The Morning Report
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If there’s anything to take away from MacKenzie Elmer’s latest story on the cost of water in drought-stricken Southern California, it’s that it isn’t getting cheaper any time soon.
The San Diego County Water Authority, which controls most of the region’s water resources from the drought-stressed Colorado River, is forecasting hefty price hikes as high as 10 percent beginning 2023. That’s partly because the agency has a lot of debt to pay off. It doesn’t want to take out more loans, so it’d like to raise cash over the next decade instead — and that cash comes from ratepayers.
It stings particularly bad for the city of San Diego, which already pays some of the highest water rates in the country. That’s partly because the city will soon ask residents to start paying for a multi-billion wastewater-to-drinking water recycling project around the same time those rate hikes from the Water Authority start kicking in.
So the city is now challenging the way the agency manages its billions in debt and pays for the stuff it builds — even calling for third-party audits of its financial plans.
Related: The San Diego City Council Tuesday approved a 3 percent water rate increase beginning 2022, which covers the cost of the Water Authority’s rate hike beginning that same year, and a 5 percent increase in wastewater rates.
All the council members agreed to the rate hikes despite a litany of public comments decrying the crushing water-related costs that continue to rise. But Councilman Chris Cate, one of 10 city of San Diego representatives on the Water Authority board, asked to specifically register as a “no” vote on the Water Authority’s rate increase.
“I don’t think we as a wholesaler have done everything we could to reduce the impact on rates to water customers throughout the region,” he said. “I think more can be done at the (Water Authority) level.”
City to Alert Affordable Housing Developers On Sports Arena
The San Diego City Council also voted Tuesday to make the land around the Sports Arena available to affordable housing developers, kicking off a 60-day period for nonprofit companies who build housing for low-income people to express interest.
The city thought it had already done that, back in early August, but the resolution they passed that day stipulated that interested parties needed to renovate or replace the Sports Arena as part of their project.
That wasn’t right, according to the state’s housing department, which is the agency that put the brakes on the city’s redevelopment attempts early this year because the bidding process by which the city picked a developer last year ran afoul of a state law requiring it to make public land available for affordable housing before it could be redeveloped. The state followed up again to tell the city not to include any qualifications for affordable housing developers — don’t even mention the Sports Arena.
Now the City Council has essentially done that vote a second time, delaying the process of eventually revamping the blighted property for another few weeks. But city officials don’t expect it to be anything more than a temporary delay.
City Councilmember Has COVID
City Councilmember Marni von Wilpert, who co-chairs the City Council’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Committee, has tested positive for COVID-19.
Von Wilpert revealed during the Monday committee meeting that she had tested positive over the weekend.
A spokeswoman said she was later unable to participate in Monday’s afternoon City Council session and Tuesday’s City Council meeting due to the illness.
In a Tuesday statement, von Wilpert wrote she was “very symptomatic” and urged San Diegans to get vaccinated.
“The symptoms I am experiencing are severe, and I can’t even begin to imagine what it would feel like if I didn’t have the vaccine helping my body fight this virus,” von Wilpert wrote in a Tuesday statement. “Please – get vaccinated.”
Von Wilpert said she hoped to resume her usual schedule soon.
- At the Monday City Council committee hearing, Christopher Longhurst of UC San Diego Health warned that a “fifth surge” of COVID-19 cases is all but certain.
- On Tuesday, the county reported 685 new COVID cases and 12 deaths.
In Other News
- Journalist Max Rivlin-Nadler broke the news on Twitter that private prison company GEO Group seems to have found a workaround to keep a downtown San Diego jail used by the US Marshals Service open despite the Biden administrations’ ban on contract extensions for private prisons and jails. The ACLU penned a letter urging the White House to take action.
- The city has dramatically dialed back weekend pool hours due to staffing issues. (KPBS)
- The ambulance company set to take over operations in the city later this year has struggled to hire paramedics and to acquire new ambulances. (Union-Tribune)
- The San Diego County Water Authority and the city are on the hunt for an outside firm to build and run an energy storage facility at the San Vicente Reservoir. (Union-Tribune)
- A San Diego police officer placed on unpaid suspension after he apparently posted a photo on social media seemingly mocking a memorial for a man shot and killed by police no longer works for the police department. (10 News)
- The Nikigator is back in Balboa Park. (Times of San Diego)
This Morning Report was written by MacKenzie Elmer, Lisa Halverstadt and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Megan Wood.