Cars drive down Third Avenue in Chula Vista. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Late last year, SANDAG’s board unleashed an unusual two step: It approved a new plan for the region’s transportation system in the coming decades, and then immediately promised to remove a major component of that plan in a few months.

The approach, orchestrated by Mayor Todd Gloria and supported by fellow Democrats on the board like Board Chair Catherine Blakespear, came in response to withering criticism from conservative leaders of SANDAG’s plan to charge drivers for every mile they drove, to both reduce carbon emissions and to fund major transportation projects.

Nearly nine months later, though, the agency now acknowledges that it has no intention of removing the driving fee from the region’s transportation plan, as Gloria and the rest of the board pledged to do just moments after approving a plan that included the fee.

In the latest installment of the “Whatever Happened To…” series we’re running this week, we checked in on the effort to repeal that controversial plan. And it turns out, the conservative board members who last year said the promise was an empty gesture have every right to take a victory lap.

Instead of removing the driving fee, SANDAG instead says it will simply get to work on the next regional plan that it’s due to adopt in 2025. That, they say, is when they’ll heed the board’s call to get rid of the fee, by not including it in the next plan.

So, if you’re keeping track: whatever happened to the promise to get rid of the plan to implement a driving fee by 2030, included in the regional plan SANDAG passed last year? It died. 

Read more about the driving fee and SANDAG’s plan here. 

County Pivots on Behavioral Health Hub Site

The county is pivoting away from a much-publicized plan to open a behavioral health hub on county-owned land on Third Avenue in Hillcrest. The Union-Tribune broke the news earlier this week that the county now plans to sink $28 million into renovations at an existing tower at Alvarado Hospital Medical Center near San Diego State to save cash and open the hub more quickly.

County supervisors on Tuesday approved the plan to develop a central region hub at Alvarado Hospital that is expected to include 44 inpatient psychiatric beds, an emergency psychiatric unit and a so-called crisis stabilization unit where patients can be connected with care, medicine and other supports for up to 24 hours.

Officials said Tuesday they expect the pivot will allow them to expand access to other types of psychiatric care at county properties on Third Avenue and the Midway District.  

County Behavioral Health Services Director Luke Bergmann said he plans to present an analysis of the demand for various behavioral health services including longer-term care at the board’s Sept. 27 meeting. He also said staff will provide an update on “concrete actions” the county will take to bolster capacity on Oct. 11.

In Other News 

  • In response to a new state law, San Diego police launched an online portal where sexual assault survivors can track evidence kits in their cases. (Union-Tribune) 
  • Senate Pro Tempore Toni Atkins’ bill that expands abortion access is heading to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. Senate Bill 1375 would allow qualified nurse practitioners in California to perform first-trimester abortions without the supervision of a physician. (City News Service) 
  • Top issues San Diego residents are reporting on the city’s Get It Done app are parking violations, homeless encampments and illegal dumping. (inewsource) 
  • Homeless residents staying in Chula Vista’s Harborside Park filed an injunction in federal court to try to halt the city’s Wednesday plan to evict them and close the park for 90 days. Two men living in the park were attacked there last week. (10 News, Times of San Diego)

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

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