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Baja California officials tentatively agree to mitigation measures to prevent sewage leaks

South of the border in Tijuana millions of gallons of sewage is continuing to flow into the U.S causing local beach closures. KPBS Health Reporter Matt Hoffman says the mayor of one south bay city has made a tentative plan to try and limit the damage.<br/>

A tentative agreement has been reached with Baja California officials to begin mitigation measures to prevent raw sewage from leaking into the Pacific Ocean.

Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina told KPBS Midday Edition he met Tuesday night with Kurt Honold, Baja California's secretary of economy and innovation, and Jose Armando Fernandez, secretary of water for Baja California. He said they agreed to a tentative plan for emergency mitigation measures at the San Antonio de las Buenos sewage treatment plant in Tijuana, to lessen the impact of sewage leaks until planned upgrades are made at the plant.

Dedina said the plan involves "doing what any other sewage treatment plant would do: chlorination, dredging, hopefully aerators ... Anything that will help reduce the impacts from that defunct environmental disaster that's hurting beaches in Mexico, it's hurting beaches in Imperial Beach."


A ruptured sewage pipe in Tijuana began leaking an average of 32 million gallons of treated and raw sewage into the Tijuana River at the end of July, and has polluted and closed beaches from the border through Imperial Beach and Coronado. So far 288 million gallons have spilled into the Tijuana River, according to a statement released Wednesday from the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission. Dedina said Baja California officials told him that pipe will be repaired by Friday.

KPBS reached out to the Baja California government and the U.S. IBWC for comment and did not receive an immediate response.

Dedina spoke to KPBS Midday Edition on Wednesday about the ongoing problem of cross-border sewage spills.

Baja California officials tentatively agree to mitigation measures to prevent sewage leaks

S1: Baja officials agreed to new measures to stop sewage spills in the South Bay.

S2: We came out of that meeting with a tentative plan to get emergency mitigation measures for San Ontario's wine us.

S1: I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Jade Heineman. This is KPBS Midday Edition. The county schedules a town hall meeting on monkeypox.

S2: I think that the community has learned some lessons from COVID , and so testing is becoming much more iniquitous and accessible much more rapidly than it did with COVID.

S1: San Diego County puts a halt on allowing new residents in Veterans Village , and one of the week's Festival of Books authors tells the story of Once Upon a Forest. That's ahead on Midday Edition. We begin with an update on the Tijuana sewage spill that's happening at the worst possible time for summer recreation in the South Bay. The spill from a broken pipeline last week has polluted and closed beaches from the border through Imperial Beach and Coronado. It's dumped an average of 32 million gallons of wastewater into the ocean each day. In yesterday's conversation with Imperial Beach Mayor Serge DNA. He told us about a productive meeting he had with Baja officials on Tuesday night. They've hammered out a plan that may provide a way to decrease pollution from spills and save the summer. I started by asking Mayor de Dinah what happened at the meeting.

S2: I met with the Secretary of Economic Development and Innovation , Kurt Honnold , who's a good friend of Imperial Beach and a good friend of San Diego , longtime leader in Baja , California , as well as the new Secretary of Water , Jose Armando Fernandez , who's brand new but obviously has gotten he's from Mexicali , got dumped right literally into this sewage disaster that's been happening over the last week. The subject was really , first of all , identifying what how the status of the current spill. So that pipe that essentially exploded above border field state park near Montecito Canyon in Tijuana , just west of the main Tijuana downtown. And apparently they're going to fix that by Friday. I'm meeting with the International Boundary Water Commissioner this afternoon , Wednesday , to get an update on that. But that's the latest. The problem is already two turned over. 275 million gallons of sewage have been discharged into the Tijuana River , 30 million gallons a day. Last night , our environmental director , Chris Homer , reported to me that the water coming out of the Tijuana River was , quote , black. That's raw sewage straight from the bowels , literally , of Tijuana , and that's polluting our beaches. They've issued a warning for silver strand , but we've had a week of south swell already , softball here , increasing south swell south wind on the weekend. So while Coronado is open and the silver screen has a warning and Ibis closed , it doesn't really bode well for anything to have that water. 3 to 5 miles of sewage in that river from the border crossing to the Tijuana River mouth , sitting there for months at a time.

