Forty-five years ago, a public park straddling the U.S.-Mexico border was inaugurated by First Lady Pat Nixon. The fence separating the two borders at the time was merely a few strings of barbed wire, of which Nixon expressed her hope of eventual removal. The space was called Friendship Park.
Brooke Binkowski and photographer David Maung report on how Friendship Park has changed over the ensuing decades, culminating in its current militarized version with a tightly woven fence, where opposing park-goers are only permitted to touch fingertips, only during designated times on Sunday. Families, artists and advocates at the border continue to attend the park and tell Binkowski about the political and moral issues raised by Friendship Park. “Border Patrol has been cracking down on hugging. They will come over and kick people out of the park if they are hugging through the bars,” said border activist Jill Holslin.
Residential Hotels Disappearing
Single-room occupancy hotels are nobody’s first choice when it comes to housing. SROs have traditionally met the needs of people who need a safe roof over their head on the cheap. But Kelly Davis reports the inventory of SROs is plummeting, and the shortage means those who relied on them are ending up on the street. “There’s no question the loss of SRO units has led to a spike in downtown San Diego’s homeless population,” Davis reports.
Owners of the remaining SROs are stuck in a legislative catch 22: They can’t afford to tear down their hotels, due to a 2004 law requiring owners to completely replace them, nor can they perform upgrades to the existing structure because of the can of worms it would open. And so SROs sit where there are, as they are, in a constant state of unchecked entropy.
Despite the structures devolving into community eyesores, city leaders are hopeful some as-of-yet unidentified source of funding will arise to save them, allowing the units to be simultaneously preserved and upgraded.
• Gov. Jerry Brown was ready to release $400 million in affordable housing aid if legislators were willing to accept a measure that would ease local land-use restrictions in cities. Proving too controversial, the whole idea died in the state Assembly on Thursday. (Sacramento Bee)
Many Problem Principals Get ‘Special Assignments’
Vincent Mays used to be the principal at Serra High. That came to an end recently when it was discovered his college credentials weren’t from a legitimate school. But instead of being fired, Mays was reassigned to work at San Diego Unified’s Central Office, where he will work on “special assignment” and would retain his $143,000 yearly salary.
Mario Koran notes that pulling principals out of schools and putting them on special assignments is becoming a trend in Superintendent Cindy Marten’s administration. “Special assignment seems like an effective way for Marten to move problem principals out of schools without admitting mistakes,” Koran reports. Principals of Green Elementary, La Jolla High, Lincoln High and others have all been “called up” for special assignment service after encountering issues of their own.
Homelessness and East Village: San Diego Explained
Homeless people congregate in the East Village neighborhood of downtown, right in the shadow of Petco Park and many expensive high-rise condos. If you find yourself wondering why it is this neighborhood above all others that has become the hub for homeless and homeless services in San Diego, Lisa Halverstadt and NBC 7’s Monica Dean have your answers. It’s all about the history of East Village, a once blighted and undesirable place to be. But then this happened:
Out of an “abundance of caution,” two blocks of the South Park neighborhood will be hand-sprayed with pesticide on Friday after a resident who recently traveled abroad begun presenting Zika-like symptoms. A routine search of the neighborhood around the resident turned up larvae of the type of mosquito known to carry the Zika virus. “No locally-trapped and examined mosquitoes have tested positive for Zika,” the Union-Tribune reports.
SDG&E Gets Approval to Fight ‘Community Choice’
Some San Diegans want to take decision-making power back from San Diego Gas & Electric so that local communities can choose what types of energy are purchased, be it solar, wind, nuclear or coal. SDG&E would rather keep that power to themselves and has sought approval to run an official campaign against the community choice effort. California’s Public Utilities Commission approved SDG&E’s plan to oppose the idea on Thursday, KPBS reports. Ratepayer money won’t be used to fund the opposition campaign.
The PUC additionally explained it won’t be checking to see if SDG&E’s opposition effort is being truthful in its messaging to consumers about the issue, nor does the PUC care if SDG&E transfers existing employees from its ratepayer-funded business to this new effort.
What’s in a Name?
City Attorney Jan Goldsmith has proposed to give Proposition D, also known as the Citizens’ Plan, an official header on voting materials, calling it a “Tax and Facilities Initiative.” “The word ‘tax’ in the title of a proposition can be ballot-box poison to a lot of voters,” NBC 7 reports, so Cory Briggs, one of the plan’s backers, will be going to court to try to compel different language to be used.
Goldsmith responded saying the language was approved by the City Council and that Donna Frye, Briggs’ partner on Proposition D, spoke in favor of passing the item where the language appeared.
Meanwhile, a lawsuit against the Tourism Marketing District that partially inspired Briggs’ Citizens’ Plan will most likely end abruptly after the issue over which Briggs originally sued has become moot. (Union-Tribune)
• Apparently displeased with Councilman Chris Cate’s opposition to their stadium proposal, the San Diego Chargers have gone on the offensive against him — and it’s getting personal. (USA Today)
• San Diego city employees have been enrolling their kids and grandkids in Parks and Rec programs without paying, according the city auditor. (NBC 7)
• The biggest battery of its kind in the western U.S. will soon come online to provide power to homes in El Centro. (KPBS)
• 911 response times are improving in San Diego, but we’re still not meeting standards. (KPBS)
• Having successfully complained away one Portland Loo installed downtown, opponents of the public bathrooms are now focused on ousting the only other one remaining. (NBC 7)
• Newspaper behemoth Gannett is trying harder than ever to buy news giant Tronc, owner of the San Diego Union-Tribune. (Union-Tribune)
• Representatives of law enforcement and promoters of a ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana were vehement in their disagreements during a town hall on Thursday. You know what might help ease some of that tension …
Seth Hall is a local writer and technologist. You can email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter: @loteck.