Democratic Party Convention, Sheriff Complaints, Vehicle Living
KPBS Midday Edition / June 3, 2019
Fourteen presidential candidates addressed the state Democratic Party convention this past weekend. Also, a KPBS lawsuit reveals unanswered citizen complaints against the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department, outdoor residential burning has been suspended throughout the county in preparation for fire season, people living in vehicles are calling a new San Diego law that bans the practice unfair and financial tips on how to save on travel.
Speaker 1: 00:01 We take a look at the state's Democratic convention plus. How prepared are we for fire season? I'm jade Hindman. Maureen Cavanagh is off today. This is KPBS midday dishes.
Speaker 2: 00:16 [inaudible]
Speaker 1: 00:23 it's Monday, June 3rd it doesn't happen often, but California was the center of the presidential race this weekend. 14 candidates address the State Democratic Party convention in San Francisco and many of them also held their public events and raise money in this state, but as capital public radio's been Adler reports that candidates didn't spend much time talking about California.
Speaker 3: 00:48 Hello California Democrats
Speaker 4: 00:52 when Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar stepped on the California Democratic Party convention stage Saturday afternoon. She opened by praising some of the golden state's blue policy.
Speaker 3: 01:00 See, it is so great to be in a state that has led the way on paid family leave, $15 minimum wage worker protections and reproductive rights.
Speaker 4: 01:13 South Bend, Indiana may or p Buddha judge was quick to say he feels right at home in California.
Speaker 5: 01:17 Yeah, because the spirit of this state is so much like the spirit of my campaign, new thinking, bold action. The focus on the future
Speaker 4: 01:28 in New Jersey. Senator Cory Booker made sure the crowd knew his mother graduated from a Los Angeles high school and the University of Southern California.
Speaker 5: 01:35 Well, this is a state that gave my family a black family coming from Louisiana, a chance to make it.
Speaker 4: 01:42 But that's pretty much all they said about California for the rest of their seven minutes speeches. Even the state's own Senator Homily Harris.
Speaker 3: 01:48 And the thing I love about California Democrats as we are never afraid of a fight, we liked a good fight.
Speaker 4: 01:56 The other candidates who addressed the convention also kept the remarks focused on national issues. And of course president Trump, the golden state votes earlier, this presidential campaign with vote by mail ballots for its new march primary going out the day of the Iowa caucuses. So candidates are campaigning publicly in doing more interviews. They're not just coming here to raise money yet. California is still not getting the Iowa treatment. I didn't hear anyone talk specifically about any issues going on in California. Like, Hey, I understand that president Trump is potentially holding up money for wildfire survivors and that's not right. We need to make that right. That's Carol Dauman, a media strategist who worked for former Democratic governor, Gray Davis. She calls not focusing on golden state issues. A missed opportunity. I mean, when you have two dozen candidates, 14 of which are here today, someone could have really stood out and just said, hey, yeah, I understand some of the issues in California. Nobody did that. Even though the convention in San Francisco was on Harris, his home turf, the candidates who seem to draw the most positive receptions where Buddha judge,
Speaker 6: 02:59 and so the riskiest thing we could do is try too hard to play it safe. Okay. Beating Donald Trump is a must, but that is a floor, not a ceiling. Massachusetts
Speaker 4: 03:11 Senator Elizabeth Warren,
Speaker 6: 03:12 we need big structural change and yes, I have a plan for that. In Vermont. Senator Bernie Sanders, there is no middle grounds.
Speaker 4: 03:26 On the other hand, John Hickenlooper got boots.
Speaker 6: 03:28 If we want to beat Donald Trump and achieve big progressive goals, socialism is not the answer. I was reelected. Oops.
Speaker 4: 03:41 Former vice president Joe Biden's skipped the convention entirely. He campaigned in Ohio instead. Carol diamond says Biden who is leading in national polls didn't miss much by staying away. No, he's the vice president. He has 100% name Id. Ah, this is not, his crowd is crowded. That didn't stop several of his rifles from taking shots at him, even if they never mentioned his name in San Francisco. I'm Ben Adler
Speaker 7: 04:05 and joining us now is been Adler capital public radio's capital bureau chief. Ben, welcome. Hey, good to be with you. So you spent the weekend at the State Democratic Party convention in San Francisco. What are some of the major themes at the convention? The presidential race of course dominated 14 candidates, many of whom you just heard in that story spoke to the delegates and crowd, the total of around 5,000 people. And then the state party also elected the delegates at the convention also elected a new State party chair. And there was a divide in the party over the more establishment choice. First, the more progressive grassroots choice and uh, the, the establishment, uh, won that battle. And who did well at the convention? First presidential candidates go. I think that the three who had the strongest showings, just gaging the reaction in the room and perhaps unexpectedly. So Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Pete booted, judge and Bernie Sanders had a strong showing on Sunday too.