S1: So what does this fix entail ? I mean , you have a broken pipe.

S2: So that's that's that's the disaster of the moment. And it's a lot like what happened back in February 2017 that kind of precipitated this whole lawsuit that the City of Imperial Beach carried out in partnership with Chula Vista , the port , the city of San Diego , the state of California and the Surfrider Foundation , to get a settlement in terms of getting the International Boundary Water Commission to respond to these disasters in the Tijuana River Valley. And that's what's happened here. In February 2017 , it took a month to get back to us about a spill that happened , discharging hundreds of millions of gallons of sewage into the river and the ocean. This time it was immediate. The IBEW commissioner notified us immediately or texted or email those those reports are handled put up on Twitter , which is great , and posted on their website daily , almost twice daily updates , photos letting us know and even know that we have this disaster. At least they're working with their counterparts on the ground in Mexico and the commissioner. The IBEW seem really no hitters in the field today in Tijuana reviewing those. Those are what's happening. So that's good , as is the Secretary of water. He told me he's worried sleeping on the side as he should be. And to fix that , because it just to be clear , again , you know , you discharge the water in the ocean between 80 , 75 million gallons or more of ocean of sewage. But until we get these super high tides , that water is going to be sitting in the Taiwan estuary , which is a national wildlife refuge in California State Park and wetland of international importance. Migrating birds , California leaves , turn , etc. , etc.. Right. And so it's just going to sit there stagnating because of the stench , but as well as it just seeps out of the Tijuana asteroid into the ocean all summer and into the fall. And that's a disaster for us.

S1: So the notifications are getting better when there is a sewage spill into one , too. Have there been any other mitigation measures that you've agreed to with Baja California officials during your meeting last night ? Yeah.

S2: So what's been really important since really the summer crisis began back in May , with beach closures issued from really the border fence all the way north to the North Island beach and Coronado , 12 miles of coastline. Record beach closures for the summer. And that's because more sewage is being discharged out of San Antonio. Those points six and a half miles south of the border with a long , sharp current thanks to the scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. If you like , Fort Patterson and Sara Giddings , they actually use a supercomputer to develop sort of a model for how that armed that sewage from six miles south of the border reaches Coronado and Imperial Beach. And so that really highlighted first the need to fix that plant and rehabilitate what is essentially a defunct sewage plant where they discharge raw sewage on the beach that officials had denied was a problem before , number two , and then really stopped that that process. So that's what's been killing us. But the problem was in the beginning this summer , we met with I met and talked to the EPA officials , IBEW officials and California officials , and they said it's going to take 2 to 3 years to fix that. The minute this current crisis happened last week , I got on the phone with Secretary HANO , the economic development director , and said , We've got to fix this immediately. In the meantime , can we get some emergency measures ? Those are messages I already I had relayed to the IBEW , seeing the EPA and everybody immediately said , yes , we need to figure this out. So last night the idea was we came out of that meeting with a tentative plan to get emergency mitigation measures for San Ontario's behind us. So doing what any other sewage treatment plant would do ? Chlorination , dredging , hopefully aerators. You're civil engineer. You understand what I'm talking about ? Anything that will help reduce the impacts from that defunct environmental disaster that's hurting beaches in Mexico , it's hurting beaches and Imperial Beach to California. State parks have been closed most of the summer , closing our national security beaches , our Navy SEAL training beaches. I can't train off of Coronado and then of course , closing Coronado record closures even for the winter , it would have been a record closure of Coronado. So we're grateful to our colleagues in Baja California and the EPA and the IBEW for tangibly agreeing to that. We have to work out the details , but we're continuing to push for that.


