Ralph Inzunza with his book “The Camp.” / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle
Ralph Inzunza with his book “The Camp.” / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Former Councilman Ralph Inzunza is out with a new novel about the life of prison inmates, and the main character is the spitting image of Inzunza, who spent time behind bars.

Inzunza was an inmate at a federal prison camp from 2012-2013. He was found guilty in “strippergate,” the notorious scandal in 2003 that led to three councilmen being charged with accepting campaign contributions in exchange for supporting proposed strip club regulations.

In a Q-and-A with Inzunza about the book, VOSD contributor Randy Dotinga asked the author about his doppelgänger main character, an inmate nicknamed “El Mayor” who has no regrets about the illegally raised campaign funds that led to his prosecution and prison term.

In his response, Inzunza made it clear that while he’s moved on, it doesn’t mean he’s admitted guilt.

“I fought the charges for nine years because I felt that I was innocent,” Inzunza said. “But when I lost, I surrendered.”

Inzunza also grades the current city leadership, talks about his plans to continue writing Chicano fiction and tells Dotinga that the main reason he wrote the book was to highlight shortcomings of the criminal justice system.

“Locking up Americans for 10, 15 or 20 years for nonviolent drug sales is nuts,” he said.

Solving the Empty Storefront Problem

In a perfect world, developers would build buildings with commercial space on the bottom and floors of housing on top.

Urbanist types think these kind of “mixed-use” buildings are the bee’s knees. The street-level commercial space helps keep the sidewalk feeling busy and alive, plus the businesses can cater to the needs of the people living above and help build a sense of community.

Problem is, a lot of the commercial space in the new mixed-uses buildings going up in neighborhoods where there isn’t a lot of foot traffic are left vacant. Developers simply can’t find anyone who wants to rent them out.

Earlier this year, I wrote about how leaders in southeastern San Diego are worried that the wave of new mixed-used projects being built there will simply replace old empty storefronts with new empty storefronts.

The vacant storefront problem has become widespread enough that city leaders are now considering softening requirements that say the bottom floor must filled by commercial tenants, the Union-Tribune reports. The change could allow developers to lease out the space as ground-floor housing instead.

San Diego Social

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher had a tense exchange on Twitter with Omar Passons, the attorney and one of the candidates to replace Ron Roberts on the County Board of Supervisors. Gonzalez Fletcher is married to Nathan Fletcher, who is running against Passons. It started after a Passons supporters criticized Nathan Fletcher for this tweet. It didn’t let up.

Gonzalez Fletcher went after Passons for representing short-term vacation rental hosts in policy debates on the issue. Passons expressed regret for supporting Nathan Fletcher in the past and hit the Democratic Party for supporting Fletcher over other diverse candidates.

• VOSD’s Andrew Keatts is well known for his misinformed takes on food, so his Twitter followers were pleasantly surprised when he accurately stated that stuffing is, in fact, the best Thanksgiving dish.

Del Mar Opts for Watered-Down Sea Level Rise Plan

One way to deal with sea level rise is a a “planned retreat,” or managed retreat where cities relocate buildings, houses and other infrastructure threatened by flooding and erosion.

Folks who own seaside homes aren’t big fans of that strategy, though, since it threatens their home values.

In this week’s North County Report, Ruarri Serpa covers how Del Mar’s latest draft of a sea level rise adaptation plan is missing the previously included option for “planned retreat.”

Also in Serpa’s roundup of news from the north: It’s been a hell of a week for the Escondido Country Club, Rep. Darrell Issa votes against the GOP tax plan and more.

Surfers Sick of Getting Sick From Sewage

Surfrider San Diego plans to begin routine testing of coastal waters, citing ongoing frustration among South Bay residents with the county health department’s response to cross-border sewage spills. Surfrider said it was awarded a grant to do water-quality tests at a high school in Imperial Beach and at its offices in Coronado. Anti-sewage activists say the county missed a chance in late October to pin toxic waters off the American coast on sewage spilled at a treatment plant on the Mexican side. Mexican officials deny a spill occurred.

Some environmental groups, including Surfrider, have historically done water-quality tests of their own for various reasons, but this is a new effort.

In a separate matter, the county – and the city of San Diego – are declining to test river water for hepatitis A despite worries among politicians that surface water may have been spreading the infection. Public health officials don’t believe that is how the recent hepatitis outbreak began or spread, but I’ve met a few people who are seeking money to do their own independent testing of creeks, rivers or bays in the area.

– Ry Rivard

Quick News Hits

• Last year, the city launched a new public records portal called NextRequest. It makes putting in a public records request fairly easy, but a review by the U-T Watchdog team found that people are waiting an average of 19 days to get responses.

• Buried in one of the federal tax reform bills is a ban on tax-exempt bond financing for sports facilities shared with professional sports teams. The Union-Tribune’s Roger Showley calls the measure “a poison pill that could complicate the financing for a new Aztec stadium.”

• A new exhibit curated by the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art highlights the work of eight black artists who’ve impacted San Diego’s art scene. (Union-Tribune)

• You’re going to have to click through a disgusting photo of a cockroach to get to it, but the Union-Tribune has listed 12 restaurants the county has repeatedly cited and closed down for major health violations.

• The Reader warns folks to be wary of statistics when it comes to pitches to expand the Convention Center.

Kinsee Morlan was formerly the Engagement Editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture Report. She also managed VOSD’s podcasts and covered...

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