As of Monday, Alpha Project’s bridge shelter at 16th Street and Newton Avenue in Barrio Logan was temporarily housing 18 migrants. The nonprofit is now aiding 45 migrants at three of its shelters. / File photo by Megan Wood
Beds at one of Alpha Project's city-funded bridge shelters. / File photo

Since 2018, a federal court ruling has stymied crackdowns on homeless camps in West Coast cities like San Diego. It required that cities have shelter to offer before they ticket or arrest people living in camps.

That set off a debate in cities including San Diego about the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal’s definition of “adequate temporary shelter.” CalMatters took a dive dive into this and touched on how it’s played out in San Diego.

How San Diego’s interpreting this: The City Attorney’s Office recommended in a May memo that the city try to “offer shelter that an individual can actually accept based on individualized needs.” 

One caveat: The city’s camping ban does allow enforcement in some areas – such as in certain parks and near schools – where it’s decided it can cite public health and safety impacts even when shelter isn’t available.

Why the shelter mandate’s tough: The city has a shelter shortage. In the first month the camping ban was enforced, Housing Commission data shows an average of just 22 percent of shelter referrals made via the agency’s coordinated intake system resulted in a person getting shelter each week. A Voice of San Diego analysis of another commission data set revealed an average of 25 shelter beds were available via the city’s coordinated intake system – which does not include all city-funded shelter options – each day. Those beds don’t come close to matching the volume of people sleeping on city streets. They are typically filled by noon.

It gets even tougher: Unsheltered people often have specific needs that mean not every shelter bed is workable. For example, an unsheltered woman who is a senior who or has a disability needs a bottom bunk. There were several days in the past month where there were no bottom bunks available for women. Shelters also usually can’t accommodate people who can’t bathe, eat or use the restroom on their own.

About the safe sleeping site: The city’s Golden Hill safe campsite isn’t part of the city’s coordinated intake system. As of Monday, a spokeswoman for Mayor Todd Gloria said 147 people were staying there and that the city had space for 15 more tents. 

Another shelter debate we’re watching: The Vista City Council was set to hold an emergency meeting late Tuesday night to discuss what the city’s mayor described as a city shelter shortage. KPBS had more advance details.

Governor wants ruling thrown out: Gov. Gavin Newsom has escalated his rhetoric against a federal judge and her ruling that prevented San Francisco from clearing encampments. He said the state will send in an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in support of overturning the lower court’s decision.

New tally coming: County supervisors also voted unanimously to back Supervisor Joel Anderson’s call for a regional assessment of the need for board-and-care and other beds. As our Lisa Halverstadt recently wrote, these resources will be crucial as the county next month implements a new system to compel people with certain serious mental illnesses into care. 

Peters Takes A Crack At Securing Extra Cash for Broken Border Plant

California Sen. Alex Padilla talks with South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant Area Operations Manager Morgan Rogers on June 5, 2023. The two overlook the overloaded primary treatment system.
California Sen. Alex Padilla talks with South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant Area Operations Manager Morgan Rogers on June 5, 2023. The two overlook the overloaded primary treatment system. / Photo by MacKenzie Elmer

Rep. Scott Peters is trying to get Congress to fund long term fixes to a rundown cross-border sewage treatment plant in San Diego.

Peters, joined by his San Diego Democratic Congressional colleagues, announced that he has introduced two pieces of legislation Tuesday that would infuse $100 million to boost the construction budget of the International Boundary and Water Commission, which manages the plant. Voice first revealed that the South Bay International Wastewater Treatment Plant was broken, which exists to treat sewage from Tijuana. 

Congressional members, including Peters, were “shocked” by the state of the plant. Its condition was revealed years after Congress secured $300 million under the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement toward expanding the plant’s sewage treatment capacity. The plant only treats 25 million gallons of sewage per day, but often treats beyond what it was built to do. 

Still, Tijuana sewage finds its way into the Tijuana River which spills out just south of Imperial Beach’s coastline. Peters hopes the funding will be approved under amendments to an appropriations bill for fiscal year 2024. 

California Assembly OK’s Water Divorce Bill

San Diego County Water Authority meeting in Kearny Mesa on July 27, 2023.
San Diego County Water Authority meeting in Kearny Mesa on July 27, 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 passed the California Assembly Tuesday. Now, the bill heads to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk for his signature – too late to have the impact the bill sponsor’s had hoped for.

Rainbow Municipal Water District and Fallbrook Public Utilities District feel they are safe from the state legislature interfering in a Nov. 7 vote among their customers to officially leave the Water Authority – and seek cheaper water elsewhere.

