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San Diego Officials Warn Of Fire Dangers, Mexico Cartel Violence, Horton Plaza Tech Campus Plan In Jeopardy And More

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After several small brush fires that started in canyons and open areas, San Diego City officials are urging residents to be on the alert for potential wildfires. In state after state, the Mexican government long ago relinquished effective control of whole towns, cities and regions to the drug cartels. The Culiacán incident is just the latest example. The plan to turn Horton Plaza into a tech campus downtown may be in jeopardy as Macy’s, one of the last remaining retail stores in the largely defunct mall, is suing to block the new mall’s owner from making changes. The San Diego Opera opened its season with Verdi's ‘Aida.’ KPBS arts and culture reporter Beth Accomando sits down with the opera’s general director, David Bennet, for a preview of the upcoming season.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:01 It's hot and dry and the end of October time to be on high fire alert.

Speaker 2: 00:05 They see smoke or flames. They should call nine one one immediately. Don't assume someone else will report it. I'm worrying Cavenaugh and I'm Jade Hindman. This is KPBS midday edition

Speaker 3: 00:21 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 00:24 a shootout in Mexico leaves resident shaken and a suspected drug dealer free. I mean they basically had to let him go at that point. That was not a difficult decision but decision we should be scrutinizing as why they undertook the operation in the first place. Macy's lawsuit could put Horton Plaza renovation at risk and a preview of the new San Diego opera season. That's a head on midday edition. First, the news

Speaker 3: 00:58 [inaudible] [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 01:00 San Diego is worn to be on alert during this week's fire weather

Speaker 2: 01:04 and a drug cartel shootout with Mexican authorities leaves a city traumatized. I'm Jade Hindman and I'm wearing Kevin. This is KPBS mid day edition

Speaker 3: 01:22 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 01:23 It's Monday, October 21st fire crews are battling a brush fire reported near the intersection of interstate eight and willows road in Alpine. Some evacuations and freeway lane closures are reported in the area. We'll keep you up to date on the latest information about that fire through the hour. San Diego fire and rescue has beefed up staffing as we kick off this week with very dry, very hot weather forecast or say a mild Santa Ana is kicking up in the East County and that coupled with single digit humidity spells fire danger. Mayor Kevin Faulkner held a news conference this morning to remind San Diegans about that fire danger.

Speaker 4: 02:03 If you see something suspicious to please let the police department know right away. Uh, if you see an encampment to use the get it done app so we can send workers out to get folks help to get them services and to get them out of a dangerous, unsafe, unclean environment in our canyons.

Speaker 1: 02:24 Joining me is Monica immunos, public information officer for San Diego fire and rescue and Monica, welcome to the pro.

Speaker 5: 02:31 Thank you for having me. How does San Diego fire prepare for increased fire risk? There are many, many things that we do. One of the things that we did starting on Sunday at 8:00 AM was we staffed several of our brush engines, which are the off road vehicles that we would use in a brush fire or Canyon fire type environment because they can go off road. And so those typically reside at fire stations spread out around San Diego, but they're not always staffed. So we added a crew of four firefighters to each of those breasts engines. This time we added five and they are uh, as I said, they positioned at various locations around the city. And if we do get reports of a vegetation fire, then we're able to send those brush engines immediately. And we can also send our standard engines because they're there additional staffing.

Speaker 5: 03:22 So we don't have to sacrifice not being able to send a certain apparatus because we have enough staffing. The other thing we do is we bring in pilots on overtime. So we did staff for Sunday, starting at 8:00 AM 24 hours through Monday, which will actually be til Tuesday morning. We have two helicopters, firefighting helicopters that are available 24 hours. Now, the mayor spoke today about a series of small fires that broke out recently. Can you tell us about those small blazes? Yes. I think going back to the beginning of August, the one that I remember was down in San Ysidro. It was very close to San Ysidro high school and it was an open space area, not to a Canyon technically, but an open space brush area and there were wins that day, not Santa Ana conditions. So it did burn about 500 acres I believe. And that's a decent amount of space and it did cause a decent amount of disruption because there were people who live close to that area.

Speaker 5: 04:18 Fortunately the wind was blowing in the opposite direction as the residences, but it did catch a pallet yard on fire. And so that was very dramatic video in a pretty dramatic incident for that business owner. And that fire was not intentionally set because we do in any of these cases have investigators look into these fires and that one was not intentionally said. Then also a couple of weeks after that, we had a fire over at San Diego state, very close to here and it was on the edge of the freeway and it actually jumped over into several different Canyon areas that are there along the edge of the property that, but that a but um, highway eight. So that was a windy day. Again, not Santa Ana conditions, not low humidity. So we were doing pretty well as far as availability of resources. We had the air support from Cal fire and also our helicopters were available.

