San Diego Mainstream Media Parrot City’s Account of Homeless Camp Site

by on August 10, 2023 · 1 comment

in Homelessness, San Diego

Area outlined in blue are the brand new showers.

By Geoff Page

On Monday, August 7, The Rag requested a tour of the city’s “hot lot” camping site at the City Operations facility as a follow up on The Rag’s two previous stories about the site. Some of the media had previously requested a site visit but had been rebuffed on privacy grounds. The Rag decided to try anyway.

Three hours after the email requesting the tour, the city responded informing The Rag about a media event scheduled for the next day, Tuesday, August 8. A link was provided that brought up an invitation for the media to tour the site. It was dated the same day as The Rag’s email, Monday, August 7.

Media Advisory

One day’s notice to the media was inadequate by anyone’s standards. How it was noticed, and to who, is a mystery. The Rag only received the notice by coincidence having asked for a tour the day the notice came out.

La Prensa, one of the mayor’s very vocal critics, that also happens to be a Latino voice, did not get a notice. This despite requesting a tour several times since the site opened and being rebuffed each time. The only news reports on the tour yesterday that could be found, were from KPBS, 7SanDiego, Fox5, and a Tweet from Voice of San Diego (VOSD).

All the media reports were more or less identical. The film footage of the camp was provided by the city, no cameras were allowed by the media, so all the stations ran the same footage.

The media invitation said there would be a 30-minute tour followed by interviews with staff and participants. The interviews were clearly set ups. The same two, well-spoken homeless success story participants were interviewed by all the news stations. They did not look at all like the homeless on the streets.

The interview footage is misleading. The interviews were done among the trees at the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove, a small park to the north outside the City’s Operations Yard.  The trees created a pleasant interview environment that did not match the camping site at all.

The safe camping lot itself has no trees or tree shade on it. They did not do the interviews in the middle of that huge, hot parking lot, which would have been more authentic. It did not appear that anyone of the media present independently interviewed random people residing at the site.

Here is the odd history of this site:

  • The city announced the opening of this facility, with space for 136 tents, on June 28.
  • The Rag took a first look, about two weeks later, on July 11 reported in this piece . At that time, there were only 28 tents on the site.
  • The Rag took a second look on August 2, three weeks later, and counted 40 tents in one area and 15 to 17 in the smaller enclosure.
  • On August 3, pictures posted on Twitter by another photographer (and reposted by The Rag) showed approximately 76 tents. In one day, 20 more tents had appeared. A comparison of the pictures confirms the additions.
  • On media tour day, August 8, KPBS reported 111 tents, or 35 more than were seen five days ago.
  • Fox5 quoted Teresa Smith, CEO of Dreams for Change, who said there were “about 120” tents and expected to add 10 to 15 more by today. 7SanDiego made no mention of the number of tents.

Are the cities figures believable? If there are 111 or more tents, are they all occupied or just set up?

But, taking for granted that the city’s figures are correct, why did this facility not fill up rapidly in the many weeks after it opened? The flurry of activity in the last week showed it could have been done much more quickly.

The city also quickly added a portable shower facility to the site that had not been seen before the day of the media tour.


According to VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt’s Tweet on August 8, there is a shuttle bus that takes people “downtown throughout the day for showers and other needs.” Her post did not say where the showers were. While that is better than nothing, of course, it is a tough way to get a shower. She also stated that there was a shower trailer on-site. It was not there five days ago.

Halverstadt confirmed The Rag’s conclusion that long area covered with the gray tarps was a shade structure. Halverstadt characterized it as a “shaded breezeway.” To the Rag, the structure looked like a dark tunnel with no view outside, except at each end, with less circulating air than outside.

Halverstadt’s post made a point of talking about all the shade the site provided. She wrote that there were also shaded areas to charge phones, wash items and have meetings. She did not describe what this this shade consisted of, but The Rag did. That shade consisted of some 10 x 10 canopies scattered about. Shade for the tents is non-existent, occupying these tents on a hot day would be very difficult.

The media tour was a dog and pony show and, sadly, no one asked any probing questions or did any real investigating. They just parroted what the city had to say. It is possible that the site is doing some good for some people – and The Rag applauds that. It also just shows how desperate some people are and that a place like this is actually better than where they were.

Just today, Big 5 has a 10 x 10 tent with six feet of headroom and a cover tarp selling for $70. At least a person could stand up in that tent, that is not possible with the tents on-site.  Tents with tarps above them would provide a cooler environment.

The city is patting itself on the back for providing little tents exposed to the sun all day long, and no one from the media said a thing.

Whatever happened to real journalism? It takes outsiders like The OB Rag to tell the real story.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

kh August 10, 2023 at 11:59 am

Maybe the city decisionmakers have never been camping, but a tent on blacktop with no shade is going to be an oven most of the day even in moderate weather.

With all the money getting pumped into these efforts, I don’t understand why it’s so hard to make these locations a tiny bit appealing, and therefore well utilized? Take a lesson from any of the private entities that have made inviting outdoor spaces around the city. Why did it take a month and a half to get a shower trailer out there? These are easy to rent. Must be nice spending someone else’s money without any accountability.


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