As we’ve been telling you in a four-part series this week, some local school districts have paid an artificial turf company to replace athletic fields that failed while under warranty. The alternatives: Accept a replacement that could fail again or take the loss and try a new turf company.

About that last option: The San Diego Unified district didn’t choose it.

The district likes the company, FieldTurf, so much, competitors aren’t even allowed to bid.

“School district officials have nothing but praise for the company and say there are no plans to change vendors for dozens of upcoming field projects,” our Ashly McGlone reports in the third installment of our investigative series. “They also credit FieldTurf with initiating the replacement of five fields before staff even noticed any trouble.”

What’s going on? We tried to get answers from the school district but had trouble. At one point, a district spokeswoman told us that “the FieldTurf fields in San Diego Unified did not fail.” Internal emails tell an entirely different story, featuring words like “defective,” “deteriorated,” “faulty” and “failed.”

‘Mini-Dorms’ Take a Hit

The City Council is taking another stab at “mini-dorms” in the College Area by jacking up fines and making it harder to add more bedrooms to homes.

“The new legislation would also quadruple maximum fines for all municipal code violations across the city, potentially helping enforcement efforts against illegal marijuana dispensaries, illegal grading and other violations…,” the U-T reports. “Critics said the new laws ignore the root of the problem, which they contend is a lack of affordable student housing near SDSU, and go too far by trampling on property rights and making students potentially vulnerable to large fines.”

• The University of California and Cal State systems haven’t raised tuition fees for six years, but now they’re thinking about hiking them by almost $300 a year, the AP reports. The reason: Too many students and not enough professors.

Some Cal State student protesters rallied against the tuition fee increase under the zombified theme “We are the Walking Debt,” reports the L.A. Times. It quotes the Cal State chancellor as saying financial aid will help most Cal State students; he also said no final decision is expected for months.

Inside SeaWorld’s Big Rebrand

Public radio’s “Marketplace” checks in on SeaWorld’s big rebranding effort and notes that as killer whale performances near their end, “lots of people are rushing their kids to the park in San Diego” to see them before they’re gone.

We’ve explored what the SeaWorld’s new era means for San Diego.

Culture Report: Leaders Ponder Post-Election Gap

In this week’s Culture Report, our roundup of local arts news, VOSD contributor Sarah Beauchemin checks with local cultural leaders about how we can move past the election’s division. The responses mostly offered a left-leaning point of view: Tell stories about diversity and justice, focus on “self-care” if you felt attacked or unmoored from your family, and support organizations that protect rights.

Also in the Culture Report: John Lennon artwork on display, an exhibit on the news in San Diego, and a theater production of “Sound of Music” tries to become one of your favorite things.

Years ago, I attended a sing-along showing of “Sound of Music” at the Castro Theatre in San Francisco. At one point, Julie Andrews sings something along the lines of “What will the future hold?” A brassy voice from the back row responded: “VICTOR VICTORIA!”

Quick News Hits: Vaya Con Guac

We’ll know soon if the local trial over the president-elect’s Trump University will go ahead as scheduled. (AP)

• The ACLU, energized by its pending role as a force against President-Elect Trump, has other issues on its mind too: It’s suing to halt California executions on technical grounds involving who gets to figure out how criminals are killed at San Quentin. Last week, state voters declined to eliminate the death penalty and barely supported a measure to quicken the process. No one has been executed here for 10 years. (L.A. Times)

• A charter school in National City has to leave the leased church where it operates because of fire and building code issues. (U-T)

• On technical grounds, “a judge ruled Tuesday against a restraining order that would have stopped Anthem Blue Cross from switching 500,000 Californians to health insurance plans offering no coverage for out-of-network care.” The insurer is alerting customers that it will automatically switch them from PPOS to plans that don’t allow them to be reimbursed for care outside their network unless they have an emergency. (L.A. Times)

• Who’s to blame for the Great Avocado Shortage of 2016? Californians, the L.A. Times says.

Don’t look at me. It’s not like I eat avocado every day. (Stay out of this, San Diego Fact Check!)

No, our eating habits aren’t the point, the paper says. It’s our “proselytizing” that’s the problem, We love spreading the good news about avocados, boosting average American annual consumption over the last couple decades from 1.5 to 5 pounds: “We did the foodie equivalent of bragging to everyone we know about an awesome surf break.”

The Times writer suggests we start bad-mouthing avocados. Nah, man. Here’s a better idea. If we do secede as a state, as some are advocating, we need to bogart all the avocados. To the victors go the guacamole!

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. He is also immediate past 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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