Peninsula Community Planning Board Struggles With Its Own Implosion – Thurs., Feb.20


By Geoff Page

Tonight’s meeting of the Peninsula Community Planning Board promises to be as good as any soap opera on TV.  The PCPB is in the process of imploding for a variety of reasons but what has happened in recent weeks borders on the theater of the absurd.

Board chair Robert Goldyn and vice chair Scott Deschenes both tendered their resignations January 21 because they were fed up with a faction on the PCPB that has done nothing but disrupt and attack.  Both board members, while wishing to be done with the board, graciously stated their resignations would be effective immediately after the after the yearly election on March 19.  They explained:

“It is our intention to serve out the remainder of the current term while providing early notice of our resignation, allowing our positions to be available and remainder of our terms to be filled during the March general elections.”

They went on to explain:

“Our tenure of service to the PCPB has been troubled with continual turmoil, slander, animosity, personal attack, false accusation, formal complaint, and a civil rights action suit amongst and between two factions of boardmembers. It is not the responsibility of the Board officers to regulate and pacify contention and dispute amongst the boardmembers. We each have important personal and professional lives and no longer desire to exhaust our valuable time and effort mediating, resolving, and working through these conflicts, nor have our attempts been successful at bringing these hostile actions to termination.”

One would think that would be the end of that and Goldyn and Deschenes would be allowed to leave with dignity. But, it was not so for that faction of the board comprised of members Don Sevrens, “Lucky” Morrison, and Margaret Virissimo.  They filed a new complaint against both men since the resignations and attempted to have them ousted before March 19.  The reason for this was so the two seats could be filled as vacancies, which involves a very different process than a general election.

Board vacancies are filled by board member only votes and it is easy to see why they would prefer this to a general election, a much better opportunity to get more of their compadres on the PCPB.  In a general election, they could not be as certain of the same outcome. In fact, the three have leveled an accusation that the two men will somehow subvert the March election.  Considering that is coming from two of the three who were the subjects of election violations for the past two years, the accusation is laughable.

Unfortunately, it appears that some good incumbents may also not run for another term because of the turmoil.

The PCPB has a long history of election shenanigans and protests.  It has been so bad that the elections have been monitored by the city and one year by the League of Women Voters.  This one promises to live up to tradition. Because of a lawsuit challenging by-law language stating that board members and candidates could not formulate and promote slates of candidates, something Sevrens and Virissimo violated in two elections, that prohibition language has been struck.  That language was not just in the PCPB by-laws, it was a requirement by the city of all the planning boards. This means things will be wide open for all kinds of electioneering.

So, if there’s nothing good on TV tonight and you’re looking for entertainment, come on down to the Point Loma library at 6:00 tonight and take a seat.  Should be fun.

Here’s the official agenda:

Mayor Responds to Millions in Cost Over-runs for San Diego’s ‘Smart Street Lights’


By Dorian Hargrove, Mari Payton and Tom Jones / 7SanDiego / February 19, 2020

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office said it plans to “aggressively renegotiate” the city’s $30 million contract for LED lighting and camera sensors on streetlights throughout San Diego.

The mayor’s statement comes after NBC 7 Investigates reported on a Feb. 12 city memo which found the “smart streetlight” program will cost taxpayers millions more than expected.

In that memo, Erik Caldwell, the Deputy Chief Operating Officer for San Diego’s Smart and Sustainable Communities Division revealed that the program suffered from a “lack of oversight,” a failure to conduct “proper due diligence,” and city staff in charge of the program had “limited technological expertise.”

But more startling, Caldwell said his department had uncovered “errors and missing information” in the program’s accounting. In fact, Caldwell revealed that his department found that the energy savings expected by converting to LED street lights were far exaggerated, by about $800,000 a year. City staff had used the energy savings as an incentive for the city council to approve entering into the contract with GE subsidiary Current.

In addition to the lower savings, Caldwell said there were hundreds of thousands of dollars in “unanticipated operational expenses” including $500,000 annually for a computer interface for each node, $140,000 a year for “data connectivity,” and $446,000 for maintenance, data analysis, and lighting issues.

For the balance of this article, please go here.

Many Details Unknown in Measure C – the San Diego Convention Center Expansion Initiative


by Mary Plummer / inewsource / February 20, 2020

Measure C has been pitched to San Diego voters as a key to reducing homelessness, a boost for local roads and a necessary investment in the downtown convention center to maintain valuable tourism dollars.

But when inewsource dug into the initiative, which would raise the tax on hotel stays, we found language that showed some promises may have to be adjusted in the future.

Here are examples of what could change if voters approve Measure C on March 3:

  • The city would get the go-ahead to sell $2 billion in bonds to help pay for all three components in the measure. But if the higher room tax increase doesn’t raise enough money to cover the debt, there’s a possibility the City Council could take money from the general fund to cover the difference. That means money for police and fire services, for example, could decline.
  • The sale of bonds could exceed $2 billion. A provision in the measure allows the City Council to lift a cap on bond debt obligations for the convention center expansion after holding a public hearing.
  • Many details about how the new tax revenue, officially called the transient occupancy tax, will be spent are unknown and left up to future councils.

For the balance of this article, please go here.

Is ‘Ranked Choice Voting’ in the Future for California?


By Doug Porter / Words&Deeds / Feb. 11, 2020

Congratulations, California. The legislative and executive branches of our state government have worked hard to make the process of voting easier in a world where 9 to 5 and Monday thru Friday jobs are disappearing faster than big name brick storefront retailers.

Republicans, generally speaking, hate this concept, as their roads to victory involve voter suppression. Whether it’s repeating the oft-debunked tales of voter fraud or scheduling a presidential visit on election eve in the hope of disrupting polling place access (yes, Trump just did this!), the GOP’s ideal democratic republic involves the entitled ruling the roost.