Speaker 5: 05:10 And so anyway, we, there was also another one just recently in, um, Talmadge of course that, uh, was a, a larger fire and we did do evacuations, mandatory evacuations very quickly on the edge of the Canyon. A few streets in Talmage or something that links these fires in any way. Obviously they were not intentionally set, but are there conditions that, that uh, beyond the weather that linked these fires, are those canyons not cleaned out? Well in some cases, and I didn't look into each Canyon itself, the open brush area, it could have been because that's a typical area down in South Bay where people drop trash, they dump trash. So sometimes when you have, we have no idea what people dump. And so we don't know if that's something that if you get some heat and a little bit of wind to can be a item, we just don't know what those items are.

Speaker 5: 05:59 So again, it's not someone going around setting these fires. Although down in South Bay there were some fires that were intentionally set in another area. Um, but these, these, these incidents can happen because of a spark thrown by a person driving by who has a catalytic converter that's not functioning properly and properly. And that is very, very common. If a fire breaks out in a neighborhood watch, should people who do, who see the smoke and they see the fire engines, what should they do? First thing they should do is if they don't see a fire engine, if they see smoke or flames, they should call nine one one immediately. Don't assume someone else will report it, please report it if you see it. And then people who live along Canyon edges should already be prepared during this time of year. Uh, you know, again, this is the anniversary of the witch Creek fire and then dirt later this week, the Cedar fire.

Speaker 5: 06:48 And those are very, very significant fires in our history. So we know that at this time the fire danger does become a little bit more extreme. So we want people to have their documents, their prescriptions, their, you know, things that they cannot replace, ready to be able to get out the door very quickly because you will only have probably fewer than five minutes if a law enforcement officer comes to your door and says you need to leave. We also want to encourage people to leave in advance. You don't have to wait until someone comes to your home and tells you if you see the smoke and see the flames or it's making you feel uncomfortable. Go ahead and evacuate. Go to a friends, go to a relatives, go to a hotel. Um, we have a fantastic guide on our website. It's called ready, set, go. It talks about fire prevention, how to harden your home. It talks about what to pack in case of an emergency. It also gives you survival tips in case you're in your home and you can't evacuate. So there's a lot of really valuable information that you can find that@ourhomepageatsandiego.gov I've been speaking with Monica Munoz, public information officer for San Diego fire and rescue. Monica, thank you so much. My pleasure. Thank you, Maureen.

Speaker 6: 07:59 Official. Say 14 people died as residents took cover while soldiers and the cartel clashed over the government's capture of El Chapo son and Kalia Kahn. Last week, Mexican soldiers were outnumbered and outgunned. They had to release El Chapo son, Ovideo Guzman Lopez to stop the gunfire. The move is being met with relief from residents and criticism from those who say this will only embolden the cartel of Mead. Professor at the Kroc school of peace studies at the university of San Diego worked in the area and joins us to talk about all that's unfolded. Professor Mead, welcome. Hey, thanks for having me. So tell us about the work you've done in CLIA con.

Speaker 7: 08:38 Well, we've been leading a certificate program and applied piece education, basically playing our part as academics and the growing peace movement and [inaudible]. And that's one of the things that makes this event so striking. Uh, we have lots of friends who, you know, were terrified, trapped in various places, but we've also seen the flowering of a movement of people who are really working to prevent violence and things had been getting way better in Siena law over the last three years. It's one of the only places in Mexico where violence has gone down. And this really came to a sort of crashing halt at three 30 on Thursday afternoon. And you had planned to travel there to continue this work on Friday a day after the violence erupted, right? Yeah, I was supposed to be there for a conference this week and uh, um, it was really, um, it was really surprising and I was literally like finishing my talk and packing my bag when a whole bunch of friends messaged and said, don't come.

Speaker 7: 09:28 And you know, there was no decision to be made. All the flights were canceled, the airport was closed. I mean this was a really serious outbreak of violence. As you mentioned, the situation in the city had dramatically improved in the last couple of years prior to Thursday's incident. Um, why do you think that is? I think there are a couple of things going on. I mean some of the major, cause I have to do with the drug war itself, um, have their own independent variables. So that has to do what's, what, what's going on in the world of, of organized crime. And it looked like there was a kind of adjustment within the scene, a cartel, they weren't fighting amongst each other so much, so things had kind of calmed down. But I also think that a large civil society movement, a new structure in the state government for dealing with and preventing crime, some changeover in the politics in the city, and really a collaborative ethos to start working on violence prevention.

Speaker 7: 10:16 I think that was really taking root too. And so I think it's kind of both. So with things, you know, they, they were headed in the right direction. So what was your initial reaction when you first saw the explosion of violence in Chloe ICAN on Thursday? You know, I was just stunned and uh, you know, like a lot of people. Um, I was also really hungry for good information and there just was none. I mean, that was one of the most amazing things here is you could sit here and scroll through Twitter and see videos of people with really heavy weapons, you know, Browning, MTS, 50 caliber sniper rifles, AR, fifteens in unmarked Vila vehicles all around the city. You could see smoke coming from all different locations you get here, you know, gunfire, really, really loud explosions of gunfire and not coming from one location.

