Former San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher / File photo by Adriana Heldiz

County Board of Supervisors Chair Nathan Fletcher is stepping down from his role as chair and plans to nominate Vice Chair Nora Vargas to replace him. 

Wednesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting will be Fletcher’s last as chair, he said in a video preview of the upcoming meeting. He has served in the position for the last two years. 

“I look forward to turning the reins over to Vice Chair Nora Vargas, the first Latina in the hundreds of years of history in our county,” Fletcher said in the video. “She’s been an incredible vice chair, and I believe she’ll make a great chair.” 

He plans to nominate Vargas at the Supervisors meeting in January, he said. 

“I think it’s important to provide an opportunity for others so that we continue to drive change,” Fletcher wrote in an email about why he’s not seeking his colleagues’ support for another term as chair. 

He’s got other plans: Last month, Fletcher said he was “exploring a run” for state senate in 2024, a seat Senate President pro tem Toni Atkins will vacate in two years. Dan Rottenstreich, Fletcher’s campaign manager, said Fletcher hasn’t made a final decision to run for the seat yet. 

Fletcher was the first person in 74 years to be re-elected chair. His predecessors had treated the role as a duty and honor to lead the meetings that they rotated around the five-member board.

Fletcher, though, led numerous initiatives during his two years as chair related to COVID-19, affordable housing and homelessness, behavioral health services, climate action and more. 

He’s still the supervisor representing much of the city of San Diego. He was re-elected to the board last month, and his current term ends in 2027. Vargas could not be reached for comment. 

Across town: Sean Elo-Rivera will remain San Diego City Council president. On Monday the now-all Democrat City Council unanimously approved his appointment. The new Council members were sworn in Monday. Councilman Chris Cate ended his eight-year term on the dais. New Councilman Kent Lee took his seat and Councilwomen Vivian Moreno, Jen Campbell and Monica Montgomery began their second terms. This is the first time in the city’s history that the Council is entirely comprised of Democrats.  

And they represent new districts: San Diego’s City Council districts have new boundaries — a result of the city’s redistricting process, which happens every 10 years. Our San Diego 101 team pulled together a helpful explainer on the process. Listen to the podcast episode here. Here’s an updated map. 

Environment Report: San Diegans Say, If the Bus Were Faster, I’d Ride It.

A man gets on the 704 bus route. / File photo by Adriana Heldiz

In the latest Environment Report, reporter MacKenzie Elmer unpacks responses to an unscientific Twitter poll asking San Diegans what it would take for them to choose to ride the bus on the regular.

The more butts on the bus, Elmer writes, the fewer emissions generated per rider and the fewer vehicles vying for space, slowing down travel time and burning more fossil fuels. 

In her own example, Elmer chose to drive downtown on a Friday night over the bus which Google Maps told her would take twenty minutes more than driving. But she hit traffic and spent 15 extra minutes looking for parking only to land in a $25-per-hour lot. If she’d chosen the bus, it’d have cost her $5 and about the same amount of travel time total. 

San Diegans have said in survey after survey that if the bus were faster, they’d probably ride it. So what stands in the way? 

Read the latest Environment Report. 

SDSU Report Spotlights Downtown Restroom Shortcomings

public restroom in Mission Bay
A public restroom in Mission Bay on Nov. 1, 2021. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

A new analysis by San Diego State researchers documents lacking public restroom access downtown and how it’s impacting the area’s growing unsheltered population.

The results: Research by SDSU’s Project for Sanitation Justice found less than half of the city’s permanent restroom facilities could be considered “truly open access” and that just two permanent facilities were available around the clock seven days a week.

Researchers’ survey of more than 50 unhoused residents revealed that half reported experiencing discrimination while trying to access a restroom and 44 percent described practicing open defecation on a typical day, a practice that fueled past public health crises.

“When we dig into reasons why people practice open defecation, nearly three quarters identify ‘no bathroom nearby/too far away’ as a reason, with others identifying ‘safety concerns’ and ‘too dark at night’ as other reasons,” the researchers wrote.  

It’s important to note: The city has long struggled over restroom access. Last year, Mayor Todd Gloria set a goal to have public restrooms within a five-minute walk of all areas downtown. Gloria has since acknowledged that even maintaining restrooms is a continuing challenge, which he blamed on us:

“I just need to ask folks to quit acting a fool in these bathrooms. I mean, it’s not just the homeless population. It’s everybody,” he said.

The writers of the Morning Report always act appropriately in public bathrooms. We don’t know about you.

A Gloria spokeswoman declined to comment on the SDSU report, but said the city is still working to achieve the target set last year.

In Other News 

The Morning Report was written by Tigist Layne, MacKenzie Elmer, Lisa Halverstadt and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. It was edited by Scott Lewis. 

Correction: This post has been updated to correct that Nathan Fletcher’s term is up in 2027.

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