Fire crews attempt to contain a wildfire in 2007. / Photo by Rob Davis

Rural and suburban homeowners are increasingly coming to rely on the state’s insurer of last resort because of growing wildfire risk. Other insurance companies are dumping customers in fire-prone areas or dramatically increasing prices.

Ry Rivard looks at the California FAIR Plan Association, which insures nearly 5,000 homes in San Diego.

The FAIR Plan’s share of the home insurance market remains relatively small. It covers about 130,000 of the state’s 8 million insured homes.

Now the FAIR Plan, along with the wider insurance industry, are a sort of canary in the coal mine for how California deals with wildfire risk.

When insurance is too freely available, it creates perverse incentives, like homes built in flood plains.

When insurance is hard to come by or too expensive, homeowners yowl. Just when they need insurance the most, insurers have decided to cut and run.

Former state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said some of the recent focus on home insurance ignores larger questions, like whether to put a community in a fire-prone area in the first place. Those decisions take years – developers plan a project, get approval, start construction and then sell the homes. The last thing anyone is thinking about is insurance.

“By the time you get to insurance it’s too late,” Jones said. “It’s already all there.”

UN Observer Says We’ve Misdirected Our Homelessness Outrage

A United Nations observer this week seized on San Diego’s policing of homelessness and the human rights implications of its homelessness crisis. 

In a Wednesday night speech at San Diego State University and an earlier meeting with reporters, U.N. Special Rapporteur Leilani Farha decried what she described as a “cruel” local approach to homelessness after spending three days visiting homeless camps, a homeless shelter and meeting with homeless San Diegans and local officials. She has shared her outraged conclusions on Twitter throughout her visit. 

Farha said homeless people are often forced to move along when they have nowhere else to go, complicating their ability to get off the street.

Local policies often punish homeless San Diegans for a plight that Farha said could be considered violations of the international right to adequate housing, the right to life and the right to be free from cruel and inhumane treatment.

“The outrage provoked by homelessness has been directed at homeless people themselves rather than the laws, the policies and the decision makers who have enabled it,” Farha said. 

Still, Farha said she came away from a Wednesday afternoon meeting with city and county officials convinced that they are committed to addressing the crisis. 

It’s not clear what actions might follow Farha’s visit, which was considered unofficial, but Julieta Perucca, a senior aide to Farha, said the special rapporteur hopes to continue talking with San Diego officials.

Hate Crimes Against Latinos on the Rise Across State

District Attorney Summer Stephan dropped a few revealing stats Wednesday on the campus of Cal State San Marcos at a forum organized by community advocates and law enforcement who specialize in hate crimes.

Between 2017 and 2018, she said, the total number of reported hate crimes across California decreased 3 percent, but the number of hate crimes involving Latinos specifically increased 18 percent. And while the number of total hate crimes in San Diego also decreased, she noted, the number of local prosecutions has skyrocketed by 230 percent.

That suggests more investigations of hate crimes are leading to the filing of charges because investigators and communities are better cooperating with one another.

Stephan and several other speakers shared tips and resources with the public so that the signs of hate don’t fester and build into something like the massacre that took place recently in El Paso.

Yusef Miller, president of the Islamic Society of North County, urged a “reality check” of the systemic problems in American society. “Hatred is not new in this country,” he said. “It is simply emboldened.”

U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer also stressed that San Diegans needs to come to terms with their region’s hateful past. He pointed to a recent story about white supremacy in the Union-Tribune and encouraged people to speak out about hate and bias when they encounter it.

“We all have a responsibility to change this trajectory of hate, both individually and collectively,” he said.

Reporter Jesse Marx asked Brewer if that would include calling out the president of the United States — Brewer’s boss — for racist remarks, but he declined to answer. Shocking, we know!

Developers Unveil Plans for Trolley Development in Bay Park

The City Council earlier this month made way for more than 9,000 homes near two new stations on the $2 billion Mid-Coast trolley line, but steered away from making any changes near a third station, at Clairemont Drive and Morena Boulevard.

Wednesday, developers for the property surrounding that third trolley station unveiled their plans for a new housing and retail project that they say is a model for a more transit-focused development vision for San Diego, the Union-Tribune reports.

Their plan would build about 150 homes near the station in four-story buildings. The site had been the source of major community opposition when the city once flirted with lifting the area’s thirty-foot height limit. Approving a new plan that surpasses the height limit will require Council approval.

The site was also the source of a fight between the property owner and the San Diego Association of Governments, which was threatening to take the property through eminent domain as part of developing the trolley station. At the time, the developer was proposing just 40 new units.

Atkins Sees Long Negotiations With Lyft, Uber on Contract Employees

There was a lot of buzz about comments state Senate President Toni Atkins made to Capitol Public Radio about AB 5, the contentious bill that would codify a new legal interpretation of what it would take to classify a worker as a contractor and not an employee. The bill passed the Assembly but Atkins could have a major role in what happens to it in the Senate. 

The bill could have major consequences for companies like Uber and Lyft and food delivery services whose workers may have to become employees or lose their gigs. Atkins said an effort to compromise with those companies – and perhaps create yet another class of worker – could last another year. But she clarified that the bill probably will still go forward. Or maybe not: She also clarified she wasn’t making any predictions. 

“Her office later clarified that while she believes it’s ‘very, very challenging,’ she is not ruling out the consideration of a compromise separate and apart from AB 5 before the end of session,” wrote Ben Adler. 

In Other News

  • A UCSD whistleblower has come forward in an anonymous letter to top university officials alleging researchers have put thousands of research subjects at risk by ignoring ethical and legal guidelines meant to protect human participants. (inewsource)
  • A lawsuit challenging Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s plan to build protected bike lanes on 30th Street in North Park that alleges the plan runs afoul of the state’s landmark environmental law “appears to be a longshot.” (KPBS) 
  • San Diego’s inflation rate is among the highest in the nation. (Union-Tribune)

The Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts, Jesse Marx and Lisa Halverstadt, and edited by Sara Libby.

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