S2: It's just about reducing the impact of what's literally raw sewage , untreated raw sewage. So trying to have some minimal temporary treatment. So when we have what's called South Swell and South one season , really probably from April through October , depending on swell and surf , you don't get those flows. If they do reach Imperial Beach or Coronado , it's just less severe. It's not just raw sewage. And I think that's that's been the issue is we're getting raw sewage. So it's having a huge impact on on , you know , the testing that's happening. And so that's the idea. It's not a fix. Their plan is to there's an Israeli company called Otis as versa. And they're planning on doing a rehabilitation in partnership with the state of Baja California in the Mexican government and to do water reuse for that facility. And that's something we agree with , and we hope that that project will be initiated in around six months.

S1: Now , the sewage spills have been going on for a very long time.

S2: There's been a lot of pressure from their own and private sector in Baja , California are suffering in terms of not having any access to potable water for agricultural projects , industrial projects , housing projects in Tijuana , or frankly is running out of water. There's a water shortage all across northern Mexico , whether it's the third largest city in Mexico , Monterrey , or now the fourth largest city in Mexico , Tijuana. And so they don't have water. The Colorado River is running dry. So the nexus of climate change , sewage pollution , beaches are polluted for 12 miles in the U.S. , all the way south to Rosarito Beach in Baja , California. And then tonight , they've had the same issues. And so it's a drought compounded with beach pollution and lack of access to water all of a sudden puts water reuse on the table because that eliminates sewage going into the ocean , provides potable water , mostly for agriculture. It doesn't have access to potable water and addresses a very real issue with the United States and Mexico negotiating access to the Colorado River in the United States , providing financial incentives for Mexico to use less water from the Colorado River. So it's a win win. Right now everyone is losing.


S2: It's been awful. It's been terrible. It's been terrible for I was with the silver screen race , the lifeguard , my kids lifeguard , I lifeguard and Trail Beach as well. I walk the whole coast , not surfing the coast when it's polluted and everyone's been super bombed , super depressed and frankly , just mystified. Like , wait a minute , didn't you know there have been so many promises made , so many agreements , so many photos in the. Our tweets , etc. , about this promise that's coming. And it just shows that this idea of delaying some this official bureaucratic delays and where things take so long to fix a problem has to end. We have to figure out how to move quicker to deal with these climate related and environmental disasters so that our national security doesn't suffer , our environment doesn't suffer , our national wildlife refuges and our cities don't suffer as well and our people don't get sick. So I'm looking forward to making this happen , but we've all have to learn how to make these things happen quicker and make sure that the most important thing we can do is make sure we all get together at the beach. It's free , it's gorgeous , and it makes our lives better and happier. And I think we all realize we need to be happy and connected more than ever.

S1: I've been speaking with Imperial Beach Mayor Serge to Dena. Mayor de dena , thank you so much for your time.

S2: Thank you so much.

S1: As an update to this interview , Mayor Serge Dina told us that a representative of the U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission is meeting with Baja officials today to ask for emergency measures to mitigate the flow of sewage fouling beaches in the South Bay. He says the broken pipe is fixed and the sewage should stop being discharged into the Tijuana River by Friday.

S3: Monkeypox cases have more than doubled since last week in San Diego County from 46 to now 104. This week , the County Board of Supervisors ratified a public health state of emergency. And today the county health department will hold a virtual town hall on its website to answer questions about the spread of this illness. I spoke with Dr. Chris Longhurst , chief medical officer at UCSD Health yesterday and started by asking him about the FDA's emergency authorization for the vaccine. Genoese to be used intravenously.

S2: The Federal Government is looking at how to extend the supply of the vaccine and so the subdermal use would be extended by about five fold , turning every dose into potentially five different doses. And so that that's a promising innovation , but it requires some change on the part of people administering the vaccine. And so it'll take a little bit of time to propagate that.



S3: And now officials will look to wastewater for testing for monkeypox , just like they do COVID.