The Golden State and the voting districts within are facing a governance dilemma of a different sort, namely one party rule. Many of our elections in San Diego are little more than personal popularity contests, where a smiling face and the bucks to get it in front of people mean more than actual ability.

Take our mayoral contest, for instance. Given that legislative power is vested in the city council, just how would Todd Gloria at the top be substantially different than Barbara Bry? The answer does not lie in their promises to voters or appeals to certain constituencies.

Most people don’t realize what they’re voting for is actually an administration, namely the people brought in behind the scenes to make ideas into policy. That’s why the Chamber of Commerce endorsed Gloria (the liberal politician) over Bry (the La Jolla entrepreneur). And that’s why many (but not all) progressive activists are also backing Gloria.

The rest of us non-chamber types are left with choices that are uncomfortable. Yes, Scott Sherman and Tasha Williamson are clearly different, but the odds of them making it past November are slim and none.

So do we throw away our vote for mayor? Not vote? Write-in Alfred E Neuman?

This “problem” could easily be turned into an opportunity, one leading to better and more inclusive representation in local government. And if local electoral activists have their way, we could be electing the next round of city council representatives in 2022 using ranked choice voting.

About 20 cities, including Memphis, Minneapolis, New York, Santa Fe, Sarasota, and San Francisco are already using this method for some contests. Maine is now using ranked choice voting for state and federal offices, and the system has successfully made it through court challenges.

How it works.  Ranked-choice, also known as instant-runoff voting, allows voters to choose multiple candidates and rank them by order of preference. In New York City, primary and special-election voters will have the choice to rank up to five. The proposal making the round in San Diego calls for four choices.

The League of Women Voters of San Diego, the Independent Voters Project, Fairvote, and RepresentUS are seeking to place a measure on the November 2020 ballot making elections for Mayor, City Attorney, City Council and School Board to be decided by ranked choice.

If I could find a website for this effort I’d list it here. (Hint, hint) On to the nuts and bolts of the process…

Sample ballot for five ranked choices. San Diego supporters are saying four works better.

When it comes time to vote you cast your ballot for Candidate C, but you also like Candidate A and you could live with Candidate B. You’d rank Candidate C as your first choice, Candidate A as your second and Candidate B as your third.

You don’t have to rank all five – in fact, you can just choose one candidate. But the option is there for you to voice your support for multiple candidates.

So the polls close and a candidate wins a majority of first-choice votes, they’ve won. But… if no one has a majority of first-choice votes, after the first round, the person with the lowest number of first-choice votes is eliminated. Those votes are redistributed to the second-choice candidate on the ballots.

The process can be repeated for each round – the person with the lowest number of votes gets eliminated and their votes get redistributed to other candidates that have been ranked on the ballot – until only two candidates are left. The person with the most votes then is the winner.

Think of it. Ranked choice voting could  streamline the election process, making it less expensive, more efficient, and more fair. Primaries and runoffs are costly.

Research on instant runoff shows an increased opportunity for diversity of political viewpoints as well as a diversity of candidate backgrounds and demographics. California jurisdictions using ranked choice have seen a dramatic increase in candidates and elected officials who are women or minorities.

Elections in cities like Minneapolis have seen a reduction in mud-slinging campaigns, since candidates are more likely to focus on getting voters to the polls as opposed to discouraging opposition ballots.

Here’s the deal, you know who hates real election reforms? The old line pros in political parties and the consultants who make bank slinging crap.

That’s why this concept in San Diego has only been publicly supported by the (more moderate) Republicans on the city council.

Like any idea, I’m sure there are holes that can be poked in this concept. And I’m also sure that criticism is no reason to stop trying to make things better, that is, unless you think Gloria vs Bry is the best San Diego can do.

(As I’ve said before, I’m of the opinion that Todd Gloria will win in November. He won’t have to try very hard to be a better mayor than Kevin Faulconer. Activists will have to hold his feet to the fire to get stuff done.)

YIMBYs – Newest Handmaidens of the Growth Machine


By Norma Damashek / NumbersRunner / February 11, 2020

Alternative facts — they’re the latest rage.  Even here at home, presumably responsible voices are echoing half-truths, distortion, and misinformation about a number of big-ticket items that face San Diego.

Let’s take the subject of housing, for starters.  We all talk about the housing crisis in San Diego.  So what makes it a crisis?

For some it’s about sky-high rents.  Others say it’s a matter of supply–there aren’t enough houses and apartments to go around.  Still others point to the near-million it takes nowadays to buy even a little bungalow…

Do the innumerable, uncountable people living on the streets constitute a crisis?  And what about the families being pushed out of their gentrifying neighborhoods?

As for the causes of this crisis, everyone’s got a different take–too many regulations? building fees? zoning restrictions? government roadblocks? parking requirements? environmental protections?

Well then, what should be done?  How about the commonsensical-sounding solution bouncing around newspaper editorials and City Hall and County meetings… planning forums and urban studies classrooms… union halls and the hallowed Chamber of Commerce… the one that says: Yes we can!  Yes we must BUILD our way out of our housing crisis!

YIMBYs (Yes In My Back Yard crusaders) on both sides of the political aisle–Democrats and Republicans alike– have jumped on this alternative-facts bandwagon urging us to build-build-build our way out.

The YIMBY message is paraded out by Mayor Kevin Faulconer.  By California Senator Scott Wiener.  By HUD Secretary Ben Carson.  And yes, by executive order from our very own President Donald Trump.

Their marching orders are clear: Slash government regulations.  Reduce building restrictions.  Require greater development and density (preferably but not necessarily in transit-available, jobs-rich urban areas).  Intensify growth.  And get yourselves out of the way of the market!

