Stephen Russell, the recently named executive director of the San Diego Housing Federation, says his new gig is all about getting creative about producing the type of housing the market won’t naturally produce on its own.

As the head of a coalition of affordable housing developers and related organizations, Russell faces big-time challenges now that redevelopment dollars and other affordable housing funding sources have gone away.

In a Q-and-A with VOSD contributor Kelly Davis, the longtime affordable housing advocate talks about those challenges and shares his vision not just for the Housing Federation but for increasing San Diego’s overall affordable housing supply.

Davis and Russell held court at Metro Villas, a multifamily, mixed-use project in City Heights that’s lauded as one of the city’s best examples of affordable housing. It was during his work on the project that Russell recognized “the transformative power of design” and decided to get a degree in architecture so he could better understand the intricacies of building smart, good-looking, below-market projects.

Lots of Questions Swirling Around a Plot of Land

Comic-Con wants an expanded Convention Center. The city wants to make Comic-Con happy, so the mayor has been pushing for a contiguous waterfront expansion of the Convention Center.

There’s a key piece of Port of San Diego-owned land next to the Convention Center that would allow that waterfront expansion to happen.

Early last week, VOSD’s Ashly McGlone wrote about a strange letter sent to the City Council by Fifth Avenue Landing, the company that holds the port lease to the property eyed for an expansion. McGlone reported that the leaseholders said they’d made an informal deal with Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who’d agreed to pay them $13.8 million to essentially make sure the land remained undeveloped, protecting the city’s plan to expand. They also gave the city a March 1 deadline to make the deal official before they started the process of building a hotel on the site.

A spokesperson for the mayor, in turn, said no such deal had been made, informal or otherwise.

Over the weekend, the U-T’s Dan McSwain weighed in on the letter, the plot of land and the port’s new strategy when it comes to future development: instead of exclusive negotiations with tenants in good standing, its been opting more often for a competitive process and looking for proposals from outsiders.

“The concept is simple: Open competition tends to produce the best outcome for consumers, which in this case is the San Diego public,” McSwain said.

Glancing Back on VOSD Stories and Images from 2015

Troubling law enforcement trends, a builder’s bullying behavior and a Mexican businessman’s alleged attempts to influence local politicians are among the topics covered in our annual roundup of staffers’ favorite stories from the past year.

I also enlisted help from staffers and our freelance photographers in pulling together 10 killer VOSD photos from 2015. The photo of embattled San Diego Unified school board member Marne Foster and the shot of Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers are two images in particular that stand out.

Slow Your Roll, SDG&E

Community Choice Aggregation, or CCA, is meant to give people the chance to use more renewable energy in their homes. In short, a CCA in San Diego would mean the city, instead of the utility company, would decide which sources, renewable or otherwise, energy comes from.

California law requires SDG&E to take several steps including forming an independent marketing district before officials from the company can lobby against it.

Moves have been made to start on them, but KPBS reports that, last week, the California Public Utilities Commission sent a notice to SDG&E saying its request to form an independent marketing district was suspended for 120 days.

CCA in other areas has lowered energy rates, as VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt reported earlier this year. Though San Diego’s would be much bigger than anything done so far. The city’s recently adopted Climate Action Plan‘s mandates that a CCA or something with similar results must be implemented to help get the city to its goal of using 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.

Quick News Hits: Device Danger and Cat Cafes

• The Associated Press picked up on the tragic story about the man who fell to his death at Sunset Cliffs on Christmas Day. Bystanders said the man was distracted by an electronic device. The man’s mother said he was taking pictures when he slipped.

• Numerous reports have come out about the good and bad effects of Proposition 47, the initiative California voters passed in 2014 that reduces the classification of less serious crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor and has resulted in the early release of thousands of inmates. The U-T’s got a fresh take on the upside of Prop. 47: the reduced jail population appears to have helped cut down on inmate-on-inmate assaults.

• That grandma of yours who refuses to go to the hospital because she insists it’ll speed her way to the grave? She might be on to something. The U-T reports that a half dozen local hospitals have been fined for failing to prevent infections and other hospital-acquired conditions.

• I would totally pay $2.35 to wait no more than 20 minutes to cross back from Tijuana to San Diego. Otay Mesa East, the future tolled vehicle border crossing, sounds awesome. (U-T)

• Formally big only in Japan, San Diego’s first cat cafe appears to be more than a flash in the pan. Because cats. And coffee.

Some Social Media Takeaways

• I did not, in fact, know that you can Google “gang territories” and a map pops up showing you which gangs are where.

• I can never seem to pull it off with my iPhone, but it is indeed possible to get a good photo of the full moon. This one from Christmas day is cool, as are these rounded up by NBC.

• OMG, the look on the face of this baby hippo at San Diego Zoo. You. Are. Welcome.

Kinsee Morlan was formerly the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture...

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