These days, no other local issue is focusing the minds of policymakers and regular folks like San Diego’s extraordinary homeless crisis. Shelters can be one tool to help get people off the streets, but our reporting finds that beds operated by the San Diego Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team often has empty beds despite weeks-long waits elsewhere.

What’s going on? Our Lisa Halverstadt reports that it’s not as easy as some homeless don’t want help. Shelter space run by other nonprofits have a far lower vacancy rate.

The dual role police are playing of tough enforcement, ticketing and overseeing major cleanups has made many homeless reluctant to accept help from officers.

Halverstadt talked to one homeless man who reached out to the police for help and decided it was best to stop pursuing that option.

• “Metropolitan Transit System officials are investigating a complaint filed this past week by a rider who claims she was singled out and harassed by a San Diego Trolley officer because she is homeless.” (U-T)

• The city continues to work on its cop recruitment problem. (U-T)

Inside a Special Ed Spending Spike

In this week’s edition of VOSD’s Learning Curve column, our Maya Srikrishnan digs into special ed spending: “For the most part, special education costs are increasing across the state. State funds for special education are also inequitably distributed, so sometimes the districts with the highest needs are getting less money per student than districts with lower needs.

Collins: I’m Not Guilty

Former Superintendent John Collins, who led Poway schools for many years, pleaded not guilty in court Thursday (NBC 7 San Diego). And prosecutors appear to have dropped one of the five felony charges against him. He’s accused of misusing or stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars. He was the highest paid person in education in San Diego.

Last year, the school board at Poway Unified School District fired Collins after accusing him of misusing the money. Among other points, they said beginning in 2012 while he still worked there, he cashed out 116 vacation days for $148,000. His contract should have only allowed him 60 vacation days that he could cash out if he left the job.

The Union-Tribune editorial board noted Voice of San Diego’s role in uncovering the scandal.

S.D. Flight Company Under Microscope

BuzzFeed is tracking mystery planes flying in strange patterns again, and it found some weirdness involving the San Diego company SciFly, which “was contracted by Naval Special Warfare Command — which includes the Navy SEALs — to support military training.” Turns out that “its plane circled repeatedly over locations throughout the San Francisco Bay Area in October 2015.

The company CEO told BuzzFeed that it’s monitoring harbor porpoises for marine research. But much of the circling, BuzzFeed reported, was over land.

Fact-Checking an Oceanside Graffiti Spree

Sometimes you can take fact-checking too far, like when a journalist contacted humorist David Sedaris’ elementary school to confirm that he ended up in speech therapy due to gayness. (Hmm. Could explain my own speech therapy.) But you can’t stop overenthusiastic truth-monitors, like the Reader writer who actually checked to see if Oceanside High really had a rash of 27 drawings of anatomically correct graffiti, as claimed in an upcoming Netflix spoof of true-crime shows called “American Vandal” that features the high school.

“I would have remembered that if it happened here,” says an Oceanside police spokesman.

Attention All Chargers Haters!

If you can’t stand the Chargers, this one’s for you: The Deadspin sports web site is out with a post that examines all the reasons why the team and its owners are terrible, and readers chimed in with a bunch of most-excellent burns. (Warning: It contains adult language.)

One of my favorites that doesn’t have any obscenities (those are my other favorites) is this: “Watching this team leave for LA has been the spiritual equivalent of passing a 55-year-old kidney stone except the kidney stone’s net worth increased by 2 billion dollars for its exit.”

• The Chargers are playing this season at the StubHub Center. Yes, the StubHub Center. Serves them right after the team ripped us in half. Anyway, the L.A. Times has a story about how much the team is spending on the stadium. It’s a bitter pill to swallow knowing how little they spent on fan experience here.

The Kept Faith Podcast, part of the VOSD network, features a chat with with David Jay from Mad Friars to talk about the current state of the Padres minor league system. The guys look at possible September call-ups, the Anderson Espinoza injury and the accumulation of talent that seems to be cropping up at Fort Wayne.

Quick News Hits: Lemon “Grove,” We Need to Talk

Our coverage of the high cost of risky investments by Southern California water authorities has sparked the San Diego County Water Authority to ask questions. (Via PDF)

• California’s power system is gearing up for an unusual event on Aug. 21: a partial solar eclipse. As LiveScience reports, officials are preparing for a significant dip in solar power by taking power from other sources.

 An El Cajon family only recently discovered that their mobile home “sits above a highly polluted stream of underground water flowing from an old aerospace manufacturing firm,” putting them at risk of from chemical vapors whose existence has been confirmed, inewsource reports. “The problem has existed since the 1960s and been known to state officials and the companies responsible since the 1980s. But the [family] and many of their neighbors were just finding out last fall, after inewsource published an online map of the contamination.”

If you’ve been getting mysterious bites on your bare legs and ankles recently, take heed: You (and I) aren’t alone. Locals at the San Diego section of Reddit are discussing why people seem to be getting bitten by bugs (fleas, maybe, or mosquitoes?) more than usual this summer, especially in the lower appendages. One possibility raised by a couple folks: bird mites. Yes, that is a thing if you’re near a nest.

The other day, we published a story about Lemon Grove and marijuana shops. We included a photo of the city’s landmark giant lemon. I took a look and noticed something peculiar: The cursive G in Grove doesn’t look like a G. It really doesn’t. Check it out the “Giant Lemon of Lemon Grove” for yourself.

As a service to our readers, I spent a few minutes looking at Gs online. Nope, this is not some wacko way of handwriting a capital letter. (Looking at you, Q!)

Maybe this is a case of Lemon Grove residents getting high on their own supply? While the lemon may be quite old, the writing could date from the 1970s. I’m guessing pot in L.G. was a thing back then too. No, don’t send me your memories, if you have any left.

Whatever the case, I whined about the G on Twitter, where our former contributor John Gennaro told me to knock it off: “Leave Lemon Jrove alone!”

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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