A homeless woman walks down 17th Street in downtown San Diego. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Downtown’s 17th Street, a thoroughfare near I-5, transformed into San Diego’s version of skid row over the past several years. It became an emblem of municipal shame as tents and transients filled the sidewalks.

Then came a deadly disease outbreak and, two months ago, a big police crackdown. We’ve heard about some of the effects, including reports of an influx of homeless people into Balboa Park, North Park and Normal Heights. For a new VOSD story, our reporter Lisa Halverstadt dug deeper, examining law enforcement records and talking to homeless people about the effects of being uprooted.

“Court records show many of the 75 who were arrested were jailed for days while they awaited arraignments,” Halverstadt reports. “More than a quarter have yet to be charged despite being held in jail. In at least a few cases, prosecutors dropped charges that were the impetus for the 17th Street arrests but decided to pursue other cases against those arrested, like for earlier drug charges.

One homeless woman says people are just being moved in circles: “It’s a revolving door.”

Meanwhile, residents in East Village and Sherman Heights, who’ve often felt unsafe, praise the crackdown. As for 17th Street itself, some tents and transients have returned.

Cole Hangs on to Council Prez Spot

Myrtle Cole won re-election as the Council president Monday, indicating she’s ready to play hardball with her Republican colleagues.

Before the vote, liberal and labor leaders pressured Cole to strip Republicans of their committee assignments to keep the gig. Republicans tried to fight off the power play by recruiting a Democrat to vote for himself or herself, along with the four Republican votes, to unseat Cole.

Cole kept the job, and it looks like the Republicans are prepared to lose their committee assignments.

Republican Councilman Scott Sherman asked Cole if she would commit to keeping all the committee assignments the same, as she had said she’d do in a memo last week.

“We’re going to discuss that after Council, and this vote here,” Cole said.

Sherman asked why they’d need to discuss it later if she had already promised in writing that’s what she’d do.

“Because the committee assignments are not until next Thursday – next Wednesday,” she said.

“OK, well that tells me enough then,” Sherman said. “Thank you.”

It’s the second time this year that the often-collegial atmosphere at City Hall has been disrupted by bare-knuckle politics. In June, Mayor Kevin Faulconer used his power over the city’s budget to target Council members who refused to support his push for a special election to raise taxes to expand the San Diego Convention Center.

— Andrew Keatts

$1.8 Billion for Hydroelectric Project?

In this week’s VOSD Environment Report, our Ry Rivard has news about local plans to potentially build a $1.8 billion hydroelectric facility in East County.

“The plan is to buy low-priced solar power during the day when it is cheap, and use that electricity to pump water from the existing San Vicente Reservoir uphill to a new, higher-elevation reservoir,” Rivard reports. “When electricity prices rise, water would be released back downhill. As the water falls, it would spin turbines to generate electricity that could be sold at a profit.”

Does it sound like too good of a deal to be true? Some water officials have been skeptical, especially considering that the project is expected to net not too much more than it might cost over two decades, leaving little wiggle room. On the other hand, it’s quite a green project, and officials have already spent money getting the project ready for a decision.

Also in the Environment Report: SDG&E continues to fight to stick ratepayers with massive wildfire costs, a huge water deal is up for renewal and more.

Plus: Our reporter goes to Germany and learns all about weed. Er, make that weeds … and a controversial product used to kill them. Check out the not-so-fun fact about a chemical that’s made its way into the bodies of Ranch Bernardoans. Um, Bernardoians. Bernardans?

Christmas trees are upside down in places like Hotel Del Coronado. No, it’s not a reference to “Stranger Things.” But it is, it seems, a trend. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Meet the, um, busily breeding panda who helped populate the world’s zoos, including our own. (538.com)

Tax Reform’s Effects, by Congressional District

When it comes to tax reform, the two local Republican congressmen are divided: Rep. Darrell Issa was a no, and Rep. Duncan D. Hunter was a yes. The L.A. Times examines how many people in their congressional districts, and others, are affected by certain mortgage interest and state/local tax deductions, both of which are endangered by tax reform.

Quick News Hits: Have Shark, Will Travel

The U-T has a special report on what it would take to build new housing, and whether doing so would even help the housing crisis.

“A seventh woman has come forward with accusations of sexual misconduct against a San Diego County sheriff’s deputy … six other women have accused [Richard] Fischer of inappropriate behavior on the job, including groping and fondling,” 10News reports.

Former mayor Roger Hedgecock and his wife Cynthia are suing the city over the puncturing of a breast implant after Cynthia allegedly tripped over a broken sidewalk. As the U-T reports, the case is complicated.

The attempted takeover of Qualcomm is now hostile. (City News Service)

• Last winter, many young white sharks stuck around near the California shore instead of heading south, apparently because the water remained warm up in these parts. Now, there are signs that they’re heading south like normal, the L.A. Times reports.

Here’s a tidbit from the Times: The Monterey Bay Aquarium had a white shark on exhibit but released it into the ocean in February after it grew fast “and started eating its tank mates.”

Sheesh. And here you thought you’d had a terrible roommate or two.

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 (asja.org). Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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