San Diego’s leaders like to talk about how dedicated they are to smart growth – urban development that focuses new jobs and homes in walkable, transit-friendly city centers.

In fact, smart growth is essentially the main goal in most every planning document created for urban San Diego over the last several years.

Despite the rhetoric and the official plans, it’s not going well.

Voice of San Diego’s Andrew Keatts took a headline-making study released last week, which named San Diego’s trolley system the worst in the state, and explained what it actually showed: That our governments are the worst in the state at building around transit stations.

“They are not planning for or facilitating enough construction of walkable, affordable housing near transit access points,” Keatts wrote.

The report finally quantifies what’s been clear anecdotally for years.

When Emergency Patients Have to Wait for a Ride

The Union-Tribune’s Jeff McDonald looked into a major issue that irks firefighters who show up to the scene of an emergency first. They’re too often left waiting for an ambulance to show up to transport patients to the hospital. McDonald said they’re sometimes forced to use firetrucks as a proxy.

“Three times in recent weeks, San Diego firefighter-paramedics loaded sick and dying patients onto fire engines to rush them to the nearest hospital.”

McDonald said it’s hard to know how long ambulances are taking to show up because emergency response times are tracked by initial arrival of either a fire engine or ambulance. (NBC recently found that emergency response times weren’t actually tracked at all for the first six months of the year due to a technical glitch.)

He said the private company that provides ambulance services to the city is currently in talks with the fire department about how they can solve the problem.

But, as a investigative analysis of response times by Voice of San Diego’s Liam Dillon found, this issue is just the tip of the city’s emergency-response-times iceberg.

Dillon discovered that neither firetrucks or ambulances are showing up quickly enough, often enough. And your chances for a slow show go up if you live in the poorest and brownest parts of the city south and east of downtown.

More Dollar Signs in the Big Water Fight

Last Friday, a judge ordered the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to pay the San Diego County Water Authority an additional $43.4 million. That flood of money is added to the $190 million our local water gods were already awarded in the price-gouging lawsuit they won over the summer.

Voice of San Diego’s Ry “The Water Guy” Rivard previously shed some light on the deep-seated bitter rivalry between the Metropolitan Water District and the San Diego County Water Authority. The feud goes much further back than the lawsuit, which said Metropolitan has been charging too much to deliver water to San Diego from the Colorado River.

The Cheesy Underbelly of San Diego Trolley’s Blue Line

Vice reporter Tony Ley recently rode the Blue Line, the tracks that to the San Ysidro Port of Entry, to expose an illegal cheese trade he explained is “built around the free cheese opportunity that the Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) system represents.”

“The Blue Line hustle is very simple: buy things that are comparatively more expensive in Mexico with EBT cards and then sell this merchandise for nothing-but-profit to Mexicans and Mexican Americans who are on their way to Tijuana.”

Ley said Monterey Jack is “gringo cheese” that’s in high demand in northern Mexico. The cheese, which you’ll find in a proper Tijuana quesadilla, is a lot more expensive south of the border, so the sly illegal vendors can make up to $100 profit a day by riding the trolley during rush hour and slinging their EBT-purchased cheese.

Since mozzarella is pretty popular in Tijuana, too, I’m seriously considering seeing what happens if I get onboard the Blue Line with a Costco case of cheap string cheese. I think the loose-cigarettes-selling model of the illegal cheese trade has legs.

So SeaWorld, What Now?

Lots of folks are wondering what SeaWorld will do now that the California Coastal Commission approved its big plan to vastly expand its orca enclosures but with some serious caveats: a condition that it not breed orcas anymore at the facility and that it not transfer any others in. That means that when the current orcas die, that would be it. It would be the beginning of the end of killer whale shows at the theme park.

So will SeaWorld scrap its expansion plans to avoid these conditions. Or maybe sue? That’s what the Union-Tribune wants it to do. The LA Times says Councilwoman Lori Zapf also wants the company to fight back in court.

U-T columnist Dan McSwain says SeaWorld needs to take this and many messages like it more seriously and begin to change its practices because it’s losing this war.

WaPo Comes to Town to Study Prop. 47 Outcomes

The Washington Post profiled an addict in San Diego who avoided prison because of California’s Proposition 47, which changed many felony crimes to misdemeanors. He didn’t change his ways — the post used the man’s story to dive into the outcomes of Prop. 47. While admitting it’s too early to say, the story quotes San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman: “We’re catching and releasing the same people over and over.”

And an opposing take is here.

Obama’s Sad Trombone

I wanted to do a fun roundup of social-media sighting of President Barack Obama’s visit to San Diego, but sadly his quick trip felt disappointing.

He rubbed elbows with Congressman Scott Peters, golfed, hung out in La Jolla and squashed my hope that he’d be cool enough to do something like take a tour of Chicano Park, which could soon become a national historic landmark.

Kinsee Morlan was formerly the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture Report. She also managed VOSD’s podcasts and covered...

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