Roundtable: Oaks Falling To Beetles; District 4 Race; Immigration Reform; One Paseo Is Huge In CV
January 25, 2013 1 p.m.
A little bitty beetle is making a meal of San Diego's oak trees -- and could kill them all. The race for City Council District 4 is wide open. Immigration reform may really be coming. And a proposed development is stirring up Carmel Valley folks.
Related Story: Roundtable: Oaks Falling To Beetles; District 4 Race; Immigration Reform; One Paseo Is Huge In CV
SAUER: It's Friday, January 25th. Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us. I'm Mark Sauer. My guests today on the Roundtable are Katie Orr.
ORR: Hi, Mark.
SAUER: Susan Murphy, reporter and web producer for KPBS.
MURPHY: Good afternoon.
SAUER: Andy Keatts, land use reporter for voice of San Diego.
KEATTS: How you doing?
SAUER: And Alisa Barba.
BARBA: Hi there.
SAUER: It's only the size of a grain of rice, but the gold-spotted oak borer is a pest with a voracious appetite. It's destroying 150-year-old oaks in San Diego's backcountry. Susan, you had a fascinating feature describing how this pest wiped out ton was trees in the past decade.
MURPHY: Well, it's a very small beetle. It's literally on a path of destruction, and it's transforming our forest. It was first discovered in San Diego County in 2004. But it's believed to have settled here a few years before that. And at that time, researchers say they had no idea it would cause such catastrophic problems. And it likely came here in a bundle of firewood. It can only fly short distances. So as for how it's doing so much damage, the beetles lay their eggs in the crevices of the bark of the tree, and it's the hatched larvae that eat away at the tree. And I have a clip I want you to listen to.
NEW SPEAKER: When you have hundreds or thousands of these beetle larvae feeding in these trees dying around us, you're essentially cutting the tubes that move the nutrients up and down the tree, and the tree ends up ultimately starving because the tubes have been cut.
SAUER: So what's being done in now?
MURPHY: Research is underway for a predator. It has no enemies here. Someone found the genetic match for the beetle in our region. There are several types in Arizona, its native home. Now they're on this hunt in Arizona for a predator. And meanwhile, workers here in the Cleveland national forest are armed with chainsaws, and they are cutting down hundreds if not thousands of these dead oaks.
SAUER: So they're kind of in a race. The idea is to cut them down before they go tree to tree. How does that work?
MURPHY: Well, it doesn't really stop them from going from tree to tree. They're basically cutting the oaks down because they're dangerous for the public. They're weakened and susceptible to falling and injuring somebody.
SAUER: What a hopeless thing.
MURPHY: It's really devastating the oak canopy has literally disappeared. You look up and you see twigs and dead trees. And it basically takes these beetles, a tree can succumb to death in 3-5 year, these are 150-year-old oaks.
MURPHY: Who have weathered all sorts of climate and storms, and here they have been taken down by these larvae, these white inch-long worms.
SAUER: Now, we've been really lucky in the last couple of years with rainfall and various conditions, haven't had a big fire year. Obviously we have had our small share. But I imagine the weakened, dried out trees, that's just going to create a more fuel base for a wildfire.
MURPHY: Absolutely. It adds fire fuel. Another thing with our climate, and also when the trees are weak from drought, they become more susceptible to the bugs. And our low temperatures in the winter months have increased 3 degrees since 1960. And climate is going to just continue to weaken these trees and make them more susceptible to attack. Years of drought and little rainfall have weakened the trees. So we don't have the climate needed to grow the trees back as well.
ORR: So what do you do? I mean, it seems like every couple years, there's a new beetle that comes along that's hurt something kind of tree. Is there anything that officials or people can do to stop this? Or is this just kind of a version of nature taking its course?
MURPHY: Well, it's going to be nature taking its course for a while until we can kind its enemy. Mark Hoddle has researchers, and they have been in the mountains of Arizona looking for its predator, which they think is a parasitic wasp. So they are hoping to find this parasite which lays its eggs inside the egg of the beetle, and it eats away at the egg and kills the egg.
MURPHY: Until they can do that, which they think it'll take about five years, these are going to continue to spread. They think that it's on this path to destroy oak forests all the way up the coast to Oregon and beyond.