Speaker 7: 05:02 There were just fewer people in the room because it was Sunday morning. There were only a handful of candidates speaking that morning and I think many folks had already left. So, uh, if you don't mind, I've got a piece of tape from Elizabeth Warren making an argument that can be seen as an implied jab at former vice president Joe Biden who did not come to speak. And, and perhaps no wonder because candidates, uh, a couple of candidates were booed when they signaled that they were opposed to single payer health care and instead preferred universal healthcare with a public option. So let's hear from Elizabeth Warren.
Speaker 6: 05:35 Some Democrats in Washington believed the only changes we can get our tweaks and nudges if they dream it all they dreams small. Some say if we all just calm down, the Republicans will come to their senses. But our country is in a time of crisis. The time for small
Speaker 7: 05:58 ideas is over.
Speaker 7: 06:03 Um, and tell me who struggled at the convention. So this was interesting. This convention of course was home turf for California senator and former San Francisco district attorney in California, attorney general, Kamala Harris. And she was the first of the presidential candidates to speak. She spoke Saturday morning in, she had, you know, fine reaction in the crowd, but it was nothing like Elizabeth Warren who spoke a couple candidates later. So I wanted to play a clip from a delegate. We spoke with someone who's undecided. His name is Joe Griego. He's from Bishop in rural in your county. That's the eastern part of California. And he has not yet decided he voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary. And I asked him about Camilla Harris.
Speaker 8: 06:52 She did not inspire the, the passion or the emotion that I had hoped for. Um, when you think that is, that's a great question. I heard, uh, Cory booker speak and it, it, it was more inspiring and you have to use broad rhetoric, but personal examples. And Cory Booker does a wonderful job of storytelling to think that's the America that we could be. This is the democracy that we should be. And I didn't hear that from, from Camilla Harris, unfortunately.
Speaker 7: 07:33 And what else did you hear from the delegates you spoke with about what they're looking for in the 2020 presidential candidate ever? One is course is talking about electability or maybe not everyone, many most are talking about electability, although I think some may have different ideas of what electability means. There's this, this assumption that electability means Joe Biden, this group of delegates. And let's keep in mind these delegates are the most active of folks who are California Democrats. But given that, uh, you know, they're, they're not necessarily Biden fans there. They're not necessarily sure he's electable, which differs, I think from a lot of folks right now who have, according to national polls, I mean, Biden seems to be the, the, the leader, uh, at this early point in the race. Uh, I, I think Warren had a decent weekend. I don't think necessarily that Harris had all that good of a weekend.
Speaker 7: 08:21 And that's completely separate from that incident at a different event, at a different site this weekend where someone came up on stage and grabbed the mic out of her hand. Sitting that completely aside, it didn't seem like she was really closing the sale in what could have been seen as her home crowd at the convention. And tell us more about the election for state party chair. What can you tell us about the parties? New leader, Rusty Hicks. So he is a Labor leader in Los Angeles. He was up against Kimberly Ellis, a progressive activist from the bay area who lost the State party chair race a couple of years ago to an pick. And this is a case where there were a lot of elected leaders and staff and folks in the party establishment who were very nervous about what it would look like if Kimberly Ellis one. And they were very relieved on Saturday night when Hicks one surprisingly on the first ballot rather than going into a runoff against Ellis Sunday morning.
Speaker 7: 09:15 There were seven candidates overall. But when I reported that on my Twitter feed, just reporting fact, I mean my, my feed blew up with a lot of folks who were very upset about seeing that. I don't know how surprising it should be, but uh, it certainly was provocative that that behind the scenes a lot of relief that Kimberly Ellis did not win a rusty Hicks very much, you know, establishment institution, part of the Democratic Party. And it also showed the power of the labor movement within the Democratic Party to be able to deliver, um, the state party chair race too. Rusty Hicks
Speaker 1: 09:47 and you know, we should mention the previous chairman resigned and mid sexual harassment allegations, right?
Speaker 7: 09:51 Yes. Eric Bauman. Um, it's a four year term typically for state party. Chair bound was elected two years ago. He resigned last year. There was an interim chair until yesterday when, when Hicks took over. Yeah.
Speaker 1: 10:03 California's primary has been moved up to March 3rd and a vote by mail starts, as you pointed out the same day as the Iowa caucuses. Do you expect presidential hopefuls to continue to campaign in California until then?
Speaker 7: 10:15 Oh, I, I think they probably have to, I mean there's, there's the large, there's more presidential primary delegates at stake in California than any other contests. And you know, California is right up there in the first big pack of states voting after the four early states. There's also the fact that, uh, delegates are awarded by Congressional district and you have to get 15% across the viability standard could open up a lot of opportunities for delegates. On the other hand, this is not a retail campaigning state the way Iowa and New Hampshire are. You're not going to see, you know, someone stopping by a diner or maybe you will, but they will absolutely be making sure that there are TV camera's there and they probably won't be stopping to talk with every single voter, an answer in depth questions to the extent that Iowans can have. So California may be an early state, but as I said in my story that, that, that you folks just ran, still not quite getting the full Iowa treatment.
