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Nite Owls: The Darkroom Apr 24, 2014 A fun music and art mixer for 21to 40-somethings. This one includes a discussion with photographer Omar Lopez, a DJ playing old jazz records, collaborative art projects and darkroom photography activities. 59 other events on Thursday, April 24
Canvassed | Art & culture
A tale of near-death, bloody steaks and unprecedented opulence
Why the city can’t maintain enough emergency trucks
Meet ‘Jackie,’ one of the many faces of sex-trafficking
Documentary about ill-fated project leads our rundown of movies screening around town
Ten bucks an hour just ain’t enough


Home / Blogs / Staff Blogs / Last Blog on Earth
Last Blog on Earth | News 04.22.2014 32 hours ago


Prospective San Diego medical marijuana dispensary owners camp out for permits

- By Joshua Emerson Smith

About a dozen people milled around Tuesday across the concrete bridge connecting a multi-story parking structure to the city of San Diego's Development Services Department’s third floor. It was an informal queue that almost everyone expects will grow in the run up to Thursday morning, when the city plans to issue its first-ever permits for operating medical-cannabis dispensaries.

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at 05:11 PM | Permalink | Comments
Last Blog on Earth | News 04.17.2014 6 days ago

Click to listen Sarah Boot tracks down Lorie Zapf at contentious candidate forum

City Council District 2 race heat up

- By Joshua Emerson Smith

What does a voter need to do to get a debate around here?

Wednesday night's Q-and-A session featuring City Council District 2 candidates Lorie Zapf and Sarah Boot was a long time in the making.  

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at 05:04 PM | Permalink | Comments
Last Blog on Earth | News 04.14.2014 9 days ago

Faulconer's budget plan includes $1.9 million for homelessness

Money will go to enhanced outreach services, storage facility and

- By Kelly Davis
In early February, interim Mayor Todd Gloria announced a plan to reallocate the $1.9 million former Mayor Bob Filner set aside to keep the city's two homeless shelters open year-round. The money would still go to homeless services programs, Gloria said, just not entirely to the shelter.

Unknown was whether Kevin Faulconer, who was elected mayor on Feb. 11, would include the full $1.9 million in the 2015 budget. In March, Matt Awbrey, Faulconer's communications director, told me via email:

Homeless services are a budget priority for Mayor Faulconer. Because the fiscal year 2015 City budget is still being developed, it's premature to say whether the budget proposal will be exactly the same as the Council President's, but because Mayor Faulconer supports funding homeless programs that help San Diego secure more federal funding and focus on long-term rehabilitation and care, it is reasonable to expect there will be more similarities than differences.

Faulconer released his spending plan today and it includes Gloria's full $1.9-million proposal. The City Council will still need to approve the budget.

The biggest chunk of the money, $800,000, will go to the city's winter shelter and provide enhanced case-management services. This month, after being open for 17 months, the adult shelter in Barrio Logan and the veterans tent in Sports Arena will close and revert back to their traditional November through April schedule, temporarily reducing the city's already low number of emergency shelter beds by 370. 


How the $1.9 million breaks down:

$800,000: Covers four months of shelter operations, plus additional case-management services

$400,000: Helps fund a countywide coordinated intake and assessment system, as required by federal law, that would track people as they move off the street and through programs

$120,000: Restores a funding cut to the San Diego Police Department’s Serial Inebriate Program, which puts homeless chronic alcoholics into treatment rather than jail

$80,000: Pays for additional services at the Neil Good Day Center in East Village

$40,000: Helps fund the San Diego Police Department’s Homeless Outreach Team

$150,000: Covers operating costs for the Homeless Transitional Storage Facility, where people can store their belongings

$300,000: Closes a funding gap for Connections Housing

Write to kellyd@sdcitybeat.com.

at 05:06 PM | Permalink | Comments
Last Blog on Earth | News 03.11.2014 43 days ago

Susan Riggs heads to Sacramento

A Q&A with the former San Diego Housing Federation executive director

- By Kelly Davis

In late January, Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he'd appointed Susan Riggs to the position of deputy secretary of housing policy at the state's Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency. It was good and bad news for left-leaning San Diegans—good news to have a San Diegan working on housing policy at the state level, bad news because Riggs, who'd been the executive director of the San Diego Housing Federation since 2010, had been a charismatic champion not just for affordable housing but also a larger progressive vision for the city. 

I sat down with her a couple weeks ago for an informal chat before she left for Sacramento (her last day with the Housing Federation was March 7). At that point, the City Council hadn't yet voted to rescind an increase in the workforce-housing offset (also known as the linkage fee), an impact fee that commercial-building developers pay into the city's affordable-housing fund. The council, with its Democratic majority, passed the fee increase in December. Soon after, a coalition of developers and business groups, led by the Chamber of Commerce, launched a petition to overturn it. Riggs was hopeful the fee increase would go to the ballot—specifically the November ballot, which would give affordable-housing advocates time to develop a campaign strategy. She acknowledged that countering the housing-offset opponents' "jobs tax" soundbite would be tricky, and she talked about misconceptions about the fee, an idea for boosting housing production and one of her proudest accomplishments at the Housing Federation.

