Morning Report: Local Fire Departments Turn to a Controversial Private Company
Brush helps spread wildfires, threatening homes and endangering lives. That’s why San Diego fire officials urge landowners to follow rules that require homes and roadways be clear of tall grass, weeds and debris.
But many local fire departments don’t actually have the staff to enforce such rules, reports VOSD’s Ry Rivard. They’ve turned to a private company, Fire Prevention Services, to enforce rules requiring homes to be clear of flammable grass and debris that can fuel wildfires.
If landowners don’t act, the company removes the debris itself – and sends a bill. Over the past two decades, the company has put liens on over 250 properties across the county, Rivard finds, meaning people had to pay the company in order to keep current on their property taxes or in order to sell their property.
“They’re basically, you know, roving tow truck operators that try to catch people doing the wrong thing,” one critic of the company told Rivard.
The Problem With Carbon Offsets
One of the more dubious aspects of San Diego County’s climate plan was the ability for developers to buy carbon offsets, which often meant that they could pay for trees to be planted in other parts of the world to mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions their projects created.
A new investigation by ProPublica debunks the validity of those programs and their promises to reduce emissions.
“In case after case, I found that carbon credits hadn’t offset the amount of pollution they were supposed to, or they had brought gains that were quickly reversed or that couldn’t be accurately measured to begin with,” writes reporter Lisa Song. “Ultimately, the polluters got a guilt-free pass to keep emitting CO₂, but the forest preservation that was supposed to balance the ledger either never came or didn’t last.”
VOSD’s Ry Rivard has raised questions about the county’s use of offsets in its climate plan. Newland Sierra, a proposed 2,100-unit housing development in northeastern San Diego County, indicated it would reduce 82 percent of its emissions through offsets. When another local developer heard that, he told Rivard, “Are you kidding me? Good luck.”
How the Suburbs — and Sen. Toni Atkins — Killed SB 50
Perhaps the most controversial bill in Sacramento died in committee this week, and California’s suburbs killed it. That’s the conclusion of a Los Angeles Times tick-tock on the demise of SB 50, the bill that would have dramatically increased the amount of new housing that could have been built across the state.
A similar bill died last year when advocacy groups for low-income tenants opposed it or offered only tepid support, fearing that it would exacerbate gentrification. This year, a modified bill that won the support of many of those groups died when suburban activists from San Diego to Silicon Valley rallied against it.
After the bill failed to emerge from the so-called suspense file last week, housing advocates urged Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins to use her authority to put it up for a vote before the full Senate anyway. She declined to do so, leaning on process to argue that it would be inappropriate to circumvent a committee chair’s decision, regardless of her “own personal feelings about this critical issue.”
But in an op-ed published in the Sacramento Bee Wednesday, Atkins made clear that it’s the bill itself, and not just the process by which it died, that is keeping her from reviving it.
“There are real issues with SB 50, however, including concerns from the countless communities I have heard from that one size does not fit all,” she wrote. Atkins said the bill will come back next year, and needs the additional time to address its problems.
The New Case Against Short-Term Vacation Rentals
Short-term vacation rentals have long been controversial. We’ve heard many of the complaints before: They take away needed housing. ruin the quality of neighborhoods, etc.
But a new complaint has emerged, writes the U-T’s Michael Smolens. A letter from the Peace Officers Research Association, backing a proposed state bill that would enact strict limits on short-term rentals, alleges that “many of these short-term rentals are being used for human trafficking, prostitution, and drug production.”
The letter, Smolens points out, included no data to support the claims about illicit activity in short-term vacation rentals. An internet search turned up only some scarce results in other cities.
AirBnb, Smolens writes, does background checks on guests and property owners – something hotels do not.
- In indictments unsealed in San Diego federal court Tuesday detailing a methamphetamine distribution network tied to the Sinaloa Cartel, AirBnb made an appearance. The drug-trafficking scheme involved shipping large quantities of methamphetamine from San Diego to hotels, residences, and – you guessed it – Airbnb locations in various other parts of the country.
Why Are Asylum-Seekers Being Flown to San Diego? Here’s a Refresher.
Last week, the federal government began flying asylum-seekers from the Rio Grande Valley sector along the Texas border to San Diego. The plan is to send three planes a week to San Diego to help agents in Texas process everyone in custody.
Some conservatives, including radio host Carl DeMaio, have pointed to the move as a statement against the state’s so-called “sanctuary” laws.
But the reality, as the Union-Tribune pointed out last week, is that the Rio Grande sector is dealing with severe capacity issues as large numbers of Central American families cross and seek asylum there. The Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol sector had more than 6,000 people in custody Friday morning, compared with about 800 in custody in the San Diego area, the U-T reported.
Other areas are also taking in migrants from the sectors that are over capacity. For example, migrants who enter near Yuma, Arizona, are being bused to El Centro.
It is likely that most of the additional families coming to San Diego will end up in the San Diego Rapid Response Network’s shelter downtown before moving on to their final destinations in the homes of their sponsors – family and friends in other parts of the country. In the past six months, the Rapid Response Network has assisted more than 14,000 asylum-seekers, the U-T reported Friday.
In Other News
- A grand jury was convened to hear testimony about the San Ysidro School District. Individuals subpoenaed told the Union-Tribune that they were questioned about issues including campaign contributions and a contract for a solar project.
A federal judge ruled that Qualcomm violated antitrust laws in the cellphone chip market. (NBC 7)
- The agreement settles how the Fallbrook Public Utility District and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton will share Santa Margarita River after a nearly 70-year dispute. (Union-Tribune)
- Two additional southbound lanes on the I-5 opened Wednesday at the U.S.-Mexico border as part of the expansion and modernization of the San Ysidro Port of Entry. (City News Service)
The Morning Report was written by Maya Srikrishnan and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.