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Morning Report: Amid Crackdown, Homeless Move to the River

Homeless people don’t cease to exist when they’re forced to move along. They just move elsewhere.

And as Ry Rivard found, more homeless San Diegans have moved near the Mission Valley stretch of the San Diego River recently, as police enforcement has ramped up downtown.

Rivard reports that the San Diego River Park Foundation found 101 homeless camps during its latest count, more than it’s ever counted since it started conducting a monthly census there in 2008.

Rivard also explored potential safety risks facing those living near the river and checked in with the city to see what it’s doing to aid homeless people living in the area.

San Diego’s massive hepatitis A outbreak has put the spotlight on the struggles facing the more than 5,600 people living on streets countywide.

In a special podcast, Kinsee Morlan and I chat about the health crisis that’s had an outsize impact on San Diego’s homeless population. Morlan also interviewed Dennis Stein and Tony Rodriguez, who’ve spent months working on a documentary about homelessness in San Diego. Stein and Rodriguez, who’s lived on the street for nearly five years, talked to Morlan about the challenges facing homeless San Diegans. I’ll be moderating a panel discussion today with Rodriguez, Stein, City Councilman Chris Ward and Ruth Bruland of Father Joe’s Villages today following a free screening at The Observatory in North Park.

Advocates Wary of Homeless Funding Switch

The city’s poised to bankroll three temporary tents for homeless San Diegans with $6.5 million previously earmarked for permanent housing projects.

The Housing Commission is set to vote next Friday on whether to reallocate the cash. If the plan is approved, city officials say they expect to seek cash from another source – likely redevelopment funds for low- and moderate-income projects – to backfill the permanent housing money early next year.

Housing Commission CEO Rick Gentry and staffers for Mayor Kevin Faulconer said they don’t believe the shift will slow permanent housing projects.

Greg Block, a Faulconer spokesman, said the city remains committed to affordable housing projects but needed to act quickly to address San Diego’s deadly hepatitis A crisis.

“We have a public health emergency that requires immediate action,” Block said in a statement. “The quickest way to pay for the temporary bridge shelters, to ensure they are constructed as expeditiously as possible in order to get people off of the streets and into safer, more sanitary living conditions, was out of Housing Commission funds.”

The tent shelters will cost more than initially projected, the Union-Tribune reports.

Some of the city’s homeless advocates are concerned by the funding shift.

The old Central Library has for years been batted about as a potential homeless shelter. Now the city’s downtown development agency is again seeking proposals from developers to rehabilitate or dispose of it. (Yeah, this has happened before.)

Suicide Prevention Walk Tells Gun Control Advocates to Keep Out

Moms Demand Action and the other gun control advocates were dismayed to learn they could not distribute materials at a walk to promote suicide prevention today. The tension peaked when organizers of the march mentioned a partnership they have with a gun lobbying group, which will have materials at the event.

Azano Gets Prison time

A judge sentenced Jose Susumo Azano Matsura, the Mexican businessman at the center of a 2012 campaign finance scandal, to three years in federal prison. Here’s the U-T story and KPBS.

Azano dropped hundreds of thousands of dollars on local political campaigns, mostly in the 2012 mayoral race. Foreign nationals are not allowed to donate to campaigns in the United States.

We profiled Azano, the man who drove expensive cars, slung high-tech spy gear to nation states and had big political connections in Mexico. We tried to find out what he was trying to achieve in San Diego. Azano’s donations and political activity here seem like the last chapter of a long struggle against the San Diego-based Sempra Energy.

Sacramento Report: Lawmakers’ Pet Issues

We’ve all got issues we follow more closely than others. Lawmakers are no different.

For this week’s Sacramento Report, Sara Libby looked into San Diego legislators’ pet projects – from state Sen. Toni Atkins’ longtime obsession with affordable housing to Assemblyman Brian Maienschein’s fixation on well, pets.

Libby also gives us an update on discussions about sexual harassment playing out at the state Capitol and other state politics news.

Assemblyman Todd Gloria announced an update on one of his long-running causes Friday: The Public Utilities Commission has granted a petition to open the open the Park Boulevard and Harbor Drive railroad crossing that’s now closed to car traffic. That’ll allow a link between Balboa Park and the San Diego Bay.

VOSD Podcast: Another Bananas Ballot?

The 2016 election brought with it a slew of ballot measures. We’re getting hints 2018 might be another year with a bursting ballot.

Libby, Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts discuss a bombshell California Supreme Court ruling during this week’s podcast that could inspire a rush of citizen initiatives for causes such as school projects, housing and a Convention Center expansion.

Also on this week’s podcast: a very high-brow discussion about San Diego mascots.

News Nibbles

 CiclosDias will take over downtown streets on Sunday, closing a three-mile route from Barrio Logan to Little Italy to cars and welcoming bicyclists and pedestrians. (KPBS)

 A National City initiative that aims to add term limits for City Council members also happens to unravel term limits that now only apply to the city’s mayor. (Union-Tribune)

Top Stories of the Week

These were the five most popular Voice of San Diego stories for the week of Oct. 20-27. Check out the full top 10 list here.

1. Opinion: I’m Homeless. There’s Nowhere for Me to Go.

When I first became homeless, the sidewalks weren’t so heavily monitored. Fast-forward three years, and now homeless people are constantly being told to move almost every single time they sit down. It wears down one’s patience, happiness and quality of life. (Ginger Stamper)

2. Homeless Enforcement Explodes Amid Hep A Response

As San Diego has upped its response to a deadly hepatitis A outbreak, it also significantly ramped up arrests of homeless San Diegans most vulnerable to the disease. Those who’ve been arrested say their lives have been rocked by the enforcement. (Lisa Halverstadt)

3. Poway Unified Officials Might Have Stumbled Upon New Financial Crimes

District officials recently found documents showing $149,495 paid to a special retirement fund for 15 employees. What they can’t find is board approval for the payments. They’ve turned the materials over to the district attorney’s office. (Ashly McGlone)

4. San Diego’s Been Losing a Century-Long Battle Against Poop

The hepatitis A outbreak has renewed interest in the bacteria-filled San Diego River. The county has called downtown a “fecally contaminated environment.” A congressman has sounded the alarm about local waterways. And an image problem has arisen again, like in the 1980s when there so much sewage running into Mission Bay its beaches were closed a quarter of the time. (Ry Rivard)

5. When Border Patrol Can Pull You Over

Patrolling the area closest to the U.S.-Mexico border may be what first comes to mind when you think of Border Patrol, but it’s only one piece of the agency’s enforcement efforts. (Mario Koran)

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