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San Diego Chamber Weighs In On Trade Deal, Miramar Landfill Growing, Barrio Logan Loses Art Gallery, And More.

 December 10, 2019 at 10:57 AM PST

Speaker 1: 00:00 Despite today's announcement by democratic leaders that they're drawing up two articles of impeachment against president Trump. The same Democrats announced they've reached a breakthrough with Trump on a new trade deal. After months of negotiations, Democrats and white house negotiators agreed on changes that make it much more likely than new U S MCA trade agreement will be approved. The trade deal will replace NAFTA and give the United States, Mexico and Canada a new framework for to free trade in North America. I spoke with Paula of ULA of the San Diego regional chamber of commerce. She joined us by Skype from Mexico city where a leaders there intend to sign the new trade agreement today. Paolo, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for having me now. Even speaker Nancy Pelosi said today that the new U S MCA agreement with the changes made is a better deal than NAFTA. And here's what she had to say about it when she announced the Democrats support this morning. Speaker 2: 00:57 There is no question, of course, that this, uh, uh, trade agreement is much better than NAFTA. But in terms of our work here, it is infinitely better than what was initially a Pope, uh, proposed by the administration. Speaker 1: 01:13 What are the main points that make the U S MCA different from NAFTA? You know, the, the main points is a new chapter on, on customs, which for our region in particular is a great, is great news as it will improve efficiencies that are border reducing inefficiency, reducing wait times. Ultimately also we have a chapter dedicated to small businesses to help provide resources so that they can take advantage of the trade agreement. And then another point that I'll, uh, I'll make is, um, the labor chapter, which did not exist in NAFTA either and then an environmental chapter, uh, which is new as well. And today's agreement, uh, today's announcement actually adds to the year originally agreed upon USM CA further improving it. How do you think it [inaudible] got to improve conditions for San Diego businesses? Well, like I mentioned, um, the assistance for small businesses. Uh, we know in San Diego, 80% of our businesses are small, small, and medium sized, um, to allow them to help take advantage of the trade agreement with resources on how to, uh, to help them export into these foreign markets. Speaker 1: 02:22 Um, in addition, reducing, uh, procedural, uh, processings which increased costs such as customs processing will reduce costs for the businesses and ultimately the consumer. This new iteration of the U S MCA has stronger labor and environmental provisions. How important is that? Critically important for one, um, the environmental provisions that are going to be announced today, specifically reauthorize the North American development bank and provides funding under the EPA program for border water program that is specifically for us to use at the [inaudible] river Valley. Um, which as you know, has been a tremendous transboundary pollution issue. Now, AFL CIO, president Richard Trumka had been a holdout. He threw his support behind it. He changed his position at us. Seems to have made this deal happen. Uh, how important was it, do you think that that this agreement got his support? Well, we believed from the beginning that this agreement had the support necessary to be ratified in Congress. Speaker 1: 03:32 But now with his additional support, it means we will have broad bipartisan support in Congress. I mean, I expect an overwhelming amount of votes, not just the necessary to pass it, but brought by a broad margin. Now you're in Mexico city for a ceremony today about the new trade agreement. Tell us about that. Well, the ceremony today, we'll be assigning agreement because of the revisions. All three governments need to sign the agreement. Uh, you have the trade commissioner, uh, Friedland from Canada, uh, here in Mexico city. You have the representatives, um, a us trade representative Lighthizer and, uh, Jared Cushner advisor to the president here in Mexico city representing the U S and then of course, several representatives from Mexico. We'll be together, uh, here in, um, right now signing this agreement. And, and I would assume, uh, the Mexican officials that you've been speaking with are pleased with this new agreement. Speaker 1: 04:30 Very much so. On the president this morning in his press conference, I hailed the agreement as a win for Mexico. You say you expect overwhelming support, uh, in the U S Congress now and that this should move on to the president's desk. What kind of timeline do you see for that? I expect, um, I've heard that this will be coming to Congress. It will be, there will be a vote next week. So, um, we will have a holiday gift. Uh, this has been a long road for people who are very much involved in trade as you are at the San Diego regional chamber of commerce. I know how upset you all were when the idea of just getting rid of NAFTA and not having anything to replace it was floated. What kind of a, tell us what this means as you see it to the overall