The San Diego Housing Commissiom
The Family Justice Center is housed in the San Diego Housing Commission building downtown. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The San Diego Family Justice Center’s mission is to serve as a physical hub to support victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and sex trafficking. But as Ashly McGlone reports, the one-stop shop’s walk-in services have largely halted during the pandemic at a time when need has risen.

Advocates, including a former city attorney and justice center founder Casey Gwinn, are also flagging concerns about the center they had long before coronavirus changed its operations. A police detective who once worked at the center has alleged problems too.

McGlone found that the decision by City Attorney Mara Elliott, whose office oversees the center, to shutter the facility during the pandemic is relatively rare and documented how the center’s operations and community partners have changed since in recent years.

Elliott told VOSD that her decision to make most of the center’s work remote was meant to keep workers and victims safe, and that remote services have made it easier for some to get help. Elliott and the justice center’s director also argued that some of the beefs with the facility have reflected a transition from a more law enforcement-centric operation to a social services approach more focused on serving victims. 

Fletcher’s Ascendance Caps Big Changes to Board

For two years, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher was the sole Democrat on a county board long led by Republicans. On Tuesday, the board unanimously voted to make him chair of the board and Fletcher committed to make significant changes to county government with the help of new board members Nora Vargas and Terra Lawson-Remer, two fellow Democrats, and Republican Joel Anderson.

“For many decades now, the county has been governed by a very conservative Board of Supervisors and the voters elected them and they governed consistent with their values,” Fletcher said after taking over as chair. “But times change and now the voters have elected a new group of more progressive supervisors, and we will govern consistent with our values.”

Fletcher said he and fellow Democrats will focus on tackling racial justice and climate change, building more affordable housing and providing better physical and behavioral health care, among other priorities. In coming days, Fletcher said he will announce a series of proposed policies and priorities that he will ask fellow supervisors to review next week. For a window into what might come next, check out our Jesse Marx’s takeaways from conversations with the county’s Democratic board members what they’d do with control of county government.

One thing that doesn’t look like it will change in 2021: The feud between Fletcher and North County Supervisor Jim Desmond, who have publicly battled over the county and state’s response to coronavirus.

After giving kudos to each of the new supervisors on Tuesday, including his former state Assembly colleague Anderson, Fletcher couldn’t muster praise for Desmond.

“Well, let’s not get carried away here,” Fletcher said. “Let’s just see how it goes with you.”

Desmond later challenged the minimal number of board committees that he had initially been assigned to serve on, saying he was “disappointed in the less-than-equitable committee appointments.”

It’s Still Bad Out There in COVIDland

County officials reported 56 coronavirus deaths Tuesday and warned that a particularly contagious strain of the virus has afflicted more San Diegans.

Thirty-two San Diegans have now tested positive for the coronavirus variant that emerged in the United Kingdom, including 24 people whose cases were confirmed Tuesday. Another four probable cases are still under investigation. The new cases were tracked to the city, Chula Vista, La Mesa and Lakeside and the county does not believe those who tested positive for the strain recently traveled.

“The fact that these cases have been identified in multiple parts of the region shows that this strain of the virus could be rapidly spreading,” Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county’s public health officer, said in a statement. “People should be extra cautious to prevent getting and spreading COVID-19, especially this variant, which research has shown is more contagious.”

The county said it has asked all testing labs in the region to ensure they can identify suspected cases with the new strain to forward them for genomic testing, and asked doctors to flag positive coronavirus tests from San Diegans who have recently traveled to the UK or other areas where the variant has been documented.

In Other News

  • In an interview with CalMatters, California’s incoming secretary of state, San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, says she didn’t seek out the appointment from Gov. Gavin Newsom, and wants to focus on civic education efforts in the role. 
  • Qualcomm selected its next CEO. (City News Service)
  • SR-125 toll violators on the South Bay Expressway will face fines again after months of halted enforcement during the pandemic, City News Service reports.
  • 10 News reports that San Diegans can now text 9-1-1 for help.
  • The Union-Tribune reveals that a new real estate forecast concludes San Diego home prices could rise more than any other county in the nation this year.
  • The paper also reported that the board of One San Diego, the nonprofit former Mayor Kevin Faulconer set up to support his office, recently voted to dissolve the organization.
  • Carlsbad City Councilwoman Cori Schumacher made a motion to push the city’s police to more intensely enforce COVID-19 restrictions against dining and other gatherings. But she failed to find a second. (KPBS) A lawyer for several area businesses said they are not defying rules they’re just protesting them, peacefully.

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

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