Homeless residents set up tents on Imperial Avenue in downtown San Diego. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

During his campaign, Mayor Todd Gloria pledged to lessen the police enforcement affecting homeless San Diegans that soared on Kevin Faulconer’s watch.

Lisa Halverstadt checked in on Gloria’s progress on that pledge three months into his term as mayor and found that not much has changed so far. City operations to clean up homeless camps have continued at similar rates. Meanwhile, homeless camps are growing.

Gloria said he’s taking a hard look at city policies and practices before ordering major changes and has asked a national expert to deliver recommendations this spring on what those policies should look like going forward.

But Gloria told Halverstadt he has already directed police and other city staff to take a more compassionate approach in all encounters with homeless San Diegans, and has ordered halts to enforcement and camp clean-up operations during inclement weather, among other directives.

And on Wednesday, Gloria announced that the city is deploying homeless outreach workers from nonprofit PATH in neighborhoods across the city in a bid to bolster and better coordinate its outreach efforts, move more homeless San Diegans off the streets and lessen the burden on city police.

San Diego Schools Plans Very ‘Fluid’

San Diego Unified School District and its teachers union, the San Diego Education Association, will go back to the bargaining table Thursday to try to hash out what the last few weeks of school will look like and how much time on campus kids can have. 

The union had proposed a return plan where elementary school students would still do distance learning at home in the mornings but twice a week could come in to be with their teachers for two hours – a total of four hours per week. 

The district countered with two hours per day and at least four days a week. 

A top priority of the union is to have all the students remain with their classes they’ve been online with this academic year. 

“At this point in the school year, separating the students/classes into online or in-person is not an option,” said SDEA President Kisha Borden in an email. “It is our hope that the District offers a wide range of instructional programs to families in the fall that do not require teachers to divide their attention between online and in-person students.”

The plans for middle and high school students are also uncertain. The district and union agree the students will somehow have to stay in groups that don’t change during the day. 

“It is a very fluid situation and we may have a different proposal by tomorrow when we meet with the District,” Borden wrote. 

  • One slide in a Tuesday presentation to the San Diego Unified School Board explained why a school reopening in April would be hybrid appeared to set a standard for full reopening that would be hard to meet in September, too. “Until most students are vaccinated, or other public health indicators make students’ proximity safe, halving classroom density is a practical method to invite all students back to school,” the slide read. Vaccines are not yet approved for people under 16, and aren’t expected to be by the start of the new school year, and the presentation did not specify which other public health indicators could make full classrooms safe.

But Dr. Howard Taras, a pediatrician at UC San Diego Health, told us Wednesday that the slide should not be construed to indicate anything about school next year.

“What I hoped to get across is that there are likely to be some public health factors that would allow schools to fully reopen safely (i.e., full classrooms) before all students have access to the vaccine,” he said.

Today’s Pandemic Update

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher refused to say why the county hadn’t partnered with Blue Shield, the company running the state’s vaccination program, the Union-Tribune reported Wednesday.

San Diego is one of the 58 counties that have declined or refused to sign contracts with the company selected by the state to determine vaccine allocations for counties and health care providers. 

Fletcher said the county is in ongoing discussions with Blue Shield, but declined to specify why they hadn’t struck a deal.

Earlier in the press conference, he said it was “highly likely” the county will next week enter the state’s red tier of restrictions – allowing gyms to open and some indoor dining to resume, among other changes – once the state has vaccinated 2 million residents from its most at-risk ZIP codes.

Nonetheless, the county still is not receiving enough vaccine doses each week to meet the region’s demand, Fletcher said, with the bulk of shots right now going reserved for second doses.

“The shortage of vaccines continues to be a challenge and a great frustration,” he said.

The county this week received nearly 14,000 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and is prioritizing those shots for hard-to-reach populations like homeless residents, farmworkers and seniors.

And as the city of San Diego slowly shutters the homeless shelter it has operated at the Convention Center since the onset of the pandemic, the county will stand up another vaccination super site in its place, though that won’t be operational until the county’s weekly supply increases enough to support it.

“We do think at some point here, it’s got to happen soon here hopefully, the supply of vaccines will increase significantly, and we will be in a position to maximize all of our capacity,” Fletcher said.

Indeed, with eligibility expanding Monday to include residents between 16 and 64 years old who have a host of health conditions, sooner would be better than later.

The Petco Park site, which has had to shut down repeatedly in recent weeks because of what officials said were supply issues, now definitely has enough Moderna vaccines to provide second shots to everyone who received their first dose there.

State Tells Oceanside to Stop Beach Work

The state told the city of Oceanside to stop laying big boulders (called, hilariously, rip rap) in front of beachside properties, an act beach preservation advocates decried as an effort to extend private property lines over public shores.

“Entitled beachfront property owners on the Pacific Street block in Oceanside have decided yet again that their private beach wasn’t big enough, and used front-end loaders and cranes to slash and gash the public beach for their own exclusive private use,” Surfrider San Diego wrote on Instagram March 6.

The city of Oceanside says what it’s doing is legal. 

In a March 3 email to the Coastal Commission, Oceanside principal planner Russ Cunningham said the city OK’d repair to a revetment, or boulder wall, and adding sand to the beach in the 1200 block of South Pacific Street. It did so under an exemption the city can make to a type of permit needed to do any work on the coastal zone, or California’s shoreline, which is protected for public access under state law. 

The city can permit coastal development as long as it’s following state rules. In this case, the Coastal Commission doesn’t agree the work being done in this particular area is following those rules. 

“No further work should occur until the dispute is resolved,” wrote Diana Lilly, coastal program manager for the Coastal Commission, wrote to Cunningham on March 5. 

The Coastal Commission is looking into how the city exempted the work, and asked to review the paperwork.  

In Other News

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

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