YIMBYs may be new to the game but their build-build-build message is just another twist to an old script written and directed by San Diego’s longtime lord and master–the Growth Machine.

The Growth Machine can be described this way: it’s a broad coalition of local folk (individuals, organizations, interest groups) who share two basic traits: 1) all its members directly profit from urban growth and development; and 2) all its members tend to have an outsized influence on local political decisions.

You’ve met them before: our hotels, banks, convention center, newspapers, shopping centers, sports stadiums, labor unions, realtor’s associations, tech companies, builders, big developers….

And they have a third thing in common: a shared philosophy about the function of the land beneath our feet.

For the Growth Machine “land” is not a social good, it’s a commodity—a financial vehicle to be purchased, sold, invested in, or traded.  Who can dispute that ownership and control over land is synonymous with wealth and power?  With land valued as a commodity rather than a social good, speculation can reap huge rewards.

Now tell me, who has the Midas touch to transform the resale value of land owned by  investors/speculators/developers into pure gold?  None other than our elected officials on the City Council and County Board of Supervisors.

And who are the people most susceptible to pressure from lobbyists, campaign donors, unions, and business elites?  Who can turn the city itself into a well-greased Growth Machine? See above.

Think about it: when local politicians act in their official capacity to extend the city’s water and sewer lines… build new roads… amend a community or general plan… upzone to higher building heights and densities… bestow tax subsidies… relax building and parking requirements… a modest piece of property can be instantly transformed into a goldmine.

You might ask: won’t increasing land values and tax revenues also be beneficial to the city by enabling our elected officials to enhance amenities and the quality of life for regular people and neighborhoods?

Not necessarily.  The priorities of land speculators and developers involve intensifying land use to accommodate more, and then more, growth and development.   Attention to your sidewalks/storm drains/schools/parks/potholes/municipal service is buried somewhere in San Diego’s decades-old backlog of unattended neighborhood infrastructure repairs and upgrades–now at a whopping $2billion deficit.

Back to the subject of housing.  Regular people recognize that the housing crisis is actually an unaffordability crisis.

Most regular people know that the remedy for an unaffordability crisis is NOT denser/ high-priced/ luxury/ upper-end apartments, condominiums, and mini-mansions.  Most don’t fall for the myth that higher housing densities and generous developer “incentives” will bring prices down to a reasonable level.

Most of us aren’t fooled about the difference between housing “abundance” and housing “affordability.”  Most intuitively understand that–in the real world–supply and demand trickle-down economic theories don’t cut it for mid/moderate/lower income residents.  Does anyone honestly believe that unleashing the power of the market will bring housing prices down?

So how can we explain the blind enthusiasm of people who brand themselves YIMBYs and declare that high density market-rate residential development is the magic bullet for ensuring that anyone who wishes to reside in our neighborhoods/ cities/ counties can have an affordable roof over their heads?

Is the seductive allure of a powerful, wily, and wealthy Growth Machine too hard to resist?

For a clue, take a look at the organization called California YIMBY.  California YIMBY was created with a million-dollar advance from Bay Area high-tech executives as a lobbying tool for pro-development legislation in Sacramento.  Its purpose is to organize empower, and coordinate with YIMBY groups throughout the state to reduce environmental and regulatory restraints that stand in the way of high density building and growth.

The California YIMBY Victory Fund is its moneyed arm–a political action committee (PAC) that doles out generous contributions to Democratic clubs, civic associations, other political PACs, and of course to state and local politicians and candidates (local YIMBY cheerleaders Todd Gloria, Toni Atkins, and Nathan Fletcher  included).

San Diego has always competed with other cities to entice vacationers, conventioneers, and tourists to choose us over all others.  Lately, city boosters have been inviting newcomers to not only visit but to stay.  They’re also ratcheting up incentives for new businesses and tech workers to come on over and relocate in San Diego.  With YIMBYs at their beck and call, the sky is the limit for the Growth Machine.

Let me state this for the record: growth is not a dirty word.  But growth–the quantity, quality, rate, impacts, losers, and beneficiaries–comes laden with enormous challenges.  There are no quick and easy answers.  That’s a real fact.

The only dirty words in this debate are the alternative facts promoted by the powerful growth coalition and parroted by YIMBY acolytes.  Upzoning and slashed regulations do NOT increase affordability, reduce auto congestion, mitigate severe climate/environmental impacts, or make a dent in the plight of the homeless.   In fact, accelerated rates of growth increase these critical problems.

A real fact is that San Diego doesn’t have to follow in the YIMBY footsteps.  Our city doesn’t have to go the way of San Francisco or San Jose or Los Angeles.   We can choose an urban future that manages growth to meet the broadest range of human and environmental necessities.   If we want, we can start right now to remedy our housing unaffordability crisis.

Why not:

  • protect tenants from price gouging and unwarranted evictions?
  • regulate international speculation and land acquisition?
  • preserve, upgrade, and promote adaptive reuse of existing affordable housing?
  • put the screws on corporate landlords?

Why not:

  • encourage union-sponsored housing?
  • curtail windfall profits exacted by landowners?
  • slap a luxury tax on investment dwellings?
  • initiate mixed-income public-sponsored housing?
  • lobby for a state bank and public co-ops?

And why not:

  • support bond measures focused exclusively on housing and let San Diego’s hotel/tourism industry pay for an expanded convention center?

San Diego Mayor Moves to Enforce Ban on Granny Flat Short-Term Rentals


by Cody Dulaney / inewsource / February 19, 2020

San Diego has started enforcing its ban on short-term rentals of newly built granny flats, following an inewsource analysis that identified violators and showed the city let it happen.

