Construction cranes dot East Village. / Photo by Mike Sumoto

Last week, the state of California handed San Diego regional leaders a bit of news: Local cities and the county needed to structure zoning plans and permitting processes to allow more than 170,000 new housing units over the next 10 years — nearly tripling the current level of annual growth.

If they don’t, the state could seize control of planning in a municipality and change the plans unilaterally to make sure housing is easier to be built.

[newsletter_badge align=’left’]It’s a questionable threat the state has mostly not enforced but it’s nonetheless there.

Our Lisa Halverstadt was on hand when the news came at the Board of Directors meeting of the San Diego Association of Governments. The response in the room — mostly from Republicans — was not very welcoming. They said it’s too hard to build homes because of state environmental laws. But you can also detect a bit of their acknowledgement of how hard it would be to convince neighbors to allow the development.

“Nobody here really is that excited because it’s really a totalitarian government that we’ve gone to,” complained Santee Mayor John Minto at a meeting with a state official the other day. “We’re going to be oppressed by this, and why doesn’t the state just handle all applications for building?”

The quotes Halverstadt gathered are each pretty strong.

Environment Report: Watch Out for Water Rules

In this week’s VOSD Environment Report, our Ry Rivard notes that state rules require housing units of more than 500 units to prove that they have access to enough water for 20 years. That hasn’t been a big program locally… yet. “Still, if the drought returns, water agency projections may not be able to keep up, and as pressure increases to build homes to ‘solve’ the housing crisis, there could be renewed attention on these water rules.”

Meanwhile, the World Wildlife Fund says we’re among the 20 cities in the world that are most at risk of a shortage of safe drinking water. The only other U.S. cities on the list are right up the coast: Oxnard (my nominee for ugliest-sounding California city) and Santa Barbara.

Also in the Environment Report: More challenges for Carlsbad’s program to breed white seabass to replenish the ocean with fish, lobbying against offshore drilling and the governor’s hopes for the power grid. Plus: Our environmental reporter goes hiking in Ramona and is unimpressed until his vision gets a bit cloudy.

Trump Rejects Qualcomm Buyout

After a recommendation from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States — a group made up of senior State, Defense and Commerce Department leaders — President Trump approved an order putting an end to the hostile takeover of Qualcomm by rival Broadcom. It ended a major local drama. San Diego leaders from many sector had been contemplating the potential disintegration or relocation of one its largest employers.

The news also came right before Trump’s first visit to San Diego. Local members of Congress had called for (Hunter) the government to stop the deal (Peters) for national security reasons.

“Both companies were ordered to immediately abandon the proposed deal,” CNBC reports. “The order also prohibits all 15 of Broadcom’s proposed candidates for Qualcomm’s board from standing for election.”

Hail to the Chief: S.D. Meets the Presidents

The president is scheduled to visit today to take a look at the border wall prototypes and talk to troops at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. (Here’s a general schedule.) Trump fans, protesters and law enforcement are all expected to converge on the South Bay, KPBS reports, although some protests will be held elsewhere. An area on the Mexican side of the border will be closed to the public as well.

The protesters are fired up.

This is the president’s first visit to California and to San Diego. Trump will become the 14th president in a row, dating back to Franklin Roosevelt, to visit San Diego while in office.

There’s quite a colorful history of presidential visits to San Diego.

Bill Clinton met giraffes at the Wild Animal Park (and shook plenty of hands on the way to the loo), kids in Mission Hills got out of school to watch Harry Truman go by in a motorcade, and John Kennedy rode in another motorcade down El Cajon Boulevard. A photo snapped of him riding by the front of Rudford’s restaurant now graces the side of the diner’s building. (Check my story here for one woman’s now-legendary memory of spotting what was loaded onto Air Force One at Lindbergh Field. Make sure to take note of her thoughts about why she wasn’t JFK’s type. Her comment is one of my favorites from my career in journalism.)