“But for other water districts that might pursue their own cost-savings alternatives in the future, this is bad news,” they wrote in a joint statement.

The bills’ sponsors, predominantly the city of San Diego, pushed this bill arguing these water districts are leaving others to foot the bill for expensive water storage projects in the region. 

The bill’s sponsor, Assemblymember Tasha Boerner, a Democrat from Encinitas, tried to get the bill passed with an urgency clause. That means it would have gone into effect Tuesday – when the Assembly passed it. But the Senate Appropriations Committee booted the urgency clause earlier this month before it passed the state Senate. The earliest it can go into effect is Jan. 1, 2024. 

Fletcher Files Official Response

Grecia Figueroa, left, and Nathan Fletcher, seated, at a press conference Dec. 2, 2022, a day after Figueroa says Fletcher assaulted her. Fletcher claims they had consensual interactions. Figueroa was fired Feb. 6. / Photo via screenshot of Fletcher’s YouTube channel.

Attorneys for former county supervisor Nathan Fletcher filed an official response to allegations against him from former Metropolitan Transit System public relations specialist Grecia Figueroa. She accused him of sexual harassment and assault and MTS of firing her without warning or reason. 

It’s his first detailed response to her claims.

The filing is here (first obtained and published by NBC 7 San Diego). 

The gist: Fletcher’s filing alleges that Figueroa gave him gifts, compliments and pursued him for months. Much of the new document concerns his demand that Figueroa’s attorneys remove references in their lawsuit to his wife, Lorena Gonzalez. It also said Fletcher could not be accused of workplace discrimination because he was not Figueroa’s employer and could not fire her. He was chairman of MTS’ Board of Directors. 

Figueroa claims Fletcher stalked and bullied her into violent and unwanted encounters and she felt compelled to engage with his overtures because of his position of authority, regardless of his official power over her employment. MTS fired her not long after her last interaction with Fletcher. 

The real question still unanswered: Fletcher’s filing sheds no light on that central question of public interest: Why did MTS fire Figueroa?

Despite commissioning an independent investigation into the matter, MTS still has not produced anything to back up its leaders’ claim they fired her for performance reasons. 

Figueroa’s attorney, Jessica Pride, issued this statement to media outlets covering the new filing:

“Mr. Fletcher prefers to politicize the litigation process, wasting time and resources by deploying distractions to the media rather than taking accountability. This is, unfortunately, an all-too-familiar experience for survivors of sexual harassment and assault. We are undeterred by Mr. Fletcher’s attempts to re-write history, and we are confident the truth will prevail.”

Song of the Week 

From Jakob McWhinney: Peter Holslin, local boy, longtime music writer, and former editor at the San Diego CityBeat (RIP), wrote a piece for Vice in 2019 headlined “San Diego Is Paradise for Goths.” That seems a bit exaggerated to me, but there’s no question that this beachy border town more closely associated with Slightly Stoopid and Blink-182 has long had a delightful and enduring sweet tooth for black leather and synthesizers. San Diego’s love for Joy Division and The Cure reminds me a bit of Mexican communities oft-documented devotion to Morrissey: it’s odd at first blush but makes a sort of spiritual sense.  

O/X, “Scorch”: Christopher Oxendine’s solo project O/X isn‘t your grandfather’s goth music. It’s infinitely harsher than, say, a Siouxsie and the Banshees, and packs at least twice the sonic punch. Oxendine classifies O/X as electronic body music, a genre that fuses industrial tones with synth dance beats. The result is a sharp, danceable and charred-black sound that conjures images of Blade in a vampire club but somehow even more searing and dystopic. “Scorch,” is a mesmerizing example of that potent brew. 

Like what you hear? Check out O/X at Whistle Stop on September 20.  

Do you have a “Song of the Week” suggestion? Shoot us an email and a sentence or two about why you’ve been bumping this song lately. Friendly reminder: All songs should be by local artists! 

In Other News

  • Backers of a city parcel tax measure to boost parks and libraries have filed suit in hopes of making the November 2024 ballot.  (Union-Tribune)
  • San Diego County Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously passed a proposal that created a pilot child care program for county employees and aims to expand childcare availability throughout the region. (City News Service)
  • The San Diego City Council on Tuesday greenlit $9 million in funds to repair two dams in the county. The repairs are short term fixes, with city leaders saying a long-term plan will be presented in the coming months. (Union-Tribune)

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, MacKenzie Elmer, Jakob McWhinney and Scott Lewis. It was edited by Halverstadt and Lewis.

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