When Margaret McCann, a Kensington resident, sued San Diego last year, she was motivated by the transformer boxes near her property and the city’s removal of trees. The lawsuit revolved around the burying of power lines in neighborhoods but unearthed a potentially large shortcoming in the city’s signature climate policy.
San Diego is supposed to drastically reduce its carbon emissions by 2035 but isn’t tracking the tons of planet-warming gases created by infrastructure projects.
As MacKenzie Elmer explains, the city assesses the environmental impacts of most development projects, like building construction, but not others, like roads and pipelines.
McCann’s attorney said the carve out didn’t make sense because the excavation machinery involved in undergrounding creates significant motor emissions. And a judge essentially agreed. He asked the city to go back and analyze whether the undergrounding projects are indeed consistent with the Climate Action Plan.
Politifest, the Final Frontier: Criminalizing the Homelessness
Our final Politifest panel last week focused on the role the San Diego Police Department plays in addressing homelessness in the city – and whether that should change.
Advocate John Brady and Mitchelle Woodson of nonprofit Think Dignity, which operates one of the city-backed storage centers for homeless San Diegans, told moderator Lisa Halverstadt that change is needed – and that the city’s enforcement can complicate efforts to help people get off the street.
Woodson, an attorney, recounted how she once worked to remove a court order that technically barred a homeless woman who was eight months pregnant from staying at a downtown shelter after she was ticketed for offenses tied to homelessness.
“You’re literally citing folks, criminalizing folks for being on the sidewalk,” Woodson said. “And yet when she’s able to get shelter so that she would no longer reside on the sidewalk, we’re preventing her from accessing it.”
Woodson said she was eventually able to persuade a judge to remove the order despite protests from a city attorney.
Brady, who once lived on the streets, said the enforcement approach is also problematic because the city lacks adequate resources for its homeless population.
“People don’t have anywhere to go,” Brady said. “We’re just sort of shuffling people around the city.”
Brady also said he thinks police should no longer be involved in homeless outreach.
The city’s 2019 homelessness plan also suggested that the police should play a reduced role in homeless outreach and the city last year inked a contract with nonprofit People Assisting the Homeless to provide non-police homeless outreach. The police department has continued to provide outreach too.
Capt. Shawn Takeuchi, who helps lead the city police division focused on homelessness and quality of life crimes, acknowledged that the city doesn’t have sufficient resources to address its homelessness problem but said he believes the current operation is appropriate.
Still, Takeuchi said, he and the department are open to feedback.
“I’m always listening to the community,” Takeuchi said. “I’m always thinking of other ways that we could structure this division to help our community.”
Takeuchi said he expects continued conversations about the police department’s role in coming months and years.
The next sheriff will not be a Republican. All three candidates in the race were once registered Republicans, but for various reasons, which Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts break down in the Politics Report, no longer are.
Lewis and Keatts also explain that a group, normally outspoken about major political developments, has been quiet since we revealed the circumstances around Tom Lemmon’s departure from the San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council.
More on that in the Politics Report, which is only available to members. Consider joining. Read the Politics Report here.
Podcast world: Our latest podcast is all about (what else?) law and justice. Hosts Scott Lewis, Andrew Keatts and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña reviewed a few of the panels we hosted last week as part of our annual public affairs summit focused on surveillance, criminal sentencing, the trauma of incarceration and more.
We also moderated a debate between the candidates vying to become the next sheriff of San Diego County. Bill Gore announced earlier this year that he’s not running for re-election. Jesse Marx pulled out one of the topics of discussions and reports that Undersheriff Kelly Martinez apologized for, but didn’t disavow, a video her department produced supposedly showing a deputy overdosing after coming into contact with fentanyl.
The video clearly touched a nerve. Last time we checked, it was still on the sheriff’s YouTube channel and had 5.3 million views, despite widespread criticism from medical professionals who said it doesn’t show what the Sheriff’s Department says it showed.
In Other News
U-T columnist Michael Smolens writes about a new academic report showing a connection between the closure of local newspapers and corporate misconduct (as measured through increased fines and known violations). Previous studies have suggested that local newspapers leave voters less informed and contribute to higher borrowing costs for governments.
City lawyers are asking a court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by an NBC 7 journalist against City Attorney Mara Elliott and another city lawyer, who is now running to be the county’s next sheriff. (Union-Tribune)
What a week for city lawyers. The Union-Tribune reports that lobbyists with Southwest Strategies have met with Elliott and top staff with the mayor’s office to discuss 101 Ash St. litigation.
This Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, Megan Wood and Lisa Halverstadt. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña.