nation’s 75 most influential Jewish Republicans? I’ll hold. Can’t come up with an answer? Try former Mayor Susan Golding. She ranks quite a bit higher than Ben Bernanke, the former Federal Reserve chair, who’s down in 65th place.

• Last fall, I talked to culinary guru Gustavo Arellano, author of “Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America,” about the rise of chimichangas, quesadillas & co. in Southern California and San Diego’s crucial role in popularizing fish tacos and California burritos.

Arellano also shed some light on an unusual local phenomenon: The plethora of restaurants with similar names. You know what I mean: Roberto’s, Gualberto’s, Jilberto’s, Aliberto’s, Rigoberto’s, etc.

The other day, I was driving through the North County city of Vista and noticed the name of a Mexican joint by the freeway. It is, and I’m not making this up, “Albertaco’s.” I even took a photo to prove it to you people. There’s more: it seems to be a chain.

Should we allow a name like this? I shall ponder this over my usual combination plate of enchilada, beef taco and ennui.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and national president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors ( Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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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