trade picture in our region. Well that's exactly right. This is an overall win for us because it's more than just an economic partnership and reducing barriers to trade. It is an agreement of collaboration and friendship and that is certainly what we need to tackle all the talent, just that we face. We need to collaborate and work together with our nearest neighbors, our partners, Canada and Mexico. And that's what this agreement represents and will solidify. I've been speaking with Paula Avila of the San Diego regional chamber of commerce and Paula, thank you. Thank you so much. Speaker 1: 00:00 Once most of us throw something in the trash, we don't think much about it. But that may change as the Miramar landfill is expected to become visible to more people. A plan to allow the landfill to pile waste 25 feet higher. Got a key approval last week. Lisa Wood principal planner with the city and its landfill expert joins us to discuss why the expansion is needed. Lisa, welcome. Thank you very much. It's a pleasure to be here. So first, what was the key approval the project got last week? So last week the city granted the land use permit, the site development permit for the project. So will this expansion impact the air quality around the landfill? So there was a sequence analysis done and the sequence analysis determined that there would be no new impacts to any of the issue areas. So no new air quality impacts and even the visual impacts, although it will be 25 feet higher, it's a very small sliver compared to where it is now. Speaker 1: 00:55 And so those impacts were determined not to be significant. What's the city currently doing to mitigate, um, methane gas and other gases that might be admitted from the landfill. So of course the city is constantly trying to improve, uh, how the landfill is operated and the regulations are modified. And so, uh, continual improvement is definitely asked for. So one of the things that we've done is we've just installed 111 new gas Wells and that will significantly improve the capture rate of the methane that's generated. We've also modified how we do our daily cover in the past, in order to save landfill capacity, we used a tarping system where we would, at the end of the day, we would tarp the waste. And then in the morning when it was time to place more waste on top of the old waste, we would remove the tarps. And we've modified that so that the tarps are no longer removed. Speaker 1: 01:50 Instead, a sacrificial liner is put down that is never pulled up and that helps reduce any odor impacts that might be associated with the landfill. And what efforts are there to reduce ground soil contamination? So the ground soil contamination, we have a really good track record there. Um, the West Miramar landfill, uh, phase two area, which is the area that we're talking about is the only portion of the landfill that is proposed for the height increase. Um, that area of the landfill has a very effective liner system throughout all the area where we're working. And the monitoring that we do that we do at the landfill has not shown any contamination at all. So the, the liner system that we are using and the, the steps that we take for storm water control are um, showing to be effective. Now the storm water program, we do also continually modify that and we are working to improve that. Speaker 1: 02:42 So tell me why is this expansion needed? Doesn't San Diego have a goal to get to zero waste by 2040 a hundred percent? We are definitely have a goal to increase the waste diversion. Um, the current scheduled closure date for the Miramar landfill is 2024 which our business is literally around the corner. As you can imagine, these permits don't come quickly and permitting a new landfill is, well, it's something that the city is most likely not going to embark on. Um, so, so it is very, very important to make this landfill last as long as possible. And the current projection is 2024 with the proposed height increase, which is just a modest height increase, as you mentioned, of 25 feet in the phase two area only and that would extend the life of the landfill by four years to 2028. So it's not a huge increase in capacity. Speaker 1: 03:35 And we do want to focus on increasing the diversion. We don't want anything going in the landfill that can be kept out of the landfill. We want to work on as much diversion as possible. And recycling is one of the key ways that we do diversion. Um, but if you take a look at the recycling facilities that we have, the materials recovery facilities that take, for example, the waste that comes out of the residential blue bands, they don't, they're not able to recycle 100% of what's in those blue bands. So all of those recycling facilities have residuals that have to go somewhere. And so even if everything was going to a recycling facility, not everything that goes to the recycling facility has an actual market. And so some of those, those materials, um, we call it wish recycling. When people put something in the blue bin, that's not actually one of the items that can be accepted. Speaker 1: 04:29 And unfortunately there are quite a few of those items that cannot actually be recycled because they don't have a market. So we, we do need to have that room in the landfill