A top local advocate for the homeless is among those who’ve spent years trying in vain to persuade city honchos to create a place where the homeless could be evaluated and referred to services. Now, his idea holds center stage in the mayor’s homeless plan.

As our Lisa Halverstadt reports, the intake facility project came to life thanks in part to two businessmen — developer Tom Sudberry and real estate guru David Malcolm — who asked what should be done and advocated for the answer.

Impressed by the idea from Bob McElroy, CEO of the Alpha Project, they put up $3 million and lobbied city officials. “You need a physical location for people to get plugged into the system,” Sudberry said.

Our story examines how the intake center idea is evolving and how Malcolm and Sudberry’s efforts are attracting interest from other business types.

A spokesman for Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the efforts by the businessmen, who’ve also donated to the mayor, wasn’t the only thing that compelled him to pursue the project.

“The mayor has been tackling homelessness since day one and a lot of the momentum you’re seeing now is the culmination of the actions he’s taken,” the spokesman said.

High Home Prices, Not-So-High Mortgage Rates

Our real-estate guru Rich Toscano reappears in our pages to explain mixed tidings for home buyers: Home prices are high in San Diego, but mortgage rates aren’t.

“Monthly payments are actually less expensive versus incomes and rents than they’ve typically been over the past 40 years,” he writes in a VOSD explainer. “In fact, the only time payments have been this low outside the post-housing crash period was during the late 1990s, when home valuations were nearly as cheap as they’ve ever been.”

So does this mean more high prices to come because buyers are more able to afford them? Maybe not. Home prices and mortgage rates aren’t as closely linked as you might assume: “While the idea that home prices should move inversely to interest rates is commonly held, it hasn’t really played out that way.”

Opinion: Pay Off Stadium Debt

City officials are considering a major proposal to build a soccer-centered complex in Mission Valley. In a VOSD commentary, Haney Hong, CEO of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, urges city officials to focus on paying off the debt it still owes on the football stadium.

In addition, Hong writes, the city should “proactively solicit competing proposals, and do so on a timeline that keeps all options open, giving credit to the initial plan for getting ideas rolling.” And it must “learn from mistakes of the past — the city has a track record of entering into bad deals at this site.”

Why Did Tijuana Sewage Escape Northward?

U.S. officials are hoping to learn this week from their Mexican counterparts why 143 million gallons or so of sewage came across the border in recent weeks through the Tijuana River, ultimately causing foul odor and beach closures in the South Bay.

Sewage flowing across the border has been a problem for years, but February’s discharge was the largest in a decade or more, according to the U.S. section of the International Boundary and Water Commission, a binational agency that is supposed to help settle differences along the border.

The sewage was diverted into the Tijuana River intentionally due to repair work being done on the Mexican side, according to a one-page report on the incident by commission staff. American officials, however, were given no advanced notice about this, said commission spokeswoman Lori Kuczmanski in a U-T interview.

A treatment plant was built on the American side of the border to help Tijuana treat its sewage so it didn’t spill into the United States. But the plant is configured to treat wastewater pumped through the Tijuana municipal sewer system and cannot treat sewage that simply flows uncontrolled through the river.

Cross-border pollution contributes to an enormous loss for beaches near the border. In 2015, beaches were closed for 233 days at Border Field State Park, 74 days at the Imperial Beach pier and 41 days in Coronado, according to a letter by South Bay officials in January pleading for more money to deal with the problems coming from Mexico.

— Ry Rivard

Letter: Don’t Freak Out Over Oroville Dam

During the crisis at Northern California’s Oroville Dam last month, I wrote about how that dam affects our water supply. Now, in a VOSD commentary, Mark Muir, chair of the board of directors of the San Diego County Water Authority, denies that “we could lose a significant chunk of our water supply, perhaps even 20-25 percent.”

In fact, he writes, while the water system centered around Lake Oroville may be responsible for a major proportion of water supplies in Southern California as a whole, San Diego is different, with the project accounting for just 4 percent here last year.

