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The city has a fast-track program that puts certain developments on a quicker path to approval. They’re supposed to get a fast pass if they do something beneficial like provide affordable homes or houses with low-greenhouse gas footprints.

But, as our Andrew Keatts reports, the city hasn’t been following its own rules about who gets fast-tracked: “A handful of connected architects has been the primary beneficiary of the city’s decision to overlook its own rules.”

Single-family homes, for example, aren’t eligible. Still, “in a report released this week, the city auditor’s office found that since 2006, the city has let applicants into the program who don’t qualify, including those building single-family homes. Half of all projects that used the program from 2011 to 2015 — the period covered by the audit — were ineligible. Thirty percent of the projects that used it were single-family homes.”

Some of the architects who benefited from the rule-breaking also happened to be donors to Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

An architect whose firm benefited tells us: “It absolutely wasn’t supposed to be open to us, and staff knew it. The condition was, if staff got too busy, then they’d shut the door to anyone who didn’t meet the threshold.”

Audit: City Streetlight Policy’s Broken

City streetlights aren’t being fixed within 12 days despite city policy, and that’s not all, a new city audit says, according to Times of San Diego.

Auditors also “found that performance data on San Diego’s 60,000 street lights are unreliable and difficult to analyze, repairs are only one of competing priorities for employees in the Street Division of the Transportation and Storm Water Department and that vehicles used to repair lights are not available sometimes,” the news outlet reports.

Average repair times were 16-17 weeks, but if a streetlight got knocked over, it might take almost seven months on average.

Another tidbit: There’s no inventory of streetlight parts. “Coming from the private sector, it’s kind of shocking to me that we don’t have the inventories, we don’t have the systems in place to track inventory,” said Councilman Scott Sherman. “That’s just one of the basic components of what you do — you fix things and you know what you have to make sure you get your job done.”

Opinion: Luna Column Was Out of This World

In VOSD commentary, secretary-treasurer for the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council Dale Kelly Bankhead rips into political science professor Carl Luna’s “astonishingly ill-informed” commentary on the 2016 election in which he wrote of local Democratic weakness in the election.

“The lack of a marquee Democratic candidate in the mayor’s race this year was attributable to one thing only,” she claims: “a system that allows candidates to be elected in June, when as few as 20 percent of voters participate and the electorate skews conservative.” That system is now history thanks to Measure K.

She defends the efforts of Democrats and labor in the election and dismisses the defeat of the sole Democrat on the County Board of Supervisors as “not a loss for labor” because he failed to meet their criteria to be a labor ally.

Opinion: Let’s Go 5G, S.D.

San Diego has a chance to make itself stand out on the world stage, writes Chelsea Collier, founder of Digi.City, a national platform for advancing Smart City technology and policy, in a VOSD commentary.

What we need, Collier writes, is a 5G wireless broadband network: “Being the first city to deploy a working 5G wireless broadband network would do more than gain San Diego worldwide fame. It would attract entrepreneurs, investors and techies from all over the world, vaulting San Diego’s economy into the future well ahead of every other city.”

Charter School Skeptics Score a Win

A darling of the charter school set has officially lost a very close race for a seat on the county school board: Retired educator Rick Shea beat former legislator Mark Wyland by 726 votes, the U-T reports.

“At least a million dollars in contributions poured into the race, which pitted advocates of charter schools against teachers unions,” the paper reports. “At stake in the election had been the balance of power on the five-member board — and influence over everything from the fate of charters to the search for a new county superintendent.”

Our Mario Koran detailed how charter groups poured unprecedented resources into local school board races this cycle, but union-backed candidates still won out.

North County Report: Where P.B. Means No Way

Up in the north part of the county, a San Diego neighborhood is an example of what not to do: Pacific Beach. That’s the word from our North County Report scribe Ruarri Serpa, who reports in this week’s edition that fears of P.B.-ization are common, especially along Highway 101, aka Coast Highway.

The current issue: Does Coast Highway have too many liquor licenses? There’s a current flap in Cardiff. But in Oceanside, there’s interest in more booze — as long as its of the craft brewery/wine tasting room type.

Also in the North County Report: Construction begins on more miles of double railroad tracks between Oceanside and downtown, the ACLU is suing Escondido over its refusal to allow a proposed detention center for undocumented immigrant children and more.

Quick News Hits: Up in Smoke

• The New York Times profiles “the next class of California political leaders,” including two from San Diego: state Sen. Toni Atkins and Mayor Kevin Faulconer. It refers to Faulconer as “easygoing” (well, sure, compared to the last mayor) and “conservative on some fiscal issues, but moderate on social issues, including immigration. For Republican leaders, he may be the way up for a party that has been essentially shut out of government here.”

• The Twitter account known as @sandiegoscanner, which monitors local police radio traffic, offered this tidbit the other day: “Someone burning trash on the sidewalk using his marijuana.”

Maybe he was just trying to mellow out the neighborhood.

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 (asja.org). Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

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

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