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A General Atomics SkyGuardian drone is pictured at a 2018 air show in the United Kingdom. / Image via Shutterstock

When drone-maker General Atomics sent out a press release in October 2019 announcing it planned to test a military-grade drone over the skies of San Diego, it touted some potential benefits for the city, including that it could monitor for floods and wildfires and inspect infrastructure.

But there was another purpose the city was hoping to use the SkyGuardian drone for – letting police monitor drivers for potential speeding – and a city official specifically asked General Atomics to take references to it out of the release, Jesse Marx reports in a new story.

“Since SDPD is not involved in the public safety aspect of this project … they and the mayor’s office requested no inclusion/indication of public safety-specific use,” a city official wrote to General Atomics in an email.

The drone’s test flight ended up being re-routed over the desert, and not San Diego’s urban core, after federal regulators expressed safety concerns – information that came to light after VOSD filed a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit for emails relating to the test flight.

A spokesman for Mayor Kevin Faulconer disagreed with VOSD’s assessment that the email showed the mayor’s office tried to downplay the drone’s public safety uses, but didn’t provide any additional information. 

Border Businesses Struggling Through Continued Closures

Like many businesses, the shops in San Ysidro count on the holiday season for a significant portion of their revenue for the year.

But whatever boost border businesses get from Christmas shopping likely won’t be enough to counteract the massive losses they’ve faced this year as the border has remained closed to non-essential travel, San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce CEO Jason Wells tells VOSD’s Maya Srikrishnan in this week’s Border Report.

“At this point, Wells doesn’t think the restrictions are even truly COVID-related, but simply something the administration has long wanted to do and for which the pandemic provided a justification,” Srikrishnan reports.

“This isn’t about COVID,” Wells said. “These restrictions have no basis on or impact on health and that’s been documented.”

Police Review Board Transition Could Last Through 2022

The process of transitioning to the new police review board approved by voters in November could start as quickly as two weeks from now, but it might not be fully completed until 2022, according to a draft timeline prepared by the existing commission.

On Dec. 15, the new City Council will meet and could appoint members of the existing Community Review Board on Police Practices as interim members of the new board. The timeline also envisions the Council naming an interim executive director at that meeting.

A separate draft document shared by the existing committee lays out other elements the group thinks should be addressed in the ordinance that will establish the new group, including how its members are selected, as well as procedures for recommending officer discipline and new department policies.

In Other News

  • The Navy will decommission the USS Bonhomme Richard, the ship that caught fire in July. (Associated Press)
  • There’s a controversial way for SANDAG to finance its 5 Big Moves, Joe Bettles writes in an op-ed: Implement a San Diego-specific gas tax. 
  • KPBS asked local public health officials about vaccine rollout plans here’s what they said.
  • Black Lives Matter San Diego is one of 10 local chapters of the national organization that signed on to a letter demanding more transparency from the umbrella Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation.
  • Mayor-elect Todd Gloria announced more top staffing hires Monday. 
  • Mayor Kevin Faulconer only has a bit more than a week left in office but he’s still trying to host an NFL team in San Diego. The CEO of the San Francisco 49ers, Jed York, publicly thanked Faulconer’s office “for immediately reaching out to see if San Diego could help @49ers during our search for a home. While we wish we could keep our players at / close to home with their families during the holidays, that is currently not viable.” The 49ers are not allowed to play in Santa Clara County where officials have banned contact sports in COVID-19 related precautions. The team decided instead to temporarily move operations and games to Arizona.

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

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