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The proposed site of the Lilac Hills Ranch development / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

The massive housing project near Valley Center known as Lilac Hills is once again seeking the county’s approval. Since its last rejection, that request has gotten even harder for a project that’s been kicking around for 15 years.

Since county voters resoundingly rejected the project in 2016, California has seen some of its most destructive wildfires, leading to more restrictive regulations for projects like Lilac Hills, that sit on the edge of the wildland-urban interface, where human development meets wild vegetation and most wildfire destruction occurs.

That change – and the developers behind the project’s inability to resolve particular issues meant to mitigate fire risk – have led county planners to recommend the board reject the project. That’s the latest in a lengthy back-and-forth-and-back-again process with county planning staff and Lilac Hills.

In 2009, county planners rejected the project, saying it was out of step with the county’s plan to concentrate housing development in village areas, rather than maintaining the county’s patterns of sprawl. The developer appealed that determination to the county Planning Commission, and won.

Then in 2015, county planners recommended approving the same project, but it never went for a full vote after County Supervisor Bill Horn had to recuse himself due to financial conflicts of interest from developable land he owns nearby.

The project then went to voters in 2016, when it was rejected, and is now back seeking the Board of Supervisors’ approval.

Lawsuit Against La Jolla Facility Could Be One of Many Statewide

One family’s lawsuit against a La Jolla skilled nursing facility where their 73-year-old father contracted COVID-19 and died is among the first of its kind in the state – and could be a sign of legal battles to come.

Voice of San Diego contributor Jared Whitlock reports that the recently filed suit against The Springs at Pacific Regent accuses the facility and its owner of negligence in responding to the novel coronavirus following their loved one’s death. The suit claims the facility admitted Lenard Hugle Jr., who had recently suffered a stroke, in February and that Hugle became infected in early April, weeks after his roommate contracted the virus.

The lawsuit claims The Springs failed to isolate Hugle, to adequately test residents and staff or to provide enough personal protective equipment, among other concerns.

Industry groups have feared an avalanche of lawsuits like the La Jolla one and have even urged Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign an executive order limiting facilities’ legal liability during a pandemic that has hit senior facilities hard. A U.S. House of Representatives committee has separately launched an investigation into the nation’s largest for-profit skilled nursing facilities’ preparedness for COVID-19.

Whitlock found Ensign Group, the owner of The Springs at Pacific Regent, is among those under scrutiny.

County Moves Ahead on Police, Equity Reforms

County supervisors on Tuesday voted to proceed with three law enforcement reform measures, including the creation of an Office of Equity and Racial Justice.

The board unanimously voted to create the new office as proposed by Supervisor Nathan Fletcher but to also hire a consultant and work with the newly revised county human relations commission to establish the office’s mission and scope.

Supervisors also signed off on Fletcher’s recommendation to increase the independence and bolster the authority of the county’s Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board, which investigates misconduct allegations against Sheriff’s deputies and probation officers. VOSD has written about transparency concerns surrounding the board and its’ 2017 decision to dismiss 22 death cases without investigation.

Supervisors also gave the go-ahead to Fletcher’s push to more rapidly advance an initiative to deploy mobile crisis response teams trained to respond to non-violent incidents involving San Diegans experiencing behavioral health crises, encounters that can escalate when law enforcement responds.

Council Kinda Sends Police Oversight Measure to November Ballot

Voters in November will probably have a chance to overhaul a city commission tasked with overseeing police misconduct, after the City Council committed Tuesday to sending a measure that’s been in the works for years to the ballot.

The measure would replace the existing oversight body with a far more powerful version, one that could conduct independent investigations, with subpoena power and its own legal counsel.

Proponents of the measure tried to get the Council to put similar reforms on the 2016 and 2018 ballot, but were disappointed each time. Now, Mayor Kevin Faulconer and District Attorney Summer Stephan have each embraced the reform, and proponents say they have no complaints with the measure after it was subject to negotiations with the city’s police union.

But the Council’s unanimous vote Tuesday was non-binding. It couldn’t formally put the measure on the ballot for procedural reasons, so its vote was just a promise that it would do so next month.

News Roundup

  • The district attorney’s office tells KPBS that reports of internet crime against youth, which most often involve sharing inappropriate photos of minors, have tripled during the pandemic.
  • NBC 7 San Diego reports that hundreds have signed a petition calling for the Andrew Jackson Station Post Office in Rolando to be renamed.
  • KPBS reveals that San Diego projects again failed to receive affordable housing funding supported by the state’s cap-and-trade program.
  • Travel through San Diego International Airport is ticking up, 10 News reports. The 8,679 daily travelers this weekend was down 80 percent from a year ago, but traveler counts were down 95 percent from a year earlier at the height of the economic shutdown.
  • Chula Vista has canceled its July 4 fireworks and other events due to coronavirus, CBS 8 reports.
  • San Diego County has paused reopenings after several coronavirus outbreaks, but county supervisors voted Tuesday to request state guidance on how to handle wedding receptions, theme parks, state fairs, playgrounds, hotel events and team competitions, 10News reports. 
  • Leslie Furcron, the La Mesa protester put into a medically induced coma after being shot with a bean bag round, is petitioning a court to release the name of the officer who shot her, after the city rejected her public records request, the Union-Tribune reports.
  • 10News reveals the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department paid out nearly $2 million in overtime for deputies and support staff working during recent protests.
  • San Diego charter schools collected about $15.8 million in loans from the federal paycheck protection program, passed as part of the government’s COVID-19 response, as NBC 7 San Diego reported, including the charter network Learn4Life, where as we reported last year, an executive found a way to collect two paychecks from the state’s public education funding.

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.

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