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Morning Report: SDG&E Just Can't Quit Gas So Easily

Otay Mesa Energy Center

San Diego Gas & Electric may be forced to buy this natural gas power plant near the border even as it is under pressure to reduce the amount of gas it burns to make power. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The city of San Diego has an agenda: to have everyone within city limits using only renewable power by 2035.

San Diego Gas & Electric has another reality: It owns or contracts to buy gas from seven major power plants that burn natural gas to generate electricity. The longest of those contracts runs through 2042, years after the city hopes to be free of fossil fuels.

The city’s agenda and SDG&E’s reality could soon be crashing into each other.

There’s good reason for SDG&E to have signed many of these contracts. Not only is gas cheap and abundant, but even environmentalists have touted natural gas as a “bridge fuel.” That’s because when natural gas is burned to generate power, it’s cleaner than coal and can be used in places and at times where solar power and wind power is unavailable.

But “cleaner” is no longer clean enough for environmentalists and an increasing number of lawmakers across California.

That means SDG&E may have signed up for lots of gas-fired power it won’t be allowed to sell within California.

Still, there remain major technical challenges and expenses if any major city wants to switch to wind and solar energy, so the gas-fired power is likely going to come in handy for a while longer. The question is how much longer.

What’s next: The city will be deciding later this year if it wants to form its own agency to buy and sell clean power. Meanwhile, SDG&E and the state’s other major power companies are arguing that they need to be paid more than they already are for the costs of power they’ve bought on cities’ behalves – including gas-fired power.

Ry Rivard on where to find more:

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

Shaking Off Quake Complacency

How’s this for unsettling: A prominent seismologist, Lucy Jones, says San Diego is the “worst of both worlds” when it comes to preparing for The Big One. Our risk is too underappreciated to get people’s attention but too real for complacency.

“It’s really only in comparison with Los Angeles and San Francisco that you look like a low-risk city,” she told Randy Dotinga in a jarring Q-and-A.

Weaving a Weed Web

Marijuana is becoming a retail industry like any other, complete with its own private clubs. Entrepreneurs need investors, and someone needs to make the connection.

In a new Potcast episode, Jesse Marx and Kinsee Morlan interviewed Sumeet Harish, a marketing expert, about the high-end dinners taking place through the Culinary Cannaseur Club. The San Diego startup hopes to build a social network both offline and online.

Sardonic, Art or Just Sardines?

Kinsee Morlan dives into a whole kettle of fish: “Is this art?” That’s the reaction people have when they enter a pop-up sardine shop at an art gallery in Logan Heights.

In this week’s Culture Report, Morlan says Max Robert Daily and his maitre d’ Ryan Severance never give folks a straight answer, but they do hand over canned beer and fish.

More arts news from border reporter Maya Srikrishnan: A few months ago, Adriana Heldiz and I drove down to Mexicali to meet with artist Thomas Gin. His art collective has been painting murals on the Mexican side of the border fence for the past two years. As construction began on a new border structure in Calexico a few months ago, Gin and other artists have been trying to figure out a way to save their murals.

Gin climbed on top of the fence in protest on Friday as authorities prepared to take it down. He’s still trying to persuade border agents to preserve the murals as the construction plows ahead. On Tuesday, a mural by artist and street calligrapher Said Dokins became the first to be demolished. The mural has “El Orden Se Derrumba” or “The Order Collapses” scrawled across the fence where Calle 13, or 13th Street – the name of Gin’s art collective – intersects with the U.S.-Mexico border.

By late Tuesday, the construction company agreed to hand over parts of the old border fence that had murals. Now it’s up to the artists to figure out how they will move the pieces from the construction area. Watch the Facebook Live video to see how the events unfolded.

Dockless But Not Unnoticed

We asked readers to send us their favorite photos of dockless bikes and scooters.

Here’s two dockless rides doing some sort of ballet move near a park in Clairemont:

 

Here’s another stuffed in a trash can outside of a Starbucks in North Park:

Election Roundup

We don’t get many independent polls in local politics, which typically turns conventional wisdom into a mish-mash of informed opinions from people in the campaigns leaking details for their own self-interested reasons, uninformed speculation and a healthy dose of historical context from previous races. But the Union-Tribune and 10News commissioned a poll this week on the three countywide races that will be settled in June. They tell us … voters haven’t really made up their minds yet.

The incumbents, all Republicans, lead their three Democratic challengers in each of the races, but the gap is dwarfed by the number of undecided voters. For district attorney, Summer Stephan leads Genevieve Jones-Wright by 13 points, but with just 35 percent of the vote as 43 percent of voters haven’t decided anything.

Sheriff Bill Gore leads his challenger, Dave Myers, by 10 points, with 38 percent of the vote. Thirty-three percent of voters are undecided.

And Ernest Dronenburg has a three-point lead on Matt Strabone to remain the county assessor/recorder/clerk, taking 20 percent of the vote while 63 percent of voters are undecided.

• Six seats on community college district boards are up this year. Megan Burks at KPBS dove into the races, and why the vacancies matter.

• A San Diego Unified committee has also completed a study on how it runs elections for its board of trustees, and is now recommending the board put up a ballot measure in November that would let voters decide whether to implement term limits for elected officials. The committee suggested the district keep studying whether to shift to subdistrict-only elections. Surveys and town halls the district committee held found most participants favored both term limits and subdistrict-only elections. That matches a County Grand Jury report from last year that said the school district should switch to subdistrict-only elections.

The school board doesn’t have to accept the committee’s recommendations. The City Council previously shot down proposals to put up a ballot measure.

• The Union-Tribune’s editorial board recently asked eight questions of the four candidates running to fill Councilman David Alvarez’s seat in District 8. They’ve provided the candidates’ responses in full.

In Other News

Correction: An earlier version of this post implied that a committee convened by the San Diego Unified School District recommended that the board put a measure on the November ballot to install term limits for board members and shift to subdistrict-only elections. The committee recommended a ballot measure to install term limits, but suggested the district keep studying whether to switch to subdistrict-only elections.

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

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