Speaker 7: 11:00 It was coming from all over the city. So there's just this incredible sense of chaos and it really didn't abate until far into the evening when we finally had some confirmation that they had corralled or in re arrested in some fashion. There's still some debate about that. A OVO Guzman Lopez, and then decided to let him go on the end of the day. So tell us about El Chapo son. Oh, video Guzman Lopez. Has he taken over the Sinaloa drug cartel since it's father's arrest? No, and that's one of the most interesting pieces of the story, that this was not one, uh, this is a person who's important and obviously from an important family, but he is not, you know, the de facto leader of the cartel in any way, shape or form. He's an important figure in the cartel and I think American authorities and the indictment that they release last February, you know, lay that out.

Speaker 7: 11:49 He's involved in drug trafficking for sure, but this was not one of the heads of the cartels. And that's of the things I think made this so surprising, the fact that it was so much violence and so quickly and so in, in such an organized fashion. I mean, gunman literally came out of the woodwork. They had 19 different, uh, major intersections that they closed down every entrance and exit from the city. They surrounded a military base, they surrounded another federal base. And they surrounded the federal prosecutor's office. And this all happened, you know, in a, in a matter of, um, of minutes, literally within an hour of the, the, this arrest. So really, really quickly, Oh, video Guzman Lopez was released to stop the violence in Korea. Con Mexico's president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been widely criticized for this move. Uh, what's your opinion of that? Well, I think the, the criticism is somewhat misplaced and it's not that he doesn't bare blame, but that wasn't the important decision.

Speaker 7: 12:41 I mean, they basically had to let him go at that point. That was not a difficult decision. The decision we should be scrutinizing is why they undertook the operation in the first place. I mean, you have to understand that this was done at three 30 in the afternoon on a Thursday in the commercial center of a city of a million people. They put thousands of people's lives at risk to do this. They did it with no backup plan, no plan for getting them out of here. And we got confirmation today that they didn't inform state or local authorities that they were planning to do this. So they essentially gave them no opportunity to shut down the neighborhood or take other measures where they could have protected ordinary civilians or done things like reinforced, for example, the prison where 50 prisoners busted out of the prison at the same time.

Speaker 7: 13:24 And we're running through the streets and we're armed and picked up by the cartel. And at this point again, we still don't know why they went after Guzman Lopez. I mean, I, I think that they, that they, um, they had some good intelligence. I would presume they knew where he would be. Uh, and this is someone who's on a, the most wanted list and has an indictment against him in the United States. I mean, I think the fact that they went after him shouldn't be a surprise and it may have been in some narrow sense, the right thing to do, but it's how they did it. Uh, and it's also the information that they put out. I have to say the strongest criticism the federal government should be about that. First of all, the night that this happened, they said things that have proven to be just untrue.

Speaker 7: 14:03 You know, they said that this was a routine patrol and that they stumbled across him when they took fire from a house that no one believes that. And they basically walk that back. And then in the aftermath, you know, they haven't said, for example, if they ever really took him into custody or not a, there's a very strong narrative that maybe they did and they in fact let him go from the prosecutor's office, not from this, this house in a suburban neighborhood. We really don't know the answer to that, but the lack of transparency and the fact that they've tried to turn this into some political tasks where the president comes out and says, you know, I value the lives of the people of [inaudible] more than this arrest. Well, the actions that federal government demonstrate that that wasn't true, and that initial decision to go after them.

Speaker 7: 14:45 It doesn't mean that this government is responsible for this scene, although cartel, they certainly are not. This is a a, you know, a that they inherited from their predecessors, but they've got a level with people. Because the worst thing that could happen here is a loss of confidence in the government or the authorities generally, or a turn towards author Attarian measures, which we've seen in plenty of places, including Tijuana, including quad is, and the results of that have been just more bloodshed and violence. So we really need the government to level with everybody and they need to start talking about building coalitions. We need the state and locals to be on board with this stuff. Uh, we need more alliances and less in fighting. I've been speaking to professor EV meet at the Kroc school of peace studies at the university of San Diego. Professor Mead. Thank you very much. Thank you very much for having me on

Speaker 3: 15:32 [inaudible].

Speaker 1: 15:34 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman. I'm Maureen Cavanagh for many residents of rural California. A higher education seems out of reach. That's true for Amador County, Southeast of Sacramento where there is no community college, no public university. Our California dream collaboration is reporting this fall on solutions to some of the challenges facing the state in Amador County. A unique scholarship fund is now providing an educational steppingstone for residents who want to work in mental health. Sammy Kay Yola of Capitol public radio reports

Speaker 8: 16:13 about a dozen students trickle into Amador county's learning center and take a seat for orientation. They range in age from early twenties to late fifties

Speaker 9: 16:23 one are women. I'm Bailey and I'm, this is my last class for this. You took again, Becka. I have four kids, eight and under. My name's Tiffany. To be honest with you, in my life, I've been in path of addiction.

