Morning Report: Schools Bite Back at SDG&E Rate Hikes - Voice of San Diego

Morning Report

Morning Report: Schools Bite Back at SDG&E Rate Hikes

The region’s solar-powered schools aren’t taking SDG&E rate hikes lying down. Plus, the new nonprofit news org covering the Capitol, how the city’s pulling off a lightspeed environmental impact report for the new stadium and more.

Every three years, solar-powered school districts in the region grimace at San Diego Gas & Electric’s proposed rate hikes. Their big concern: The suggested increases would put a big dent in the school districts’ savings from their energy-efficient investments.

But since about 2007, the districts have wised up to the age-old adage, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” They started complaining to the state Public Utilities Commission proceedings about the SDG&E’s proposed charges and policies, and they’ve been pretty successful in holding down rates.

This spring, Lisa Halverstadt reports, 38 of the county’s 42 school districts protested the utility’s latest change. And Assemblywoman Shirley Weber said earlier this month she’s going to investigate energy rate hikes for schools. Clearly their arguments are getting attention; check out Halverstadt’s story for more on the fine print of the conflict.

A report by GTM Research finds more than 70 percent of the solar systems installed in the U.S. are leased. One researcher with the group said she expects more folks will buy systems, instead of leasing, by 2020. (KPBS)

During her ongoing quest, Lisa Halverstadt has pointed out leasing actually costs customers more money in the long run.

Nonprofit News Org Takes on the Capitol

There’s a new kid in town covering all things at the state Capitol. Meet CalMatters.

For this week’s Sacramento Report, Sara Libby talks with the editor of the new nonprofit news outlet, Gregory Favre, about how his team plans to roll out coverage of the California Legislature, what the existing Sacramento press corps has done well and what “national journalists who parachute in” get wrong about California.

In the Q-and-A, Favre dodges Libby’s question about whether a Republican like Kevin Faulconer would have a shot at winning a statewide office. “As Favre pointed out,” Libby writes, “there are fewer journalists around to make sense of Capitol politics than ever, and the more we can do to help people understand the dynamics at play, the better. After all, pointing out that Hillary Clinton has a good shot at winning the Democratic nomination for president isn’t partisan – it’s the truth, regardless of how one feels about her.”

Podcast: Where, Oh, Where Did the Time(line) Go?

Remember when City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said a typical environmental review needed to build a new stadium would take about a year? Now San Diego’s gunning to get that done by Aug. 10, when it’s supposed to be up for public review. The city’s doing everything it can to be ready for a January vote – but how exactly is this happening?

Land-use expert and former director of development services at the city, Marcela Escobar-Eck joins us on the podcast this week to school us on the specifics of the “extremely aggressive,” but apparently doable timeline. She said the environmental review will still have value no matter if a stadium is actually built. But she laughed at the claim by the mayor’s office that this rushed effort wasn’t displacing other planning and permitting priorities.

Quick News Hits

Oh, my. Gov. Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for wildfires around California, saying severe drought and extreme weather had turned “much of the state into a tinderbox.” (Los Angeles Times)

Bob Ottilie is still in the running for a seat on the city’s Ethics Commission – Executive Director Stacey Fulhorst has said she’ll resign if Ottilie is appointed – and now nominations also include two other controversial picks. (Union-Tribune)

A group of federal lawmakers that includes Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer called on President Barack Obama’s administration to take another look at the 20-year-old rules that govern treatment of marine animals in captivity. (City News Service)

So yes, this’ll likely be on SeaWorld execs’ radar. It wouldn’t be the first time the park has faced challenges from lawmakers. Remember the so-called Blackfish bill? We looked at that and more existential crises for the park during our quest last year.

San Diego Coastkeeper is suing the county Water Authority, arguing that it needs to do more to study and account for the environmental impacts of its projects, namely the water desalination plant in Carlsbad that’s supposed to be done this fall. (Los Angeles Times)

In its suit, Coastkeeper is citing our dear friend – and frequent development buzzkill – the California Environmental Quality Act. CEQA (we’re on a nickname basis now) often pops up as a hurdle for big projects – like this new stadium idea you might’ve heard about. It can also be a “convenient weapon” for businesses scared of competition, as Lisa Halverstadt reported.

Honestly CEQA rears its head so often, I now inwardly pull a Shatner when I see it namedropped in lawsuits.

The ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties is suing the city of Encinitas over its limit of two political signs per yard.

My fellow Morning Report scribe Randy Dotinga reviewed Harper Lee’s new book, the much-maligned “Go Set a Watchman,” for the Christian Science Monitor.

As an aside, Dotinga offers this fun locally focused fact:

Actor Gregory Peck, the San Diego native who famously brought Southern attorney Atticus Finch to life in the film version of Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” said he was drawn to the role by her depiction of small-town life. It reminded him of growing up in La Jolla in the 1920s.

“La Jolla was maybe 1,800 to 2,000 people, so you knew everybody,” he told the L.A. Times in 1997. “At that time the houses didn’t have addresses, they had names. Sometimes sort of cutesy names like the Do Drop Inn. We had treehouses in the summertime like the kids in ‘Mockingbird.’ I remember you would curl inside of an old rubber tire and some other little kid would give you a push and you’d roll down the street – [Jem and Scout] did that in ‘Mockingbird.’ So the general tone of life there was similar to what Harper Lee was talking about.”

• DecoBike still hasn’t worked out the kinks. The Union-Tribune highlighted “modest use” of the stations, and more thoroughly, widespread complaints that the company isn’t doing its part to listen to community feedback. That’s what we heard back in February when our reporting intern at the time, Camille Lozano, zeroed in on a dispute in Mission Hills.

• Pedestrian deaths rose 35 percent from 2013 to 2014, according to a new report by the San Diego County Medical Examiner. That’s 88 people on foot struck down by vehicles last year. (Union-Tribune)

Mario Koran reminded us of a grave reality on Twitter: Most hit-and-run drivers go unpunished.

I Probably Spend Too Much Time on Twitter

…so you don’t have to!

Earlier this week, Councilman Todd Gloria raised an important question. Seriously, how are deliveries of the Yellow Pages still a thing? “The only number I’d look up in this dinosaur is the one to stop getting them delivered to my doorstep. #killthephonebook,” Gloria ‘grammed.

Scott Lewis has railed against undesirable deliverables before. Turns out, VOSD member John Anderson did the Lord’s work for the Free Press back in 2013. Check out some fast tips to banish (most of) your junk mail.

 Wow – sucks to be Padres pitcher Ian Kennedy’s wife. Play ball!

Top Stories: July 25-31

Here’s what Voice of San Diego readers were reading this week:

1. Stop Saying the Chargers Stadium Study Didn’t Cost Money

2. City, County Left Only With General Funds to Offer NFL Gods

3. The Strange Road to a Football Stadium in Kooky Little Carson

4. School Board President Solicits Funds for Kids — Her Own

5. Rapid Bus Isn’t as Rapid as Everyone Hoped

Check out the rest of the week’s 10 most popular posts here.

Correction: An earlier version of this post noted that City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said in February that the city would need about a year for an adequate environmental impact study of a new stadium in Mission Valley. Goldsmith was referring to a hypothetical “typical project” and did not mention Mission Valley.

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