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Roundtable: Money And Lilac Hills, Housing Shortage, Haitian Refugees

Area in Valley Center where Lilac Hills Ranch project is planned, Aug. 30, 2016.
Alison St John
Area in Valley Center where Lilac Hills Ranch project is planned, Aug. 30, 2016.
Roundtable: Money And Lilac Hills, Housing, Haitian Refugees
Roundtable: Money And Lilac Hills, Housing Shortage, Haitian Refugees
GUESTS:Joe Yerardi, data specialist, inewsource Megan Burks, education reporter, KPBS News Jean Guerrero, Fronteras reporter, KPBS News

Is 19 minutes -- measure be to approve the Muslim lie have -- Lilac Hills the relevant get the gears countries. It these about that hundreds of code violations including Catholics they are in good shape but where will the old tenants go. Thousands of Haitian refugees due to be deported. Did hurricane Matthew change that. Kenny Goldberg KPBS roundtable starts now. Welcome to the discussion of the week's top stories I'm Kenny Gobert sitting in for Mark Sowerby joining me at the KPBS roundtable today Joe Girardi of KPBS news partner . Hi, Joe. No place I would rather be. Megan Burks education reporter. Hi, Kenny. Jean Carreiro from KPBS news. Welcome to everybody. Lilac Hills, though name for a massive development in rural Valley Center 1700 ohms, office, retail space all spread over 600 acres. The project is on the November ballot as measure be picked opponents say measure be violates San Diego County's recently adopted General Plan. It calls for just one hundred new homes on the parcel. The county's Republican Party recently endorsed a measure be nine days later the developer of the project gave the party $50,000. Joe, what is wrong with this picture? It depends on what perspective is where you're standing to the Republican Party Chairman, to the developer creative investments they say there is nothing wrong with this the party made their endorsement based on the merits of Measure B and 90s later, they wanted to give a contribution for a couple -- nine days later giving a contribution to host a fundraiser and to get on the party voter guide now that they have been endorsed it to be opponents of Measure B is something entirely, it stinks and they feel the Republican Party essentially sold their endorsement. Even if they had sold their endorsement and admitted it is there anything wrong with that?? No. I guess it would be like Christmas in Japan. There is nothing wrong with it but it would be rather unusual. What are they saying about it what is the rationale for this timing? This is -- the Republican Party? Sure yes I spoke with Chairman of the county GOP and asked about the timing and he says here's what happened, we voted on September 12 two endorsement for good reason we thought it was a good measure and then after that, creative came to us and they were interested in sponsoring one of our fundraisers, one of two annual fundraisers they do every year that have a lot of corporate sponsors. A crude was interested in being one that was $10,000 and the rest of the money went to the Republican Party -- four Accretive to get their measure B endorsement onto the Republican Party's voter guide and that is how they do the voter guide, Republican Party won't endorse candidates or measures and those candidates or measures have the opportunity to pay for inclusion on this. Why is this endorsement important? So for some of the real high-profile measures candidates that attract media attention most have heard about them they have their ideas on how they will vote in their head. But let's say you are Republican who is in Chula Vista or El Cajon, something far from North -- Lilac Hills Ranch, you don't know a lot about it maybe you have never heard about it at all. But if you see I am a Republican in the Republican Party who I trust is endorsing this measure and telling me to vote for it in the absence of any other evidence, I feel confident voting for it. This measure allows the developer to violate the county's general plan that the county spent millions of dollars on, years of planning to put out. And allows the developer to in essence go around that plan and put it before the voters. How can that -- how can they get away with that? I am sure a lot of people take issue with the term getaways with that but the fact is the law allows developers to take issues directly to the voters. We have the proposition in California it has been a part of state law for a century now. If you want to put a question directly to the voters you can do that and building a housing development is really no different. Let me ask a group, why do we have a county planning process is a well-heeled developer of somebody else who has money can get around it. Is that right? I don't know if it is for me to say. I know that in the neighborhood I live in I would want to be able to have a say and ideally I think that's a visible step throughout the process but maybe people don't feel like they can get to those meetings and have a say. I don't know. Here's what James Gordon Valley Center resident who's against the project said about why the developer chose to go to the voters. They could have avoided all this money and got to the Board of Supervisors but they didn't because they couldn't. Because the project would be approved and if it was approved, it would be approved with too many conditions so what do they do? It was cheaper to spend a couple million to vote on the ballot because they could shamble voters and a sweetheart deal for the developer. What is the developer say about that point of view, Joe? The idea that they could not get it through the regular accounting process, they had a tortured history so originally it went to the plan commission and