The Vista Alta apartment complex / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

While California landlords can’t evict tenants suffering from financial hardship due to the pandemic, “just cause” evictions are still allowed if they can prove that a renter engaged in criminal activity.

Crime-free housing programs, which have grown in popularity since the 1990s, are championed by law enforcement officials as a form of community policing that brings together cops, property managers and tenants. Tenant groups and criminal justice advocates, however, say crime-free housing is a form of structural racism that makes it harder for people of color to find apartments and stay in them.

“The programs put a special emphasis on the physical design of a property, encouraging property owners to trim bushes and install surveillance cameras, peepholes, LED lighting and signage, which can create a perception that people on site are being monitored at all times,” Jesse Marx reports.

According to public records, most cities in the region have their own form of the program, including Chula Vista, Escondido and Oceanside. There are 117 crime-free complexes in the city of San Diego alone — a majority of which are located in City Heights, southeastern San Diego and downtown.

Across the state and nation, cities are re-examining such programs as more public policies are scrutinized from a racial justice lens. Hemet, in Riverside County, ended its program late last year “following allegations by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that the policies were intentionally discriminatory and violated residents’ civil rights,” the Press-Enterprise reported. Vallejo, in the Bay Area, ended its program after a local news organization revealed training manuals called potential renters with criminal records “two-legged predators.”

Community College District Gets New Chancellor

The San Diego Community College District has chosen Carlos Cortez, president of San Diego Continuing Education, as its new chancellor.

We spoke with Cortez in 2017 for an episode of the Good Schools for All podcast about his school’s efforts to guide students who struggle with the transition into the so-called real world.

“Many [students] have so many gaps in their educational development that it really requires simultaneously providing foundational skills and support, while also providing them with the job training that’s going to help them to land a job that pays a livable wage,” Cortez told us.

Cortez will take over for retiring chancellor Constance Carroll starting July 1. He’ll oversee a $780 million annual budget for San Diego City, Mesa, and Miramar colleges, and the San Diego College of Continuing Education.

In Other News

  • The city of San Diego is set to rebuild downtown’s Children’s Park for some $9 million, after the 25-year-old park near the Convention Center has become primarily used by homeless residents and downtown planners seek to turn it into a family-friendly destination. (Union-Tribune)
  • A San Marcos developer facing backlash for relocating dozens of low-income families has reached a deal with those tenants, offering $10,000 in relocation assistance or a temporary, subsidized hotel stay. (The Coast News)
  • Restaurants can operate indoors at 25 percent capacity, and gyms can open at 10 percent capacity, after San Diego County officially entered the “red tier” of the state’s COVID-19 restrictions system Tuesday by registering just 6.8 cases per 100,000 residents in the last week. At the start of next month, amusement parks and outdoor entertainment venues can all now open at reduced capacities as well. (Union-Tribune)
  • The city of San Diego is accepting applications for its rental assistance program, and the city of Chula Vista is doing the same. (NBC San Diego, City News)
  • The city of San Diego will increase the amount it pays into its pension fund by $50 million next year, bringing its contribution to more than $400 million to cover retirement benefits for former city workers who by living longer and earning more are necessitating the increase. The increased payment was factored into the city’s projected deficit, which was itself as wiped out last week when President Joe Biden signed a stimulus bill that will provide money to the city exceeding its anticipated shortfall. (Union-Tribune)
  • A Superior Court judge has tossed a defamation lawsuit from attorney Cory Briggs against City Attorney Mara Elliott, ruling his allegation that attack ads she ran against him during last year’s campaign were protected by the First Amendment. The judge ordered Briggs to pay $20,000 in attorney fees. (Union-Tribune)

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

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