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Morning Report: National City Struggles to Untangle Homes and Polluting Businesses

National City City Hall / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The gnarliest fights in local land use are over where to put industrial businesses that could endanger nearby residents. Unsurprisingly, it’s a burden that disproportionately falls on lower-income and minority communities.

Twelve years ago, National City adopted a policy intended to fix it.

Not only did it change local zoning, prohibiting new industrial businesses from opening too close to homes and schools, it also created a way for the city to identify the businesses that were most likely to cause a problem and force them to relocate.

But the bold policy so far hasn’t amounted to much bold action.

The city has forced just two businesses to move since it adopted the ordinance. And the entire effort is now effectively on pause, because the city can’t find a consultant in its price range to lead the charge.

The Environmental Health Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group that pushed for the ordinance in the first place, is getting frustrated with the lack of results. City officials think they’ve still made incremental progress. And a representative for the business community supports the goal, but thinks the process needs to improve.

The other high-profile example of incompatible uses is in Barrio Logan. The San Diego City Council tried to adopt a plan to permanently separate industrial and residential land back in 2013, but the shipbuilding industry successfully persuaded citywide voters to kill that plan.

City planners last year toyed with re-starting the planning process to find a long-term solution in Barrio Logan, but ran into the same opposition that made it so hard to solve anything five years

ago.

It’s unclear if the city still intends to take on that fight.

Why Central Americans Keep Coming

A family from Honduras, center, waits to be received at a migrant shelter in Tijuana, Mexico in April 2018. The couple plan to seek asylum in the United States because of increased violence in Central America. / Photo by David Maung

Why are so many Central American asylum-seekers showing up at our borders? A handful of immigration experts tell Maya Srikrishnan that the reasons range from economic opportunity and family here to domestic violence and political instability back home. Some of that political instability can be traced back to the American government’s long history of creating chaos in foreign countries.

“At one extreme of the migrant spectrum, you have people who are opportunity-seekers, and at the other extreme you have people who are refugees,” said Everard Meade, director of the Trans Border Institute at the University of San Diego. “I think most of the people we see today are much closer to the refugee end of the spectrum than opportunity-seekers. Back in the ‘90s there were more opportunity-seekers. It’s obvious to everyone who I talk to in the community of immigration lawyers. If we had a desperation index, it’s never been higher.”

  • KPBS and City News Service rounded up Monday’s protests over ICE and the Trump administration’s immigration policies, which included demonstrators blocking the entrance to the federal courthouse downtown. Meanwhile, Chula Vista Councilman Mike Diaz appeared on “Fox & Friends” to argue “we need laws” when it comes to immigration.

Council Considers Forcing Landlords’ Hands on Section 8 Applicants

City Councilwoman Georgette Gomez / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

The San Diego City Council might force landlords to consider low-income applicants who use Section 8 housing vouchers, the Union-Tribune reports.

Right now, landlords don’t have to accept the vouchers. Back in 2016, Maya Srikrishnan reported that residents with housing vouchers were having a harder time than ever finding places to rent, despite a guaranteed housing payment.

Some states and other California cities, including Santa Monica and San Francisco, have similar laws that prevent landlords from discriminating against people based on their source of income. Critics of the proposed law, including some landlords, worry about the paperwork they’ll be stuck dealing with. Under the proposal, backed by Councilwoman Georgette Gomez, the city would also set aside $1 million to help compensate landlords for low-income people who don’t pay their rent or damage property.

In other Gomez housing news: The councilwoman backed away from plans to put stricter controls on the San Diego Housing Commission, an arm of the city that has a fair degree of autonomy, KPBS reports.

In Other News

  • San Diego has a new fire chief (probably). Mayor Kevin Faulconer appointed Colin Stowell, a deputy chief, to oversee the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. If the City Council confirms his appointment, Stowell would start in coming weeks. Stowell would replace Brian Fennessy, who left recently to lead the Orange County Fire Authority. (City News Service)
  • Morgan Murtaugh, a 25-year-old Republican running against Rep. Susan Davis, is among the young female candidates across the country who have been challenged by being what they are:  young and female. Murtaugh said some men have tried to flirt with her. “I just smile and respectfully keep my distance,” she told NPR. But “that means Murtaugh has a difficult line to walk: keeping her distance from some of the very voters and donors she’s trying to court.”
  • The Union-Tribune looks at the building boom in Tijuana and how it contrasts with development in San Diego: “In the quickly transforming skyline of the city, it is rare that destruction of an old building gets much opposition. This is a stark contrast to San Diego where structures with limited historic significance can halt major housing developments.”
  • Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside is removing 29 beds set aside for people who need inpatient mental health services or are in a mental health crisis. Mental health advocates are alarmed by the decision. (KPBS)
  • Voice of San Diego Podcast Network show The Kept Faith sat down with Councilman Chris Cate to talk about the Mission Valley stadium site.

The Morning Report was written and compiled by Ry Rivard and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.

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