The Morning Report
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The 101 Ash dumpster fire continues to grow.
Our Lisa Halverstadt has yet another bombshell: City Attorney Mara Elliott’s Office on Wednesday delivered a letter to former city Chief Operating Officer Kris Michell accusing her of ordering the city’s Information Technology Department to delete records associated with city dealings on 101 Ash St. and Civic Center Plaza in her final days at City Hall.
In the letter, Elliott’s office urged Michell to help the city recover the records and noted that the destruction of any documents would violate the city’s municipal code and state law.
Michell, the city’s former top unelected official until her abrupt resignation in fall 2020, said when reached Thursday that she was dealing with a personal matter. She did not make herself available by Voice of San Diego’s 5 p.m. deadline.
As chief operating officer, Michell oversaw the city’s IT department and was in the position to direct its employees.
The latest revelation follows recent testimony under oath from former city real estate chief Cybele Thompson, who recently turned over hundreds of documents including some she said were provided by Michell. The City Attorney’s Office letter also comes as attorneys for the city face a Friday deadline from a Superior Court judge to turn over records as part of a formal discovery process tied to litigation over the city’s 101 Ash and Civic Center leases.
A Scandal Over Evictions
We told you earlier this week about the sheriff’s race and how it’s a genuinely open contest for the first time in decades.
What you might not know is that several months ago a former sergeant came forward in the media with allegations that his superiors had been playing politics by picking and choosing which evictions to prioritize during the pandemic. One was located across the street from then-Sheriff Bill Gore.
The Sheriff’s Department has repeatedly denied the sergeant’s claims and accused him, in response, of playing politics. His evidence is mostly circumstantial, but taken as a whole, he says, it shows a pattern of officials applying the law unequally and using deputies as pawns.
Taking a closer look at it all in his Fine City column, Jesse Marx writes that the former sergeant raises interesting questions about how the Sheriff’s Department ought to be run and to whose benefit. But the more immediate scandal is the one right in front of our eyes — the long-term harm that evictions cause and the role they play in making the homelessness crisis worse.
Contrary to what some might think, California’s eviction moratorium did not bring an end to evictions. The guardrails put up by the state and local municipalities merely slowed things down.
Marx tracked down a tenant who was unknowingly at the center of the political dispute and she said her life went downhill after she was evicted. She’s spent the last year living in shelters and cars.
Will Orange County Add a Desal Plant?
At quittin’ time Thursday, the California Coastal Commission was still listening to public comments before a final vote on whether to grant a coastal development permit for a new desalination plant in Huntington Beach. That same company, Poseidon, which opened a desalination plant in Carlsbad in 2015, now faces an uphill battle on finally breaking ground on the new plant.
Poseidon representatives told the Coastal Commission that California’s severe drought contributing to stress on the region’s main water resources like the Colorado River and the Sierra Nevadas means developing “drought-proof” desalinated ocean water is more necessary.
“Conservation is not enough,” said D.J. Moore, an attorney at the firm Latham and Watkins representing Poseidon at the hearing. He said the region needs major projects like Poseidon’s Huntington Beach plant in order to meet the projected need for new water resources.
Those in opposition to the project raised the high cost of San Diego’s desal water numerous times, concerned with how the new expense would impact the cost of water for low-income individuals. Desal water is San Diego’s most expensive water source at $2,588 per acre foot (an acre foot is enough water to cover an acre of land one foot deep) — a price that’s risen 22 percent since 2016.
In Other News
- San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and Tijuana Mayor Montserrat Caballero signed an agreement for increased collaboration between the two cities to address long border wait times and Tijuana River Valley pollution, among other bi-national issues. (NBC 7)
- The average rate for a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage is now 5.3 percent, up from 2.94 percent a year ago. The Union-Tribune spoke with experts about what that means for San Diego’s housing market.
This Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, Jesse Marx, MacKenzie Elmer and Megan Wood.