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Newsom Demands Probe Of Power Blackouts, Democratic National Convention Preview, And A New Vision For Transportation In San Diego

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PHOTO BY KPBS STAFF

Above: Power lines stretch across a canyon in Carmel Valley, August 17, 2020.

A heat wave continues across California and Gov. Newsom is asking for an investigation into the weekend’s blackouts. The blackouts affected hundreds of thousands of households across the state as residents are being urged to stay home during the coronavirus pandemic. Plus, the head of San Diego County’s Democratic party weighs in on the Democratic National Convention, which starts tonight and runs through Thursday. Also, SANDAG presented its transportation plan for the next 30-year and it's a major departure from the status quo. Then, California is ill-prepared to protect elderly citizens living in areas where wildfires present a major threat. And, San Diego Public Library is now the permanent center for the study of poet Robert Frost’s works.

Speaker 1: 00:00 The governor issues, a heat emergency order affecting California energy use. And let me just make this crystal clear. We failed to predict and plan these shortages, and that's simply unacceptable. I'm Mark Sauer with Alison st. John. This is KPBS and midday edition.

Speaker 2: 00:24 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 00:24 What do we expect from a democratic national convention amid the pandemic? So they need party unity. They need a strong message and they have to choose the candidates and hopefully have no clots. Sunday. It's bold and very expensive plan for transit and more in our region and a study center on poet. Robert Frost opens in our downtown library. That's a head on mid day edition

Speaker 1: 01:00 As California remains in the grip of a prolonged heatwave. Governor Gavin Newsome signed an emergency proclamation aimed at freeing up more energy capacity and reducing the need for rolling blackouts. The blackouts are compounded by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and effected thousands of households across the state. Over the weekend at his press conference today, Newsome also blasted the independent energy agencies overseeing the state's energy sector. He, their failure to anticipate and warn against service disruptions over the weekend, calling them quote unacceptable. And unbefitting of California Newsome said he held an all hands meeting with top energy advisors and the heads of agencies on the heat induced energy shortages. You can't control the weather, but you can prepare for the weather events. And let me just make this crystal clear. We failed to predict and plan these shortages, and that's simply unacceptable. I am the governor. I am ultimately accountable and will ultimately take responsibility, have taken.

Speaker 1: 02:03 I share your responsibility to immediately address this issue and move forward to make sure that simply never happens again here in the state of California and a letter to the California independent system operator, the state public utilities commission and the California energy commission Newsome demanded an investigation into why residents and government leaders failed to get timely warnings and why actions weren't taken to ensure a flow of reliable power. He said, we can expect more and more of these heat waves as climate change worsens here and across the world. And that the state needs to find ways to better deal with heat going forward.

Speaker 2: 02:39 The rolling power outages put tens of thousands of San Diego in the dark last Friday and Saturday here to reflect on the governor's response to the blackouts is energy analyst, bill powers, he's principal of powers engineering and chairman of the nonprofit clear California, local energy advancing renewables bill. Thank you for joining us. You're welcome. So now, what is your reaction to the governor's announcement today of, of steps to increase energy reliability?

Speaker 3: 03:09 Well, I think he was right to complain about not having advanced warning of blackouts and that there's absolutely no reason those blackouts should have occurred in any case. And the, the fact that they did occur was really a failure. I think, of the independent system operator, right?

Speaker 2: 03:31 He did say that he was taking responsibility, but he is implying criticism of the grid operator. Right? So

Speaker 3: 03:39 Yes, and this was a failure of the ISO in my opinion, until we see the data, it's going to be difficult to say exactly what happened, but keep in mind for those of us that have lived in San Diego for years, that we've had a number of big blackouts in our community over the last 10 to 12 years, one was in September of 2011. There was another, that occurred in 2010, which were either caused by a simple error by the ISO or by a failure to anticipate that when you have a heat wave coming, you need to operate the grid in a somewhat different manner than they typically do, which is just whoever gives us the lowest price delivers the power.

Speaker 2: 04:20 Aha. Well, you told the New York times that there should have been enough energy to meet the peak demands on Friday and Saturday. So, so what do you think caused Kallai? So to call for these rolling blackouts,

Speaker 3: 04:33 I think that the, you need to operate the grid in a different way in a heat wave than you do on a typical day with typical demand, it's fine to operate the grid based on lowest price most of the time, but when you're faced with a heat wave, you have a moan that capacity that is at the disposition of the ISO to dispatch, you have some older units that require a day to come up to speed. You can't just turn them on and get power from them. So you have to anticipate Thursday, mid day, that Friday, mid day, you're going to have a heat wave began, and you're going to need some of your, your backup units that are more expensive to run up and running at full power at that time.

