Amazon Warehouse Workers’ Coronavirus Risks, Day Care Reopens Despite Confusing Rules, SDSU Mission Valley Stadium Deal And $1.25M Relief Arts Funding
Speaker 1: 00:00 A special meeting tomorrow on the deal to develop the mission Valley stadium site and two new programs to bolster art and artists in San Diego. I'm Mark Sauer with Maureen Kavanaugh. This is KPBS mid-day edition. It's Thursday, May 28th Speaker 2: 00:26 just over three months after first Corona virus death was reported in the United States. The national death toll from the virus has now reached 100,001 of those victims was a 63 year old Los Angeles County man who went to work in an Amazon warehouse in March. Harry Sentosa, his story is profiled in an LA times report on the risks faced by workers at those warehouses. His family is left wondering why someone's nonessential online purchase should be worth a life. Joining me is LA times reporter Sam Dean and Sam, welcome to the program. Speaker 3: 01:02 Yeah, thanks for having me. Speaker 2: 01:03 Harry Sentosa got his job during a surge of hiring Amazon initiated in the early days of the coveage shutdown. Can you tell us about that? Speaker 3: 01:12 Yeah. Well, as people started staying at home more and a lot of brick and mortar retail shut down, Amazon really staffed up. I mean they're one of the only companies hiring a, just because the order volume has gone up so much during the lockdown. So they, they first announced a wave of a hundred thousand new hires across the country and then, uh, another wave of 75,000 in April. Speaker 2: 01:33 Now at age 63. Why did mr Santoso want to get a job at the Amazon warehouse? Speaker 3: 01:40 Yeah, so mr Santoso had actually been working at Amazon on and off for a couple of years. He was, uh, you know, he had worked in warehouses this whole life after coming in the seventies from Indonesia. And, uh, this was kind of a final job before retirement. He didn't want to touch his savings. Uh, he didn't want to touch his 401k and so he wanted to just earn some cash, uh, before he kind of had to hang up his spurs. And so he would go in, uh, just to earn extra money. And he had been trying to get a full time position at Amazon for a few years actually, but kept getting hired as a seasonal worker and then laid off and he was actually laid off, uh, less than a month before he was called back in at the end of March, uh, which is around the same time that he first, uh, contracted the virus. Speaker 2: 02:24 So after his rehire in March, how long was he working there before he got sick? Speaker 3: 02:29 So, yeah, I mean we went in on March 29th, which was a Sunday and then by Thursday you was feeling a little bit sick. Uh, but he had just been kind of waiting to get called back to work for a month. So when he, he finished his days off on the following Sunday, he went back into work for just a couple days until her to feel really too sick and thought that he might have the virus. And so decided to stay home on that next Wednesday. So he worked for about, uh, nine days total before deciding to stay home. Speaker 2: 02:56 And the virus really devastated very quickly. Did he even make it to the hospital as his condition worsened? Speaker 3: 03:03 No, I mean, he, he was sick at home and his wife at that point had also gotten sick, uh, likely passed on from him, although it's impossible to really know for sure. Uh, and he, about four days after his last day at Amazon, both his wife and his son were trying to get them to the car to go to the hospital and Pomona, uh, and he collapsed in the driveway, uh, unconscious. And then an ambulance came. They tried to raise a pulse and they did succeed for a little bit on the way to the hospital. But by the time he arrived, he was gone. Speaker 2: 03:33 And you paid into, uh, um, a terrible portrait of one of his sons saying goodbye and, uh, his social distance because he couldn't even go near to his father in the hospital. His father's body. Speaker 3: 03:45 Yeah. And this is a tragedy that I think a lot of people are facing regardless of whether their family members are dying from the air or not. But son Evan, who's, who's only 20 years old, he was back at his apartment in Westwood on the West side of Los Angeles, near UCLA where he's a student and he got a call from his mom that his father had fallen unconscious and he had to borrow a car from a friend because his dad was actually using his car to get to and from work, um, and kind of race across town, uh, over to Pomona to try and catch his dad before he got sicker. Um, but he, he didn't make it. And so when he arrived the, uh, after some kind of negotiation with the hospital, he was allowed into the ice. You just 10 minutes to kind of say goodbye to his father's body. Um, but yeah, it's, uh, it was a pretty tough time. Speaker 2: 04:31 Now there some controversy about how Amazon reacted to news of Mr. Santos death. Were they aware he died of the Corona virus? Speaker 3: 04:39 Yeah, I mean the timing is a little complicated. The, uh, his wife had been diagnosed with a virus a few days after she