S2: So it's a different kind of virus than COVID. It's a DNA virus , not an RNA virus. That being said , our wastewater monitoring has successfully been able to track this and it correlates with increasing number of cases.


S2: But we certainly are interested in more vaccine to help protect our vulnerable populations.


S2: In addition , UC San Diego Health has developed an in-house assay that can actually turn around much more rapidly. And so we're excited about that innovation , and we can offer that to any of our patients who are eligible.


S2: That being said , we of course , still like to see testing more accessible than it is today in the commercial lab , turnaround time improving , and so it's more rapid.


S2: And so it's important to understand that and to protect yourself and prevent the spread. Any time there's an active rash. The good news about monkeypox is that so far it's not been a lethal disease. The bad news is it can be very painful. And in fact , we have a couple of patients hospitalized in San Diego with this disease.

S3: County health officials have said student athletes are at a very high risk for contracting monkeypox.

S2: And in both cases , those have been tracked back to skin to skin contact with an individual in the household who is already infected.


S2: And we're very anxious to provide this to our vulnerable populations. And so the sooner that we have that vaccine , the sooner we can offer it to our patients.


S2: So it may be in one population today and it's likely going to be in a bunch of other populations in the next few weeks. And in fact , that's part of the reason that this wastewater monitoring is so important , because we can anticipate through our surveillance when this is spreading.

S3: All right.

S2: And in fact , we're hoping to add additional pathogens to this wastewater monitoring in the near future.

S3: I've been speaking with Chris Longhurst , chief medical officer at UCSD Health. Dr. Longhurst , thank you so very much.

S2: Hey , thank you for having me.

S3: And tonight's monkeypox townhall will happen at 6 p.m.. You can join by going to the county's website. San Diego County dot com. You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen CAVANAUGH. San Diego County officials have stopped new admissions to Veterans Village of San Diego after multiple deaths and numerous concerns have been reported within the rehab center. Joining me now to talk about this is Jill Castellano , investigative reporter with a news source. Jill , welcome back to Midday Edition.

S2: Thanks for having me on.

S3: You've been covering this story at Veterans Village for months now. Was there a particular incident that led to officials pausing admissions or is this more of a culmination of events ? It's a little bit of both.

S2: So , yeah , I first published a project on concerns about Veterans Village. I think it was early June , so it's been a few months now and the county has been pretty mum about anything they're doing to kind of step in and address concerns about this rehab center , including drug use on the campus. You know , issues about the quality of care being provided. Issues with not enough staffing , poor management , things like that. And they haven't really share anything up until now. And the most recent thing that's happened is there was another death on the campus. This was just a couple of weeks ago. It's being investigated as a suspected fentanyl overdose death , just the second suspected fentanyl overdose death this year and the fourth death on that campus this year , which is which is quite a lot. So after this most recent death , the county decided they wanted to step in and make sure that what's going on at the campus is safe and is best for their clients. And since they have oversight of a lot of the clients on that campus , so they're temporarily freezing admissions. And this is a this is a really big deal. It's the first time we've seen an oversight agency step in like this.


S2: Veterans Village leadership said that they had actually already approached the county about not accepting new clients before this freeze went into effect. They said they've been concerned about the kind of clients the county is sending them and that they are potentially not the right clients for their program. And so the admissions freeze was actually something that was their idea before the county mandated it. And the county didn't really elaborate on that. And they said , you know , they basically stand by their statement. There are corrective actions that need to be taken at Veterans Village. So there's a little difference of opinion there about how this all got started.

S3: And so they say they were already pausing admissions before the order came down.

S2: There's a lot that Veterans Village Leadership is doing , and they have a lot of different oversight agencies and funding sources that they're working with. So to know whether or not what they're saying is a is accurate and reflects what is really going on with the county is really hard to tell at this point.

S3: Can you recap some of the recent incidents that have occurred at Veterans Village that might have led to this latest decision ? Yeah.