Speaker 2: 05:15 But we did have quite a bit of notice didn't we have this heat wave.

Speaker 3: 05:19 Well that's, I mean, that's the irony of all. This is that the governor was complaining that ISO and the people of California didn't get warning any California. You can go onto the ISO website and look at their graphic for 24 hours in advance and see that it's a pretty accurate 24 hour in advance forecast and the heat waves coming. So you need to get your ducks in a row. And those units take a long time to come up to speed, need to be coming up to speed the day before. And I don't think that happened. I think there we have all this capacity on paper. That's ready to go, but it's only ready to go if you have the presence of mind to get it rolling in time to use it when you need it.

Speaker 2: 06:01 So you think that there could be something about the energy pricing strategies that had an impact on when blackouts were called for

Speaker 3: 06:10 Absolutely. I mean that the idea, what we saw it in just in our neighborhood is that Los Angeles department of water and power, a public utility subject to the same heat had enough reserves available. They were actually sending power to ISO during the heat wave. And why is that? Well, that's probably because LA DWP is prior to prioritizing reliability for its users over lowest price during special conditions like heat waves. And the ISO is almost certainly not doing that. And so LA DWP is not leading assets on the table that won't be available at an instant. Whereas I think the ISO is, and that the good news that will come out of these rolling blackouts is the whole state is now looking and putting a bright light on ISOs operations. And I think ISO is far too wedded to this idea that, uh, this ideology that you always want to get the lowest price, 8,760 hours a year, it's fine to go for the lowest price most of the time, but not during heat waves.

Speaker 2: 07:18 So it's a lot to do with market forces. I mean, I have to ask you, you are a staunch advocate for moving to sustainable energy, which we must do to avert climate change disaster. And these blackouts naturally raised the question of whether our changing energy mix is less reliable to meet peak demand. You know, what can you say to those who question the ability of sustainable energy like wind and solar to meet our needs?

Speaker 3: 07:43 It's the, we need to set the framework of what happened prior to against Saturday that the ISO is responsible for projecting the expected average peak load for the year. The Friday peak was less than the average projected peak. And so that the whole system is designed to project a peak accurately conservatively, and then have adequate reserves available to cover that under virtually any circumstance. So the peak was actually projected the average peak was projected to be somewhat higher than what we experienced on Friday. So for those of us that work in this business, it is inexplicable that there was any rolling blackout on Friday, even more inexplicably, that there were any rolling blackouts on Saturday, and it's even questionable why they called stage alert stage one, two and three, because we had the reserves. And so the idea that solar or wind or anything else, uh, that is, uh, it's a red herring. I mean, the system's designed to provide reliable power with a lot of solar, with a lot of wind under these conditions. Somebody dropped the ball and the person or persons that dropped it were at ISO. And

Speaker 2: 08:54 What would you like to, for the press

Speaker 3: 08:56 To stay on it?

Speaker 2: 08:57 Good, good. What would you like to have heard the governor say today, then

Speaker 3: 09:02 I would have liked to say that the independent system operator is responsible for maintaining the flow of electricity under all foreseeable conditions. The conditions we experienced on Friday and Saturday were completely foreseeable well within what we expected this summer, but for whatever reason, we didn't get the assets online to cover ourselves for that. He and I want to know why, and I'm going to have it. He did say he was going to have a report done that looks at ISO and public utilities, commission energy commission. But what we've seen from these reports in the past is a peel back one or two layers of the onion, but they don't get deep enough to look at the institutional problems that expose us to these kinds of unexpected blackouts. It has nothing to do with climate change. What happened on Friday and Saturday? It has nothing to do with the availability or reliability of solar or wind. It has everything to do with mismanagement of the grid during the

Speaker 2: 10:04 Okay, well, something to keep our eye on. We've been speaking with energy analyst, bill powers of powers engineering. Thank you so much, bill. Thank you. Alison San Diego gas and electric is asking San Diego ans to conserve power this week during the flex alert between three and 10:00 PM. Here's STG communications manager, Denise Menard. We know that we're definitely going to have this intense heat through Thursday. And if we, as a collective, don't come together and reduce the use of energy and the distress that we're putting onto the grid right now, then we could have more, we could have more of these rolling outages and conservation means setting your thermostat to 78 degrees, turning off lights, unplugging appliances that aren't in use and refraining from using major appliances to see a map of SDG and E's planned power outages go to SDG and e.com/outages,

