Morning Report: San Diego Missed the Signs in Sports Arena Deal

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Morning Report: San Diego Missed the Signs in Sports Arena Deal

Pechanga Arena / Photo by Megan Wood

A change to state law in 2019 governing what cities can do if they want to lease or sell land is threatening to derail the redevelopment of Sports Arena.

Last week, a former official who worked under Mayor Kevin Faulconer described the regulatory change, which requires cities to first offer property to affordable housing developers before it can pursue a market-rate project, as a surprise.

But as Andrew Keatts writes in a new story, not everyone was caught off guard.

The Metropolitan Transit System, whose board includes several San Diego City Council members, took proactive steps to protect itself from the same law. They disagreed with the regulatory change — and advocated that the Legislature reconsider — but nonetheless made sure their ongoing real estate efforts would comply with the law in 2020.

For years, MTS has wanted to sell or lease some of its land around transit stops to build housing in an attempt to boost ridership and meet regional housing goals.

Hoping the state would change course, the city of San Diego, on the other hand, pressed ahead. Faulconer’s administration chose a development partner for Sports Arena, then spent the fall using the promise of redevelopment to help pass Measure E, which exempted the Midway area from the city’s 30-foot coastal height limit.

The Water Wars at Home

San Diego has been brawling for years with the Los Angeles-based Metropolitan Water District about how to best bring water into the region and how much that water should cost. But now the fight over how to best secure water rights for the region is turning in on itself, reports MacKenzie Elmer.  

The internal fight centers on whether San Diego should build a pipeline that would bring water directly from the Colorado River into the county. 

Currently, the San Diego County Water Authority purchases water from Metropolitan. But that water also comes from the Colorado River. 

The whole point of the pipeline would be to cut out the middleman. In fact, the pipeline would not allow San Diego to take any more water from the Colorado than it already gets. 

The internal fight is roiling tensions on the board that manages the Water Authority, which is made up of representatives from 24 smaller water authorities within San Diego County. 

The board has an arcane voting process that allows some districts to vote on behalf of other districts, if a representative misses a meeting. It doesn’t matter if the proxy votes differently than the person they are representing wants. 

That seemingly small cog in the process has led to behind-the-scenes lobbying and calls for an independent ethics office to hold board members accountable. 

Vaccine Update

San Diego County has put the rollout of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine on pause while federal officials investigate six cases of blood clot among immunized people. The symptoms, the Union-Tribune reported, appear to be extremely rare, affecting one person per million immunizations.

NBC 7 also noted that “San Diego County was only expected to receive about 3,400 J&J doses for the entire week, so the pause is not likely to make a large impact on distribution efforts.” The company recalled millions of vaccines last week, citing a manufacturing mistake at its Baltimore plant. 

A federal advisory committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to review the reactions documented so far and consider next steps. 

In Other News

  • A federal infrastructure plan includes a piece of legislation that will allow homeowners to fix up old houses through tax credits. Some of the communities in San Diego that could qualify are also some of the poorest. The White House is also proposing that some of the funds go toward research, including the development of clean energy technology. (Union-Tribune, CBS 8) 
  • The U-T was there for the reopening of Perkins K-8 School in Barrio Logan, where 95 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunches. The principal talked about some of the setbacks his students have experienced over the last year. 
  • Score one for the U.S. Postal Service: A man pleaded guilty to defrauding the post office out of roughly $5 million by altering postage prices when shipping mostly food and drink from a business he operated. (City News Service)
  • Petco Park’s attendance limits has increased to 33 percent capacity in accordance with San Diego County’s move to the orange tier. (City News Service) 

The Morning Report was written by Will Huntsberry and Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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