Speaker 1: 11:07 I've been speaking with Ben Adler, capital public radio's capital bureau chief. Ben, thanks so much for joining us. You're welcome.
Speaker 9: 11:14 [inaudible]
Speaker 1: 11:31 KPBS sued the San Diego Sheriff's department to release records that show how long it takes them to respond to citizens complaints about its officers. After nearly a year long battle for the records, the sheriff's department released the data last week. KPBS investigative reporter Clared track us or tells us their records reveal how many of those citizen complaints go on. Answered people file complaints
Speaker 10: 11:54 about everything from feeling like an officer was rude during a traffic stop to sexual assault. One deputy is currently on trial for allegedly assaulting multiple women. They say their complaints to the department were ignored. The data KPBS sued for shows that 72 complaints made to the sheriff's department never got a response of any kind. That's about a sixth of the total complaints received of the complaints that did get a response. 42 people had to wait more than a month. The average response time was 13 days. KPBS compared those numbers to the San Diego Police Department. Their average response time to complaints was 12.7 days. The sheriff's department handed over these numbers last week after KPBS sued. And that was KPBS reporter Claire Tragus her for more details on the lawsuit. She spoke with evening edition Anchor Ebony Monet. So Claire, tell us about this lawsuit. Right. So about a year ago we asked the sheriff's department for the dates that they received complaints and the dates that they responded to those complaints.
Speaker 10: 13:04 And we felt like that was a pretty straightforward request, but the department said No. Uh, so then we worked with lawyers at Sheppard Mullin law firm to try and negotiate to get those records. Um, we even offered to compromise and say, you know, give us just a sample of, of the dates. Um, and they still said no to that. So in January we filed a lawsuit to get the records and after that lawsuit was filed, um, the San Diego County indicated that they might be willing to negotiate for a settlement. And so, uh, we worked on that and then last week the settlement was reached and we got all of the records, uh, not just a sample of them. So why did you make the request? Well, it started after multiple women accused of sheriff's, uh, Sheriff's deputy of, uh, sexually assaulting them. And they said that they sent in letters to the department and complained to the department and never got a response.
Speaker 10: 13:57 And so that made us want to ask, okay, does that happen a lot? Um, so we just asked for the dates that people had complained and, and when they got a response to those complaints. So how has the sheriff's department responded? So they wouldn't do an on camera interview? Uh, but I did talk with Robert Fagan, who is the chief attorney for the sheriff's department. And he said, yeah, there are some complaints that haven't received a response, but he said that there are reasons for that. Uh, for example, someone might be, um, their complaint might be unintelligible or say something like his quote, uh, Martians landed on my yard, or the government is out to get me and they wouldn't respond to those complaints. Or maybe someone doesn't have a return address or they can't locate them. Uh, reasons like that. So during the course of your investigation, um, any more details about how they handled it?
Speaker 10: 14:48 Complaints? Yes. So he initially they track all of the complaints, the dates that they received them in a computer log, but then they don't go ahead and track when they responded. That changed in 2017 they got a new computer system and they were started also logging the, the dates they, that they responded to those complaints in pass reporting that I've done on this, I spoke with Dave Myers who's a 35 year veteran of the sheriff's department and he says that there actually isn't a really a set system for how they handle complaints. And he said that it makes the process ripe for abuse.
Speaker 11: 15:26 No other documentation, there's no other discussions. There may be a follow up email maybe to an immediate supervisor, uh, of what happened. And that would be the end of it.
Speaker 10: 15:37 And we should mention Meyers retired last summer after unsuccessfully challenging, uh, Sheriff Bill Gore in the election for the sheriff. So now that you've reached a settlement, what can you tell us about the, the terms of the set of Milton? Right. So like I said, they're going to provide, they provided all of the dates, um, that they responded to these complaints. They also paid about $18,000 in attorney's fees. Um, and they are lawyers really need that money, need the attorney's fees to be able to take on cases like this. They can't spend all of their time and not get any money for it. The sheriff's department has argued that it was a waste of taxpayer money to do this lawsuit. I would say that they could have provided the records in the first place and avoided having to pay anything very interesting. And KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trig. Sir, thanks so much. Thank you.
Speaker 1: 16:30 And She was speaking to evening edition Anchor Ebony Monet
Speaker 2: 16:34 [inaudible].
Speaker 1: 16:49 You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm jade Hindman and an effort to prevent wildfires. Outdoor residential burn permits in the county are suspended as uptodate official, say hotter, drier weather and a large amount of dead grass is raising the fire risk. Joining me to discuss the wildfire potential in the county is San Diego County fire authority chief Tony Meacham. Welcome chief. Thank you. It's a pleasure to be here. It is predicted this summer will be cooler than last summer. How will that impact the potential for a wildfire?
