A safe parking lot for homeless families in Chula Vista, pictured in 2016, has since closed. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

A year ago, McSweeney’s published this satiric piece called “Every NIMBYs Speech at a Public Hearing,” which included lines like these:

I’ve lived in the same house in the Elm Heights neighborhood for the past twenty years, and I just love everything about this town except for the problems that my politics have directly created. …

The second thing the council must understand is that subject-specific expertise built up through a lifetime of education and research doesn’t mean much unless you are also able to make exaggerated claims that stoke fear and resentment, ideally combined with a kind of faux-folksiness that harkens back to an age that never existed.

Like any great work of comedy, it was hilarious because it acknowledged not one but two fundamental truths: that the pearl-clutching that always, always follows any proposal to help a vulnerable community is both formulaic and just plain wrong.

That was driven home in a truly remarkable way recently when a San Diego Sheriff’s deputy, speaking to the Encinitas City Council about a safe parking lot program, eviscerated the many (many, many) suggestions that the lot would be a hotbed of crime and indecency by saying simply but unequivocally that no crimes have been associated with the lot. None.

And he went a step further.

He said the very residents feigning concern about crime are actually the ones committing wrongdoing by calling in fake concerns and trespassing on the property to antagonize the people staying there.

Over and over, residents across San Diego cite their fear of crime when they plead with elected officials to reject new projects – particularly those that would serve low-income or vulnerable residents.

Here’s a sampling of the concerns aired over proposed projects in Poway, Solana Beach, Laguna Hills, Sherman Heights and Clairemont:

“All of us from this neighborhood are telling you that we do not feel safe with this project.”

Arguments frequently turn to the added strain on an already busy area, as well as the worry about increased crime.

The lawsuit, which was filed in Orange County Superior Court on Tuesday, alleges a “public nuisance” that will “directly endanger the health and safety of the residents of the city.”

“I am very sad that nobody came to my school to ask if it was OK to open a place for homeless people,” the boy said. “I want to feel safe, can you please help me do that?”

“It’s the center of our community and I don’t want to see it become trashed with needles and booze bottles.”

See what I mean about formulaic?

This is not to say that every project is inherently good or couldn’t stand to be improved with public input.

But over and over, elected officials have capitulated to vocal hordes airing fears about safety that simply aren’t grounded in truth or reality. Insisting a project will bring crime with it doesn’t make it true.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Though officials across the state have mobilized to shelter the homeless during the coronavirus pandemic, there are actually less resources than ever for homeless families in San Diego.

Meanwhile, local colleges are being forced to completely rethink how campus living arrangements will work next semester.


San Diego Unified continues to take months or even years to respond to public records request, in violation of the law. There is one group, however, that gets responses much more quickly: contractors.

Meanwhile, emails from a public records request to city tourism officials show that before Comic-Con decided to cancel this year’s event, it worked to pass off costs to local hotels.


Advocates and farmworkers say Border Patrol has ramped up its checkpoints in rural North County, creating a barrier between those workers and food and health care resources.


The central promise of San Diego’s new energy utility was to provide cleaner, cheaper power than SDG&E. But an arcane rule forcing it to pay millions for natural gas it doesn’t want could threaten those goals.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“I’m terrified of the coronavirus … But I had to choose which virus poses the biggest threat. And that’s the police.” – I thought the “Reopen America” protests were dumb, but always believed it was important to defend their right to take place. Because some protests, like the ones happening now across the country, are indeed essential.

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

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