Speaker 3: 11:01 A convention like no other. We've seen variations of that headline everywhere as the democratic national convention kicks off this evening, not from a big crowded arena in Milwaukee, but mostly with remote speeches due to the pandemic, joining me to discuss how it figures to go down and what it means. Our Carl Luna political science professor had Mesa college and will Rodriguez Kennedy chair of the San Diego County democratic party. Welcome to you both. Thank you for having me good to be here, Carl, is it really a convention? Like no other sure. There's not going to be the big crowd in the arena and the reporters with headphones wandering about, but political conventions have been all TV affairs for a long time, right? That's true a Mark, but this is a different sort because it's going to be a social media event. It's going to be virtual and it's auditing might actually help it to attract viewers to it. Plus the intensity of this campaign, otherwise would be another whole

Speaker 4: 11:54 Hum, regular let's get out the troops sort of event

Speaker 1: 11:56 Expecting it will look like when you tune in tonight or anybody tunes in

Speaker 4: 12:00 Well, the, what the Democrats don't want it to look like is something you'd get at three o'clock in the morning as an infomercial, they're trying to figure out a way to make it kind of a lively event with lots of videos and then a powerhouse speakers coming in, uh, to try to attract people. It could well be that in a summer where there hasn't been a lot of new programming. This might be interesting enough to get audience participation up

Speaker 1: 12:21 And Carl, the Biden Harris tickets, a head by double digits over Trump pants and the Washington post poll today. CNN has got a poll of polls out there up nine points. That's a Biden and Harris. Can we expect a post-convention bump on either side this year, given the circumstances

Speaker 4: 12:38 You typically do see a post-convention bump of a couple of points, which will put them in the, the Biden Harris ticket. The farthest I had at this point in the campaign that we've ever seen, but do remember Michael Dukakis in 88 was close to this level of being ahead, any bad fold did him in

Speaker 1: 12:55 And will tell us a about the lineup now, who are we expected to hear from?

Speaker 4: 12:59 You're going to expect to hear from my lot of very common names, you're going to see some of the leaders of the party, some of the, uh, potents, uh, of the in, during the primary who are going to be speaking. Uh, obviously, uh, the big event is the, the, the presidential nominee and the vice presidential nominee. So Kamala Harris and Joe Biden. Uh, but you'll hear from, uh, the AOC is of the world as well as the ones with the florins, uh, and the Andrew Yang's. Um, so it's going to be a wide, a wide spectrum of the party. What you'll also hear surprisingly is a number of Republicans. So John Casick for, uh, from Ohio, for example, is speaking at a democratic national convention, which is sort of controversial for the, for the, on the democratic side, but might, but does show that the party is looking to broaden the amount of people who would, who would be interested in our ticket.

Speaker 1: 13:51 Keisha, of course, former a Republican governor of Ohio, as you mentioned from Ohio. Um, is that gonna maybe anger some of the progressive, uh, that wing of the party because, uh, uh, Alexandra Ocasio Cortez gets all of one minute, uh, in the schedule I looked at.

Speaker 4: 14:08 Yeah, it was not, it would not be a decision I would have made, um, but I'm from California. So I'm trying to see, I'm trying to be, uh, understanding that we live in, in a, in a state that is very progressive. Um, and so the, the, the audience is not necessarily California. The audience is places like Ohio, and that is a name that would be recognizable to an Ohio voter, whether or not it will be a FA uh, it will split or be divisive among our party. That's definitely something that we've seen. I'm not particularly happy about it, but the audience is the American people who are voting in places like Ohio, Florida, et cetera,

Speaker 1: 14:45 And a well Biden's scheduled to accept the party nomination Thursday night, the last night of the convention, what's the message going to be, besides four more years of Trump would be disastrous?

Speaker 4: 14:56 Well, it seems like the, the messages that, uh, that we want to build back better, I believe is what, uh, they've been saying from the Biden campaign. And so what you will likely see is, uh, Joe Biden, who comes from, uh, you know, Pennsylvania sort of working class background, that's the voter. I think that they're trying to target, they're trying to target the people who, uh, switched to Trump from Obama in the 2016 election. Uh, we're talking about working places, class places like Ohio and Pennsylvania, but people who have been left behind by this economy and who are still left behind by the economy that has been built by Trump, uh, which is made worse by the COVID-19 crisis and his failure to manage that properly.

Speaker 1: 15:40 Carl, we've got president Trump going, they're going to campaign this week through various battleground States, trying to take away as much as they'll have the limelight and the news cycle as he can, as the Democrats have their convention. But, uh, what are the Democrats have to do to get that message across? I mean, maybe one advantage of doing this all remotely is you're not going to have any disruptions on the floor as we saw in 2016 with the Bernie bros, not really keen on Hillary Clinton's nomination.

