Santa Fe Depot, San Diego in the rain, May 2015. / Wikimedia Commons

Just as the atmosphere giveth California extreme drought, it hath taken it away – somewhat – with the latest deluge of rain from a series of Pacific storms sweeping the western seaboard. 

The amount of moisture hitting the state right now is so great, it has obliterated the most extreme levels of drought – called “exceptional” drought according to U.S. Drought Monitor program terminology– that were plaguing central California. Areas listed in the second-worst stage of drought shrank from 35 percent since Dec. 27, to 27 percent as of Jan. 5. (But the drought is far from over. Underline and circle that. San Diego, for instance, remains in moderate drought despite the rain.)

How it measures up: Rain from New Year’s Eve through Monday totaled 1.8 inches in Carlsbad, 3.29 inches in Ramona to over an inch at the San Diego International Airport. That means the soils are soaked through and any extra water will pile up, making California prone to flooding. 

That’s what California saw Thursday among other side effects. A helicopter rescued one person from the floodwaters of Ventura River. Over 4,000 customers lost power in Yucca Valley. Enormous waves powered by storm surges pummeled piers in Santa Cruz. San Diego is under its own coastal flood advisory until 6 p.m. Friday and rolling in are ocean waves higher than 16 feet. City crews closed the Ocean Beach pier Thursday morning and work stopped on efforts to rebuild key rail lines along the seaside cliffs of San Clemente. 

A sign near the U.S.-Mexico border warns of flooding. / File photo by Adriana Heldiz

Rain and sewage from Tijuana filled the seasonally-dry Tijuana River that’s been flowing over the U.S.-Mexico border for days now at a rate of 89 million gallons per day. The swelling San Diego River is also threatening the welfare of individuals experiencing homelessness who live along its banks. 

This winter storm is the stuff of strong jet streams causing warm and cold air to converge over an ocean full of moisture, triggering cyclones and pressure exchanges, pushing extra-stormy weather toward land. 

“Hurricane Hunters,” part of the U.S. Air Force’s Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, are currently on a mission to drop weather tracking instruments through these storms to help improve predictions about how much more rain California might get and when, according to a news release from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, a partner on the project. 

The rains are expected to lift by Friday, with potential chances for more showers early next week.

State Officials and Local Advocates Quash Their Beef With City Housing Proposal

San Diego City Hall / File photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran

Since adopting its first Climate Action Plan in 2015, the city of San Diego has made “transit priority areas” – the neighborhoods around rail and high-frequency bus stations — the focal point of its planning efforts. That’s where the city has tried to direct most new, dense housing, and in hopes those neighborhoods would be less car dependent. 

But for just as long, critics and even some supporters of the city’s planning efforts have criticized the city’s measurement of those areas. It defined them as the area within a half-mile radius of the stations, as the crow flies. That means areas separated from the stations by canyons or freeways were considered close to the stations and therefore ripe for development, even if walking to the stations wasn’t really viable.

What has changed: City planners have rolled out their response to those concerns – specifically to a request from Councilwoman Marni von Wilpert – and they’ll now measure the viable walking distance to the stations instead of the distance as the crow flies, but they’ve extended the area to one-mile away instead. The Union-Tribune covered the change earlier this week, noting that it would in effect increase the amount of new development that could occur in the city.

In October, when the city announced it was pursuing the change, development and transit advocacy group Circulate San Diego raised alarm about the proposed switch, concerned it would result in a broad downzone that would blunt the city’s fair housing requirements. State housing officials approached the city as well, expressing concerns about the proposal.

Since then, the city applied the one-mile area to more transit stops. Both Circulate and state regulators are now convinced that the proposal will increase – not decrease – the amount of homes that developers can build in the city, especially in areas close to economic opportunity. In a Dec. 27 email, the state told the city it was satisfied

In Other News 

  • PedWest, the additional border crossing for pedestrians in San Ysidro, will re-open next week after closing nearly three years ago due to the pandemic. The facility was a $741 million infrastructure project meant to ease border-crossing wait times, and opened in 2016. (Union-Tribune)
  • A SDPD officer driving a department SUV was hurt early Thursday when she drove her vehicle into a collision with a downtown trolley while pursuing three masked suspects who were in the area. (10 News)
  • Last month, we reported that Rebecca Taylor, the interim chair of the local Democratic Party, was pursuing the role permanently, and wasn’t expected to face any opposition in the January election. The deadline for other candidates to announce passed this week, as Times of San Diego reported, leaving Taylor indeed unopposed in the Jan. 17 election.
  • Migrants in Tijuana are finding only a narrow avenue to pursue asylum in the United States. (inewsource)
  • This week’s heavy rains have halted work to repair unstable bluffs along the rail line in Orange County that has disrupted Amtrak and Metrolink service between Oceanside and San Clemente for months. The work is expected to continue through next month, though passenger service could resume before then. (Union-Tribune)

The Morning Report was written by MacKenzie Elmer and Andrew Keatts. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña.

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