Speaker 8: 16:36 They're all after the same thing. A credential and human services which can open the door to entry level jobs in health and social work. For the last five years, amateur County has covered tuition for people who want to pursue this specialty. They take courses online through coastline community college in orange County. The scholarship board looks for residents with a personal tie to mental illness or substance abuse.

Speaker 9: 17:00 We have a great need in Amador County for trained people who can deal with the issues that we have here.

Speaker 8: 17:10 Mac Newell is with the Amador community college foundation, the nonprofit that runs the learning center. She says the goal is to create a pipeline of people with lived experience to fill gaps in the county's health workforce. They've given out 44 scholarships so far. About a third of students have graduated or already working in the field. Six more will graduate this fall with either certificates or associates degrees in human services.

Speaker 9: 17:33 The scholarship program trains our next generation of social workers and human services experts, but it's also pulling from the community that needs those resources.

Speaker 8: 17:46 When Tammy Montgomery heard about this option 2017 she was struggling with depression and PTSD. She lost three children in a car accident a decade ago, and then her home burned down in the Butte fire of 2015

Speaker 9: 18:00 we lost even the baby albums, the pictures, everything. So it was, it was really bad at the time and I did not deal with it well,

Speaker 8: 18:09 so she moved to Amador and decided to go back to school at age 56 it was her first class in 25 years and even filling out the online application was a struggle.

Speaker 9: 18:19 She came over and she goes, you're done. And I'm like, I don't know how to turn the computer on.

Speaker 8: 18:24 After a year of help from the community college foundation, Montgomery became the student rep on the nonprofits board and began tutoring other learners. She got her human services certificate and we'll finish her associates degree this spring and then just scroll up. On our recent evening at the center, she was huddled over a laptop showing a new student how to install a grammar app for essay. Right.

Speaker 9: 18:45 Do you need the book market thing right here? Okay.

Speaker 8: 18:48 Amador is one of a handful of counties leveraging a special pot of state mental health dollars to create what's known as peer support workers with a certificate. They can work with addiction recovery centers, clinics, or other agencies. The hope is for these workers to make a small dent and a mental health worker shortage that's worse in rural California, but unlicensed community workers alone can't solve the problem. Janet Kauffman is a health policy expert at UC San Francisco. Having folks in the system with lived experience who really understand what it's like is very important, but you know, they don't have extensive training in psychotherapy. What I would say is I think we need to make investments in the behavioral health workforce up and down the line. Still in rural communities like Amador, peer support training creates a pathway for people with limited options. Tammy Montgomery is volunteering with a hospice group. She goes to schools to work with grieving children.

Speaker 9: 19:47 It really got me out and started my life over again. It gave me something to do for a purpose.

Speaker 8: 19:53 California is one of only two States in the country that doesn't have a standard certification process for peer support workers in mental health. Governor Gavin Newsome just vetoed a bill that would have expanded this workforce citing funding concerns. Sammy K Ola cap radio news. Joining me is capital public radio reporter Sammy K Yola. Sammy, welcome. Hi, thanks for having me. Now a few times in your report you mentioned gaps in the mental health network and a lack of trained therapists in some areas of the state. How bad is that shortage? So it really varies where you are, but it's a clear divide between rural and urban areas. And you'll hear people in rural places talking about just having no mental health professionals needing to drive an hour or several hours to go see someone. And that's because a lot of these rural areas, they have a difficult time recruiting therapists and social workers. And especially psychiatrists.

Speaker 8: 20:54 People with those levels of degrees don't always want to work in these smaller places where the cases are can be tougher and the pay can be not as good. And so the university of California, San Francisco was able to actually track the number of psychiatrists per 100,000 residents. And I mean obviously many counties are small. They only have a few thousand residents. But these, these numbers are extrapolated. But there are some counties like Alpine and Glen and Plumas County at Trinity County that have zero per 100,000. There are others that have as few as between one and four psychiatrists per 100,000 people. So you can just imagine those psychiatrists get entirely booked up. Some of them don't accept medical or some of them don't accept private insurance. So depending on what coverage you have and where you live, you may have no options other than to drive a really long way. And if you're already hesitant about seeking mental health help, that can just be a huge insurmountable barrier.

