Monitoring San Diego From the Coast

by on June 15, 2023 · 4 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

From the looks of things, the metropolis called San Diego deserves watching, deserves monitoring. Here are some recent developments deserving note.

Noise Can Take Years Off Your Life

On a spring afternoon in Bankers Hill, San Diego, the soundscape is serene: Sea breeze rustles through the trees, and neighbors chat pleasantly across driveways.

Except for about every three minutes, when a jet blazes overhead with an ear-piercing roar.

A growing body of research shows that this kind of chronic noise — which rattles the neighborhood over 280 times a day, more than 105,000 each year — is not just annoying. It is a largely unrecognized health threat that is increasing the risk of hypertension, stroke and heart attacks worldwide, including for more than 100 million Americans.

We’ve all been told to limit the volume on our headphones to protect our hearing. But it is the relentless din of daily life in some places that can have lasting effects throughout the body. (New York Times, June 9, 2023)

LA Rams and Denver Nuggets Owner, Stan Kroenke, Becomes the “Main Man” at Midway Rising

The redevelopment of San Diego’s 48-acre sports arena site has “a new level of credibility” with Rams and Nuggets owner Stan Kroenke “now footing nearly all of the bill” to the mega project, according to Jennifer Van Grove of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Kroenke “officially joined” the Midway Rising sports arena group as “lead investor and limited partner.” The role also gives him a “direct say in the development team’s major decisions going forward.” San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said that “someone of this caliber is willing to make this investment in partnership with the team that we selected … it makes it more likely (that the project) will come to pass.”

Midway Rising’s plan “calls for 4,250 residential units, a new 16,000-seat arena, a 200-room hotel, and 20 acres of plaza and park space.” Kroenke’s addition to the Midway Rising team “shakes up the group’s legal structure, removes doubt about the project’s financing prospects and will no doubt spawn rampant speculation as to whether San Diego can draw another professional sports team to town.”

Zephyr CEO Brad Termini said that as it stands currently, the group is “not in active negotiations to relocate a professional basketball or hockey team to play at the future venue.” Gloria said the project is “going to give us a new arena.” Gloria: “We can actually have those conversations because of this announcement. Mr. Kroenke obviously has a lot of connections to professional sports. I can only imagine that accrues perhaps to the benefit of San Diego”. (Sports Business Journal)

San Diego County Second Most Expensive Region in Nation — Local Seniors Feel It

The San Diego region has been ranked as the second most expensive metro area in the nation. In a SmartAsset review of living wage data from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, people living in the San Diego, Chula Vista and Carlsbad metro area need a post-tax annual salary of $79,324 to live comfortably, putting the region just behind the San Francisco metro area.

U.S. Census Bureau data shows that nearly 61 percent of all home owners in San Diego County are older adults. Of the 676,879 homeowners in the region, 412,421 are age 55 and older. Many older adults may benefit from being long-time homeowners, but it can be difficult to enter the housing market as a new buyer in an expensive region like San Diego, where the median home price is $805,000, while living on a retirement or Social Security income.

And with the rising cost of rent, that means more older adults — especially those who are retired and rely solely on Social Security — are at risk of becoming housing insecure or unhoused. Older adults make up one of the fastest growing groups of unhoused people in San Diego County. The 2022 annual homeless count conducted by the Regional Task Force on Homelessness found that 25 percent of the homeless population was age 55 or older. (SDU-T June 12, 2023 – beware of paywall)

San Diego Rents Hit Record High

San Diego rent is now the highest it’s ever been and, despite a slowdown from pandemic highs, continues to increase. The average rent in the county was $2,417 a month at the start of June, said real estate tracker CoStar. That’s the highest ever recorded for San Diego County and represents a 3.4 percent increase in a year.

It’s a far cry from this time last year when rents were up 13.2 percent annually, but that might not be much comfort to San Diego renters. While increases started to slow in late summer, it was never enough for renters to actually see any decreases in price. (SDU-T, June 9, 2023 for subscribers)

One Local Point Loma Beach Makes “Honor Roll” and a County Beach Makes “Beach Bummer” List in Heal the Bay’s Annual Report Card

Thanks to recent heavy rainfall and millions of gallons of sewage spilled into the ocean, beach pollution grades slipped across Southern California this year, according to Heal the Bay’s 33rd annual Beach Report Card. The nonprofit assigned letter grades to beaches across California based on levels of fecal-indicator bacterial pollution that are reported by local health agencies.

