The Grossmont High football field / Photo by Ashly McGlone

Grossmont Union High School District officials wanted to fire a warehouse employee who they said ogled students’ bodies and made vulgar sexual remarks about them to coworkers.

Instead, they paid him $80,000 and agreed not to tell prospective employers about any misconduct, after the worker took steps to sue the district.

It’s yet another glimpse into how school districts deal with problem employees, and an example of how district officials often opt to cut deals in order to avoid long, drawn-out battles over firing someone.

Grossmont officials cited employee “due process rights” as a factor in their decision-making. The ousted employee didn’t deny making the remarks, but told VOSD, “I never sexually harassed and never hunted down girls.”

He said he made lewd remarks among other coworkers, and believes he should have gotten a bigger payout from the district.

Cartels Play a Big Role in Cross-Border Drug Prosecutions

Though the amount of drugs crossing the border into the United States has been going up, prosecutions of drug-smuggling crimes are going down.

Some court watchers believe that’s because the U.S. government is laser-focused on prosecuting minor immigration crimes at the expense of other violations.

But, as Maya Srikrishnan reports in this week’s Border Report, what’s happening in Mexico also plays a role in prosecutions here.

The landscape for Mexican drug cartels has shifted over the last few years, which has impacted drug-trafficking patterns.

“And now, an incoming Mexican federal administration says it plans on taking a new approach to combating the drug violence, meaning U.S. officials have not only had to adapt to changes in the criminal landscape and drug trafficking patterns, but perhaps to changes in Mexico’s federal government,” Srikrishnan writes.

City Clears Way for Twice as Many Homes in Midway

Andrew Keatts chimes in: The City Council on Monday adopted a new community plan for Midway-Pacific Highway, allowing developers to build nearly 11,000 new homes and setting the stage for a redevelopment of the Sports Arena.

The city has in recent years updated a handful of community plans in hopes that streamlined regulations would let developers build more homes to satisfy population growth. The new Midway-Pacific Highway plan more than doubles the homes that can be built in the coming decades.

The city has repeatedly committed to building new housing in already-developed areas, so people live closer to transit and jobs, lowering the region’s carbon footprint by allowing peopleto drive less. The city’s Climate Action Plan envisions halving greenhouse emissions by 2035, in part by getting half of residents living near transit to bike, walk or take transit to work.

But almost all Midway residents will keep driving to work even under the new plan, according to city staff’s analysis.

Staff says 89 percent of area residents will drive to work, with transit use increasing from 6 percent today to 8 percent in 2035. But people will also drive less, with the average person driving 56 percent fewer miles in 2035 than they do today.

“We’re far short of our Climate Action Plan goals for this area,” said Councilman Chris Ward. “I’m really nervous for how we’re going to be able to reach even close to our goals citywide.”

Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, who represents the area, put the brakes on the plan in the spring over congestion concerns. The plan now calls for the city to work with state and local agencies to build new connector ramps between I-8 and I-5, and to pursue creation of a special district that could generate tax revenue for infrastructure projects.

“After working with staff we have come up with I think a much better plan,” Zapf said.

In the spring, Councilman Scott Sherman joked that the plan wouldn’t be delayed if it wasn’t an election year, but there was no sizable opposition to the plan in the end and it didn’t develop into any sort of political headache for Zapf.

Now that the plan is in place, the city can start pursuing a redevelopment of the land it owns underneath and surrounding the aging Sports Arena. The city owns 43 acres there, and is letting leases expire so it has a blank slate for redevelopment after May 2020. A public poll earlier this year tested the waters on redevelopment that would include a new arena. Some of the businesses in the area aren’t feeling the city’s ambitions.

Backcountry Developments in Limbo

The site of the Newland Sierra development in San Marcos. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

From VOSD’s Ry Rivard: Several major new housing developments are now in limbo because a judge found the County Board of Supervisors has been relying on a legally dubious plan to ensure new developments don’t contribute to global warming.

Over the past nine years, the County Board of Supervisors has repeatedly signed off on “climate action plans” that courts have found weak and inadequate. Under state law, the county is supposed to be working to curb the release of greenhouse gases. In its latest plan, though, the county allows developers to pollute more, if they plan to offset that pollution by planting trees or otherwise reducing pollution in other areas.

San Diego Superior Court Judge Timothy B. Taylor issued an order, released Monday, that said the county’s current plan appeared so weak that the Board of Supervisors is temporarily forbidden from approving new backcountry developments. The judge’s ruling is only in effect until more arguments can be heard in the case, though the next major hearing isn’t until December.

There’s now dispute over what projects the ruling covers. The biggest project pending before the board is Newland Sierra, a 2,100-unit development proposed near San Marcos. The head of the project, Rita Brandin, said the ruling doesn’t apply to Newland because, even though her project uses an offset plan similar to the county’s, it’s not the same.

Josh Chatten-Brown, a lawyer for the Sierra Club, which has been fighting the county since 2012, said the county shouldn’t play “word games” and risks being held in contempt of court if it approves Newland.

During a Friday hearing, Taylor appeared to grow impatient with attorneys for the county who made an unusual legal maneuver in attempt to change his mind before he issued the ruling.

Bauder, Out

Don Bauder, the acerbic analyst of San Diego business and politics for many years dating back to his stint as business editor for the Union and Union Tribune, is retiring at 82 from his writing job with the Reader. In his farewell piece, Bauder reflects on his time at the U-T.

I got in trouble when I saw the planned Padres and Chargers subsidies as scams on the taxpayers. I thought billionaires should build their own stadiums, but the newspaper, which got abundant advertising from its sports pages, didn’t see it that way,” he wrote.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby, and edited by Andrew Keatts.

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