101 Ash St. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

In the race to replace Mayor Kevin Faulconer, his disastrous handling of the city’s acquisition of a downtown high rise, which eventually had to be evacuated due to asbestos violations, nearly rose above all the other issues facing city residents as a campaign issue.

But the story of 101 Ash St. wasn’t the only troubled real estate transaction in the mayor’s tenure. He also fumbled the acquisition of an industrial property in Kearny Mesa to repair city fire trucks, and got wrapped in controversy over purchasing an indoor skydiving facility to turn it into a homeless services hub. In our ongoing look at Faulconer’s legacy as mayor, Lisa Halverstadt zeroed in on his handling of city real estate deals.

“There needs to be a fundamental rethinking of how (real estate) is handled, and as we’ve said, we’re working on this,” Faulconer told Halverstadt. “I believe we absolutely should have outside experts and consultants to manage real estate transactions for the city. When we’ve done that, I think it’s suited us very well.”

He said three other real estate deals – selling the old Chargers Stadium property to SDSU, and current attempts to redevelop the Sports Arena property and Tailgate Park in East Village, show the city can do much better when it brings in experts to handle the work.

Those other problematic transactions still loom large, though. City real estate professionals moved on this year amid the controversy, and city taxpayers will continue to be on the hook for the millions of dollars associated with rectifying them.

Chula Vista to Hold Hearing on License Plate Data-Collection  

Chula Vista has stopped sharing license plate data with immigration authorities, at least temporarily. It comes in response to a Union-Tribune showing the Police Department had purchased license plate readers three years ago without telling the City Council — because they didn’t have to — then turned over the information to federal law enforcement through a private company.

At a City Council meeting Tuesday, Chula Vista Mayor Mary Salas said the police chief was preparing a report followed by a public hearing on the topic in January. She defended the use of license plate readers as “a deterrent to crime” but acknowledged that the city needs to earn the trust and confidence of city residents when deploying such technologies.

“There has to be the right balance, and we have to have the community’s trust and confidence, and they need to know the facts regarding this,” she said. “There’s a lot of speculation about what’s collected and how it’s shared.”

A day after the story was published, City Councilwoman Andrea Cardenas issued a statement calling for the immediate stop to the city’s license plate data collection.

In 2018, the San Diego Police Department stopped sharing its license plate reader data with other agencies, including Border Patrol, to ensure it was complying with a state law meant to create a firewall between local police and federal immigration enforcement.

Port Postpones Vote on Mitsubishi Project

Port of San Diego commissioners stalled making a decision on a project that would add hundreds of heavy-duty trucks trips through one of California’s most air pollution-afflicted areas.

“We’re a public agency that needs to lead the way to cleaner air, particularly in Barrio Logan and National City,” said Commissioner Michael Zucchet just before the unanimous vote to postpone a decision on the project. “We need to have skin in the game and we must insist others particularly new tenants do the same.” 

Mitsubishi Cement Company wants to build a new warehouse and hauling facility along the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal, which is smack dab in the middle of one of the environmental justice zones established under a 2017 state law. But commissioners, hearing concerns from advocates that diesel trucks exacerbate already high rates of childhood asthma in the area, decided to postpone making a decision on the project Tuesday. 

Advocates from the Environmental Health Coalition were not appeased by what they said were weak commitments by Mitsubishi to incorporate just one zero-emission truck into their fleet. 

On the other side of the coin, the project has the potential to “greatly benefit the region’s construction industry” by serving as a more localized and cost-effective cement resource, said Tracy Spahr, a spokesperson for the Port of San Diego. Cement is trucked into the county now primarily from two sources: the Port of Long Beach or Lucerne Valley, she said. 

Blakespear on New Role at SANDAG

Last week, the SANDAG board chose Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear for its top spot: board chair. She spoke with our North County reporter, Kayla Jimenez, about her goals for the next two years and her perspective on transit in the region.

“I’m not in favor of a regional transportation plan that’s filled with gimmicks and somehow manages to maintain the status quo,” Blakespear said. “I think you do need to make bold changes and have a bold vision for the future. And this is a really exciting time to be chair.”

Also in the North County Report: Students in the Escondido Union School District are back to virtual learning. A staffing shortage has forced a decision by the superintendent and school board to close campuses for three weeks.

In Other News

  • Playgrounds are back open. The state updated its guidelines Wednesday allowing playgrounds to “remain open to facilitate physically distanced personal health and wellness through outdoor exercise.” They were previously closed under the regional stay-at-home order, prompting backlash from parents and some lawmakers. (Los Angeles Times)
  • A mayor’s office spokeswoman said Wednesday that 115 residents staying at the San Diego Convention Center shelter have tested positive for coronavirus since last week. Five people who have worked at the shelter have also received positive test results since Saturday. Contact tracing and additional testing was continuing Wednesday.

The Morning Report was written by Megan Wood, and edited by Sara Libby.

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