Morning Report: City Acknowledges Need for More Public Restrooms Downtown
San Diego officials are promising to take a data-driven approach to supplying new public restrooms downtown in the wake of a Voice of San Diego story on the city’s years-long struggle to provide ample access.
The city’s chief innovation officer told our Lisa Halverstadt that the city has set an initial goal to ensure there are public restrooms within a five-minute walk of all areas downtown, a target she envisions soon meeting with the addition of two new restroom sites.
Kirby Brady, who also leads the city’s performance and analytics department, said she expects the city to set more ambitious goals in the future with the help of usage data, mapping software and complaints about homeless camps via the city’s Get It Done app — and perhaps to also site permanent restrooms or buy mobile restroom trailers like those used in Denver — to meet those yet-to-be set targets.
Halverstadt sought more details on the city’s plans after a Union-Tribune editorial revealed that aides for Mayor Todd Gloria had outlined a data-driven strategy and a new target to add restrooms downtown in a meeting with the paper’s editorial board.
The U-T had followed up after VOSD contributor Bella Ross spotlighted the city’s years-long struggle to address restroom access concerns that have only grown along with public health crises fueled sanitation challenges.
Last month, a mayor’s office spokesman told Ross that the Gloria administration “categorically reject(ed)” her conclusion that the city had struggled to address its restroom woes downtown and elsewhere though he acknowledged the city was digging into data to see where additions might make sense.
A couple weeks later, the city is acknowledging more restrooms are needed downtown and that it’s exploring how to add them.
Chapter Closes on Years-long Fight for Barrio Logan’s Community Plan
Barrio Logan residents are no strangers to fighting for their neighborhood.
One fight, though, is finally over, and could, in theory, help address issues that have long plagued the community. The San Diego City Council approved a blueprint Tuesday for the community’s future development. The new plan creates a buffer zone between housing and industry and attempts to blunt gentrification with affordable housing policies.
The community has been pushing for an update to its 1978 plan for decades. But an attempt to redo it in 2013 was taken from the community with an unprecedented citywide referendum the following year — an effort led by the shipbuilding industry. Years later, planners, environmental advocates and a shipbuilding representative hashed out proposed guidelines that would work with all parties and allow the community to move forward with a plan.
Now, it’s here and might even be more ambitious than what passed in 2013.
The new plan, like the previous effort, creates a buffer zone between heavy industrial uses and homes by prohibiting residential development along Harbor Drive or Main Street. It’s meant to let industries operate and provide jobs while creating a barrier to protect residents from pollution.
Barrio Logan resident Philomena Marino, who sits on the neighborhood’s planning group and lives near a recycling company, praised the new plan on Tuesday. Marino’s parents purchased their home in the 1950s and would often take her to parks in other communities to protect her from the pollution in the community. She lives in that same home today.
“I wish they were here to witness this beautiful concert of success by the residents, property owners and maritime industry,” an emotional Marino said.
The plan also calls for housing policies that limit the displacement of current residents. That includes creating affordable homeownership opportunities, requiring developers to set aside 15 percent of units for low-income residents, and sets up protections for tenants by establishing that developers provide options for them to return to new affordable units in the case that existing developments are demolished.
Residents on Tuesday expressed strong support for the anti-gentrification efforts in the plan given that many are already experiencing rent increases in the community.
The plan proposes the creation of small parks, a greenspace above Interstate 5 — known as a freeway lid — bike lanes, parking structures and improvements to existing public facilities.
Ex-Indoor Skydiving Center Eyed as Possible Shelter Site
It turns out the long-empty old Central Library isn’t the only infamous city building that city officials are exploring as a possible homeless shelter site.
A spokesman for Mayor Todd Gloria confirmed Tuesday that the city is also scrutinizing whether the shuttered indoor skydiving center turned homeless navigation center — now known as the homelessness response center — could house shelter beds.
Interestingly, one of the chief criticisms of the onetime skydiving facility turned homeless service hub championed by former Mayor Kevin Faulconer was that it didn’t house shelter beds. Now Gloria, long an outspoken critic of the project and the building purchase, has directed city staff to look into whether it could.
“Mayor Gloria has cast a wide net for potential locations for new shelter beds,” Gloria spokesman Dave Rolland wrote in an email. “This search includes the Homelessness Response Center.”
Halverstadt previously revealed that the old downtown library, which has now sat vacant for more than eight years, was one of several city sites that city officials are assessing at Gloria’s direction in a bid to expand the city’s shelter capacity.
It’s unclear when city officials might decide whether to add shelter beds at the library, former skydiving center or other facilities.
Related: Halverstadt spoke with KPBS Midday Edition about the latest of many city looks at whether the old library could be a shelter.
In Other News
- Two high-profile La Jolla hotels sold for a combined $335 million last week. A comment from one of the hotel buyers showed how investors think restrictive development policies affect their property values. “It’s really impossible to build in La Jolla so that’s another positive,” he told the Union-Tribune.
- County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously voted to see if the county can expand a court program that helps offenders with behavioral health challenges connect with treatment and housing. (Union-Tribune)
- Poway Unified School District has decided against a vaccine mandate for students the rest of the school year. (CBS 8)
- San Diego Unified now has a list of 10 candidates for its vacant superintendent position, KPBS reports. Once that list is whittled to three, students, staff and parents will be able to ask questions of them.
- The Union-Tribune reveals that Borrego Community Health Foundation, a federal health care provider that is the subject of a criminal investigation, will close two clinics and lay off more than 100 workers.
- County teams designed to respond to mental health and substance use crises in lieu of police officers will be available countywide starting today. (Union-Tribune)
This Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, Andrea Lopez-Villafaña and Andrew Keatts. It was edited by Megan Wood.