S2: To take you back to March , this is before my project published. The Probation Department at San Diego County raised some concerns about what was going on at this rehab center , telling county officials that the rehab center was not communicating with them about their clients who were placed at the rehab center. You know , that there were people leaving the program prematurely , that they didn't know about issues like that. They were also really concerned about staffing at the organization and that it was affecting the quality of care and the ability of the rehab center to provide treatment for people with addiction. And then by April , there was a fentanyl overdose death , which led to an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration to better understand how drugs got onto this campus , what the source of the fentanyl was. And by that point , you know , the county got pretty concerned. So as of early June , around the time that I published my investigation , the county issued this corrective action notice , asking the rehab center to address some of their concerns. And it was only six weeks after that , by late July , that we had another overdose death at Veterans Village , which prompted a second DEA investigation. And by this time , the county was very concerned about what was going on on the campus. There were a lot of management issues. The chief operating officer of the organization had resigned , and by this time they said , we're going to put a hold on admissions until some of these issues are addressed.

S3: On Friday , the county provided a statement that disclosed new details about efforts to bring the program into compliance.

S2: That's right. I think that's part of what's really interesting is that only now is the county coming forward and talking about all this work they've been doing behind the scenes since this investigation published that I worked on to try to get this program into compliance. They issued that corrective action plan. And it sounds like from what they've told me , there's been some some trouble getting Veterans Village to comply with that corrective action plan. So now they're taking this next step to pause admissions. And the county did say they are hoping to maintain this good working relationship with Veterans Village and that into the future they can continue to provide good quality care.

S3: You've been reporting on severe staffing shortages at the facility. So what's behind these shortages ? And and how has that been impacting services ? Absolutely.

S2: There is no doubt there's a staffing shortage at the organization. The cause of the shortage , it really depends who you ask. I've spoken with dozens of residents and employees , former employees , and they say that the workplace environment at Veterans Village is causing people to leave , that it's very competitive , it's toxic , there's bullying , retaliation. If you speak up about issues at Veterans Village , you know you're not taken seriously that concerns aren't addressed , that these kinds of factors are driving the staffing shortage. But the leadership of the organization points to a staffing problem across the industry that is affecting not only Veterans Village , but other rehab centers and other social service providers. And certainly there is a staffing shortage across the industry as well. So it may be a combination of some factors specific to Veterans Village and some broader industry staffing shortage that are affecting the you know , what we're seeing on the campus there.

S3: A recent statement from the county refers to unprecedented challenges in the era of widespread fentanyl use.

S2: We know that overdoses are on the rise across rehab centers and that fentanyl is a big part of that. It's a synthetic opioid. It's extremely lethal. Even just a small dose of it can be lethal. And it's being mixed into a lot of other drugs that people might take. So you're seeing accidental overdoses. It is truly a public health crisis. And the county actually recently declared a public health emergency because of that. So the deaths that we're seeing , you know , they're going on at Veterans Village , but certainly outside of Veterans Village as well. This is an epidemic that is affecting the San Diego region and elsewhere.


S2: They say a lot of these problems are just problems happening across the industry. That may not be issues that are specific to Veterans Village itself. They've also deflected some of the responsibility and said actually a lot of the reporting that I've been doing has been causing problems for them and that there are other people who have hostile motives who are out to get them. So that's really been the the gist of their reaction.

S3: I've been speaking with Jill Castellano , investigative reporter with a news source. Jill , thanks so much for joining us. Absolutely.

S2: Absolutely.

S1: San Diego pickleball enthusiasts have found themselves in a bit of a sour situation. The game requires a special court and there are few places to play in the city. KPBS reporter Claire TRAGESER says this has led to drama.

S4: But you can hear it from the parking lot. Emanating from a Chula Vista park on a warm Thursday evening is the sound of hundreds of plastic pickleball slamming into hard asphalt. Men and women , young and old , gathered to play the trendy sport that has exploded in popularity in recent years. One of them is 71 year old Mark Breeze. Boy.

