Politics Report: The State of 'State of' Speeches - Voice of San Diego

Politics UNVEILING THE UNSEEN

Politics Report: The State of 'State of' Speeches

California Gov. Gavin Newsom takes questions from reporters in Sacramento. / Photo by Sara Libby

This story has been updated.

This is the time of year for “states of … ” speeches.

We were in Sacramento for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first State of the State speech. On the one hand, we were excited that he mentioned San Diego. It was further proof that the new governor knows San Diego exists.

On the other hand, Sara Libby noted that the only mentions of San Diego were for negative things: San Diego Gas and Electric’s credit rating downgrade, our hepatitis A crisis and that high-speed rail would never reach us.

Otherwise, good on San Diego for getting noticed.

This week marked five years since the election of Mayor Kevin Faulconer to finish the term vacated by former Mayor Bob Filner. In his State of the City speech, he proclaimed himself a YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) who would have no tolerance any longer for the self-righteous cries of neighborhood protectionists who had made it so hard to respond to the demand for housing.

The speech came seven years after former Mayor Jerry Sanders’ last State of the City speech.

This one we remember clearly because of the odd video that preceded it. It depicted young children of color who saw crime and trouble in their neighborhood and then ran away from it and as they ran, they passed all the things the city was going to build. Renderings flashed up of the new Convention Center that would be built, the new Chargers stadium, the new library and the revitalized core of Balboa Park.

It was rather dystopian — as though the only hope the children could have for their neighborhood would be to flee it and run to new buildings, including a football stadium where, presumably, they could afford a ticket (ha!) or a Convention Center, where they could maybe get a job or the library.

The library was the only that actually arose. The others, not so much.

Five years out from Faulconer’s election, and we just got another bit of news about one of those perpetually beleaguered projects: The city and the philanthropists are going to step away from pushing major change to the central mesa of Balboa Park, rerouting traffic from the core to a parking garage and making all the parking lots and roads in the central plazas free for pedestrians. The plan would stay but for now it was on an undefined hiatus. The delays it faced had finally allowed for construction costs to make the project infeasible for now.

So much of Faulconer’s term has seemed like an effort to finish the legacy of Sanders and to come up short. His State of the City speech still rings in our ears, as it marked a determination to pursue other major projects and boldly tackle the city’s embarrassing problems. He’ll only have one more State of the City speech. What will it leave for the next mayor?

About the High-Speed Rail …

Hasan Ikhrata is the new executive director of the San Diego Association of Governments. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The biggest news from Newsom’s state of the state speech was his garbled announcement – which he now insists was not an announcement of anything at all – that all but the Merced-to-Bakersfield leg of the high-speed rail project was expensive and unrealistic, and that the Central Valley portion could stand on its own as an important project.

Reporters and politicos spent the rest of the week dissecting what it meant.

In any case, it’s long been clear for years that the project was unlikely to come to San Diego any time soon enough to warrant much attention. But SANDAG Director Hasan Ikhrata last week offered a preview of Newsom’s announcement-that-wasn’t-an-announcement in a way that suggested the region might be angling to get something out of the state’s maneuvering.

“The governor is going to announce what he’s going to do with the statewide plan,” Ikhrata said before the governor’s speech. “All indications are (high-speed rail) will be reduced to doing something in Southern California, (and) something in Northern California.”

Again, Newsom now insists that nothing has been reduced, nothing has been changed, and the only issue is that journalists who reported otherwise did so because they are not smart.

But then Ikhrata told SANDAG’s board what he was lobbying for while the state figured which high-speed rail changes it definitely was not making.

“We made it very clear to the administration’s staff that we are looking for funding for LOSSAN, that’s important to us here, in this region, but stay tuned,” he said.

LOSSAN is the name for the rail corridor that runs from Santa Fe Depot downtown through Los Angeles and all the way to San Luis Obispo.

SANDAG has been working to build two tracks on the entire section of the rail line through San Diego, so the agencies that use it – Amtrak, the North County Transit District for the Coaster, and the L.A. commuter line Metrolink that comes to Oceanside – can run trains more frequently and efficiently.

Improvements to the Coaster portion alone were pegged at $5.7 billion in 2015, of which the region had identified just $1 billion of.

The Encinitas Housing Fight: Not Over

Homes in Encinitas. / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Slow-growth proponents in Encinitas are not giving up without a fight.

They contend that the city’s attorneys have not adequately represented their interests in lawsuits brought by developers and low-income tenants. And they’re now asking the San Diego County Superior Court to reconsider an order from December that temporarily dismantled their baby.

Proposition A gives residents veto power over major land use changes at the ballot box. Encinitas officials have twice tried to pass a state-mandated plan that identifies possible affordable housing sites and both times it failed.

To be clear, Encinitas has argued in favor of Prop. A in court — for years. But after the second housing plan failed in November 2018, city attorneys conceded that Prop. A was effectively to blame for Encinitas’ ongoing defiance of California law.

Preserve Proposition A’s attorney, Everett DeLano, disagrees. If a judge lets him intervene in the case — we’ll know on March 8 — he intends to argue that Prop. A and a housing plan that satisfies California law are not mutually exclusive.

“It’s not an either/or situation,” he said. “This may cause additional delays but at the end of the day, there are ways to do both.”

City leaders have submitted a new housing plan and are working with state regulators to find a workable solution. Last week, the state sent the city a letter telling it to amend or kill Prop. A to prevent this situation from happening again.

— Jesse Marx

Scooters Are Officially an Issue in the Mayoral Race

Razor USA is the latest company to spread its shareable electric scooters around San Diego. / Photo by Kinsee Morlan

Councilwoman Barbara Bry sent an email from her mayoral campaign this week, chastising city government for being slow to respond to the hazards caused by dockless scooters.

“Like other technical innovations – from short-term vacation rentals to ride-sharing services, city government has been slow to respond to the challenges these innovations create,” she wrote.

Bry also took aim at the state, alleging that “industry lobbyists successfully appealed Sacramento legislators” to repeal helmet requirements on the disruptive devices.

She did not mention which Sacramento legislators fell victim to that lobbying effort.

But the bill she’s referring to was co-written by Assemblyman Todd Gloria.

He happens to be running against her for mayor.

Attorney Cory Briggs, who is also running for mayor, rolled out his own plan for regulating scooters this week, which he said would “put an end to the current free-for-all.”

The day of Briggs’ announcement and a day after Bry’s, the current mayor released his own set of scooter regulations.

Pensions dominated the 2012 mayoral race. A year later, the race revolved around infrastructure and neighborhood services. There was no mayoral race to speak of in 2016. Could 2020 be the year of the scooter?

Probably not, but Bry and Briggs appear to think they’ve found an issue.

Meanwhile, Former police chief Shelley Zimmerman officially announced this week that she would not launch a mayoral run.

Zimmerman is a political independent, but was expected to get the support of conservative groups like the Chamber of Commerce and Lincoln Club if she had run against Gloria, Bry, Briggs or criminal justice advocate Tasha Williamson.

The question now is whether any conservative of significance will enter the field. Councilman Mark Kersey is mentioned most often, and is the name to watch at this point.

This story has been updated to include Briggs’ proposed scooter regulations.

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