The City Council agreed in 2017 to cut the cost of granny flat permits and fees by roughly $15,000, depending on the development. It was an incentive to create long-term affordable housing in a market that is fast pricing out many residents. But council members approved the new law without a plan to enforce it.

inewsource cross referenced two city databases to identify people who took the permit breaks but were allowed to rent short-term. Now, the city is doing that same kind of analysis.

“Given the clear violations, the city’s Development Services Department is opening code enforcement investigations and will work directly with the City Treasurer’s Office to implement changes to ensure that the municipal code continues to be enforced,” Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office said in a statement last week to inewsource.

Code enforcement will open investigations on those addresses with a new granny flat and a tax certificate to rent it for less than 30 days, which “may include properties identified by the inewsource report,” city spokesman Scott Robinson said.

For the balance of this article, please go here.

San Diego’s ‘Own’ Peter Navarro to Hunt ‘Anonymous’ White House Staffer


Did you see who Trump is placing in charge of the Hunt for Anonymous? San Diego’s own Peter Navarro. Yup, that’s right.

According to Yahoo News:

Officially, assistant to the president Peter Navarro is Trump’s point-man on trade policy. But Navarro has also taken it upon himself in recent weeks to uncover the identity of the person known simply as “Anonymous,” the senior Trump administration official who has railed against the president in the New York Times opinion pages and, most recently, in a bestselling book titled A Warning, and whose actual identity has so far confounded White House leak hunters.

Since at least the time of the impeachment process against Trump, Navarro — whom the president affectionately calls “my Peter”— began conducting his own private investigation into the identity of Anonymous, according to three sources with knowledge of Navarro’s efforts.

One of those sources described Navarro’s investigative efforts as partially an in-depth analysis of the language and phrases used in Anonymous’ book and other public writings.

Maybe while searching for Anonymous, Navarro can hunt down the fictional character he quoted in his books on China. He had – it turned out, invented an “expert” and quoted him – but it was himself. Last October, it was revealed by the New York Times:

Washington learned about the mysterious anti-China voice that has long whispered in Mr. Navarro’s ear: Ron Vara.

Ron Vara has appeared as a cryptic voice of economic wisdom more than a dozen times in five of Mr. Navarro’s 13 books, dispensing musings like “You’ve got to be nuts to eat Chinese food” and “Only the Chinese can turn a leather sofa into an acid bath, a baby crib into a lethal weapon and a cellphone battery into heart-piercing shrapnel.”

But Ron Vara, it turns out, does not exist. At least not in corporeal form. He is apparently a figment of Mr. Navarro’s imagination — an anagram of Mr. Navarro’s surname that the trade adviser created as a Hitchcockian writing device and stuck with as something of an inside joke with himself.

For those not in the know, Peter Navarro had a long history in San Diego as a well-known “slow-growth” advocate. He also ran for political office, three, four times here – and lost every race. Here’s what we said of Navarro back in 2018:

Peter Navarro was well known in San Diego and Ocean Beach back in the 1990s as a type of environmentalist activist and populist politician. He said he used to surf OB. He was an in-your-face, slow-growth advocate – and a Democrat. He led a group called PLAN, Prevent Los Angelization Now. He ran for local office 5 times – and I’m certain I voted for him at least once – but lost each time, although a couple were close.

After being a lecturer at USD and UCSD in the 1980s, his first electoral campaign was in 1992. He ran in a crowded mayoral primary and received the most votes (38%), but in the general election, he lost to Republican Susan Golding, 52% to 48%.

A year later in 1993, Navarro ran for city council in District 1 – and lost by a hair (277 votes) to Harry Mathis. Then in 1994, he was narrowly defeated again (3,265 votes) this time by Ron Roberts in a race for the 4th District of the county Board of Supervisors.

In 1996, Navarro tried an upset of Congressman Brian Bilbray California’s 49th District and big name Democrats campaigned for him (Hillary Clinton and then US Congressman – later Mayor Bob Filner) – but to no avail. He lost again. His last San Diego campaign was for the city council again – this time for District 6. He didn’t make it. San Diego Union-Tribune

Finally, Navarro gave up on San Diego, moved to Orange County and UC Irvine, where he became a professor and author of a dozen economic books.

UC Irvine is where Navarro changed. He went from a Democrat populist to a hard-line critic of China and an strong advocate of right-wing politics and economics. Today he sits as the Assistant to the President, Director of Trade and Industrial Policy, and the Director of the White House National Trade Council, – fancy titles for a sycophant – where he he fuels Trump’s anti-China tirades. And yes, he campaigned viciously for Trump.

So, Navarro has joined a select club of former San Diego politicians, who once all had a populist type of politics, but changed into having racist and/ or right-wing views; we’re talking Pete Wilson, former mayor and governor and we’re talking Roger “Light ’em up” Hedgecock, also former mayor, and now racist radio talkshow host.  Congrats, Peter.

Yet, generally, Navarro’s views are considered significantly outside the mainstream of economic thought; a strong proponent of reducing U.S. trade deficits; a critic of Germany and China for so-called currency manipulation; he wants high tariffs for the US, and is against both NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

In an interview with the Guardian a couple of years ago, Navarro claimed his harsh critiques on China have nothing to do with race or ethnicity. He said:

“It’s about a brutal, authoritarian communist government that’s engaged in mercantilist enterprise, and is allowed to get away with it.”

The Guardian then reported:

In documentaries and books – the latest is Crouching Tiger: What China’s Militarism Means for the World – Navarro has depicted China as an insatiable menace which systematically bullies, lies and cheats, especially on trade rules through currency manipulation, illegal export subsidies, intellectual property theft and polluting sweatshops. “China uses these weapons of job destruction to unfairly tilt the playing field.”