S5: If you look at my contact list on my cell phone , I probably have 400 people I've met playing pickleball.

S4: But these pictures have a , well , pickle.

S5: And I'm appalled at the fact that San Diego does not jump on the bandwagon and get into the pickleball swing.

S4: For two local hecklers are led by Stefan Boyland , one of the founders of Pickleball , S.D. In Pickleball , there are dunkers who make soft shots and bangers who drive the ball hard to overpower their opponents. In his dealings with the city , Boyland is definitely a banger.

S6: We've gotten a lot of lip service , but we haven't gotten a lot of action. We still have zero dedicated public pickleball courts in the city of San Diego. That's right , zero. You heard me right. We're about five years behind every other city.

S4: Boyland clearly has a mission to bring Pickleball to the masses. But like many before him who have attempted to get the city of San Diego to do anything in a timely fashion , Boyland is stymied. To build new courts , he needs meetings , plans , approvals , permits and construction.

S2: Pickleball , he says.

S4: Cannot wait. So Boyland rose up staging what amounted to an Occupy tennis protest or maybe a pickle.

S2: Well , you got to know that. You have to sign it. And traffic. And it's for tennis only.

S6: Yeah , we understand.

S4: Last week , he and other pillars stormed the courts at Rob Field and Ocean Beach , set up their own pickleball net and started to play. A.

S2: A.

S4: Tennis player called the police. And the dispute erupted over whether they had an active permit. Go.

S2: Go. Get out of here. I don't play poker now.

S4: No charges were filed.

S2: City wants both of the sports to thrive , but not without hindering one over the other.

S4: Tim Graham is a spokesman for the Parks Department and says the city has no plans to change the tennis courts. At Rob Field to Pickleball.

S2: The city is trying to find ways to provide as many pickleball courts as possible without displacing other organizations.

S4: Options include taking over unused shuffleboard courts. Apparently , there's no shuffleboard lobby in the city to protest. Plus , draping new pickleball courts on basketball or other hard surfaces. And the city has brought in a national expert to interview both sides and come up with a pickleball tennis peace treaty.

S2: I understand that once people got into the sport , it's pretty addictive and people seem to really , really love it. You know what ? The city is doing its best to provide these services as quickly as we can.

S4: At noon on a recent Friday , only a few courts at Rob Field were being used by tennis players. While outsiders might wonder why they can't share tennis courts with Pickleball. That just won't work , says Tod Sprague.

S7: If you play , pickleball has a very different sound. Okay. And and so those sports are not necessarily compatible next to each other.

S4: Plus , the lines on the court are different , the nets are different , and players would want the courts at the same time. Sprague says he agrees there is a need for more pickleball facilities in San Diego.

S7: But cannibalizing tennis facilities when tennis is growing and has grown doesn't make any sense at all.

S4: So the city is left working on a compromise that doesn't involve cannibalism.

S1: Joining me is KPBS investigative reporter Claire TRAGESER. Claire , welcome.

S4: Thank you.

S1: So I've heard Pickleball described as a combination of tennis , ping pong and badminton.

S4: The first of all , the court is smaller. It's half the size of a tennis court. And it's played with , basically , as you say , wiffle balls like plastic balls with little holes in them and not really rackets like tennis rackets , but more kind of like a ping pong ball paddle where it's just a flat a flat board. And then the rules are different. It's mostly played with doubles , but it can be played with singles as well. And I think , you know , a big aspect to it is that it's it's kind of a social game because people are closer together and it really can be played by people of all ages and all athletic abilities because there isn't necessarily as much running and , you know , hard on your knees as something like tennis.


S4: It's actually even though it's become this kind of recent craze , it actually was started back in 1965 and they called it pickleball because they were using the word or the term pickle boat , which is a hastily assembled rowing crew , because it's kind of a sport that's cobbled together from all these different parts of badminton , tennis and wiffle ball.

