Morning Report: The Long, Pure Drama of Pure Water - Voice of San Diego

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Morning Report: The Long, Pure Drama of Pure Water

Inside of the North City Pure Water Facility / Photo by Megan Wood

After years of scientific progress, regulatory wrangling, political ups and downs, and searching for money, San Diego is finally ready to get to work on Pure Water.

The multibillion-dollar project is expected to provide a third of the city’s drinking water from wastewater by 2035, but there have been innumerable hurdles along the way – including a recent labor dispute that required some last-minute maneuvering by the state Legislature. 

The recycling project is perhaps possible only because of compromises made after years of legal wrangling over sewage which, unlike drinkable water, the city has often had too much of.

To help understand it all, Ry Rivard gives us a brief history of the Pure Water project and explains where we stand.

Mayor to Veto Inclusionary Housing Policy

The San Diego City Council formally approved amendments to the city’s inclusionary housing policy proposed by Council President Georgette Gómez Tuesday.

Hours later, as the U-T reports, Kevin Faulconer announced he would veto the proposal.

The Council voted 5-4 in favor of the policy with Councilmen Chris Cate, Mark Kersey, Scott Sherman and Councilwoman Vivian Moreno voting against it. Without Moreno on her side, Gómez does not have a veto-proof majority unless one of the Council members who voted against the policy Tuesday changes his or her mind.

The policy forces developers to pay for or build low-income housing as part of their projects. Here’s how we’ve previously described the plan:

Gómez’s proposal would increase the fee developers can pay to avoid building low-income units as part of their projects, from the current $12 per square foot to $22, over the course of three years. Developers could otherwise choose to reserve 10 percent of the units in their project to people making under 50 percent of San Diego’s median income, or about $53,000, under Gómez’s proposal, rather than the city’s existing requirement that the units be reserved for people making up to 65 percent of the median income.

San Diego Moves Forward With Community Choice

San Diego is moving forward with the community choice aggregation model following a 7-2 vote by the Council Tuesday. The city would join with Chula Vista, La Mesa, Encinitas and Imperial Beach to create a regional entity that would be the second-largest community choice program in the state in terms of electrical load.

The new agency will be overseen by a board, likely made up of elected officials and then run by staff. If you’re only now catching up on community choice, Voice’s Ry Rivard explained exactly how the agency would work.

According to a city press release, creating the program will be a multi-year process with the goal of delivering power as soon as 2021.

Photographer’s Work Tells Deeper Story of Migrant Crisis

Tijuana-based photojournalist Guillermo Arias received the prestigious Visa Pour L’Image Paris Match Award last week in France for his work documenting the Central American migrant caravan.

Arias has covered the border region for years and traveled to Mexico’s southern border in October to document the lives of asylum seekers traveling north.

For our latest Culture Report, Arias spoke with Julia Dixon Evans about his journey and the human story of the migrant crisis.

“What caught my attention was what it meant. What it meant to the Central American governments, that thousands of people at once decided to get out of there, and also, in order to be safe and protected, to go to Mexico — on one of the most dangerous migration routes in the country,” Arias said.

Also in the Culture Report: Pop-Up Magazine hits The Observatory North Park, the Adams Avenue Street Fair, a drawing party at Verbatim Books and much more.

Coalition Urges City to Pause Smart Streetlight Program

Geneviéve Jones-Wright, legal director at the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans, speaks outside City Hall. / Photo by Jesse Marx

A coalition of tech and civil rights group demanded Tuesday that San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer suspend the city’s smart streetlight program until officials craft stronger rules around camera access and data storage, so that the devices don’t become, in the words of one activist, a “Trojan horse for racial profiling.”

“What’s troubling is these cameras are being installed without community participation,” said Geneviéve Jones-Wright, legal director of the Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans. “We stand here and say, ‘Respect us and our right to privacy.’”

As Jesse Marx reported in April, the city is partnering with General Electric to retrofit thousands of streetlights with sensors and cameras that produce publicly available metadata for app developers. The initiative was primarily sold as a means of analyzing traffic and reducing energy costs.

It quickly became a tool of law enforcement, and SDPD wound up writing its own rules for accessing the footage, long after the devices were deployed. Two members of the City Council said they were unaware.

City officials have acknowledged that they embraced new technologies without fully appreciating their uses but contend that the rules currently in place are reasonable. The footage is only available for five days and then it automatically deletes itself. It can only be viewed through a third-party, which keeps a log. The cameras are supposed to be aimed squarely within the public right of way, and cannot recognize faces or read license plates, but could someday.

Lilly Irani, a researcher at UCSD, said tech companies design new applications with one purpose in mind: to convert people’s behavior into “data” and monetize it. No system is totally secure, she said, and in addition to the risk of a breach, officials need to understand that applications will evolve in ways that the public can’t yet imagine.

“I know the mayor wants to make San Diego into an innovation city,” she said, “but that doesn’t mean we should all be made into lab rats that can be experimented on in pursuit of that innovation.” 

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Megan Wood, and edited by Sara Libby.

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