Bill Clinton let the chicken into the hen house by paving China’s entry to the World Trade Organization in 2001, said Navarro, enabling the Asian giant to siphon US jobs, industry and growth, which in turn funded Chinese military expansion. “This is the essence of Trump’s campaign. He understands this problem.”

The Guardian

Hey, Amidst All the Campaigning, Don’t Forget About San Diego’s ‘Smart Street Lights’


Amidst all the electioneering this season, it’s easy to overlook that there’s other local San Diego issues of keen interest to city residents out there. One of them is San Diego’s use of so-called “smart street lights.”

These, of course, are the specialized street lights – 3,200 of which have been installed around the city – which include sensors equipped with cameras, microphones and other tech elements. A variety of info and data is captured by the sensors, like for instance, pedestrian and vehicle movements, parking availability, temperature and humidity. And San Diego police have access to the images under department-imposed guidelines.

The issue of smart street lights has swung back into the open just recently, when UC San Diego students pushed back against the use of smart street lights in the San Diego area. Last week some of the students addressed a San Diego city council committee and called upon the city to hold a town hall meeting for residents to discuss the lights.

A student spokeswoman said they were “baffled by the lack of information” for the public and requested other reforms, such as creating an independent commission to review the program and giving the public notice whenever law enforcement officers use data from the street lights.

The students are joining a chorus of politicians and community members who wish to apply brakes to the use of the technology. Late last month, the City Council’s Public Safety & Livable Neighborhoods Committee rejected a staff recommendation for a policy on the use of the data and instead raised their collective voice for stronger and more broad regulations, particularly policy that addresses public concerns that have been raised over this last year and half.

Representing UCSD’s student government, student Alisha Saxena addressed the city council members:

“We’ve been following the issue of smart street lights and we’re baffled. We’re baffled by the lack of information which the public has received on this potentially far-reaching program, we’re baffled that members of this City Council, as reported by the Union-Tribune, were seemingly unaware of law enforcement’s access to this data — access which was not included in the original proposal, which the public approved.”

Saxena continued:

“We will not stand to be baffled any longer, and as a result we have come up with some requests for the City Council to consider and act upon.”

She then listed the recommendations noted above. And said:

“The community was robbed of having a discussion with law enforcement about privacy concerns, discriminatory concerns and more.”

The students want the city council to host the town hall meeting no later than April. Fox5

Last month, when the the Public Safety & Livable Neighborhoods Committee met on this issue, Committee Chair Monica Montgomery expressed the important idea that the committee should know more about all the city’s surveillance tools before approving rules that would govern data from sensors on the street lights. Montgomery stated:

“Too many of these programs are moving forward without public conversation, careful consideration of the costs and benefits, or adequate polices in place to prevent misuse and protect rights. We cannot deny that we are here today because of the imbalance between what these technologies are capable of and people’s rightful expectation to privacy.”

Councilwoman Vivian Moreno, also on the committee, was quoted as saying confusion over the technical capabilities of the smart street lights was “caused by the city not being transparent from the outset.” She said the city “should be explicit about why we want the devices out there.” “If the main purpose is investigating crimes, we should just say so, plain and simple.”

Moving to apply the brakes to the whole installation gambit was music to the ears of those who have been raising red flags. One such vocal critic is Geneviéve Jones-Wright, who is with TRUST SD – and who also ran for DA two years ago –  issued a news release that called the committee decision to pursue an ordinance a “huge win,” which stated:

“The Councilmembers on the Public Safety & Livable Neighborhoods Committee should all be commended on their community-centered and common sense approach to the oversight of the surveillance technology that our City employs.”

Also an associate professor at UC San Diego, Lilly Irani, said:

“It looks like they understood they need a good process for evaluating and acquiring this technology more broadly than a Band-Aid for one type of technology.”

Irani specializes in the cultural politics in technology.

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune:

In 2016, the Smart Street Light Program was sold to the City Council and public as energy-saving LED lights that could save the city up to $125,000 a month.

It was revealed later that the light poles also included sensors and cameras equipped the gather data. In August 2018, police started accessing the camera footage to help solve serious crimes, such as murder.

The city’s failure to disclose sooner that the smart street lights allowed for electronic surveillance stoked fear among some members of the public that data from the sensors — including the video footage — might be misused against segments of the population, including communities of color. Critics demanded full transparency and better oversight of the program.

We should also undoubtedly note that besides the push-back against the reformers by SDPD – whose leadership is quick to reassure the public that their guidelines are sufficient – San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott has attacked the reformers, accusing them of lying and using “scare tactics.”

Last month Elliott held a news conference and praised the smart street lights, attempting to high-light their role in solving recent violent crimes, including the arrests of two men accused of killing an Alpha Project security guard. Elliott – who is of course running for re-election – then went on the offensive.

“To date, police have used streetlight recordings to help solve nearly 250 crimes, including murders, sexual assaults, kidnappings, carjackings, arson and hate crimes. Yet now a small group is telling a bunch of lies about smart streetlights to try and shut them down.

“I may be the only elected official in San Diego who is not intimidated by their scare tactics. I’m not going to turn my back on a powerful crime-solving tool that removes murders and rapists from our streets.”

But Genevieve Jones-Wright struck back at her own impromptu presser:

“This has never been about not allowing law enforcement to use the technology for a law enforcement effort. It’s been about transparency and responsible use.

“From the very beginning, we have asked for a moratorium on the use, acquisition and further installation of the smart streetlights unless and until we have an ordinance that provides for proper mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability.”

