Morning Report: Mission Bay’s Million-Dollar Mud | Voice of San Diego

Morning Report

Morning Report: Mission Bay’s Million-Dollar Mud

Matt Costa, a coastal oceanographer measures and notes the different levels of sendiment that he dug up from the Kendall-Frost Marsh Reserve in Mission Beach on Sept. 16, 2021. Researchers will use the samples to determine how much carbon is in the marsh. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

On a recent September afternoon, golden-hour sunlight shone through the translucent hairs of ancient plant matter stuck in mud that scientist Matt Costa pulled from one of San Diego’s last coastal salt marshes.

“These are organisms kept from passing on into the next life,” Costa said. “And that’s all carbon.”

The 40-acre Kendall-Frost marsh is easy to overlook if you didn’t know what you were looking for. It’s a mucky mudflat that’s surrounded by apartment complexes and the adjacent Campland RV park. But this kind of ecosystem used to cover 4,000 acres along most of Mission Bay and it’s one of the best at sucking planet-warming carbon from the atmosphere and burying it underground for good. 

Now we know something about how good at sequestration that mud is, which also says something about how much that mud could be worth. The answer is: Millions. 

In a new story, MacKenzie Elmer details new research that attempts to translate the value of wetland carbon sequestration into dollars. It could be useful context for the city of San Diego, which is weighing decisions about re-envisioning land use in Mission Bay and cutting greenhouse gases from the atmosphere under its Climate Action Plan. 

Click here to read Elmer’s story.

Chula Vista Moving Forward With New Homeless Shelter Plans

Chula Vista officials earlier this week asked service providers to submit bids to operate a year-round homeless shelter in the city.

In documents shared with the county and service providers, the city described a facility with 66 individual housing units at an industrial plot south of Main Street and Broadway that could accommodate individuals, families and pets. The city’s goal is to open the shelter in January.

The request for bids from homeless service providers comes months after the city quietly decided to return the sprung structure that nonprofit Lucky Duck Foundation loaned the city to open a shelter, a move our Lisa Halverstadt revealed earlier this month.

A city spokeswoman says the City Council is set to review proposed plans for a new shelter concept on Nov. 9.

Related: A new ACLU report spotlights the city of San Diego’s longtime failure to provide adequate restrooms for homeless San Diegans, a situation that in 2017 helped fuel a deadly hepatitis A outbreak. The city and county recently deployed handwashing stations amid a shigella outbreak that the county said Tuesday has now sickened 23 homeless residents staying in central San Diego. Shigellosis is a highly contagious intestinal infection spread via contaminated food and water and sometimes person-to-person.

Pandemic Street Eating Is Almost Permanent 

It only took a global pandemic for San Diego to realize it’s perfectly practical to dine outdoors year-round. 

The San Diego City Council OK’d the first reading of a new ordinance Tuesday that could help restaurants transition their temporary outdoor dining structures erected during the blur of early COVID-19 days into permanent ones, for a fee. 

We reported in spring that hundreds of these structures would have to come down because many violated state building codes — particularly ones that had overhead structures combined with propane-powered heaters. The Little Italy Association argued that their ornate patios, designed by a hired architect, complied with all regulations. That wasn’t the case.

In fact, according to the new design manual created by city staff, ceilings are still not allowed. Restaurants can add umbrellas and that’s about it. The manual offers a menu of options, including a “streetary” — now the term for what we have been referring to as outdoor dining structures in parking spaces. There are also new guidelines for sidewalk cafes, a takeover of parking spaces by a built-out curb called an “active sidewalk” and full street take over by a promenade, like the one in Little Italy.

As far as the new permit fees go, there are reduced fees for restaurants in lower-income areas as prescribed under the city’s Climate Equity Index. Restaurant owners in very-low to low access opportunity areas will pay the city $10 per square foot of the structure per year, or approximately $2,000. Restaurants in very high opportunity areas can expect to pay about $6,000 per year. 

The City Council is expected to vote once more on the ordinance in November, according to a city press release, and it will also need approval from the California Coastal Commission. Once the commission approves it, restaurant owners in the coastal zone (La Jolla, etc.) won’t have to independently get approval for their dining structure development plans from that state agency. That wonky fact probably just triggered a big sigh of relief.

  • Restaurants along North Park’s University Avenue aren’t breathing the same sigh of relief. NBC 7 reports that several restaurant owners were recently told they’ll need to remove their parklets so the city can do work on the University Avenue Mobility Project, which will add bike and bus lanes and a median. That’s bad news for businesses that invested thousands of dollars in parklets — some as recently as a few weeks ago.

Scott Peters Faces Big Decision Over Medicare Negotiations

Rep. Scott Peters has found himself with an enormous choice to make and massive influence over one of the most consequential legislative dramas of the last 70 years: the cost of prescription drugs.

His no vote on a bill that would impose a tax on a drug if the drug maker won’t negotiate to within 120 percent of what other countries pay is now a key obstacle to Democrats passing a multi-trillion-dollar climate change, child-care and public spending plan.

In a new column, Scott Lewis explains the history of drug price decisions in the U.S. and how Peters may set the standard for how Medicare negotiates with giant pharmaceutical companies for the next several decades.

“Peters might or might not have been working toward this very moment for the last decade,” Lewis writes. “This may be his defining legacy. This may be the point of Rep. Scott Peters, but it will test his abilities unlike any time in local politics.”

Read more here.

In Other News

  • Council President Jennifer Campbell said she’ll be unveiling her proposal to crack down on sidewalk pushcart vendors in December. (Union-Tribune)
  • A new study that found San Diego’s Black renters are more rent burdened than those living in any other market in the nation. (KPBS)
  • Regional transportation officials are eyeing the possibility of free transit rides and per-mile fees for drivers come 2030. (10 News)
  • The city is set to spend $12.5 million over the next five years on a maintenance contract for the Police Department’s helicopter fleet. (Union-Tribune)
  • KPBS followed volunteers hitting the streets in North County to increase Latino vaccination rates.
  • Clairemont residents are not pleased with a preliminary redistricting concept that would split the community into four City Council districts. (Union-Tribune)
  • A 16-year-old junior at Scripps Ranch High School has sued San Diego Unified over its failure to include a religious exemption from its vaccine mandate. (Times of San Diego)
  • KPBS profiled University City High School senior Zachary Patterson, the first student San Diego Unified school board member.
  • Lincoln High has called off its Friday game against Cathedral Catholic amid concerns months after an uproar over April social media posts, including one showing someone wearing a shirt that read “Catholics vs. Convicts III.” (Union-Tribune)
  • 10 News checked into the state of COVID-19 outbreaks in local schools and found some good news.

This Morning Report was written by MacKenzie Elmer and Lisa Halverstadt. It was edited by Megan Wood.

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