Speaker 11: 17:19 You know, it's kind of funny. I've been doing this 35 years and you know, for 35 years I've been saying we're gonna have a terrible fire season, but we still have all of the conditions to have a, a serious fire season. We have still experiencing the six years of the drought. Most of our trees are dead are brushes dad. And then this year with the rain we got a lot of grass and that's usually where our fire starts. So while it might be cooler, we still expect a fairly active summer
Speaker 1: 17:42 and we've gotten a good amount of rain this season as you mentioned. Uh, and it seems to be sticking around. Does that help the situation? All it does help
Speaker 11: 17:50 us. Uh, it's, it's really pushed off kind of our peak burning for a few more weeks. Although even last week, one day after the rain, we had four fires down in south county for about 30 acres. So, uh, the fuels are ready to burn. And what we have to remember is about 80% of the brush in San Diego is dead. It's beyond its life cycle. So we could get 500 hundred inches of rain, but as soon as we get two weeks, a hot, dry, warm weather, we're going to be right back to, to having fires every day.
Speaker 1: 18:14 How likely is it that we could see an urban fire?
Speaker 11: 18:16 You know, we have that potential every year and, and a, you know, call stole San Diego cities, fire chief, him and I talk a lot. And uh, you look at the amount of homes on these canyons and throughout the city, even while we may not have a really large fire, we have that potential for, you know, a smaller 10 acre fire, but maybe to destroy, you know, it doesn't home. So I think the threat is always there in San Diego County.
Speaker 1: 18:37 So we've certainly got the potential. We've got more grass. Yeah. There's, there's the potential for urban fires. How is the county addressing the potential for all these fires?
Speaker 11: 18:45 Yeah, that's been a really exciting beer this year. First on the state side, the state legislature, after what happened last year has been really active. There's almost a hundred bills in some form or fashion that are going to affect fire safety that we're working through. We also received a very significant budget augmentation to cal fire. So I'm getting an additional fire engine in the county and where we're really going both with the state and the county is starting to address the threat of wildfire before it occurs. Uh, and those are through mitigation. So I'm getting a fulltime fuels crew next week. The county of San Diego is going to give us another 1.5 million a year for pre fire activities. And I think that's really the long term answer is we have to change this kind of culture from, we're going to put out every fire and fire's bad to the realization we're always going to have fires.
Speaker 11: 19:29 And so what are things that we can do to improve the survivability of our communities? And so what should county residents be doing? You know, I think there's three things that they can really do. Number one is understand the fire risk. If you live in a fire prone area, recognize that you have a risk. Um, it really follows the ready, set go program. We need people to do their defensible space. That that hundred foot of clearance is probably the single greatest thing that a homeowner can do along with recognizing their threat. And then have a plan. You know, when it's a hot dry Santa Ana wind day, that's probably the time in the morning that you want to take some steps, make sure all of your windows are closed, you have things ready to go if there's a fire and we ask you to evacuate and then really stay engaged in, in this kind of fire issue. You know, when we have fires that's kind of president in everybody's mind. And then six months later we, we try and talk about community preparedness and I, and people don't want to prepare, but even with the public safety power shut offs that are, that are Korean people need to think about having drinking water and food and backup power. Um, and those things are critically important for us.
Speaker 1: 20:34 And as you said earlier, we had four fires in southern San Diego County last week. How quickly we're firefighters able to respond to those?
Speaker 11: 20:41 Oh, we were there very quickly. We are responding to the first fire, no tie lakes road. And it was actually our, our fire engine that across the second and the third fire. So we were in, we were there on all three fires in under 10 minutes. Fires didn't burn really great. They were kind of a dirty early season burn. But, but the, the one the gasoline fired did about 30 acres, which uh, you know, a day after it rained, I think everybody kind of looked around and said, hey, as soon as soon as we get some warm sunny weather we're going to be busy. And how did that all, you know, how does the time impact getting the fire under control? You know, the sooner we get there, the greater influence we have when a fire is still small. And so, uh, kind of what you see as the damage or the size of fire.
Speaker 11: 21:20 Oftens is directly related to our response times and between cal fire in the county, they've made tremendous improvements. I mean I have 16 more fire engines in the back country now than we did five years ago. So our, our response times are down, you know, by minutes in a lot of areas of the county. So it does have an effect the earlier that we get there. And the other part with those response times, I think people forget about 85% of what we do is the prehospital medical responses. So you know, minutes lead to cardiac survivability and prevention of brain death and all those sorts. It's really important that we get there. Quick. You mentioned that you all have more fire trucks. Talk to us a bit more about the tools that help firefighters quickly respond to wildfires. Yeah, I think it starts with the basic fire engine and we'll never move away from that.
