Waterfront Park in downtown on Aug. 28, 2023.
Waterfront Park in downtown on Aug. 28, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

A bill that would have made it harder for two water districts to break up with the San Diego County Water Authority lost a bit of steam late last week.

What happened: The state Senate Appropriations Committee passed AB 399 to the Senate floor for debate but got rid of a clause that would have allowed the bill to become law more quickly.

The bill would require that voters across the county approve any water district’s desire to leave the Water Authority. And that clause was important to the bill’s supporters because it would have stopped two districts from leaving.

Background: Assemblymember Tasha Boerner, a Democrat from Encinitas, is pushing this bill backed by the Water Authority and the city of San Diego.

They don’t want two small farming communities, Rainbow Municipal Water District and Fallbrook Public Utilities District, to divorce the Water Authority and buy water in Riverside County. Legally they can if their customers vote to agree to the divorce in special elections on Nov. 7.

In a dispatch for the Politics Report, our MacKenzie Elmer explains what will happened next, and why some think the fight is far from over. Read it here.

Related: A Lot of Opinions on State Bill

  • The undermine argument: Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District’s general manager Clint Baze argues that the bill’s provisions and potential consequences are “deeply troubling” because the bill would require that all San Diego County voters weigh-in on what one water agency’s rate payers want. Read his full take here. 
  • The “dine and dash” take: Local labor leaders had their own take. In an op-ed, Brigitte Browning with the San Diego Imperial Counties Labor Council and Carol Kim with the San Diego County & Construction Trades Council argue that AB 399 will protect millions of San Diegans. Read their argument here.

Also in the Politics Report: The city is in negotiations with one firm to transform the troubled 101 Ash St. tower into apartments. In the Politics Report, Scott Lewis asks a spicy question: What happened to a grand vision for the Civic Center and new City Hall? He’s got the answer. Read more here.

The Camping Ban’s First Month

A row of tents can be seen on 12th Avenue in downtown on July 31, 2023.
A row of tents can be seen on 12th Avenue in downtown on July 31, 2023. / Photo by Ariana Drehsler

Just over a month ago, San Diego police began enforcing a new homeless camping ban – and as of the end of August, they had yet to report a single arrest for the offense.

City spokeswoman Ashley Bailey said Friday that police wrote four misdemeanor citations and gave 85 warnings for camping ban violations between July 31 and Aug. 30.

By comparison, police data shows officers in the first five months of 2023 wrote an average of 139 citations a month using the city’s longstanding encroachment law, which essentially bars blocking a sidewalk. They also made an average of 10 encroachment arrests a month.

Reminder: The new city law only allows police to crack down on people who are setting up makeshift structures – not simply for appearing to be homeless.

“The ordinance can only be enforced if certain criteria are met so every contact officers make may not qualify as enforcement of this ordinance,” Bailey said.

The ordinance bars camping on public property when shelter is available. Police can enforce the law even when there aren’t open beds in so-called sensitive areas such as within two blocks of schools and homeless shelters, in certain parks and near transit hubs.

Where enforcement is happening:  Police first began enforcing the new law in Balboa Park, where Mayor Todd Gloria said last week that parking rangers are reporting a “significant decrease in unsheltered activity.”

Bailey said police are now focused on parks and schools throughout the city. 

VOSD Podcast: Fake Charity Scored Big at Petco Park

Illustration by Adriana Heldiz for Voice of San Diego

This week on the podcast, senior investigative reporter Will Huntsberry joined the show to talk about his new story that revealed how a fake nonprofit operated concession stands in Petco Park for nine years, earning a cut of the profits. 

Hosts Andrea Lopez-Villafaña, Jakob McWhinney and Nate John review the story with Huntsberry — including the nature of nonprofit vendor work at Petco (and Snapdragon Stadium), how this fake nonprofit came to be, who was behind it, who’s ultimately responsible and the fallout after the story broke.

Listen to the full episode here. 

 In Other News 

  • Wondering why San Diego escaped the stifling heat crushing other areas of the country? Voice contributor Robert Krier explains in a new post.
  • And in Cup of Chisme, our managing editor dishes on what happened when she visited Petco Park with one of our senior investigative reporters. Read Cup of Chisme here.
  • San Diegans caught electric blue waves over the weekend as a friendly red tide hit Southern California shores, especially near Del Mar. (Fox 5)
  • Constituents of San Diego City Councilwoman Marni Von Wilpert complained their water bills were withheld for over two years and failed to tell customers they’re losing water due to undetected leaks. (CBS 8)
  • Respiratory illnesses peak differently than before COVID-19. (Union-Tribune)
  • Santee is losing its drive-in movie theater come January due to high costs and a dwindling audience. (Another drive-in still remains in Imperial Beach, FYI) (Union-Tribune)

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