SAUER: Tell us about -- now, there's a lot of interesting aspects to this story. Tell us about the bleeding trees. What's that about?
MURPHY: Well, the bleeding trees, I guess basically I don't have all the information on that, but what happens these larvae cut off the flow of water and food up the trunk, and so the water settles and as it's sitting there, it becomes red. So as workers are cutting down --
SAUER: It's a red oak, right?
MURPHY: Yeah, as workers are cutting down these trees, these red water substance comes out.
SAUER: So it looks like they're bleeding. So when you were out there doing a story, and you did a story for radio and KPBS television as well, and we have some visuals of those chainsaws coming through.
MURPHY: Yes, absolutely. Trees coming down.
SAUER: And water coming out, and actually looks like it's bleeding. How unusual.
MURPHY: We didn't get the pictures of the water. That's to come.
[ LAUGHTER ]
SAUER: So there'll be some follow-ups on this. And so these are oaks 150, 200 years old. Big, tall tree, right?
MURPHY: Big mature oaks. It attacks the mature oaks. It doesn't really go for the younger ones. And so 80,000 so far, according to the U.S. forest service estimates.
ORR: That might provide some hope, right? If it doesn't go for the younger ones, and it's going to take a couple years to find the predicator, it might give the oaks a chance to grow a little bit. So we could see the oak stock replenished, partially, right?
MURPHY: Over time, potentially. They're thinking that as the oaks die off, there's going to be another oak that grows that's not susceptible to beetle attack, but it will transform the ecosystem and the overall forest because these oaks are a lot smaller and they don't provide the same habitat.
SAUER: Don't have that big rich canopy we had from before.
SAUER: Now, you touched on this a moment ago, but climate change is a factor in this, is it not? It's more hospitable, you talked about the winter temperatures.
MURPHY: Absolutely. They think that because we have had so many years of drought, that these trees became even more susceptible to this beetle. And so it's just devastating our forests.
SAUER: Okay. And it's not just the oak trees that are affected, right? Tell us about the impact on the broader ecosystem. And I think we've got another clip we want to introduce here.
MURPHY: Right, well, mark Hoddle says thousand was oak forests in our county face basically an ecosystem collapse if the oak war can't be contained soon. The oaks provide a habitat for lots of species and plants and animals. Let's listen to mark Hoddle.
NEW SPEAKER: Obviously the ecosystems are going to be affected in a bad way. And some of the negative impacts we're expecting to see is loss of habitat for native animal, especially birds like the Acorn woodpeckers. Deer feed on acorns during the winter. And areas that are shaded by the oak trees often hold water and keep these areas damp, and in those areas we find unique plant and animal species that can only live in these moisted areas underneath the shade of these giant oak trees want and all that's in peril now.
SAUER: I'd like to invite listeners to join us. Now, where is the eye of the storm?
MURPHY: We went out to William Heasy county park, which is just outside of Julian, that is thought to be the epicenter of the attack. They're thinking that somebody probably a bundle of firewood from the mountain ranges in Arizona and had a camp fire and didn't burn all of the wood. So it just took off like wildfire.
SAUER: And they're telling folks now to be very careful. As you say, we've got so many wood on the ground, these crews have been cutting these trees down, and the temptation is let's grab it and go on. But they don't want you to do that.
MURPHY: Right. That's the big message here. Don't remove firewood from where you find it. You have to burn it where it's at. This beetle can't fly far. The only way it's being transported to different areas, like idle wild, it was discovered there, so the only way is transporting it through these bundles of firewood.
BARBA: It gives a whole new meaning to the invasion of Zonies.
[ LAUGHTER ]
BARBA: If we look at the firewood coming from Arizona and trying to find a predator from Arizona, and climate change, I'm wondering if we're seeing kind of a whole ecosystem shift west from the deserts of Arizona into the coastal California.
MURPHY: Yeah, that's very interesting.
KEATTS: It reminds me of something that happened where I'm from in Maryland. In a wildlife preserve, there were some sort of invasive species, and they wanted to find a natural predator for it, so they imported these large rodents called nutria into the reserve area. And that was about five decades ago. And nought rodents have overgrown the area and eaten all the wetlands. And now they're the big problem. And they're a bigger problem than they were ever brought in to solve. So I wonder if the search for a predator has led anyone to ask what's the next problem?