Speaker 8: 21:53 Now in a series of reports, last year you looked into the mental health problems in Amador County and other rural communities in Northern California. Can you give us an idea about what you found? Sure. So yeah, I spent about six months reporting out the high suicide rate in Amador County. At the time I was there, it had the third highest suicide rate in the state, but it's closely followed by its neighboring counties. Um, all kind of in the Northern part of the state, all with relatively small populations. Um, high levels of poverty, high levels of drug and alcohol abuse, um, a lot of unemployment. And so, you know, that's one factor is just sort of this culture, um, of hopelessness for some people. A lot of people feel a little stuck there. Um, they don't feel that they have good job options or good educational options. So you combine that with substance use disorders and it can be a recipe for some bad mental health problems.

Speaker 8: 22:50 And the, the thing that really stood out as I interviewed people who struggle with mental health, people who work in the mental health field, people who had lost loved ones to suicide was how hesitant people are to talk about it. There is just, um, a stigma against mental illnesses, a stigma against seeking help. So a lot of people, you know, they acknowledge that something's wrong privately. And they, I talked to people who wouldn't even tell their their husband, they wouldn't even tell their mom. They wouldn't tell their, their best friends. Um, and they would just sort of keep it in and try to soldier on. There's this idea that you can kind of get through it. Um, and that you, you know, that it's weak. It's a weakness to complain. Um, I talked to a woman who, uh, was an EMT and she had severe PTSD and, um, was, was often contemplating suicide, but she didn't want to be on medication.

Speaker 8: 23:43 Um, because she, she felt like being on medication was, was, um, that, that she wouldn't, that wouldn't be strong, um, that she should just be able to take care of it herself. Now there is a concern that peer support workers with limited training may not have the capacity to help people who really need it. Is that concerned something you heard from the people at the learning center themselves? So I think the people at the learning center know that what they're getting is, is relatively limited. They're getting either a human services certificate or an associates degree in human services, which, um, you know, it's, it's, it's a low level, but it can be a stepping stone to getting a bachelor's or eventually a master's for them. It's, it's a good start. It's, it's a lot of them. It's the first education they've had since high school and not everyone finished high school.

Speaker 8: 24:30 And I think they see their role as, as a very unique kind of community role because they have experienced mental illness. They have maybe been through the County system and they know what it's like to try to get these appointments and, and try to keep them. And so they know that they're not going to be prescribing medication or doing intense counseling, um, that, you know, those roles are higher up the food chain and we need to fill those roles too. But you know, I think what they're arguing is that if we fill the bottom, um, it is certainly better than having nothing. Now governor Newsome just vetoed a bill that would have expanded this peer support program. What does that mean to the future of this community college effort in Amador County? The bill would have created a formal certification for peer support. So as I mentioned, the students I wrote about, they're getting, uh, certificates in human services, which is like, it's kind of a vague realm, but it's all in the social work area.

Speaker 8: 25:29 So, you know, some people end up working for hospice or in grief counseling. Um, some people end up working at the food bank, some people work for homeless shelters. So there, there are a lot of different things you can do with human services. The peer support certificate just would've been more specific to mental health counseling and it would have standardized the training that everyone gets. So like in Amador County, everyone's getting a human services certificate, but in other counties they might be getting a different kind of certificate but doing the same kind of work. So the bill would have, would have created basically, um, a ticket to work in peer support and everybody would have been the same. But without that, I think students are still going to seek out programs. They might be all different programs, but these people with lived experience, they really, truly want to help and they want to feel like they're trained and have information to give out to their friends and neighbors.

Speaker 8: 26:21 And so even without a formal peer support certification, I think the peer support fields will continue to grow. And I think in a lot of these rural counties where recruiting high level professionals is such a challenge, growing peer support is going to be crucial. And the good thing is that there is funding for it. The mental health services act has an entire workforce development category and a lot of rural counties are using those funds, those state funds, um, to build peer support. And that money is there, you know, exactly for projects like this. So I do think we'll continue to see it grow. Um, you know, in, in his veto message, governor Newsome, you know, just mentioned some of the costs associated with the peer support certification process and those could come back up in the budget process. Uh, so yeah, we, you know, I, I'm hopeful, I think that there are enough people out there that, that will push this movement that it will keep going. I've been speaking with Capitol public radio reporter, Simon K Yola Sammy. Thank you. Yeah. Thank you.

Speaker 6: 27:23 Nearly two years after the legalization of recreational cannabis sales, the state's elicit pot market continues to be larger than its legal. One. California authorities blamed the online site Weedmaps for fueling much of the black market by posting ads from unlicensed dispensaries. The California report, Saul Gonzalez talked to the CEO of Weedmaps about his company's intention to take down the listings. The story begins with CEO Chris Beales answering criticism that the sites users aren't licensed

Speaker 10: 27:54 in most jurisdictions, no, they're wrong. Uh, in Southern California, uh, in California. Yeah, I mean in the sense that there's a broad number of people on the platform and at the end of the year we'll be rolling on the policy that if you don't have a license number, you can't maintain a listing or advertise a listing. How many unlicensed distributors or vendors dispensary's are on your site now in California? I mean, at this point we would estimate it's probably hundreds. I mean, since the beginning of the year we've had a reduction in almost 2000 listings, I think in the state of California. And we'd estimate the vast majority of those are people who are moving off into the digital ether. But why, why so long after the legalization of recreational cannabis, why don't you have the Gates up so those people aren't on your site? Well, until one thing that's not covered a lot is until the beginning of this year, medical cooperatives and the prop two one five collectives continued to be grandfathered in and allowed to operate.