got sick at her work. And so their family doctor told them to assume that, uh, Mr. Sandoval, the virus and then when he died, uh, it take, it took a couple of days for that to test the body and get the results and have them released to the family. Um, and during that time, uh, the company did call the 20 year old son multiple times to confirm that his father had died. And in every situation, in every call, Evan told them that it was linked to Corona virus, uh, that, you know, it was running in his family at the moment. His mother was getting sicker at the time, right. Uh, for his past. Um, and then when he got the results, he tried to contact Amazon multiple times to let them know, but did not hear back. Speaker 3: 05:32 And then, you know, and now there's a workers' compensation claim filed with the state that list his cause of death is to run a virus. Uh, but Amazon is claiming that they never received official notice, uh, that it was covert related and so have not informed his coworkers of that fact, although they did inform, uh, people who worked with him, the facility that he had died and they say raise the possibility that it could be coronavirus related but didn't go through their normal protocol of sending a mass text out to everyone, which they've done for the more than a thousand coronavirus cases that have been found at their facilities across the country. Speaker 2: 06:04 What measures has Amazon put into place to keep its employees safe? Speaker 3: 06:08 Yeah, Amazon has changed a lot in the last two months since the DEMEC first began. Uh, they've started deep cleaning their facilities, uh, often with the kind of disinfected fog that you see in airplanes. Uh, they've tried to increase social distancing by canceling meetings that they would normally have before each shift. Staggering. Some shifts, staggering break time so that the break rooms aren't quite as crowded. And they had instituted policies of unpaid time off so that anyone who felt concerned about their health could just decide not to come into work. And not lose their job. That policy is, uh, ended. So the unpaid time off is no longer available. And, um, but people do still get a quarantine paid leave if they can prove that they do have the virus or if they can prove that they've come into contact with someone who does. Uh, so yeah, I mean the, the company has changed a lot of its processes, but they've also hired, you know, a stated goal of 175,000 people at the same time and the number of cases at facilities both in Southern California and, uh, especially at a couple of hotspots on the East coast, New York, Pennsylvania just keeps going up. Speaker 2: 07:16 Now apparently Amazon warehouses outside the U S are reacting swiftly to reports of workers getting sick in their facilities. And that's a little different response than in the U S tell us about that. Speaker 3: 07:28 In China and India, regardless of the company involved, uh, if a warehouse has any employee test positive for a case, it's likely that they'll be shut down by the government just to try to avoid the spread of the virus. And France in particular, has had a somewhat antagonistic relationship with Amazon warehouses during the virus there where they essentially required Amazon to face serious fines if they didn't restrict our activities to only shipping essential goods. Uh, Amazon said that that wasn't sustainable, that they needed to ship whatever goods were ordered by people and that they couldn't tell the difference between essential and non essential goods functionally, uh, in such a way to keep their doors open. So they just shut down entirely in France, uh, for a few weeks while paying their workers full salaries. And now the government, uh, has reached a deal with Amazon where they will reopen their warehouses at 30% capacity. Um, kind of like what California is recommending that people do at restaurants, you know, reduced capacity to increase social distancing. And now Amazon is planning to reopen under those conditions pretty soon. Uh, but in the U S despite Amazon's attempts to, you know, increase social distancing among its workers, they're still having as many people as normal come into the factories and the warehouses, uh, to get these orders out in time. So, you know, a lot of workers that I've spoken to said it's called the actually socially distance while getting your job done, Speaker 2: 08:47 you contacted Amazon for your story. What was the company's response to claims? It's not doing enough to inform and protect its workers, ensure the company says Speaker 3: 08:56 it is doing enough. Uh, it says that it informs all of its workers when there is a positive case of coronavirus, one of its facilities via text. Uh, and that, you know, the measures that is put in place for sanitation and safety or are sufficient, I mean that, that's their response. And just to go into some detail on their response for how they inform people too. They do text. Everyone at the facility, uh, were informed them somehow that there has been a positive case. That's when that's