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Roundtable: More On Balboa Park Flameout; Minimum Wage; Homeless Housing Under Fire

March 28, 2014 1:17 p.m.


Mark Sauer


Angela Carone, KPBS News

David Rolland, San Diego CityBeat

Sandhya Dirks, KPBS News

Related Story: Roundtable: More On Balboa Park Flameout; Minimum Wage; Homeless Housing Under Fire


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MARK SAUER: I am Mark Sauer and KPBS Roundtable starts now. Joining me at the Cape to KPBS Roundtable today are keeping this metro reporter Sandhya Dirks, Dave Roland, editor of city the city beat and KPBS arts and culture writer Angela Carone. We will begin today with the latest on what happened at the ill-fated Balboa Park Centennial committee and their three year $2.6 million planning effort that went for not but before we get to our analysis to what happened to the Centennial plans, there's a news here today, Kevin Faulconer and Todd Gloria announced brand-new scaled-down plans for the 2015 Balboa Park celebration, Sunday at up is what happened.

SANDHYA DIRKS: The word scaled-down is very correct, it's going to be much smaller than the grand plan that would bring kings and world leaders together, it does not mean that there's not going to be anything, they're going to have what December nights and they are going to supersize them and they give that times four, they are also going to work with museums that have already been establishing plans to create one of these events and there will be a sense that it's a special year but not the spectacle we are hearing up. The other thing they were going to do is they are going to use some of the money they Artie have an to make some infrastructure and green continuation development. They're going to basically put in LED lights and things like that, things that will last beyond 2015. They want to double down and make it more than just about next year.

MARK SAUER: Let's get back to our postmortem here and Angela, we of talked about this fiasco and we've done a lot more reporting and we've had some major stories this week. First, let's start out with the extraordinary apology that was issued by the folks who were in charge of this committee and who were the main shakers there and what did they say?

ANGELA CARONE: The three people who came to KPBS to do the interview basically gave the apology, Nikki claimed was care check co-chair of the committee then was a successful lobbyist in town, Stephen Russell and potty Roscoe, both successful track records in town both involved a lot of things and Patty was on it in the very beginning and they basically said, the outlined a lot of the roadblocks they came against. There were significant, it's true. There was a lot of us turmoil at City Hall Dr. the committee's life and they had to deal with the Filner administration, there are a number of roadblocks and the apologized for basically not being able to pull it off.

MARK SAUER: Nikki Clay, one of the best-known of the three, when did she say?

ANGELA CARONE: It was interesting, at one point she said I asked when things start to go off trail and the leader has to recalibrate and pull the group back together who was responsible for that? She looked at the other two and they said we all kind of war and that is a problem there. Leadership is a big problem but she also said we are folks who of all had successful track records and we're good doing these various aspects of kinds of things but none of us have done the whole thing. There idea was to outsource all of this work.

MARK SAUER: You want to hear from Nikki Clay now, let's hear a clip.

NEW SPEAKER: The major part of that was into the planning which is what we really need to come up with, to figure out how we took all the committee and came up with a program that made sense for Balboa Park and was going to be an extravagant and wonderful year-long celebration.

MARK SAUER: These are not fund-raising professionals, how would they go about the fundraising? Take it all upon themselves?

ANGELA CARONE: Again I think they outsourced so much of this, the outsource the vision, the outsourced the community engagement the outsource all of it. The outsourced fundraising, they spent thousands of dollars on it consultant for that and then they relied, Nikki said she did not going a lot of fundraising and they relied on their CEOs, they are three of them over the course of the life of the committee and they made a lot of missteps there, they did not start fundraising until after Labor Day 2013.

MARK SAUER: That seems very late.

ANGELA CARONE: Very late and folks that I spoke with said they did fundraising one-to-one mistakes, they did not talk to funders and look for intersections in fund raising interest, for example if you're going to go to the head of a biotech company to ask for money you will see something like, we can put a giant tent that would showcase the future of technology that you're working on and have kids stationed. Instead, what they did was take a kind of guilty shaming with the word that a source used, approach to asking for money like saying things like you should do this for our city. Sometimes they were asking people who have done a lot for the city and to say that, they also said ñ one of my sources had a quote that you can chain people into giving money to the ñ shame people can into giving money to, simply catching them and to get giving money for a light show. There not doing the right way to go about it and Nikki Clay admitted that they made mistakes in the fundraising site.