for the residuals, even just the residuals from the recycling facilities. So what's the plan after this landfill is full, given that it is the city's only remaining landfill. So we do continually improve, um, it's called an air utilization factor. We get better and better at that. Um, and it may be possible that in the future they can get another, the city will be able to get another height increase. I don't know. Certainly the, the liner as it exists now could support another height increase. So that's something that can be investigated. But at some point, Miramar will cease to be able to accept waste at that time. The city's other option is, uh, there are two other major landfills in the region. Speaker 1: 05:20 Both of them are operated by a private company. One of them is located on Oh, Ty Mesa and the other one is called the Sycamore landfill. And that is located within the city of San Diego out towards Santi. And the city has a franchise agreement with the Sycamore landfill operators, allied slash Republic. And uh, one of the components of that franchise agreement is they are required to accept city of San Diego waste on a preferred basis. It would be more expensive. It would be a longer haul, it would be more greenhouse gas emissions. But it is the option that is available to the city. The time mayor Mark closes, how can city residents help extend the life of the mere Mar landfill? Uh, so the first thing is please put in your blue bin, specifically the items that we accept in the blue band. If we have low rates of contamination in the blue band, then that means the materials recovery facilities. Speaker 1: 06:17 That's sort out the materials and bundle them up for shipping to recycling facilities, have more options as to where they can market them. And then the second thing is, you know, we do want to also reduce what goes into the black band and what ends up at the landfill. So please, when you're purchasing items, do think about how much packaging is involved in this, how long will this item last? And try to go for more durable items, try to go for items where you can use them for as long as possible. Single use items, throw away items, they may be very, very convenient, but we pay a high environmental price for them. What has to happen now for the expansion to move forward? So, uh, in addition to the land use permit, there are several additional permits that are necessary. Um, the air pollution control district has permits, there are water permits to get, and of course the landlord is the Marine Corps, so there has to be at least modification to allow it. So there are several additional approvals that are required. All right. I had been speaking with city of San Diego, principal planner, Lisa Wood. Lisa, thank you so much. Thank you. Really appreciate the opportunity. Speaker 1: 00:00 Some of San Diego's highest fire risk areas are in its Kenyans and parks and that's a problem. As homeless people seek shelter, they're setting fires to stay warm and cook. I knew, I knew. Source investigative reporter of Mary plumber says it also puts homeowners on edge. It's set up time for the Oak park community council meeting. People are taping up a banner and mingling among rows of folding chairs. Some neighbors in the room want nearby North choice community park to be safer. One of the biggest fears, fire, dangerous tied to the local homeless population and Kampmanns abandoned trash and illegal fire rings have all been spotted among the parks. Dry brush neighbor Bruce Thompson takes the mic and talks about what was found during a recent park, Speaker 2: 00:47 about eight lighters, eight empty, very water containers, countless cigarette butts, um, Speaker 1: 00:54 since as the city has poorly responded to the community's calls for help. Sometimes leaving encampments for several weeks before they're cleared out or he's have grown since August when a fire did break out in the park. But residents like a leader, Chavez worry next time it could be worse. That's my major concern that people are going to get hurt. The children. Families are gonna get hurt and whoever was living in this area is going to get hurt too, and I, new source review of resident complaints to the cities, get it done. App found long delays. Residents told us some submissions were described as closed or corrected, but the problems never fixed. On top of that, the city's own rules present challenges only the park perimeters are required to be cleared of brush, not Canyon beds where some homeless camp and use fires to cook residents. Fears are playing out across the city as San Diego grapples with a large unsheltered homeless population. Speaker 1: 01:48 I see a lot of homeless people in this area and especially when it rains, they seem to come out of the canyons and seek shelter. That's Timothy eLeads. She lives near Presidio park in old town and says she'd like to see the city do more. She worries about homeless people living in the park. We certainly should be helping these people find safe places to live and to be clean and also for our safety too because they need help. Fire incident call records obtained by new source show. Firefighters are often responding to homeless problems for the first nine months of this year, 11% of the calls mentioned