McKinley Elementary sits at the edges of two neighborhoods and used to have a reputation as the school that residents of neither North Park nor South Park would embrace. They often stayed away, so much so that the district nearly closed the campus.

Now, about 10 years after a shift began, McKinley Elementary has become a star school, boasting energy and vitality and actually turning away transfer students from other parts of the district. “It’s the story of a school transforming amid a changing neighborhood,” writes our Mario Koran in an extensive story about McKinley’s turnaround. “And if the two are related, it’s worth exploring what that means for schools in blighted neighborhoods — schools that urgently need change but can’t afford to wait for gentrification to happen. Or whether it’s even really possible to turn around a school without changing the surrounding community.”

The story examines the turning points when things changed, the vital role of parents and the part played by local wealth.

More Attacks on Homeless: 2 Men Dead, 1 Clings to Life

Just weeks after a violent series of attacks on transients downtown, San Diego Police are looking for a man in connection with the killings of two homeless men on Saturday and Sunday and a severe attack on a third homeless man. The police have posted security camera footage of the man, who’s considered a person of interest. (10News)

The first apparent murder victim was found Sunday under a freeway bridge near I-5 and Clairemont Drive, discovered as firefighters fought a blaze that may have been ignited by the killer. Another body was found on Monday near Robb Athletic Field on the northern edge of Ocean Beach, near Dog Beach.

An attack also occurred near the Sports Arena: “at 4:51 a.m. Monday, officers found another man stabbed and bleeding near the intersection of Greenwood and Kurtz streets. The man is now in a hospital with life-threatening injuries,” the U-T reports.

The previous downtown attacks, linked to a man and women, occurred two weeks ago near Horton Plaza. According to the police, Patch reported, “at least six victims suffered lacerations to their heads when someone struck them with an unknown object.”

Another Stunning 911 Delay

Earlier this year, a Mira Mesa family took their wounded son to the hospital themselves because they couldn’t get anyone to promptly answer their 911 calls. The boy’s death focused attention on the city’s hobbled 911 system and became an issue in this spring’s mayoral race. The mayor promised raises and other changes.

Now, NBC 7 finds that the response to another crucial 911 call was delayed.

“Neighbors told NBC 7 they were horrified, mad and frustrated by a two-minute delay in getting through to 911 medics [late last month] after a refrigerator fell on a 6-year-old South Bay boy, killing him,” the station reports. Police answered the call within 17 seconds, but a caller had to wait over two minutes more because the call had to be switched to fire department dispatch, which was overwhelmed by a high volume of calls.

NBC 7 says fire dispatchers have had similar problems as police dispatchers, including open positions and more calls, but they’re not getting the hefty raise that’s going to police dispatchers.

Last month, we explored how the 911 system works and revealed the holes in service that have yet to be filled.

The Park Needs Parking … Or Does It?

The mayor and his allies are resurrecting the Jacobs plan to remodel Balboa Park by adding a bypass road, boosting open space and building a big for-pay parking garage.

But critics question first-class paid parking in a public park and wonder why parking is needed when there often seems to be plenty of spaces, if not exactly where drivers might want them (right next to museums). Even if the drivers are willing to park a bit farther away, they may not be able to find the open spaces due to lack of digital signs, or to grab a shuttle to take them where they want to go.

Our Andrew Keatts dropped by Balboa Park over the holiday weekend and found parking spaces galore, as he noted with photos on Twitter (here and here).

But won’t there be more fighting for spaces as the city grows? The city’s Climate Action Plan envisions more public transit in San Diego. And the zoo is adding parking too; we fact-checked a claim about too-tight parking at the zoo last year and discovered it was unfounded.

As we reported, “the city doesn’t track parking in Balboa Park beyond generally listing available parking spots. The city auditor and independent budget analyst, both of whom examined the city’s relationship with the zoo recently, didn’t look at parking capacity there, either.”

The light poles along Balboa Park’s Cabrillo Bridge have been painted just once in a century, and they’re looking pretty shabby. But a renovation is finally on the way. (Downtown News)

Quick News Hits: Meet the S(w)fingers

Poway’s Pomerado Hospital had such a bad 2014 infection rate after knee replacement surgeries that the national publication Consumer Reports took note. But its 2015 rate is much improved. (NBC 7)

As we told you a few years ago in a history flashback, 22,000 San Diegans on July 4, 1913, flocked to Ocean Beach to enjoy the grand opening of the Wonderland amusement park and its “1,000 New Thrills and Gayeties … Nothing but Motion, Mirth and Melody.” Not to mention 350 monkeys, the West Coast’s biggest roller coaster and a marriage in a lion cage featuring bride, groom, justice of the peace (who survived in one piece) and a sole lion keeper.

Wonderland would close by 1915, and several of the animals would end up at some zoo in Balboa Park. (Wonder whatever became of it?) Unfortunately, “there’s no word about what happened to Sally, ‘the world’s greatest chimpanzee’ and ‘a simian actress of rarest talent’ who wore a dress and a lovely lady’s hat.”

 Inewsource journalist Brad Racino stumbled upon a cache of forgotten photos at the Port District from the past 130 years, and what a find it is. He’s posted several photos online, and you can see them here.

Among them: a nifty skyscraper-high view of downtown from 1935. Check out what appear to be radio towers at the U.S. Grant Hotel. TV celebrity Art Linkletter got his start in radio at KGB’s studios above the Greyhound station next door. He wrote that he’d sometimes be so distracted by “some rare gymnastics display” through the room windows at the Pickwick Hotel next door (use your imagination) that he’d forget to change a record and leave the listeners with dead air.

Also among the photos: Miss Harbor Days 1956, a young Pete Wilson and a gigantic “basking shark” so big that it has to hang from a crane. (The basking shark is so named because it loves to bask in the sun.)

Plus: A photo, perhaps from around 1966, of a perky young musical group called The S(w)inging Ambassadors (we see what you did there). Where are they now? Are they still s(w)inging and ambassador-ing? Please drop me a line if you know or if you can figure out the exact year of the photo from the sideburns, not-too-long locks and hair flips.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. He is also a board member and ex-national president of the 1,200-member American Society of Journalists and Authors ( Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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