1401 Imperial Avenue
In 2018, the City Council voted to purchase a former indoor skydiving facility at 1401 Imperial Avenue in hopes of making it the city's first navigation center for homeless San Diegans. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

In 2018, the city made an unconventional call to buy a shuttered skydiving facility in East Village in hopes of transforming it into a homeless service hub.

In the latest chapter of our series following up on stories that once made big headlines, our Lisa Halverstadt checked in on the facility now known as the homelessness response center.

Halverstadt reports the East Village facility is now drawing a constant flow of homeless residents seeking aid after a rocky start that included an avalanche of skepticism from folks including now-Mayor Todd Gloria and the departure of the nonprofit initially selected to operate the center.

The San Diego Housing Commission, which now directly oversees the center, reports workers there helped directly move 108 people into permanent or longer-term housing during the 14-month period after it reopened in May 2021.

But the future of the homelessness response center is uncertain.

While a Housing Commission executive said the facility has been a worthwhile addition to the city’s efforts to combat homelessness, the Gloria administration has been digging into the effectiveness of the model and whether the facility could be repurposed. (Spoiler alert: Two large wind tunnels that remain in the building do complicate matters!)

Read the rest of the story here.

California’s Pre-K Expansion Skipped After School Care

Monday marked the start of California’s $2.7 billion expansion of its “transitional kindergarten” program, which leaders expect to cover all four-year-olds in the state by 2025. Gov. Gavin Newsom spent some time in Washington, D.C. this summer touting it as an example of the state’s forward-thinking approach to education.

There are now twice as man transitional kindergaten classes across San Diego Unified School District schools as there were last year; there are also twice as many families on waiting lists for the afterschool programs that working families rely on, reports Claire Trageser, a KPBS investigative reporter.

Kim McDougal, executive director of the San Diego YMCA Childcare Resource Services, which offers many afterschool programs, pointed out many afterschool programs aren’t even licensed to take care of some of the younger kids now eligible for transitional kindergarten.

“If we thought of a child and a family in this holistic way, as we should, then we would have looked at what needs to happen for a child across the whole day,” she said. “And we would have had systems that communicated with each other.”

Fast Food Worker Bill Headed to Governor

Food workers and activists block traffic outside Jack in the Box headquarters on June 9, 2022. / Photo by Joe Orellana for Voice of San Diego

The California Senate passed AB 257 by a 21-12 vote on Monday. Originally introduced by former Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the bill establishes a Fast Food Sector Council at the state level to promulgate minimum standards on wages, working conditions and training.

Franchisees and the workers have been lobbying hard all summer. In June, Jesse Marx attended a protest outside the headquarters of Jack in the Box, where more than a dozen people got arrested to raise awareness of their cause. They pointed to research showing that fast food worker households tend to fall below the poverty line and report wage theft or health and safety violations while on the job.

The California Restaurant Association, in response, has argued that labor violations in the fast-food industry are low and the current system for labor relations works fine. In a statement last week, president and CEO Jot Condie said an international union (SEIU) was smearing small business owners to launch a national organizing campaign.

Origins of this bill: Organizing within the fast-food industry is notoriously difficult because the work is standardized and relatively simple and workers tend to leave rather than dig in. As Vox noted in a recent story, sectoral bargaining is common in Europe because it allows workers who are often part-time across an entire industry, as opposed to a single company, the ability to set standards for employment.

After warning about unionization in fast food, Senate Republicans opposed to AB 257 spent a lot of floor time reading lists of random restaurants, including Randy’s Donuts. Sen. Pat Bates said singling out a single industry for special oversight was unjustified while Sen. Brian Jones called it “a not-so-hidden tax on California families.” 

Both voted no. Sens. Toni Atkins and Ben Hueso were a yes. 

Tweaks at last minute: As currently written, AB 257 does not make fast food corporations jointly liable for violations in a franchise. It includes a six-year sunset so lawmakers can revisit and only applies to a restaurant with “100 or more establishments nationally that share a common brand.” The council must also be made up equally of workers and employers. 

With those changes in the Senate, the bill went back to the Assembly on Monday night and passed with the minimum number of votes, CalMatters reported. Assembly members Tasha Boerner Horvath, Brian Maienschein and Chris Ward voted yes while other Democrats, including David Alvarez, abstained.

It goes next to Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Major Upzoning Bills Pass, Too

While we’re catching up on the end-of-session machinations in Sacramento: the legislature passed two bills that would make it faster and easier for developers to build housing on properties that are currently zoned only for commercial use, like shopping centers and big box retail centers.

Previously, affordable housing and organized labor were pushing competing versions of the same bill. As CalMatters helpfully summarized last week, one bill included stricter affordable housing requirements for new developments, while the other included higher wage and benefits standards for the labor used on the projects. In the end, the legislature passed both bills, leaving developers to decide which one they prefer.

In Other News 

  • San Diego State’s Athletic Director John David Wicker told reporters during a tense press conference Monday that the school had not ignored allegations that several football players had been accused of gang-raping a high school student last fall. (Union-Tribune)
  • The Union-Tribune reports that UC San Diego is reinstating its two-year on-campus housing guarantee for incoming freshmen and sophomores in fall 2023. The university expects to house more than 18,000 students by mid-September. 
  • The city of San Diego is getting a second chance to challenge a trip-and-fall lawsuit, where a judge originally awarded $900,000 to the plaintiff, but later set aside the verdict because the wrong city department was served. (CBS 8) 

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, Jesse Marx and Andrew Keatts. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. 

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