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Roundtable: New City Council Prez; (Un)Affordable Housing Plan; Chollas Creek May Stay Polluted

Myrtle Cole, City's Affordable Housing Plan, Chollas Creek
Myrtle Cole, City's Affordable Housing Plan, Chollas Creek GUESTS: Andrew Keatts, reporter, Voice of San Diego James DeHaven, reporter, The San Diego Union Tribune Ry Rivard, reporter, Voice of San Diego

Council chooses Cole, & riles Spanos

After a fierce but futile battle to lead the San Diego City Council as its president, progressive David Alvarez bowed to more moderate Democrat Myrtle Cole.

The vote was 6-3. Among the Democratic majority, Georgette Gomez and Chris Ward voted for Alvarez, while Barbara Bry joined Republican members to vote for Cole, an outcome urged by Mayor Kevin Faulconer.


Under San Diego's strong mayor form of city government, the council president is pretty powerful. Cole will set the council’s direction by determining the agenda and assigning members to committees.

Alvarez had signaled his desire for a progressive, aggressive agenda on housing and homelessness. Cole expressed that she wants to work with all council members and cooperate with the mayor.

In the meantime, much drama erupted when council members Scott Sherman, Chris Cate, Cole and Laurie Zapf sent a letter to the Chargers offering to lease the Mission Valley Qualcomm site to the team for 99 years at $1 a year.

The Chargers have rejected this deal before, and Chargers' owner Dean Spanos was reportedly furious at being made to look bad by rejecting it again.

Related: Unions Split: Inside the Fight for Control of the City Council


Affordable, sustainable housing plan is neither

In 2003, the San Diego City Council created a program to fast-track development permits for affordable, eco-friendly housing.

It didn't work out so well.

City Auditor Eduardo Luna has found that at least since 2006, many of the expedited permits went to developers whose projects didn’t qualify, and much of the resulting housing was not affordable or sustainable and sometimes not even expedited.

Some development permits were, in fact, for very large single-family homes on the coast. To be eligible, developments must include at least four housing units to encourage density, but 70 single-family homes have been approved for the program since 2006.

Further, the architect most often associated with the up-scale houses was Tim Golba, who has donated $10,000 to the mayor since 2009. He is among a handful of connected architects who are the primary beneficiaries of the program.

Related: Auditors say 'affordable, sustainable' housing program built something else entirely

Chollas Creek is toxic -- but not for long

Chollas Creek, which begins in La Mesa and runs into San Diego Bay at Barrio Logan, is one of the region’s most polluted waterways.

Thousands of pounds of zinc, copper, pesticides and trash from tires, brake pads and yards flow through neighborhoods and into the bay at Barrio Logan as they have for decades.

In 2008, nine years after researchers determined the toxic mess was harmful to marine life, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board placed limits on the levels of metal allowed in the creek.

The clean-up involved three cities, the port, CalTrans and unincorporated county areas, and an estimated price tag of $2.1 billion. Most of the cost would have fallen on San Diego, so the city took an innovative approach: it changed the rules by challenging the science used to measure the toxins.

On Thursday, the board, which was set to roll back the cleanup requirements by raising the allowable levels of toxins, postponed any decision until next year.

Related: San Diego Cities Will Save $1 Billion by Changing Regulations to Avoid Chollas Creek Cleanup