Speaker 11: 22:06 That is us getting there and, and uh, putting hose on the ground and squirting water. Um, certainly our hand crews play a critical component of what we do and their role is to, to strip the brush between the fire, what's, what's burning and what's not burning. It's uh, you know, really hard work with chainsaws and it really hasn't changed in 100 years that we're still using axes and shovels to fight wildfire. And then certainly aircraft, you know, we use the aircraft, they don't put fires out, but they slow the advanced of the fire to allow our, our ground troops to follow up. We've seen a tremendous improvement in the aircraft, both with the sheriff's program, San Diego gas and electric is bringing on an additional helicopter for us this summer. Um, and then we're really excited with cal fire. We're getting into the [inaudible] business. So Ramona here locally is scheduled to have a [inaudible].
Speaker 11: 22:51 We will have one flying in and out of here this summer and we're about two years out from our permanent new aircraft being here. And what about the cameras in the back country? Do they play a large role in this too? Yeah, the cameras are a unbelievable until your short story. So last year we had the west fire that burned in July of last year, hot dry hundred and six degree day in east county. We had a fire down along the border and doe Zura, I was watching that from home. We got a nine one one call of a fire and Alpine, they immediately switched the cameras and within probably 15 seconds of the first nine one one call, we knew we had a bad fire in Alpine. So the aircraft that were already in the air, we diverted all that aircraft based on what we were seeing in um, in the camera. So they're a very, very valuable tool. And our dispatch centers one of the control points. So we have the ability to, to kind of point tilt, tilt and zoom those cameras in to look at a fire. So it's a, it's a great tool and oftentimes, especially with Santa Ana's, we may get reports, a three, four, five fires over the county coming in at once and now through those cameras were able to decide, hey, this one in this area is going to be bad and we start reallocating resources. So we use them everyday.
Speaker 1: 23:58 Hmm. And what have firefighters learned from the causes of the, the last big fires in California in terms of how to prevent the next big one from happening?
Speaker 11: 24:07 Yeah, prevention is always on our mind. You know, you look at the last couple of major fires, so they were electrical in nature, the Thomas fire, the Santa Rosa fires and certainly so we do, we just released the cause of the, the camp fire and paradise. We've done a tremendous job along with San Diego gas and electric here of a, of what they've done to harden their infrastructure. But our inspection program, we inspect literally every mile of their power system here in San Diego and we work together to mitigate those. And then a lot of it is education. I don't think people realize what can cause a fire mowing your lawn, a dry grass at two o'clock in the afternoon we'll start a fire. That probably wouldn't start a fire if you were doing that at seven 30 in the morning. So a lot of public education that we do.
Speaker 1: 24:50 All right. I've been speaking to San Diego County Fire Authority chief Tony Meacham chief meeting. Thank you so much. Thank you for having me in in San Diego. It's now illegal to live in your vehicle parked on the street. The law was passed with the idea that people can go to city funded safe parking lots to sleep overnight. But KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman says, while some people are looking to get out of their vehicles, others are not.
Speaker 12: 25:28 Paul Grasso has been living out of his van for the last year in San Diego.
Speaker 13: 25:32 It's a lifestyle for some, uh, something cheesy, but I'm just traveling and I got kind of stuck here in this for a little bit. I can't afford a rent.
Speaker 12: 25:41 Grasso sleeps in the ocean beach area and says he cannot afford renting a place on his disability income.
Speaker 13: 25:46 Do you live on 1000 a month and you, you can't even rent a one bedroom for 1,001. So what are, what are you to do?
Speaker 12: 25:51 He says living out of a van is not easy.
Speaker 13: 25:53 You're trying to get by on, on everything. In fact, cooking your vehicle and not go out to eat every time trying to stay healthy, which is very difficult.
Speaker 12: 26:02 After San Diego passed an ordinance barring people from sleeping in their vehicles overnight and anytime near homes or schools, Grasso says some residents have been putting notices on his car.
Speaker 13: 26:11 This means that the entire dog beach parking lot is no longer parking areas at all times if you are living in your vehicle. So B, I saw I'm not allowed in dog beach anymore cause I live in my vehicle.
Speaker 14: 26:24 You can't camp and on camping areas, uh, just like you don't want somebody living in your driveway. Um, it just, it for health, safety, all kinds of reasons. Denny Knox
Speaker 12: 26:38 is executive director of the Ocean Beach Main Street Association, which represents more than 500 businesses in ob.
Speaker 14: 26:44 We're generous community. We're kind of laid back and I feel maybe we've been taken advantage of.
Speaker 12: 26:50 If you go to ocean beach, you'll see many people living out of their vehicles. Knox is supportive of the new law and hopes it will drive campers out of town.
Speaker 14: 26:57 It brought a really rough element to town, which we didn't appreciate. Um, and uh, we're just not a camp ground.
Speaker 12: 27:08 When the city council approved the law, it was done with the idea that the city would provide lots for people to park and sleep overnight. The lots are run by Jewish family service and have case managers working to get people into housing.