S1: Now , there must be private pickleball courts. Or where else have these ? Pickler has been playing all the time.

S4: Yeah , that's right. I think that some people even have courts at their houses , and then there are places like racquet clubs and and private places where people can play. Pickleball was actually a story in The New Yorker recently , and they mentioned this racquet club up in Encinitas , where during early COVID , their courts were so booked that people were calling at all hours of the day and night to try and reserve a place to play pickleball.

S1: But you'll have to pay for those courts , right ? Right.

S4: That's that's exactly right. You'll have to pay for those courts. Whereas , you know , on public courts that are just at a park or a public place in San Diego , you can play for free.

S1: There are more than 30 public tennis court locations in San Diego , some with more than ten courts apiece. Why can't there be a rotating schedule for both Pickleball players and tennis players on city tennis courts ? Right.

S4: So I asked about this because to a non-player , it seems like kind of an obvious solution. One thing is that the pickleball courts do have different striping on the ground. And so even if they put that striping down and then , you know , you could switch back and forth between playing tennis and pickleball , I guess it makes it difficult for for tennis courts to host tournaments , because then they don't really have that official striping , you know , tennis striping that you would need for for a tournament. And then , you know , I guess other reasons are that players might want the courts at the same time. And what one tennis player told me that the noise from pickleball is quite loud. And so tennis players , I guess , don't really want pickleball players nearby while they're playing because the noise is so different and maybe is distracting.


S4: You know , this like anything that's that's maybe kind of a trend or a craze. Then there are people on the other side who are saying , you know , what's so great about this thing ? Or it's just , you know , some kind of flash in the pan thing that's that's not going to last. And , you know , I think because tennis is quieter and maybe involves more running , the people who play tennis maybe look down a little bit on on pickleball , although they wouldn't really say that , you know , with a microphone in their face. But but I kind of get that sense that that that might be going on a little bit.

S1: Now , the pickleball takeover at Rob Field was broken up by law enforcement. What is their next move ? Right.

S4: Well , and so this is , you know , something that I've asked the pickleball organizers , because it seems clear that the city is giving them a hard no. And , you know , there's this whole back story with this with this issue where there's the Peninsula Tennis Club who has a permit for the Rob Field Courts. I guess that permit lapsed. During COVID , because depending on who you ask , it might have been just , you know , the city was not keeping up on. On renewing all of these permits. And so the pickleball people are contending that there actually is no permit. And that's why they should be able to play there. And that's why they kind of staged this Occupy tennis protest , as I called it in the story. But the city is saying no. The the Peninsula Tennis Club gets to keep the Rob field courts. And that's the final answer. And so , you know , I asked the the pickleball people , well , they're saying no. So , you know , what are you going to do next ? And they're kind of not really giving up on it. I think they're they're saying that they still want those rob field courts. They're not letting it go. And at the same time , they're , you know , very vocally pressuring the city to to get on the swing of things , as they say , and add more courts in other places. And , you know , the city spokesman told me that they're working as fast as they can and they're striping basketball courts and shuffleboard courts in different places throughout the city where , you know , they can add more pickleball courts that are not at Rob Field. Okay.

S1: Okay. I've been speaking with KPBS investigative reporter Claire TRAGESER. Claire , thank you.

S4: Thank you.

S3: You're listening to KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen CAVANAUGH. A moment and a bird face the aftermath of a destructive wildfire. That's the premise of San Diego author Pam Fong's children's book , Once Upon a Forest Capturing a World Steeped in Nature. The book's story is told solely through images with strategic use of color , a powerful message and hope for the future. She is one of the local authors attending the Union-Tribune Festival of Books on August 20th. I spoke to Pam Fong earlier this year. Here's that interview. Despite being a book for young children , your book really deals with some serious themes. Tell us more about the book and why you felt a picture book was the best way to tell this story.

S2: Well , I think kids understand. The.

S1: The.