Speaker 4: 16:06 Yeah. And over that, you're not going to have the protests outside the convention hall. I think the democratic nightmare would have been a repeat of Chicago 1968 because the Trump campaign is running on it. This is the most socialist left-wing candidacy ever. And they're going to be the Republicans, the party of law and order. What the Democrats have to do is grab the narrative. They have to show why there's the case for getting rid of Donald Trump. They're going to spend a lot of time on that tonight. Camela Harris is basically going to be their prosecutor and cheap, but more importantly, they have to show you to be of the party. And that's the issue like you're going to bring on a John Casey, you've got to reach out to anybody who wants to see a change in America. The democratic party has to present itself as the home of the never Trumpers the Republicans to the Bernie Sanders progressives on the left. And that's a difficult group to get into the same room. If any of those groups don't show up on election day for the Democrats, Biden has a chance of losing. So they need party unity. They need a strong message and they have to introduce the candidates. And hopefully I have no footballs.

Speaker 1: 17:07 And meanwhile, how speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to call the house back into session this week, which is extraordinary, given that not only is it summer hiatus, but they've got their own convention going on, but the concern is over president Trump's plans to overhaul the postal service potential impact on the election. Uh, I'll, I'll throw this out as a jump off question, Carl first, uh, is that going to be a big focus at the time?

Speaker 4: 17:31 I know the Democrats should jump on that because the narrative the Republicans are going to create is over their head on election night, before Malin ballots are counted, and then they lose it in the mail and battle pallets and solve fraud. The present solution is oddly enough is to be from the post office, which I'm comparing the burning down a bank to stop a robbery from occurring there, Democrats

Speaker 5: 17:50 Have an opportunity to hold the administration accountable and put the Republicans on the defensive, going into the convention. So probably president Trump will just ignore it and keep on trying to grab the headlines.

Speaker 4: 17:59 The reality is, is that president Trump has taken an unusual attempt to, or an unusual strategy of undermining, uh, our democratic institutions and also undermining things like the post office, which millions of Americans, particularly older Americans depend on for all sorts of things. From getting checks to social security, to correspondence with their families, him defunding the U S P S is, is, uh, to, I don't know, uh, make it harder for people to vote by mail is a threat to the Republic. And frankly, the, the fact that he's doing that should be concerning for any Republican who think, who values American democracy. So that is something we should be talking about. We should absolutely hold the president accountable. Uh, but I mean, I don't want to get hyperbolic, but that is a treasonous act to like undermine the Democrat, the democracy of this country. Okay.

Speaker 5: 18:54 Briefly at the end here, I wanted to ask you both and we'll start with will on this one. Uh, what are you looking for specifically during the convention this week, as you watch,

Speaker 4: 19:02 I am looking to see some inspiration come out of this ticket. Um, I am of the faction of the party who supported Senator Bernie Sanders. I'm a pledged delegate for Senator Sanders in going into this convention. So I'm looking for something to, to invigorate this ticket. That is more than the anti-Trump ticket. We, we, we have to, as a party, communicate to our voters that it's not just a vote against Trump, although that should be, that should be enough considering that he is threatening the future of our Republic, but also why it is better to vote for the democratic party, how our policies will help lift the middle class, the working class in the middle class and how we will hold accountable, uh, the wealthy and well-connected who have run this country into a ditch. So that's what I'm looking for. I'm hopeful to get it. Um, and I go in with some cautious optimism, uh, but I also go into this, knowing that last time I went into a convention, we were pretty confident that we were going to win the election. And this time I'm not so confident, we will have to fight to make sure that, uh, Trump is not reelected in 2020

Speaker 5: 20:07 Carl, what are you looking for specifically this week? I'm looking for, uh, from a democratic perspective, uh, just, just what will was saying. What's the big message that they will take into the fall campaign. Remember the old adage, you run on three things. You're lucky to get two done. So what's going to be the centerpiece when you cut through the platform beyond just anti-Trump and also the big, the morning in America message, uh, how Democrats want to restore America. Uh, we're better than this. That's sort of a message. Can they deliver on that? Meanwhile, from a Republican perspective, you've gotta be looking to see what food pause thing, but did he create, what is that moment that you can grab on and run endlessly on ads between now and November, if neither of those happen, it'll just be another normal little convention.

Speaker 6: 20:48 And then we see what the Republicans come up with next week. I've been speaking with Carl Luna political science professor at Mesa college and will Rodriguez Kennedy chair of the San Diego County democratic party. Thanks very much. Thank you. Thank you, KPBS. We'll bring you NPRs live special coverage of the democratic national convention that starts tonight. 6:00 PM here on KPBS.