SAUER: Unintended consequences.
MURPHY: Yeah, and I did talk to Mark Hoddle about that, and he said that's why this process takes so long because they go under extensive studies to make sure the predator doesn't become an invasive species that takes off. So they think with this parasite, it will only eat away at the eggs of this beetle, and once that population is controlled, then the predator as well dies off.
NEW SPEAKER: I saw not too long okay in great Britain, their ash trees are dying, what they think is alarming rates from a fungus. And something I heard there that I thought was relating to these trees is that it very well could be a long process, a cycle of nature, where trees systematically die in large numbers but will come back or the strongest will survive. And I just thought maybe something like that might be going on as well.
SAUER: All right, thanks very much. I appreciate it. We have another caller wants to join us on line 3 from Julian. Go ahead. Are we there? Maybe that the -- all right, I think we got a technical glitch there. Of let's move on. One other question, the scientists you interviewed, they say the gold spotted oak borer is just one invasive species reeking havoc in Southern California. What are the others?
MURPHY: There's an invasive species to California every 40 day, basically. So some of the invasive species in our region are the brown widows. People are finding them now in their backyards. We have problems in our citrus orchards with the citrus cyllid. It's native to south Asia. And there's also the spotted winged drosophila.
SAUER: All right, we'll leave it there. Thank you very much. That was a great story.
SAUER: Just when you thought the election year was over, Tony young quit for a much better paying job, and now the race is on to replace him. And African Americans like Young have held the seat for decades but that could change in the upcoming election. Katie, tell us before we get to the candidates, where is this district 4?
ORR: Right. Council district 4 is in southeast San Diego. It has neighborhoods like paradise hills Encanto, bay terraces. It's been represented by an African American I think since 1969, and it's traditionally seen as the African American district in San Diego. A new report finds the demographics in that region are changing dramatically. And there's a good chance that we could see a Latino or Hispanic candidate win that district seat. Or Asian, Latino or Asian.
SAUER: Because the demographics are changing so rapidly.
SAUER: What are some issues that are unique to that district?
ORR: Well, it's common issues in that there are infrastructure problems in that district that they need to deal with. But it is a lower income district, that brings its own unique problems. The southeastern development corporation was trying to get some development going there. It wasn't as successful as the center city development corporation in downtown. And now that redevelopment districts were abolished, are those efforts are pretty much done. So it's trying to get some economic activity going down there. That's one of the big issues for people. And just the changing population and how the district handles that.
SAUER: So who's running for this seat? We have at least -- a lot of folk, I know, and at least one familiar name, Dwayne Crenshaw.
ORR: Right, we have 14 people, signed a paper at the city clerk's office.
SAUER: That's more than the Kentucky derby.
[ LAUGHTER ]
ORR: And we've talked before on this show, an open council seat is very valuable. Of once someone gets in there, all of the council members that have been in there had in some way had a relationship with the previous council member. They worked in their office or they volunteered with them.
SAUER: Chief of staff, yeah.
ORR: So getting into that seat can be potentially very powerful because you sort of set up the line for future years.
SAUER: So Tony Young leaving really opened the door.
ORR: It really did. Although his chief of staff Bruce Williams is running as well.
KEATTS: And the other thing to consider in San Diego is I think it's been over 20 years now since a incumbent City Council person didn't win reelection. So not only when you fill this seat are you filling the seat for this term but chances are very good that this is somebody who's going to be in office for 8-10 years.
SAUER: And one exception was notably Carl DeMaio. But he didn't run.
ORR: Right. And the people who ran his campaign also ran Mark Kerzee's campaign. So it's just a very important seat. A good opportunity. 14 people have signed up saying they're going to run. I spoke to the city clerk and she said that is just the first step in the process which includes an orientation and significants and a fee. I think it was in the mayoral primary, 12 people took out the form, and only 5 ended up on the ballot or something like that. Dwayne Crenshaw, Barry Pollard, he lost against Tony Young in 2010. Bruce Williams, he's run twice before. So a lot of people who have been down this road.
SAUER: I would imagine they'd have a pretty good advantage, a leg upcoming out because of the name recognition.
ORR: They do. But one of the issues to consider is that the voter turnout for this race is expected to be pretty low. For instance, the last time Tony Young was elected, 15,000 people voted, and he was elected with 9,000. Well, there are 140,000 people in the district.