S2: World that they live in and they see kind of the news and all the forest fires that are going on and they're processing it themselves , just like we do as adults. And so I really wanted to write a book that helps them do that helps them realize that , yes , forest fires are devastating , but that there's hope and that nature does renew itself sometimes with a little help from forest creatures. But I thought it was a message that would help children and adults reflect on kind of are the consequences of humans when they come , when they interact with nature. Hmm.


S2: Each story is different. I have stories where the words come to me first. Maybe it's just a sentence , or maybe it's a whole paragraph. Sometimes it's just the image. It could be one character or it could be a scene. For this one in particular , the Marmot , the main hero came to me first and I just wanted to draw this character. It was just calling for me to draw it. And I didn't have a story around it. But once it kind of took shape , I had a little conversation with this drawing and the rest of the story followed.


S2: And so it's a daunting responsibility , but one that I felt like I would love to have just a little hand in because picture books were so influential in my life. I came over from Taiwan at a very , very young age and we didn't speak the language. So the library was kind of the great equalizer for my family. We went there and then everyone was quiet. No one spoke. So we were all kind of in the same boat , you know , just being quiet in the library. And there I discovered picture books. And of course , I didn't know the language enough , so I gravitated to the picture books that were wordless because I could pick a story together myself. And that was a great comfort to me. It made me feel more included and less alone in this new country.

S3: In telling your stories through pictures and rich colors.

S2: I think for this one in particular , I kept it mostly black and white , because when you go into a forest scene , there is so much to take in and there are so many layers in the forest goes in so deep. It's very , very hard to to capture all those little details without losing focus on the main characters. So this was a very conscious decision to keep it black and white , to leave a lot of white space and to give the color only to the elements of nature , which is the third character in this book. You have the marmot and the bird and the nature itself. And so I didn't want nature being lost in all of that , especially when you're trying to create a forest scene and there's so much to look at. Hmm.

S3: Hmm. And being that this is an audio interview , I urge listeners to go to to see the visual imagery from this book for themselves.

S2: I love black and white , although a lot of my other works , my other books are in full color , but they have a minimal palette. So I like limiting myself to a limited palette in order to create harmony in the images. I don't know. I would describe it as a little realistic , but still playful in that illustrator quality I'm trying to capture.


S2: Kind of force is not really about a forest fire. It's about the hope that happens afterwards. You never really see the fire. You see smoke. And so you never really see , you know , the blaze. The smoke is also very wispy and it's surrounded by a lot of white space. So in that way , I'm hoping that , you know , the kids will get it without having to to see it. And then we go quickly , quickly into cleaning up and restoring the forest. So the fire scene really is reserved for one spread. So it's very limited.


S2: It's called Max and it's a by Italian illustrator. I can't recall his name off the top of my head. It's a wordless picture book. And he did a series. And it's all based on this character , a little fuzzy character named Max. And I discovered this in the library when I was very young , and I picked up this book. I checked it out so many times that eventually they decommissioned it because I had worn it out so much. And I kind of grew up and I forgot. I always remembered Max , but I didn't I didn't have a copy of the book. And fast forward 28 years and we have the Internet and I thought one day I'm going to do a quick search and see if I can find this book again. And so I looked up Fuzzy Creature Max and his face came up and I rediscovered that this creature was a marmot , of all things. And so I was just kind of blown away. So I feel like maybe a marmot has been talking to me from a very young age. Yeah.

S3: I think so.

S2: I'm an avid hiker myself and I know how much walking through the forest and walking on mountain trails has given me. And I hope that kids get excited about maybe going out and seeing forest scenery , maybe running into a marmot and looking at nature from this very , very special place that is the forest. So I pay particular attention to trying to create an inviting scene that kids will want to explore in their real world.

S3: That was San Diego author Pam Fong talking about her children's book Once Upon a Forest , which is out now. And Pam Fong will be at the Union-Tribune Festival of Books on August 20th. For more information , you can go to our Web site , KPBS dot org.