the County plan commission said we will allow it but they have several big changes that they wanted the developer time for investors to make they would have been expensive adjustments to the plan and on top of that, County supervisor Bill Horn who was seen as the surefire yes vote on this had to recuse himself from the final Board of Supervisors vote allowing or blocking the property because the fair political practices commission said he had a comfortable interest and he owned some property nearby whose value could change whether or not the lilac branch close to, when had big they said they would take this issue directly to the voters and make our pitch as we trust the voters is an Eagle County to make a well-informed decision on this and of course they believe that will informed -- well-informed decision will be allowed a housing project to go forward. Let's look at a clip from Matt Adams, vice president from the building industry Association who talked about the lack of housing in San Diego. We have a housing shortage in San Diego County, home cause as much as they do now because we do not build enough of them and we haven't over 10 years -- says we should build once all the new homes every month just to keep pace with populist growth and we haven't done that in over 10 years. So we have to start making real decisions as to where we want to house our citizens, both our current citizens and future citizens. So we have a housing crisis in San Diego which is no secret. Jeanne, let me ask you, what makes this controversial. They want to build homes do we need more holds? I think there are many aspects to that. I don't know what I would say in addition. Yes, I mean, that really is the argument and I think no one can argue with the fact that we have a housing crisis. Megan, you will talk about this as a story you wrote there is an absolute crisis in terms of affordable housing in one of the things that Accretive and the other boosters of lilac -- track prices low as $300,000 well below the median home price in the county they say this is Affordable Housing a lot of it the opponents aren't so sure. I'm Allison Saint John I've done reporting saying there's a squeeze on the middle class production and housing so it seems like that serves that persist -- purpose right there. And that is certainly what the developer another people who do support while ghost Ranch dip we need more housing Affordable Housing middle-class housing and that's what Lilac Hills -- Aware of the middle-class where it should go. We will have to leave the conversation here and go onto the next segment over the years banking Schauss indigo properties record of 60 complaints about conditions so bad that state law says no one should have been allowed to live in them. Investigation of the shots properties last year by KPBS and voice of San Diego found gas leaks, sewage backups, cockroach infestations and much more. Megan, still with the property on Logan Avenue, what was it like and how bad was it when you first reported on it in 2015? It was in rough shape an older building that had not seen any remodeling and probably the last decade when I had seen it it took me into their units and the counter I'm sorry the sink under the sink had caved in because there was so much water from a late and this was the kind of place where I had a cameraman with me and we said -- you said there was cockroach infestations can you show us that in a broad day light all that it was open a drawer and there they were and I saw pictures I did not see with my own eyes but I saw pictures of the ceiling above a shout in the shower with a hole in it caving in because of a leak from the shower above. Sounds atrocious. It was a rough shape. Jean? How did you find about this? So I heard from a lot of people in my years reporting at city Heights they fell like their housing was in bad shape and they weren't getting any help for it so I requested code compliance complaints from, for all of city Heights over the course of one year and categorized them by landlord and Megan Shaw's name rose to the top -- and Shah the name rose to the top, properties across neighborhood and up arm of people complaining and not really seeing much success from that. So, Megan, what is the Logan Avenue property like now? So now it's been remodeled by Google L WP group and they specialize in taking older Apartment Buildings and parts of town like bankers Hill downtown and creating a place where it's millennial types, where they can live and the units are bare-bones but the community, there are art installations sounds Gaetz when you go into the buildings and so now when you go to the property on Logan Avenue, there is a rack for your skateboard and there is murals art flyers everywhere and all of the plumbing has been replaced and the building has been overhauled a lot of structural issues have been fixed. Was the problem? A happy ending that has gone or what? It's those really tough -- a tough spot because that building needed to be improved in the community deserves good housing but in our housing market being so constricted, if you need something that is under one thousand dollars per month or under $900 per month, you sort of have to put up with cockroaches. There is no place in San Diego unless you are subsidized and you have a section 8 voucher. Wait a minute. You have to put up with cockroaches? That is what I am seeing. What I hear from tenants is that if you are in a certain price range you cannot get help from the government because you are undocumented or because you are on a really long waiting list for section 8 and you have not had your name called or maybe an eviction. It's slim pickings. In -- it's like looking for a roof over your head and you