Morning Report: The Height Limit Issue No One's Talking About

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Morning Report: The Height Limit Issue No One's Talking About

Midway District / Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran

Like with anything on the ballot, Measure E has its share of supporters and opponents. (If I were the world’s laziest headline writer, for example, I might offer readers “Measure E Has Supporters, Opponents.”) 

The measure would exempt the Midway neighborhood from the 30-foot coastal height limit.

But experts told VOSD’s MacKenzie Elmer that both sides are ignoring some of the big climate implications of restricting building heights near the coast

People living near the coast are less likely, for example, to live in an area at high risk of wildfires, and less likely to be hospitalized for heat exposure.

“If we continue to sprawl out into the backcountry, which is what we’re doing in the county, we’re putting thousands of lives in danger when they could be living in the city with smaller carbon footprints,” said Mat Vasilakis, co-director of policy at Climate Action Campaign, which supports removing Midway’s height limit.

The coastal zone, for its part, faces its own climate threats: The Midway District sits in a low-lying floodplain prone to future sea-level rise.

Meanwhile, a group seeking to block the ballot measure if it passes is concerned about a different environmental factor: access to views of the coast. 

Obstruction of the public’s view of public land, such as the coast or a marsh like that north of Midway, can be considered environmental impacts under CEQA. But the law doesn’t value one environmental impact, like protecting the public from extreme heat, over another like protecting coastal views,” Elmer notes.

Southwestern’s Troubles Are in the Spotlight in D1 Supes Race

Southwestern College, where county supervisor candidate Nora Vargas sits on the governing board, has had its share of challenges over the last decade. Vargas is running against state Sen. Ben Hueso for a seat on the Board of Supervisors.

Vargas has said her service on the board demonstrates the kind of commitment to the South Bay community she’d bring to the supervisor job. But that service is also being used against her in several mailers being sent to voters.

Maya Srikrishnan parsed some of the recent scandals and challenges at the school, and Vargas’ record on the board.

Vargas said she believes the board did its due diligence when it came to a professor who kept a trove of nude photos and sex videos with students on his work computer. That professor was allowed to quietly resign, and the school agreed to keep the misconduct quiet to prospective employers. 

One academic who’s part of a group intended to combat teacher sexual misconduct disagreed. 

“This board knew there were allegations with 12 substantiated findings. Why not write what you know instead of pretending like you don’t know anything?” she said.

Southwestern has also struggled to address anti-Black racism and has fielded multiple lawsuits alleging discrimination. Vargas noted that the board during her tenure commissioned more than one study to better understand and address racism on campus.

“For me this is continuous work and it’s important work that at times can be tough and challenging,” Vargas said. “The more we encourage transparency and accountability, the more we will learn from our communities.”

Last week, Srikrishnan delved into state Sen. Ben Hueso’s legislative record in Sacramento.

If you can’t get enough local election talk: Our Scott Lewis did an “ask me anything” about local politics and the election at Reddit. You can read his responses to questions there.

All the VOSD election coverage: Is here. So far, the Registrar of Voters says more than 430,000 ballots have already arrived, or about 22 percent of the registered voters in the county. So a lot of people have made up their minds but not all of them.

Asylum as We Knew it Is Over

Up until recently, the Trump administration’s so-called Remain in Mexico program, which requires asylum-seekers to await their U.S. court hearings in Mexico, was considered the most restrictive development to happen to the U.S. asylum process.

But now, the pandemic has effectively ended the asylum process as we knew it

“That’s how dire things have gotten: Being enrolled in [Remain in Mexico] is no longer the worst-case scenario for asylum-seekers,” Maya Srikrishnan writes in this week’s Border Report. 

Many of the small group of asylum-seekers who’d managed to find work in Mexico have since lost their jobs, and access to health care is an urgent concern amid the pandemic. 

Also in this week’s Border Report: A new initiative from the University of California San Diego’s Center for U.S. Mexican Studies is seeking to redefine the narratives around violence in Mexico. The leaders of the project talked with us about what they’re hoping to accomplish.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby, and edited by Scott Lewis.

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