The Nook East Village
The Nook is a new affordable micro apartment project in the East Village. / Photo by Kinsee Morlan

Single-room-occupancy buildings, better known as SROs, have traditionally been the lowest rung of housing for those trying to avoid homelessness. Like dorm rooms, they don’t have kitchens or bathrooms. Now, a new trend in affordable housing is embracing creatively designed “micro-units,” which are a kind of mini-studio apartment that usually has a kitchen and bathroom.

Other cities are turning to micro-units as a cost-effective way to give low-income residents an inexpensive place to live. And San Diego? Not so much. As our Kinsee Morlan reports, developers say city regulations stand in the way of innovation.

One developer tells us that he wants to build a low-rent micro-unit apartment project in Little Italy, where apartments would be smaller than 400 square feet and cheaper than those around them. But the city wants him to build more costly parking spaces than he believes the project needs.

“And now we’re staring down a project that will be very expensive, specifically because of the stupid parking,” the developer says.

There are other challenges. Essentially, Morlan explains, “the city’s fee structure currently encourages developers to build expensive housing.”

 “A coalition of South Bay community leaders and residents is suing San Diego to block conversion of a rundown motel near Imperial Beach into a drug treatment halfway house for homeless people,” the U-T reports.

South Bay’s four mayors all oppose the project, the paper reports, and the lawsuit claims it will eliminate a low-cost place for people to stay. Another concern is more familiar: crime.

State officials warn against building homes within 500 feet of freeways because of the health risk from pollution, the L.A. Times reports, but they’ve given tens of millions of dollars to affordable housing projects within the danger zone over just the past couple of years.

Law & Order Roundup: Judge Is Out

“Alex Kozinski, a prominent voice on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, retired abruptly Monday in the face of more than a dozen reports of sexual misconduct,” the L.A. Times reports.

He blames his personal style and himself, sort of: “I may not have been mindful enough of the special challenges and pressures that women face in the workplace,” Kozinski said.

The “brash, outspoken” Kozinski was high-profile on the court, which serves the western United States, including California.

The U-T examines how the local law enforcement review board is trying to get its act together after fumbling 22 cases of alleged misconduct. We’ve reported on how the board couldn’t manage to investigate the cases and had to drop them. The U-T also looks into whether the ShotSpotter system, which aims to detect gunshots in crime-prone neighborhoods, actually accomplishes anything on the crime-fighting front.

Gondolas Aren’t Rising, at Least Not Yet

The ocean is pretty spectacular on its own, but San Diegans still have a long history of insisting on coming up with bizarre proposals about how to gussy up the waterfront, as we chronicled a few years ago. Remember the ideas about a ferris wheel, a whirligig thing that looked like a coffee press and the bunny-ears-like “Wings of Freedom” that looked like, well, let’s not go there.

Depending on your perspective, the waterfront gondolas proposed by County Supervisor Ron Roberts may seem like another in a long line of goofy ideas. But he’s still pushing for zoo-style gondolas (think of the Skyfari rides) between downtown and Balboa Park. They could cost $65 million.

In a new story, KPBS takes a deep dive into gondolas (ski lifts or skyways if you prefer) and how they’re used in a few cities here and there, notably Portland, Ore.

Environmental Report: Water Deal Gets Another 10 Years

The lead story in this week’s VOSD Environment Report: County water officials have agreed to extend a deal with the Imperial County water district by 10 years.

The deal is the biggest of its kind. “The Water Authority began talking about the deal in 1995, shortly after a major drought hit the state,” Ry Rivard explains. “The Water Authority pays Imperial County farmers to stop using some of the Colorado River water they have rights to and, in turn, San Diego gets long-term access to enough water for roughly 1.6 million city folk.”

The arrangement is at the center of a mammoth dispute between county officials and another group — regional Southern California water officials. The Environmental Report breaks it all down for you in case, as they say in baseball, you’re scoring at home.

Also in the Environment Report: The hacking of climate science emails, tensions over Colorado River water and a San Diego River cleanup.

The mayor of Del Mar, the new chairman of the regional planning agency SANDAG, says he’s been misinterpreted as questioning the idea of human-caused climate change. This is important because SANDAG plays a major role in protecting the environment. (KPBS)

Quick News Hits: Ice Ice Baby

There’s new talk of a downtown sports arena. (U-T)

The state has extended the enrollment period for Obamacare for 2018. (KPBS)

The sole runway at the airport is getting repaved at night. (10news)

• Balboa Park has a new civic organist. (KPBS)

Prices to visit Cabrillo National Monument are going up by half. (City News Service)

• Remember former County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, a Republican who represented coastal North County? She’s a Democrat now, driven to make the change by GOP support of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. (U-T)

How do you operate an ice skating rink in sunny San Diego, especially during one of the warmest Decembers on record? KPBS talked to one of the folks behind a giant rink at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and found out a big chiller system is required that needs so much power that a generator had to be brought in.

Outdoor ice rinks can soften a bit, creating puddles and annoying skaters. “You know, I hear people say the ice is slippery,” the ice rink guy says. “That’s the most ridiculous comment I’ve ever heard in my life. Of course, I hope it is.”

This reminds me, unfortunately, of the earliest joke I ever remember hearing, from back around the mid-1970s. What’s yellow and green and slides across the ice? Peggy Phlegming.

Now that, ice rink guy, is the most ridiculous comment you’ve ever heard in your life.

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:

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