Speaker 2: 21:17 You're listening to KPBS midday edition. I'm Alison st. John with Mark sour. It has the potential to transform San Diego County more radically than almost any other initiative, but as with any major change, it's controversial. The vision laid out for the region's future transportation system involves no freeway, expansions and a huge investment in public transit KPBS, Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen, and watch the presentation of the plan to the San Diego association of governments or SANDAG. That's the people who will eventually vote on whether to put it on the ballot. Andrew, thank you for joining us, Alison, thank you. So now this is a longterm vision setting the agenda for the next 30 years. If it gets approved and implemented paint us a picture, how would it change our lives here in San Diego County? How would we get to work for example?

Speaker 6: 22:05 Well, the vision is for a lot more people in the County to be living a multimodal lifestyle. So let's say you're a family of four. Your household might share one car. Instead of having two, some days you might drive to work. Other days, you might carpool some days you might take a shuttle or a shared bike, let's say to a major transit station and then maybe another shuttle or another shared bike on your way to your final destination. After you get off the train or bus, maybe you're running a little late. And so you drive to work and you choose to pay for the HOV lane to avoid the worst of rush hour. And all of these choices are meant to be connected through what SANDAG calls the next OSTP next operating systems. So this would be some type of app or a platform interface that lets you know, all of your different transportation options, how much they might cost, how long they'll take. And the whole system is supposed to be informed with real time info on a traffic patterns on the availability of fleet drivers. Let's say those shuttles that are getting people to and from transit stations. And the overall goal is just to have more people living and working within walking distance or really close of a fast and frequent transit stop.

Speaker 2: 23:14 The estimated cost of this version is $177 billion over 30 years. How would it be paid?

Speaker 6: 23:20 SANDAG is setting a goal of getting about $2 in state and federal aid for every local dollar that it spends. So it's possible that most of that money would actually come from outside San Diego, but quite a bit of it would come from a local dollars. And part of this vision is that at some point in the future, the voters of San Diego County would have to approve a sales tax increase. SANDAG tried this in 2016 and they only got a 57% majority when they needed a two thirds. So, uh, you know, it's certainly a tall order. Anytime you're asking, uh, voters for money, it's, uh, you know, more tax dollars, it's always a really difficult fight.

Speaker 2: 23:58 As you say, it is a tall order. And the mastermind behind this plan is SANDAG executive director Hassan Krato, here's what he said about,

Speaker 6: 24:07 Got it. As soon as I got here, I saw a region that was ready for change at region that deserved the grids transportation system and had the determination to make it happen.

Speaker 2: 24:17 No it's worth pointing out at this point that this plan is not simply to make it easier to get to work and avoid gridlock. It's designed to slow climate change, which is an approaching crisis. But talk to us about who own the current center board supports this vision and, and who opposes it.

Speaker 6: 24:33 Yeah, well, just to, to your point, climate change is really, I would say the central motivating factor here. So SANDAG has tougher targets to hit with regards to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and vehicle travel in this current plan that they're working on compared to the last time that they wrote a plan in 2015. So the standards are getting difficult, more difficult than a karata said that we couldn't just take the previous plan, make some tweaks and, and have it meet state climate targets. Um, as far as the supporters, um, we, uh, you know, it was frankly a pretty partisan divide. Um, there was a city San Diego city council, president Georgette Gomez spoke in favor of it, uh, national city mayor Alejandro Sotelo. So lease also liked it. Both of them spoke to the equity component of this plan. So, um, SANDAG really looked deep into some data to figure out which neighborhoods in which populations are least likely to have access to good transportation options.

Speaker 6: 25:28 And those were the areas where they tried to make the, the biggest and earliest improvements. The skepticism we heard was from several people, Oceanside, deputy mayor, Jack Fowler actually made a reference to the Jetsons and thought, well, the technology is going to improve. So maybe it will just be like the Jetsons in the future. And we won't need this big, expensive transit infrastructure. Um, we heard from San Marcos mayor, Rebecca Jones, uh, San Diego County supervisor, Jim Desmond's, both of them said they neither said they outright a post this vision. They just are not quite sure about the price tag. They think it's expensive. And Desmond in particular mentioned the 78 freeway. That's been a longtime goal of his to just get extra lanes on there. And so I think he wants to see some more details about this vision for a new network of toll roads and managed lanes in the County that might just basically change the lane configuration on some freeways. So he's kind of waiting to see what happens with that.

