Teresa Morse sticks her hand under the faucet in her bathroom in Golden Hill on March 10, 2023. Morse says it can take several minutes to get warm water.
Teresa Morse sticks her hand under the faucet in her bathroom in Golden Hill on March 10, 2023. Morse says it can take several minutes to get warm water. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

An outmoded form of utility billing is keeping residents in the dark about what’s going on with their utility costs, MacKenzie Elmer reports in a new story. 

Ratio utility billing, as it is also known, allows landlords to divide up utility bills among tenants however they see fit, if an apartment complex only has one utility meter. Landlords can also pass this responsibility off to third party providers that charge fees. 

Some landlords or third party providers might use square feet as a metric for utility bills. Others might simply divide utility bills evenly. The problem is that tenants don’t always know or understand the methods being used. 

“In one case, [a third-party billing service] charged a Chula Vista tenant $634 for an October 2021 electricity bill. But the company refused to provide a copy of the property owner’s San Diego Gas and Electric bill, citing confidentiality,” Elmer writes. 

That third-party, Conservice, LLC is facing a class-action lawsuit from multiple tenants for not providing transparency in billing. 

So far, a judge is siding with the tenants. 

“Much of the data is not provided but instead described in vague terms,” a judge wrote in their tentative ruling. 

Conservice did not respond to a request for comment.

Read the full story here. 

City Council Approves New Tenant Protections

Cesar Tellez and his girlfriend Melissa Begay walk in the alley near their home they rented in the neighborhood of Mountain View on Thursday, April 20, 2023.
Cesar Tellez and his girlfriend Melissa Begay walk in the alley near the home they rented in the neighborhood of Mountain View on Thursday, April 20, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

The San Diego City Council voted 8-1 late Tuesday to approve an ordinance that will increase tenant protections in the city following hours of public comments and a series of last-minute amendments. 

The basics: The ordinance would make the process for removing a tenant in certain circumstances, like a substantial remodel of the property, more transparent by requiring disclosures in writing. Landlords would have to make tenants aware of their rights and could not retaliate against a tenant who declines a buy-out offer. It would also require that landlords provide tenants evicted for no fault of their own with relocation assistance totaling two months of rent, not including a security deposit. Seniors and people with disabilities would get three months.

As Jesse Marx and Lisa Halverstadt wrote last week, tenant and landlord advocates alike had beefs with the proposal from Mayor Todd Gloria and Council President Sean Elo-Rivera.

Elo-Rivera also couldn’t resist an amendment to collect data on evictions, a longtime priority of his that didn’t make it into the compromise ordinance. This ended up generating lots of back and forth – and initial pushback from Councilman Stephen Whitburn, who was concerned about collecting data on at-fault evictions that the ordinance itself didn’t focus on. Whitburn and Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell, the only councilmember to ultimately vote against the ordinance, also argued that the ordinance should have gone through the Council committee process rather than directly to the full Council.

One other not-super-wonky add: Councilman Kent Lee successfully called for language calling for the city to consider a potential cap on relocation assistance payments or other changes to those payments once eviction data is available from the Housing Commission. Halverstadt detailed other amendments on Twitter.

Next steps: The new protections won’t immediately go into effect. The City Council must take a second vote on the measure and then Mayor Todd Gloria will need to sign it. Then the city must wait an additional 30 days before it goes into effect.

The Mayor Wants You to Know He Really Has Had It

Mayor Todd Gloria delivers 2023 State of the City address at the Civic Theatre on Jan. 10, 2023.
Mayor Todd Gloria delivers 2023 State of the City address at the Civic Theatre on Jan. 10, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

In a new column, editor-in-chief Scott Lewis points out that Mayor Todd Gloria’s new proposal on camping is not so much an important new law, as it is a message. 

“He’s trying to tell unsheltered people they are not welcome in San Diego. He just hasn’t quite mustered the motivation to say it that clearly. That’s what, however, he is communicating,” wrote Lewis. 

Gloria is pushing a new measure with Councilman Steven Whitburn. The measure would ban camping for unhoused residents when there is shelter space in the city available – and also in some other spaces including parks and within two blocks of schools at all times. But the city already has a ban on camping. 

Councilman Kent Lee recently had some tough questions about the ordinance at a committee hearing. For instance, how are homeless San Diegans supposed to know when there is and isn’t shelter space available?

“I’m wondering if, by nature, this would deter encampments in any public space? Simply because nobody would know if there’s any available space at any given moment,” Lee said.  

The vague answers coming back from the Mayor’s Office made it clear to Lewis that Gloria is sending a message, more than drafting new policy. 

“And what’s that message? To the homeless it’s, you need to leave or find a really good hiding place. To the housed, it’s ‘we’re pushing them along and you’re welcome.’”

Read Lewis’ story here. 

Watch Us on the Tube

In our newest episode of the VOSD Podcast, hosts Scott Lewis and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña discussed the resolution of a (National City) San Diego Special. Cruising in a lowrider is no longer a crime.

National City officially repealed the ban last week — reversing a law from 1992. We’ve got a video of that segment you can watch where Lewis and Lopez-Villafaña break down the news and they discuss the racist history of the ban. 

Watch it here. And listen to the podcast wherever your heart desires. 

In Other News

  • National City City Manager Brad Raulston is out. He’s leaving on May 31, per an agreement approved unanimously by elected officials, one year before his contract expires. He’ll get six months’ pay and other benefits totalling more than $127,000. Earlier this month, Jesse Marx wrote about the ongoing tension between Raulston, members of the Council, and city employees represented by SEIU Local 221. 
  • San Diego City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe announced Tuesday that she is interested in the County Board of Supervisors District 4 seat. If the board pursues a special election, after Supervisor Nathan Fletcher vacates the office, she plans to run. If they choose to go the appointment process route, she plans to apply. Montgomery Steppe currently represents the fourth council district in the city of San Diego, which includes the communities of Lincoln Park, Paradise Hills, Oak Park, Encanto and more neighborhoods in southeastern San Diego. 
  • The Supreme Court will take up the case of two Poway Unified School District Board of Trustee members who blocked two parents from commenting on their social media accounts they used to communicate with the public. The court will also take up another case out of Michigan. (CBS 8) 
  • Officials secured state funding to replace the aging San Dieguito Bridge and build a new station at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, Times of San Diego reports. 
  • The Union-Tribune reports that home prices are up again, after months of declines. The median home price is now $790,000. 
  • 10 News reported on the county’s recent expansion of a homeless outreach initiative. 
  • The state Senate’s Public Safety Committee rejected Alexandra’s Law, a bill aiming to crack down on fentanyl dealers, hours after Mayor Todd Gloria testified in support of it on Tuesday. Assembly Republicans separately penned a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom urging him to back fentanyl legislation, including a bill pushed by Gloria and introduced by Assemblyman Brian Maienschein to enhance sentences for fentanyl dealers whose products result in serious injury or death.
  • KPBS explained a Monday City Council vote to widen two miles of the State Route 56 freeway. 
  • The city is going back to the redevelopment drawing board following the death of a deal with the city’s former 101 Ash St. landlord that would have delivered a Ritz-Carlton hotel, the Union-Tribune reports.

The Morning Report was written by Will Huntsberry, Lisa Halverstadt and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. 

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