Chris Frahm, a former chairwoman of the San Diego County Water Authority, joined the agency’s outside legal team shortly after she left the agency’s board. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz
Chris Frahm, a former chairwoman of the San Diego County Water Authority, joined the agency’s outside legal team shortly after she left the agency’s board. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Water agencies’ biggest challenge used to be engineering — getting water from one place to another with feats of concrete and steel. Now water agencies increasingly sell water to one another and get involved in complicated legal disputes.

Over the past two decades, the San Diego County Water Authority’s lawsuits have become the center of a long-running dispute with a rival Southern California water agency.

Ry Rivard looks at a single law firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, that has received over $25 million from the Water Authority for its legal work.

One attorney is a former Water Authority board chairwoman who joined the firm within weeks of leaving the water agency 1999. She’s spent much of the past 20 years working on aspects of a deal that she helped construct as a public servant.

At one point, one of the firm’s other attorneys presented the Water Authority with chances to buy more water from two of the firm’s other clients. While the deals never came to pass, the confluence of players is an example of the close-knit nature of water politics in California, even when everything is done by the book.

This Road Is Smooth, That One Is Not

Ever wonder why some streets are paved before others? You’re not alone.

When figuring out which repairs to prioritize, Lisa Halverstadt reports, the city considers a couple things. For starters, a contractor needs to go and assess roughly 3,000 miles of roadway with a score. Then officials weigh the number of requests from residents against the volume of traffic on a particular street, any public safety issues, the funding available and other projects in the area.

Another assessment of the condition of the city’s streets is expected to kick off this year.

This story is a part of The People’s Reporter, a feature where the public can submit questions, readers vote on which questions they want answered and VOSD investigates. The question came from Mitch in Mission Hills.

You can submit a question of your own here.

State Sues City for Not Building Enough Housing

At the urging of Gov. Gavin Newsom, California’s attorney general is suing Huntington Beach for failing to build enough new homes to accommodate a growing population at all income levels.

Newsom, according to the Los Angeles Times, said the suit was needed because rising housing costs threaten the economy and deepen inequality. He suggested there may be more legal pressure on cities to come.

“The time for empty promises has come to an end,” says the state’s top law enforcement officer in the complaint.

Last month, the San Diego County Superior Court ordered Encinitas to draft and send the state a legally adequate plan that identifies possible sites for residential development. In the process, a judge temporarily suspended a local law giving residents veto power over major land use decisions.

The city has until April to comply with the court’s order.

Politics Roundup

  • The way that Republicans have responded to Assemblyman Brian Maienschein’s decision to leave the party says as much about them as it does him. Republican Assembly Leader Marie Waldron of Escondido called Maienschein a “turncoat” with no political philosophy. Others were more sympathetic. Combined, they mirrored larger tensions roiling the California GOP.
  • Democrats in the Legislature, on the other hand, were thrilled to have him. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez — whose husband, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, also left the GOP — confirmed to Scott Lewis that she’d applied some pressure on Maienschein. Still, the U-T reports, the Democrat who challenged Maienschein in November, Sunday Gover, has suggested she might challenge him again in 2020.
  • Because we’ve followed his career closely and his latest race in particular, this week’s Maienschein mania was like a gift from the podcast gods. There was plenty to dissect — including his shifting views on labor, gun control and more.
  • In non-Maienschein news, two of the leading Democratic contenders for San Diego mayor in 2020 say they want to build more affordable housing, but strike different tones on the current mayor’s plan to do it. (Union-Tribune)
  • At an Oceanside high school Saturday, Rep. Mike Levin took questions from his constituents for more than an hour. Much of the focus was on the storage of nuclear waste at San Onofre, which Levin described as the most important environmental issue locally. (Courthouse News Service)

In Other News

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

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