confirmed. But, uh, they, they refuse to actually share numbers with the public numbers for their entire operation across the country. It's just as kind of piecemeal. When there's a new case, a message goes out, uh, and in certain facilities where the number of cases has grown, uh, into the double digits, there's been reporting by both me and the New York times that they just stop counting at us. They just say many more cases have been reported. And little bit of that Speaker 2: 09:49 now as big as Amazon is, your story gets to an even larger issue of the safety of essential workers as the covert 19 death toll reaches a hundred thousand. At the start of the shutdown, the idea was that Amazon would provide deliveries of essential items, but soon just about anything we wanted, I mean to pass the time was available for delivery. So what questions has that left Henry Sentosa his family with as they continue to mourn his passing? Speaker 3: 10:19 Yeah, I mean his son asked directly, uh, why companies are hiring if they're shipping out non-essential goods while the pandemic is still raging, uh, there's no testing capacity at scale right now. We certainly don't have a vaccine. So there's not really, uh, you know, as a lot of experts have said recently in the LA times as well, a kind of public health rationale for allowing people to return to work, uh, because it will just likely increase the spread of cases. Um, and that's, I mean, that's the question that his son kept asking just why is someone's life worth less than some person's board game or you know, another non essential item that they might need the case in the meatpacking facilities that have become coronavirus hotspots is a little different because, you know, one could argue that the food supply is actually essential for the health of everyone. Uh, and so, you know, maybe workers, you need to be there even if it is presenting some risks to their health, although I'm sure that risk could be mitigated more than it is now. Um, but for non essential items, it's really an open question why, uh, it's worth it to potentially put people at risk of getting sick just to sell people, you know, toys, board games, uh, serve people cocktails. Speaker 2: 11:34 I've been speaking with LA times. Reporter Sam Dean. Thank you very much. Speaker 3: 11:38 Thank you. Speaker 1: 11:39 This is KPBS mid day edition. I'm Mark Sauer with Maureen Kavanaugh along the way to consummation of a major development deal between the city and San Diego state university could happen at a special city council meeting tomorrow. This is the close to $90 million purchase by SDSU of the 135 acre mission Valley stadium site seen as one of the biggest expansions in the university's history. Joining me to preview the meeting is KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Andrew, welcome to the program. Speaker 4: 12:11 Thank you Mark. Speaker 1: 12:12 This deal came about after the passage of measure G a citizens initiative that directed the city to sell the land SDSU. Remind us what that entails. Speaker 4: 12:22 Sure. Measure G was a, as you mentioned, a citizens initiative, uh, approved by voters in November, 2018 and it directed the city to sell this property to San Diego state university. On the plan that's laid out in that measure is, um, it envisions a 35,000 seat football stadium for the Aztecs. The gradual development of all of that land. Currently it's the stadium and a giant parking lot that surrounds it. But they would gradually develop that land into new housing. A portion of it being affordable for low income households. Um, hotels, commercial and office space, a campus expansion. So maybe new research facilities or classrooms. And a big selling part point also was a new park along the San Diego river that, um, folks who would live in this new development, but also anyone in San Diego could enjoy because the river is kind of a forgotten asset of the city. And the, the idea was this would kind of bring the city back to that natural asset that's right in the heart of the city. Speaker 1: 13:21 Now, SDSU leadership has been pushing for the special meeting in recent weeks. Why do they want to move to finalize the deal soon? Speaker 4: 13:29 Well, so from what we know, SDSU wanted to get the construction going on the stadium as soon as possible so that the Aztecs would, uh, they asked a football team would have it ready for the 2022 season. Um, so the university was really the one with the, that timeline in mind. And they were kind of pushing the urgency more than the city was. The city did have an interest in offloading the property sooner rather than later, simply because it's costing the taxpayers just to maintain it. Um, but I think the greater sense of urgency came from SDSU in large part because they wanted to keep the construction of that stadium on track. Speaker 1: 14:04 And last week, San Diego city attorney Mara Elliott released a memo taking issue with the deal. What are her main concerns? Speaker 4: 14:11 Yeah, so that memo last week was, um, one of several memos that she has written, um, raising