In addition, “low winter water demand, significant water reserves in Southern California and local investments in water supply reliability will allow the San Diego County Water Authority to provide uninterrupted water service here even if deliveries from Oroville are impacted,” he writes.

South Bay’s Lower Otay Dam has spilled over for the first time in six years, City News Service reports, but no one is panicking. Other reservoirs run by the city of San Diego aren’t near capacity.

My story last month dug into our own deadly history of dam disasters. (You can also see me talk about dams on KPBS’s “Roundtable” show.) The Lower Otay Dam gave way during 1916’s epic rains, killing at least 11 Japanese farmers who lived downstream.

The National Weather Service has a nice roundup of how Monday’s endless rain fits into the record books. At 2.34 inches, it was the 15th rainiest day in San Diego’s recorded history; the record is 3.34 inches on a soggy day in 1854. That’s far from Escondido’s record of 6.63 inches (!) 90 years ago this month.

Also on Monday, the back-country town of Ramona racked up its second rainiest day ever with a bit more than 5 inches.

No Trolley-Airport Link for You

Lots of cities make it really convenient for people using public transit to get to the airport. In San Francisco, Oakland and Chicago, for instance, subways go right to the airport.

Then there’s San Diego, which doesn’t have a convenient link unless you’re willing to lug your suitcases onto a bus or take a trolley, walk outside for a bit (never mind if it’s rainy or steamy hot) and then take a shuttle.

The U-T says a better connection to the trolley system “seems very unlikely any time soon.”

Culture Report: Public Art in Unexpected Places

The term “public art” conjures sculptures and other projects in places that lots of people visit, like a park, airport or waterfront. Now, as this week’s VOSD Culture Report notes, the definition is changing as artists embrace do-it-yourself and roaming projects in not-so-traditional locales like an intersection in the Talmadge neighborhood to beaches and a parking lot in Golden Hill.

In some cases, there’s no rent because the public space is truly public. “We don’t have a lot of physical experimental project spaces for art, because you have to find $1,500 to $1,800 a month to pay rent here,” one artist says. “So this is the way to do that without paying rent.”

Also in the Culture Report: The city has hired artists to create public art that few people will see because it’s remote from … the public. Plus: Dinosaurs, displaced artists in East Village, the jazz scene and electronic music.

Quick News Hits: Talk About a Standing Order

Mayor Kevin Faulconer issued this statement via Twitter about the continued bomb threats against a local Jewish community center: “We won’t tolerate these cowardly threats against our Jewish community. SDPD is working to bring these criminals to justice. We stand as one.”

In regard to threats across the country, CNN reports that “law enforcement officials believe many of the threatening calls have originated overseas.”

SeaWorld has another update on how it’s doing. The San Diego park actually saw an uptick in business late last year, although the year as a whole was steady. (U-T)

Officials at the parent company of SDG&E say they’re not concerned “that tensions between the U.S. and Mexican governments could jeopardize their investments south of the border,” the U-T reports.

“The San Diego Convention Center paid almost $8,000 to the personal attorney of board member Stephen Cushman, who sought independent legal advice about a records request sent to the public agency,” the U-T reports. The convention center paid an attorney up to $595 an hour, the paper says; Cushman reimbursed the convention center “after he was threatened with a lawsuit over the public expense for private advice.”

U-T columnist Logan Jenkins takes a rather skeptical look at the workers compensation claims of scandal-prone ex-County Supervisor Dave Roberts, who says he was stressed out by a man wielding what may have been a knife and physically injured by the “cumulative trauma of repetitive tasks and stressful work environment.”

Apparently, handshaking, a repetitive task if there ever was one, could be the cause … or it might not be.

“As with the office mutiny that sent his first and only term into a spiral, and wound up costing the county $310,000 in settlements,” Jenkins writes, “Roberts, like most of us, can be his own worst enemy, failing to see how people will react to his actions.”

Jenkins also quotes Teddy Roosevelt: “If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”

In a related story, time for me to get a standing desk.

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 is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga

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