The construction project to upgrade Encanto Elementary, a school in southeastern San Diego, ended up costing $2.5 million more than its initial $8.6 million cost. It took an extra year to finish too. What went wrong? The district says one thing isn’t a cause: the contractor’s financial problems.

As our Maya Srikrishnan reports, the district denies a link even as the project overruns are far above the levels for other district projects. “Considering the district has 60 construction projects under way, it is not unusual for one or two projects to encounter unforeseen issues that necessitate above-average change orders,” the district said.

City Dithering More on Vacation Rentals

It’s been eight months since the San Diego City Council asked city staff to come up with a law to deal with growing frustration about vacation rentals — perhaps a compromise on the issue that might increase enforcement of problem properties but allow permits for responsible owners.

That hasn’t happened. The city attorney declared vacation rentals illegal. She says she did it hoping to spur the mayor and council to action.

Nothing happened.

Now, the City Council is freelancing. In a seemingly unrelated decision this week about making it easier for homeowners to build granny flats, the Council decided those new units adjacent to existing homes could not be rented out for less than 30 days.

It provoked one Council member to vote no even though he supported the larger policy.

Lisa Halverstadt reports on how it was yet another piece of evidence that city leaders have no idea how to handle this issue.

Schools Worker Who Blew Whistle Wins Appeal, But …

For the last five years, a little school district in North County has fought a fired employee, who claims she was sacked after blowing the whistle about deleted emails. Now, after a coalition of local schools spent $800,000 on the district’s defense, a state appeals court upheld a $1.2 million jury verdict in favor of the fired worker.

The district that lost the suit, the Fallbrook Union Elementary School District, runs seven elementary schools and one junior high in the northwestern stretches of San Diego County (including Camp Pendleton) and a little chunk of Orange County. As our Ashly McGlone reports, an insurance carrier will pick up $300,000 of the legal fees; the appeals court ruled that the district doesn’t need to pay the worker’s request for the reimbursement of $800,000 in legal fees of her own.

The school district contends that the fired worker “was not a whistleblower, and that her own misconduct justified her termination from the District.”

• More than a year after accusations arose, prosecutors haven’t filed charges against John Collins, the fired superintendent of Poway Unified schools, which serve Poway and a part of the city of San Diego. Collins lost his job — which paid him the second-highest salary of any school superintendent in the state — amid accusations of wrongdoing regarding his vacation pay. “In January of this year a civil lawsuit filed by the school district was placed on hold until a potential criminal investigation could be conducted,” the Reader reports.

Opinion: Councilwoman’s Housing Plan

In a VOSD commentary, Councilwoman Georgette Gómez tackles the local housing crisis and presents her proposed solutions such as finding public land to use for housing, giving incentives to builders for homes in areas near transit and a 2018 affordable housing ballot measure.

The Feds vs. Sanctuary State Policy

Federal immigration enforcement officers work inside San Diego jails. Eighteen ICE officers rotate duty. As we’ve reported, this is the primary point of cooperation between feds and San Diego law enforcement on immigration. Proposed state legislation (the SB 54) would kick ICE officers out.

Now, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has issued new federal rules regarding grants the federal government gives to cities. The rules would require immigration officers have access to local jails. Thus, if SB 54 passed, San Diego, the city and the county, would be ineligible for federal grants.

Until now, it hadn’t been clear if San Diego would be affected by the Trump administration crackdown on cities that don’t cooperate with immigration enforcement. For more, check this Daily Beast story.

Pothole Blamed in Sailor’s Death

“The family of a 23-year-old Navy sailor killed in a fatal motorcycle accident is suing the city of San Diego, claiming a pothole caused his death,” NBC 7 reports, following up on a Reader report.

The pothole linked to the 2014 crash was on Harbor Drive near 28th Street. “In pre-trial hearings, both sides discussed whether the city was required to put up a sign regarding those potholes,” the station reports. “A deputy city attorney argued the city did not need a sign; city crews blame the problems on the rails running through the area.”

Department of How-the-Heck-Did-That- Happen

The airport was busy on Sunday. United Airlines was telling Comic-Con attendees to take their books out of checked luggage.

Wait, what? Yes, this actually happened. United seems to have somehow believed that the X-Men needed special X-ray treatment. “Good afternoon,” TSA tweeted on Monday. “Pls note there are no TSA restrictions on checking comic books or any other types of books.”

Culture Report: Incubating El Cajon Boulevard

This week’s VOSD Culture Report checks in on a fledgling international food market in City Heights called Fair@44 that’s part of a project designed to turn a vacant lot into a center for food and entertainment.

Plus: A music festival in Jamul, a newspaper series about theater and autism, Dolly Parton and more.

Quick News Hits: The Days of $40/Month Rent

Councilman Mark Kersey is in the hunt to replace local Republican state Senator Joel Anderson, who’s being termed out. Former Assemblyman Brian Jones, a Republican, is already running.

 We’re used to hearing about the county’s unemployment rate, but the Reader has found something else to look at — a list of the unemployment rates in local cities and towns. Countywide, the unemployment rate was 4.3 percent in June, with especially low numbers in wealthier cities (like 2.8 percent in Poway and nearly zero in gold-plated Del Mar) and higher rates in poorer places like Imperial Beach (6.7 percent), the El Cajon-adjacent community of Bostonia (7.8 percent) and El Cajon (6.3 percent).

 Vintage San Diego, a Facebook page devoted to San Diego history, just posted an advertisement for a downtown apartment complex. The ad, which features an early automobile in front of the complex, looks to be about a century or so old.

The Frances Apartments, at Tenth and Broadway, offers “Luxurious Apartments each with Private Bath, Private Phone and Kitchen… Only three minutes walk from Heart of City.” (The building still exists, and locals may know it best as the home of the longtime Chee Chee Club gay bar. Never mind what chee chee means.)

The Frances Apt. phone number: 3439. Ask for Mrs. Genetta H. Waters, the ad suggests. Or just take No. 2 Car direct from the train depot. The rent: $10 per week.

Holy moly. Quick, to the time machine! Oh wait. The ad says this is “The House for Genteel People.”

Oh well. I’m out.

Correction: An earlier version of this post referred to the money awarded to a Fallbrook Union Elementary School District employee as a settlement. The money was awarded by a jury.

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 is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at and follow him on Twitter:

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