The Port of San Diego's administration building on Pacific Highway on Tuesday, April 12, 2022. / Photo by Jakob McWhinney
The airport connection envisioned by SANDAG and city leaders would stem from the Port of San Diego’s headquarters on Pacific Highway. / Photo by Jakob McWhinney

San Diego leaders have conceded that they won’t build a massive regional transit station that connects the trolley to the airport as part of a dense urban redevelopment of the Navy’s NAVWAR facility in Old Town.

Instead, they hope to do each of those things in three separate projects.

Mayor Todd Gloria, SANDAG Board Chair and Encinitas Mayor Catherin Blakespear and SANDAG Director Hasan Ikhrata told our Andrew Keatts that they’ve selected a path to, once and for all, connect the trolley system to the airport.

That connection will stem from the Port of San Diego’s headquarters on Pacific Highway, where the agency intends to build a transit station, trolley maintenance yard and new Port facilities. It will connect to the rental car facility across Pacific Highway and take travelers to the airport terminals on an automated people mover.

Gloria said that project was on a “fast track,” at least by regional planning standards. The agency hopes it could break ground in just two years, and could be funded in part from federal dollars from the infrastructure bill passed by Congress last year.

But Ikhrata hasn’t given up on his dream for a transit center to anchor the region’s system. Instead of the NAVWAR complex, though, it’s now envisioned downtown, as part of a multi-block redevelopment that would replace the existing Civic Center complex and include multiple nearby blocks owned by public agencies. Ikhrata called it the second phase of the airport-transit connection.

The Navy, meanwhile, will continue to pursue a multi-use redevelopment of its Old Town facility, but without a regional transit center as a selling point. A spokesperson said the Navy could solicit bids or interest from developers by the end of the year.

Continue reading about the new vision for an airport-transit link and a mega-transit center here.

City Staff Picks Preferred Sports Arena Bid

City of San Diego staff has picked its favorite team to redevelop the Sports Arena site and is asking the City Council to cut two of the five bidders out of the running. 

A new report released Tuesday reveals that city staff believes Midway Rising, the team led by the housing developer Zephyr, should be given priority. And two other teams, Hometown SD and Midway Village+ should also be examined “In order to have options for the City as we move through further negotiations,” the report states. 

A 2021 rendering of Midway Rising.

This is just the staff recommendation and the City Council could decide on a different route. 

The two bids the staff would like to put in the round file include Neighborhood Next led by the ConAm Group. It had the most housing, and more affordable housing than Midway Village+, but the director of real estate assets for the city, Penny Maus, who wrote the report, said the team didn’t have a viable plan to build a new arena. 

The three teams to advance, in fact, under Maus’ preferred scenario all pledge to build an entirely new arena. Discover Midway, the team led by Brookfield Properties, had also only pledged to revitalize the existing arena. 

Continue reading about plans to redevelop the Sports Arena site here.

City to Appeal Measure C Ruling

The city will appeal a March Superior Court ruling that came down against a 2020 hotel-tax measure aiming to fund a Convention Center expansion, homeless initiatives and road repairs.

The City Council voted 6-3 behind closed doors on Tuesday to appeal Superior Court Judge Kenneth J. Medel’s ruling that the city’s attempt to argue that Measure C passed with less than a two-thirds vote failed before the city ever went to court. City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera and Councilwomen Monica Montgomery Steppe and Vivian Moreno voted against the appeal.

Two years ago, 65 percent of voters backed the proposed hotel-tax increase. Mayor Todd Gloria and proponents have since argued that the measure passed with less than the usual two-thirds vote following a series of rulings elsewhere in the state declaring that citizens initiatives only require a simple majority. The City Council in April 2020 voted to delay the city’s formal declaration of whether the tax hike passed when it voted to accept election results from the city clerk. A year later, it voted to pursue a validation case to argue it passed.

Medel panned those moves in his ruling last month and Andrea Guerrero of Alliance San Diego, which challenged the city in court, said Tuesday she believes the city will faces an uphill battle.

“The burden is on the city in the appeal, and they will have to argue that they were above state election law when they acted to delay the outcome of the election and then changed the rules of the game,” Guerrero said. “That’s a hard burden.”

Gloria and the committee behind the measure argue they have a strong case.