Speaker 10: 28:48 And so I think sort of our working assumption was that licensing and, and frankly it's a bottleneck of local licensing would pick up steam and these businesses would be given licenses because that was the promise of prop 64 and frankly we were caught a little bit flat footed when that sort of increase in licensing didn't come to pass. And so I think at this point we've announced that if you don't have a license or that field is not filled in, you're going to come off the site. We're trying to give people a chance to react to that and then we're sort of dropping that deadline at the end of the year. Looking ahead. Um, you know, we're, we're almost at the brink of the second year anniversary of legalized cannabis in the state. What is it that you weren't expecting? The tap and you know, I think the core piece is the complete failure of cities and counties to actually move forward with the voter mandate to issue licenses.

Speaker 10: 29:37 So local control was the grand compromise in prop 64 where local governments could decide whether to license or not license. And I think the prevailing thought at the time was that if the majority of residents in a city or County voted yes, the city or County would then move forward with licensing. The has been the complete opposite. About 75% of cities and counties have no cannabis licensing. And as a result, California, if we think about retail or other licensed types per capita has one of the worst ratios in the entire country. And I think correspondingly is why we're seeing so much of our growth come outside of California. I mean at this point, looking at a market like Oklahoma or Maryland or where Florida's moving these markets have I think far more growth to them, far more size, far more access than anything we're seeing in the vast majority of California. Thank you so much. Thank you

Speaker 11: 30:29 again. That was Weedmaps CEO Chris Beales. By the way, right after we recorded that interview with Bealls, we'd naps announced it was laying off nearly 100 employees.

Speaker 6: 30:47 If you walk by Horton Plaza mall, you'll notice not much is there. Most people like in the 10 block property to a ghost town, but Macy's, one of three retailers left in the mall is working to hold on to whatever life it can, which is why a plan to turn Horton Plaza into a mixed use office campus was met with a lawsuit from Macy's. The retailer wants Horton Plaza to remain a retail space while the city and developers want to transform it into offices that will house high paying tech jobs. Joining us with Maury, Jennifer van Grove of the San Diego union Tribune. Jennifer, welcome. Thank you for having me out. You've been covering this. Uh, tell us first about the Macy's lawsuit and the city's reaction to it. What's the basis of the suit? So it's, it's a little complicated, but Macy's is a party to what's called a reciprocal easement agreement. And these are agreements that are, they're pretty outdated as far as retail goes.

Speaker 6: 31:42 But, um, they were popular in the 80s, which is when, um, well actually Macy's predecessor was involved in the agreement and it involved all of the anchor tenants, so it was Nordstrom's and a couple other, the department of the store is, I believe Mervin's, but they're all a party to this agreement, which essentially gave them veto rights over major redevelopment at, at the mall, at O at Horton Plaza. And since that's all we're talking about, time has gone by obviously and Macy's is the only department store left and they have this agreement but they don't feel like their rights are being acknowledged by Stockdale, which came in and purchased Horton Plaza last year. And the new owner of the mall is Stockdale capital partners as you mentioned. What is their vision for Horton Plaza? They see Horton Plaza, so they would like to what's called, um, adaptively reused building. So not tear everything down, but kind of strip it to this duds and remake it as a office, a campus.

Speaker 6: 32:46 And so, um, like nearly 800,000 square feet would be used for office. They would add four floors to the Nordstrom building and then on the ground floor they would do complimentary retail. So it wouldn't be like boutiques. They would be more food and beverage and fitness concepts and a, what do they say it will cost? Well they won't tell me a number actually, but you know, just through various documents that have come, come up through my reporting and it looks like they have a line item of $275 million for this project, it'll probably go up and they, um, they already spent 175 million buying the land. So we're looking at a half a billion dollars or more here. Wow. And Macy's did not buy into the Stockdale plan and indeed, uh, has been critical of it. Why? It's complicated. So if you ask Macy's directly, first of all, they, they don't like talking to me.

Speaker 6: 33:38 So I always get statements or get copies of letters. So I never get a direct answer. The answer that they've said publicly through a lawyer back in April was just that they had, they did not have enough detail. They didn't think that Stockdale was communicating with them and that ultimately, you know, they, they just weren't bought into the project. However, you know, it could be more complicated than that. I talked to a local real estate analyst here at Gary London. Um, he believes this comes down to money. So Macy's has a longterm lease in place, plus they're a party to this really this really important, uh, document, the reciprocal easement agreement. And so because of those two factors, he, he told me that Macy's probably expects a pretty big payout here, um, that they probably do want to leave the mall, but they want to be paid to do so.