This year, the group’s “Honor Roll” — reserved for beaches with immaculate water quality all year — dropped from 51 sites in 2022 to just two beaches. Only one Southern California beach —the beach near Point Loma Lighthouse in San Diego County — made the list with perfect water quality year-round. The other honoree was Bean Hollow State Beach in San Mateo County, according to the report.

One San Diego area beach made Heal the Bay’s “Beach Bummer” list, which covers the state’s 10 most polluted beaches. The beach near Tijuana River Mouth ranked as the 6th-most polluted beach, according to Heal the Bay. The beach is affected by sewage-contaminated runoff from the Tijuana area.

Pollution tends to be highest following rainstorms, reflected by the “wet” grades, while dry-weather test results were generally “very good” across the state, according to Heal the Bay. Heal the Bay said people who come in contact with water with a C grade or lower are at a greater risk of contracting illnesses such as stomach flu, ear infections, upper respiratory infections and rashes.

Los Angeles County is home to the state’s most polluted beach, according to the rankings. Santa Monica Pier shares that first-place dishonor with Playa Blanca in Baja California. Mother’s Beach in Marina del Rey also made the list of top 10 most polluted beaches, which Heal the Bay said is due to its poor water circulation.

“As climate change continues to bring weather whiplash, our water woes will swing from scarcity to pollution. This year, record precipitation produced major impacts on water quality across Coastal California,” said Heal the Bay CEO Tracy Quinn. “Now more than ever, we must prioritize multi-benefit projects to manage stormwater as both a water quality and supply solution, all while ensuring that the public is kept informed of risks to public health.”

View an interactive map of beach grades here. (Patch San Diego, June 14, 2023)

San Diego’s new foam ban is going smoothly so far — partly because there’s so little enforcement

Early enforcement of San Diego’s new ban on polystyrene foam food trays, pool toys and other products has gone smoothly so far, with few complaints about violations and only a small number of businesses asking for exemptions. The lack of controversy since the ban took effect April 1 is partly because city officials have opted so far against aggressive enforcement, relying only on complaints from the public instead of visiting businesses for inspections.

The city also exempted for one year any business with annual revenue less than $500,000, delaying enforcement until next spring for hundreds of local taco shops, pizza parlors and other establishments that use cheaper foam products to save money. There has been slightly more controversy over a second component of the new law that requires businesses serving food to only provide straws and plastic utensils when customers request them. (SDU-T, June 8, 2023)

Drones, cameras, trackers: San Diego police disclose list of tech tools used for surveillance, investigations

Months after San Diego police proposed installing hundreds of smart streetlights around the city — and began the process to obtain public input and city approval — the department has released a long list of other surveillance technologies already in use.

Those more than 70 listed items, including drones, car trackers and body-worn cameras, also need to be formally approved.

The Police Department posted the list in order to comply with a new city ordinance that requires all city departments to reveal the types of surveillance technology they possess. The idea behind the ordinance was to create better transparency and protect civil liberties.
Included on the list are 500 smart streetlights and automated license plate readers the department wants to place across the city. Many of the locations are near freeways and along main thoroughfares. (SDU-T, June 6, 2023)

U-T Editorial Board : San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria, City Council must fix their flawed ban on homeless camps ASAP

In one sense, the San Diego City Council’s 5-4 vote Tuesday night backing Mayor Todd Gloria’s ban on encampments of homeless people on public property — potentially the biggest crackdown on homelessness since its emergence as a major issue over the past dozen years — feels like an inevitable reaction to growing public frustration. In another, it feels like a recipe for more despair.

The measure bans homeless camps in public areas at all times when shelter beds are available. But even if shelters are at capacity, it also bans such camps within two blocks of K-12 schools and existing shelters; along trolley tracks, transportation centers and waterways; and in canyons and city parks. In a nuance, at Councilmember Marni von Wilpert’s request Tuesday, the ordinance was amended so that it only applies in parks where the city determines there is a “significant public health and safety risk” and signs are posted to that effect.

How did City Hall end up here? There are new records every month in the numbers of homeless people sleeping in Downtown San Diego and a year-over-year increase of 32 percent in the number of homeless people in shelters or on the streets in the city — 6,500 — as of January. But there’s also the sense that despite all of the attention, funding and resources from Gloria, predecessor Kevin Faulconer and the City Council, our quality of life is worsening. Visitors to the city who used to marvel at what a jewel it was now encounter human feces on sidewalks Downtown.