SAUER: Not very big at all.
ORR: Especially since it's just a special election, you're not going to have a big turnout.
BARBA: You're saying that the Hispanic population, the Asian population has really grown in this district. How do they turn out to vote?
ORR: Well, I had done a story on the Asian-American population. They've in the last couple years made a big push to get more involved in city politics. But their voter registration is among the lowest. So they don't have that leader in their community right now encouraging them to get out there and register. Among the Hispanic community, it's my understanding that a lot of the members of that community are just really young. So they maybe can't legally vote yet because they're not 18. They have issues because a lot of them don't speak English, and so they don't feel comfortable voting. So there are issues within that community as well. Once they got mobilized and had a great get out the vote campaign, they could be incredibly powerful.
BARBA: Is there a leading Hispanic candidate?
ORR: Most of the candidates that people see as truly leading are African American. It's just the tradition in that district. There are some just looking at the list of 15 Hispanic people that have taken out forms to run bump that's just the first step. Right now, traditionally the strongest candidates are African American.
SAUER: Let's talk a little bit about Dwayne Crenshaw. He's run several times here. But it's an openly -- he is an openly gay man in a district where that could be an interesting dynamic.
ORR: Right. It's a changing district, traditional the African American community hasn't been as supportive or comfortable with the gay community as other demographics. A majority of African Americans in 2008 voted for proposition eight, which banned gay marriage. But that was four, five years ago.
SAUER: Things have rapidly changed.
KEATTS: And Tony Young is a good example of this. He had previously been outspokenly against gay marriage. And I believe it was right around the time that President Obama announced his change of opinion, Tony Young said that he also had evolved his position.
ORR: Right. And a lot of people who might not have been old enough to vote when Dwayne Crenshaw ran before might be voting now. We're talking about low voter turnout, likely. But still, people are changing, the demographics of the district are changing. So I don't think you could rule him out just based on that.
SAUER: Right. Now Tony Young was the council president, he was there a long time, and pretty popular in the district. Big shoes to fill, Andy?
KEATTS: Yeah, I mean he had his fingers really on what happened in the City Council for the last two years. Setting the agenda. And he was, depending on which side and what your priorities are, you either think he did a great job or a bad job. But the idea was that the City Council under Tony Young was very accommodating to mayor Sanders and really didn't put up major fights for things that were priorities of the Sanders administration.
SAUER: And so much things have changed recently with the new mayor and Bob Filner. It's not your father's Oldsmobile anymore.
ORR: The report from the university said that they do anticipate a Democrat winning this district. I think they said it's about 54% Democrat registered there.
SAUER: Fairly solid.
ORR: And I do believe Bruce Williams is a Republican. But they anticipate that a Democrat will win the seat.
SAUER: And give us a timetable again. We've got the special election when? And then a runoff.
ORR: Today actually is the deadline for filling out nominating papers. So after today, we should have a more definitive list of what is actually going to go forward and be on the ballot.
SAUER: And the city clerk just tweeted that Dwayne Crenshaw has filed papers.
ORR: There you go. And March 26th is the special election. If nobody wins that with 50% plus one of the vote, we'll have a runoff. And that has to be within 49 days of the special election. So we're looking -- and everyone assumes there will be a runoff just because of the number of candidates.
SAUER: Nobody's going to get the majority.
ORR: Right. So it'll be a couple months before we know who is filling this seat.
BARBA: I wonder, has Tony Young given a hint of who he might endorse? And is there a benefit to running in sort of the special election versus a primary election with less expensive campaigning?
SAUER: In the shorter time period.
ORR: Yeah, well, I saw Tony Young at the state of the city a couple weeks ago and asked him, and he very diplomatically said no comment.
[ LAUGHTER ]
KEATTS: That's a very Tony Young thing to do.
ORR: He told me he'd tell me first, so we'll see.
[ LAUGHTER ]
ORR: And this is actually probably a more challenging election because it's so compressed. The timeframe is really compressed.
SAUER: A hard sprint.
ORR: So to raise money to, get out your name, to even let people know that there's an election going on because it's not like they even have the benefit of the election being citywide or statewide, and it's kind of in people's minds already, they might not even realize that there's something happening. So I think it's probably actually more challenging for them to run in the special election than if it was a bigger one.