Speaker 2: 26:24 So it seems like there's a lot of resistance to it in the North County, among North County elected officials, are there other elected officials who, who don't like this cut back on investment in roads and widening,

Speaker 6: 26:36 You know, she didn't speak in this in Friday's meeting, but district three County supervisor Christine gas bar, um, has been a big of the, uh, sort of push to fund more public transit and not, uh, freeway expansions. She's a Republican, she sits on the SANDAG board now, but she's up for reelection in November. And, uh, her challenger Terra Lawson reamer has been a much more supportive of this vision to sort of try and transition away from just automobile infrastructure. And so, you know, a, a flip in that seat would mean not only that gas bar would lose her seat on the SANDAG board, but it would also create a majority on the County board of supervisors, which would mean that they could pick their representatives to SANDAG and would likely appoint someone else. Other than Jim Desmond, who I mentioned earlier is a big skeptic of this vision as well.

Speaker 2: 27:23 The point you're making is that all of our regional leaders who are appointed to this board are the ones who are going to basically decide if it goes to the voters or not. And, um, so it will affect some of the November elections coming up for some of these leaders. Won't it. But specifically you mentioned the County supervisors, perhaps the mayor's race.

Speaker 6: 27:40 It was good. Yeah. And the mayor's race is probably the biggest one. So because of a reform to SANDAG a few years ago, the mayor has a lot more power now on the SANDAG board than previously because he or she referee, or they represent by far the most number of people in the County, Todd Gloria, the front runner in that race is very supportive of, uh, of this vision of, um, you know, reducing car dependence and, and trying to use less, uh, freeway widenings, um, that his challenger, Barbara Bree, not so much, she said, she told the San Diego union Tribune, um, after the COVID-19 pandemic, the process should be slowed down. And, you know, to her point, however on the process has been slowed down quite a bit already.

Speaker 2: 28:20 And I understand that her son, a Kreider has recently donated to some of the campaigns of the candidates in favor of his plan, right?

Speaker 6: 28:27 Well, one of them, yes, he donated to Terra Lawson reamer $850 for her November, a challenge to the incumbent Kristin gas bar. And this is pretty unusual. Uh, we don't usually see, um, sort of the heads of agencies, um, actively supporting candidates that are challenging their bosses essentially. Cause Kristen gas bar is a member of the board of, uh, of SANDAG and is part of the boss that controls that agency. And so, you know, there was some discussion about that earlier in the, in the meeting. And, um, Jim Desmond said he was very, um, upset by this and thought it was unethical. Um, I think, you know, whether or not that becomes an issue in that particular race, um, I guess we'll have to wait and see, but, um, it's definitely an unusual thing, but I would say definitely not, uh, illegal and probably not unprecedented. Thank you so much, Andrew. Yes. Thank you. Allen

Speaker 2: 29:21 That's KPBS, Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen, a more detailed version of the transportation plan will be presented to the SANDAG board in the spring and voted on by the board in the fall of 2021

Speaker 7: 29:42 Longterm care homes for the elderly have been woefully unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic. Now wildfire season is here and an investigation by our colleagues at KQBD found these facilities are not prepared for this either. We've spend some time exploring emergency preparedness and the elderly in a series called older and overlooked KQBD reporters, April Demboski and Molly Peterson launch our week long series. And we start with April looking back at the October, 2017 wildfire in Santa Rosa. When the police arrived at the Verena assisted living facility, the night of the wine country fires, they saw no caregivers, no managers

Speaker 2: 30:24 Horrible

Speaker 7: 30:26 In one residential room. After another, they found elderly people, fast asleep Police, body cam footage shows officers helping white hair. Ladies in night counts out of the building hours after employees left the grounds and your loved ones, the same thing was happening next door at the Villa Capri assisted living facility. This is all fly by the seat of your pants. Mark Allen came to get his 89 year old mother out. When he and his wife, Kathy arrived almost all of the 62 residents were still in their rooms. They found the few overnight staff left in the building.

Speaker 2: 31:01 We asked him if they had an evacuation plan and they said, no,

Speaker 7: 31:04 The staff didn't know where to take the residents or how to get them out. Mark asked about the big bus outside

Speaker 2: 31:11 Keys. We don't know where's the keys, the office. We don't know where's the

Speaker 7: 31:14 Mark. And Kathy began carrying people in wheelchairs and walkers down the stairs. Many of them had dementia. They just

Speaker 2: 31:22 Asking what's happening. Are you a first responder? And I'd say no. And then they'd ask again. In five minutes,

Speaker 7: 31:27 Police arrived around 4:00 AM and helped get the rest of the residents out of Villa Capri. An hour later, it burned to the ground. Mark and Kathy filed a complaint with the state department of social services. The department accused the facilities of violating multiple health and safety regulations and the state moved to revoke their licenses.

Speaker 2: 31:47 It felt good. I thought good justice to be served. People were going to pay the consequences. I'm going to get there, dude.