Speaker 6: 34:33 Do we know how Macy's wants to influence the redevelopment? I mean, do they want to stay in that location? What are they hoping will happen? You know, you just mentioned they may want to leave, right? So I don't know directly from them. I think some of the comments that they've made is that they're excited about the potential revitalization of the mall and they refer to it as a shopping destination. However, there is a lot of value in those leases and Macy's is in a pretty precarious, um, moment in time as far as retail goes. I know elsewhere around the country, they are, we developing their own stores and talking about adding office space on top of retail or, or experimenting with different concepts. So it's hard to know exactly what they would want to do at Horton Plaza, but they, um, they're in a difficult situation as it is because we're, we're coming up on the holidays and it's really just them and they're the only store left.

Speaker 6: 35:28 You can go shop at grocery, um, or at Jimbos for groceries and you can go workout at 24 fitness. But the only store to actually go buy anything is that Macy's. And so, um, that's going to really affect their holiday sales at that location. And you just mentioned they're just, they're one of three retailers that are left in Horton Plaza right now. Um, is demolition is demolition going on right now? Yeah, so interior demolition is going on and actually there's been a lot of work that's already been done. I got to tour the property. So much of Nordstrom's has been demolished on the inside as they make way to add four stories on, um, the old food court, all the interior that has been demolished. And then they're also doing demolition inside some of the other storefronts. But work is going to come to a halt probably by the end of the year if this lawsuit is not wrapped up. And that's because the financing that Stockdale needs to move forward with their project. They don't have that secured yet and it will be very difficult for them to secure a lender with this type of litigation hanging over their head. Sounds like something that will be ongoing for a while. I've been speaking with Jennifer van Grove of the San Diego union Tribune. Jennifer, thank you very much for joining us. Thank you.

Speaker 6: 36:51 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm worrying Kevin. Ahhh. And I'm Jade Hindman. David Bennett took over as general director of the San Diego opera in 2015 he sits down with KPBS arts reporter Beth Armando to preview the new 2019 2020 opera season that kicked off on Saturday with Aida.

Speaker 12: 37:11 David, we are at the beginning of the 2019 2020 opera season. So where is San Diego opera at right now? How do you feel about the season? I feel very good. We are in a very good place sort of institutionally. We're in very good shape financially, which is a good place to be. Having that sort of pressure off your shoulders is wonderful and we have a very exciting season. Artistically I think we've assembled without a doubt, um, on I eat a cast that cannot be topped by any company in the country.

Speaker 3: 38:03 [inaudible]

Speaker 12: 38:04 and I understand that this Aida is a little different than what people may have experienced in the past. So tell us about it. It is, it's, it's a production that we have produced here. It's a production we own. We've taken a section of that production away and we've replaced it with the orchestra. And by doing that, we've actually been extended the stage into the house of the civic theater, which actually brings the singers into the same space as the audience. And so we have a beautiful sense of intimacy with our principle singers and our audience, which is very exciting. And does this then place more emphasis on the voices and the music by staging at like this? I think it draws attention to the beautiful writing of Verity across the board. So Verdi actually made a comment, um, in his compositional style or referred to something in his compositional style right before he can post Aida of a new idea about composing operas.

Speaker 12: 38:58 That's with sort of a intention across all musical spectrum of actually honoring the orchestra in the same way as he honors singers. And I think we're doing that with this production. And you also have some other interesting productions coming up that people may see the opera in a new way. Hansel and Gretel is coming up. We have a beautiful Hansel and Gretel that actually involves really magical and fantastical puppetry elements. So it'll be very family friendly, very engaging, but also very beautiful. It's a wonderful score for those of the, uh, those of the audience that don't know the square pants in the Gretel. You know, Humperdinck was a composer at the same time as Wagner. So it's very lush, very grand, beautiful score. And when you say puppetry, uh, are these marionettes, are these larger than life puppets? What are they like it, there's a variety of styles of puppetry and most of them you actually see the puppeteers on stage.

Speaker 12: 39:50 So the puppeteers are actually a part of the element of the magic of the puppetry. It's very beautiful. And one of the things that you brought into the opera is the detour series. Yes. And remind people what the intent was behind this. Well, you know, when the community here said they wanted opera, but they wanted opera to be a little bit different, we decided to try some new things. And so we have this series and if you think of the word of a detour, a detour is, you know, along the same direction but maybe a different path, right? Getting you to the same place but a different path. So this is everything other than what we think of as traditional grand opera, mostly chamber opera, but also concerts. We're going to begin to do some performances out of doors, a lot of things in a lot of spaces.