SAUER: Now, Tony Young is making more money with the red cross. The council members haven't had a race since Jesus was a boy. We had a committee last year that got nowhere with Tony Young heading the agenda. They gave it 15 minutes chat, and that was that. Dwayne Crenshaw would take a pay cut if he were to win. Do you think the new dynamic might change the council? Many staff members at City Hall maybe considerably more than their bosses. It's remarkable.
ORR: I don't see that changing. I really don't. These council members, especially where our city is at right now, and in the past couple years, when the city -- people are throwing around terms like bankruptcy and talking about $2 billion pension debt, for a council member to go in there even if it's justified and vote give themselves a pay raise -- I think the panel said they should be paid $175,000.
ORR: So I don't think that we'll be seeing that happen.
KEATTS: It's a funny thing last year, are the council was obligated to hear the commission's suggestion. They had no choice in the matter. And even by putting it on the docket, it turned out cosens and dozen -- dozens and dozens of angry people say how dare you be voting yourselves a raise! Well, it's like, we have to, and we're going to vote it down!
SAUER: Yeah, it's just the political skunk isn't box. That's the way it is.
SAUER: I'm Mark Sauer. Welcome back to the Roundtable. San Diego's certainly seen its share of land use battles over many year, and there's a doozy brewing in Carmel Valley. Developers want to put a huge project into a space zoned for something much smaller. We'll get into the details. Before we get to the one paseo project, why are listeners in Mira Mesa or Northpark -- why would they care about what happens in this project in the north part of the city?
KEATTS: It's the type of thing that really does have a lot to do with some other land use battles that might be coming. And that's because when the City of San Diego adopted its new general plan in 2008, it adopted this community of villages mindset where it said that it was going to encourage dense transit-oriented development so that you would allow people to live in areas that were either near working areas or near transit or bring them to work. So this project is in many ways in keeping with that idea. It also happens that it's quite different from what is zoned to be in that parcel already. What's zoned for the parcel right now is 500,000 square feet of office space. Then what the project is proposing is 1.5 million square feet spread out.
SAUER: Roughly three times as big.
KEATTS: Right. And that's worked down from the initial proposal, it was 2.1 million square feet. It was a funny dynamic last night at the hearing where you have the developer saying we started at 2.1 million square feet and we've listened to you and worked it down to 1.4 million.
[ LAUGHTER ]
SAUER: Let's get into that. I want to invite our listeners to join our conversation. Now, the hearing you're talking about last night, that's the area planning commission?
KEATTS: Yeah, it's the Carmel Valley planning board.
SAUER: And must have gotten heated.
KEATTS: Quite heated. They anticipated heavy community involvement, so they scheduled it in a large auditorium. More than 400 people there.
SAUER: That's a lot! I've been to a lot of those, and that's a lot. It's usually just a handful of people.
KEATTS: You had supporters wearing is with the "support main street" buttons. And others saying stop one paseo, save Carmel Valley. And they were all vocal and animated. Their main beef is traffic. What they don't like and the reason they have a say in this is because the project is so much bigger than what's currently zoned on the parcel. If it was within the current zoning, they wouldn't have to ask for permission. But what they don't like is the increased traffic effects that are presumed to come to this area based on the environmental impact report that was produced for the city.
SAUER: How would you describe this area to folks?
KEATTS: It's big. It's a 24-acre parcel right at the corner of Del Mar heights and Camino dell Rae road. It's right across the street from the Del Mar highlands shopping center. And so certainly the competition with that center has something to do with the opposition as well. But you're looking at 608 housing units, 500 square feet of office.
SAUER: They're dropping a little village in there
>> Yeah, almost 4,000 parking spaces. But also 7 acres of open space, and one other green area. And the other complaint is that the office space is situated in towers that are 8 stories high.
ORR: Well, I wonder is this a case of not in my backyard? It seems like every time there's a big development proposed, there was also people who are opposed to it. Or is this more -- it is quite a lot larger than what the area is zoned for.
KEATTS: Yeah, I would say it's both. I don't know that there's really a contradiction there. The People opposed -- there's a negative connotation to NIMBYism, but that's what it is. They don't want this in the area they've chosen to live in.
ORR: Has Sherri Lightner weighed?
KEATTS: She came last night.