a multitude of concerns about, um, SDSU is preferred purchase and sale agreement. It's an enormously complex real estate transaction. Um, they don't happen every day is something of this magnitude. And so, um, she, one of the main points in the, the main points that she outlined in that memo is, um, threats to the city's public utilities department. So a portion of the stadium property is actually owned by the city's water utility fund. There's an underground reservoir, um, that connected to the San Diego river that could be used in the longterm future for water quality, for water storage. And so the public utilities department has been holding onto this asset, um, looking further into the future about maintaining the city's, um, uh, water supply and also it factors into the city's water recycling program. Speaker 4: 15:05 Pure water. Um, they had plans to build, um, lots of different, you know, new infrastructure on that site. Now the city attorney's concern was that with SDSU, his design of the river or park over some of this land on the city may eventually need to dig it all up and um, re builds the park after, um, after constructing that new infrastructure. And she said that that could increase costs to the pure water program for tax or for rate payers. It could violate bond agreements, it could violate measure G, and ultimately the proceeds of the sale of this land would ultimately be wiped out. So that was her concern. Speaker 1: 15:40 And some city council members seemed impatient to get on with it at a meeting earlier this month. Has the whole append the city attorney's concerns or something else? Speaker 4: 15:49 Well, the city attorney did face a lot of pressure from some city council members from SDSU and a lot of their alumni in the city to just accept the university's offer on the university made what could be described as as an ultimatum. Earlier this month I'm saying this is our final offer. Um, and city of San Diego, you can take it or leave it. Um, yesterday the city and the university, um, the two sides spent all day really negotiating and trying to um, come up with some, some final agreements that would resolve those outstanding issues raised by the city attorney. Um, we got a tweet, uh, yesterday or last night from the main negotiator for San Diego state saying that they did reach resolution. Um, and what I think is notable is that the original plan for tomorrow's meeting was for the council that cast a final vote on the purchase and sale agreement. Now what appears, uh, is going to happen is that the city council is actually just going to review those points that they negotiated this week and provide feedback on them. So the university presented its final offer, but now the final offer is being amended. Ultimately it sounds like now the purchase and sale agreement and the final vote at the city council isn't going to happen until, um, around June 9th. Speaker 1: 16:59 And an anchor in this project, as we say, is the SDSU football stadium. The team's lease ends after this season. If there is a 2020 season and the SDSU athletic director says he's ready to look for other places to play in 2021. If the council doesn't. Okay. This project is that just posturing at this point? Leverage seems a little sketchy in the face of the pandemic. Speaker 4: 17:20 Yeah. You know, I think that that um, statement has probably, um, you know, the context has changed since the, the athletic director made those statements. It does. I think that was set at a, at a point when it was really unclear whether this deal was actually going to go through and whether on the city, the council and the university were kind of, kind of, kind of, um, come to an agreement and in the very end or not, um, you know, it's still an open question. I think whether the stadium will be ready, uh, according to SDSU, his timeline, um, we're all familiar with construction projects facing many delays and so, um, you know, given the, the delays that have happened until this point and the university certainly would have preferred, um, this sale closing already and having it done. Um, you know, will, will the stadium be ready in time for a, when the university needs it? I guess we'll have to wait and see. Speaker 1: 18:13 Where do the mayor oral candidates, Barbara, Bree and Todd Gloria stand on the deal? If you know Speaker 4: 18:19 both Barbara Brie and Todd Gloria supported measure G, which was the citizens' initiative that authorized the sale of the stadium property. Uh, Todd. Gloria is not on the city council anymore. Uh, he's, he's right now I think, pretty preoccupied with the state government. That's the budget and coronavirus and all that. Um, so he hasn't really been saying a whole lot about, uh, the, the sale of the property. Uh, Barbara Brie on the other hand, this is really her job as a council member is to be, um, watching this deal and ultimately voting on it. And she's, um, really latched onto this, uh, issue and made it a pretty central part of her campaign for mayor. She's accused the city attorney of dragging her feet on the deal