homeless encampments just after sunrise and Balboa park. A few dozen people are starting their date near Florida Canyon, where many homeless live there are makeshift 10th and bags of cans and leftovers from a fire the night before. Tiffany Guildford says there are fires every night, but she'd rather stay outside than in a shelter. I feel safer. More people that I know around Gifford says she's waiting to get a section eight housing voucher assistance that could end her homelessness. Until then she says she uses a camp to cook food or a makeshift set up of wax wrapped around cotton balls inside an aluminum can give her. It says she wishes there was more compassion for the homeless from the public. People just like you. Speaker 1: 03:13 They're not homeless or houseless. They're just less fortunate. Do you guys, deputy fire chief Doug Perry oversees fire prevention in San Diego. He says to protect against fire is connected to homelessness. The best solution is to get people out of encampments within the parks. Speaker 3: 03:31 When they're cold, they're gonna start fires and they're going to start fires wherever they are, where they think they're safe, and people don't know that they're there. Preventative wise, we got to find places for them to be housed and taken care of. Speaker 1: 03:44 But the city's efforts so far have not worked. The latest homeless count found 2,600 people living with no shelter as premier. Kevin Faulkner's take on fire, dangerous tied to homelessness. We asked for an interview instead, his spokeswoman emailed that the office is doing, quote everything possible to mitigate the potential for spark. For KPBS. I'm I knew source investigative reporter Mary Plummer, Speaker 1: 04:11 and joining me is, I knew source reporter Mary Plummer, Mary well to the show. Hi there. Now it sounds as if city officials don't even have basic information about how many people are living in canyons and parks and San Diego. Is that right? That's right. Um, I spoke with the San Diego regional task force on the homeless and was told that canyons and parks are the hardest places in San Diego to count. Uh, the annual account is done in January. Most of it takes place in the dark. And for safety reasons, they don't ask volunteers to count those areas with a few exceptions in parts of towns, in parts of town that community groups are helping with. So the homeless numbers in parks and canyons aren't known. Uh, we do know over all the latest count found 2,600 homeless people without shelter in the city of San Diego. And certainly, you know, if you live or spend time near parks like Balboa or Presidio park, you've likely seen that the homeless population has a regular presence. Speaker 1: 05:07 So the point in time count is a once a year regional exercise, but the city could conduct its own count and find out how many people are there and how people are surviving in these encampments. Couldn't they? Uh, you know, certainly the city has been pouring resources toward trying to address homelessness. Uh, they know fire risks exist and they're doing things like making improvements to the cities, get it done app where residents can report problems like homeless encampments. Uh, early next year, the app is scheduled to be streamlined so that when you report an encampment, it goes directly to the city's neighborhood policing division. Uh, the city's goal there is to help get encampments cleaned up faster. That said, I have not heard anything about surveying the canyons and my reporting found that residents experience long delays after they reported problems and were often frustrated by the city's lack of response. Speaker 1: 06:00 Uh, they complained about their reports of problems tied to the homeless population getting bumped from department to department. Now part of your reporting looked at San Diego's fire incident call records. Can you tell us more about what you found there? Uh, we received data for the first nine months of 2019 January through September of this year. And what it showed was that about 11% of all fire incident calls, uh, mentioned homeless encampments. That's 365 calls during that time period, uh, the numbers were highest in the summer months. There were 57 calls in August, for example. Uh, now you know, this is just fire incident called data, not actual fire numbers, but it is clear that fire risk tied to homeless encampments are taking up a significant amount of the fire department's time. Uh, here in San Diego. You interviewed homeless people living in Balboa park. What's their take on fire risks in the cities? Speaker 1: 06:53 Canyons? Some homeless, the people we spoke with for this story said fire is really a necessity. They described how cold it gets during the winter, especially in Canyon beds and said they need fires to cook with and keep warm. Uh, certainly, you know, there's a variety of opinions on this. Some folks are quite careful about the fires they create. Others admitted to smoking in the canyons and acknowledged fire risks. Uh, over all though there was a sense in talking with people who live outdoors that the public doesn't understand the challenges and that city officials could be doing more to help. Uh, they talked about, you know, a lack of bathrooms and other resources within the parks