Residents wait to be helped at the city’s new homeless navigation center in East Village. The center is meant to be a “one-stop-shop” linking clients with services and resources. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz
Residents wait to be helped at the city’s new homeless navigation center in East Village. The center is meant to be a “one-stop-shop” linking clients with services and resources. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

San Diego’s new homelessness plan gave city leaders a long list of resolutions for 2020 and beyond.

The plan approved by the City Council last fall calls for the city to deliver thousands of new supportive housing units, more housing aid and improvements to the city’s homeless-service system over the next decade.

Lisa Halverstadt checked in with key officials who report that they spent the final months of 2019 ramping up efforts tied to the plan’s early goals and trying to pave the way for more progress in the new year.

For example, the City Council has signed off on plans to expand an existing shelter in its City Hall complex in 2020 and to ink a contract necessary to open another in East Village late last year — moves that bureaucrats believe will help the city meet an early goal to halve street homelessness in the next three years.

Molly Chase, chief of staff to City Councilman Chris Ward, also says Ward is eager to champion efforts early this year to set annual housing development targets and to place a $900 million affordable housing bond on the November ballot, both of which he believes will be crucial to meeting the plan’s significant housing goals.

Worth noting: Plans could shift later after a new mayor takes office at the end of the year. As Halverstadt reported last month, the city’s leading mayoral candidates have their own takes on the plan and where the city should focus its homelessness efforts.  

‘Losing San Diego Is the Whole Ballgame’ for the GOP

San Diego voters did not go to the polls in 2019. Yet the Republican Party lost control of three seats at the city, county and state level.

Things aren’t looking much better in 2020. Considering that Republicans didn’t have a candidate until a couple weeks ago, it’s entirely possible the mayor’s office — which has been held by a Republican for 26 of the last 27 years — will be next.

In a new piece, Andrew Keatts considers the future of an organization that until recently dominated local politics and served an important role in statewide competitions.

Not long ago, consistent Republican victories in both San Diego and Orange County counterbalanced losses in Los Angeles and San Francisco, pushing the partisan electoral fight to the Inland Empire and Central Valley

“Losing San Diego is losing the whole ballgame,” said one Republican strategist. “That’s the end of viability for the party. It just can’t be done.”

The defections in 2019 are putting increased urgency on the County Board of Supervisors, where Republicans still maintain an advantage. Kristin Gaspar took the seat away from a Democrat in 2016, and she’s now running for re-election in District 3. 

It’ll be worth watching how the Chamber of Commerce and other right-of-center groups recalibrate in the coming years, and whether the Democratic Party is willing to accept them into the fold. 

The Future of Cars Will Be a Driving Force in 2020

We all know about the Sunshine Tax, which is the extra money we pay to live in San Diego. But there’s also the car tax. Just to function and hold down a job requires one to spend thousands of dollars annually.

“The government may not require you to own a car, but it has created a landscape and expectations that, to be a productive resident, require one,” Scott Lewis writes in a personal essay. “And thus, you have to absorb the costs of maintaining it, storing it, insuring it, fueling it.”

Lewis’ piece is about his own complicated relationship with the automobile, and he’s not alone.

NBC San Diego recently profiled a North Park family that has attempted to lead an active recreational life without relying too heavily on a car. That fact alone is newsworthy in a place where every housing discussion tends to come back to traffic and parking.

Local and state laws require San Diego to radically retrofit itself, and in 2020 we all have to decide whether we want to make it possible for anyone to live here without a car, especially those treading water at the poverty line. 

Speaking of how expensive everything is … 

Relying on an analysis by the real estate site Zillow, the Union-Tribune reports that the median San Diego rent increased by nearly 54 percent over the last 10 years, which was higher than the national figure. At the same time, the total amount of money San Diegans spent on rent rose in comparison to wages and other living costs. 

State Auditor to San Diego Unified: Drop the Jargon

Parents struggling to understand a state process meant to give them more input on district spending and priorities apparently have allies in the state auditor’s office.

In the latest Learning Curve, Will Huntsberry highlights an overlooked section of an audit released late last year that pointed out districts’ overuse of jargon, complicated explanations and redundant information in Local Control and Accountability Plans meant to lay out how districts will spend their money to shrink achievement gaps.

Auditors concluded that San Diego Unified and other districts’ hard-to-understand plans reduced transparency and seized on a particularly indecipherable passage from San Diego’s plan that included references to “Integrated MultiTiered Systems of Support (IMTSS)” and the “Academics and Agency (A²) model.”

Relief could be coming. The state Board of Education is set to consider revisions to the LCAP template this month that could simplify the process for parents and other stakeholders.

Stumbling Into the New Year Like …

San Diego officials released a new plan to spend up to $100 million over the next decade to fix more than 81,000 city sidewalks to stem a recent tide of large injury payouts, the Union-Tribune reports. During the last five years alone, that number has reached $11 million and counting.

You may remember that in 2017 a jury awarded nearly $85,000 to Cynthia Hedgecock, the wife a former mayor, after she fell and ruptured a breast implant.

The city’s sidewalk rules are bizarre. Homeowners and business owners are responsible for repairing and maintaining the sidewalks outside their properties, but the city is legally liable if someone gets hurt.

As Megan Wood reported over the summer, the $100 million investment is almost twice what the city estimated four years ago. One setback has been the long wait for residents who choose to take advantage of a cost-sharing repair program with the city — anywhere from nine months to a year.

To help speed up repairs and encourage property owners to act on their own, officials will also consider reducing or eliminating permit fees. 

In Other News 

  • Rep. Juan Vargas’ lone Democratic challenger has failed to qualify for the March ballot. (Union-Tribune) 
  • County health officials report that flu cases surged during the holidays. (City News Service)
  • Twenty-two women who claimed they were duped into making online porn videos they believed would never be posted on the web have tentatively been awarded nearly $13 million after a civil fraud trial against San Diego-based GirlsDoPorn. NBC 7 San Diego first reported on the elaborate scheme last year. 
  • A single San Diego attorney’s office has filed a half dozen lawsuits against the Catholic Diocese of San Diego over abuse allegations involving now-deceased priests and reports that 60 others are in the works following a new state law temporarily expanding the statute of limitations for lawsuits over child sexual abuse. (Times of San Diego)
  • Public defenders who work on low-level illegal entry cases are objecting to a new glass partition that divides them from migrant defendants. No other federal courtrooms in San Diego have such a barrier. (Union-Tribune) 

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

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