deal with the other problems that exist. That's illegal, isn't it. You can't vermin infestation, oversold -- overloaded the toilet that glass ceilings can you? Be investigation last year was great and heartbreaking because these conditions were something out of 14th-century England. You cannot imagine anybody in the 21st century America would have to put up with that and yet the stories you have done are heartbreaking over the past week because these folks are basically been kicked out. Do they have any recourse? I would not say they were kicked out. They were given the new owners follow the law and get proper notice and I think they gave them more time than required by law to vacate the unit. But where do they go after that? I heard some tenants went into buildings that were as dilapidated, one on a couch with his family and another tenant says she believes she will be homeless when Hurley sends -- her lease ends. It's questionable whether they have protections because the building needed a full gut job and how can you keep tenants in that situation while doing the construction but this is happening in other properties throughout San Diego because there is no housing being built, people are looking at the properties they have an remodeling them to serve a different clientele and so there is some protection, but it is questionable there's an ordinance on the books that people disagree about. Let's hear from Stephen Russell director of San Diego housing Federation who talked about why this older housing as you said is disappearing and the city here is what Russell had to say. There's a healthy pipeline of housing in the community that they would always be housing that is aging out or filtering down to affordability. Unfortunately in San Diego because we had such constraints on housing production, we don't have that pipeline of continuously aging housing and so in a market like what we are seeing right now, the vacancy rates are extremely low and there's an opportunity for landlords out to take these properties and fix them up, that's where the role of subsidized Affordable Housing comes in. So, Megan, right now if a property owner wants to renovate their apartment, can they kick the tenants out and there is no liability on their part? How does it work? There's a laudable call the tenant's right to know ordinance that says lays out scenarios where it is okay to evict a tenant and one of those scenarios is the need to go and make repairs. I made -- spoke with the author of the law and she said that the law was ever intended, Donna Frye said the law was ever intended to stop somebody from going in an remodeling so that they can demand a little bit more rent the tenants rights attorneys read that law and they see the word violation and they see necessary repairs in the language, Lacey that a tenant -- they see a tenant should be removed when reasonably necessary so to them they read that -- that as you don't have just cause to evict a tenant if you want to go in and put in some shiny granite countertops. They also read it as okay maybe you need to fix a code violation but can you reasonably keep that tendency in place during builder projects let me ask you briefly, to weigh in on this. We know housing is expensive and rental housing, what is the future hold if it is a problem now? Jean what do we do five years from now? I don't know, I really don't know.. Is a multifaceted problem and I think it will take a multifaceted solution. Everybody in my story chose or talked about different solutions, building and Lilac Hills wasn't necessarily a solution proposed but building like that but also looking at building subsidized housing adding more section 8 vouchers. What about -- I hear casually mentioned why aren't we building more vertically or a real skyscraper, is that suggestion maybe we should build up instead of out? Yes, and one of the things that Stephen Russell told me is that if we are building out, isn't that a problem for tenants that are displaced because they don't have -- they don't have cars and have kids in school and they are displacing will have to move 30 minutes away that's not a great solution to enforce in terms of building up, the owner of this property now was talking about how there is a demand for his buildings which are small, old, 1920s era units that don't have parking and so maybe we need to sort of look back to that and build with in the urban center but expect to have less room. Thank you very much let's move on when immigration and customs enforcement could not handle the flood of Haitian immigrants coming into the -- thousands waiting until being profit patients were granted special protection was up until two weeks ago against deportation because of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti but the rules change two weeks ago, Jean, why did the rules change? The authority said the rules changed largely because of improved conditions in Haiti that they were dealing with this massive influx of patients coming into Latin America, talking thousands and tens of thousands more who are currently on the way and they said we can't keep accepting all of these patients, conditions in Haiti have much improved since the 2010 earthquake which is what was behind the initial decision to open doors to these patients. So we are no longer going to accept them under these provisions. Now we have Hurricane Matthew and that has not exactly changed Haiti for the better, has a? Right according to the latest statistics I have, more than 800 have lost their lives in Haiti because of this arcane. Tens of thousands have been displaced from their homes and there's -- because of this hurricane. Called the worst humanitarian crisis in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake. So