Meanwhile, my own dad saw Dwight Eisenhower land in Chula Vista in a helicopter, and Woodrow Wilson became the first president to ever speak via loudspeaker system at a giant San Diego rally (although he hated the microphone).

You can also check out the photos of presidential visits that I posted on Twitter, including not one but two presidents posing with the San Diego Chicken, formerly known as the KGB Chicken. Here’s Ronald Reagan, Clinton and Wilson, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon, Barack Obama and FDR, and JFK and a welcome poem for Benjamin Harrison, who seems to have been the first president to visit here while in office.

Politics Roundup: Inside The Title Tango

The U-T explores why a former judge can’t call herself a “judge” and a former assemblyman can’t call himself an “assemblyman” on the ballot.

This year’s district attorney race may be a race: A liberal political action committee is jumping into the race, although it hasn’t endorsed a candidate, the U-T reports.

Geneviéve Jones-Wright, a Democrat and public defender who’s running as a reform candidate, seems likely to benefit.

 KPBS examines a mailer from Rep. Duncan D. Hunter that looks like a campaign flier but actually isn’t, at least officially. Taxpayers paid for it. Also: Hunter says he opposes a 25-cents-a-gallon federal gas tax proposal. But there isn’t one.

He might have been thinking of this comment from Trump, endorsing such a tax.

County supervisors and a council member are proposing that a wellness center be built on land in Southeastern San Diego that’s owned by the Jacobs Center and may be sold to the county, NBC 7 reports. Check our previous coverage for background on the long history of challenges and stalled efforts for the Jacobs Center. History on Jacobs effort and challenges:

Politico chronicles the amazing political evolution of Orange County, which was once a rock-ribbed GOP stronghold but has drifted left, even voting for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The county is “less than half white, roughly one-third Latino, and nearly one-fifth Asian American,” and the Republican registration margin has fallen from 18 points in 1992 to 4 points in 2016. “Voters who decline to side with any party now make up nearly one quarter of the county. Many of them are the exact kind of upper-middle class suburbanites who for years typified Orange County. Now, they can’t stand Trump.”

Will Botched Hepatitis Response Finally Be Probed?

As we reported last year, local officials botched some of their response to the deadly hepatitis A epidemic, with the county and city blaming each other for a lack of urgency on managing the crisis. As far as we know, no outsider ever investigated what went wrong or came up with ways to make things work more smoothly next time.

Now, Assemblyman Todd Gloria is calling for a state audit of the hepatitis A response in the wake of a U-T story that suggests the city spent more than it should have to power-wash “fecally contaminated” city streets. (Via Twitter)

Quick News Hits: Presidential Poetry Didn’t Hit the Mark

Debra Reed, the CEO of SDG&E parent company Sempra, is retiring. It wasn’t immediately clear how her departure will change the company’s culture. (U-T)

An aquatics center at Point Loma’s Liberty Station is moving forward. The city and school district would work together to build and run it. In addition to three pools, “space for stand-up paddling, kayaking and rowing” are envisioned. (

San Diego has the most non-criminal immigration arrests in the nation. (U-T)

We hear a lot about “rape kits” — evidence taken from rape victims — and how many have not been tested locally. Now, a blog called Splinter says the kits and the kit process themselves are problematic: “While treating the body as a crime scene is helpful if you want to reconstruct the assault after the fact, it can also be incredibly dehumanizing and traumatic for sexual assault survivors… the more we truly understand rape kits and best practices for collecting them, the easier we can build a better world for sexual assault victims and survivors.”

Up above, I mentioned that President Benjamin Harrison made a visit to town while in office and linked to a poem that someone wrote to honor his 1891 visit. Here’s an excerpt: “From towering Shasta’s cloudy crest/To fair Diego’s land/From yon Sierra’s snowy breast/To broad Pacific strand/All hail our Nation’s chief.” There’s also talk of “our uncrowned king” and a section that begins “Be gladsome song in praise of thee…”

Hey, 19th-century San Diego poet! Don’t quit your day job.

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

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

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