Whenever the city builds a major construction project, it needs to set aside 2 percent of the budget for on-site public art. It’s why you might have noticed artworks on your neighborhood fire station, for instance.

But the policy creates a weird situation for things like major water projects, which for security reasons are mostly closed to the public.

After we covered the situation – which has led to beautiful and expensive artworks that basically no one sees – Councilman David Alvarez asked the city attorney if there’s any way around the issue.

As Kinsee Morlan reported Friday, the city attorney’s opinion is basically: It’s complicated.

Yes, City Attorney Mara Elliott wrote, it’s possible to use a project’s art funding off-site, where people might actually see it, as long as it has a direct connection to the project. For instance, an educational piece on water conservation might work.

She warned, however, that education couldn’t just be used as a pretext to relocate artwork that will really just benefit the general public.

Other cities around the state, meanwhile, have figured their way around the issue. San Diego is still trying.

The Prop. B Ruling’s Statewide Implications

It was like a reunion for the political class of 2012.

A state appellate court this week ruled Prop. B, the city’s voter-approved pension reform measure from five years ago, didn’t run afoul of state labor laws. A state labor board had previously ruled the city erred when it didn’t negotiate with labor unions before it pursued the measure.

All the old faces from the 2012 election were downtown Tuesday at a press conference celebrating the ruling. Not just supporters, like former Mayor Jerry Sanders and former City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. Mike Zucchet, head of the city’s white-collar union that challenged the law, stopped by too.

They all agreed: The court’s ruling had major implications across California. They just disagree over whether that’s good or bad.

To supporters, it means other cities can follow suit with their own pension reform measures. To opponents, it means the court has now blessed a roadmap to get around labor negotiating requirements.

I covered the issue in this week’s dispatch from the Capitol. Other news: a local assemblyman wants to crack down on the little-known practice of leasing pets, smaller cities around the county are weighing in on a bill that would fundamentally reform the planning agency SANDAG, and California is still working on its plan to pay for lawyers for immigrants facing deportation.

Following months of investigation by Voice of San Diego, SANDAG agreed Friday to hire an Orange County law firm to investigate the agency’s flawed economic forecasts, which led it to overstate how much money would have been raised by a tax increase proposed on November’s ballot, and to obscure the extent to which an existing sales tax measure was collecting less revenue than expected and experiencing a shortfall as a result. (City News Service)

VOSD Radio: What’s in a Graduation Rate

San Diego Unified announced this week it had the highest graduation rate of any big district in the state, at 91 percent.

The district also released an odd document outlining some “important facts” about what goes into that rate.

Though the district didn’t say so in the document, it was intended as a response to reporting Mario Koran’s reporting on some of the things that are and aren’t included in that number.

Sara Libby and I went back over everything Koran found – and the bizarre response to it from the school district – in this week’s episode of the podcast. Plus, we had the lead proponent and opponent of Prop. B on the show to give us their analysis of the big court ruling.

The district is also facing some pretty deep budget cuts right now, and to make ends meet it’s cutting 37 special needs classes that it deemed too small, as Megan Burks at KPBS reported Friday. Parents aren’t thrilled that their kids are going to be uprooted thanks to San Diego Unified’s plan.

In Other News

As housing costs climb ever higher throughout coastal California, some families are unsurprisingly calling it quits and moving where they can actually afford a home, as the L.A. Times covered Friday.

More than a year ago, our Maya Srikrishnan took a good hard look at what expensive coastal cities could actually do to bring down housing prices.

The centers of power in San Diego’s progressive political coalition got a stiff fine this week for campaign finance violations last year while supporting the city measure to increase the minimum wage. The San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council, a union of unions, and the labor-aligned think tank Center on Policy Initiatives are paying $15,000 fines for failing to identify themselves on city campaign disclosures, as the San Diego-Union Tribune’s David Garrick covered. The city’s Ethics Commission praised the organizations for agreeing to pay the fines, calling the mistakes inadvertent. The fines were as large as they were because of similar violations by the Labor Council in 2010 and 2012.

SeaWorld’s summer tradition of nightly fireworks displays is on hiatus. (NBC San Diego)

The city of San Diego has agreed to pay $3.2 million to settle allegations that it didn’t do enough to prevent construction crews from polluting area waterways. The city would pay half to the state as a penalty but get to keep the other half as long as it uses the money on local water-quality improvement projects.

Densely populated City Heights will get to enjoy the serene canyons throughout the Mid-City area, now that a newly constructed series of trails has wrapped construction and is open to the public. (KPBS)

The Week’s Top Stories

These were the most popular Voice of San Diego stories for the week of Apr. 8-Apr. 14. Click here to see the full top 10.

1. Undocumented and Upper Class: A House in Bay Park, But No Hope of a Green Card
Jose and Linda own 11 properties, including a home in an affluent neighborhood overlooking Mission Bay. But despite achieving financial success and marrying a U.S. citizen, Jose is now a priority for deportation. (Mario Koran)

2. San Diego Unified’s Jaw-Dropping Grad Rate Is Now Official. Here’s How it Got Here.
The state confirmed Tuesday that 91 percent of San Diego Unified’s class of 2016 graduated. But that number doesn’t show all the factors that came together to make the rate possible – whether it was allowing certain students to test out of requirements or losing low-performing students to charter schools. (Mario Koran)

3. San Diego County’s 10 Worst-Funded Pension Plans
The Valley Center Municipal Water District tops the list of San Diego’s 10 worst-funded pension plans. The tiny water district’s pension fund has just 61.3 percent of the money needed to pay out its retirement promises to current and former employees. (Ashly McGlone)

4. Pot Is Putting Encinitas’ Love of Farming to the Test
Growing plants is so ingrained in Encinitas’ identity that a poinsettia adorns its seal, and the city proclaimed itself the Flower Capital of the World. But many flower farmers are struggling, and hope growing pot will buoy their businesses — if the city will allow it. (Jared Whitlock)

5. Sacramento Report: San Diego’s Partisan Split on State Gas Tax Hike
California increased its gas tax to help repair its crumbling infrastructure, and support for the bill among San Diego’s representatives broke along partisan lines. (Maya Srikrishnan)

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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