Midway Planners Upset Over Perceived Delay by City in Resolving Homeless Issues

by on June 22, 2022 · 1 comment

in Homelessness, Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

Homeless in the Midway

The main topic of discussion at the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group’s regular monthly meeting, June 15, was the homeless problem in the Midway area. The amount of frustration and barely repressed anger was palpable.

The procedure for planning group meetings is fairly standard. After taking roll, approving the agenda, and approving the minutes from the previous meeting, there is an opportunity for non-agenda comment. Anyone can step up and comment on anything as long as it is not on the agenda. There is usually little or no discussion.

One speaker, a businessperson in the area, spoke up passionately and angrily about the mess on Hancock and Kurtz Streets from a homeless encampment along the Caltrans fence. It includes vehicle habitations and other things like tents.

The main complaint was that the city has failed the people who live and work in that area because nothing has been done about the apparent problems. The complaints are common: a lot of trash, sewage being dumped into the street, noise, and the trepidation of business employees who have to deal with all of it. This comment kick-started the discussion.

After Non-Agenda Public Comment, the Midway group devotes time to government reports. Representatives of state and local governments and other agencies come to the meetings to update the public. While some of that happens, these reports often sound like political campaigns as the rep describes all the wonderful things their bosses have done.

The homeless discussion continued with Makana Rowan, the District 2 representative for councilmember Campbell who explained what is being done about the problem. After his piece, group member and long-time former chair, Cathy Kenton spoke up forcefully about how the city needs to proceed.

Kenton said the current approach seems to be to concentrate efforts in one area of the city at a time — which only succeeds in moving people around. Kenton said the city needed to perform its enforcement efforts everywhere at once to avoid just pushing the problem from location to location.

Kenton said that permanent enforcement teams from the city need to be assigned to wherever the problems are–  such as Midway or East Village.

The mayor’s representative, Khota Zaiser, laid the blame on staffing problems. He said the challenge is the city and the police department are badly understaffed. He also said the police are not allowed to enforce the vehicle habitation ordinance because of a pending court case. He said the court date was sometime in October.

The class-action lawsuit against the existing vehicle habitation ban began five years ago. A judge issued an injunction barring the city from enforcing the ordinance in place at that time. The city then rewrote the ordinance. It is not clear if the earlier injunction also applies to the new ordinance.

Kenton specifically asked if there was a current court order in place preventing the city from enforcing the ordinance — she did not get a clear answer. Kenton wanted to know if the direction to the PD now to not enforce the ordinance – that came from the mayor – was the result of a court injunction. If not, she said, the city should enforce what is in place now and not wait all the way to October to do anything. This question has been submitted to the city for an answer.

One item Campbell’s Rowan talked about was something that members of the group have been asking for because of the homeless problem — sidewalk washing. To this, Rowan had an odd suggestion. Maybe Midway could form a MAD, or Maintenance Assessment District, wherein businesses are assessed a fee to create a fund to pay for washing sidewalks.

It seemed odd to suggest forming a MAD to pay for work that is a basic city government responsibility.  Money for this kind of maintenance should be in the city budget. The main work of city government is to take care of roads and sidewalks and underground infrastructure. The streets are swept and that money is in the budget, but it seems like cleaning sidewalks should already be in the budget.

Zaiser explained that mayor’s push now is for more enforcement, a stronger arm than has been seen so far. He talked about Care Court and conservatorship legislation.

Community Assistance, Recovery and Empowerment, or CARE, Court is a step in helping people with untreated mental health or substance abuse issues. Senate bill 1338, that creates the CARE Courts, is working its way through the legislature now.

The way the law will work is that people can be remanded to CARE Court by court order for a period of 12 months and a possible second 12 months. If people do not successfully complete the CARE Plans, they can then be hospitalized or referred to a conservatorship.

The idea of CARE Court is to help people before the only other option, conservatorship, has to be used.

A conservatorship is when the court appoints someone, or an organization, to be responsible for adults that cannot care for themselves or manage their own finances. Certainly, everyone has witnessed candidates for such programs on the streets today. But, civil liberty issues make this a very touchy approach.

Rowan spoke up and said that Campbell and other council members have pushed to have a position at the city attorney’s office dedicated specifically to conservatorship cases. Money was proposed, or is in, the city’s budget for next year.

To many of the board members, all this sounded like just more delay by the city in actually doing something.

