Morning Report: How Local Landfills Are Contributing to Climate Change | Voice of San Diego

Morning Report

Morning Report: How Local Landfills Are Contributing to Climate Change

Miramar Landfill
Miramar Landfill / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

San Diego landfills have for years been racking-up thousands of dollars in fines for leaking methane, a major cause of climate change, as operators struggle to contain it. 

“It’s like whack-a-mole,” said John Sepich, an engineer who used to work on San Diego County landfills decades ago. “Landfills are constantly settling (as waste breaks down). As they do, the cover breaks up, seals around the well need repair — it’s a constant maintenance issue.”

The best way to reduce methane is to divert organic waste — think apple cores, banana peels and coffee grounds — from landfills, reports MacKenzie Elmer. Although that’s largely not happening, governments and private trash haulers will soon have to figure out a way or face penalties under a new state law.  

In a new story, Elmer explains how our local landfills work to give us a better understanding of why they’re leaking methane.

Audit Spotlights City Rec Center Disparities

A new audit of the city’s nearly 60 recreation centers found that those in the city’s northern neighborhoods get more funding support, hold more activities and pull in more users than those in the southern parts of the city.

The Union-Tribune reports that the audit, which reviewed activities during 2019, documented that the City Council districts in the northern reaches of the city had “double the activities and double the participants” compared with those in the southern part of the city.

Auditors suggested that the city’s poor handling of low-income fee waivers, failure to regularly promote offerings in languages other than English and lack of strategic planning or performance measures to ensure equity contribute to this disparity.

In response to those findings, Parks and Recreation Department Director Andy Field wrote that the city’s historical decentralized model that did not account for user fees collected for permits that bolstered some recreation center operations and not others contributed to years of funding inequities. Field wrote that the department has been eager in recent years to make changes via a new funding formula in the city’s new parks master plan and other initiatives — and will pursue more changes going forward. 

“The department will focus on providing equitable access to ensure that the same benefits to parks and recreational programs is provided across the city’s 59 recreation centers and 13 aquatic centers regardless of geographic location that make up the Community Parks I Division and Community Parks II Division,” Field wrote.

Field proposed adding 10 full-time positions in the department to better track and serve community needs and address inequities to help address audit recommendations. He said the department is also working to seek out bolstered translation services and will work with other city officials, including Mayor Todd Gloria, on a strategic plan to bolster resources to better serve marginalized communities.

Timeline for County COVID Hotels Unclear After Funding Announcement

Since the pandemic hit last March, the county has put nearly 15,000 people up in hotel rooms including those who contracted or were exposed to COVID-19 and vulnerable homeless San Diegans.

Last week, the Biden administration announced that crucial federal emergency fund reimbursements that the county has sought to help back the program can continue until April, but the county has yet to clarify whether it plans to keep the program running into next year.

“An end date has not yet been set,” county spokeswoman Sarah Sweeney told Voice of San Diego.

Sweeney said the county spent nearly $73 million on the program through September and that it had submitted $48.3 million in invoices to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursements in early September. The reimbursement request remains under review.

As of earlier this week, the county had secured 854 hotel rooms for the program and about half were occupied. About 235 of those rooms set aside for COVID public health needs were filled, including 138 with homeless residents. Another 195 rooms were occupied by homeless San Diegans with underlying conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to COVID. The county noted that not all vacant rooms were necessarily “staffed and ready for occupancy.”

Homeless advocates have long urged the county to expand the program and to seek FEMA reimbursements to support it, a move the county decided to pursue earlier this year.

In Other News

  • The City Council approved a $24 million settlement with bicyclist who was paralyzed in a 2014 crash on Fiesta Island. The Union-Tribune has the details. The City Council also signed off on continued payments to the lenders behind the city’s Civic Center Plaza lease months after halting rent payments meant to halt lenders’ previous attempt to evict the city from the downtown high-rise.
  • In other City Council news: Councilmembers unanimously backed the removal of minimum parking space requirements for many businesses. Per the new policy set to go into effect in January, commercial tenants and owners in commercial areas and areas close to transit can provide parking or focus on other needs such as outdoor dining.
  • City News Service reports that an appeals court panel earlier this week upheld a federal judge’s dismissal of a lawsuit filed by the son of a 24-year-old woman who fell unconscious inside a police cruiser and died nine days after being arrested during a 2018 traffic stop.
  • Del Mar is continuing to work on a plan to eventually build 51 housing units on the state-owned Del Mar Fairgrounds, 10 News reports.
  • City News Service reports that non-tenured professors, lecturers and some other faculty at University of California campuses are planning walkouts today and tomorrow.

This Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and Megan Wood.

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