Morning Report: How the City Came to Lease a Lemon - Voice of San Diego

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Morning Report: How the City Came to Lease a Lemon

101 Ash St. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The address “101 Ash St.” has become a sort-of shorthand for a long-simmering city scandal over a real estate acquisition gone bad. The news about what went wrong with the deal has been a slow drip of revelations over the last year. 

In a new story, Lisa Halverstadt and Jesse Marx tell the definitive narrative about how the deal came together – and how it went so very wrong.

Key to understanding it all is the involvement of a development company called Cisterra Partners that acted as a middleman between the owner and the city. 

“It’s likely the city never would have purchased 101 Ash St. if Cisterra hadn’t come along to act as middleman. But that structure also laid the groundwork for a situation that is stunningly messy even in the cannon of San Diego real estate history. And its cleanup will fall on taxpayers for years to come,” Halverstadt and Marx report.

They also lay out developer Doug Manchester’s role in the deal.

San Diego Unified Likely Won’t Be Back in School for Months

Months. Not Weeks. That is the message from San Diego Unified officials, who announced Monday that school would not likely be physically reopening anytime soon, City News Service reports. 

The district also released a set of benchmarks that must be met before it will physically reopen. The new criteria are more stringent than state criteria released by the governor, which mandate that a community must have less than 100 cases per 100,000 residents.

Another key metric added by San Diego Unified involves the number of new community outbreaks. (San Diego’s local public health department also considers this an important metric.)  In order to safely reopen, the district now says there must be less than seven outbreaks over a seven-day period. Currently, there have been 24 outbreaks over the last seven days. 

The district announced 12 metrics in total it will evaluate in deciding whether it is safe for schools to physically reopen. 

Unless the governor makes statewide criteria more stringent in order to match San Diego Unified’s criteria – and in other instances he has followed Los Angeles and San Diego Unified on key coronavirus decisions related to schools – some school districts may physically reopen within San Diego County before others. 

Officials also announced that there will be a plan to bring some of the most vulnerable students – including those who are homeless – back to physical campus within the next several weeks. 

How to teach online: On Friday, on Voice of San Diego at Home, Scott Lewis interviewed Morgan Appel, the assistant dean of the Education and Community Outreach department at UC San Diego Extension. Appel talked about how the university has condensed it’s “how to teach online” courses for teachers into week-long immersions, or shorter, that are now free for teachers and parents to meet the unprecedented demand. He also offered some advice for teachers and parents on how to set expectations for remote learning.

“You can’t be a sage on stage for six hours in front of a webcam. It just doesn’t work,” he said. ”

Could the City Charge Its Power Company for Carbon Emissions?

As San Diego gets into the weeds of renegotiating its franchise fee agreement – which allows a utility to build poles, wires and gas lines on public property – it’s realizing it can make certain demands that would help the city meet its climate goals.

In this week’s Environment Report, MacKenzie Elmer floats a question inspired by Minneapolis’ tactics in harnessing its franchise fee and using other steps to rein in greenhouse gases: Why not use the franchise fee to put a price on carbon emissions? 

“Think of it this way,” Elmer explains: “The average home uses about 1,000 kilowatts per month, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. So if a utility produces a million units of energy and emits 500,000 metric tons of carbon emissions in the process at the social cost of $50 per ton, that equates to $25 million more in fees on the power company.”

Also in this week’s environmental news roundup: A San Diego company is in hot water with the EPA for marketing a product it claimed could protect people from COVID-19.

Power Shutoffs Will Continue to Protect Against Wildfires

Amid a global pandemic and with wildfire season approaching, San Diego Gas & Electricity discussed its plans for targeted power outages with the state’s Public Utilities Commission Monday. 

SDG&E, which serves 3.9 million people in San Diego and southern Orange County, began shutting off power to customers in 2007 to reduce wildfire risks. About 27,000 San Diegans lost power in October 2019.

SDG&E employees have participated in “extensive” drills for conducting wildfire management and shutoff procedures completely virtually, said Caroline Winn, SDG&E’s CEO. 

Essentials such as water and first aid will be offered at drive-through community resource centers during outages, and SDG&E will also offer resources in partnership with 211 San Diego and 211 Orange County for residents without transportation, said Scott Crider, SDG&E’s vice president for customer services.

Winn said SDG&E has also taken steps to reduce the number of customers who lose power this year, focusing especially on community centers and particularly vulnerable San Diegans. And the company will be launching an app in upcoming weeks intended to keep residents informed about local outages. 

(Disclosure: Mitch Mitchell, SDG&E’s vice president for government affairs, sits on Voice of San Diego’s board of directors.)

In Other News

  • In May, City Attorney Mara Elliott joined her counterparts in Los Angeles and San Francisco, as well as the state attorney general, in suing Uber and Lyft over employee misclassification. On Monday, a judge granted a preliminary injunction ordering the companies to stop classifying their workers as independent contractors while the case moves forward. (CNBC)
  • The owner of Boulevard Fitness says he’s going to stay open despite closure orders and several visits from county and law enforcement officials. Police say they don’t plan to take any action. (Union-Tribune)
  • SeaWorld reported Monday that its revenue and attendance plunged 96 percent during the second quarter of the year amid the pandemic. (Union-Tribune)

Now, for Your Most California Moment of the Day

A UC San Diego professor and his students are working to make flip-flops out of algae, KPBS reports.

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby, Kate Nucci and Will Huntsberry, and edited by Scott Lewis.

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