San Diego's Old Central Library / Photo by Megan Wood

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Most San Diegans are clear on this much: For nearly nine years, the old Central Library has sat empty.

What’s been less known is the fact that an obscure deed restriction dating back to 1899 has contributed to the inaction surrounding the old city library.

Now the city is taking action to clear the requirement in the deed signed by civic leader George Marston that seems to mandate that the property house a public library and reading room as it continues to mull whether the facility could become a homeless shelter.

Our Lisa Halverstadt reports that city attorneys on Wednesday filed a title action in Superior Court seeking to clarify that the restriction shouldn’t be a thing — and even if it were, attorneys wrote, the site was home to a library for more than 100 years.

City officials have long argued that they don’t believe the restriction should stymie redevelopment efforts, but they have decided to formally clear the air before moving forward with any redevelopment plans, which the city wrote in court papers could include a homeless shelter or a future sale.

A spokeswoman for City Attorney Mara Elliott said the city hopes to resolve the issue within the next six months but the process could take longer if a challenger emerges.

Read more from Halverstadt here.

San Diego Shrunk Last Year Because of Negative Domestic Migration

San Diego got smaller from 2020 to 2021, entirely because fewer people moved to the region than moved away from it, according to a Thursday release from the U.S. Census Bureau.

That made for three consecutive years in which San Diego had negative population growth.

Nationwide, 73 percent of counties experienced a natural population decline, meaning there were more deaths than births during the year, a trend in part driven by an increase in deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic.

But that was not true in San Diego. Here, even during the pandemic and the recession it caused, births continued to outpace deaths, with those two factors conspiring to increase the population by some 10,000 people. But domestic migration — people moving into San Diego, and San Diegans moving away — more than made up for that growth. San Diego lost more than 22,000 people through domestic migration, leading to the region’s population decreasing by about 11,000 people, or about .3 percent.

That’s consistent with general recessionary trends, said Ray Major, chief economist and deputy CEO at the San Diego Association of Governments. When the economy falters, more people flee San Diego’s high cost of living, and fewer people are willing to come deal with it.

“A person who has a decision to take a job or not, and you look at our cost of living and it’s 30 or 40 percent higher than where they’re coming from, but our wages don’t reflect that,” he said. “People have to accept a pay cut, or a lower standard of living, to come here.”

Indeed, coastal counties from Santa Barbara to San Diego all saw population loss from 2020 to 2021. Riverside County, meanwhile, saw the fifth largest population growth of all counties in the country. It added 47,000 people, or about a one percent growth rate.

San Diego Community Power Selects New Leader 

After about two years of searching, California’s second largest publicly-run power buying agency, San Diego Community Power, has finally selected its new commander in chief. 

Karin Burns, vice president of corporate development at the Bay Area-based Franklin Energy, will join the agency April 18. Her current company focuses on finding clean energy and energy efficiency solutions for utilities and public and private customers. 

“This is an organization I’m very excited to join because it brings together two of my longstanding passions, clean energy and community development,” Burns said. 

Her role will be guiding a fledgling agency that’s just starting to roll-out power to its five San Diego cities and the county. San Diego Community Power committed itself to providing electric rates that are lower or at least competitive with San Diego Gas and Electric, which was the sole power provider in San Diego for over a century.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” said Mat Vasilakis, co-director of policy at Climate Action Campaign, who served as a community representative on the CEO search committee. “She’s well-qualified and well-versed on important aspects of what will be essential to our clean energy future, including rooftop solar, storage and elevating communities of concern.”

The CEO has the power to execute power purchase agreements and contracts, like a solar power project in Jacumba that’s become highly controversial. And she’ll guide the agency towards the ultimate goal of providing 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.

The search for CEO hit a hiccup about a year ago when the board’s first national search for a leader selected the agency’s second-in-command, Cody Hooven. But a state ethics watchdog ruled her ineligible because she helped set up the organization’s bylaws. 

Burns will make $350,000 a year plus $50,000 relocation expenses for her move from the Oakland area to Southern California. Her contract lasts three years.

In Other News

  • Marlea Dell’Anno, a former San Diego assistant city attorney, won her wrongful termination lawsuit against the city, and will take home a whopping $3.9 million, the Union-Tribune reported late Wednesday. Dell’Anno’s firing first became public in 2016 when the Union-Tribune reported it stemmed from 98 mishandled cases, including some domestic violence allegations that weren’t prosecuted because of the errors. But a year later, Dell’Anno sued the city and former City Attorney Jan Goldsmith, alleging that was all a pretext and she was really dismissed because she refused to file two misdemeanor cases that Goldsmith wanted for political reasons. Following a six-week trial, a jury sided with her, giving her $3.4 million in economic losses and $500,000 for emotional distress. City Attorney Mara Elliott’s office did not rule out an appeal.
  • San Diego already has among the loosest rules in the state regulating granny flats, or accessory dwelling units, and the city’s Planning Commission just approved a plan to encourage homeowners to build even more of them. (Union-Tribune)
  • Farmers in San Diego County face a choice: pay thousands of dollars to switch the type of water they use to irrigate their crops, or stop getting water. (inewsource)
  • State Attorney General Rob Bonta is threatening to crack down on Encinitas if it fails to approve a previously rejected housing project. (Times of San Diego)

This Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, Andrew Keatts and MacKenzie Elmer. It was edited by Megan Wood.

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1 Comment

  1. In regards to “domestic migration,” if loss of population were due solely to the rising costs of living here, then one would expect lots of homes for sale and apartment vacancies. But home sales are at record lows. Housing developers are currently offered huge incentives to build more high-density apartments due to a reported housing shortage, and buildings are going up, suggesting that demand for rental housing is high. Something doesn’t make sense.

    Is there demographic data regarding the population loss? Based on the huge declines in K-12 student enrollment, my hypothesis is that our population loss is due to the loss of families and a gain of singles or DINKS rather than a lack of population due solely to the high cost of living. I wonder whether the loss of families is partly due to the dramatic and often contentious changes in education over the past two years? Or perhaps families are moving to areas that offer more single family homes (if not just more affordable ones)? Was the increased population in Riverside County due in part to increased construction of single family homes, which would be particularly appealing to families? (For example, Riverside County built 12,300 single family homes in 2020, compared to San Diego’s 3,100.)

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