Opponents of vacation rentals attend at a San Diego City Council meeting on July 16. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

In the halls of the state Capitol, SB 50, a measure to allow far more home-building near transit, was very controversial.

There are lots of anecdotes that show this is true, including the fact that the bill was abruptly shelved, and that Sen. Toni Atkins’ staff tried to edit the section of her Wikipedia page detailing her involvement in its demise. Most journalists, myself included, adopted some version of shorthand to describe it that typically included the word “controversial.”

There’s a problem with all that, though.

SB 50 wasn’t, actually, controversial outside the Capitol.

A poll released this week found a strong majority of Californians support the kind of changes the bill would make.

The head of the institute that conducted the survey told the Los Angeles Times “it’s possible that lawmakers heard from those most passionately opposed to SB 50, whose views did not reflect the broader public sentiment.”

It certainly wouldn’t be the first time – particularly when it comes to anything involving building more housing, or letting people rent out existing housing on a short-term basis – but it also speaks to a broader issue regarding the accessibility of government bodies.

Setting aside the fact that San Diegans are physically separated from our state government in Sacramento by an incredible distance, even accessing local government is difficult.

San Diego Unified recently changed its policies so that anyone who wants to comment on a schools-related issue that’s not on the board’s official agenda must sit through an hours-long school board meeting, on a weeknight. Given that the people most likely to have a schools-related issue are parents with children who need to be fed and put to bed at that time, it’s not ideal.

Other government bodies, like the City Council and the Board of Supervisors, meet in the middle of the day in the middle of the week, when people are most likely to be at work. (The county, for what it’s worth, has taken some recent steps to acknowledge this, including by having public hearings on its budget and at least one of those in the evening.)

That inevitably creates a situation in which only a limited slice of people are in a position to attend. There’s also the natural inevitability that people aren’t likely to show up to speak out about things they’re passively fine with.

Sitting through those meetings, to be sure, is a public service. But it also means public officials have a special responsibility on issues attracting intense, loud reactions to make sure they’re doing everything they can to engage their constituents and ensure they’re not only hearing from the people with the time, access and means to make their voices heard.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Showering a student with praise. Singling him or her out for mentorship. Those all sound like great things for a teacher to do, right? That’s precisely why schools have such a hard time cracking down on s-called grooming behavior, a precursor to serious abuse.

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SDG&E plans to keep shutting off power in the backcountry when it suspects fire risk is high – and other utilities plan to follow its lead.

Meanwhile, two agencies that deliver water to small areas of San Diego County plan to secede from the San Diego County Water Authority and instead buy water from Riverside County for much cheaper.

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Who’s in charge in Balboa Park? Despite the fact that the Balboa Park Conservancy was created eight years ago to answer this question, no one seems to know.

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Almost every day, federal law enforcement agencies send out press releases touting high-profile immigration arrests. But as we’ve seen over and over, the cases against the accused quietly fall apart – and the people arrested must deal with the long-term consequences.

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On the podcast, Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear talked housing and transit. Speaking of transit, a bill moving through the Legislature that would buy SANDAG some time before it must meet state-mandated deadlines for its growth blueprint passed another hurdle this week. And MTS Chair Georgette Gómez shot down the idea that that agency’s vision for the future is in conflict with SANDAG’s.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“There is a drag race, but it is the kind with cars, and nobody in it is having any fun performing gender. They are followed by a pair of khakis as high as a house. Behind them is a sofa from a sitcom, on which a man of average intelligence and below-average looks sits next to a slender, elegant, witty goddess with no apparent dissonance.” – Scenes from the straight pride parade

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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