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San Diego has an agreement with SDG&E that allows the power company to put its power lines, underground wires and other equipment on public property. That agreement is set to expire in three years, and environmentalists see the pending re-negotiation of that deal as an opportunity to get what they want from the power company.
Our Ry Rivard reports on a plan by environmental activists to get the city to use the negotiations as a way to force SDG&E to provide 100 percent renewable power by 2035, and also make SDG&E’s parent company, Sempra Energy, stop resisting efforts by the city to create a new government agency that would buy green energy and compete with SDG&E.
“Environmental activists think the timing couldn’t be better,” Rivard writes. “They have been looking for pressure points in their long-running battles against the company.”
A spokeswoman from SDG&E says the effort is misguided; a city spokeswoman said the city is busy preparing for negotiations.
Busy Day at City Council
The San Diego City Council had a busy Tuesday, voting on two big items in the city’s ongoing battle against homelessness and the housing crisis.
• The City Council voted 8-1 Tuesday to back a controversial storage center for homeless San Diegans in Sherman Heights.
Councilman David Alvarez, who represents Sherman Heights, and many nearby residents opposed the facility, fearing it could negatively impact the neighborhood and arguing that the neighborhood has historically housed more than its fair share of regional homeless services.
Alvarez was the only councilmember to oppose the project despite a few hours of emotional public testimony. The Council heard from Sherman Heights residents and students at Our Lady’s School, many of whom were in tears as they recounted how homelessness was already affecting their neighborhood.
Councilmembers Chris Ward, who represents downtown, and Georgette Gomez, who grew up in Alvarez’s district, pushed for last-minute changes to the city’s plan for the facility to try to address some of the community concerns, including delaying the opening of the facility until the end of the school year and reducing the number of storage units at the facility.
Our Lisa Halverstadt provided a play-by-play of the vote on Twitter.
• The Council also approved a major redevelopment of the Town and Country Resort in Mission Valley, as covered by the Union-Tribune’s Lori Weisberg. This time, it was Ward casting the lone dissenting vote.
The $70 million project would reduce the number of hotel rooms at the resort, but result in 840 new housing units.
The Council punted the project in the fall, while it was facing firm opposition from organized labor, namely hotel and construction workers. The labor group opposed it for cutting hotel jobs, failing to include affordable housing and for the effect it would have on traffic in Mission Valley.
The group got a deal done that assured there’d be no loss in hotel jobs despite losing hotel rooms, and assuring the developer wouldn’t obstruct union organizing.
The final deal doesn’t guarantee any affordable housing as part of the project, though, which is why Ward ultimately voted against it. Instead, the developer will pay the required $8 million to the Housing Commission.
Border Report: More Than 100 Unauthorized Immigrants Arrested in SD
Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers in the region arrested 115 unauthorized immigrants last week. In its press release announcing the arrests, ICE reminded the public that California’s “sanctuary laws” are leading to these types of large-scale operations.
That news kicks off this week’s Border Report, VOSD’s biweekly roundup of border news. Also in the roundup: Binational cooperation is required to tackle human trafficking, Tijuanenses question the resources used to guard U.S. President Trump and more.
• A video of Border Patrol arresting a mother in National City and leaving her daughters on a street corner went viral. The mother in the video is now being released on her own recognizance by an immigration judge in Otay Mesa. (Associated Press)
Culture Report: Hear from the Homeless Choir
When local jazz musician Steph Johnson first started a choir for people experiencing homelessness, she just wanted to provide them a space to express themselves.
But the choir has since morphed into more of an advocacy group that works to humanize homelessness, build empathy for people experiencing it and advocate for change.
In this week’s Culture Report, I talk to Johnson and three choir members about how the chorus has become a powerful voice in San Diego. I recorded our conversation for Culturecast, Voice of San Diego’s podcast covering arts and culture in the region. Listen to the episode here.
Coronado Cracking Down on Shared Bikes
Coronado leaders do not like all the new, shareable bikes that have been popping up across the city.
Coronado City Manager Blair King told the Union-Tribune that the city plans to impound the bikes blocking public right-of-way and potentially fine the companies that own them.
The city doesn’t allow dockless bicycle companies to operate in the city, but the bikes have ended up in Coronado anyway via people riding the Coronado ferry and Silver Strand Boulevard.
• ICYMI: Homeless advocates are also wondering why the city is ignoring bike rental companies while hammering homeless San Diegans for the same sidewalk-blocking violations.
Op-ed: City Redevelopment is Worth Keeping
Civic San Diego is experiencing troubled times thanks to a lawsuit by a former board member of the city’s redevelopment agency.
In a new op-ed for us, Michael Jenkins, a Civic San Diego board member, says despite the issues, the agency is worth keeping around since it has a track record of working effectively with the development industry.
“Civic can perform important roles on behalf of San Diego that are difficult for City Hall to undertake,” he writes. He also proposes some changes.
In Other News
• The city of Chula Vista paid an employee $400,000 to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit she filed against the city and a co-worker. The city denied the allegations, court records show, but not many other details are available since the issue was settled out of court and the agreement included a non-disclosure provision. (Union-Tribune)
• In a Spanish-language story by Estados, a reporter describes 10 homicides that happened in less than 20 hours in Tijuana.
• A local nonprofit that serves at-risk youth and their families got a $2.5 million state grant to help homeless youth. (KPBS)
• KPBS launched San Diego Politics 101, a new series meant to help listeners better understand political reporting. The first segment explains school board elections.