Speaker 12: 40:31 And our detour series this year is very exciting. We're bringing it production. Uh, well first we begin with a concert in December, a wonderful concert that features two very important, uh, Hispanic opera singers with a real focus on Hispanic music. So that'll be in December. And then we bring a production, uh, from New York by a wonderful producer of opera named Beth Morrison. And the production is called aging magician. And it's a very beautiful, engaging, uh, family-friendly story. Wonderful. And then we closed the detour season with a new commission falling in the rising, which is a very exciting partnership with a branch of the military. The army, Navy and field band actually began this commission with several opera companies, including San Diego opera. And it's a wonderful, uh, vehicle for us to be able to demonstrate the honor of service through opera. It's a very wonderful, wonderful story. And this isn't the first time that you've looked to soldiers and honoring veterans through opera. This is our third a detour production in I think are we four years of detour now that we've produced something that actually features and looks at the wonderful community that we have here with our veteran community and our military community.

Speaker 5: 41:38 And some of those are operas that deal with very contemporary settings and our kind of modern operas. How is that working out in terms of blending the modern and the grand opera? And are your audiences embracing both or are you developing two different kinds of audience?

Speaker 12: 41:54 It's mostly the same audience, believe it or not. Um, I'd say 75% of our detour audience are our regular operagoers. That 25% that are not is very exciting. And we're actually seeing some, uh, return the other way around. So we're seeing some people now that didn't attend our main stage opera is that found a way to San Diego opera through the detour performances and are now coming to Mainstage. So it's a path towards uh, exploring opera for new audiences, which is very exciting for us. One of the things we hope to achieve.

Speaker 5: 42:23 Is there anything else you're doing in terms of outreach to try and develop younger audience or reach younger audiences or find a new audience for opera?

Speaker 12: 42:31 Well, we certainly have a lot of community engagement activities that we do throughout the community. We have a series called taste of opera that we do that is sort of a, um, engagement but entry point to the opera and through a fun activity of each one of our operas. So we have that information on our website about each of those activities. We've just launched a new initiative called opera in Espanol that will be a multi year opportunity for us to explore works that are in Spanish language, but also engaging artists that are Hispanic and directors and designers. And really understanding how we can, uh, mimic in a way or overlap a, what we do with San Diego opera that mirrors what the community of San Diego really is an international community.

Speaker 5: 43:15 And just to return to Aida, because this is the opening week for it, talk a little bit about, uh, Zandra Rhodes has done the costumes for this. She is a superstar on her own. So, uh, what does this bring to the table?

Speaker 12: 43:29 Well, you know, she's a member of our board, which is a wonderful thing. So we think of her as a, you know, a part of our family. She's a phenomenal designer, a phenomenal designer in her own right and as a fashion designer, but also as a theatrical designer. She really captures a beautiful sense of magic and a place in her design. So the costumes are by Xandra, the scenic elements are by Michael Yergin, who's a Tony award winning a scenic designer. And bringing those two beautiful designers together have given us a very evocative but modern world and modern look at Aida

Speaker 5: 43:58 and I've heard it described as having rock concert lighting. So what does that mean for opera?

Speaker 12: 44:03 Well, it's just another way for us to think about, you know, if we're putting the orchestra on stage, right, which is a decision we've made, how do we use that as an opportunity to engage an audience in a different way? So we have a brilliant lighting designer, Chris Wren, who is actually an architectural lighting designer, as well as a theater lighting designer as a resident of San Diego. And he's just lighting in a little bit of a different way than I think we'll be engaging. So we'll let that be an opportunity for your audiences to come see performances here and discover that. So would you, that grand opera

Speaker 6: 44:32 here is taking a little detour of it's own

Speaker 12: 44:34 actually a very good metaphor, right? We actually have thought about that. We've talked about it. We said, why don't we think about applying some of the learning that we've taken from detour and see if we can put a little bit of that on main stage.

Speaker 6: 44:45 All right, well I want to thank you very much for talking about the new season.

Speaker 12: 44:47 We're very excited. Thank you.

Speaker 6: 44:50 That was Beth Armando speaking with San Diego opera as general director David Bennett. Aida has three more performances, including one tomorrow night at San Diego civic theater.

Speaker 3: 45:05 [inaudible]

Speaker 2: 45:05 coming up on KPBS evening edition at 5:00 PM on KPBS television and early flu season. Hit San Diego. Join us again tomorrow for KPBS mid day edition at noon. And if you ever miss a show, you can find the mid day edition podcast on your favorite podcast app. I'm Jay dynamin. I'm Maureen Kavanaugh. Thanks for listening. [inaudible].

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KPBS Midday Edition

KPBS Midday Edition is a daily talk show hosted by Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon, keeping San Diegans in the know on everything from politics to the arts.