SAUER: Being the council member.
KEATTS: Yes. She represents that area. And she said the same thing last night during her reelection campaign which is I can't take a position on this because I'm going to eventually need to vote on it, and if I said ahead of the process what my opinion is, then I would need to reduce myself once that vote came. So she basically came and praised the protocol of the whole thing.
BARBA: I think the whole idea of creating a dense village in the setting of Carmel Valley sounds really good. But you can also understand people's point of view that they have their house, their cul-de-sac, and that's all set up. And to just drop this massive village, when you think about where it is, it's right where everybody is going to come in off of the 5.
BARBA: So that's where the traffic impact is going to be. It doesn't really help the current population there at all because they would have to drive to it. It doesn't increase their walkability. Creates a different kind of living scape for new people who would want to come in.
SAUER: Right. Who are the folks who were for it?
KEATTS: KillRoy realty is the developer. And the opponents of the project have stated many times that it wasn't legitimate community support, that these were people who were brought in in order to support it. So every time you had somebody who came up last night to speak in favor of it, they would preface their statement by saying I am from the neighborhood.
SAUER: Oh, okay. I'm not a carpenter bagger.
KEATTS: Yeah, I'm here to really support it. And Bob Filner showed up last night.
SAUER: He's everywhere!
[ LAUGHTER ]
>> And with a flare for the dramatic, he didn't disappoint. And he basically said the community plan that says what this parcel can be used for is a contract. And people who bought property in the area bought in with the shared understanding that this is what the community was going to be like. And now here you are after the fact going to change it up on them. And he didn't mince words at all.
SAUER: So he wasn't a fence sitter at all.
KEATTS: No, no. And he has veto power over the project. If Sherri Lightner can't state her opinion, I don't know why Bob Filner can. But he's probably not as careful as her.
SAUER: Now, the developer has an economic forecast that's pretty positive.
KEATTS: Yeah, and the opponents say they're at a disadvantage. They don't have the finances to produce an economic impact study or anything like that. But what Kilroy says, it'll be $630 million in economic benefit to the area. It'll produce $1 million in annual tax revenue for the city. And they're coming in and saying in exchange for building all these things above the existing entitlements, we're not just going to sit here and force you to accept it. We're going to mitigate it in any way we can. So they have propsed $20 million in additional funding that they would give for school, city services in the area.
SAUER: And that's not a grand gift. That's typical of massive developments.
KEATTS: Yeah, that's how this works. You have a massive development, one that's outside of the existing entitlement. You have to provide these things as well. I should say within that $20 million is $6 million for traffic mitigation. The traffic question is interesting. So you've got --
SAUER: Not a lot of direct transitionit there at all
KEATTS: No, there's No. And there is the bus rapid transit which is SANDAG's proposed solution to transit infrastructure.
SAUER: Somewhere in the future. 2030, maybe.
KEATTS: Sometime in the future. And the developer is also putting in a shuttle service that would brings people to the train stations nearby. But I would point out that since there's 500,000 square feet of office space that's currently entitled there, that could be built without any sort of permission.
SAUER: Streamlined process.
KEATTS: So whoever would build that, they wouldn't have to give a dollar for traffic mitigation in the area. And the Del Mar highlands nearby, are the existing shopping center there, they have another entitlement for almost 150,000 square feet of retail space. So you could be looking at very near the retail proposed and office proposed in this project being built just based on current entitlements --
SAUER: Without the money to mitigate it.
KEATTS: Without any of the money to mitigate it and help with traffic.
ORR: I was going to say, I wonder, $6 million enough to mitigate traffic? When you think about it, all the people that are going to have to drive through it. All the new people that are going to come to be there. Upon what are they going to do? Build another off-ramp?
KEATTS: Yeah, it's like a new turn lane in one area, and widening and extending the onramp area that backs things up and clogs things up. And those things were considered in the environmental report in the traffic study there, which still said that in certain area, it would still be F service level, was what the traffic service said. And what Kilroy would say, they've also offered to have a traffic light synchronization technology put in that would help move traffic along. And that wasn't given any consideration in the report. So that's allowed opponents to say, well, this thing isn't going to do anything at all. And killRoy to say this is going to be the solution to everything because it hasn't been quantified.
MURPHY: I was wonders, the residents who oppose this project, are they opposed to any kind of growth?
