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SANDAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata / Photo by Megan Wood
SANDAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata / Photo by Megan Wood

The San Diego Association of Governments board is scheduled to vote today on a new, 30-year outline of the region’s transportation future. They’ll do so just a week after the years-long process of writing it was dramatically upended by the revelation that the board’s Democratic leaders did not support its most controversial policy.

That policy was the road user charge, a plan to charge drivers for every mile they drive. SANDAG assumed that the state would begin charging drivers that way by 2030, and that they could piggyback on it by levying a countywide charge at the same time.

The agency expected to bring in about $19 billion that way by 2050, before Democrats announced a plan to vote for the plan while sketching out a strategy of removing the charge later.

Republicans on the board have been campaigning against it since 2019, and it had become a cause within right-wing media. But that conservative opposition, in some ways, shielded SANDAG from other criticism of the idea.

Colin Parent, for instance, director of Circulate San Diego and a La Mesa councilman, told our Andrew Keatts that his issue was simply that the idea was too speculative. It’s illegal to levy the charge now, and if that doesn’t change the money will never come. Assuming it will mean SANDAG hasn’t had to have tough conversations over its priorities.

As Keatts lays out, though, there are other assumptions about new revenue in the measure that haven’t generated as much scrutiny. The agency expects, for instance, that voters will approve sales tax increases in 2022, 2024 and 2028.

Click here to read the full story.

Protesters Occupy the Prebys Foundation Office

The Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment organized a protest on Dec. 19, 2021, at the office of the Prebys Foundation, which recently sold thousands of apartment units to investors.

A group of tenants and activists occupied the office of the Conrad Prebys Foundation in Mission Valley on Thursday. They demanded that the charitable organization act as an intermediary with the new managers to prevent evictions, keep rents low long term, make repairs and set up a process to address grievances. Things like cockroaches and leaky roofs.

“We’re already in a housing crisis,” said Luis Fernando Anguiano, a communications associate with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, which organized the event. “This is only gonna get worse if we don’t put a stop to it now.”

In August, the Prebys Foundation closed a deal with Blackstone and one its investment partners for around $1 billion. Blackstone, a private equity firm, became one of the largest landlords in San Diego County overnight, bringing thousands of units into its already-impressive portfolio.

The foundation has been on the defensive ever since — arguing that it got the best possible deal for all of San Diego by raising new funds for grants that could go towards science, the arts and whatnot.

But as Lisa Halverstadt and Jesse Marx reported in May, affordable housing advocates were frustrated that they hadn’t been given more time to find alternative buyers. Blackstone was a highly controversial pick for a charitable organization, given its history in the housing market.

In 2019, rapporteurs for the United Nations concluded that the firm’s practice of turning homes into financial instruments that were then traded on global markets was displacing people in the name of profit.

The foundation’s director of operations, Nikki Phair, tried to pass the protesters along to a media representative on Thursday and the president of the board, Dan Yates, issued a statement later in the day reiterating that his organization had no influence over the properties to connect both sides. When the protesters refused to budge, Phair and another employee left to find security. 

The group chanted in the meantime, “Blackstone, Blackstone, you can’t hide, we can see your greedy side.” 

Everyone disbanded after the cops showed up but not without a little haggling. Officer Tyler Cockrell said he couldn’t broker civil deals on anyone’s behalf — he was just there to keep the peace. Instead, he encouraged the protesters to leave and attempt another meeting with the various parties after the day’s commotion.

“It may have worked,” he said. 

San Diego Unified Leaves Millions on the Table

San Diego Unified schools left more than $4 million on the table last year that could have gone to supplies and more, according to a document obtained by VOSD.

The unspent funds were classified as Title I money, which comes from the federal government and is used to help schools with higher concentrations of poverty. The money often goes to critical positions like school counselors or after-school tutors. It can also go to supplies. 

The money doesn’t exactly disappear when schools don’t spend it, reports Will Huntsberry, but schools completely lose autonomy over how it’s used.

Click here to read more and see which schools left money unspent.

Photo of the Week 

The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, seen here on November 30, 2021, is currently being desmatled after 45 years of operating. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

From Adriana Heldiz: I recently had the opportunity to visit the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station with VOSD’s Environment Reporter MacKenzie Elmer.

Before I begin, I want to start off by saying that on our drive up there, MacKenzie said, “It’s always been my dream to visit a nuclear power plant.”

What a nerd.

Some of the most unexpected shots ended up being the best. Take for instance my pick for the latest Photo of the Week. I could’ve chosen a regular photo showing the two iconic domes, but instead I chose another that shows depth. The photo above shows rubble from the dismantling of the power plant. I layered that pile of rocks with one of the domes in the background. 

This accomplishes two things: San Onofre is seen from a new and creative perspective. And it tells the story of what the future holds for the site. 

Click here to read this week’s Environment Report to learn more about San Onofre’s 3.6 million pounds of nuclear waste.

In Other News

This Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts, Jesse Marx, Megan Wood, Adriana Heldiz and MacKeznie Elmer.

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