DAVE ROLAND: One of the most interesting things that I've heard about this is that they were so, so focused on raising money and that was job number one. We have to raise a lot of money and they sort of forgot to ñ as you were just saying ñ they forgot to come up with a plan to raise money. They needed to come up with a vision and there is not a clear vision. Nobody really knew what this thing was going to be.

ANGELA CARONE: I think that is it, the outsourced to the vision and this edge 2015 way, as early granted a consultant came up with in the paper that in the thousands, and then that did not fly so they had to outsource again to figure out what the new vision was going to be.

DAVE ROLAND: And it was intentionally vague, the edge thing so they could come up with whatever they could team up with eventually and that would fall under that umbrella.

MARK SAUER: A lot of opportunities put cards before horses.

ANGELA CARONE: And not knowing how to build, navigate, work relationships, that is the thing that is befuddling to me. These are people who have successful track records at working relationships and one of the critiques of them is that they were downtown insiders and maybe do some a certain kind of relationship that they know how to marshal the resources around, but relationships with consultants, they fired certain consultants and bring new ones on the did not come they wanted from consultants or volunteers.

MARK SAUER: You talk to several folks who had real ideas ready to go here, tell us about the project over at John Wilson?

ANGELA CARONE: This was for what would be the only contemporary artwork for 2015 and there was an international artist is going to build an information center that was going to be sculptural and maybe even have a lasting legacy to stay in the park, it had seed money, it had our support from all the museums, it was getting ready to go and they had to raise some money around it, and BPCI felt that that would siphon off their fundraising efforts and so they would not give approval of it meanwhile Wilson was going to go international honors for that and this guy has an international racing ñ reputation.

MARK SAUER: And then Sandy Schaper.

ANGELA CARONE: Had a very popular idea of these electric hats with these motorized and battery-powered cards that were in the 1915 exposition, the only vehicles allowed on the road, and these things are really popular everyone has been in one. They're really fun and they go really slow. You kind of move along slowly.

DAVE ROLAND: Talking about having races.

ANGELA CARONE: That was when I get to have races between city officials that the go the same slow speed, it's kind of adorable. It was a natural, it was a hit with everyone that Sandy Schaper show them to, but again he kept trying and there is roadblock after roadblock and then finally could not get anybody to commit.

SANDHYA DIRKS: Who is watching this? This was years in happening and this is not one year of failure, who are the accountable to for all of this well-intentioned but mismanaged disaster that was going on?

ANGELA CARONE: Very well-intentioned but, I think that is the heart of it and in the beginning the way, I don't know much of about this the weight of this was set up with a private corporation with a memorandum of understanding with the city, and within that MOU there was not the oversight of this and now we have a corporation doing what they want and there will were a lot of things done in secret, there is no one tracking how the money was being spent, and it's took some reporting by the UT in January to start that to really look at it and say where is this money going? And what have they been doing?

SANDHYA DIRKS: The city outsources the Centennial Corporation to group that starts outsourcing even more which makes it more and more removed from anybody who's doing any sort of oversight or understanding of what is happening.

ANGELA CARONE: Basically yes, and some people think this relationship between public and private, that was something that was really groundbreaking to get and make happen, and it's too bad that it is failed so miserably because that can be a great model.

SANDHYA DIRKS: Or what we have done is realized there's some basic thinking that you need to put into that model with any kind of oversight.

ANGELA CARONE: I don't know you guys think the part of this I don't think was ever really separate from government, I don't think it every broke free and I think that is true not only of the way it hired consultants and its conduct ñ connections but also its vision, it was a very narrow idea.

DAVE ROLAND: Especially when Bob Filner came around.

MARK SAUER: Let's leave the last word there but I'm sure that is not the last reporting on this topic has been go forward with the celebration. We will move on. We have a lot more to talk in the weeks and months to come. It's a clear and straightforward idea, no one who works a full-time job should be poverty-stricken and that's settlement ñ sentiment has been a moniker for Obama and Todd Gloria. They've been pushing increase in minimum wage for workers in San Diego and glory and other Democrats want the issue on the November ballot. In wages on its way up and telephone already, Dave?

