The city of San Diego is poised to spend $6.5 million on contracts to provide emergency shelter for the homeless in large tents. The urgency is the result of the deadly hepatitis A outbreak and the city is in such a hurry that it moved forward “absent a competitive bidding process complete with targets and frameworks for the three nonprofits to follow — and initially, key outcomes for them to meet,” our Lisa Halverstadt reports in a new story.

The chair of the Housing Commission board tells us that urgency was needed. “This isn’t our preferred approach. When you’re dealing with a huge societal problem you need to explore all options, all alternatives. The crisis is on the street today,” he said. “For us to ignore what’s being requested from us to be able to as one alternative while we pursue all others I don’t think is a responsible step forward on the part of this commission.”

The contracts will go to three nonprofit homeless service providers: Alpha Project, Father Joe’s Villages and Veterans Village of San Diego.

The Wall: Inside the Border Barrier’s History

inewsource and KPBS  teamed up to produce a package of stories and images called America’s Wall that examines “how construction of America’s wall is intertwined with the ongoing story of illegal immigration.”

“Using previously undisclosed data from the federal government, we created an interactive map that shows every mile of the current wall along with when it was constructed,” inewsource managing editor Laura Wingard tells us. “We layered that information with illegal immigration patterns and enforcement over the decades. It took four Freedom of Information Act requests to get the data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That information is the foundation of this multimedia project.”

As the main story explains, “as it became stronger and longer, illegal cross-border flows of people plummeted wherever the barriers were built. But they didn’t stop. Instead, migrants and drug smugglers took different paths — into the desert, into the ocean, into the sky and underground.”

• This week’s VOSD Border Report checks in with local artists who are using their works to protest the planned expansion of the border wall.

Our Maya Srikrishnan visited an exhibit called “Undocumenta” at the Oceanside Museum of Art. She was especially struck by a work spotlighted on artist Teresita De La Torre’s Instagram account: “When De La Torre was volunteering in the desert, leaving gallons of water for migrants crossing the border, she found an abandoned shirt. She wore the shirt every day for a year, took a portrait in it daily and posted the photos online.”

The project, the exhibit’s curator says, promotes a dialogue.

Also in the Border Report, our weekly aggregation of border-related news: A closer look at the border wall prototypes, the latest on Mexican sewage that fouls U.S. beaches, the growing Haitian population in Tijuana and more.

Correction: School Busing

We made a correction to the widely shared story last week on San Diego Unified School District sending parents to a debt collections agency when they failed to pay their bills. An earlier version of it said some, but not all, students who qualify for free lunch qualify for free transportation. In fact, all students who qualify for free lunch qualify for free transportation.

However, the district does not provide transportation to many schools. So students who go to those schools, and are poor enough to receive free lunches, do not get free transportation.

Meet the $2M Jonathan Livingston Restroom

San Diego built a pretty restroom on the water front in 2014, the U-T reports, “designed by an artist to invoke ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull,’ the popular 1970 novella about a seagull who wanted to be special.”

That’s nice. The price tag: $2 million. In the view of some homeless advocates, that was a mighty bad deal.

There’s more to the story, though. The building is part of the port’s public art program, and the funds were allocated for that purpose. The artist decided to make her art a functional bathroom.

Catholic Bishop Speaks Out on Guns, South Korea

Local Catholic bishop Robert McElroy, a liberal voice in the vein of Pope Francis, just visited the Vatican to discuss nuclear disarmament. In an interview with a Catholic news site called Crux, he spoke out in favor of gun control: “The notion that to restrict automatic and semi-automatic weapons is a restriction on personal rights that should be given to society, to me, seems unacceptable… The problem of guns in our culture leads to so many deaths by guns. We need to move towards well thought-out and articulated pieces of legislation that would command broad support.”

Crux also reports that McElroy will travel to South Korea “to participate in a conference organized by the local bishops to explore the possible contribution of Catholic principles of non-violence to the pacification of the peninsula.”

Quick News Hits: Fake News Is a Zoo… Literally

• State Senate leader Kevin de León, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate trying to oust Dianne Feinstein, is in an awkward position as he sets a new state senate policy that mandates independent investigations of sexual harassment claims and more transparency. As the L.A. Times reports, he’s actually been living in a Sacramento home with a state senator colleague, also a Democrat, who’s facing sexual harassment allegations. Now, though, de León is moving out.

• Locally based Qualcomm is “rejecting an unsolicited, $103 billion offer from Broadcom, saying that the proposal is significantly undervalued and that a tie-up between the massive chipmakers would face substantial regulatory resistance.” (AP)

• An organization called New America is out with a policy paper about how elementary schools in Chula Vista are embracing a “dual-language immersion” program that teaches Spanish to English-Speaking kids and vice versa. Kids are “gaining access to instruction that supports the continued development of their home language and English, which research suggests can promote enhanced academic achievement, facilitate English language proficiency, and sustain valuable cultural and familial connections.”

You can find the full paper here.

• No, regardless of what you may have heard on the internet, a San Diego Zoo employee did NOT get injured in an intimate encounter with an octopus. “The story is false, and not just because the zoo does not display octopuses,” reports the fact-checking site The accompanying photo has been faked, and the story originated on a satirical website.

The funny thing is that a few awesome stories from the zoo’s history sound fake but actually happened.

For one thing, as we confirmed a while back, the now-retired Wgasa bush line tram at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park (née Wild Animal Park) was indeed named for the acronym of a very off-color phrase. (An even-funner face: There’s a street in Temecula named Wgasa Place.)

And then there’s the very real story of Ken Allen, aka “Hairy Houdini,” the 250-pound orangutan who became a celebrity when he repeatedly escaped from his pen at the zoo in 1985 despite distractions like a whole bunch of lady apes. As Newsweek reports in a very entertaining story, Ken Allen flew the coop nine times, with his escapades inspiring T-shirts, at least one song and, recently, a beer flavor at our own Monkey Paw Brewing Co.

More recently, a koala bailed out of his exhibit in 2014. “At least three fake Twitter accounts followed,” the U-T reported. As for the koala, he climbed up a tree and fell asleep. He did not go on Twitter.

Good choice. If you have a choice between tweeting and shut-eye, always go for the snooze. Then teach me how.

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:

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.