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Firefighters with San Diego Fire-Rescue Department’s Engine 12 race into the engine to respond to a medical aid call. / Photo by Sam Hodgson
Firefighters with San Diego Fire-Rescue Department’s Engine 12 race into the engine to respond to a medical aid call. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

The entire state is on edge thanks to a series of devastating wildfires, some of which are still burning.

But virtually all of the attention on prevention and areas of risk focuses on forestland and fire-prone parts of backcountry.

That’s because there’s no real risk of an urban wildfire in San Diego, right?

VOSD contributor Diana Leonard throws cold water on that thinking.

“San Diego’s unique topography sets the stage for what could actually be a damaging wildfire: flammable vegetation on steep slopes — fire can burn faster upslope — with older neighborhoods sitting at the top of these slopes,” she writes in a new story laying out the risk. “This is what’s called the wildland-urban interface, where the city meets nature. The two are tightly woven here.”

Though new homes are required to meet certain fireproofing standards, “the building standards, however, do not mandate retrofits of existing older homes. And the hazard zones fall within many of San Diego’s classic ‘streetcar suburbs,’ most built by the 1940s.”

Inside National City PD’s Disturbing History

As VOSD’s Jesse Marx delved into the fallout over the death of Earl McNeil in National City, both the mayor and the police chief there made some seriously stunning statements about the situation.

One of those was when Mayor Ron Morrison defended the department by emphasizing how far it had come – and in doing so made a startling statement about what the department used to be like:

Thirty years ago, he said, the city’s police chief intentionally picked up officers who had been dismissed by other agencies for being too aggressive.

“We had a reputation for being a cowboy police department, but that has not been true for 25 years,” he said. “The police department today is nowhere near that nature.”

Marx delved into that history and indeed found a disturbing record of brutality, profiling and federal probes in the 1980s.

How bad were things? “During National City Police Chief Terry Hart’s tenure in the 1980s, the city had sustained such a high number of citizen complaints that the FBI and other local law enforcement agencies in the region began to investigate, according to the Times. The San Diego Police Department said two of its own cops had been injured by National City officers while collaborating on an arrest.”

More Minors and Families Are Coming to the California Border

There’s been a slight drop overall in people caught crossing into the United States illegally, but here in California the trend is different: The number of minors and families entering the country without authorization has gone up, Maya Srikrishnan writes in the latest Border Report.

Arrest of minors crossing illegally in San Diego has increased by 58 percent since last year. That’s far higher than the 17 percent increase of apprehensions of minors across the entire U.S.-Mexico border,” Srikrishnan reports.

City (Tentatively) Wins Another Round in Years-Long Plaza de Panama Fight

City officials are cheering a tentative court ruling they believe will pave the way for the groundbreaking of the long-stalled Plaza de Panama project.

Superior Court Judge Gregory Pollack on Monday issued a tentative ruling saying that the city’s plan to fund an overhaul of Balboa Park’s central mesa with bonds was legal despite a challenge by San Diegans for Open Government.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer and City Attorney Mara Elliott on Monday issued statements hailing the tentative decision. The city’s now projecting the project could break ground as soon as next year.

But roadblocks remain. For one, philanthropists need to raise money for their share of the $80 million project.

Bruce Coons of Save Our Heritage Organisation, which has appealed a separate decision in the city’s favor, said the preservationist group could also seek an injunction if the city tries to proceed before his group’s case is addressed.

And attorney Cory Briggs, who pursued the case challenging the city’s bond financing plan, hinted to the Union-Tribune that he may appeal.

Briggs Promises Lawsuit (And Requests Prosecution) on Civic Scandal

It wasn’t hard to see this one coming.

Late Thursday, the city’s Ethics Commission gave an $11,000 fine to Phil Rath, chair of Civic San Diego, for failing to disclose his financial relationship with a developer and then voting (twice) to give the developer a major development project in southeastern San Diego within a year of the company paying him $100,000.

On Monday, Briggs sent us a complaint he said had just been filed in Superior Court asking to revoke the city’s decision to award the development deal (including nearly $6 million in city affordable housing funds).

He also sent a formal request to the district attorney and city attorney asking that they civilly prosecute Rath for his votes and his failure to disclose his relationship with the developer.

After we finalized our Friday story on Rath’s ethical violations — which the chair of the Ethics Commission called “egregious” — we received this comment from Andrew Phillips, interim president of Civic San Diego: “Civic San Diego is committed to moving projects forward in an ethical and transparent manner,” he wrote. “It is up to individual board members to work with their own legal counsel, our corporate counsel and the ethics commission in order to identify and vet personal conflicts of interest.”

In Other News

  • It’s a blockbuster year for women candidates, but Republican women aren’t quite feeling that enthusiasm. Republican Diane Harkey, who’s running for the 49th Congressional District, told the New York Times, “I don’t think it helps to talk about gender.”
  • In an op-ed, Andy Kopp writes that the city should create incentives for downtown landlords to rent to Navy service members.
  • A development in East Village has 91 micro-units, or tiny apartments that are about 300 square feet. A separate developer told VOSD late last year that city regulations made it hard and expensive to build the tiny units. (10News)

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby.

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