DAVE ROLAND: It will be in July of this year goes from eight dollars to nine and then in January 2016 he goes up to ten. This is happening on all levels of government right now, as you noted. The federal government and President Obama is trying to take it from 750 or 725 right now all the way up to ten are a little more. This is all happening at the same time.

MARK SAUER: Can make it was the first date last night to sign this and is up to us 1010 and states are starting a move on this.

DAVE ROLAND: Right, so Todd Gloria in his State of the city speech in January, he said that this was really going to be one of his big initiatives. First as interim mayor which was at the time, and Dallas city Council president. But they need to come up with a number. So, they last week, they went to a Council committee and ordered the city attorney to come back with an ordinance that would, I don't know if it would have a number attached to it yet, I think they're going to be some behind-the-scenes negotiations with business groups and for an wage advocates to try to find that sweet spot because you are to go to voters.

MARK SAUER: Take this to the people.

DAVE ROLAND: Yes, it to the people and ask if they will reason the first thing they have to do is try to get everybody on the same page and see if they can get some these business groups to support a number. And then take it to the note ñ tickets the voters. Business groups have been very successful lately, and pushing back on some aggressive legislations in the city, do they do that again? Have they run out of goodwill for their donors? They have to keep going back for the same people and we have another fight here, do want to fight this one? Or is there a number, whether it's twelve, 1150, somewhere in there.

MARK SAUER: That gets my next question what does it take to live in San Diego? We had the center for policy initiatives result had a study for basic expenses, what does that say? How much do you need to really get by and live in the city?

DAVE ROLAND: CPI, Todd Gloria has been using a lot of their data in selling this idea, they said that you need a single person to make about $27,000 or little more than that per year to basically survive. To just get by at a minimum level in San Diego. That comes to a little over thirteen dollars an hour, I doubt that the number is going to be that high.


MARK SAUER: Their other cities in California where it is significantly higher.

SANDHYA DIRKS: San Francisco is one of them, Richmond's just past middle wage also in the Bay Area, this on the Bay Area, Oakland is going to be next.

MARK SAUER: The real outliers in Washington state, Tacoma, just around that area. Fifteen dollars an hour minimum wage. I think, if it went to that rapidly in San Diego.

SANDHYA DIRKS: That's the thing, even if we do get an increase in the minimum wage it still will not get up to the level that would actually take for a single person to survive. That number goes significantly up when you take up a single and you make out a family, busy looking at child care, and added burden. It's not going to reach with a single person would need and is certainly not going to reach the kind of minimum wage of survival for families.

DAVE ROLAND: You can look at basic rents and everyone knows what it cost to rent a one-bedroom apartment in San Diego, at a minimum, a minimum, a little bit over $1000 for a one-bedroom of two $13-$1400, and is the national low income housing coalition this week that came out with a report that said for a two bedroom apartment you need to make the six dollars an hour in order to survive.

MARK SAUER: There may be a couple making that?

DAVE ROLAND: That was an individual person.

MARK SAUER: If you had a household with two wages or more the number might come down. That me ask you this, and Sandhya mentioned families, how many folks are not making ends meet?

DAVE ROLAND: CBI said 300,000 ñ 300,000 households or not making it.

MARK SAUER: In a 40% range?

DAVE ROLAND: No, you're asking me to make ñ you're asking me to do math.

MARK SAUER: That is good question, I think you are talking about the coast and the cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, does the various come of your going to cheaper places to go through that, at think will be at about.

DAVE ROLAND: Out of 300,000 households 83% of them have it working person in that household that is working, I don't know about full-time but working and trying to make a living and not being successful, so you really do look at the numbers how much it cost to rent and for food, and gas and everything else. The numbers bear out, it really is too expensive for people.

MARK SAUER: What about is his leaders and the mayor? Are they backing this idea?

DAVE ROLAND: As you said in their open, not yet they are sort of reflexive, anytime you add to the cost of doing business and you're concerned and naturally politically concerned about losing business to other cities that might not have as high of a minimum wage, they are reflexively against it and I did find it interesting that it was representative from California restaurant Association of, a politically powerful group at the committee hearing that was just held, is it that we're neutral at this point and we're going to wait and see what the number is and then we will let you know, but generally the business community wants studies, they want to slow down and study the impact on the community.

