Four years ago, Mayor Kevin Faulconer signed a lease for the city to take over a warehouse in Kearny Mesa where its crews could repair fire trucks. That has yet to happen, and now the city wants to spend $15 million in cash to rebuild a facility it may never own.
Andrew Keatts reports that the cost of upgrading the property to meet the city’s needs — including building two bays for fire truck repairs — grew from $6.5 million to $15 million since signing the lease. And the city has already spent $4.2 million in monthly rent payments for a mostly empty building.
City spokesman Tim Graham confirmed this month that the city never conducted an analysis comparing the cost of renting space to buying property and constructing its own facility.
“It is clear that thorough due diligence including cost comparison analyses was not done when the Othello property was first identified as a potential solution for the City’s fleet challenges,” Graham wrote in an email.
A recent audit also criticized the city because it didn’t appraise the property to determine the lease was in line with the market rate, or to ensure its anticipated $6.5 million investment was worthwhile.
The City Council gave final approval this summer to fund the facility’s renovations. Councilwoman Vivian Moreno voted against the maneuver and said in a statement to VOSD that the city should be looking for a way out of the deal.
Supervisor Advocates COVID Jail Analysis
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department reported housing an average of 5,630 people in its seven jails each day the year before the coronavirus pandemic created new risks for inmates. That number fell by a third following pandemic-tied decisions to scale back jail bookings and release hundreds of inmates.
Now County Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer is urging fellow board members to sign off on a plan next Tuesday to hire a consultant to dig into public safety and jail data to assess the impact and primary drivers of reduced incarceration during the pandemic and explain how the county’s use of jails shifted. She’s also calling for researchers to analyze the outcomes of those changes, plus recommend policy changes offering alternatives to jail time and investments that could expand access to those alternatives. Lawson-Remer also wants supervisors to direct the county’s chief administrative officer to hire a consultant to analyze costs, savings and longterm fiscal impacts that could follow if the county focuses more on alternatives to incarceration.
“What COVID has done is give us an opportunity to take a fresh look at the data and identify lessons learned,” Lawson-Remer said.
Lawson-Remer wants a preliminary analysis and recommendations to be presented to supervisors next March so they can incorporate initial findings into next year’s county budget. She’s calling for a final report in February 2023 with recommendations that could be baked into the county’s next budget and fashioned into a five-year plan.
Lawson-Remer has also teamed with county Vice Chair Nora Vargas on a separate Tuesday resolution to affirm the county’s commitment to criminal justice reform, alternatives to incarceration and solutions that prioritize investments to better address behavioral health challenges and poverty.
The county’s criminal justice system swiftly acted to make tough changes during the pandemic, Lawson-Remer said, and now it has a chance to reflect and reassess.
“Now that we did make that change, what can we learn from it to improve public safety for our community, to improve treatment and opportunities and the trajectories of people who are being caught in our criminal justice system, and most important, to address some of these root causes around some of these social ills?” Lawson-Remer said.
Amazon Warehouse Plans Fall Apart As County Considers Worker Protections
Amazon has abandoned its plans for a new warehouse in El Cajon. Motherboard broke the news Tuesday and reported that the developer behind the project blamed a proposal that would require employers on county-owned land to pay workers more and offer them stronger protections.
That proposal is not yet law — the Union-Tribune reported last week that it’s still in the early stages — but the mere mention of increased labor costs was enough for Amazon, one of the biggest companies in the world and one of the most anti-union, to back out.
An Amazon spokeswoman, however, told Motherboard that it will “continue to assess opportunities to invest and grow across the region.”
The Working Families Ordinance at the center of the story is part of a series of proposals that Democrats have been pushing since they gained a majority on the Board of Supervisors. Others, as Jesse Marx and Maya Srikrishnan reported in May, aim to rein in workplace abuses that disproportionately impact immigrant workers in many of the same industries identified during the pandemic as essential.
Council Approves Nehad Settlement Without Moreno’s Vote
The San Diego City Council on Tuesday voted 8-1 to approve a $3 million settlement agreement with the family of Fridoon Nehad, an unarmed man who was killed by police in 2015. We’ve been digging into the case for the past six years and recently chronicled the details that have trickled out about the shooting over time, despite the secrecy and misinformation surrounding the case.
City Councilwoman Vivian Moreno, who voted against the settlement because she said she didn’t feel comfortable approving such payouts year after year, had questions of her own during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
She asked whether the San Diego Police Department is providing training to prevent police from using excessive force, whether the department has taken any steps to address the issue with the officer who shot Nehad and what the agency is doing to reduce deadly police encounters.
“Is this just the cost of doing business if we don’t do anything to stop incidents like this from taking place?” Moreno asked. “Do we simply assume there will be a case like this every single year?”
No one from the police department was immediately available to answer Moreno’s questions.
County Reports Small Outbreak Among Homeless San Diegans
San Diego County officials late Monday revealed that at least six homeless residents in the city of San Diego have been hospitalized for shigellosis since Sept. 30.
Shigellosis is a highly contagious intestinal infection that can be spread via contaminated food and water and sometimes person-to-person.
County spokesman Tim McClain said the cases were discovered after the homeless San Diegans, all of them adults, were hospitalized. Four had previously been unsheltered. McClain said the cases were not confined to a single location and told The Union-Tribune that two were staying in shelters, though he would not identify which ones.
McClain said the county on Tuesday notified homeless service providers, outreach workers, the police department’s Homeless Outreach Team and others who work with homeless San Diegans to highlight symptoms associated with the illness and promote good hygiene.
In Other News
- An anti-mask group is suing San Diego Unified over its school vaccine mandate. The group argues that the mandate hurts unvaccinated students because it forces them to learn from home in independent study. (Union-Tribune)
- Fatal DUI crashes are on the rise in the county. (City News Service)
- Nonprofit San Diego Rescue Mission says a recent $1 million donation from the Lucky Duck Foundation is moving the homeless-serving agency closer to opening a new 50-bed shelter in Oceanside and a possible 170-bed shelter in National City. (Union-Tribune)
This Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, Megan Wood and Jesse Marx.