Illustration by Adriana Heldiz

Mayor Kevin Faulconer is proposing an ambitious housing reform in the closing months of his administration, but the proposal to allow developers to build much taller buildings near transit, if they reserve some apartments for low- and moderate-income residents, has one glaring exception.

The proposal makes no changes to areas where property owners are only allowed to build single-family homes. Those areas, representing vast swaths of the city, will remain untouched. Right now, in 70 percent of the areas where property owners are allowed to build homes, they are allowed to build only single-family homes. Even near transit stations, more than 50 percent of area zoned for residential use is restricted to single-family homes.

It has been that way for nearly 100 years since San Diego passed its first zoning ordinance. Then, as now, development regulations in the city placed standalone homes with their own yards — and the residents who could afford them — above all else.

In a deep dive into the city’s zoning history, Andrew Keatts outlined single-family housing’s century of supremacy in San Diego. After the Supreme Court outlawed explicit race-based zoning, cities across the country, including San Diego, began implementing the zoning we know today, often resulting in racial segregation, even if it was no longer explicit. Explicit or coded racial justifications for the measure were rare, but not unheard of, based on archived newspaper clippings.

But at the state and local levels, there’s now a robust debate about how to fix decades of the exclusionary effects of single-family zoning. One group, San Diego 50, is lobbying the city to pass a measure to allow property owners to split any single-family lot into smaller lots, creating more and cheaper housing. 

The mayor’s office, for its part, says it excluded single-family zoning from its transit-focused development proposal so it could be adopted in months instead of years, but says it agrees with the need to dismantle single-family zoning, and is doing so by liberalizing regulations on building granny flats. And state legislators are right now debating a bill by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, which would let property owners split their lots or build duplexes anywhere restricted to single-family homes.

Watch a chat about it: Keatts joined Scott Lewis for Voice of San Diego at Home Wednesday where they went over the very weird day in news and explored his story, the history of zoning and the complex government efforts to provide affordable housing. If you stick around there’s a good baseball morsel.

Gómez Hits Pause on Barrios Support

Council President Georgette Gómez and Candidate Kelvin Barrios / Photos by Megan Wood

Council President Georgette Gómez said she will suspend her support of former employee Kelvin Barrios’ campaign to succeed her in the District 9 City Council seat, until the district attorney’s office completes its criminal inquiry into him, Keatts also reported Wednesday.

This weekend, the Union-Tribune reported the district attorney’s office was investigating allegations of embezzlement by Barrios, from a political club for which he served as treasurer. That’s separate from a previous fine he received from the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission for spending money on himself from accounts from a school board campaign and a different political group.

Gómez said she was unaware of any unethical behavior by Barrios or anyone else on her staff, but that she was alarmed by the allegations and trusts the district attorney to look into the matter.

While Kelvin appropriately resolved his issues with the FPPC, it is the District Attorney’s job to hold public officials to account – without regard for politics – if wrongdoing occurs, and no one should interfere with or prejudge any investigation,” she wrote in a statement. “Therefore, I’m pausing my involvement in Kelvin’s campaign until the DA’s review is completed.”

KPBS Joins VOSD in Suit for Outbreak Data

A couple weeks ago, we announced several public records lawsuits we initiated with public agencies for data related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The one that got the most attention was our push for data about outbreaks of the virus transmission in various settings. The county has conducted more than 36,000 investigations into where and how people have picked up the SARS-Cov-2 virus.

But it only releases information about the total number of outbreaks and in what setting. So every day we get a bullet list like this:

  • One new community outbreak was reported on Aug. 24 in a healthcare setting.
  • In the past seven days, 21 community outbreaks were confirmed.

Sometimes it says an outbreak was in a “restaurant/bar” or “business.” It includes nothing about where, how many people it involved, if they were operating outdoors or complying with other guidance. And the number of outbreaks has remained steady even as the other metrics have improved significantly.

The county says the number must get down to seven over seven days. San Diego Unified School District picked that up as its own requirement before reopening.

We want the data. We think we could use the data to analyze why outbreaks are continuing out of control and help people understand where they are happening while holding public health leaders accountable for their decisions.

Wednesday, in a new story, KPBS announced it would join us.

KPBS’s Suzanne Marmion said where the outbreaks are occurring is the most frequent question KPBS is getting.

State Senate stops: The California state senate cancelled its session Wednesday after San Diego Sen. Brian Jones tested positive for COVID-19. (AP)

City Secures Almost $28M for Homeless Hotel Purchase

The city is poised to receive $27.7 million in state Project Homekey funds to buy an unspecified hotel to house homeless people now staying at the San Diego Convention Center shelter.

The San Diego Housing Commission and Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office announced that they learned earlier this week that the state had approved one of two state grant requests to purchase hotels with the help of state and Federal Emergency Management Administration.

Faulconer spokeswoman Ashley Bailey said the city is still waiting to hear whether a second application it also submitted earlier this month will be approved. She declined to provide more details on the applications or the hotels the city is eyeing.

The Housing Commission’s budget for this year also includes $19 million for hotel acquisitions and another $10 million for rental assistance for those hoped-for hotel rooms.

The Wednesday announcement follows county supervisors’ Tuesday vote to allocate $5.4 million in the county budget for services for the roughly 300 to 400 hotel rooms the city hopes to procure.

The city will need to proceed quickly to deploy state grant funds. Project Homekey requires cities to buy properties and spend funds by Dec. 30, or the cash must be returned to the feds. The Housing Commission is tentatively expected to vote on at least one hotel acquisition next month. 

In Other News

  • Baseball was cancelled in San Diego Wednesday after the Padres and Mariners both agreed to postpone play in solidarity with other sports teams joining the protests over Jacob Blake’s shooting by police in Kenosha, Wis., on Sunday. (Union-Tribune)
  • San Diego doctor says it’s more important than ever to get a flu vaccine this year among the COVID-19 pandemic. (KPBS)
  • The fire that engulfed a U.S. Navy Ship in San Diego harbor earlier this summer–causing days of toxic smoke to engulf nearby neighborhoods– may have been intentionally set, according to ABC10. 
  • The family of three women killed by a bluff collapse in Encinitas are suing the city, state and a local homeowners association, claiming the entities did little to prevent erosion. (City News Service)

The Morning Report was written by Mackenzie Elmer and Andrew Keatts and edited by Scott Lewis.

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