And of course, we would be remiss if we didn’t note the issue of smart street lights has entered the election campaigning, completing the cycle described at the start.  As the LA Times reported:

The battle over smart streetlights has become an election issue for Elliott and attorney Cory Briggs, who is running to take Elliott’s seat. That tension made its way into the dueling news conferences, and Jones-Wright said she believed Elliott’s decision to hold the news conference was politically motivated.

So if you’ve been baffled as well, perhaps it’s time to pay attention to all the electioneering.

Recent Court Ruling Shows Need for Measure A in San Diego County


By Jerry Harmon and Stephen Houlahan / Times of San Diego / Feb. 16, 2020

A recent court ruling has brought into sharp relief the failure of our Board of Supervisors to act in the best interest of San Diego County residents over the interests of deep-pocketed developers.

Three nonprofit and community groups brought a lawsuit a year ago against the County of San Diego, arguing it had violated the General Plan in approving the Valiano and Harmony Grove Village South housing development projects. Petitioners argued the projects’ environmental analyses failed to show how the developments would prevent significant harm related to fire safety and greenhouse gas emissions. Both issues are required to be addressed under the General Plan.

In a tentative ruling issued on Jan. 27, a San Diego County Superior Court judge agreed with the petitioners.

This court case is just one more reason for San Diego County residents to be given the chance to reject General Plan amendments that would increase housing density in our fire-prone back country. Measure A, which will be on the upcoming March ballot, gives voters that chance.

In fact, if Measure A had been in place two years ago, it’s unlikely the county would have been dragged into this court case — because voters would have had the common sense to say “no” to hundreds of homes in areas likely to go up in flames before residents could safely evacuate.

This measure — also known as the Safeguard Our San Diego Countryside citizens’ initiative — reinforces the county’s award-winning “smart growth” General Plan. Under Measure A, developers who want to build suburban-density housing projects in rural and semi-rural areas zoned for relatively few homes will have to obtain voter approval before they can break ground.

Measure A will also encourage developers to build housing where the county needs it most, close to existing roads and public services, potentially saving taxpayers billions of dollars in infrastructure costs.

The good news is that we don’t need to guess whether or not Measure A will be effective in encouraging builders to develop the kind of housing our region needs most. Just look at the results of Proposition S in Escondido.

That citywide ordinance is similar to Measure A in requiring a public vote on any proposed project that would require changes to the city’s general plan. Under Prop S, Escondido’s overall rate of housing development has been virtually the same as that in the city of San Diego (which does not have a Prop S equivalent). Escondido has actually outperformed San Diego in making progress toward its state-mandated goals for moderate and low-income housing construction.

Why do our county supervisors keep approving massive sprawl developments like Valiano, Harmony Grove Village South and Newland Sierra? If their intention is truly to ease the housing crisis, they would be better off encouraging developers to build some of the 60,000 units already allowed in the county’s general plan. Those units would provide housing for residents with a variety of income levels that is also close to jobs, schools and other existing infrastructure.

Instead, our county leaders keep approving ill-advised general plan amendments that get caught up in court or defeated in the voting booth. County residents recognize the harmfulness of those proposed sprawl developments.

Measure A would ultimately speed up the growth of much-needed housing development. It will redirect the efforts of developers away from buying cheap rural land with the hopes of securing a zoning increase from the county, to actually building the homes that are already waiting to be built.

Moreover, Measure A would not prevent developers from using the general plan amendment process in areas that are already slated for development. For example, a general plan amendment that went before the Board of Supervisors on Jan. 29 aimed to build 92 housing units on a property in Spring Valley, just south of Santee, that is currently zoned for commercial use.

A shopping center now standing on the property would be demolished to make way for much-needed housing. Because the property is not in a rural or semi-rural area, it would not have to go to the voters for approval under Measure A.

Measure A specifically aims to prevent reckless developments that put people and property at risk from wildfires, increase taxpayer burdens and work contrary to the county’s long-term sustainability goals. To learn more, go to Then join us in voting “yes” on Measure A.

Jerry Harmon is the former mayor of Escondido and held that office when Proposition S was passed. Stephen Houlahan is a Santee City Councilman.

The Men’s Club at San Marcos City Planning


San Marcos City Hall

By Richard Riehl / The Riehl World / February 15, 2020

All three male members of the San Marcos Planning Commission, whose two-year terms expired in December, were reappointed by the mayor and city council in January. The only woman on the seven-member commission, Wendy Matthews, was also reappointed.

There are no term limits for commissioners, allowing for the growth of the good old boys network. Kevin Norris begins his eleventh year on the council, while Bruce Minnery stepped down after eleven and a half years.

Five women were among the twelve new applicants who failed to win a seat on the commission. Filling vacancies with incumbents was a missed opportunity for the city to bring gender balance to the commission.

Here are a few of the qualifications of the women applicants who were passed over.

  • A real estate and business attorney
  • A marketing and strategic operations manager
  • A local business owner

There are also only three women on the fifteen-member San Marcos Creekside Specific Plan Oversight Committee.

Given the scarcity of women on city planning groups, it’s ironic that the five individuals appointing its members, the mayor and city council, outnumber men, three to two.

San Marcos is not alone in North County in its male-dominated city planning. There are no women on the five-member Encinitas commission, one woman on Escondido’s seven-member group, and two of seven commissioners in Vista.

Carlsbad is the lone exception, with four women out of seven.

The San Marcos city website explains, “The planning commission is responsible for evaluating and making determinations on a variety of land use matters for both long-range and short-range planning.”

Given the importance of the city’s land use decisions, adding women would make the commission more representative of the 96,847 residents, the majority of whom are female.

According to the 2018 U.S. Census estimates, the tally of city household ownership shows, while 61% of all city households are owner occupied, 45% of women own the homes they live in, compared to 38% of men.

