The Morning Report
Get the news and information you need to take on the day.
Downtown’s redevelopment agency was supposed to spend $25 million on affordable housing projects, and five got the go-ahead. Now, the number is down to three, and the fate of the two that crumbled “reflects the tenuous nature of affordable housing financing,” our Lisa Halverstadt reports.
“Developers face a process akin to a Jenga game, trying over months or years to secure and align multiple financing sources while holding onto property. A project can collapse due to one missing piece,” she writes. “The failed projects also underscore challenges the city faces as it tries to fast-track affordable housing projects, which that can be snarled by everything from neighborhood opposition to meeting differing demands from investors and funders.”
Halverstadt digs deep into the inner workings of the system and how various obstacles ruined hopes for the projects, one of which would have housed veterans in Barrio Logan and one that sought to rehab units in southeastern San Diego (a much smaller version of the latter project is still alive).
• The North County city of Encinitas is looking to boost the number of granny flats that it allows, 10News reports. The number of granny flat permits allowed in San Diego went up by 71 percent from 2016 to 2017. There’s been a statewide increase in permits too, although only to 4,300 total last year.
Environment Report: Smart Water Meters Under Fire
This week’s VOSD Environment Report explains how a class-action lawsuit is targeting the way the city is paying for smart water meters. The claim: Some regional sewage customers are on the hook when they shouldn’t be. It all has to do with how the city handles sewage for multiple communities outside the city.
Also in the Environment Report: A design flaw in the containers that hold dangerous nuclear material at the defunct San Onofre nuclear power plant, commentaries about recycling of Styrofoam and water conservation and our reporter gets up close with Brussels sprouts growing in the Coachella Valley.
Politics Roundup: Attorney General Goes After Facebook
“The Facebook-Cambridge Analytica scandal raises ‘many serious questions‘ about the social network’s privacy policies, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and his counterparts in 36 states and territories said Monday in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg,” reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The letter says that “with the information we have now, our trust has been broken.”
• The race to replace the retiring Rep. Darrell Issa is the third-most competitive congressional race in the state, the L.A. Times says. A whopping 16 candidates are running.
The race between embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter and challengers is the eighth most competitive race. It would be a near-miracle if a Democrat won, but weirder things have happened this political season. (By the way, the U-T just mapped the bars and restaurants where Hunter’s campaign spent hundreds of thousands of dollars. Campaign funds aren’t supposed to be spent on personal expenses.)
Among the races the Times lists as competitive, Rep. Scott Peters in the 52nd District is in the best position, at 13th of 14 on the list.
• Sen. Dianne Feinstein is “a moderate by nature and by practical necessity. To get anything done in Congress, she has needed to work closely with Republicans,” writes L.A. Times columnist George Skelton in a rundown of the Democratic infighting over whether she should keep her seat. He adds that “her clout would be impossible to replace immediately.”
As for rival Kevin de León, a San Diego native and former leader of the state Senate, he tells Skelton that he goes for the gusto: “You can criticize some of my stuff but you can’t say it wasn’t big and wasn’t bold. I’ve always been of the strong belief that the time period you have, you use it to the fullest.”
• The county plans to triple spending on substance abuse to nearly $180 million. (NBC 7)
County Workers Get Special Security Alert
• The county planned to increase security Monday at the County Administration Center in the wake of a threat by a former employee. An email alert said authorities were “working closely on every legal means possible to prevent this individual from accessing County facilities.” (NBC 7)
• In other law enforcement news, a 911 caller in La Jolla apparently thought the cries of sea lions were a man’s call for distress and called for help. It came: Lifeguards and helicopters searched but found no one. (NBC 7)
Coronado Bridge Suicide Barrier Ideas Are Unveiled
Caltrans has released a draft report analyzing possible barriers that could be built to prevent suicides from the San Diego-Coronado Bridge. The U-T has details about the ideas, which could cost tens of millions or even more than $100 million.
As I reported earlier this year, a plan to spend $10 million to dramatically light the bridge is going forward despite the risk that it could make the bridge even more iconic — and more of a suicide magnet.
Suicides from the bridge have become dramatically more common over the last several years for unknown reasons, and 2017’s toll of 18 lives was the second-highest in the bridge’s history. There have already been several suicides this year.
Quick News Hits: One Fierce Feline
• Medi-Cal may have incorrectly signed up hundreds of thousands of people for Medicaid, although the exact number is quite a bit murky. (California Healthline)
• UCSD is apparently no longer a “safety school” for many high-school seniors: Some aren’t getting in despite strong academic records. UCSD applications are up by 10 percent to more than 100,000. The UCs at Berkeley, Irvine, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara also received 100,000-plus applications each. (Inside Higher Ed)
• We recently told you about murals along the U.S.-Mexico border that were slated for destruction. It’s now begun.
• San Diego’s seasonal rainfall (since Oct. 1) is 5 inches below normal. (Times of S.D.)
• It was apparently “Balboahenge” at Balboa Park last week, when the sunset aligns with the Cabrillo Bridge. Here’s a cool photo. And if you’re wondering why the California Tower is marred by those big dirty streaks, especially visible in this photo, we’ve got you covered.
• The San Diego Zoo has debuted a 27-foot stylized bronze lion at its entrance, and it’s quite the sight to see: bared teeth, fierce expression and back legs splayed high in the air. “The new statue was designed in honor of Rex, the lion that inspired the zoo’s creation more than 100 years ago,” NBC 7 reports. (Rex was one of the animals leftover from the Panama-California exposition.)
The statue of Rex is said to be the “largest cantilever bronze animal statue in the world.” I’d fact-check that claim, but frankly, I don’t want to get on this 27-foot lion statue’s bad side.
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 (asja.org). Please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.