Speaker 14: 27:19 You can target those services for those spots. Yeah, it makes perfect sense because when everybody's spread out all over the place, how do you get service to all these people? It's, it's unmanageable, which we've seen
Speaker 12: 27:31 but not everyone wants to leave their vehicles. It's comfortable. You know, it's got a real extravagant, you know, we've got, like I say, we, I'm solar. Some people like John Solar, no, are just looking for a place to park and sleep in their home on wheels. It's a 1999 is 35 feet solar not lives out of his RV by choice. I just retired. I'm 65 and we elect and instead of paying rent, you know, to get us to try to save him. And I had a house, I sold the house, I needed the equity money, you know, cause then they can use as much as I thought I was getting go. My social security normally parking his 35 footer isn't a problem. So Learn, oh says he pays to sleep at an RV park but can't stay there all the time. I do have a membership, Marie stay at three weeks out of the month, about one week out of the month.
Speaker 12: 28:08 We have to, we have to move because of the, uh, rules pertaining to that membership. That means one week out of every month. So no has to find other places to park and sleep. I'm trying to stay out of people's way. I didn't like doing to here, you know, uh, hinder anybody's via, I mean view of their ocean rivers. I think they were parking, I'm hindering their views or whatever. So we tried to standard residential neighborhoods so we don't bother them. That's why I'm in a secluded place here. He feels the new law is not fair. They've isolated us. They picked us out and things kind of discriminatory Salerno things. If people are following other laws, they should be able to park and sleep on public streets. You got her registered, you're not being a hindrance, so you're not being a nuisance. Okay. You have a right in privilege, you've earned Grasso and ocean beach agrees.
Speaker 13: 28:48 There are people who try their best just to get by and it makes it much more difficult when you have to worry about someone clamping down on you or taking Europe. Lou, what little you have left.
Speaker 12: 28:59 The San Diego Police Department says they have not started ticketing people under the new law, but we'll soon Jewish family service is set to open at safe parking lot and mission valley. Within the next few weeks it will be able to accommodate both cars and RVs. And that was KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman for more on the new vehicle ordinance. He spoke to midday addition cohost Maureen Cavanagh. Let's talk about this. Statistics involved in this issue. How many people does the city estimates sleep in their cars overnight? Right. And we really don't have numbers just specifically for the city of San Diego. Um, voice of San Diego reported from the, we all count that there's more than 500 people living in their vehicles county wide. Um, so it's, it's really unclear. You know, I talked to Sdpd they don't a definitive number of how many people they can say there are, but it appears like it's in the hundreds.
Speaker 15: 29:46 Okay. So how many of the safe parking lot spaces are there?
Speaker 12: 29:50 Right. So right now the CEO of city sponsored safe parking lots. There's 120, and those are in Kearny Mesa at those lots, uh, funded by the city, but run by Jewish Family Service and nonprofit. Um, they're planning on bringing 200 more online and those are going to be in mission valley. I'm at an old lot right across from Stcu stadium that's going to be able to accommodate RVs and they say that that's going to open up in mid June. So within the next few weeks,
Speaker 15: 30:13 one in the city way to enact this law until they had a more adequate number of safe spaces for the vehicles overnight.
Speaker 12: 30:21 Yeah. You know, there's a lot of discussion of that at the council meeting. Um, when they voted on this, it seemed like there was some confusion saying that we, we can't enact this until, uh, we have the required number of spaces. Um, that is not a requirement. That wasn't part of the ordinance. You know, homeless advocates or people who are advocating for people living in their vehicles feel that that should have been done. Um, the city council decided to vote, um, without making that a, a caveat. Basically,
Speaker 15: 30:46 when the police start to begin ticketing vehicles, what's the worst that could happen to the people who are living in their cars?
Speaker 12: 30:53 Right. Yeah. So at, at that council meeting, a, a city rep said, you know, the way that this law is designed, it's to make impounding somebody's vehicle, a last resort. I've done a number of stories on people who say that they have had their vehicles in patent, their RVs taken away after they had gotten so many tickets under the old ordinance. Obviously, we don't know how that's gonna Pan Out, what this new ordinance, but the city says that they want to make impounding in an Rv, a last resort. And like SDPD says they want it, get people to comply. Um, it's all about education and just getting compliance with the new law.
Speaker 15: 31:23 Now, during this whole controversy, we've heard a lot from the people who say they've chosen so-called van life, right? They choose to live in their vans, but a lot of people in this situation didn't make a choice. They just wound up having to live in their vehicles. Is there a difference in the way these two different groups are reacting to this new law?
