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Two attorneys over the weekend warned of potential legal action if the city proceeded with planned homelessness-related enforcement at a Midway District homeless camp that has grown dramatically over the past year — and that enforcement proceeded on Monday anyway.
As our Lisa Halverstadt reports, the two veteran attorneys who sent a stern letter to the mayor, city attorney, police chief and the councilwoman who represents the area are set to sit down with Mayor Todd Gloria this week to discuss their concerns about enforcement at the camp on Sports Arena Boulevard.
Attorneys Scott Dreher and Coleen Cusack, who are representing homeless San Diegans staying at the camp, alleged that a crackdown that police warned would resume this week would violate residents’ constitutional rights and interfere with the region’s Feb. 24 homeless census, among other concerns.
A city spokeswoman said police ultimately cited four people for crimes tied to homelessness and warned eight others as part of the city’s so-called progressive enforcement model that can ultimately lead to arrest after multiple police encounters and rebuffed offers of shelter. The enforcement is for now expected to continue. It had been halted for weeks amid a spike in COVID cases that kept city shelters from welcoming newcomers. Police must have open shelter beds to offer before citing residents for crimes tied to homelessness.
The enforcement seems unlikely to wind down immediately.
A Gloria spokesman told Halverstadt that the mayor sees enforcement — and offers of shelter meant to compel people to get off the streets — as a crucial piece of the city’s homelessness response.
But the spokesman also revealed that the mayor directed police and other city workers to halt enforcement and homeless camp clean-up operations a few days ahead of next week’s point-in-time count, a call he said the mayor made before the attorneys’ Saturday letter.
Ex-Faulconer Chief Says He Deleted Texts About City Biz
Ex-Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s onetime chief of staff testified during a deposition last week that he routinely handled city business via text message and automatically deleted those texts after 30 days.
The Union-Tribune was first to report the details of ex-city official Stephen Puetz’s Feb. 9 deposition tied to the debacle over the city’s 101 Ash St. lease and its landlord’s previously undisclosed $9.4 million payout to the city’s “volunteer” real estate adviser for his work on two city leases.
Puetz’s admission is significant because the state Public Records Act requires that government communications be preserved and available for public review.
It’s also significant because text messages between Puetz and purported volunteer Jason Hughes are central pieces of the real estate pro’s defense in conflict-of-interest lawsuits filed by the city.
Hughes saved text messages where he and Puetz discussed a requested meeting with Faulconer and a plan to have former city real estate chief Cybele Thompson sign a letter that Hughes’ legal team argues constituted an agreement that Hughes could get paid for complex city lease work.
Thompson has said she doesn’t recall signing that letter and Puetz has said he and the mayor did not give Hughes the go ahead to be paid for his city work.
Cross-Border Trolley and Ferry Service in the Works
Long northbound wait times have longer hindered the full potential of the cross-border economy. But Mexican authorities are championing projects that they hope will improve the border-crossing experience.
In this week’s Border Report, Sandra Dibble details the plans for a few cross-border projects, including a cross-border trolley and a ferry service from Ensenada to San Diego.
These types of projects can be complicated to get done, depending on permits from both sides of the border and private investors who are willing to step up. But they’re not impossible, Dibble writes. After all, it once seemed like a long shot to create a crossing for airline passengers between Tijuana and San Diego, and now the Cross Border Xpress has become a cross-border success story.
Let’s Learn About Our Schools
Have you ever wondered what makes a school good? Are you curious about how your child’s school is doing?
Voice of San Diego has your back with a free, easy-to-use guide for parents and guardians. We’re hosting two virtual community meetings to explore the guide and answer your questions. Download the guide here. And join us Feb. 17 or Feb. 22.
In Other News
- In a new op-ed, former Chula Vista councilman, and now a candidate for mayor, Rudy Ramirez argues that the city should consider alternatives for waste management moving forward. The city and its citizens watched as their trash cans overflowed while workers of Republic Services were on strike in late December. Ramirez sees this as an opportunity to explore other options.
- Organizers trying to recall Poway Mayor Steve Vaus are making a final push to collect the more than 6,000 signatures they need by Feb. 17. (Union-Tribune)
- The ACLU is suing the U.S. Marshals Service for its failure to release documents about the expansion of the Western Region Detention Facility that is run by the for-profit GEO Group. (inewsource)
- A year after San Pasqual Academy received notice that it would close, the school for foster youth is making plans to expand. (Union-Tribune)
This Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, Maya Srikrishnan and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. It was edited by Megan Wood.