MARK SAUER: Okay, we'll shift gears down. Leaders from President Obama down to the local level here have vowed to end homelessness in America and San Diego is always dealt with this issue because of our enabling climate and there is an abundance of the military veterans and Father Joe's Villages have been integral to the city in providing housing but activists in this and the federal government are looking for a new approach, let's start with some definitions. What is transitional housing and what is this mean?

SANDHYA DIRKS: The segway is very nice from the cost-of-living and as it goes up a guitar to make ends meet and someone loses their job, they lose their house. That only increases the 9000+ homeless people in San Diego St. and Los Angeles as well, Housing First is this idea, let's talk about transitional housing in San Diego, Father Joe's Villages have been among the largest homeless provider in Southern California and they have pioneered a new way to set up his housing innocent of the idea that you come to this traditional housing ñ transitional housing and you get your stuff together, you get a resume and get healthy and clean and sober. You take classes, then you start to look for a house and the new graduate the program and make yourself a self-sufficient individual and this is idea that you go through this program and you go out, and we have put resources into you and you can survive on your own.

MARK SAUER: We have a clip from it and interview in Father Joe's villages, let's see what she had to say:


NEW SPEAKER: We're a firm believer in the hierarchy of human needs and we work hard to keep our campus safe so when that reality of safety purveyed somebody who is coming to us from the street, then we are able to focus on those key things that we need to do in order to get low income housing and leave them able to make it possible.


SANDHYA DIRKS: That is a Housing First, the new model which is all the rage, Housing First the idea of getting into a house immediately and then we can deal with the other stuff.

MARK SAUER: We have another clip that lays off of what she had said there and before we play the clip, explain to me what Jennifer Lessard does.

SANDHYA DIRKS: She brought the big Housing First idea and she is really pushing for Housing First in San Diego.

MARK SAUER: Okay let's hear from her:


NEW SPEAKER: If you have four people saving in a cubicle there is no privacy there and there's not a lot of dignity and listening to another dozen other people snore, half ñ coffin hack and wake up in the middle of the night and we talk about the hierarchy of needs is not sheltered is really the dignity of a home.


MARK SAUER: With these two models what works better?

SANDHYA DIRKS: Studies show that Housing First has a much higher success rate and if you get someone of with a roof over their head and deal with stuff afterwards you'll going to be able to actually knock off the homelessness problem and you can do a quite literally, because people first then they are not homeless anymore, you've immediately tackled those numbers and so the cities I have a much smaller homeless population, cities like to Lake City and Phoenix which of already declared in and to veteran homelessness with actually a goal of the Obama administration by 2015 obviously San Diego not hit that, but it looks like it's much more effective model and is not necessarily new, even though it is new in this faddish way that it has become new and it talked about it for about ten years admit implemented by the Bush administration first and embraced by the Obama administration. The other thing, even though the we have played it out enough to know the long-term outcomes will be we have seen studies of transitional housing pointing to it being not necessarily being effective, kind of being a stop gap measure and while it does help some people get back to where they need to be, it is also been found to be very expensive and one of the critiques of it that it is a lot of services out that are not really necessary, maybe somebody who already has a good education but don't need a resume class, they're going to get that because a structure that way, there are some content critiques of transitional housing and its effectiveness that is backed up by some data, but again Housing First getting a good data and the long terms effective it have not been understood yet.

DAVE ROLAND: It is important to note that first of all, the full name of the model is Housing First, housing plus, housing plus aspect of it is that you get supportive wraparound services so once you get into that stable home environment, then the idea is that you are less stressed about possibly getting knifed by the guy next you out a must-read, or whatever. You're just in a more stable environment and better equipped to handle it, you have services in case management to help you. Whether to start working for the job or more elementary than that, getting off of drugs or alcohol getting meds for health, back of thing.

MARK SAUER: This is Medicare to approach here and there urging San Diego and other cities but now we'll have a stick here, we can lose federal homes.

SANDHYA DIRKS: The federal government has been nudging with providers to take on Housing First but within the next few years that is going to become more to more of a midday, they're going to be paying money to these programs and we're going to have to play catch-up getting it through today.

MARK SAUER: Will have to leave it there, that wraps up another week of stories on KPBS Roundtable, I would like to thank my guests KPBS arts and culture writer Angela Carone, Dave Roland of San Diego CityBeat, and Sandhya Dirks, KPBS Metro reporter. All the stories we discussed they are able available on our website, I am Mark Sauer and thank you for joining us on the Roundtable.