Research in the business world suggests having more women involved in group planning can improve the value of its decision making.

In a September 21, 2017 article in the business magazine Forbes, (New Research: Diversity + Inclusion = Better Decision Making At Work), Erik Larson, the founder and CEO of Cloverpop, a leadership consulting firm, writes, “According to the research, teams outperform individual decision makers 66% of the time, and decision making improves as team diversity increases. Compared to individual decision makers, all-male teams make better business decisions 58% of the time, while gender diverse teams do so 73% of the time.”

In my fifteen years as a university administrator, I learned how diversity on campus committees reduces groupthink, where the loudest voices, rather than the best decisions, can carry the day.

The need for more inclusive representation and better decision making suggest it’s time for term limits on the San Marcos Planning Commission.


Choices to Vote: Your Heart, Your Head, or Your Spleen?


By Colleen O’Connor

In a few weeks, voters must decide. How to vote? And why?

First, the “why?” answer is simple.

The obvious one.  People have died to give you that right and to defended it with their lives.

More specifically, let’s remember 1960’s Civil Rights leader, Vernon F. Dahmer, Sr. Then the disqualifying “civics” question asked of most Blacks was, “How many bubbles in a bar of soap?”

Dahmer quietly kept a voter registration book in his small store and encouraged African-Americans to sign up.

This, earned him the notice of the Ku Klux Klan.  One night the KKK shot up his store — poured on gasoline, and set it afire. Dahmer and his wife were severely burned. He did not survive his injuries.

Dead at the age of 57, but not before repeating his personal and political mantra — uttered even on his deathbed, then engraved on his tombstone — “If  you don’t vote.  You don’t count.”

Think of Dahmer when you decide not to vote. Your reason: Cowardice?  Laziness? Fear?

Next, “How” to vote.

There are three non-partisan suggestions options.

First, vote with your heart.

If you sit quietly and “examine your conscience,” that blood-driving force just might speak to you. Good memories; charitable thoughts of family, friends, children, others in your neighborhood. A walk outdoors. Or watch a movie that captures it.

Watch Gary Cooper’s Oscar-winning performance in Sargent York — about the WWI Medal of Valor winner — who charged the enemy’s machine gun nest, captured 4 officers, 128 men, and several guns. His explanation, “A higher power than man guided and watched over me and told me what to do.”

Described by the Saturday Evening Post, as “as a mountaineer, a man of strong religious convictions, skilled with firearms, patriotic, plainspoken and unsophisticated, an uneducated man, he seems to do everything correctly by intuition.” York admitted as much in his speech to the Unknown Soldier:

“By our victory in the last war, we won a lease on liberty, not a deed to it. …We are standing at the crossroads of history. … And because we were for a time, side by side, I know this Unknown Soldier does too. We owe it to him to renew that lease of liberty he helped us to get.”

Second choice, vote with your head.

Do the research. Consult the history; economics, cultural and neighborhood implications. Read. The ballots; the papers, [ed.: the OB Rag] and the news that is trustworthy.

Third choice, vote with your spleen.

You know “the spleen” that organ that takes all the venom, toxicity, and abuse many people dump into that small purifying vessel just behind a rib.

“Though your spleen isn’t a large organ, it plays many important roles in your body. It helps remove old and damaged blood cells, and it produces infection-fighting cells to protect your health. The spleen also makes certain substances that have an important role in inflammation and healing.”

Surely, healing is a good reason to vote and address what ails the divided, aggrieved and angry electorate.

Get it?  Garbage in.  Garbage out.  Bad spleen.  Take care of your health, and the nation, as you would take care of your spleen.

Today, our stressed spleens have lots of “old and damaged” material to remove and repair.

In the Age of Fake News, Artificial Intelligence, the 4th Industrial revolution, the Coronavirus epidemic, Presidential caucuses, debates, attack commercials, social media conspiracies, foreign interference, and more blood-letting than the Middle Ages, spleen care is now mandatory.

This election, should you be hesitant about the cost or value of your vote, remember Sargent York and Gary Cooper’s great line, when offers pour in to exploit his hero status. Offers from Hollywood, Ziegfeld and major business — totaling near a quarter of a million dollars.

York reflects on the war and the deaths of so many soldiers.  Then asks if these offers are because of his war performance.  He then declines. “I ain’t proud of what we done over there.  What we done in France is something we had to do.  Some fellas done it aint a’comin back,” he says. “Way I figure things like that ain’t for the buyin’ and sellin’.  And this is one of them.”

And neither is your vote.

Or—better still, remember, Vernon F. Dahmer’s dying words, “If you don’t vote.  You don’t count.”














OB Historical Society: Dible Family Silent Movie – Thurs. Feb.20


Come join the Ocean Beach Historical Society and see this fun and captivating step back into OB’s and San Diego’s rich history.

OBHS Presents: the “Dible Family 1928 – 1938 Silent Movie”, which features clips of Sunset Cliffs, La Jolla, Ocean Beach, Point Loma, Mission Beach, San Diego Bay, Coronado, Balboa Park, Julian, Downtown San Diego, Catalina, Tijuana, and other locales.

The film includes period 1920s music, featuring Randy Dible – with a 1920s period music track, shot by Randy’s grandfather, starring generations of the Dible family and their friends.

Thurs., February 20, 2020, at 7 PM, at Water’s Edge Faith Community, 1984 Sunset Cliffs Blvd., O.B.

This Program is Free!

Also hold the date March 22 at 1 PM, and join us for the OBHS Wisteria Garden Party at at 4761 Niagara Avenue O.B., 92107

Will Georgette Gomez Cut through the Wall of Sara Jacobs’ Paid Ads or Will Jacobs Buy Her Way into Congress?