they live in. Now, ideally there would be no homeless encampments in parks and canyons, but since there are, are there any ideas how to make them safer? This question to deputy fire chief Doug Perry, and he said the best solution is to get homeless people out of the city's parks in canyons and to get them housed and taken care of elsewhere. Speaker 1: 07:52 Thousands of homes line San Diego's canyons and the city knows that in terms of fire danger, these places are the most at risk. So there are very real worries about this problem having homeless people living in the canyons and using fires to cook and stay warm presents a serious risk. But housing the homeless in San Diego, uh, as you know, has been challenging and looking at the data for the past five years, which some believe is an under count. We have not seen the numbers budge very much. A citywide, the count found about 5,000 homeless. And as we mentioned earlier, more than half are without shelter. I want to talk more about the city's brush clearance rules for canyons and parks. Who's responsible for clearing brush near homes and what safety precautions are in place. So residents who to live near canyons and park should be aware that there are not a lot of safety precautions in place. Speaker 1: 08:45 Canyon beds for example, are not required by the city to be cleared of brush. My reporting found that the vast majority of city land is not cut or managed to prevent fires. There are rules in place to protect homes on the perimeters of parks up to 100 feet of cleared space as required as a firebreak, a responsibility falls to whoever owns the property. So sometimes a that responsibility is shared by the homeowner and the city. And where can folks report fire risks if they see problems in city parks and they're worried about it, the city directs folks to report problems to their get it done app. But you know, as we've been talking about, there have been issues with the app that they're working to improve. So we would be curious to hear how your experience goes if you try it. Um, certainly if there's an active buyer, you should call nine one one the city. Also has a line where you can report concerns about overgrowth and brush management. I you can find that phone number on our website. I knew source.org we've also got the full story there and tools you can use to check out your neighborhood. I've been speaking with our new source reporter, Mary Plummer. Mary, thank you. Thank you. Speaker 1: 00:00 The art gallery that exemplifies the new growth and vitality in Barrio Logan is closing lava. Degas gallery on Logan Avenue is part of what has become a thriving arts district. When lava Degas opened six years ago, many storefronts in the neighborhood were empty. Now lava Degas is apparently a victim of its own success as gentrification has brought with it, rising rents and more competition for space. Joining me are sone Lopez Chavez who runs LA bodega gallery with her husband and Sony. Welcome to the program. Thank you so much for having us. And Mary June is a San Diego based painter, muralist and printmaker who also works in Barrio Logan. In fact right across the street from a LA bodega. And Mary, welcome. Thank you. Now Sony, what have the last few days been like since you decided you could no longer stay in this space? So it's been quite an emotional roller coaster since we announced it. Speaker 1: 01:01 We've had so many people that have stopped in to to share how they feel, share their anger, their frustration. We've had a lot of people that are contacting us, um, wanting to support and wanting to help. What can you tell us about what led you and your husband to decide to close LA bodega? So our lease was up, um, and the owner decided to raise the rent and it's to an amount that we can't afford. Um, actually my husband, the manager was forced to sign a nondisclosure agreement before the negotiations even began. So we can't say the number, but I can tell you it's ridiculous. We reached out to the owner of the building, uh, former national city mayor Nick in zones. Uh, he says he never gave notice to increase wrench, but you maintain that as a big rent increase that's forcing you out. Speaker 1: 01:52 So what's that disparity about, do you think? Well, I mean, why and force us to sign a nondisclosure. What's, what's the point of that? We're not staying if we were staying, why doesn't he come and say, why are you leaving? What's the confusion here? Let's clear things up. Obviously he has seen the news. He's heard the radio. I mean, we're leaving. He's, he raised the rent and we can't afford it. [inaudible] talk to us, Sony, about what you are able to accomplish at lava Degas. Oh, it's been, it's been truly amazing. Um, when we first went in there six years ago, there was no, no other active business on the block on Logan Avenue. And so, um, we took quite a gamble. Uh, we were fearful that we wouldn't be successful because there were, there was nothing else there aside from Chicano park, which is actually what motivated us to, to go to that area and start the business there. Speaker 1: 02:48 And, um, we started to curate art shows and little by little, a lot of people started to come and they really loved the area and a lot of our friends then started to open up