San Diego’s old Central Library / Photo by Megan Wood
San Diego’s old Central Library / Photo by Megan Wood

In fall 2013, city librarians moved out of the old Central Library at Eighth Avenue and F Street and into the new Central Library on Park Boulevard. The city has struggled with how to handle the empty property ever since.

Lisa Halverstadt checked the status of efforts to redevelop the property more than six years after it shuttered and learned a 120-year-old deed is the latest challenge to stymie those long-delayed efforts.

An 1899 deed signed by civic leader George Marston seems to dictate that the property he sold to the city for $17,000 forever house a public library and reading room.

That deed remained under the radar until last spring as developer Lincoln Property Company prepared to pursue its plan to convert the old library into a creative office space with a ground-floor café and museum memorializing the building’s history.

The city attorney’s office maintains that the deed doesn’t keep the city from allowing the developer to pursue another project there.

But plans to overhaul the old library have ground to halt while the city and the developer debate what to do next. 

Housing Bond Measure Takes a Step Forward

The City Council rules committee considered a $900 million housing bond Wednesday and voted 4-1 to send the proposal to the full City Council. In the meantime, the city attorney’s office is tasked with conducting a legal analysis and drafting possible language for the November ballot.

If passed by voters, the bond would raise property taxes to build housing benefiting the city’s most vulnerable populations, including the homeless, seniors and low-income families. Last year, the City Council approved a homelessness plan that included a goal of building 2,800 permanent supportive housing units over the next decade.

Stephen Russell, executive director of the San Diego Housing Federation, estimated that the bond would over time increase property taxes by about $19 per year for every $100,000 of assessed value. He and others argued that the new units would help homelessness and serve as a safety net for people at risk.

Council members Monica Montgomery and Chris Ward, who’s carrying the proposal, voted yes. As did Councilwoman Barbara Bry, although her vote going into Wednesday’s discussion was not guaranteed.

She cast an earlier vote in favor of the proposal but then expressed skepticism. She said at a mayoral candidate forum that her support would depend on Measure C, a hotel-tax increase on the March ballot. That effort appears to have failed.

Before her vote Wednesday, Bry said she wanted to bring the proposal to the full City Council but had lingering questions about who would pay for the measure and how much before she would support it.

City Councilman Mark Kersey was the lone no vote. 

The Day in Coronavirus Updates

COVID-19 is now officially a pandemic, according to the World Health Organization. Here’s how life at some of the major agencies and institutions in San Diego is being altered: 

  • The Regional Task Force on the Homeless convened a meeting Wednesday with homeless service providers and other community leaders to discuss how to protect homeless San Diegans from coronavirus. After the meeting, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher and Mayor Kevin Faulconer emphasized the proactive coordination between the county and cities across the region, something the city and county struggled with during a deadly 2017 hepatitis A outbreak.

Fletcher said the county plans to distribute hygiene kits to homeless San Diegans that include information about the virus and is considering housing or shelter options for those who may need to be quarantined. Fletcher said the county is also working to place handwashing stations across the region, including near Metropolitan Transit System trolley stops at that agency’s request. Regional Task Force CEO Tamera Kohler said San Diego leaders have also benefited from guidance from the federal Housing and Urban Development officials as they try to aid homeless San Diegans who could be vulnerable to the virus. 

Prosecutors: Hunter Was Broke When He Dipped Into Campaign Funds

In a lengthy court filing, federal prosecutors say former Rep. Duncan Hunter tried to hide his role in the campaign finance scandal that ended his political career while also arguing publicly that he’d done nothing wrong, the U-T reports. 

The documents show that Hunter was living paycheck to paycheck for years and tapped into campaign funds to keep paying for family living expenses, lavish meals and luxury vacations, the Union-Tribune reports. He continued to do even after his staff warned him. 

Here’s a particularly stunning detail from the story: “There was in fact not a single month between 2009 and 2017 when the Hunter family bank account had a positive balance throughout the month,” the filing states.

Hunter is scheduled to be sentenced next week, and the U.S. attorney’s office is advocating that he spend 14 months in custody. Margaret Hunter, who was also indicted, is scheduled to be sentenced next month. 

Council Committee Approves Plan for School Board Members to Be Removed from Office

Back in April, all of Kevin Beiser’s fellow school board members called on him to resign, following allegations of sexual misconduct against him by four men. But Beiser did not resign and his fellow board members had no other recourse to force the issue. 

Now, City Council members are pushing a plan to change that. On Wednesday, the Council’s rules committee approved a ballot measure that would create a process to remove San Diego Unified School District board members from office. 

The full Council will still need to approve the ballot measure, which would then go before voters in November. The measure would give voters a chance to bring the rules for removing a San Diego Unified board member in line with the same rules that govern the City Council. 

If the measure makes it to the ballot and is approved by voters, it would create a two-step process to remove board members from office. First, three-fourths of board members would need to vote to remove the given member. Next, a majority of voters would need to approve the removal in a special election. 

In Other News

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

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

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