Beds at the Old Central Library that is now a shelter for women in downtown on Jan. 26, 2023. The new shelter has 36 beds and is being operated by NAMI San Diego. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler
Beds at the Old Central Library on Jan. 26, 2023. / File photo by Ariana Drehsler

Nearly six months ago, Mayor Todd Gloria cheered the conversion of the long-vacant old Central Library into a shelter for homeless women. Thursday, Gloria announced the 36-bed shelter must shut down July 23 due to permit restrictions from the city’s fire marshal limiting its use for 180 days within a given year.

For now, Gloria said, the city plans to reopen the shelter in six months once it’s able to secure a new 180-day permit.

Gloria spokesman Dave Rolland wrote in an email that the city plans to transition the women now staying at the shelter operated by National Alliance on Mental Illness San Diego to permanent homes or other shelters by July 22. Once they depart, Rolland said, the city may use the facility for homeless outreach work and will maintain onsite security. The spokesman said the city may also make repairs to the facility, which has relied on a generator for power, before it reopens.

The long-term plan: Gloria has said he’d like to provide affordable housing at the site that sat empty for the decade following the city’s move into a new downtown library. Gloria said Thursday he plans to bring his proposal for the property to the City Council this fall.

Another fine-print find: CBS 8 revealed this week that a new safe sleeping site at a Golden Hill city maintenance yard must close by Dec. 28 per a permit signed by city Fire Marshal Anthony Tosca.

Gloria’s office said Thursday that the fire marshal “has more discretion” to issue a new permit for the safe sleeping site because the program is “outdoors and not in a physical structure.”

Reminder: The city’s got a shelter shortage and the city must find new locations to replace 930 shelter beds – including those now at the library – by the end of 2024. The success of the homeless camping ban set to take effect later this month will rest on the city’s ability to deliver more shelter options.

Threat of a Lawsuit in San Diego’s Water Divorce Dissolves 

Illustration by Adriana Heldiz

Everybody expected the San Diego County Water Authority to sue somebody on Thursday after two small farming communities got the green light to ditch them as a water supplier

Instead, after hours of deliberation in closed session, the Water Authority’s board decided to try and settle their differences with Rainbow Municipal Water District and the Fallbrook Public Utility District. 

These two water districts want to buy cheaper water from Riverside County instead of buying from San Diego. And the Local Agency Formation Commission or LAFCO, the judge and jury in these decisions, gave them permission to go. 

The problem: That leaves the other water districts — more specifically, residents and businesses — in San Diego with the bill to pay off debt collected over the last couple decades in pursuit of major projects to provide more water reliability.

“The main thing is try to avoid litigation and try to negotiate to come to some resolution with Fallbrook and Rainbow that is acceptable to them… to get them to stay,” said Gary Arant, general manager of Valley Center Municipal Water District and a Water Authority board member. 

Board representatives from Rainbow, Fallbrook and Supervisor Jim Desmond, who chairs LAFCO and represents the County Board of Supervisors on the board, were asked to leave the Water Authority’s closed session litigation discussions. 

Tom Kennedy, general manager of Rainbow’s water district, said he was happy the board decided not to sue. 

“We’ve been open to negotiation with the Water Authority since 2019,” Kennedy said. “And we remain open to discussions.”

The Legislature is still getting involved. Meanwhile a proposed state law change aimed at prolonging the water district divorce passed a Senate committee hearing Wednesday. Right now, since LAFCO already OK’d the divorce, all Rainbow and Fallbrook have to do to finalize it is let their residents vote. This bill would require a countywide vote as well. 

The San Diego mayor’s deputy chief of staff, Nick Serrano, testified in favor of the bill in Sacramento.

“This is allowed to go forward without a true vote of the people, without all those who would be impacted by this decision,” Serrano said. 

Fallbrook’s general manager, Jack BeBee, also testified in person.

“If this (bill) moves forward … you will likely have two failed water districts that are looking for help from the state,” Bebee said, emphasizing the Water Authority’s ever-rising water rates are putting their farmers out of business. 

State senators voted 5 to 3 in support of the bill authored by Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner, a Democrat from Encinitas. Boerner tweeted that her bill “protects water ratepayers from increases in their utility bills.” 

Despite voting in favor of the bill, State Sen. Anna Caballero, a Democrat from Merced, added that she hopes the parties could work this out.

“It doesn’t make sense for governments to sue each other. It costs somebody and it’s always the taxpayer,” Caballero said. 

San Diego’s Historic LGBTQ Sites 

A Hillcrest sign can be seen above the bar at Rich's in Hillcrest on May 30, 2021.
A Hillcrest sign above the bar at Rich’s in Hillcrest on May 30, 2021. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Pride Weekend has arrived.

Ahead of this weekend’s celebrations, Voice of San Diego contributor Randy Dotinga assembled a short list of historic LGBTQ sites in San Diego that offer a window into the triumphs and struggles of past generations.

Among them: The gayborhood aka Hillcrest where LGBTQ people first flocked in the 1970s, the LGBT Community Center which has made a few moves over the years and an area known as the “Fruit Loop” in Balboa Park that made its way into a Bruce Springsteen song.

Read the full story here.

In Other News 

  • The Union-Tribune reports that City Councilmembers Raul Campillo and Vivian Moreno want to dramatically increase city arts funding and make it more predictable for the organizations that rely on it.
  • Carlsbad received a $2.5 million grant to move unsheltered people out of encampments and into homes, NBC 7 San Diego reports.
  • Our pal Andrew Keatts, now of Axios San Diego, broke the news Thursday that the Port of San Diego’s CEO was placed on administrative leave earlier this week and the board will meet Friday behind closed doors to appoint an acting CEO. 
  • The Union-Tribune reports that the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday reversed a San Diego federal judge’s order that the Sheriff’s Department publicly release internal jail records following a last-minute move by the county to request an emergency stay. 

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

Clarification: The final vote on Boerner’s water bill was 5 to 3, not 5 to 2. The Senate Government and Finance Committee recorded a late vote after the bill’s hearing.

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