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City Council President Georgette Gómez appears at Golden Hall on election night. / Photo by Megan Wood

Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the San Diego Housing Commission see an opportunity in the hotel industry’s collapse. They want the city to acquire hundreds of hotel rooms to convert into permanent housing for the chronically homeless.

But first they’re gonna have to convince the majority-Democrat City Council that scooping up distressed hotels at cut-rate prices is sound policy. 

Andrew Keatts reports that while leaders on the left are receptive to the idea, they’re also voicing concerns and raising basic questions about how such a project will be implemented. That includes skepticism over whether the city can negotiate good real estate deals. 

The acquisition of 101 Ash St., which was evacuated in January, is under review by the city auditor and an outside law firm. We’ve also highlighted in past reporting the city’s leasing of an industrial property in Kearny Mesa that was supposed to be turned into a maintenance yard for fire trucks years ago. 

One key difference, though: The current proposal would allow the Housing Commission, not the city’s real estate assets department, to target properties and negotiate the terms.

San Diego Democrats have also warned that converting hotels to apartments isn’t cheap or easy and some are urging the city to extend the program to low-income residents. 

Pandemic Drives Home the Power of the Parent

As schools shut down to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, Spring Break transformed into more of a spring breakdown for many of America’s parents stuck in their homes with their student brood. 

Will Huntsberry illuminates the inescapable need for parents to play a larger role in their child’s education. School officials signaled that they’re here to take the pressure off: Teachers are still in charge of ensuring students master the material. 

But parents can do three things to help, school officials say: Check in to make sure your student is organized; provide space to work; and show an interest in what they’re learning. That color of curiosity might just be what your child needs to keep the faith in fractions or physics homework. 

In fact, how your student fares during school in normal times already depends a lot on parent involvement, said Richard Barrerra, vice president of San Diego Unified School District. It’s just another one of COVID-19’s little life lessons. 

City Attorney Considering Case Against ‘Freedom Rally’ Organizer

The San Diego Police Department has identified a 27-year-old woman as the lead organizer behind last Saturday’s “Freedom Rally” and passed along her case for prosecutorial review. The Union-Tribune reported that she could be charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly encouraging others to defy stay-at-home orders to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Authorities are not releasing her name, but some media outlets have. We also noticed that the legal center representing her is run by a member of President Donald Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign. (There are other White House ties to similar rallies in other states, and this recent New York Times podcast considered them.)

Officers did not cite any of the protesters last weekend. Instead, SDPD said it would not enforce public health orders and would respect people’s right to free expression and assembly.

In an op-ed for us, Andrea St. Julian, a lawyer and co-chair of the group San Diegans for Justice, argues that inconsistent pandemic enforcement drives home the need for better police oversight. 

Coming to an Essential Business Near You: Robots?

A lot of people are out of work due to the coronavirus and it’s likely that some of those jobs won’t survive the pandemic. National press outlets have been pointing to how the pandemic is sparking an automation boom.

Technological investments tend to follow recessions, as workers become relatively more expensive and companies look for long-term ways to save costs.

The U-T reported Thursday that San Diego-based Brain Corp. is donating a couple dozen floor-scrubbing robots to local grocery stores and other essential businesses. The devices are already used at the airport, and many Walmart stores across the country are buying them. 

Meanwhile, Brain Corp. is marketing the floor-scrubbers as a means of protecting workers by keeping workplaces with high foot-traffic clean. But this quote from the company’s chief executive reveals another reason the devices might be appealing to employers: “Robots don’t take breaks. They don’t cough. They don’t sneeze. They don’t have bad days.” 

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by MacKenzie Elmer and Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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