Fire crews work to put out hot spots in a Fallbrook community that was hit by the Lilac Fire. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

A few days ago, the Lilac Fire seemed to be winding down, but fire officials insisted that it was 0 percent contained. That was mighty confusing to plenty of us, so we asked Ry Rivard to explain what “contained” actually means.

Turns out it’s complicated.

There is an official CalFire definition: “A fire is contained when it is surrounded on all sides by some kind of boundary but is still burning and has the potential to jump a boundary line.” Boundaries could be, say, a river or a fire break.

However, “sometimes fire officials take liberties with the definition, perhaps because most members of the public conflate containment with whether a fire is out,” Rivard reports.

That’s what appears to have happened last Friday, when fire officials apparently de-emphasized their own progress in order to keep the public from letting its guard down amid high winds that could whip the fire back up.

It’s Vacation Rental Day at City Hall

Are Airbnb-style rentals good for the housing crisis because they help homeowners afford to live here through extra income? Or do they take housing off the market? In a new VOSD commentary, Carol Kim, political director of the San Diego Building & Construction Trades Council, says the latter is the truth.

She argues in favor of Councilwoman Barbara Bry’s bid to tightly regulate Airbnb-style rentals. “Unchecked short-term rentals will only serve to exacerbate our severe housing crisis, which has already received national media attention,” Kim writes. “While we can acknowledge that tourism is of great importance to the San Diego economy, policies (or the lack thereof) that cause local San Diegans to be displaced from residential neighborhoods by tourists is not an acceptable tradeoff.”

One problem: The California Coastal Commission has advised the city not to pursue Bry’s option. “Commission staff would not recommend any adoptionof a maximu stay limit and any proposed regulation to that effect would need to address how such a limit does not materially affect the availability and viability of short term rentals as affordable accommodations,” the agency’s local director wrote to the city Friday.

It’s not clear what the Coastal Commission is prepared to do about it though.

The San Diego City Council will consider a new regulation of some sort Tuesday. Here’s our guide to the vote.

Big Trouble for Chula Vista Development?

“For years, the city of Chula Vista and a string of developers have been working to put subdivisions in the eastern part of the city,” our Ry Rivard reports. “Now, as homebuyers hope to move into the newest development by Christmas, they’ve run into an unexpected hitch: Their homes may not have running water.”

The problem: The local water district is worried about a discovery of methane in the soil in the 950-home “Village of Escaya,” a finding first reported by inewsource. The project’s developer says it’s handling things, but the water district fears its pipes will be corroded by the gas, which could be coming from a nearby landfill. Now, there’s a standoff of sorts as some buyers are apparently near their move-in dates.

A note for those of you who read our story shortly after it was first posted yesterday: It initially said the Otay Water District is considering hiring a consultant to review HomeFed’s reports. In fact, the district hired one last month.

Border Report: Doomsday Rising for Dreamers

In this week’s VOSD Border Report, we hear from local DACA recipients who gathered in a panel discussion to talk about their lives and the uncertainty about their futures. “I anticipate in a couple of months,” one says, “our entire worlds are going to collapse.”

Also: “Anti-climb tests” at the border wall prototypes, an exodus of Mexicans from the United States to Mexico, inside the upcoming “sanctuary state” law and more.

Law & Order Roundup: Judge Stands Accused

The daily news stories about prominent men being accused of sexual harassment or misconduct have featured big shots in media, high-tech, entertainment and culture. The legal world seems to have been largely left out, although every accusation is shadowed by the ghost of Anita Hill vs. Clarence Thomas.

Not anymore. Six women, all former workers in the federal 9th Circuit court, now say prominent judge Alex Kozinski “subjected them to a range of inappropriate sexual conduct or comments,” The Washington Post reports.

The 9th Circuit court, which Kozinski used to serve as chief judge, covers California. In a statement, he told the paper that “I would never intentionally do anything to offend anyone and it is regrettable that a handful have been offended by something I may have said or done.”

But later, after the story came out, he told the L.A. Times that “if this is all they are able to dredge up after 35 years, I am not too worried.”

The wave of reckoning got to former San Diego State football star Marshall Faulk.

The U-T takes a deep look at the accusations against a sheriff’s deputy by nine women who accuse him of sexual misconduct. One says she complained about stalking and predatory behavior by letter but nothing happened; the Sheriff’s Department said it never got the letter.

The news site Vice examined data from major U.S. police departments, including the SDPD, and finds that “police shoot Americans more than twice as often as previously known.”

The SDPD’s rates of all shootings (including injuries) and only fatal shootings appear on the lower side compared to other police departments. However, the gap in the numbers between all shootings and fatal shootings appears to be small here.

Quick News Hits: California Burri…Whoa!

• SDG&E has responded to a city of San Diego request for proposals on how to deliver electricity from 100 percent renewable sources and not fossil fuels. It’s going to take some time for us to get through. But this has been anticipated for some time as the chance for SDG&E to keep the job of buying our sources of power in the face of a city move to take over the duties that just keeps progressing. Here’s our explainer of what’s going on.

• The San Diego Unified School District is poised to declare that its finances are in “positive” shape (instead of “qualified” or “negative”) for the first time in eight years, City News Service reports. But big cuts are still expected. A school board member claims that the district needs $59 million more from the state than last year just to keep things the way they are.

A failed candidate for National City’s city council and his prominent treasurer have been socked with a $5,000 fine over failure to file campaign reports on time. (U-T)

 A new report “suggests that San Diego is the fourth most expensive city in the country and the second most expensive on the West Coast when it comes to the average cost of a ‘top-tier general admission concert ticket,” NBC 7 reports. The average ticket price here by that criteria: $108, while you’d pay $90 in Denver and $84 in Phoenix. L.A. tops the list.

In food news, there’s now a “safer avocado” because too many people are bleeding all over the place after cutting themselves silly in search of that gooey green goodness.

And in even bigger (or at least more hot-oil- based) food news, the fine folks at Taco Bell are testing burritos with french fries inside at a restaurant in Charleston, W.V.

They’re calling it the “California Loaded Fries Burrito.”

Wait, what? What?

It’s just called a California burrito, people. C’mon. Anyone who thinks differently is, well, a couple tacos short of a combination plate.

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

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