Sports Arena Development

A group named Midway Rising gave a lengthy presentation of their development proposal. According to Midway chair Dike Anyiwo, the city has narrowed the competitors to three ranked one, two, and three.  Apparently, Midway Rising is currently ranked number one and is favored to win the competition.

To do justice to what they are proposing, it is best to visit their website .

The basics:

  • 4,000 homes with 2,000 being affordable homes
  • A new modern Sports Arena
  • 20 acres of public park
  • Entertainment, shops, and dining

Renditions and detailed explanations can be seen on the website.

Organic Waste Recycling

Meagan Browning, Recycling Specialist III, City of San Diego, gave a presentation on the new organic waste recycling program coming soon. Detailed information can be found here   https://www.sandiego.gov/environmental-services/recycling/sb1383

Basically, the city will be providing small and large waste containers. The small container is for the kitchen that will be emptied in a large waste container, something like the trash and recycling containers we now have. Browning can be reached at mbrowning@sandiego.gov.

Airport and Terminal One

Airport representative, Ashley Martinez, gave an update on Terminal One. He said the Terminal One parking lot is closed permanently now. He said they will begin to demolish the pedestrian bridge from the Terminal One parking lot to the terminal soon. The approach road under the pedestrian bridge, where departures are dropped off, will be detoured for 48 hours.

The main message from the airport is that there will be travel delays getting to the airport because of construction. Martinez said traveler’s need to allow more time before their flights to account for these delays during construction of the new terminal.

Navy Old Town Campus Revitalization

As long as this writer lives, there will still be amazement at the verbal gymnastics people go through to avoid saying something that is deemed – by someone, somewhere – to have a negative connotation. What used to be referred to as a homeless shelter is now a “harm reduction center.” And, “homeless” is losing favor for the less depressing “unhoused.” Homeless is very sad. Unhoused is a simple problem.

The Navy’s title for its project sounds kind of nice. Old Town, who doesn’t like Old Town? And the word “campus” evokes images of ivy-covered buildings and statues and shit. And, “revitalization” has all sorts of positive connotations.

The project itself is a little different. The huge old hangers on Pacific Highway, some adjacent land, and land on the other side of Pacific Highway are the “campus.” Anyone visiting the area would find the word “campus” a bit misleading. It also would not evoke Old Town, which is east of the property and not connected to it in any way.

As for revitalization, there is nothing to revitalize or planned for it. The site needs a clean sweep and a rebuild from the ground up. The Navy plans to put out a Request For Qualifications, or an RFQ, for developers from which they will select a “master developer.” They will work with this developer to flesh out the details of their five proposals that the public has already seen.

The Navy decided that their previous presentation of their options did not have enough detail for everyone. Certainly, public opinion was in an uproar and there may have been permitting problems for the same reason.

Once they have added more detail working with the developer, the Navy will issue a Request for Proposals, or an RFP, for developers to propose on the project. Those proposals would contain the developer’s specific detailed ideas about how to develop the property, much like the process taking place for the Sports Arena redevelopment.

The Navy expects to issue the RFQ by the end of this year. The RFP would be issued a year later. The Navy representatives said the extensive public comments it received during the previous outreach will be considered in the design requirements. The “Do Nothing” option of the Navy’s previously proposed options was overwhelmingly favored by the public. If the public comments are to be considered by the Navy as they said, why is the process continuing at all?

Harm Reduction Center

The shelter at the former Pier One store on Sports Arena is 100% occupied according to Lisa Jones from the Housing Commission. She was asked to elaborate on how things were progressing. Jones said they are experiencing fewer intakes and that people are staying longer. There was no information on how, or if, people were transitioning out of the shelter to housing.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Don Wood June 23, 2022 at 4:13 pm

Pity the poor Midway community planning group members. Like their former chair, most of them are property owners who worked with the city’s planning department to update the area’s community plan in a way that upzoned it for ultra-high density, high-rise condo towers and apartment blocks. The plan update upended the existing community plan and violated numerous laws, including the voter approved coastal height limit. The beauty of the upzoning created by the plan upzone is that it would send the land value of their property holdings to skyrocket. At that point they could develop the land themselves, or sell it to other developers for huge profits.

But in their rush, the mayor and his planning staff put a repeal of the city’s coastal height limit on the ballot in an illegal manner and got caught, then were ordered by the court to reverse the city council vote that put it on the ballot. Now the CP member landowners are stuck with land still under its current zoning, since the CP update can’t be implemented without lifting the height limit. They’re lashing out at the city, threatening to take their toys and abandon the sandbox. Poor babies.


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