Councilwoman Myrtle Cole / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

When it comes to vacation rentals and the San Diego City Council, always bet on nothing happening.

The Council met for 10 hours Tuesday. Two main proposals were on the table. Four members of the Council had already signed onto one of the plans to largely permit homeowners to rent out to visitors for at least three nights. They only needed one more vote.

But one of them got cold feet: Councilman David Alvarez declined to support the proposal he had signed onto in September. He also refused to support Councilwoman Barbara Bry’s more restrictive proposal, which would have limited homeowners to only renting out their own residence for up to 90 days a year. And he also refused to support a compromise Bry tried desperately to pull together with amendments that delayed the meeting several times as city staff and attorneys tried to hash out the details.

Lisa Halverstadt caught up with Alvarez to ask what happened. He said he had reacted to feedback he’d been getting.

Councilman Scott Sherman was not pleased. He called the Council dysfunctional and was exasperated with Alvarez’ decision.

Councilman Chris Cate said, in a statement, “today’s inaction has proved that as a City Council, we cannot govern.”

Fire? What Fire?

In Houston, after this year’s flooding, there was a lot of discussion about building homes where they shouldn’t be, because new homes sat in a flood plain. San Diego has its own version: thousands of homes being proposed in parts of the county prone to catch fire.

Obviously people need a place to live, homes prices in the city have become unbearable and rural San Diego County is beautiful, but development  there means more danger for more people.

Our Maya Srikrishnan covered the issue when she looked into the Lilac Hills development last year. In a new post, she reminded us of the risks: County leaders may soon decide whether to let developers build homes in areas of extreme wildfire danger, areas near to where the Lilac Fire burned just a few days ago. Some of these big developments need special approval because they’re proposed in areas where far fewer new homes were envisioned in the county’s long-term growth plan, approved in 2011.

The projects are proposed in rural areas of North County because it’s some of the last undeveloped land. But that’s exactly why they’re concerning, experts say. The risk is highest when the first developments go in, and eventually subsides when there is a much larger mass of buildings and people like in downtown San Diego, Oceanside or Escondido.


As of Tuesday night, the Lilac Fire was 92 percent contained. (Here’s what “contained” means.)

The New York Times reports on the somewhat obviously mixed results from regulations meant to stop fires in California.

KPBS has a story on how the intense fires across California could make it harder to get fire insurance.

Crazy Customs Contract

If someone told you the federal government plans to spend $300 million to hire Border Patrol agents, that might make sense to you. But what if someone told you the federal government was spending $300 million not to hire Border Patrol agents but to hire a consulting firm to help the government hire border patrol agents?

Greg Moran of the Union-Tribune has this story about how a middle man in this case Accenture, an international consulting firm  is getting $297 million from the federal government to help the government do a “hard-hitting, targeted recruitment campaign consisting of promoting the [Customs and Border Protection’s] law enforcement careers and opportunities.”

As Moran reports, “If the contract runs its full five years and is fully paid out, the agency will spend $39,600 per hire. That’s just below the $39,738 starting pay for a customs officer.”

Ballet Hopes to Pique Interest, Boost Turnout

The new directors of the Southern California Ballet, Martha Leebolt and her husband Toby Batley, plan a push next year to attract more people to come see the ballet. But, first, their upcoming performance of “The Nutcracker” will be the duo’s directorial debut. They did a little tightening and streamlining, but because this Christmas favorite is their bread and butter, they didn’t want to fiddle with too much, too fast.

The couple talk to our Kinsee Morlan for this week’s report on the San Diego art scene.

In Other News

The Union-Tribune took a look at truancy in San Diego schools using federal data. To learn a bit more about how big of a problem truancy is, especially among low-income Californians, check out this post by the Education Writers Association.

The Fallbrook Public Utility District voted this week to end a dispute over water from the Santa Margarita River. The dispute with the federal government has been going on for 66 years, including 50 years of settlement talks. (Union-Tribune)

A French company, Unibail-Rodamco, bought Australia-based Westfield Corp., the ubiquitous owner of Southern California malls. The $16 billion acquisition gives Unibail-Rodamco several popular hangouts in San Diego, including the UTC shopping center and the downtown Horton Plaza mall, which is now known around the San Diego offices as the mall without a Taco Bell anymore.

Ry Rivard was formerly a reporter for Voice of San Diego. He wrote about water and power.

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