A viral video from Mission Hills last week shows a large resident challenging a man, who appears to be homeless, to a fight. The man moves to get away but eventually the man pursuing him pushes him against a fence and slams his head into the concrete.
Bystanders can be heard saying “I can’t believe the police haven’t come yet.”
Police were late. The attack on the video occurred 10 to 15 minutes after the owner of nearby Ibis Market called. He had called, he said, after the homeless man punched him in the head as he tried to stop him from stealing a bag of chips.
Our Will Huntsberry and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña have visited many stores and public spaces in the last few weeks and have found that workers throughout central San Diego have many stories like that.
Nobody knows what to do: Though they represent a tiny fraction of experiences involving homeless residents, encounters like this are becoming typical part of the daily reality of working in the city, workers told us. But police responses when those moments occur are so delayed – if the police come at all – that workers increasingly see making the call as pointless. And yet, there’s no viable alternative to calling the police, either.
No one seems to know the right way to handle now frequent encounters with people struggling to live on the streets.
“If they’re not brandishing a weapon, no one is coming,” said one barista at a downtown Starbucks.
What police say: Police officers, themselves, can’t seem to agree on whether calling them is the right solution. Confronted with a University Heights resident who was chased after walking by someone using drugs on the street, one officer speaking to a community group said the solution is to avoid such situations. The officer said residents need to understand that not every 911 call is an emergency.
But SDPD Chief David Nisleit, confronted by a city councilman asking whether inflated response times mean it’s time to pursue other solutions to such interactions, said SDPD is absolutely the right entity for residents to call.
In the meantime, one shopkeeper said the only way to get police to respond is to lie – even though he knows doing so increases the chance that the police response itself could be tragic. He tells 911 that the person he’s calling about appears to be pulling out a gun, thinking they won’t respond otherwise.
Another Month, More Sobering Stats on Homelessness
It’s now been 13 months since the region had a month where the number of people falling into homelessness didn’t outpace the number moving into homes.
The Regional Task Force on Homelessness reports that 1,141 San Diegans became homeless for the first time in April and 714 exited homelessness.
March 2022 marked the last month that the number of folks getting housed outpaced those becoming unhoused.
A couple more sobering indicators on the state of our homelessness crisis:
- As our Lisa Halverstadt reported last month, city-backed shelters are struggling to house homeless people amid what a San Diego Housing Commission executive described as a “resource desert.”
- In April, just over a third of city shelter referrals by outreach workers or police officers led to an unhoused person securing a shelter bed, according to Housing Commission data. That means the majority of referrals didn’t result in a shelter placement.
Fletcher Is Officially Out
Lots of people theorized that County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher would not actually resign when May 15 arrived, the day he said he would resign. Radio Host Carl DeMaio, for instance, declared on KUSI that Fletcher wasn’t going anywhere.
But May 15 arrived, and now he is former County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher. He resigned at 5 pm yesterday. The four remaining members of the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously at the beginning of the month to fill the vacant seat with a special election.
What he said: Here’s the letter Fletcher sent to supporters early Monday.
Here are the main points: 1) He again characterized what happened between him and Grecia Figueroa, a former public relations specialist for the Metropolitan Transit System, as “consensual interactions. (She has called them assault and harassment.) He acknowledges those interactions were “unquestionably inappropriate” because he is married but not abusive.
“I am confident that when all communications are made public, including written messages and voice recordings, and the interactions and exchanges are fully revealed in a court of law under the penalty of perjury, the truth will present a very different reality.”
2) He implies he has to resign, however, because it will take too long to be fully vindicated.
3) He discusses his rehabilitation and recovery from post-traumatic stress disorder and alcoholism as ongoing and said he will remember his service at the county with great pride. “The mission and purpose of serving those most in need is so much greater and more enduring than any one flawed individual.”
Figueroa’s lawyer responded to Fletcher’s letter with an email sent to the press, saying they wouldn’t answer further questions yet.
“It is disappointing that Mr. Fletcher continues to victim blame, even amidst his forced resignation,” wrote Zach Schumacher. “We look forward to conducting our own investigation, and we hope Mr. Fletcher will be cooperative as that happens. It is apparent that full accountability must come through the civil justice system.”
