The Morning Report
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Photo by Sam Hodgson

In just two decades, the San Diego County Water Authority’s first female general manager accomplished what generations of men had not: Under Maureen Stapleton’s leadership, San Diego acquired its own supplies of water.

Now, though, amid a water war her work has inflamed, she is accused of leading the agency into the gutter.

In May, one of the Water Authority’s board members said an intoxicated Stapleton came up to him at an industry event and accused him of sleeping with an employee at a rival water agency.

Since then, several other people have said the incident wasn’t the first time the Water Authority has become bitter and personal under Stapleton’s leadership.

We examined Stapleton’s career, from a major water deal that put her on the map as one of the most powerful women in water to the fight that deal set off between San Diego and the biggest water agency in California.

However she is remembered, the string of water projects Stapleton worked on – from a new desalination plant to new dams – will be affixed to San Diego’s landscape and economy for decades to come.

What’s next: An investigation into the May incident and the reaction of the Water Authority’s board in coming weeks will decide whether Stapleton is able to end her years at the Water Authority on a good note.

Shocking, Brand New Information: Housing Is Expensive

The city released its first housing inventory report Tuesday. It found that the city is one of the least affordable markets in the country, with about 70 percent of moderate-income households unable to afford the cost of a home.

Although San Diego has contributed nearly 53 percent of the region’s affordable housing stock, it’s still far short of its goal. The city had planned to construct about 88,000 new housing units between 2010 and 2020, but has only seen 38 percent of that.

“You can’t change what you don’t measure,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a press release, “so I believe sharing this information with the public is important as we push for civic action on permit streamlining and housing reforms.”

Officials also determined that most of the new units were for above-moderate-income residents while only 13 percent were for very-low and low-income residents. Stakeholders have been arguing over what kind of housing the region needs verses what’s being built on our op-ed pages.

The latest volley comes from JP Theberge, creator of Grow the San Diego Way, which provides data and analysis on housing issues. “Left to its own devices, the building industry will always gravitate to the most profitable, high-end housing projects,” he writes.

A separate report from Harvard released Tuesday showed five of the country’s six highest-cost metro areas are in California, including San Diego.

The City’s Stormwater Mess

From Ry Rivard: Water bills in the city of San Diego may need to go up by about $9 a month on average to help the city deal with flood control and improve the quality of rivers and streams. A new city audit looks into how poorly funded the city’s stormwater program is. Stormwater is a fancy name for water on the ground after it rains.

For years, mayors and city councils have refused to completely tackle this major infrastructure issue, the audit concludes. Now, stormwater is among the most underfunded infrastructure issues in the city. This can lead to flooding, sinkholes, metal and bacteria-filled streams and toxic coastal waters.

The audit shames city leaders for lacking the political will to raise a fee meant to fund stormwater projects.

In San Diego, the fee is 95 cents a month for single-family homes and hasn’t been raised in two decades. Now, the city is pulling $73 million a year out of the general fund to pay for projects, and it’s still tens of millions short of what is actually needed.

In 2016, a report recommended raising the fee, but so far, no city leader has done much to advance the issue.

In a response to the audit, Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office said if raising fees requires voter approval, the city would deal with that in 2022. The mayor leaves office at the end of 2020.

Make Organ Music Great Again

San Diego Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez / Photo by Kinsee Morlan

San Diego’s new civic organist is keeping up the tradition of free concerts in Balboa Park, but wants to make organ music more accessible to more people, especially kids, Kinsee Morlan writes in this week’s Culture Report. His programs include theme songs from popular movies and TV shows and Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

Local GOP Leaders Criticize Family Separation Policy

Former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Faulconer, a Republican, spoke out against to the Trump administration’s policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border. “Families shouldn’t be used as bargaining chips in the fight over how to repair our broken immigration system,” he said in a statement.

Former Mayor Jerry Sanders, a Republican who’s CEO of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, also condemned the policy in a statement: “What is occurring at our southern border is not a security measure. A successful border management plan has nothing to do with separating children from their parents.”

In Other News

  • The San Diego City Council on Tuesday rejected changes to the development code that would have made it easier to open charter schools, and allowed them to house more students. Councilman Scott Sherman said in a statement that his colleagues “chose to do the bidding of their union bosses over the best interests of San Diego students.”
  • San Diego is now home to 19 marijuana dispensaries, 13 of which have also received a necessary state license. KPBS reports that only one City Council member voted against the latest permit, located in Sorrento Valley, this week and that opposition came from a neighborhood planning group as well as a competing applicant.
  • But you’ve been warned: Pot’s not allowed in any of the dozens of new urban gardens expected to sprout up across the city soon, according to the Union-Tribune.
  • National City Mayor Ron Morrison is stuck with 5,000 water bottles that he helped donate to local students but that district officials decided were too political. (NBC 7)
  • Meanwhile, National City Councilman Jerry Cano has corrected a dozen building code violations at his home. For years, he’d avoided fines, and a fellow Council member recently called on the city to investigate. (Union-Tribune)
  • The bizarre story of a Customs and Border Protection agent who allegedly pressured a reporter to reveal her sources took a weird San Diego turn: The agent apparently also tried to launch a craft brewing company in Little Italy called “Social Jacks.” (BuzzFeed)

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the possible increase to city water bills in order for the city to address stormwater issues. The increase would be about $9 a month on average.

The Morning Report was written and compiled by Ry Rivard and Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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