For 20 years, Hubbs-SeaWorld has been running an experimental program meant to replenish a wild white seabass population decimated by pollution, overfishing and habitat destruction. The state’s Fish and Wildlife Department’s invested $28 million in the effort.

The experimental program is raising deformed fish.

They have horns, bleeding hearts and are blind. It routinely needs to euthanize fish en masse. Over 100,000 have been destroyed due to herpes outbreaks, for instance.

And a scant few – just 2,000 total – of the Hubbs-raised fish have been found in the wild.

In a new investigation using internal documents, emails and original interviews, reporter Ry Rivard has uncovered uncomfortable details into the program that regulators and environmentalists are looking into.

In one internal document, a top state scientist said Hubbs was hiding behind positive press the program received while burying the reality “under a mountain of bullshit.” A Hubbs official defends the program, saying its record is comparable to other fish hatcheries.

State auditors are now looking into the whole thing. So far there’s no evidence the program has boosted the wild white seabass population, but there’s plenty of evidence it’s spawning deformed fish.

Let’s Protect the Arts, Unless It’s Hard

It’s an old story: Artists call a neighborhood home because it’s cheap. Then, because they’re there, it becomes cool, and stops being cheap. Before long, the artists flee, in search of somewhere cheap.

That’s what developers and regulators were thinking of in the 1990s when they inked a unique deal to make sure East Village had a cultural center as the neighborhood inevitably grew up.

In a new story, reporter Kinsee Morlan recounts how regulators for downtown development struck a loan agreement for the owners of one East Village building that would keep a space for art in the building, available to an arts group at a reduced rate, through 2027.

The old tenants, Sushi Contemporary Performance and Visual Arts, folded in 2011, and it’s been empty ever since. Now, the developer is exercising an option to pay the city back over $1 million to get out from under the requirement. The City Council just approved the request.

The developer says it’s going down this route after trying and failing to find an arts group to take the space.

But plenty of people who’ve watched the program say that’s a stretch, and the space has suffered.

“It gets tagged and windows get broken – it isn’t good,” said Zack Nielsen, owner of nearby event space Luce Loft. “But the owners themselves haven’t really tried for one minute of any day to rent that space to anybody. For years, there wasn’t even a for-rent sign on the building.”

Budget Analyst Gets on Board Infrastructure Measure

Councilman Mark Kersey unveiled late last year his plan to fix city infrastructure in the coming decades by forcing future City Councils to spend more money on the problem.

In his State of the city address, Mayor Kevin Faulconer last week announced his support of the measure. Councilwoman Lorie Zapf announced the same on our podcast this week. And now the city’s independent budget analyst is giving the measure some cautious praise while recommending a few tweaks.

Namely, she says future City Councils should be able to overrule its requirements if there’s a financial emergency. San Diego Union-Tribune’s David Garrick has the details on her proposal.

Back when it was first announced, our reporter Liam Dillon walked through the many problems the plan poses, if you just want the city’s streets, sidewalks and storm drains to work like they’re supposed to.

DeMaio Won’t Seek State Pension Reform in 2016

Four years ago, San Diego voters approved a ballot measure that froze the salaries of city employees for five years and gave all new hires retirement plans similar to 401Ks, rather than traditional pensions.

The most vocal proponent of that measure, then-City Councilman Carl DeMaio, has been pursuing similar pension reform measures for the state, along with former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed.

He announced Monday they’ll hold off on the initiative until 2018 instead, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Waiting two years will boost chances of success in two ways. For one, the lower turnout in a non-presidential election tends to be more conservative, which should help pension reform. Plus, DeMaio told the Times his coalition wanted to wait on a pending Supreme Court decision, which is expected to make it harder for labor unions to spend on political causes. Labor unions would have been the measure’s primary opponents.

A Rare Move for San Diego’s District Attorney

The first time San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis used an outside expert to determine whether an officer-involved shooting was justified was in the highly publicized death of an unarmed man in the Midway District last year.

The district attorney’s office has investigated over 150 officer-involved shootings over the last decade, and each time it has created a document summarizing why charges weren’t filed against the officer. inewsource Reporter Chris Young reviewed each of them and found this was the first time the DA looked to an outside expert to determine if charges were warranted.

Young talks to experts who say Dumanis was either looking for political cover in a contentious case, or reacting to a national environment with increased scrutiny on deadly shootings by officers.

When Micro Beer Goes Big

For years, San Diego’s beer industry grew quickly while the entrepreneurs who made it happen collected international respect. Last year bought the first major change, with international conglomerate beer producers purchasing two local companies.

The Washington Post took a look at another problem facing small beer producers across the country as the industry keeps growing.

It’s harder than ever for new, small companies to find people who sell their beer, with more breweries looking for opportunity than there are tap handles at local bars and shelf space at local stores.

The reporter talked to the president of the local San Diego Brewers’ Guild, a trade group for the industry, and local bar and brewery owner Scott Blair, who laments the good-old days.

“We have maybe 110 breweries in San Diego,” Blair said. “We were better when we had less breweries, because we were focused more on quality.”

Quick News Hits

• The San Diego Union Tribune reports on a recent study by the U.S. Geological Survey showing that desert town Borrego Springs is using groundwater, its only water source, four times faster than it is being replenished.

• Gonorrhea cases are jumping in San Diego and the U.S. as a whole. But the increases are “sharper, and more sustained” here than in the rest of the country. (San Diego Union Tribune)

• The Chargers and Rams are officially discussing the terms under which the Chargers would relocate to Los Angeles and share Rams owner Stan Kroenke’s new stadium. The teams didn’t disclose details of the negotiations. (10 News)

• In a new installment of the increasingly popular local story genre, “Coronado Residents Shout at Clouds,” Coronado residents this week are angry that some people don’t seem to be picking up after their dogs. (10 News)

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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