The story of how 500 acres of public land made its way into the hands of private ownership twists and turns through Imperial County government and through that infamous law we all know: the California Environmental Quality Act. Lisa Halverstadt tracked how the land was ultimately transferred to the well-known Cox family, who sued to stop huge solar power project, but who quietly settled the case and ended up with a tract of public land.

“The plot of land appears to have simply been a bargaining chip that allowed the developers to proceed with the solar project the Coxes opposed.” That bargaining chip came at the expense of farmers who had been farming the public land for decades. Irony alert: The Coxes at one point complained the solar projects could displace farmers.

Johnny Can’t Read But He Has a Stadium

Talk to five parents of school-aged children and you’ll probably get lots of different opinions on what we should spend money on in schools. Some may want more arts in school, some more technology and some may wish we could just keep the temperatures in classrooms at a reasonable level. And yet, Mario Koran reports in his newest Learning Curve, school officials mostly just want to build multimillion-dollar athletic facilities like stadiums. What gives?

“Because some schools have nice stadiums, all schools should have nice stadiums,” Koran writes. Among the reasons officials cited for continuing to build expensive athletic facilities was simple equity. Also in the list: political expediency (at least they’re honest!), serving people with disabilities and having places to have homecoming gatherings for war veterans.

Pricey Water: San Diego Explained

You save water, you use less of it, and yet your water bill probably won’t be going down any time soon. The economics of delivering water are unique, so thrifty San Diegans may be surprised to learn their water-wise ways are only going to end up sticking them with higher bills. Ry Rivard joined NBC San Diego’s Monica Dean to show why water expenses are on the rise in our most recent San Diego Explained.

Spotlight: City Attorney Candidates

Gil Cabrera is a candidate for city attorney, and he’s the second one to sit down with our Scott Lewis to talk about why the city attorney position is so appealing. Lewis previously spoke with Mara Elliott, who currently works in the city attorney’s office. Elliot expressed concern over Cabrera’s support from attorney Cory Briggs, who often sues the city of San Diego. Cabrera thinks it means he’ll be able to work on conflicts outside of the courtroom.

Sheriff Lax on Overtime Records

An audit of the nearly $44 million spent by the county Sheriff’s Department in 2013 to pay for overtime failed to turn up supporting evidence in 46 percent of the overtime transactions the auditors looked into. Auditors were “unable to verify overtime approvals and reconcile data entry accuracy” for those transactions, the San Diego Reader reports. Sheriff Bill Gore said missing evidence for nearly half of all overtime transactions was a training issue in the payroll department that is being addressed.

Haggen Collapses

After a botched attempt at handing off Safeway and Albertsons stores to competing grocer Haggen, lawsuits are flying around and Haggen announced Thursday it is leaving the southwestern U.S. and closing all its stores in that region. The pink slip blizzard will hit all workers, who will work though a 60-day period, the Union-Tribune reports.

News Nibbles

• Our Mario Koran appeared on KPBS to discuss the latest in the investigation of school board President Marne Foster.

• A new report on the Convention Center finds the facility is crushing it in the booking department. (Times of San Diego)

• One woman from San Diego has joined others accusing the founder of Bikram Yoga of sexual assualt and abuse. (NBC 7)

• The County Water Authority and the U.S. Marines came one step closer to approving a water desalination project on Camp Pendleton yesterday. (NBC 7)

• School board member Kevin Beiser wrote a letter to the California Court of Appeal opposing the Vergara ruling that threw teacher tenure into question. The case is still on appeal. (EdSource)

• Federal prosecutors want to drop some charges against two young San Diegans who were arrested after their flight was forced to do an emergency landing, allegedly due to the men’s behavior on board. (KPBS)

• Opponents of a shopping center development in Carlsbad dropped off gathered signatures on Thursday in hopes of sending the issue to the ballot. (KPBS)

• It’s unclear whether there really was a mountain lion wandering the streets of City Heights on Thursday or if feral housecats in that neighborhood are just eating really well. (NBC 7)

Admit Your Literary Defeat

To the person who is still trying to get through Stephen King’s “The Shining,” which you probably checked out from the the San Diego Public Library over a decade ago: 1) just let it go, you’re never going to finish it and 2) the library still wants its book back and you owe $45 in late fees, the Union-Tribune reports. If you and your late-returning ilk get your late books back to the library during September they’ll give you a killer deal: half off late fees!

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

Seth Hall is co-founder of the community group San Diego Privacy, which is a member of the TRUST SD Coalition.

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