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Morning Report: A Trolley to Nowhere

The worst of the worst when it comes to San Diego’s trolley system, Lilac Hills’ inherent un-greenness, expensive solutions for funding homelessness and more news to consume with your coffee.

It’s no secret that San Diego’s trolley system is bad – the anecdotal complaints are part of our city’s urban lore.

But a study released last week revealed a deeper truth: that decades of land-use decisions by city leaders had made it that way. Now, Voice of San Diego’s Maya Srikrishnan has zeroed in on the worst of the worst – the Gillespie Field station in El Cajon, which was called out for being the single most underdeveloped transit area in the state by the study’s authors.

“I almost wondered if there was really a station out there or if we got the GPS wrong,” said Ethan Elkind, one of the authors of a UC Berkeley study. “It looked like cow pastures.”

The vacant land surrounding the Gillespie Field Airport isn’t actually for cattle-grazing, of course, it was meant to be developed. While that has yet to happen, some folks are still eyeing the area and trying to jump-start projects.

Srikrishnan and freelance photographer Jamie Scott Lytle spent some time at the desolate spot. The upside to a trolley stop built in the middle of nowhere?

“This station is cleaner,” said a trolley rider. “But it’s because no one uses it.”

Stick to the Plan, Man

The website marketing the yet-to-be-built Lilac Hills Ranch development in Vista is green-themed. Yes, the color itself is used, but much of the development’s pitch centers on its sustainability.

Roger Lewis doesn’t buy it. He says the very location of the mega development – an agricultural area in North County with a population of only about 20,000 – makes whatever sustainable elements the project has going on inside its fences unimportant when one looks at the bigger picture and the project’s potentially far-reaching, negative effects on the rural community around it.

In a new op-ed, the president of Citizens Coordinate for Century 3, an advocacy group focusing on smart development, said the County Board of Supervisors should uphold the principles in the county general plan and reject the project.

Nothing Backing Up the Convention Center Expansion

Mayor Kevin Faulconer doesn’t like tax hikes, but he said one increase he’d go out on a limb for would help fund the expansion of the Convention Center along the waterfront.

The mayor plans to ask voters in 2016 if they’ll support the $549 million expansion. The main piece of proof he has in his vote-for-it toolkit is a study that ultimately said a bigger bayfront facility, rather than a separate facility across the street, would make more money for the city and local economy.

Now the Union-Tribune’s Dan McSwain is arguing that the Convention Center study is filled with shortcomings and missing information.

“To my reading, the report has holes big enough to drive Comic-Con through,” McSwain said.

He also asked whether any expansion at all makes sense. He looked at the 2001 Convention Center expansion and the city’s return on investment. The numbers he came up with were less than impressive.

Of course, there are all sorts of other big barriers Faulconer will have to navigate in order to get the contiguous Convention Center plan approved, including a lawsuit that says expanding the existing facility illegally blocks access to the waterfront and losing a hotelier’s support that’s considered important to helping fund the project.

Faulconer to Lobby HUD Secretary for Homelessness Funds

Mayor Kevin Faulconer is scheduled to meet on Monday with U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and Rep. Scott Peters to discuss the federal formula for funding homeless services, his office announced Sunday. The mayor said in a press release he’ll bring up Hotel Churchill, a renovation project that’ll create 72 special-purpose housing units for veterans and former foster youth.

Andrew Keatts and Ry Rivard recently poked around that project and found that the San Diego Housing Commission originally scoffed at the idea of paying $20 million to rehab the downtown hotel to create too few apartments. Then the commission … built fewer apartments there for about the same amount.

Faulconer also said in the release that he’ll be lobbying Castro to change the federal funding formula for homelessness projects. VOSD was the first to report how the formula handicaps San Diego, which gets less money than cities with far smaller homeless populations.

Quick News Hits

• Tari Harkonen’s photo was printed on the front page of the U-T last January as part of a story on the annual count of homeless people. Now she’s got a job and a place to live, the paper reports in an update, but Harkonen’s harrowing tale is a good reminder of how easy it is for people – even those without addictions and mental illnesses – to end up on the streets.

• The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s “Operation Boo” has one sex offender suing, saying the annual Halloween restrictions violate his rights. (U-T)

• A Riverside man has filed an excessive force lawsuit against the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, saying, in part, that he was knocked unconscious by an officer’s aluminum flashlight.

Slippery When Wet

Oops. Perhaps it was melted ice leftover from the San Diego Gulls hockey club that made wet spots so dangerous that a preseason game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors held at the Valley View Casino Center had to be called off. (ESPN)

This tweet by Will Moore summarizes the incident beautifully:

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 7.19.27 PM

Pumpkin Spice Everything – Except That

I bought the pumpkin spice peanut butter. Ditto on the pumpkin spice applesauce, cookies and latte. I have to draw a thick, solid line at the pumpkin spice pork sausage, though. Because gross.

Kinsee Morlan is the engagement editor at Voice of San Diego and author of the Culture Report. Contact her directly at kinsee.morlan@voiceofsandiego.org.

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