it's a big change. Describe if you would, Jean, the journey that Haitian immigrants make to make it all the way to Tijuana. Most of these Haitians have had resettled in Brazil after the earthquake. But because of recent political and economic crises that have been unfolding there, they have had to look for other options. So what they've been doing basically since the month of May is traveling all the way north through Latin America talking about walking for days on end, boats, buses, a combination of various modes of travel, through some of the most dangerous countries in the wall for reasonable Honduras, El Salvador, I've interviewed dozens of patients and they talk about seeing people die because of the heat exhaustion or just starvation. There's rapes along the way a lot of the things Central Americans have to deal with North New Mexico are dealing with -- so they are also dealing with the it's an arduous journey. The expectation when deported they will go back to Brazil or are they supposed to go back to Haiti? Good question. Because they are Haitian, it is not as easy for the masses to deport them say if they were Mexican they can't justify them to Mexico which is where they are coming from, they are entering through the Mexican border. They have to deport them to Haiti and almost one 00% of the circumstances the standard practice is to get in touch with the Haitian government and get travel documents from the Haitian government but because of the political chaos over there it's been really hard to do that and they were planning to start deporting Haitians again after the elections which we -- we're going to happen Sunday. Haiti elections and they were postponed it differently because of the hurricane. Jean, how are the Haitians treated in Tijuana in general? They are being embraced by the local population. Tijuana has a long, complicated history with migrants on their way to the United States. Mostly southern Mexicans and Central Americans and it's interesting when you look at the dynamic because they are treating Haitians completely differently from the way they are treating Mexicans and Central Americans there was a huge homeless encampment of migrants in Tijuana seen as an eyesore and the government just evacuated it and sent a lot of these migrants into drug rehab centers including those who were not using drugs and a lot of residents expressed gratitude , they were saying oh, thank goodness that was really bad for business having all of these people in the streets but with the Haitians they are totally embracing them. You see them bringing truckloads of food, at first they were bringing Mexican food, tacos but then they realized the Haitians didn't really like that food so they asked what you like and they started bringing rice and beans so they are being very friendly. The difference in the demographics is more women and children? Yes, actually it is not that. What I have been finding is that because the population of Afro-Mexicans in Mexico have always been so low, in fact the Mexican government did not count them in their demographic surveys until just last year because of the population being so small less than one percent. Seeing this completely new different looking type of person is making people wonder, why are they here? People do research and realize they are coming from countries with bad problems so they want to help. There are men and women and children yet to Jean, I understand you spoke with a woman who said it is getting to be a problem. My name is a margarita Agua doggie who runs a shelter. Let's see what she has to say -- Mixing with locals who use drugs he says yes they are addicts who take advantage of the situation and they say my Haitian friend, I love you, smokeless, drink this she says the shelter has already had to turn away previously well-behaved Haitians and applicants who showed up under the influence. She says she's also worried about all the drivers keep stopping and picking up migrants offering them housing and jobs and taking them away. Where did it take them what was the purpose of taking them? They don't know what they are getting into. Jean, this is reaching tough proportions in Tijuana and parts of the U.S., to. What is your feeling about whether the U.S. might change its let's send it back policy in relationship to this latest natural disaster? I don't have any official statement from the department of homeland security. They have not said they are going to change the policy but they have said they are monitoring the situation in Haiti. I don't know whether they are going to take the policy back I do know there are immigrants rights groups across the border who demand that this be done and so we just have to see what happens. Lastly, in the brief moments we have, even if there is a stay of deportation are they granted permanent residency or is it ate everything? So the people who do make it across, in the past they were being given a notice to appear before immigration court documents . Regardless, they had to go to the immigration courts and right now they are being held in detention centers and they may or may not be deported, they may end up being released because they can only be in detention centers legally for up to six months. If they don't get permission from the Haitian government to send them back, then they have to release them. Okay. Thank you very much. That wraps up another week of stories in the KPBS Roundtable. I would like to thank Joey Berardi of our new source Megan Burks KPBS news and Jean Guerrero of KPBS news for joining us. A reminder all of the stories we discussed today are available on the website I'm Kenny Goldberg Thank you for joining us on Roundtable. Actions