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Last Blog on Earth | News 03.04.2014 50 days ago

The silent treatment

City stalls on open-government ballot initiative

- By Joshua Emerson Smith

A recent issue concerning government transparency in the city of San Diego has been defined largely not by open communication but reticence and obfuscation.

Citing concerns from the City Attorney’s office, the City Council has swept aside a ballot initiative, sponsored by City Councilmember David Alvarez, aimed at increasing access to public records.

In response to concerns about a culture of secrecy at City Hall, Alvarez teamed up in November with government-transparency group CaliforniansAware to craft an initiative for the June ballot.

“Since I’ve served on the City Council, I have seen that, in many cases, the city has not lived up to the spirit of open-government laws,” Alvarez said in an email. “There have been many times that the media or members of the public are denied access to information without cause.”

The proposed measure would change San Diego's city charter to require the city to legally justify each of its individual policies in the municipal code for withholding documents from the public that exceed what's already exempted from disclosure under state or federal law. There are roughly 20 city policies that would need to be approved with legal findings, according to the Independent Budget Analyst's office. The council would need to approve these findings two years after adoption of the measure and then again readopt findings every three years.

However, the council, which had to approve the wording of the proposition for it to be placed on the ballot, never discussed the merits of the proposal. Instead, the council repeatedly directed CaliforniansAware to work on the proposition with the City Attorney's office, which in turn continuously rejected the draft language.

The proposal was then indefinitely tabled at a Feb. 25 City Council meeting after Councilmember Sherri Lightner expressed concern that the proposal might “overlap” with a statewide ballot initiative.

“It has recently come to light that there is a state initiative, Proposition 42, which will be on the June ballot and includes many of the proposals included in Councilmember Alvarez’s initiative,” she said at the meeting.

If Prop. 42 passes in June, the state will no longer be responsible for reimbursing local agencies for costs related to the Brown Act—the state's open-meetings law—or the California Public Records Act, according to the state Legislative Analyst’s Office. At the same time, it would amend the state constitution to require that local governments continue to follow open-government laws.

The two ballot proposals have no "substantive overlap whatsoever," Terry Francke told the council. “It’s essentially a financial policy decision. It’s adds nothing to either the Brown Act or the Public Records Act. It subtracts nothing from the Brown Act or the Public Records Act."

In response to a CityBeat inquiry, the City Attorney’s office said Prop. 42 overlapped with Alvarez’s ballot initiative because his proposition could also give the state an excuse not to reimburse the city for its costs associated with public records.

“Proposition 42, which is already on the ballot, will also affect this, because its passage would eliminate the state’s obligation to reimburse the city for certain state-mandated requirements,” said Deputy City Attorney Catherine Bradley in an email. “Thus, there is concern about the overlap of the charter provisions and the state measure, and the effect they may have.”

If state reimbursements were cut off by Prop. 42, it would render moot any similar concerns about the local initiative. So it's not clear how the two propositions could affect each other.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer, City Council President Todd Gloria and Councilmember Lightner all declined to comment for this story.

Starting in January, the City Attorney’s office opposed the idea of having to legally justify withholding information from the public, citing concerns it could open the city up to litigation. What followed were several failed attempts by CaliforniansAware to get the City Attorney's office to help draft a proposition on which the council could vote to put on the ballot.

“From the start of the discussion about the proposed amendments to the city charter, the City Attorney raised questions but did not offer much in the way of solutions,” Alvarez said in an email. “Two of the three reports written by the City Attorney were either released the day before or the day of a public hearing where the proposal was discussed, which allowed little to no time to address their ever-evolving concerns, which I think was by design.”

About a month after first receiving the proposed language, the City Attorney’s office provided a report on the ballot measure one day before the issue was docketed to be heard by the council's Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee.

The committee—which consists of Chair Lightner, Vice Chair Mark Kersey, Alvarez and Marti Emerald, as well as Faulconer's vacant council seat—voted unanimously (including Faulconer, before he was sworn in as mayor) to have the City Attorney work with CaliforniansAware to solve concerns so that it could have an opportunity to be placed on the June ballot.

When the issue returned to the City Council on Feb. 10, the City Attorney's office released its second report just hours before the meeting.

Despite CaliforniansAware's numerous attempts to contact the City Attorney's office, the report was the first written response the group had received since mid-January.

Citing a need to review the report, Lightner made a motion to continue the issue to Feb. 25, when it would be indefinitely tabled.

