The end of the year always inspires one to look back. Over the last three years, I’ve moved to San Diego, gotten married and bought a house. This year I did none of those things. So what was I even up to, I found myself wondering recently. Well, I did a lot of work. Here’s a little rundown of some of the stuff VOSD accomplished over the last year.

Our reporting spurred more money to fight slumlords.

Less than eight hours after our investigation with KPBS into the city’s lackluster enforcement of code compliance violations, which allow slumlords to stay in business, Mayor Kevin Faulconer pledged to increase funding to the department to fix the problem. His budget followed through.

Our reporting inspired the city to re-think its Comic-Con numbers.

The city’s tourism boosters changed the way they calculate Comic-Con’s economic impact on the region, after we questioned their methods.

Our reporting pushed San Diego Unified to update its concussion protocols.

San Diego Unified ramped up its effort to better protect against concussions, following our story on a La Jolla player who suffered a devastating head injury. Among the new procedures is a formalized return-to-school protocol, a return-to-play protocol and a revised referral form, so schools can keep better track of which students have been assessed for head injuries.

Our reporting led to a county supervisor likely sitting out a key vote.

Other outlets wrote about the Lilac Hills development before we did. That’s what made our story special – no one else discovered several improper aspects of the project. We were the first to report that the project’s developer had pumped an unheard-of amount of money into local fire board elections. We were the first to report that the developer was suing a family who refused to turn over their land. And we were the first to report that County Supervisor Bill Horn might have a conflict of interest if he votes on the project.

After our report published, Horn sought guidance from the state Fair Political Practices Commission on whether he should recuse himself from voting on the project. Its verdict: He should. He wasn’t happy.

Our reporting played a role in two new statewide laws.

In early October, Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB 953 into law. The measure requires police to keep data documenting the race of people who are stopped or pulled over by officers.

It was written by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber. In advocating for this bill and other measures to create statewide standards for police, Weber cited our investigation into the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department’s Operation Lemon Drop during a hearing in Sacramento. She said incidents like the one we revealed emphasize the need to guard against over-policing.

Our investigation into San Diego Police’s use of racial data also factored into debate over this bill.

And Assemblywoman Toni Atkins’ Pacific to Plate bill, which makes it easier for fishermen to open dockside markets, was inspired by our story revealing the challenges fishermen face in selling their products directly from the dock.

Our reporting helped shape the future of Logan Heights

The City Council passed a version of the community plan that supports more transit-oriented development in Logan Heights, reversing course after we highlighted the discrepancy. The new plan said the version that passed was a direct result of our coverage.

Our reporting swayed a key criminal policy change.

District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis announced in November her office will no longer be pursuing a certain kind of obscure criminal charge against gang members, after we highlighted major concerns about the charge.

What VOSD Learned This Week

We’ve been waiting for a few months now for a development in our case to unseal private video footage of a police shooting from earlier this year. All of a sudden, there was a lot of action on that front this week.

First, Liam Dillon sat down with the family of the man who was killed. Their story is, naturally, pretty heartbreaking. But they also push back strongly against the narrative set forth by law enforcement. Yes, the man was mentally ill, but he was not homeless, as police have said.

Then, a federal judge ruled on Wednesday that the family should be allowed to release the video. He gave the city and the police officer in the case seven days, however, to decide on whether to appeal. That means the video isn’t out yet, and if an appeal goes forward, it’ll be tied up for a while longer.


All* the big Republican names in town have endorsed Bob Hickey, the only Republican in the race for city attorney. That asterisk is for District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, Hickey’s boss, who has held out on endorsing him and is working against him behind the scenes.


Who doesn’t want new stuff that makes your life more convenient?

Like, for example, Google’s insanely fast internet.

Or a bike lane that lets you ride across the border.

Or a fancy new airport terminal even if you keep it low-budget and fly Southwest.

Or if you spend time in Tijuana, the ability to use Uber, the ride-hailing app.

The problem is, none of these awesome things ever come cheap or easy.


This weekend, the consensus following the Paris climate talks seemed to be that nations can make a lot of lofty pledges, but a lot of the heavy lifting of cutting greenhouse gas emissions will fall on cities.

Enter San Diego. The City Council this week passed a Climate Action Plan that managed to please virtually every interest group in the region. The New York Times took notice. But as Andrew Keatts noticed, all the hand-holding and back-slapping might not last long. On the podcast, Scott Lewis and Andy Keatts assembled a panel to talk about the plan’s promises and potential problems.

On the show, some of the rifts that might emerge from the historic coalition that came together to pass the plan came out.


More than any other big city in the nation, San Diego’s homeless providers are relying on an outdated strategy to reduce the region’s homeless population.

One group that’s long relied on that strategy, called transitional housing, is Father Joe’s Villages, is grappling with how to change.

What I’m Reading

Consider this the anti-Rolling Stone story. A deeply reported story that starts with an 18-year-old girl on trial for reporting a rape, then saying she made it up. What happened after that is simply astonishing. I can’t stress this enough: If you tackle only one longread the rest of the year, make it this one. (Marshall Project/Pro Publica)

Gene Demby explores the fallacies of writing off young, black college protestors. (NPR)

You’ve probably heard of for-profit prisons or watched storylines about them on “Orange Is the New Black.” This story delves into the lesser-known world of for-profit probation systems, which – you guessed it! – can become a trap for the poor. (National Journal)

How the real-life hero of “Friday Night Lights” won, and then lost, his good name. (Deadspin)

Jackson Galaxy comes up with a word, “bipetual,” for what I’ve always believed — choosing whether you’re a dog person or cat person is dumb, as they’re both awesome. (New York Times Magazine)

A fantastic analysis of what Trump hath wrought: “There is no progress that cannot be rolled back if those who benefit from it lack the power to maintain it.” (Buzzfeed)

Say you work at a major metropolitan newspaper that was just purchased by a billionaire with an agenda. You can either bend to his demands, or you can report the shit out of it. Guess which one the Las Vegas Review-Journal chose?

Line of the Week

“Members of the council again reiterated their desire to help the homeless. ‘Helping the homeless’ was tabled, as a general idea, for another agenda at another meeting, as it always seems to be, or passed off to the county, or to someone else—and so helping the homeless is something nobody does.” – From a fantastic in-depth look at the homeless of Silicon Valley by my friend Monica Potts.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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