Speaker 12: 31:40 Yeah, I think there's differences and their similarities. I mean, you heard in the story, the one gentleman who stays near a ocean beach a lot, um, you know, he's disabled. He doesn't make enough money, $1,000 a month to rent a place here in San Diego. Um, and he feels that it's very unfair that he potentially could be ticketed again. He said he had been ticketed in the past. Um, then you talk to somebody who liked that retiree who's in there, who they, he and his fiance moved out of there a home. They sold their home. They said they needed the equity and they bought an Rv. And so they're living out of their RV because they say, you know, it's more affordable. He feels like, Hey, if I'm following every law, you know, my registrations, good to go. I have insurance. Why should I be able to park and sleep on the streets? But I think that there's a general consensus that this law is unfair. You know, like that, that gentleman I didn't have time to include in the story, um, who sleeps in his RV. He stays at like a RV park part of the time. He, he understands where the city's coming from in terms of, you know, you see these RVs that people buy for like $500 in there, like from 1970 in a piece of junk. Um, he doesn't want to see those either. And he thinks that gives people a kind of a bad rap.
Speaker 15: 32:44 Did you speak with anyone who was relieved that perhaps by parking in these safe parking lots that they would be able to get services that might get them out of having to live in their car?
Speaker 12: 32:55 Honestly, no. Um, you know, when you, when you talk to people, people either haven't heard of those lots or they don't want to go, at least the people who I've talked to, um, I have yet to talk to somebody who says, you know what, where are those lots? I, I want to go there. So there's a general resistance to going there. I don't know necessarily why that is.
Speaker 15: 33:12 It sounds like neighborhoods though, where there were many people living in cars really pushed for this new ordinance. We heard in your story about the bathroom problems involved. Yeah. What other problems did those living in cars? Brain to the neighborhood?
Speaker 12: 33:27 Yeah, I mean at, at that council meeting, there was a lot of people who say that they lived in the beach community and then they were just, you know, RVs and there were campers and vans everywhere. Um, just people say things like trash, um, drug use. Um, but these are all obviously a anecdotal. Um, cause you talked to some people living out of their vehicles and they say, Hey, I don't, you know, I pick up after myself. If you want to look at people making trash, look at people, college kids who are on the beach and they have a party and they leave all their stuff or tourists that go there and they'd do the same thing. They feel that they're being kind of scapegoated when they talk about things like trash at the beach. And, but a lot of, a lot of residents said that they were like afraid to go into the bathrooms because people were doing drugs in there and just, you know, people leaving trash outside of their vehicles. Some people even complained that they're just taking up parking in the parking lots down there. Especially in ocean beach. I mean if you go down there right now, you'll see plenty of RV's. But I will say at least when I go down there during the day, there are plenty of parking spaces.
Speaker 15: 34:21 Any idea when the SDPD will start issuing tickets for sleeping in cars,
Speaker 12: 34:24 right? Yeah. So I talked to them. There's no set date right now. Um, there's still under this education phase where they're saying that they're getting complaints from people. They're going out there making contacts with people. So like if you called the police and said, hey, there's somebody sleeping in RBS had at my house, they would go there. They would let them know, hey, the laws in effect right now, um, you can't do this. Make some other accommodations. They give them a number for Jewish family service. Now, obviously that lot's not open yet, but it is going to start happening soon. I mean, I talked to one officer who said usually they wait about a month before they started enforcing it. I know it would make sense if they started doing this. Um, when they opened up that new safe parking lot in mission valley, they haven't said whether or not they're going to do that. But yeah, as of right now, it's not being enforced and, uh, some residents probably aren't happy about that.
Speaker 15: 35:08 I've been speaking with KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman, man. Thank you. Thanks Maureen. And he was speaking to midday addition cohost Maureen Cavanagh.
Speaker 2: 35:16 [inaudible].
Speaker 15: 35:28 You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm jade Hindman. Are you ready for a vacation? We'll travel experts say more than 260 million us are. That's the number of Americans expected to travel by air this season. Airlines are already warning of potential delays and canceled flights due to a shortage of TSA agents and the grounding of the seven 37 Max. But if you plan ahead and are flexible about your travel, you may still find great getaways at bargain prices. Elizabeth Harriman travel editor with Westways, a magazine for AAA members in southern California, spoke over Skype with KPBS midday addition cohost Maureen Cavanagh. Now can you give us an overview of this? Summer is overseas travel season. Where in the world are the bargains?
Speaker 16: 36:13 Well, the bargains are in places like Spain of all the European countries. Spain is perhaps the most affordable. You might not have thought of that, so that is one place where the bargains are, but really the bargains can be any place if you plan ahead. You mentioned being flexible. Flexible is really the key to traveling. Be Flexible when you fly. If you fly on a Tuesday or Wednesday, you're likely to get a better rate than if you fly on a Friday. So if you can alter the day or time that you fly, if you fly into a different airport, you might get a better rate. So being flexible and if you can travel off season. I were talking about the summer travel season, but there are some places if you want to go to Europe, say in the winter the fall or winter prices will be lower and the art seasons and the symphonies and all will be in full swing.