Tuesday, Dave Rodger of Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, said, “We have homeless people coming into our restaurant taking food off of people’s plates.” And the number of homeless people dying of drug overdoses in San Diego County, less than 100 in 2018, was 361 in 2022. Many residents feel like they are watching San Diego decline in real time. It’s no coincidence that Gloria and four of the five members to vote for the crackdown — Raul Campillo, Joe LaCava, von Wilpert and Stephen Whitburn — are up for re-election next year. The message they and colleague Jennifer Campbell sent is unmistakable: “We hear you. Enough is enough.”

Yet for those who believe public policy should be more about outcomes than optics — about “right,” not “right now” — the camping ordinance falls short. This was illustrated Tuesday in critical comments by council members Kent Lee, Vivian Moreno and Monica Montgomery Steppe, council President Sean Elo-Rivera and the public alike. The biggest concerns about the measure, crafted by Whitburn with major input from Gloria, include:

— A city report out Tuesday said the city lacked the beds to accommodate its entire homeless population. It noted there were 2,401 emergency shelter beds in the city, but that 930 will have to be relocated, if possible, over the next year. Given this and other issues, Councilmember Montgomery Steppe questioned how the measure will achieve its goals.

— Councilmembers Moreno and Lee wondered how the city could effectively enforce the plan. “A real plan would lay out goals of enforcement and match it with new resources,” Moreno said, questioning how the police could handle such a huge new responsibility. Her wise suggestion — that a decision on approving the measure should be delayed until at least September to allow for creation of a workable enforcement plan — was rejected. Moreno also made a crucial point about von Wilpert’s proposal to weaken the park ban — that it could give officers discretion on enforcement decisions, which raises issues of equity and community trust. Lee also wondered if the city law could run afoul of federal rules attaching strings to funding for local homeless programs. Also still up in the air: How much of a role will outreach workers, not armed officers, have in dealing with those in camps?

— It’s also unclear whether the law would survive legal challenges that invoke a 2018 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that held police in Boise, Idaho, could not arrest people for sleeping in public if indoor shelter beds were unavailable. The City Attorney’s Office says the ruling does not prohibit camping bans “at particular times or in particular locations.” But the new law imposes camping bans on large swaths of city land — not narrow exceptions — which is hard to reconcile with the Boise ruling’s ringing defense of the general right of indigent, homeless people to sleep outside on public property when shelter beds are unavailable.

City officials intend to start enforcement slowly and in limited areas. That only underscores a reason to wait to get better — or any — answers about planning, resources, enforcement and equity. Even if this law can survive a legal challenge, it will require close attention to how it is executed and can be improved. For the mayor and the council, they have promises to keep and miles to go before they sleep. (SDU-T June 14, 2023)

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

FrankF June 16, 2023 at 1:48 am

Concerning Kroenke….not a local but a carpetbagger. Be very very wary of his intentions and keep a close eye on his influence on local politicians. Don’t trust him any farther than you can throw him. He only has his self-interest in mind.

We can hope that the Sports Arena redevelopment is a plus for the community, but……..

Editor Dude, the UT will not our watchdog, so it falls to The Rag to be our eyes, ears, and voice.

Thanks in advance.


Frank Gormlie June 16, 2023 at 11:01 am

It’s confusing exactly where the Point Loma beach that made the Honor Roll is. The interactive beach grade map shows it to the west of the light house that is in use. What beach is there? The beach at “Ralph’s”? I thought it would be the beach off the Bayside trail. But doesn’t appear to be. What gives? Can anybody throw some lighthouse on this?


SRF TRD June 17, 2023 at 10:47 am

The collection site is most likely by the Coast Guard station at the New Point Loma Lighthouse inside of Little Waimea. The only people that have access to that beach are the Coast Guard guys that can surf on their breaks and then people that boat in to surf Little Waimea, Dolphin Tanks, or Donuts. Ralphs is usually pretty dirty from the outflow of the bay and there is no way a person from Heal the Bay can get down there to take water samples–it would not make the list if the collection site was there. With the sewage outfall just north of Donuts and the San Diego bay unleashing on the other side, I really can’t believe this spot made this list. Anyway, I’m glad someone is able to take advantage of the clean water.


chris schultz June 16, 2023 at 2:10 pm

Businessman Stan Kroenke has motive. Beware the grandeur from mayor Todd.


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