“A substantial majority of San Diego residents supported Measure C to create a dedicated funding stream to address homelessness, grow our local economy and fix our streets – priorities shared across city leadership and in every community throughout our city,” Gloria wrote in a statement. “This appeal will affirm the passage of Measure C so we can fulfill the will of the voters and get to work addressing our city’s top challenges.”

The Yes! For a Better San Diego campaign, which is also pursuing an appeal, wrote in a statement it welcomed the city’s partnership and believed the Superior Court ruling was “mistaken and not in line with recent decisions around the state.” 

  • The City Council separately voted Tuesday in open session to approve a contract with Catholic Charities to open a 40-bed downtown shelter for women with a particular focus on those with medical or higher-need conditions and those being released from the hospital without a safe place to stay.
  • The City Council on Monday voted to give homeowners a new incentive to build granny flats and rent them out to low-income residents, Times of San Diego reports.

Local Community College Districts Sued Over COVID-19 Measures

Employees and a student from three Southern California community college districts have filed a civil rights lawsuit against the vaccine, masking and testing requirements the districts adopted to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The lawsuit was filed on March 30 by former San Diego Superior Court Judge Gary Kreep, who suffered an “astounding” loss in his 2018 reelection bid. It alleges the districts did not have the legal authority to adopt the measures. The suit also argues that the requirement that individuals who received a religious exemption from vaccination be “subjected” to testing twice a week — which it called a “repetitive and invasive medical procedure” — amounted to religious discrimination. 

The San Diego Union-Tribune previously reported that such vaccine requirements by employers are usually legal, so long as they provide individualized religious and medical exemptions.

The plaintiffs include two employees from the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District, two from the South Orange County Community College District and two employees and a student from the San Diego Community College District.

Both the San Diego and Grossmont-Cuyamaca community college districts require all students and employees attending in-person classes to be vaccinated.

Californians Settle Lawsuits Against IBWC

Tijuana River
A tributary near the U.S.-Mexico border where sewage from Tijuana flows through. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

On Tuesday, Californians settled three lawsuits against the International Boundary and Water Commission or the IBWC, the binational agency that treats a portion of the sewage-laden water rolling into the U.S. from Tijuana under a treaty between the two countries. 

At the crux of the many complaints by the city of Imperial Beach, Surfrider Foundation, and San Diego’s Regional Water Quality Control Board and others was general frustration that the IBWC, which runs an international wastewater treatment plant at the border, wasn’t doing enough to prevent and monitor Tijuana wastewater entering the Tijuana River and the valley on the U.S. side. 

The lawsuits alleged IBWC violated the federal Clean Water Act by allowing millions of gallons of raw sewage, heavy metals and other contamination to spill into San Diego, shuttering beaches along the Southern California coast and bringing questionable water quality to the watershed and surf zone. 

A settlement is not an admission of guilt. But the IBWC agreed to a laundry-list of new tasks and a bunch of new reporting requirements, like tracking and attempting to prevent trash from reaching metal grates that strain any water flowing down from Tijuana’s canyons.

Read more about the settlement here.

In Other News

  • The Union-Tribune reports that an analysis ordered by the civilian review board overseeing the Sheriff’s Department found county jail experienced more “excess deaths” than at any of the state’s other largest jail systems.
  • Another nationwide search launched by the city has ended with a decision to make an internal hire. Times of San Diego reports that veteran city staffer Heidi Vonblum is the city’s new planning director.
  • Palomar Health told 10 News it has reached an impasse with two unions representing nurses and caregivers amid ongoing contract negotiations.
  • CBS 8 reports that the president of the agency that oversees the Del Mar Fairgrounds and the San Diego County Fair says it’s determined to try to proceed with this year’s fair despite a Superior Court ruling that led an attorney for the agency to claim that the show might not go on.
  • The Union-Tribune reports that the USS Midway Museum pledged to pour $30 million into a new public park at the end of Navy Pier in an agreement approved by port commissioners on Tuesday.

This Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts, Lisa Halverstadt, Scott Lewis, Jakob McWhinney and MacKenzie Elmer. It was edited by Megan Wood and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña.

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1 Comment

  1. “This appeal will affirm the passage of Measure C so we can fulfill the will of the voters…”
    the mayor is being disingenuous. just as no person is above the law, neither is
    “the will of the voters.” the court exists to decide the law, not the vote.

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