of trying to sync it all together. Um, so, you know, I think that both of those candidates are, um, supportive of the deal ending. Um, Barbara Bree has, has really kind of taken the side of the university and accused some city officials of, of, of not really operating in good faith. Speaker 1: 19:17 Well, it promises to be pretty interesting as they air all this out. Tomorrow in this special city council meeting, I've been speaking with KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Thanks very much. Speaker 4: 19:27 My pleasure. Mark Speaker 5: 19:33 [inaudible]. Speaker 2: 19:36 Last week, San Diego County leaders gave restaurants and retail stores the official go ahead to reopen, which means more people are going back to work, but what happens to those who need to put their kids in daycare? KPBS reporter Claire Traeger, sir says many daycares are trying to reopen, but they continue to struggle with amaze of confusing and sometimes conflicting regulations. Speaker 6: 19:58 There was plenty of times where I had to be like, I'm sorry, and you know muted mommy is on a phone call. Please here have a snack. Give me like five minutes. Speaker 7: 20:08 Love. It is a single mom who works for a chain of local restaurants including Raglin public house in ocean beach. While the restaurants were closed to dining customers, she was home with her two daughters, but now that they've opened up, she needs to be back at work. People are going to have to, Speaker 6: 20:25 I don't know, hopefully families will be able to start helping each other again, like grandparents and Speaker 7: 20:31 crazy times. Luckily, her daughter's preschool just reopened with restrictions. Classes are limited to six kids. It's one of many new regulations. Daycares are trying to get a handle on KPBS asked several providers if they fully understand the reopening rules Speaker 6: 20:52 as no Denise Vick runs the children's growing center in mission Valley. I think I'm clear, but um, things are changing obviously week to week. Um, it's really hard to navigate through all this information. And I watched the County briefings when they were daily. Now it's three times a week, watch that or I check the licensing website, a state website, the County website. I'm just trying to follow all the rules but sometimes the rules Speaker 7: 21:27 change within days. For example, at first the County said daycare providers could expand classes from 10 kids to 12. Then the message changed. Most classes had to stay at 10. Vick found out about that from a kid Speaker 6: 21:42 PBS story. I think some people are at 12 because they thought they were allowed to do that and are kind of panicking. Speaker 7: 21:48 Then there are other rules. Vic says she needs to make up on her own. Speaker 6: 21:53 Even my sick policy, I just sort of decided how I was going to keep, how long I was going to cheat people out. Um, cause it's vague. Um, the guidelines are vague. It just says a hunt, you know, a hundred degree fever or respiratory but doesn't talk about what ma, what, when they can come back. Speaker 7: 22:14 Vic says every week there's a conference call with more than 200 daycare providers and health officials and it's clear there's a lot of confusion. She feels like daycare is not a priority for elected officials. Speaker 6: 22:27 And everyday I'm reading stories that we need childcare to reopen our economy, um, to get these parents back to work. But um, I don't know. There seems to be a breakdown somewhere. Speaker 7: 22:40 Of course it's complicated. Health officials want to put strict limitations on daycares because small kids don't do a good job controlling disease, washing hands, and following social distancing rules. The worry is that kids could pass the disease between each other and then carry it back home with them. But daycares also can't have so many rules that it makes it too difficult for them to reopen. People are driving in restaurants now. Holly Weber owns magic hours preschool in Mira Mesa. She says, if government officials are allowing restaurants to open, they should let daycares expand to slightly bigger classes of 12 kids. Speaker 8: 23:19 Many of us are equipped and capable of being able to implement small intimate group sizes under very stringent sanitation procedures and protocols for, um, you know, for safety. I know I can do that. And the County restricting me from being able to do so is frustrating. Speaker 7: 23:40 A County spokeswoman did confirm there have been no covert 19 outbreaks at the daycares that stayed open throughout the pandemic. Speaker 8: 23:48 Yeah. As we're expanding opportunities for businesses to reopen up, we should be expanding the facility as well too. Speaker 7: 23:56 San Diego city Councilman Chris Cate is one government official who has a vested interest in daycare's reopening. He has two young kids, including a daughter who's in a home daycare. Before the pandemic, there were potentially twice as many children who needed daycare as available daycare spots in the County. According to a survey from the YFCA, the shortage is now