Councilman David Alvarez / Photo by Dustin Michelson

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In 2019, former Councilman David Alvarez signed a contract with SDG&E to help the company gather feedback from the community as it attempted to build an energy substation on the border of Barrio Logan and downtown.

That contract, and a meeting he arranged and attended as part of it, could have been violations of a city ethics regulation that prohibits former elected officials from influencing city decisions for two years after they leave office, Andrew Keatts reports in a new story.

The meeting Alvarez arranged was with then-Council President Georgette Gómez, a longtime friend and political ally who he is now running against in a special election for a seat in the state Assembly. Attack ads in that race have already focused heavily on Alvarez’s consultant work after leaving office, including lobbying.

Alvarez argues there was nothing wrong with the meeting or his contract, because he was not paid to lobby anyone. He was paid for community engagement. And, he argues the substation project doesn’t meet the ethics ordinance’s definition of a “municipal decision,” and Gómez never would have had to vote on it in the first place.

A close reading of the ordinance and written guidance Alvarez received from the former director of the city’s Ethics Commission, though, suggests that the project did fall under the city’s definition of a decision that was subject to the ethics ordinance, and it’s not clear that the fact that the City Council wasn’t scheduled to vote on it is relevant.

Also working against Alvarez: SDG&E itself appears to have disclosed the meeting as a lobbying contact on its own required lobbying disclosure for that period.

Read the full story here. 

The Livin’ Ain’t Cheap

Chris LeFall spends time with his daughter Nevaeh, 2, at Greg Rogers Park in Chula Vista on March 9, 2022. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler for Voice of San Diego

As many working parents already know, the cost of childcare is wildly expensive. Annual price tags are pushing into the $20,000-a-year realm.

Even before the pandemic hit, San Diego only had enough licensed care to serve about 40 percent of working parents. About 10 percent of those options officially closed due to COVID-19 and many more have yet to re-open.

It’s not just a question of cost but of access. Finding a spot can take a long time. At the same time, workers in childcare centers make notoriously low pay. 

The good news is that childcare should (emphasis on should) be easier to address than some of the other problems plaguing San Diegans. It doesn’t depend, for instance, on massive construction, difficult land-use decisions or scarce natural resources.

“But so far,” writes Scott Lewis, “policy solutions are falling way short and some of them may make the situation worse.” 

Read the entire story here.

In case you missed it, we wrapped up a series of stories last week on San Diego’s extreme cost of living.

Four individuals gave us an inside look at their household budgets. Andrew Keatts explained how housing and transportation are inextricably linked, forcing people farther away from city centers. Lisa Halverstadt reported that housing subsidies aren’t keeping pace with rents. MacKenzie Elmer made sense of rising water and energy bills. Jesse Marx wrote about a low-income community that’s reeling after school bus cuts

Our podcast hosts walked through some of these stories and checked in with our newest reporter who’ll be covering North County. 

Need a recap? Megan Wood pulled together our biggest findings in her What We Learned This Week newsletter. Check that out here and subscribe.

Meanwhile, U-T columnist Michael Smolens wrote about how investor speculation in the housing market is driving real estate prices. U-T columnist Charles Clark argued that diversifying the ranks of planning groups that make recommendations on development is an idea worth pursuing. 

County Extends Homeless Hotel Program

Inewsource broke the news Friday that the county will allow homeless San Diegans who remain in its COVID-19 hotel program to continue staying in county-funded rooms for up to a few more months.

The county had been set to end its program serving homeless residents with health conditions that make them vulnerable to COVID and for people who have tested positive and been exposed to COVID this month.

Now, following an announcement that the federal government will provide reimbursements for such programs through June, the county decided to extend the program serving homeless residents who had been preparing to move out by Sunday.

Last week, county spokeswoman Sarah Sweeney told VOSD that 64 of 96 individuals and families staying in the county’s remaining hotel had been connected with a rental subsidy. Now there will be more time to aid the others and Sweeney said the county was “confident that a placement will be identified for anyone who is willing to work with us to identify one.”

The county reports that its COVID hotel program has served more than 16,000 people, including both homeless residents and others who needed a safe place to isolate. It’s come at a cost of $98.7 million, an amount that the county said has yet to be reimbursed. 

In Other News

  • Scientists are again looking to our … waste to determine if another COVID surge is on the horizon. And turns out, it might be. (FYI this story is for subscribers only) 
  • The San Diego Union-Tribune profiled , Lamont Jackson, San Diego Unified School District’s recently-named superintendent. He spoke about growing up in southeastern San Diego, and about how having good teachers helped him succeed in life. He told the paper that it’s because of his background that he is determined to help students get opportunities. (Also for subscribers only) 
  • Today is the last day for voters in the 80th Assembly District to register to vote by mail in the April 5 Special Primary Election. Those who miss the deadline will have to make a trip to the registrar’s office or visit a vote center to conditionally register and vote. (City News Service)  

This Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts, Jesse Marx, Megan Wood, Lisa Halverstadt. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña.

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