Southeast San Diego Mountain View
Southeastern San Diego on Nov. 4, 2021. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Southeastern San Diego has for years been the center of Black cultural and political power in the region.

That’s led to dependable political representation for Black San Diegans in the city’s fourth district, currently held by Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe. But high housing costs and other factors have over time displaced people who long called the southeastern San Diego area home to find cheaper rents further east, dispersing the city’s Black population to La Mesa, Spring Valley, El Cajon and outside the county and state altogether.

Now, recognizing the shift, advocacy groups are pushing the county’s redistricting commission to create a new seat of political power that isn’t diminished by residents displaced across the city line.

They’re asking for a new county district that separates some of those east county communities from the rural areas further east, and groups them instead with communities that share their interests – like City Heights, the city’s District 4 neighborhoods. It would create a single district that recognizes the similar priorities of East African refugee and immigrant groups, Latinos, Asian American and Pacific Islanders and the Black people who increasingly cannot call southeastern San Diego home.

Maya Srikrishnan breaks down the demographic shifts underway, what’s caused them, and the political organizing to which they’ve led. Saturday, the county’s redistricting commission voted to move forward with two draft maps that, at least for now, both include the new empowerment district.

Read the rest of her story here.

The Redistricting Commissions Worked This Weekend

The city of San Diego’s commission had a special meeting Saturday as well, where it picked a new map for the city’s nine city council districts that will serve as the basis for its final decision. 

The commission can still make changes to the map it selected in the weeks ahead.

The commission picked the “Clairemont United map,” so named because it groups the Clairemont neighborhoods in a single district after they had been split between District 2 and District 6. It also maintains two districts for coastal residents – and that their coast-specific concerns get two representatives on the council.

A coalition of UCSD students and advocacy organizations representing a broad swath of racial groups implored the commission to instead go with the so-called San Diego Communities Collaboration map – one commissioner estimated 40 percent of the nearly four hours of public comments favored it. The SDCC map would have created a single coastal district and split UCSD from La Jolla and into District 6, which would have had an AAPI population of over 40 percent.

The commissioners, on a narrow 5-4 vote, rejected the SDCC map, citing concern that it would have moved too many city residents into new districts. The commission then approved the Clairemont United map on a 7-2 vote.

More redistricting: The county redistricting commission voted to move forward with two draft maps with a few amendments. One draft map would create a border district that spans the entire border section of San Diego County from the coast to the boundary with Imperial County and would create a North County district with cities around the 78 corridor, like Carlsbad, Oceanside, Vista, San Marcos and Escondido. The second would keep the eastern part of the border in a district with other east county rural areas and puts Carlsbad in a coastal district that runs south to Coronado.

The next county public hearings on these maps will be on Dec. 2.

Politics Report

Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts explain in the Politics Report that San Diego’s leaders have long touted their authorship of the city’s 2015 Climate Action Plan with great pride, even while ignoring large parts of the policy.

The climate plan was billed as a legal commitment to slash the city’s carbon footprint. Some of the ways it would do that would be popular, others wouldn’t. But the people supposedly had a way to enforce the plan to hold leaders to their promises. That was what was supposed to be different and special about it. 

The plan led to the creation of San Diego Community Power, an agency that buys energy for city residents in hopes of hitting the plan’s goal that San Diego generate its electricity with 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.

It was also supposed to upend the politics of housing construction in San Diego. Cars and the driving of them contribute significantly to carbon emissions. Transportation is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in California (at least by humans).

But the city is not at all close to reaching its bike, walk or transit targets, and city staff now hardly pretends that new policies comply with the requirement. The City Council either stopped paying attention, or has elected not to call them on it. And no outside groups, so far, have tried to hold anyone accountable. Now, the city has released a new plan that, even if every step is taken as envisioned, still would not meet its new emission reduction target. 

You’ll find that, and more, in the Politics Report – a weekly roundup available to Voice of San Diego members. With a click of a button, you could be one of them

Oh Yeah, About the City’s New Climate Plan

On the podcast, our hosts picked apart San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria’s new Climate Action Plan, which sets an ambitious goal of net zero emissions by 2035. Officials plan to phase out natural gas and transition nearly all buildings in the city to electricity.

But even if the city does everything outlined in the mayor’s new plan, it’ll still fall short by 2 million metric tons of emissions, as MacKenzie Elmer wrote in a separate story. San Diego will have to find other ways to offset those emissions at some point.

The hosts also talked about staff shortages at public agencies and the county’s new rules and aspirations for public comment.

In case you missed it: Last week, the Board of Supervisors agreed to shorter time limits and gave the chair the authority to admonish anyone who uses harassing or discriminatory language after some random dude made threatening remarks and used a racial slur at the podium.

On Friday, attorney Cory Briggs released a letter to county officials demanding that they reconsider or face legal consequences. He argued that even the most vile and objectionable statements cannot be used as a basis to violate the law — in this case, the California Brown Act, which ensures open meetings. 

Council Asked to Sign Off on Monthly Civic Center Plaza Payments

San Diego officials are essentially asking the City Council to ratify an agreement to resume making payments to the lenders behind its Civic Center Plaza lease. A vote is scheduled Tuesday. 

Over the summer, City Attorney Mara Elliott’s office called for the city to halt rent payments after learning that its former real estate adviser hadn’t been a volunteer but was actually being paid for his work on the deal. 

The lenders responded by filing an eviction action, but then agreed to drop the case once the city agreed to keep making monthly payments.

Attorneys for the city are still seeking to void and recoup past lease payments on the Civic Center and 101 Ash St. leases. That’s because the city’s former adviser — Jason Hughes — was paid for his work on both deals, an arrangement the city now considers a conflict of interest. The city has not cut any deals to resume monthly payments for 101 Ash, the downtown high rise it evacuated in January 2020 after a series of asbestos violations.

In Other News

  • U-T columnist Michael Smolens writes about a new job board out of San Diego seeking to help local businesses find employees “regardless of vaccination status.” The company has familial ties to a spokesman for county Supervisor Jim Desmond.
  • Remember how San Diego Unified’s “mental health day” got a ton of backlash from parents who felt it was to cover staffing issues? Well, only half of students showed up to school on Friday, which is going to cost the district some of its funding. (Union-Tribune) 
  • KPBS reported that some parents used the district’s “mental health day” to get their children vaccinated
  • A planned strike at Kaiser Permanente facilities was called off after a labor union and the health provider reached a tentative agreement this weekend. (Union-Tribune)

Correction: An earlier version of this story said the city’s redistricting commission approved a preliminary map on a 5-4 vote. It was approved on a 7-2 vote.

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, Lisa Halverstadt, Maya Srikrishnan and Andrew Keatts. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. 

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