far worse and threatens the overall opening of the local economy. Speaker 8: 24:23 Now that's waitstaff and servers. Right. And that your president, you're gonna need and they're gonna. If they have kids or any daycare, you know, are able to go now to their childcare facility and, and, and place for kid in there or are they going to have to wait, you know? And, and does that mean that they have to pass on the shifts and it give it to the next person? You know, there's this domino effect to some of these decisions where, you know, I want, I'm more than anybody want to see businesses open up. But you know, there, there, there also needs to be those conversations. Speaker 7: 25:01 He says, County and state officials need a clear message and quickly, Speaker 8: 25:06 well, anything else is, is gonna be needed really rather quickly in the next, in the coming days and weeks as we sort of act on some of these things. Um, and expanding businesses, uh, sooner rather than later. Speaker 7: 25:21 Claire Trek Asser KPBS news and joining me now to follow up on Clara's report is Alicia arglaes, executive director of first five San Diego, an organization that supports parents and caregivers helping children during their first years of life. Aletha welcome to the program. Speaker 8: 25:40 Thank you for having me. Speaker 7: 25:41 How are daycare providers actually changing their spaces to help keep kids healthy? Speaker 8: 25:47 So at this time, we're understanding providers are implementing, um, increased, uh, regulations around health and safety. And so, you know, that that begins with receiving the children when they arrive in care, you know, having to do temperature checks, having to ensure that children and their staff, uh, wash their hands upon entry, um, and also frequently, uh, washing their hands and high touch areas being frequently disinfected and cleaned throughout the day. And so the limitation in group size also has been another modification for providers and understanding that each group can only have 10 children in a licensed daycare provider site. And so they've had to modify their physical space and understand how to separate that space to potentially serve more than just one group of 10 children. And really the technical aspects of modifying a space and ensuring that each space, uh, which is considered a classroom has, um, the materials and supplies that are needed for each group that must maintain a stable over time. Meaning they cannot be commingled. Speaker 2: 26:54 There's no way though to impose social distancing or masks for really young kids. So what do you do? Speaker 8: 27:00 And that's a great point. Our local public health order that has been published does indicate under item number five that children, um, you know, under this age of 12, we are not required to wear, uh, the face coverings while in childcare or daycare nor are the staff. Um, I understand them some providers that have opted for the adults to wear the face coverings. However, we understood that for our youngest children, especially those that are, you know, two to five, you know, we're going to have some challenges, especially with the social distance. And the beautiful thing is that there is guidance and to the providers, uh, best possible effort and them really, really trying to determine on an individual or case by case basis what will work for their space. Because not every provider is the same. Speaker 2: 27:51 Now, as Claire mentioned in her report, daycare was not always easy to access or affordable before the pandemic. Now what's it like finding daycare in San Diego? Speaker 8: 28:02 Well as you can imagine with restrictions and group sizes of 10 or less, it does exacerbate that that access point for families, um, and providers certainly are really faced with the reality of their, their revenue generation. They, where they could have served 24 children, um, in a preschool classroom for children three to five. Now they can only serve 10 at this present time. Um, and so that, that does present challenges, but for families, um, what we're looking at is a tremendous investment that came forward with the County of San Diego board of supervisors as well as the city of San Diego appropriating a $10 million, uh, towards emergency childcare vouchers for families throughout San Diego County. So that is going to help lift up the workforce, um, and also assist the providers with, uh, being matched with families who could pay for that care. And we understand that families have different needs and so the different hours, a different number of days are going to also, uh, play a role in the number of vouchers that will be generated throughout our County. Speaker 2: 29:08 If childcare isn't readily accessible. How do you think that's going to affect the entire reopening process? Speaker 8: 29:15 Well, that's definitely a very popular conversation right now. And you know, we were talking about reopening the economy and supporting the economy. Um, not only here locally, uh, at our state but at a national level. And uh, those of us who've been in the