KEATTS: Their statement is basically it's entitled for 500,000 square feet of office build. Build 500,000 square fear of office space. And they openly say things like we are not no-growth advocates which is probably something you should say if you're opposing something. No one wants to be --
SAUER: Katie, last word?
ORR: As San Diego becomes more dense, and there becomes less land, and it's more valuable, we're going to be seeing more and more of these kinds of fights in the coming years.
KEATTS: Yeah, there's a regional component here. SANDAG has their population forecasts, and they say we need to have these sorts of developments. It's entirely possible that Carmel Valley isn't the right place for it, and other places are. But it's going to have to be accommodated somewhere.
SAUER: All right.
SAUER: Welcome back to the Roundtable on KPBS. I'm Mark Sauer. And my guests are Susan Murphy of KPBS, Alisa Barba of fronteras, Andy Keatts of voice of San Diego. Katie Orr had to head off to an assignment. The campaign rhetoric and posturing is over. Democrats won, and it seems Republicans must finally deal with the intractable issue of immigration reform. Alisa, the topic of immigration reform is no longer the elephant in the room nationally. It's being talked about everywhere. Congress, talk shows, and now from Washington.
BARBA: Well, it's been talked about as we said ever since the election. Obama administration, voted back into power, he had tremendous support from the sleeping giant, which woke up, good morning! And 71% of Latinos, I think voted for Obama. And it's become a cliche, it's talked about so much. It was a wake-up call to the GOP that there's a new electorate out there. That electorate was satisfied with the Obama administration's first term because they did not make good on their promises are if immigration reform. And so the administration has put that at -- not at the very top, but certainly one of its top three priorities for its new administration. Next week, President Obama is going to be visiting Las Vegas. He's coming to this region. Why? Because we have this huge Latino population. He was a Victor in Nevada and a lot of that victory is given to the Latino electorate who went for him. So he's do going to come to Las Vegas and talk about what he wants to do. I don't think he's going to come up with specifics but he's going to talk about the general principles of where they're going to push for immigration reform.
SAUER: How is our fronteras desk looking at this topic?
BARBA: What we've done is broken down -- immigration reform is one of those huge words that you throw out there. Then you add comprehensive to the front of it, and it becomes more untenable. So we broke it down into what we thought were critical parts. The first was there's a group of eight senators that have been conferring on this issue in Washington. Two of them are from Arizona. Arizona of course is way out front in terms of a crackdown on illegal immigration. So it's interesting that their two senators, Jeff Flake and John McCain are among the congressional leadership on this issue. So this group of eight --
SAUER: The gang of eight. Always a gang.
BARBA: Talk about why is this important? Frankly the most moderate views on immigration come from these border states. George Bush in Texas, John McCain in Arizona, and our liberal politicians here in California. That was the first story, talking about the political push. Then we try to break down the issue a little bit into kind of what is going to be in a package, the most important part of the package, the most contentious and debatable part of it is going to be a path to citizenship for the 11 million people who are already here. And I have to tell you, if you're listened to our stories, this isn't simple. This isn't black and white. This is so complex, it's so complicated, and we can nibble off little bits. So jill refloggel went out and talked to legal construction workers and illegal construction workers
SAUER: Folks in front of heme depot.
BARBA: Yeah, we see them everywhere. They work for cheaper wages, you don't have to play employers' comp, they're cheaper, they're also plentiful. And they were the main stay here in Arizona as well as in California. We looked at what what would legalization do to the construction industry? Would prices go up? Why, they would. What wages go up? Not for most workers. These guys are already in the workforce. So the undocumented workers would probably see a rise in wage, and they'd see some benefits.
SAUER: The costs because of workers' comp requirements.
BARBA: Because of those extra things that would come in. So path to citizenship, that's a big thing. The next thing that is going to have to be part of it is going to be improved border security. Let's shut down the border even more. That's a debatable issue. Workplace enforcement, how do we make sure employers are not hiring the next wave of illegal immigrants who might come in? Is it through e-verify? Then there's trying to deal with the legal way to bring workers into this country, temporary workers in agricultural, high-tech in the high-tech industries. We need to expand these visa programs. How are we going to do that? Those are the key components.
SAUER: What's been the recent history of attempts to do immigration reform?