Speaker 7: 31:53 But the company that owns both facilities, Oakmont, senior, living appealed. Now nearly three years later, the Villa Capri is rebuilt and both facilities are open for business charging seniors up to $10,000 a month to live there. I was just so angry. This is Beth erota Stephie. Her mother was also left behind at Villa Capri, Mark and Kathy got her out. I can't even really put into words how angry I was and how disappointed in a state agency whose job it is to get up every morning and protect people like my mom, living in a facility like that. And they failed them at the time. State law required facilities to have evacuation plans, but they were rudimentary. One page forms and Pam Dick FOSS, head of licensing at the state department of social services says these fires were unprecedented. They typically had plans for a fire within their facility of fire in the kitchen, but not plans to actually evacuate everyone out of the area.

Speaker 7: 32:49 Two facilities abandoning around a hundred residents that was unprecedented too. But instead of shutting them down, the department put both facilities on probation for two years, Dick Fosse says, regulators don't want to leave residents at risk, but they don't want to leave anyone on the street either. If we felt that the residents were in danger, you know, we wouldn't have gone that way. California's population is aging. The demand for beds at assisted living facilities is expected to double over the next 20 years, while supply is expected to run out in about 10 Dick Fosse says, that's why her agency focuses on collaboration rather than punishment. We're being more consultive during our annual inspections. Now, Beth, you wrote a Stephie, says her mom, Alice is still suffering the longterm effects of what happened After the fire. Alice was transferred to three different residential facilities before she had a stroke and ended up in a nursing home. You look happy, you need clashes. So she's paralyzed on her left side and she's depressed. And she's angry about what's happened to her life. The last couple of years, starting with that night, it felt terrible. Like you've really been abandoned. Several people died in the months, right after the fire, including Mark Allen's mom, do you feel like,

Speaker 8: 34:14 Yes, yes. I do feel like she died because of the fire. She wasn't killed by the fire, but because of the fire and the trauma that happened afterwards, it took all the wheels. Lift.

Speaker 7: 34:27 These fires in Santa Rosa were not isolated. The same thing happened the next year in paradise.

Speaker 7: 34:41 My colleague, Molly Peterson points out the average age of those who died during the campfire was 72. And climate change has already made wildfires more devastating and disasters more common. There is absolutely a colliding of the events of both population aging and climate change. Those two events don't bode well for older adults. Catherine higher is a professor in the school of aging studies at the university of South Florida. COVID-19 makes the already difficult situation of climate change, an aging population where there have been outbreaks of the virus and at least 72% of the state's nursing homes hire says, people in facilities now will have an even harder time deciding how and when to evacuate and where to take shelter. And the problem with COVID-19 is that we're supposed to all be separate from each California regulates around 10,000 longterm care homes from small assisted livings to larger nursing homes. A KQBD investigation found that 35% of these facilities are located where wildfire is a significant hazard. There's no comprehensive map of those hazards. We mapped them using first state designated fire zones and adding scientific maps showing where Wildlands meets cities. Max Moritz is the statewide fire specialist for the UC cooperative extension. He says California needs to adapt to the changing risk to finally come

Speaker 9: 36:11 To a coexistence with wildfire. That is a whole different way of thinking and living with a given hazard. It means that we have to be ready for them. And we have to look out for the most vulnerable people when they do

Speaker 7: 36:26 During this pandemic, longterm care homes have failed to care for some of their most vulnerable residents, the same issues that left facilities unprepared for the coronavirus. Leave these residents vulnerable to wildfire. I'm Molly Peterson and I'm April Demboski

Speaker 9: 36:52 I'm Mark Sauer with Alison st. John you're listening to KPBS mid day edition. America's great poet of snowy evenings and good new England fences may seem an unlikely match with San Diego's beach and sunshine culture, but that's not how the international Robert Frost society sees it. The society has found a home at San Diego's downtown central library, a permanent center for the study of frost work midday edition hosts. Maureen Kavanaugh spoke with San Diego public library, director, Misty Jones, and Jim Hurley, a local writer and businessman about how they teamed up to bring the center to San Diego. Here's that interview. Now

Speaker 7: 37:33 It was your idea to bring the Robert Frost society permanently to San Diego. How were you acquainted with the poet?

Speaker 9: 37:41 The condensed version is that I met him in 1959 when I was a writing student and was a guest at the famous Iowa writer's workshop. And Paul angled, the founder of that workshop was acquainted with frost and invited him to come to Iowa city. And angel invited a few of the writers at my college to join them. And that's where my adventure with frost began.

Speaker 7: 38:08 We're all familiar with Frost's timeless poetry, but what was he like as a person?