child care space for many years understand that the reopening of the economy cannot occur without the conversation of how children are going to be cared for. Uh, families are being affected. And I mentioned 12 and under earlier because schools, elementary schools have shut down in the traditional sense and the reopening still is yet to be determined. And so we're working also with our County office of education and other stakeholders across the state to really advocate and prioritize the conversation and ensuring that our children that need care have care on a daily basis. As is identified. Speaker 2: 30:06 As you mentioned, kids have been home for a while now. What should parents be doing to try to get their kids ready to reenter a daycare environment? Speaker 8: 30:16 That is really important. And we talk about how IM, how important to transition, uh, is for young children, especially those that are under the age of let's say nine years of age. It's pretty drastic when you're potentially selecting a new provider, an adult and individuals and other children that they have not met in the, in the past. And so it's important for the youngest ones to be able to meet the individuals in person. Um, we have virtual capacities. You can do a virtual, get to know each other in the beginning and then when they meet them in person that would not, not feel as, um, distant to the young children. And as they get a little older, it's important for parents to have conversations with their children about what to expect. Speaker 2: 30:58 I've been speaking with Elleithee Argall as executive director of first five San Diego Alafia. Thank you very much. Speaker 8: 31:07 Thank you so much for having me. Speaker 1: 31:10 You're listening to midday edition. I'm Mark Sauer with Maureen Kavanaugh, arts and culture groups in San Diego or among the enterprises taking huge financial hits due to the Corona virus pandemic in April. Mayor, Kevin Faulkner announced drastic budget cuts slashing the commission for arts and cultures. Grant funding by 50% that's why an announcement by Faulkner this week of a million dollars in funding for two new arts programs was such welcome news. Joining me to discuss the new initiatives is Jonathan gloss, executive director of the San Diego commission for arts and culture. Welcome to midday edition. Speaker 9: 31:46 Good morning. Thank you for having me. Speaker 1: 31:48 We'll start with a situation facing San Diego, arts and culture groups and art in our community. How dire are things right now because of the health crisis and why do you see this as an inflection point? Speaker 9: 32:00 Are arts organizations of shutter their doors? They've been close for a few months now, which means that the organizations are losing daily door fees. They are losing the opportunity to raise funds through special events, facility use, et cetera, so their income has been severely depleted. In addition to that, public doesn't have access to these very important assets in our community. It's, it's no coincidence that we've all gone virtual and we're watching theater on zoom now and we're listening to musicians every evening. Art and culture has become such a vital lifeline, uh, through the pandemic. Uh, so as you can imagine, it's also incredibly frustrating for those in the arts community to not be able to access audiences the way that they usually can. So it's very difficult for individual artists as well then. So in the case of individual artists, this is an inflection point and this is why we felt this was so important to prioritize this stimulus initiative right now. Speaker 9: 33:20 You know, artists, regardless of where they are in their career, they really live and work in a gig economy. They teach in our public and private schools. They teach at our universities, they work at our arts and cultural organizations, either providing artistic expertise or um, working in public facing programs. They also work in the service economy. So, you know, in one fell swoop, literally their portfolio of resources dried up for them. So in the same way that our small businesses and individual entrepreneurs had literally a door close on them, the same thing has happened to our individual artists. So we felt like this was the time to prioritize artists in the way that the city is responding to covert. Tell us about the two new programs, the commission for arts and culture. We'll manage first. What's the focus behind the SD practice in parks social programs? Speaker 9: 34:31 What's exciting about these projects is they are also a point of inflection in the way that the commission for arts and culture on behalf of the city is investing in our community. The scale and the scope of these projects are of something we have not been able to achieve in the past. So in the case of SD practice, we will be spending $500,000 to acquire artwork from San Diego artists that is going to allow us to augment our city's collection in a huge way. And that's important for two different reasons. One is because the city's collection is throughout the city. It's in public