Pechanga Arena in the Midway District / File photo by Megan Wood

The city of San Diego is at a crossroads with the Midway area. City leaders have worked for years to orchestrate of series of different moves — a new zoning plan, voter approved removal of building height limits, leases allowed to expire, etc — to make a coherent neighborhood possible out of the sea of strip malls, strip clubs and parking lots.

For its own hundreds of acres around the now Pechanga Arena, the city wants to see 3,000 – 4,000 homes or more.

But it has fumbled the process legally now twice and may have to ask voters again to sign off on the plan. The vision is in disarray. Making Midway a true neighborhood — a community that is attractive and accessible — seems even harder to imagine.

There was once, however, a thriving, diverse neighborhood of 3,500 homes there. It was called Frontier — Sports Arena Boulevard used to be called Frontier Street. The community with three schools, rec centers, churches and pride came to be because of a severe housing crisis, squalor and poverty in the streets and federal intervention. But neighbors and, thus, the city, always hated it.

VOSD Editor in Chief Scott Lewis recently stumbled onto the history and it sent him on a journey through the old newspapers and magazines filled with remnants of racist housing restrictions, questionable descriptions of blight and slums and the long story of how the city came to own (and evict the residents from) the land it now wants to turn into a neighborhood with affordable housing again.

Read Lewis’ story about why he’ll never be able to look at the Sports Arena the same again. In short, it’s hard not to see it as a landmark to a successful effort to re-segregate the city.

The Future of Grading Is Not What You Remember

“Imagine a student has two equally important math tests in a semester, no retakes,” write Will Huntsberry and Julia Woock in the newest Learning Curve. “They score 20 on the first and 90 on the second. The student has clearly improved. They’ve arguably demonstrated mastery. But they will still fail with an average score of 55.”

The way teachers grade has changed so little over the decades that it may seem as old as time. But increasingly, educators believe it is an urgent matter of fairness and accuracy to move away from simple averages. Most people take for granted that grades measure what a student knows. But if a student aces a final exam and still fails a class or does poorly, do they really?

Huntsberry and Woock explore the many ideas for grade reform being considered across California and in San Diego. San Diego Unified, for instance, voted to move toward “mastery-based” grading, as it is called, in Oct. 2020. District high schools and middle schools are still in the process of ironing out exactly what that new grading policy might look like. 

A district webpage indicates the district plans to move to a 4-point grading scale. One way to view a “0” – or “F” – on a 4-point scale might represent any grade between 0 and 20. Under that system, a “C” would be the same as 40 – 60. An “A” would be 80 – 100. 

Some districts have also suggested eliminating D’s and F’s in favor of incompletes. Others, like San Diego Unified, have pushed all teachers to offer retakes and the ability to turn in late assignments. They say deducting points for turning in late assignments is grading on compliance, rather than mastery. 

Read the Learning Curve here. 

Mexican authorities assist Haitian immigrants with the help of a translator at the COMAR offices, Mexico’s refugee agency, to register for refugee status on Oct. 13, 2021. / Photo by Joebeth Terriquez

2021 Photos of The Year

Throughout the entire year, Voice of San Diego photojournalists were on the ground documenting events and moments across the region. VOSD’s Adriana Heldiz put together some of the best work produced by our photographers in the annual 2021 Photos of the Year

She writes that our reporters spend countless hours analyzing complex issues to inform our readers. But that isn’t an easy task, and sometimes it takes more than written work to paint the whole picture. That’s where photos come in.

From documenting Trump rallies at the county’s administration building in downtown to the Hatian immigrants in Tijuana, our photographers were there. 

Take a look at our best photos of the year here

Speaking of the best of 2021 …

Government breakdowns and failures were a common theme over the past year, as revealed by Randy Dotinga’s run-down of impressive work by other news outlets. 

As part of a VOSD annual tradition, Dotinga collected some of the top stories by local outlets or national media that focused on people, things and issues in our region. 

Read more here. 

Lorena Gonzalez Is Leaving the Assembly; Taking Job with Labor

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher announced she was stepping down from the Assembly on Wednesday and would take a new job in July with the California Labor Federation.

Here’s more from the Union-Tribune. The state’s recent redistricting process left Gonzalez in the same district as Assemblywoman Akilah Weber, the 79th District and out of the newly formed 80th Assembly District, which she has represented for eight years.

Related: Former City Council President Georgette Gómez announced she’s running for the 80th Assembly District. Former City Councilman David Alvarez, long a friend and ally to Gómez, is also running.

We featured Gonzalez in the latest SD101 episode, “A Short History of San Diego Politics.

More: Over the break, we put out a special interview between VOSD podcast host Scott Lewis and host of the San Diego 101 podcast, Maya Srikrishnan. 

Lewis was one of the interviewees of t along with Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher and San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate. He has been covering San Diego politics since 2004 — when a whole bunch of political chisme boiled over. 

Lewis recounted the so-called “Cheetah-gate” scandal that took down up-and-coming San Diego City Councilmembers, the write-in mayoral campaign of Donna Frye, the Bob Filner scandal and more. Listen here. 

In Other (All Pandemic) News

  • Several community colleges will go back to online classes with the recent increase of COVID-19 cases. The schools plan to return to in-person by Jan. 18. (Union-Tribune)
  • KPBS reported that the number of coronavirus patients who are hospitalized in the region has surged to nearly 600. By evening, it had surpassed 700 and more positive COVID-19 cases (8,313) were reported Sunday than any other day since the pandemic began.
  • While some school districts distributed free at-home COVID-19 tests for students to take during the winter break, others districts did not because they never arrived from the state. CBS 8 reported that Poway Unified was one of the districts that did not get its tests.

This Morning Report was written by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña, Will Huntsberry and Scott Lewis. 

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