Georgette Gomez (from campaign literature)

By Jim Miller

Will Sara Jacobs Be Able to Buy Her Way into Congress or Will Georgette Gomez Cut through the Wall of Paid Advertisements?

If it seems like you can’t keep up with the depressing news about American politics or even try to escape it by watching something else without seeing a Sara Jacobs for Congress commercial, you aren’t crazy.

By this point in the election cycle, I find myself wanting to throw my shoe at the TV every time it tells me that teachers love Jacobs (even though they have endorsed Georgette Gomez) or that she wants to work across the aisle to solve problems (centrist pablum alert).  It’s just that pervasive — so much so that the other candidates in the race are practically invisible.

And, of course, it’s working with the most recent poll showing her far ahead of the entire field, and her central democratic rival, Georgette Gomez, behind the Republican and out of the general unless she makes a stretch run to pass him.

How could Gomez, a sitting councilwoman with the endorsements of the Democratic Party, the labor movement, and a host of local activist organizations, be losing to an inexperienced newcomer without the long track record that Gomez has of doing the hard work of community activism over many years and serving on the City Council more recently?

Sara Jacobs (from campaign literature)

Newsflash:  it’s the money, stupid.

Jacobs is from an extremely wealthy family with a long history of big spending in local politics.  After she failed to spend herself into Congress up in North County in the race for the 49th Congressional District, she picked up the pieces and parachuted into the 53rd.  If it were not for the family fortune and the connections that come with it, she simply would not be in her current position.

Jacobs seems like a decent, idealistic person, and her positions on the issues are generally on the liberal side of the spectrum. But make no mistake: her ascendancy to congressional front runner has less to do with her political background than with her racial and class privilege and easy access to loads of campaign cash.

The San Diego Reader has covered the money in this race and more details are available at Open Secrets , but beyond the specific trail of Jacobs’ donations is the more important fact that her personal money machine is a local manifestation of what’s wrong with American democracy as a whole.

As I wrote last week in my column about Michael Bloomberg’s campaign to buy the Democratic nomination for president, plutocracy Democratic Party style is not the answer to what ails us; it is part of the problem.

In this race, Gomez offers an antidote to this kind of politics.  Her previous work for the Environmental Health Coalition and her strong advocacy for workers, the environment, and social justice on the City Council serves as evidence that she has a real understanding of what matters in the lives of ordinary people and how we can begin to make meaningful change in their lives.  She has paid her dues and done the real work.  As Bernie Sanders noted in his endorsement of Gomez, she is someone who understands that real change comes from the “bottom on up, not the top on down.”

It would be a shame if that centrally important fact gets buried under an avalanche of campaign ads, and rather than bringing a real progressive champion to Congress, we offer up the seat to the person with the most money to buy it.



OB Bookstore ‘Run for Cover’ to Host Bestselling Author, Anti-Death Penalty Activist Sister Helen Prejean


The Ocean Beach bookstore on Voltaire Street, Run for Cover, is hosting the bestselling author and anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean. Sister Prejean will speak about her new book and about California’s death penalty.

The event will take place Sunday February 23 at 6 pm and is free to the public. RSVPs are requested to guarantee seating (see below). And due to the anticipated interest in the event, it will be held at First Church of the Nazarene at the Point Loma Nazarene University.

From Run for Cover press release:

Sister Helen is the bestselling author of Dead Man Walking, which chronicled her work in death row ministry and was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film that put a spotlight on the issues and complexity around the death penalty. She will be speaking as well as signing her new book, River of Fire, which explores her spiritual journey to her social justice work.

Run for Cover Bookstore’s owner Marianne Reiner, a former lawyer, says the event holds special meaning for her. “Now in her eighties, Sister Helen is a compelling person who has intrigued even her skeptics for decades. California still has the death penalty and her unique perspective is a timely and important one for us to hear. As a fan of both her advocacy and her writing, I am honored she has accepted our invitation to come speak with us in San Diego.”

Run for Cover is sponsoring the event in a partnership with the International Museum of Human Rights and the Tim Spann Memorial Fund, which honors the legacy of Reiner’s friend, local activist and capital punishment abolitionist Tim Spann, who passed away a year ago.

The event will take place Sunday February 23 at 6pm and is free to the public. Due to the anticipated interest in the event, it will be held at First Church of the Nazarene at the Point Loma Nazarene University campus, 3901 Lomaland Dr, San Diego, CA 92106. Parking is free.

RSVPs are requested to guarantee seating – go here.

To preorder book copies for Sister Helen to sign, please go here. to or call Run for Cover at (619) 228-9497. To arrange media interviews with Sister Helen, please contact Run for Cover.

About Run for Cover Bookstore

Run for Cover Bookstore is an independent bookstore in Ocean Beach, founded by attorney and translator Marianne Reiner. It offers a curated collection of fiction and nonfiction for all ages, while hosting author visits and community events throughout the year.

MEDIA CONTACT: Marianne Reiner, (619) 379-6339,

The OB Mermaid Sends a Message


The OB Rag received the following message today from Marina, the OB Mermaid:

To the humans of Ocean Beach and all of San Diego

I want to thank you for the warm and wonderful reception you gave me upon my arrival. I came to OB upon the tides of the full moon in hopes of catching a glimpse of those who might still believe in the ancient legends.

All of  your comments and well wishes were so generous and gracious and I was so excited to see the families and little children who came to have their picture taken and just wish me well.

Although I had hoped to stay through the summer, there are some who found my appearance disturbing so I  have had to depart early. I wish for you all a lovely summer. Spend time at the beach and keep your eye to the sea. Perhaps the currents and wills will enable me to return one day.

Love to  you all, Marina