Democrats and homeless advocates have long called on San Diego County to use some of its ample cash combat the county’s homelessness problem.

State Sen. Ben Hueso added his voice to the chorus at a press conference last month saying, “The county of San Diego is holding over $100 million in unspent Mental Health Services Act funds.”

VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt fact-checked Hueso’s claim and it’s true. But county officials told Halverstadt that they’re working on spending the money.

This is cash the county receives to serve and house San Diegans with serious mental illnesses.

They expect it to fall to about $128 million by the end of this fiscal year, reports Halverstadt. Last month, county supervisors approved a plan to spend nearly $570 million in Mental Health Services Act funds over the next three years.

Halverstadt also breaks down the last decade of the county’s spending from the mental health services account.

Sacramento Report: San Diego Slow on Granny Flats

San Diego has been slow on the uptake of a state law passed last year intended to make granny flats easier to build.

Granny flats – small housing units, like converted garages or freestanding structures in a homeowner’s backyard – are often touted as a small piece of the solution to the state’s housing and rental shortage.

However, only seven of the 19 jurisdictions in San Diego County have updated their granny flat ordinances, writes VOSD contributor Jonah Valdez in this week’s Sacramento Report.

Some of the problems cities are grappling with in implementing the new law include parking requirements and onerous fees.

Also in this week’s state politics round-up, Sara Libby writes about how Republicans are taking aim at the statewide gas tax increase that took effect this week.

In case you need something to do, the San Diego County Republican Party is holding nine rallies across the county Saturday to promote its effort to repeal the tax hike.

Hep A Update

San Diego County Board of Supervisors will decide whether to extend the emergency declaration for the hepatitis A outbreak at a special meeting Monday.

The rate of new cases has been falling for a few weeks now, reports City News Service, though the county’s public health officer has warned that the disease, which attacks the liver, has a long incubation period, so the numbers will likely continue to grow in the coming weeks.

The city of San Diego is ending daily hepatitis A meetings it was having with multiple city departments to discuss ongoing eradication efforts, reports KPBS.

On Tuesday, the county Health and Human Services Agency reported there have been 20 deaths and 536 confirmed cases.

VOSD Podcast: The New Disruptor on SANDAG’s Board

Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey joined podcast hosts Libby, Andrew Keatts and Scott Lewis to talk about how the SANDAG scandal has pushed him to start asking more questions and become a more active, vocal member of the agency’s board.

The board has long relied on staff to lay out issues and recommendations – a practice that contributed to the transportation agency staff’s recent admission it had been using a faulty economic forecast that caused a massive revenue shortfall.

“There have been many instances where the board essentially rubber-stamped what staff put in front of them,” Bailey said.

The mayor also discussed his push for a suicide barrier on the Coronado-San Diego Bay Bridge.

Quick News Hits

• Communications chipmaker Broadcom is planning to unveil a bid for Qualcomm Monday. (Reuters)

• Plaques outside the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum that declare “special thanks” to county Supervisor Ron Roberts will be removed for violating county rules. (Union-Tribune)

• PETA protestors have been banned from entering SeaWorld for three years. (Union-Tribune)

• Target may be coming to North Park. (SD Uptown News)

• Councilmembers Lorie Zapf and David Alvarez will propose using the Chargers training facility as temporary homeless housing at a press conference Monday.

Top Stories of the Week

These were the five most popular Voice of San Diego stories for the week of Oct. 27 – Nov. 3. Check out the full top 10 list here.

1. Suicide Prevention Walk Organizers Tell Gun Control Advocates to Keep Away

A suicide prevention walk in San Diego Saturday will feature pamphlets with gun safety tips co-created by a gun lobbying group, but gun-control advocates will not be allowed to distribute materials. (Ashly McGlone)

2. Homeless Camps Along the San Diego River Surge Amid Downtown Enforcement Push

This month, the San Diego River Park Foundation found 101 homeless camps in Mission Valley, the stretch of river nearest to downtown. Last October, it counted just 56 camps in Mission Valley. (Ry Rivard)

3. A Teenager Sued SDPD, and Was Documented as a Gang Member Soon After

Jamie Wilson, the parent of a 17-year-old at the center of a lawsuit challenging SDPD’s DNA collection policies, questions the department’s decision to document her son as a gang member shortly after the suit was filed. She says her son is not a gang member and has no criminal record. (Kelly Davis)

4. Parents, Principals Say Staffing Is Alarmingly Low in Special Ed Classes

Administrators say they are stressed and strained by a shortage of staff. The district has used interns to teach some special education classes and even asked parents to help fill aide positions. District officials say they’ve done everything they can to ensure the cuts and other shifts don’t impact services to students. (Maya Srikrishnan)

5. San Diego Unified Principals Are Bearing the Brunt of Budget Cuts

The results of a new survey of principals, vice principals and central office managers across the district paint a picture of schools in chaos. Clerical positions have gone vacant. The district slashed custodial staff. It is not resolving tech problems at schools. All those stresses are falling on school principals. (Mario Koran)

Maya Srikrishnan

Maya was Voice of San Diego’s Associate Editor of Civic Education. She reported on marginalized communities in San Diego and oversees Voice’s explanatory...

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