Each month, VOSD editors, reporters and staff travel to different locations in San Diego County to discuss the issues. Hosted by CEO Scott Lewis, our Member Coffee events provide an environment for our readers to share their thoughts and ideas about San Diego, and give us feedback on our coverage. On Thursday, we hosted July’s Member Coffee at O’Farrell Community School in Encanto. This is a recap of that conversation. To learn more about Voice of San Diego member benefits, please click here.


We hear a lot about the problems facing San Diego schools. Frequently, those challenges have centered on a handful of institutions.

There’s Lincoln High School, which for years has battled disappointing test scores and internal tensions, in addition to a negative public perception. Now Memorial Prep is looming as a concern for parents who live near it. San Diego Unified’s own data show that parents opt out of sending their kids to the Logan Heights middle school more than any other school. There are early plans on the table to tear Memorial Prep down and start fresh, but we only need to look at Lincoln High’s overhaul a few years back to know that building a new facility isn’t a guaranteed problem-solver.

When parents avoid schools like these, they send their kids instead to traditional schools outside of their neighborhood, or to charter schools – like, say, O’Farrell Community School. During our Member Coffee inside O’Farrell’s library on Thursday, we got a chance to hear from Superintendent Jonathan Dean. (Dean serves many of the same functions as a school principal, but because this is a charter school, his title’s a little different.) He said his school boasts a lengthy waiting list.

What’s the deal? Scott Lewis asked Dean what internal elements mean some schools have parents beating down the doors to get their kids enrolled, while others struggle to fill classrooms. Dean said having a qualified leader in charge made a big difference; superintendents need to be able do more than give a good speech. They need “awesome credentials,” Dean said.

Parental involvement is a big factor too; the parents who take initiative to move their kids to other schools already display that to some degree. (Though there are involved parents who take the opposite route, like Sara Morrison, who wrote in an op-ed for us earlier this year arguing that keeping her child at a struggling neighborhood school was an investment in her community.)

Ken Marlborough, chairman of Encanto’s community planning group who also joined us at the Member Coffee, said he hoped to get more school district reps involved with his group’s meetings. Attracting higher wage-earners to the surrounding community could be a good boost, but doing that without quality schools as a motivator is pretty difficult.

Moving on … to the Chargers

It’s looking more and more likely that San Diego’s financing plan for a new Chargers stadium would pull more than $300 million from the city’s general fund. Here’s how Scott penciled it out earlier this week:

Even if you assume the Chargers and NFL are good for $500 million for a new stadium and that the Chargers will pay $10 million per year in rent, and we’ll sell $100 million in personal seat licenses (all assumptions the mayor’s task force made), we’re still facing a $330 million or so gap to build a stadium.

That’s a hefty amount of money that would’ve been used to pay for streets, parks, police, firefighters, lifeguards – not exactly luxury items.

Raising taxes as an alternative funding source would be a hard sell for voters, but Liam Dillon made the point Thursday morning that it would actually be preferable for San Diegans in the long run. At least in that case, we wouldn’t watch money that had already been allotted for important quality-of-life services go down the tubes.

Members wanted to know what the economic impact might be if the Chargers left. One thing that’s important to keep in mind: Even if we don’t have an NFL team to take advantage of our existing stadium, we still owe an estimated $50 million to pay off Qualcomm Stadium.

While we’re on the subject of economic impact, remember that no, a new stadium won’t be a financial boon for San Diego.

Why would a new stadium have to be so expensive in the first place? Well, the NFL has a problem. Football fans are realizing that watching the game in the comfort of their own homes can be better than the crowds and expensive concession snacks at stadiums.

So the league is under the gun to make the stadium experience pretty luxe. Liam brought up two great tidbits from other cities: In Atlanta, there are plans to install rumble seats that shake when a player gets tackled on the field, and in Miami, designers are trying to create “living room” clubs with iPads and recliners. What’s the stadium version of “glamping“? Stamping? Let’s go with that for now.

Temporary (and Sometimes Trashy) Neighbors

Our members brought up a complaint about Airbnb hosts that might not be on some folks’ radar as San Diego wrestles with the vacation rental issue. With the influx of temporary tenants renting out an Airbnb home comes an increase in the amount of trash generated. Two of our members, a couple who’s lived in hotspot Mission Beach for decades, said the Airbnb hosts should have to handle the trash themselves, like any businessowner would.

One of our reporting interns this summer, Zoe Schaver, has parsed through the regulatory snags San Diego’s dealing with while trying to settle on some rules for short-term vacation rentals. In the meantime, it sounds like residents are using NextDoor, a community communication app Sara Libby’s written about before, to keep tabs on their visiting neighbors.

Catherine Green

Catherine Green was formerly the deputy editor at Voice of San Diego. She handled daily operations while helping to plan new long-term projects.

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