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Morning Report: The Straw That Broke Environmentalists' Backs

A rendering of artist Christian Moeller’s straw sculpture originally proposed for the Pure Water North project. / Rendering via the city of San Diego

California can really out-California itself sometimes – whether it’s making surfing the official state sport, or passing laws regulating how much craft beer can be served at a farmer’s market.

Kinsee Morlan’s latest report might be the ultimate example of California parodying itself: A group of environmentalists successfully killed a proposal for a public art project because it depicted plastic straws.

“I was like, what is the arts commission thinking?” said one opponent who alerted the Sierra Club to the project. “A nearly million-dollar plastic straw? Do they not have any concept? It was supposed to symbolize our relationship to water, but basically straws symbolize our relationship to plastic pollution.”

The city confirmed the artist is reworking the proposal.

On top of memorializing a utensil that’s become Public Enemy No. 1 for environmental advocates, the project was also the latest piece to draw criticism for being a piece of public art slated to go in a not-very-public location.

The Housing Crisis Part I: The Data Drought

Housing advocates, business leaders and politicians including Mayor Kevin Faulconer are increasingly pushing reforms to try to trigger more home-building for middle-class San Diegans.

To make the case for those policies, many have pointed to both anecdotes of young families moving elsewhere and a stark statistic featured in a recent city report showing just 33 middle-income units were built over the past seven years.

Turns out that statistic is wrong.

Our Lisa Halverstadt dug in and found the city relied on a narrow methodology to reach that estimate rather than track the actual number of homes built for middle-income San Diegans – and included more than two dozen units that shouldn’t have been factored in.

A top city official and housing advocates say they are committed to getting a better handle on middle-income housing production numbers going forward to ensure data better reflects reality and thus, better informs policymaking efforts.

The Housing Crisis, Part II: Density Battles in Clairemont

Clairemont residents have recently raised big concerns about proposed housing projects in their community.

At a neighborhood meeting earlier this week, CBS 8 reported that a wave of neighbors spoke out against a five-story high-rise the county envisions replacing its longtime crime lab on Mt. Etna Drive.  

And as Halverstadt has reported, residents initially revolted against a plan to build a 52-unit supportive housing project nearby.

In a new op-ed, Clairemont Community Planning Group and the Clairemont Town Council board member Barbarah Torres argues that Clairemont should step up to help the city address its housing crisis – and be willing to accept increased density along with some revitalization and an upgraded transportation network.

The Housing Crisis, Part III: Sprawl, Spas and Supervisors in East County

In a separate op-ed, Duncan McFetridge of San Diego County’s Save Our Forest and Ranchlands and the Cleveland National Forest Foundation argues San Diegans concerned about the region’s housing shortfall, climate change and traffic issues should support an effort to overturn a county-approved plan to build more than 2,100 homes in North County.

Signature-gatherers are now trying to persuade residents countywide to sign a referendum petition to force a 2020 public vote on the Newland Sierra housing development approved by the county Board of Supervisors last month.

Ry Rivard has written about major referendum financier Golden Door resort and spa’s beefs with the project.

News Roundup

  • San Diego Housing Commission CEO Rick Gentry says he’s in talks with a former longtime Housing and Urban Development bureaucrat to lead efforts to work on a homelessness plan for the city. Per an initial timeline laid out in Tuesday memo obtained by VOSD, a team with the nonprofit Corporation for Supportive Housing would send the city an early draft of the homelessness plan in April or May, and a final version in July.
  • KPBS interviewed John Cox, the Republican candidate for governor. When asked for his specific plan to alleviate the housing crisis, Cox said he would “Streamline the regulations, end the frivolous litigation and lawsuits, shorten the approval process.”
  • The San Diego County Water Authority says it’s got enough water for next year despite this year’s low rainfall, according to City News Service. Ry Rivard notes that the Water Authority has argued, even at times during the drought, that it actually has too much water. It’s benefiting from declining demand for water. But, problems loom on the Colorado River.
  • The Union-Tribune reports that the National City school board has approved a series of raises for district employees and extended their superintendent’s contract.
  • KUSI explains what will happens if both the SoccerCity and SDSU West initiatives fail in November.
  • The Union-Tribune got more details on Coronado’s $22 million plan to turn an old garage space into a commercial development with an Italian restaurant.

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, and edited by Sara Libby.

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