Alvarez and Emerald voted against the continuance, as Lightner would not amend her motion to require the City Attorney's office to work with CaliforniansAware to produce a ballot proposal that could be voted on at the subsequent meeting.

“I can only support this continuance if we are guaranteed an ordinance back here on the 25th of February,” Emerald said. “Otherwise, I can only believe that this memo coming at the last minute is a stalling tactic.”

During the Feb. 25 council meeting, both Gloria and Faulconer declined to make any comments. However, Councilmember Lorie Zapf pointed out the elephant in the room.

“Changes to the city charter are permanent and very difficult to change quickly or often,” she said. “We’ve seen that time and again in the last few years that I’ve been here. I believe doing this as an ordinance rather than a charter amendment, we can still achieve the same goal without having our hands tied or be ensnared in any legal nightmares should there be any unintended consequences that are locked into a charter.”

Both Alvarez and Emerald quickly said they would support tabling the ballot initiative if the council would support an open-government city ordinance, which is far easier to tweak than a charter amendment. 

However, that idea got no traction.

“There are a lot of very good goals in this proposal, but I think there are some pretty key questions that Ms. Lightner raised that I’d like to see answered,” said Mark Kersey.

With that, the issue was tabled at least until after the June ballot, and the City Council completed what had amounted to three months of skirting any sort of substantive debate on Alvarez’s open-government-initiative proposal.

at 06:08 PM | Permalink | Comments
Last Blog on Earth | News 02.28.2014 54 days ago

Public record no more

City of San Diego invites CalAware legal challenge over policy to purge emails after one year

- By Joshua Emerson Smith

The city of San Diego has decided to delete all emails older than a year, according to an internal memo issued Thursday by interim Mayor Todd Gloria. The change in policy includes electronic communications, defined as “email, memoranda, calendars, tasks and attached documents.” 

The authorization was signed off by Gloria and several of the city’s top officials, including the City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and the Chief Operating Officer Scott Chadwick. City Council approval is not required for the administrative policy change.

On March 28, the city will start automatically deleting emails that are older than a year, said Gloria's spokesperson Katie Keach.

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at 03:07 PM | Permalink | Comments
Last Blog on Earth | News 02.26.2014 56 days ago

Click to listen Redeveloping Civic San Diego

President Jeff Graham exits amid union negotiations

- By Joshua Emerson Smith

Is San Diego's Downtown redevelopment strategy a good fit for the city's most underserved neighborhoods? Absolutely, says Jeff Graham, outgoing president of Civic San Diego, the agency tasked with phasing out redevelopment under state law.

Despite pushback from a municipal-employees union, Graham maintains that the city-owned nonprofit corporation will continue to pursue sweeping planning authority under a proposal aimed at luring private development to low-income communities.

“This organization was created to be nimble, and it’s very critical that this corporation continue to be allowed to be nimble,” he said. “If there’s too many layers of restrictions or approval processes put on the corporation, it’s going to lose its effectiveness.”

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at 12:08 PM | Permalink | Comments
Last Blog on Earth | News 02.12.2014 70 days ago

How San Diego voted

Does geography matter more than party affiliation?

- By Kelly Davis

Vince Vasquez, senior policy analyst at the National University System Institute for Policy Research, put together a couple of maps this morning showing how folks voted in yesterday's mayoral election. The maps, below, show a pretty clear geographic divide, with voters who live north of I-8 favoring Kevin Faulconer, while voters in San Diego's urban core and neighborhoods of color preferring David Alvarez. 

Shortly after he posted the maps, Vasquez tweeted that, for him, they confirm that "geography is a better indicator of voting behavior than political party."

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at 04:12 PM | Permalink | Comments
Last Blog on Earth | News 02.10.2014 72 days ago

Aguirre's bombshell fizzles

Alvarez returned lobbyist money more than two weeks ago

- By Kelly Davis
Last week, I got an invite to a new Chinese restaurant in the Gaslamp. Packaged with the invite was a box of those little snapper things you probably bought as a kid in Chinatown. Those came to mind when I read this KUSI story titled "Aguirre drops pre-election bombshell."

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at 05:32 PM | Permalink | Comments
Last Blog on Earth | News 02.06.2014 76 days ago

Todd Gloria announces plans for city-funded homelessness services

But limited dollars mean fewer shelter beds

- By Kelly Davis
As mayor, Bob Filner pledged to turn the city's annual adult and veterans emergency homeless shelters—normally open Thanksgiving through Easter—into year-round operations. Though his initial funding allocation fell short, the shelters haven't closed since November 2012. 

Today, interim Mayor Todd Gloria said there are better uses for the $1.9 million it would cost to keep the shelters open 365 days a year. While it'll require the approval of the City Council and whomever wins the Feb. 11 mayoral special election, Gloria today laid out how he thinks the money should be spent:

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at 03:08 PM | Permalink | Comments