their own little businesses on the same block. And before we knew it, there were so many artists that were living there and had studios there and it'd be, became an art community. It just flourished in such a short amount of time. Um, it's been beautiful to see marriage you and tell us what LA bodega means to you and other artists in the area. Well, one thing love Degas, when they opened up, they were kind of, they were the one of the only galleries that were allowing, you know, people of whether you were an unknown artist or someone that had been making money out of our, like we were coming from different classes. Speaker 1: 03:40 So I, and different ethnicities also. So I mean I had met them when I was 24, now being 30. It was such like a vital time in my life and figuring out who I was going to be with art and for a Filipino girl coming from paradise Hills, that wasn't necessarily the one thing that you heard was you didn't, you never heard I want to be an artist when I'm like older, like, and it wasn't necessarily San Diego was still kind of coming with this idea, like where does art belong here? So finding a place like LA bodega and Barrio Logan in general, like that was, that became the safe space for me. That's why I have an emotional attachment to it being 24 and being 30 also pushed out. Let me ask you both, because you're creative thinkers, this happens a lot in different places. Do you think anything can be done to create a thriving art scene in a place and bring a place up from where it was without that leading to people getting priced out? Speaker 1: 04:41 Um, me personally, I, I am a strong believer of like you can introduce new things and still support what was, what is already there. Whether or not that is when you start your business or when you start living there is also like contributing like, like where are you, where are you gonna eat, eat around the areas that you are actually living in, eat. Like go and support the artists that are there. Like if you want to buy a certain merchant, go to the local areas that you're living in that you're choosing to be a part of that is new and also old at the same time. So I feel like, yes, we, you know, as artists, like we're coming into a spot that is much older and we are bringing in new, but a lot of us dedicate a lot of our time in allowing people to see that this is now a new and safe place, but also enriching the culture that had been there and dedicating like, like people like donate to each other. Speaker 1: 05:33 We are helping our community right now with LA bodega, like doting as much as we can to keep them in this, in the area. And so that bio Logan is not the same as what we knew of it in the 90s so it's, it could still be new and also thrive on it's history. So, and Sony I agree. I agree with what she said. Um, I think as long as the community supports one another, the, the small businesses support one another. No, Sony, you need to get out of the building by January 1st correct. And your last show is this Saturday. Tell us about it. What can the public expect? So the last show is this Saturday from five to 10. It's free. Open to all ages. Um, cosplay, play encouraged. Um, it's a star Wars themed art show and ironically it's called the last saga. Um, we will be accepting donations at the door. Speaker 1: 06:31 Any amount helps. And this was a home for a lot of people for six years. So we would love to see you come, say bye to the space, come cry, come laugh. Whatever you need to do. Do you plan to reopen somewhere else? That's, that's, that's the hope. We're looking, we're out there physically looking at different locations. We've actually had offers from people all over San Diego offering us their spaces. Um, San, I mean Chula Vista, national city, Sonny, CTOs, a lady called yesterday from LA Jolla. There's a need for spaces like ours out there. There is, um, we need an art community all over San Diego, not just our place. Everywhere. We need places to be able to express ourselves. Places where the community can come in and feel welcomed and we just need places. Like these are so crucial. But our hope is to stay in Barrio Logan. We are looking and praying that we'll find something soon. I know this has been difficult, but I'm so glad you came in to talk with us. I've been speaking with Sony Lopez Chavez who runs the LA bodega gallery and Mary June. She's a San Diego based painter in Barrio Logan. Thank you both so much. Thank you.

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On the same day House Democrats unveiled impeachment charges against President Trump, they also handed the president a major policy win when they supported an updated trade deal with Mexico and Canada. Despite the city of San Diego’s zero-waste goal, the Miramar Landfill still needs to be expanded to extend its lifespan. Plus, some of San Diego’s highest fire risk areas are in its canyons and parks. And that’s a problem as homeless people seek shelter there. “Only Here” profiles two guys who plan to stop the flow of trash across the U.S.-Mexico border. Also, grief, a common human feeling is often overlooked in combat veterans. After six years in the neighborhood, La Bodega art gallery in Barrio Logan is closing. The gallery owners say gentrification is to blame.