Photo of Dr. Tara Zandvliet’s office in South Park
The exterior of Dr. Tara Zandvliet’s office in South Park / Photo by Megan Wood

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The Medical Board of California has opened investigations into multiple California doctors, as a result of a 2019 story by Voice of San Diego that named dozens of doctors who wrote vaccine exemptions for students in the San Diego Unified School District based on questionable medical science. 

The story contained a database obtained through a Public Records Act request with the names of doctors who had written vaccine exemptions and their reasons for writing the exemption. It did not contain identifying student information. 

Medical Board investigators subpoenaed the records of 31 doctors from the list. If parents didn’t object, district officials handed over the records voluntarily. It’s unclear how many records the district handed over voluntarily. But at least ten doctors from the list have been charged with writing improper vaccine exemptions

Medical Board officials revoked the license of two doctors. Two others were barred from writing future vaccine exemptions and others’ cases are still pending. 

Several parents also objected to the release of records, which led to a protracted legal battle over the records of Dr. John Humiston and Dr. Timothy Dooley. 

A San Diego Superior Court judge ruled late last year that San Diego Unified must hand over the records of both doctors, indicating that Medical Board investigators could use school records to go after bogus vaccine exemptions in future cases. Neither Dooley or Humiston has been charged by the Medical Board related to vaccine exemptions. 

Read the full story here.

Here’s What ‘Net-Zero’ Means

The San Diego County board of supervisors committed itself to reaching “net zero” emissions by 2035, and Mayor Todd Gloria’s new climate action plan for the city would do the same if the City Council adopts it. But as the name suggests, net zero is not zero. So what, exactly, does it mean?

MacKenzie Elmer endeavored to explain it Thursday, at the pleading of an editor too dense to get beyond kind of understanding it up until this point.

Net zero, as she explains, does not mean eliminating all emissions. Rather, it means slashing emissions to the point that what remains can be absorbed by natural environmental processes — wetlands and trees are very good at pulling carbon dioxide from the air and sequestering it — or by to-be-developed technology that can ramp up those efforts.

The math of reaching that balancing point, however, is daunting. As Elmer describes, San Diego’s natural environment today is capable each year of sucking an estimated 2 million metric tons of planet-warming gasses from the atmosphere and storing it in the Earth. The region, meanwhile, produces roughly 26 million metric tons of emissions every year. 

So it’s true that “net zero” doesn’t require the region to eliminate all of its 26 million metric tons of annual emissions — for now, we could hit the target while cutting a mere 24 million metric tons of our yearly output. We could restore habitats to increase the environment’s emission-removing potential, but we could of course also develop on virgin land that would decrease that capacity. Or, unrealized technological advancements could change the equation for us.

Those are rough estimates, but they nonetheless demonstrate what Elmer reported a day earlier: a study on the county’s goal found that if every city in the county fully implements every single policy they’ve laid out in their various climate plans, the region as a whole would be about halfway to the county’s net-zero goal.

Photo of the Week

Mayor Todd Gloria approaches Steve Gordon, a homeless resident in the Ocean Beach area, while conducting the point-in-time on Feb. 24, 2022. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

From Adriana Heldiz: Every year, hundreds of volunteers participate in San Diego’s point-in-time count, a census that surveys people experiencing homelessness throughout the region for federal funding purposes.

I joined Mayor Todd Gloria early Thursday morning as he and members of his staff walked through Ocean Beach. Homeless individuals usually start moving to different parts of the city early in the morning and the goal is to survey them before they begin their day, Gloria said.

While homelessness is more visible in the downtown area, Ocean Beach is another area where homeless individuals sleep near the beach, in their cars or in some residential areas. We walked along the shore and down Newport Avenue for about two hours and spoke to a handful of residents about their experience with homelessness. 

San Diego’s last unsheltered point-in-time happened in January 2020. At the time, just under 4,000 people were found to be living outside countywide and about 3,700 in shelters. Last year, officials only counted people staying in shelters. This year, local leaders are bracing for a potential spike in people living outdoors.

The Union-Tribune covered Thursday’s count and noted that the results will be announced in April.

In Other News

  • The Union-Tribune reports that state Coastal Commission staff are recommending that commissioners sign off on the city’s proposed vacation rental rules next month, a move that would potentially pave the way for the city to enact those long-wanted regulations later this year. 
  • City officials are interviewing finalists to be San Diego’s next independent budget analyst, who leads a team of policy analysts that inform City Council decision making as a check on the power of the mayor’s office. (Union-Tribune)
  • Public works officials, meanwhile, have updated their estimate of the city’s infrastructure backlog, the gap between the city’s five-year infrastructure needs versus the money the city has available to spend on it, as the Union-Tribune reported. That number? $4.12 billion, up 36 percent in just one year.
  • Lots of that backlog is spoken for by the city’s decrepit stormwater systems, contributing to floods, especially in areas like Southcrest. But new long-term projections from NOAA say sea level rise is going to cause even more flooding in the city in the coming decades, as KPBS reported.

This Morning Report was written by Will Huntsberry, MacKenzie Elmer, Andrew Keatts and Adriana Heldiz. It was edited by Megan Wood.

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