The Edward J. Schwartz federal courthouse building in downtown San Diego / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The court system known as Operation Streamline – a separate, fast-tracked system for prosecuting migrants en masse – upended San Diego’s federal courts after it was introduced last year. The sudden surge in misdemeanor prosecutions led to chaos that angered judges and in some cases might have deprived migrants of their rights.

Though the surge of cases has waned, challenges to the system are moving forward. In a new story, Maya Srikrishnan lays out two challenges to the system brought by San Diego defense attorneys that went before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals this week.

One argues that the separate system is akin to school segregation – one that illegally deprives defendants of their equal protection under the law. Another argues that because the defendants in Operation Streamline are held in Border Patrol stations that aren’t equipped to meet their basic human needs, their guilty pleas were essentially coerced. The federal government objected to both of those arguments, and said the system is constitutional. 

City Council Approves Inclusionary Housing Update

The City Council voted 7-2 on Tuesday to update an affordable housing mandate that City Council President Georgette Gómez made her top priority this year.

City Council members Vivian Moreno and Mark Kersey joined five City Council Democrats who have consistently supported the measure in backing the new so-called inclusionary housing policy, a nod to updates that now have the support of development and business groups that once opposed it.

After the vote, Mayor Kevin Faulconer – who previously vetoed the policy – told The Union-Tribune he supports the updated version and “look(s) forward to signing it into law.”

The city’s current inclusionary housing policy essentially gives market-rate developers a choice: Incorporate affordable housing units in their projects or pay a fee to fund low-income housing elsewhere.

The updated policy pushed by Gómez calls for builders to make 10 percent of their units affordable to San Diegans making an average of 60 percent of the area median income, a slight tweak from the current policy – or to comply in a handful of other ways, including a heftier fee. That larger fee to avoid building affordable housing on site will increase to $25 per square foot over a longer phase-in period than originally envisioned.

Gómez and other City Council members acknowledged Tuesday the city must do far more to address its affordable housing shortage.

Last year, a Voice of San Diego analysis found the policy had helped deliver roughly a third of the affordable homes built over the last decade but that those units represented just 8 percent of the affordable homes the state called on the city to build by 2020 to meet local demand.

“I definitely stand by this update. I do think that’s moving the needle forward,” Gómez said before the City Council vote. “Is it the solution? No, we really need to do much more to make sure we are housing low-income San Diegans.”

City Councilman Scott Sherman, who’s running for mayor, urged his colleagues to focus on other ways to spur more housing development.

“My colleagues passed this measure with good intentions, however, they are hurting the very people they are trying to help by increasing the cost of housing production,” Sherman wrote in a statement.

City of Spokespeople Gets New Spokesperson

Gómez was just re-elected Council president.

Her first governance move in the new term? She hired former CityBeat Editor Dave Rolland as the first City Council communications director. 

“The communications strategy will facilitate greater connection with residents through the sharing of goals, priorities and accomplishments of the City Council,” Gómez said in a statement. 

So if you’re keeping track: The mayor has several spokespeople. The city staff has its own separate director of the communications department. Major departments have their own spokespeople – like the police and public utilities. The city attorney has a spokesperson. And each City Council member has one. 

Now, the City Council as a whole has a spokesman. It will be an interesting challenge for him to represent a diverse group. 

“I’m excited to see the plan to elevate the message of the Republicans on the Council and our proposals,” said Councilman Chris Cate, in a written statement. His tongue might, or might not, have been in his cheek. 

City to Expand Shelter at City Hall Complex

The City Council unanimously voted Tuesday to double the capacity of a shelter in the City Hall complex that was once considered a temporary solution.

The Union-Tribune reports that the shelter for women and families at Golden Hall will expand to 279 beds and begin welcoming young adults between 18 and 25 years old early next year.

This spring, Faulconer decided to temporarily move a shelter run by nonprofit Father Joe’s Villages to the second floor of the Golden Hall event center to accommodate families when the Father Joe’s shelter tent at 14th and Commercial streets in East Village shuttered to make way for a housing project. Then, in June, the City Council made a surprise decision to keep using Golden Hall as a shelter.

Now the city is planning to pair $705,000 in state Homeless Emergency Aid Program funds with $3.6 million in city funds to expand the shelter and contract with the LGBT Community Center and San Diego Youth Services to serve homeless young adults.

The City Council also separately voted Tuesday to establish a $2 million fund to aid homeless San Diegans who need flexible subsidies to access housing or avoid ending up on the street. 

City Councilman Chris Ward, who chairs the countywide group coordinating the region’s response to homelessness, said the shelter expansion and flexible funding pool will help the city make progress on goals in its new homelessness plan to halve street homelessness and end youth homelessness in the next three years.

“These additional beds will help serve the 353 homeless youth in the city of San Diego and a new flexible funding pool allows us to provide different ways of immediate support requested by homeless San Diegans, thereby moving them into housing faster and getting us closer to achieving the goals identified in our Community Action Plan on Homelessness,” Ward wrote in a statement.

In Other News

  • inewsource finds that homeless camps in the city’s many brush-filled canyons are increasingly fueling concerns about fires.
  • Chula Vista voters will decide in March whether to nix a 2010 measure banning contracts that mandate union-friendly agreements for city projects, the Union-Tribune reports.
  • NBC 7 reports that a former county sheriff’s deputy who assaulted 16 women while on duty has been sentenced to five years in prison but will not have to register as a sex offender.  
  • The county will look into opening an office in Tijuana to aid deported veterans, City News Service reports. 

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, and edited by Sara Libby.

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