buildings in every city council district. It's in public buildings where our visitors experience San Diego and it's also in public buildings that San Diego residents interface with government and citizens. But we have an opportunity here to make sure that our collection also is reflecting the cultural and ethnic diversity of our city. Speaker 9: 35:49 So in addition to making sure that our collection is of the very highest quality and that it truly does reflect San Diego, it also is going to reflect the broad international sensibility of San Diego artists. So we have a great opportunity here through SD practice, through park social. This is an opportunity for artists to welcome back, um, San Diego wins and our visitors into our parks. We're very excited about this project. These are temporary projects. We'll have about 18 of them in parks throughout the city. Individual artists and artists teams will be invited to do temporary projects. They will choose this site. They will also be asked to work with the community to respond to the site. So just to give you an example, you may visit a beach, a trail, a major park, a parklet in a neighborhood, and you'll happen upon this piece, this installation by San Diego artists know the SD practice program that seems to have roots dating back to the works progress administration during the great depression of the 1930s right? Speaker 9: 37:12 It does. And this is such an important question. Thank you for asking it. Our collection, the city's collection is, is more than 600 pieces large and that the collection has pieces dating back to the early 20th century. But the real foundation of the collection is based in WP era artworks. And as you know, Mark, the WPA was a national initiative during the great depression to provide opportunities and work for artists of all disciplines during the depression. So it's really important now that SD practice continues that legacy. We still enjoy WPA era artwork here in San Diego. Our intent is that SD practice will continue and build on that so that in 50 and a hundred years, residents and visitors from across the world will see artwork that we've acquired during this period of time. And not only will it reflect the very best of San Diego, but it also really shows the values of our community, that artists, um, are part of our workforce. But our artists also convey our, our history and culture. Speaker 1: 38:35 Uh, where's the funding coming from for these projects? Speaker 9: 38:38 Three different funding sources. The generosity of two estates. One is anonymous and the other one is the estate of Thomas. Oh, rest. Mucin. Mr. Ross mucin was an avid collector and a contemporary artist. He was very committed to San Diego artists. So when he left funding to the city, he identified investing in individual artists. And the 30 is we've repurposed some private developer fees. So what that means is when a major multi-use building is being built in San Diego, the developer has an obligation to direct a small portion of, of the project budget to either acquiring artwork to be on the site or to direct it to our public art fund. So we've repurposed some of those developer fees and very quickly to fund parks social Speaker 1: 39:41 and how are the artists chosen and the works commissioned. Speaker 9: 39:45 So we have a very public process. A panel is selected, are invited I should say. And then artists submit qualifications. So we're not asking for proposals, we're being very respectful of artist's time. The panel then reviews the past work of the artists and make recommendations for direct invitation after that. Speaker 1: 40:13 And what's the reaction been so far from the artists and from the art groups regarding these initiatives? Speaker 9: 40:20 Well, as you can imagine, Mark, we've had a tremendously positive response already. The city traditionally has done a very, very, very good job at recognizing and investing in our arts and cultural organizations. And we will always do that. But San Diego as the city, as a community really has an opportunity to up our game in the way that we think about artists and creatives in our city. We have to compete for talent in San Diego, in creative industries, just like the tech world for example. And we are very committed to continuing to provide opportunities for them to not just build their careers here, but also to be part of our community. Speaker 1: 41:14 And last question, what's the timetable to get these arts projects going? Speaker 9: 41:19 Well, as expeditiously as we can, understanding public process, we have announced the SD practice, so artists will be able to submit qualifications over the coming few and then park social will be announced within just the next two weeks or so. So we'll start to see the artwork rollout, um, as early as the fall. Speaker 1: 41:45 Well, it's exciting and a welcome news in these times for certain. I've been speaking with Jonathan gloss, executive director of the San Diego commission for arts and culture. Thanks very much. Speaker 9: 41:57 Thank you, Mark. Thank you for having me.