Speaker 15: 37:09 If you are planning to fly, considering the problems that may pop up this year, this big travel season, should you have a backup connection plan in place,
Speaker 16: 37:18 you should always have a backup plan. Say if you're doing a connecting flight, Eh, you've connect through Dallas Fort Worth. Always have a plan. Say if you maybe need to stay overnight in Dallas, fort worth, know what the schedule is. The alternate schedules are and it really helps if you're a member of a frequent flyer program. That really helps to if say your flight is delayed, if you're a member of a frequent flyer program and the higher you are in that program, you will get first crack at the new flights and go to your cell phone. Don't wait in line at the ticket counter. If you do get a change, go to your cell phone and call that 800 number for your frequent flyer program. They will help you out.
Speaker 15: 38:04 What about when you get to your foreign destination? How do you avoid spending money? You don't have to on accommodation and getting around. Well, you'll plan ahead. Yeah, head
Speaker 16: 38:14 and one of the best things you can do is actually opt for a tour or a guided vacation that can actually save you a lot of money. Not a lot of people are saying, Oh, I do not want to get on and off a bus with 40 other people. I hear you, but in the first place, guided vacations or escorted tours are not what they used to be. They're much more immersive. You take cooking classes and and gardening and make scones in an Irish farm house, but that will save you about as much as 40% off paying for the hotel and transportation individually. Now, if you don't want a guided tour, you can take a package where you have some of the benefits of the guided tour. Your hotel is all planned, planned in advance and maybe a city tour, but you travel individually. You don't have to, you know, wait in line at the different stops and then there's food.
Speaker 16: 39:06 If you do travel alone or you want to go it on your own, how do you save on your travel food budget? We'll definitely try all the local places. Not only will it save you money, but you get a sense of the authenticity of the place where you're visiting because really food is one of the ways that you experienced a place's culture. If you're in Singapore, go to the Hawker stalls. They are totally approved. They are sanitary. I remember a wonderful time in Harlem, which is this great city outside Amsterdam. We went to this little stand where they sold Belgian fries, really French fries, but they're really Belgium fries, but they serve them with mayonnaise and Oh, you've never tasted anything so decker that in your life? No. Uh, I know travelers are often surprised by fees they encounter in foreign currency exchange. How do you avoid that?
Speaker 16: 39:57 First of all, the best way to exchange money is do it at a bank ATM. Avoid those kiosks. Don't, don't go to Henry over there who was luring you over there and saying you get a better rate here. No, go to the bank ATM and do fewer transactions of greater amounts. In other words, one was drawl of $300 rather than three withdrawals of $100 each because they'll, you know, typically charge you a withdrawal fee and use of credit card to pay for things whenever possible cause you'll get the best exchange rate and try to avoid foreign transaction fees. Many credit cards charge a fee of one to 3% on every purchase you make outside the u s so check your cards policy before you leave and if it charges the transaction fee, you might consider getting one that doesn't just to use on your trip.
Speaker 16: 40:47 Now, Elizabeth, you say one of the best travel values is taking a cruise. Why is that? Well, first of all, you pay one price upfront. You budget in advance, you know what your vacation is going to cost, it covers your accommodation, your transportation, all your food. Well, when I say all your food, there are maybe some specialty restaurants where they might charge extra and most onboard activities. That's all included in your airfare. You can pay more if you want like a specialty restaurant or, or some of those drinks they keep up with the fancy umbrellas that they keep trying to tend to you with, but you don't actually have to and you can get off a cruise. I mean it is. You can take a cruise for as little as a hundred dollars per person per night and have a fabulous time with all those things included. And you can barely stay at a hotel for $100 a night.
Speaker 15: 41:38 Now, you know, travel agents in this day and age are sometimes thought to be passe because we can book our own travel or on flights and excursions. But you say that that's not the case. Why should we still use a travel agent?
Speaker 16: 41:51 A travel agent can save you time and hassle and money. Uh, you know, I'm the travel, the travel editor of Westways and I use travel agents and it's not just because I'm with AAA. Uh, I use travel agents long before I started working for Aaa because my time is valuable and they saved me time. And they also know about deals and discounts that you might not know about. Now if you're just doing a single flight from point a to point B that you could do on your own. But if you're booking a tour or a cruise or a complicated vacation, they will plan the itinerary. They can book your hotels and your transportation and your cruise or tour.
Speaker 15: 42:31 Well, so travel bargains don't always mean going for the lowest price, right. But, but for the actually the best value,
Speaker 16: 42:39 that is a really good point, Maureen. I'm so glad you mentioned that. Look for value. For instance, I say never book the basic economy, which is the economy class below me. Irregular economy. You might find yourself out on the wing if you do that. Um, because if you do that basic economy, you don't get a seat assignment. You don't get to put your luggage in the overhead, but sometimes you can spend a little more and get a lot more. I remember one time my husband and I wanted to save money and we booked this London hotel and the room was about the size of a closet and you had to climb over the bed to get to the bathroom. That was a little too much budget minded. So go for affordability and value. Not necessarily the lowest price.
Speaker 15: 43:22 I've been speaking with Westways travel editor, Elizabeth Herrmann. Elizabeth, thank you so much. Thank you Maureen. And she was speaking with Maureen Cavanagh.