BARBA: We've been talking about this for five or six years. In 2007, 2008, there were demonstrations all over the streets all over the country as immigration reform came up. We've heard about the dreamers. It failed in 2007 and 2008. It was a push by John McCain working with a democratic Senator, I think Ted Kennedy, for immigration reform. It didn't have the political traction that it needed to get through. Look at what happened with this election. We've been talking about the sleeping giant. It woke up, hello! It's here! It is becoming a very powerful political force! We have both Republicans and democratic Hispanic legislators in Washington, in our City Hall, and all of a sudden we have to deal with this.
SAUER: And that is the big change dynamic. And demographics are just going that way. In the future, it's just going to be more and more in terms of the Latino voters and the power.
BARBA: But there's also real economic reasons to deal with this. Of all along, some of the hugist, biggest proponents of immigration reform has been the industry. Agriculture, the high-tech industry, people who want to see a system that works to supply a labor force they need. The argument on the other side is that this may displace American workers. But are there American worker who is can fill these high-tech jobs? Are there American workers who can fill the unskilled jobs? And increasingly, there's a lot of evidence that Americans want to go to college, they don't want to be digging in the fields. Of that's what people say. Wrong or right, it's hard to fill these jobs.
SAUER: That's the argument. Susan?
MURPHY: I was just wonders, with 11 million undocumented immigrants in our country, someone will obviously be left out of legislation in this path to citizenship. Who will that be?
BARBA: It's a really good question. I don't know. The path to citizenship is going to happen in some form. I think Marco Rubio, a Republican Senator from Florida, riding star, he's coming up with his alternative proposals, which his quote unquote path to citizenship would be much delayed, would have a great many fines on them for people who came here illegally, there would be all kinds of hurdles that people would have to get through. They don't want to use the A word, amnesty. And they say it's to the amnesty if you have to pay a fine. I guess that makes sense, I don't know. And conservatives insist that people go to the back of the line. And again, this is going to be part of the debate. What form will this take?
KEATTS: I wonder with -- you mentioned Marco Rubio jumping into the fray here. And if you look at the politics, are inside the beltway conversations, he's a tea party favorite, he's a movement conservative favorite, and for him to set himself up as one of the poles in this discussion, I wonder how much easier it becomes to imagine an end game and start imagining some sort of trianxietiulation between the president's proposals and Rubio's proposals, knowing that this is a guy who has real support. This isn't Lindsey Graham, or John McCain, for that matter. This is someone who can rally the base who would normally oppose these things.
BARBA: I think that's critical. And they're already talking 2016, and Rubio is a very hand as much, out-there guy, he does have a lot of support behind him. And it's not just him. Within days after the election, husome of the most conservative.
KEATTS: Mark levin!
BARBA: Most conservative, what we call the imiation restrictionist camp, they're saying, well, I guess we better have immigration reform! So there is an inevitability about it, and I think the active participation, he's been as active as President Obama, of somebody like Marco Rubio out there saying this is how we should do it and can do it, makes it even more inevitable.
SAUER: So are we going to hear from the minutemen who were so prominent here in Escondido and the boarder?
BARBA: It just takes you right back! Minutemen, you know? That was a whole different era. Of it's hard to even imagine that right now.
SAUER: Right, but the whole T-shirt, what about illegal, don't understand you understand, is that gone?
BARBA: They're very quiet right now. We come off this discussion about district 4, it's a majority Hispanic. Nobody's talking about them.
KEATTS: You saw Sean Hannity of all people started voicing some interest in this conversation, and he's the type of guy who would have normally been pretty comfortable with the minutemen in this, and "what part of legal don't you understand." I think there is some truth to the fact that you can only lose so many elections before you start deciding that many that's the motivation.
BARBA: We need to look what does this mean here on the ground in San Diego, and in the border region? And I think another reason why this is easier to do now is that illegal immigration has fallen so far below where it was at its height. In 2006, it was a big deal, the economy was booming, there was evidence of people really coming over the border in droves. That's not happening anymore.
SAUER: That's all changed.
BARBA: The economy is different. Border enforcement has gotten tougher. People are not coming over. We are going to come up with a system where employers are fined if they hire illegal immigrants. It's never going to be perfect, but this is a whole different situation.
SAUER: All right. Thank you very much.