Kearny Vista hotel / Photo by Megan Wood
Kearny Vista hotel / Photo by Megan Wood

Almost a year after the city rushed to buy two Residence Inn hotels to house a particularly vulnerable group of homeless San Diegans, city leaders are scrutinizing challenges the two projects have faced since hundreds moved in.

Our Lisa Halverstadt and Andrew Keatts reveal in a new story that Mayor Todd Gloria, city councilmembers and housing commissioners have raised questions after learning about a series of deaths at the Kearny Mesa and Mission Valley hotels.

One housing commissioner said he was also caught off guard by the news that Father Joe’s Villages, the provider that has overseen the Kearny Mesa hotel, is set to drop the hotel contract in coming weeks for reasons it says are unrelated to challenges at the site. 

Meanwhile, several hotel residents who spoke with VOSD gave mixed reviews, with some describing their experience in glowing terms while others described struggling to get support they had expected.

Providers are struggling to hire people and keep them to work at the sites: The concerns are playing out as negotiations continue in a now county-led process with People Assisting the Homeless, the provider now serving residents at the Mission Valley hotel, and another expected to take over the Kearny Mesa contract in its second year.

Multiple experts told Voice of San Diego the deaths, while tragic, are to be expected because the population is struggling with so many health problems. These are permanent supportive housing projects, apartments that come with services and amenities meant to support people who previously lived on the street for years.

Happening Today: Housing Commissioners are set to get an update on the hotels at a 9 a.m. meeting.

Nonprofit Urges Action on Winter Shelter Beds

The nonprofit Lucky Duck Foundation, backed by nearly 20 local businesses, on Thursday urged regional leaders to quickly make plans to add winter shelter beds as homelessness becomes more visible countywide.

“The question we always ask is, are we really in San Diego County going to let people die on the streets to lack of action?” Dan Shea of the Lucky Duck Foundation said at a Thursday press conference.

Shea said the foundation would consider letting the city or county of San Diego use the structure to serve homeless San Diegans during the winter.

Last week, Halverstadt broke the news that the city of Chula Vista won’t use the sprung structure the nonprofit loaned to the South Bay city free of charge last year, meaning it’s now available for other uses.

The foundation also announced it will donate at least 2,000 winter coats that can also be used as sleeping bags to unsheltered homeless San Diegans.

Hygiene efforts: Nathan Fletcher, chair of the county Board of Supervisors, and Mayor Todd Gloria on Thursday announced the city and the county are temporarily deploying handwashing stations and portable restrooms in areas where many homeless San Diegans stay, among other tacks, to try to stem a shigellosis outbreak that has affected the city’s homeless population. Fletcher’s office said seven homeless residents have been hospitalized with the highly contagious intestinal infection that can be spread via contaminated food and water and sometimes person-to-person.

The Tease That is the Re-Revisioning of Midway District

Midway District Rendering from Midway Village
Midway District redevelopment rendering from Midway Village

One developer, in its bid to win over City Council on the redevelopment of San Diego’s rough and tumble Midway District, is all tell and no show since it talked about its plans with the Union Tribune earlier this week. Brookfield Properties. had to go back to the drawing board after an earlier version of their bid was rejected for lack of affordable housing. No flashy, idealistic mock-ups of the area from them yet. 

Now another is all show and no tell, as evidenced by a tweet of a new rendering from Midway Village, the rebranded Midway Sports & Entertainment District, on Thursday. That image is a teaser for an event on Sunday where Midway Village intends to drop the robe, so to speak, and bare the rest. It’s the first glimpse of a re-revisioned future for the Midway District which hasn’t seen a lot of love from redevelopment in its many-yeared history. 

Developers have a 60-day window to submit their proposals to the city which closes in early December, said Dike Anyiwo, vice chair of the Midway Pacific Highway Community Planning Group. That’s followed by another three months of negotiation with the city development staff before the City Council decides on the final plan. 

The neighborhood group may not take an official stance on any one developer, he said. Individual members may weigh in with their opinion. But Anyiwo will be looking for plans that take into account that the Midway District is predicted experience constant flooding in the coming decades, especially during storm surges, if estimates of climate change-caused sea level rise play out. 

“I think we need to be aware of the fact… that the entire Midway District is due to be underneath the sea within the next 50 years or so assuming there’s no mitigation,” Anyiwo said. “It’s important to have stormwater addressed (in these plans).” 

In Other News

  • The infamous “Footnote 15,” a relic of the doomed 101 Ash Street deal which we devoured in an old Politics Report, has resurfaced in a full version of the memo published by La Prensa San Diego and described in a new Union-Tribune story. City Attorney Mara Elliott went “Glomar response” on the quasi-development, neither confirming nor denying authenticity of that memo to the Union Tribune.
  • Leaders of a volunteer citizens panel overseeing the San Diego county sheriff and probation department are calling for a number of changes that would boost transparency. The Citizens’ Law Enforcement Review Board wants the sheriff to permit one of their board members at death scenes and into previously-sealed autopsy reports for in-custody deaths, for instance. If adopted with Board of Supervisors and the sheriff’s OK, panel’s reforms are some of the biggest changes in citizen oversight of the department in three decades. (Union Tribune)
    • While we have you here, current Sheriff Bill Gore announced he won’t be running for a third term. We’ll host a debate between the two candidates to take over for Gore during Politifest which begins Monday. You can register here for Thursday’s sheriff debate hosted by Voice of San Diego Editor in Chief Scott Lewis and more. 
  • The publisher of San Diego’s paper of record, in light of recent declines in daily circulation of the physical product, said he envisions a future where the newspaper prints a Sunday paper only, shifting all of its news online. But he wouldn’t say when. (Times of San Diego)
  • The new company selected to provide ambulance service in San Diego ensured a smooth transition due to a recent hiring spree which apparently provided enough paramedics and emergency medical technicians. The city’s fire chief was concerned Falck USA was short dozens of positions before the provider takes over on Nov. 27. (Union Tribune)
  • Santa Ana winds are bringing high heat and low humidity that could create “near critical” wildfire conditions for San Diego on Thursday. (Union Tribune)

This Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts, MacKenzie Elmer and Lisa Halverstadt. It was edited by Scott Lewis.

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