The Duwara Consciousness Foundation gives out free meals to homeless residents in downtown during the coronavirus pandemic. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano

Homeless San Diegans are increasingly struggling to secure meals as groups that once served food to those living on the street have stopped coming amid coronavirus closures and public health directives.

Homeless people and those who advocate for them tell VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt and Kayla Jimenez that many are grappling with hunger and desperation as meal deliveries and services – both planned and impromptu – that they relied on have been dialed back.

And those that have stepped up to fill the gap have been inundated and have faced new challenges as they try to meet the exploding need.

Exhibit A: Within days of increasing its services, a nonprofit  serving vegan burritos out of a trailer in East Village began attracting hundreds of homeless San Diegans. 

This Isn’t San Diego’s First Pandemic

School closures, mandates to wear masks, city leaders frustrated by residents refusing to take the crisis seriously … sound familiar?

In a new history lookback, VOSD contributor Randy Dotinga revisits how earlier pandemics, including the deadly 1918 influenza outbreak, impacted San Diego.

“Should citizens be required to wear masks? Must businesses shut down? What price should we pay to protect ourselves from each other?” Dotinga writes. “San Diego, like many American cities, swerved around these questions, changing course multiple times and ignoring early warnings. Then we would endure the local effects of two more worldwide pandemics in the 20th century.”

Border Traffic Plummets

In the latest Border Report, Maya Srikrishnan snapshots the ways in which the novel coronavirus is – and isn’t – changing for the border region.

Border crossings both legal and illegal have plummeted as cross-border travel restrictions remain in place, yet commercial vehicle traffic is basically unchanged.

“The restrictions were structured to maintain cross-border trade flows and limit people crossing for tourism or recreation,” Srikrishnan reports. “Between March 30 and April 5, CBP facilitated $21 billion worth of goods crossed back and forth along the entire U.S.-Mexico border.”

Another unfortunate way in which things remain the same: Homicides in Tijuana remain staggeringly high.

Checking in on SB 2

SB 2, the 2017 state law passed by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, was hailed as a major victory for affordable housing because it secured a permanent funding stream for those projects by adding a fee on to certain real estate transactions.

VOSD’s Ashly McGlone dug into how the law is working two years in. She discovered it’s sent hundreds of millions of dollars to the state, just as lawmakers envisioned, but doling that money out to needy governments and agencies has been slow-going.

“So far, fewer than 10 SB 2 grants have been awarded in San Diego County, though several other applications are under review by state officials,” McGlone reports. “Statewide, just $35 million has been disbursed, according to officials in the California Department of Housing and Community Development. Millions more have been awarded but not yet paid out.”

Some of that money has gone toward a 96-unit mixed-income affordable housing project in San Diego. “Several local governments have also obtained SB 2’s planning money to help them rezone areas and streamline their processes to provide more housing, to the tune of $2.35 million so far, although it’s not clear when the money will arrive at each agency,” McGlone writes.

The City Functions, They Are A-Changin’

The City Council will vote Tuesday on a proposal to continue holding Tuesday meetings to consider critical business but with strict measures in place guiding who can attend to allow social distancing.

MTS, meanwhile, announced it will reduce bus and trolley service by 25 percent beginning Monday, April 13 as the agency tries to balance plummeting ridership amid the coronavirus pandemic with the continuing need to provide transportation for essential workers and those who don’t have other options.

Labor Wants Does Not Want the City to Say Hotel Tax Measure Failed

All the votes are finally counted from the March 3 election (remember that?). Measure C, which sought to increase hotel taxes (remember those?) came just short of getting support from two-thirds of city of San Diego voters.

But the San Diego Imperial Counties Labor Council does not want the city to adopt a resolution certifying the election results and specifically the failure of Measure C. In a memo, the group, which along with the visitor industry, campaigned hard for Measure C, said there’s still a chance courts could say that it actually passed. As a citizens initiative, they claim, it could only need support of a majority of voters and it got well above that.

It’s a theory we have long tracked and it’s the reason supporters created the measure as a citizen’s initiative, and spent the millions of dollars required to put it on the ballot as such. This is the first formal effort we have seen to initiate pursuit of that legal theory.

In Other News

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

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