What it all means: Fletcher has had an unusually tumultuous political career. Out of the Marines, he started as a congressional aide and Republican Party staffer, and was then a highly regarded young Republican when voters elected him to the California Assembly.
As he was running for San Diego mayor, in 2012, he became the first of several prominent Republicans to leave the party. He had tried and failed to get the party’s endorsement and the move was seen as a calculation to help his campaign when he seemed increasingly unlikely to make the runoff. He missed the runoff.
He later ran for mayor again, this time as a Democrat. He gained the support of then-Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, which caused a rift among labor leaders, many of whom were supporting now-Assemblyman David Alvarez. Fletcher lost but ended up dating and marrying Gonzalez.
The alliance proved powerful and he won the Democratic endorsement for his run for county supervisor. For Democrats and liberals, he led a major restructuring and realignment of the county government along social justice and community welfare priorities.
But he became a household name in San Diego after he volunteered and was chosen by his four Republican colleagues to become the face of the county’s response to the spread of COVID-19. It made him the target of regional opposition to the government’s pandemic response. He eventually became the chair of the Board of Supervisors and of the Metropolitan Transit System, where he met Figueroa.
Now, after almost five years back in elected office, Fletcher is, once again, unemployed.
Related: Candidates for the County Supervisor District 4 special election will debate in upcoming candidate forums that will be open to the public. The special election will determine a replacement for Fletcher. The first candidate forum will be Thursday, May 18. (Union-Tribune)
Border Report: The End of Pandemic-Era Asylum Policy
Title 42 came to an end as a pandemic-era border asylum policy Thursday night, as hundreds of asylum seekers gathered at the U.S.-Mexico border waiting to be processed.
The policy, implemented by the Trump administration, allowed the government to prevent asylum seekers from entering the country to prevent the spread of COVID.
Under the Biden administration’s new policy the U.S. is back to processing asylum seekers as normal, with a few new rules.
These include stiffer consequences for those who try to cross the border illegally, as well as a new process for asylum seekers that includes making appointments through a U.S. Customs and Border mobile app.
Voice contributor Sandra Dibble breaks down the scene at the border, where hundreds of men, women and children have created makeshift camps. While many have started to be processed, hundreds are still waiting.
MLS Announcement Coming Soon
A partnership led by the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation British-Egyptian Billionaire Mohamed Mansour is set to announce in the next 48 hours a new Major League Soccer expansion deal to San Diego that would have the team play at Snapdragon Stadium within two years.
Mohamed who? If you have a subscription to The Times in the UK, you can read this profile of Mohamed Mansour, the British-Egyptian billionaire poised to bring Major League Soccer to San Diego in partnership with Sycuan. It details his many other soccer investments and a bit about how he made his billions. He is also the senior treasurer of the Conservative Party, the Tories, in Britain.
In Other News
- The city of San Diego is suing Sea World for $10 million in back rent the theme park owes the city from the pandemic, following a City Council vote Monday. City officials said they tried to recoup the back rent by other means, but now believe there’s no alternative to suing the long-term Mission Bay tenant. (Union-Tribune)
- Border officials on Sunday cleared the open-air holding area between two border walls at the San Diego-Tijuana border, shuttling about 350 migrants to facilities for processing. The holding area has drawn criticism over the past several days as migrants complained about lack of food and water, lack of medical attention and freezing weather conditions. A nearby site was also cleared Sunday, but there are still hundreds of migrants waiting at other locations along the border. (Union-Tribune)
- New statewide data released by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office earlier this month shows that new homes are being built at a faster rate than any time since the Great Recession, CalMatters reports. Over the same period, the state’s population has been declining. But the state still needs a whole lot more housing to start seeing “affordability.” (CalMatters)
- The San Diego metro region has the ninth most multigenerational households of all large U.S. metros, KPBS reports. Multigenerational households mean three or more generations live under the same roof, often with very limited space, and are typically seen as reflective of a housing shortage. (KPBS)
The Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts, Scott Lewis, Tigist Layne and Lisa Halverstadt.