Developer donates 50K to SD Republicans, who endorsed Measure B

Accretive Investments, developer of the Lilac Hills Ranch project on the November ballot as Measure B, gave a check for $50,000 to the Republican Party of San Diego County on September 21.

So far there's nothing to see here, folks.

But then party's endorsement of Measure B came to light.

Eyebrows were raised, and questions were asked, particularly by the No on B people. They wanted to know why they hadn't been asked to make their case to the party.

Their case, for those who haven't been following the long-running saga of Lilac Hills, is that the development of 1,700 homes on 600 acres slated to hold only 100 violates the county's new General Plan.

The chair of the San Diego County Republicans, Tony Krvaric, told the No people that the decision to endorse Lilac Hills was made on Sept. 12, or perhaps Sept. 20. In any case, before the check was delivered.

Krvaric says the party endorsed Measure B because the area needs more housing and Lilac Hills is a good project.

The anti-Lilac Hills camp is not buying it. They believe the money and the endorsement are connected.

The donation is the first from LHR Investment Company (parent of Accretive) to the county Republicans since a $1,250 contribution in 2011.

Accretive spent $1 million to get the measure on the November ballot, thereby going over the heads of the county Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors.

inewsource: San Diego GOP Gets $50,000 Donation From Lilac Hills Developer

Landlord sells derelict properties, turning tenants out

Bankim Shah was the subject of a news investigation by KPBS and Voice of San Diego in 2014 for dozens of serious property code violations, including gas leaks, sewage back-ups, missing windows and cockroach infestations.

Shah repaired some of his 90 buildings and sold 17, causing tenants to have to find housing elsewhere. That’s not so easy anymore because of the acute housing shortage downtown and elsewhere in San Diego County.

The renovated units on Shah's former property on Logan Avenue rent for $900 to $1,200. But tenants were paying $650 before the rehab. So where will they go?

There is a decade-long waiting list for Section 8 housing subsidies, and many don’t qualify anyway.

The extremely low vacancy rate means that housing that would normally be aging into affordability is instead being upgraded and the rents increased. Poor tenants have had to turn to dangerous and even illegal housing to get a roof over their heads.

Now, even that option is disappearing.

KPBS News: Former Tenants Of Derelict Landlord Tossed Into Punishing Rental Market

Haitian refugees in San Diego and Tijuana cope with changing rules

Haitian refugees on their way to the U.S. through the San Ysidro Port of Entry have become trapped in a bureaucratic limbo in San Diego and Tijuana.

Thousands of Haitians made the arduous and scary journey north from Brazil through the jungles and mountains of Central America and Mexico. There were so many this year that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement was unable to handle them all. So many have been stuck in limbo in Tijuana, waiting for an interview in the U.S.

Haitians had received protection from deportation by the U.S. after the catastrophic 2010 Haitian earthquake, until two weeks ago. The protections were lifted and Haitians who arrive at the Port of Entry were to be sent to detention centers and then back home after Haiti’s October elections.

But then Hurricane Matthew bulldozed the not-yet-recovered country and caused the elections to be cancelled. No word yet on whether U.S. immigration policy toward the Haitians will be changed again.

In the meantime, the Haitians waiting in Tijuana are overwhelming the shelters there but are treated compassionately by some residents, to the dismay of displaced Mexican migrants.

KPBS News: U.S. Resumes Haitian Removals Amid Surge At The Border

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