Speaker 9: 38:14 He was a steel and velvet. That's borrowing a line from Carl Sandburg in his biography of Lincoln, but I can't think of a better description of him. He was kind, he loved students, even at the age of 21. I could tell that he loved to teach and he loved a student poets and writers, and he was also a gruff sometimes not only on the edges, but he blended that in some way that made him magnetic. Uh, and I think those two characteristics are mixed into his poems as well.

Speaker 10: 38:53 No. After many years, Jim, you wrote a piece for the frost society quarterly about your encounter with poet Robert Frost, and then you ask the society how you could do more. What did they tell you?

Speaker 9: 39:08 Well, Jonathan Barron, uh, who at the time was the, both the editor of the Robert Frost review and the head of the society confessed after a few exchanges that although the society which had been founded in 1978 was very well known in academic circles. It didn't have a sense of place, uh, and it didn't have the wide range of, uh, reach that perhaps it might deserve. So I asked him if I could, uh, be of help in this and maybe see if we could find a permanent home someplace here in the area. And, uh, he said, absolutely, let's give it a try.

Speaker 10: 39:49 Now, Misty did it at first same in Congress to you to have the San Diego library become the home of the Robert Frost society.

Speaker 11: 39:57 For me, it was really kind of a no brainer when, when it was brought forward, San Diego public library has a rich history of supporting writers. We've done a lot with local authors. We've done a lot of writing workshops and poetry workshops, and I cannot think of a better way to continue to promote, you know, what libraries do for literacy than to have someone as significant as Robert Frost. I have a place in San Diego, miss

Speaker 10: 40:27 Items will the library house. As part of the society's collect.

Speaker 11: 40:31 We have some items from different collectors who have really been collecting, you know, uh, books or poetry from frost, um, documents, and they've generously donated those materials to us. And so I think it's going to be a series of donations as we move forward and really grow this collection.

Speaker 10: 40:52 These are the real items. These are things that scholars can't find on the internet and, and would, would kind of have to come to the center to be able to study. Is that right? Yeah.

Speaker 11: 41:02 Yes. So it is a lot of primary documents. So letters from frost, um, different documents, writings of his. So it's, it will be really unique for those scholars and those that are really interested in learning more about him.

Speaker 10: 41:18 Jim, I wonder if I could ask you to perhaps recite a bit from one of your favorite frost poem,

Speaker 9: 41:27 It'd be a pleasure. Uh, this is tree at my window tree at my window window tree. My sash is lowered when night comes on, but let there never be curtain drawn between you and me. They dream head lifted out of the ground and thing next, most diffused to cloud, not all your light tongues talking could be profound, but tree, I have seen you taken and tossed. And if you have seen me, when I slept, you have seen me when I was taken and swept and all, but lost that day, she put our heads together. Fate had her imagination about her. Your head's so much concerned without her mine with inner weather. Isn't that nice?

Speaker 10: 42:26 It was. Thank you very much. That's from a, that is the Robert Frost poem tree at my window. What is it about Robert Frost poetry, Jim, that speaks to you?

Speaker 9: 42:36 Well, Bob Haas, who's the great head of the society now and a fine writer in his own, right. Has a book that is called going by contrary is about frost and science. And Bob says that frost, what he had, what he calls a poetic vernacular that aspired to the rhythms of common speech. And I think that just captures it. And I think that's what captures people at all levels of learning is that rhythmic cadence, that seizure of simple things into verse that's what captured me the first time I heard frost poems in a junior high school in Waterloo, Iowa. And it's still what captures me

Speaker 10: 43:32 Now, Misty. I know that the pandemic shutdown delayed the grand opening, you were planning of the Robert Frost society at the central library. What are your plans now to introduce the new center to the public?

Speaker 11: 43:44 The first thing that we're doing, we've done a lot of press releases. So really letting people know that this is coming, I'm looking forward and hoping that we will be reopened and that we can do, we can do a introduction the right way and the way that it should be done and really celebrating that. This is an addition for now, what we're planning on doing is continuing to engage people online, um, letting them know promoting Frost's poetry and really, you know, getting the word out that this is coming so that when we are open, we'll be ready to invite those people to come in and experience those materials and really planning some, some very interesting and exciting new programming.

Speaker 10: 44:28 How do you see the frost society center used by

Speaker 9: 44:32 Those who visit the central library? As Misty said, there are already many, many programs that attract poets and writers to the library, but this will add a, an additional, and we hope the powerful magnetic force to bring people in, to study poems and to study poetry at all levels of learning. And I think if we succeed in doing that, and I know we will, it will broaden the reach of poetry into the community that was Jim Hurley and library director, Misty Jones speaking with KPBS midday edition host, Maureen Kavanaugh,

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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.