New California Coronavirus Case, Remembering Chelsea King, NAVWAR Redevelopment, County Employee’s Alleged Racist Social Media, Coal Water And Climate Equity
KPBS Midday Edition / February 27, 2020
Speaker 1: 00:01 What you need to know about the Corona virus.
Speaker 2: 00:03 San Diego marks a sad anniversary. I'm Maureen Cavanagh
Speaker 1: 00:07 and I'm Mark Sauer in for Jade Hindman. This is KPBS mid day edition. It's Thursday, February 27th. The centers for disease control is investigating what could be the first instance of community spread of the novel coronavirus after a patient being treated at a Sacramento area, hospital tested positive. The patient had not traveled internationally and hadn't had any known contact with others who are infected. Meantime, president Trump addressed the nation on Wednesday afternoon with topic government scientist at his side.
Speaker 3: 00:53 We're very, very ready for this for anything, whether it's going to be a breakout of larger proportions or whether or not we're uh, you know, we're at that very low level.
Speaker 1: 01:06 Joining us to talk more about all of this is dr Francesca Tory, Yani, the program director of infection prevention and clinical epidemiology at UC San Diego health. Dr [inaudible], welcome.
Speaker 2: 01:18 Thank you. I'm happy to be here.
Speaker 1: 01:20 Now, how concerning is that case in Northern California to you the fact that this patient hadn't traveled internationally, no known contact with travelers?
Speaker 2: 01:29 This is clearly pointing at the fact that we have the presence of this virus in the community, uh, without travel is worrisome. And that is what hospitals and healthcare systems have been preparing, uh, along with in collaboration with the CDC.
Speaker 1: 01:54 And does this mean that the disease could be spreading now in the U S
Speaker 2: 01:59 yes, I think that it, it basically says that this disease may be in the community or in some communities and therefore we have to switch from a containment strategy alone by containing from people who are traveling and in focusing our processes of screening on people who have traveled to, uh, symptoms in the community that could be related to Cove with 19 this in the midst of a very active influenza season that hopefully is winding down. And so with different viral diseases that can confuse the picture.
Speaker 1: 02:49 Well, that brings up the question of diagnosis. So I show up at my doctor, I've, I'm sneezing a feverish, do I have the flu? Do I maybe have this virus? How do you diagnose that now?
Speaker 2: 02:58 So first of I would say,
Speaker 1: 03:01 uh, if you are just sneezing and you feel fine and you're not running high fevers, you're not short of breath, you don't have a bad cough, then don't go to your doctor, uh, called in and, and ask for, uh, for help and guidance. If now you are having high fevers, uh, cough, uh, and uh, sneezing and you're not feeling well or you're short of breath, then you should, you should call in your doctor and, uh, go have yourself worked up because you might have other, uh, circulating infections that can cause pneumonia. Uh, and if those are ruled out, then at that point you might fit a Corvid 19 patient. Well, that brings up the question of testing our hospitals, clinics, doctor's offices here and across the nation. Equipped now to test for this specific virus
Speaker 2: 04:04 testing for Cole. Vid, uh, 19 is, uh, still, uh, by limited laboratories. Um, up until, um, a couple of days ago, only the CDC, uh, was testing. They, they opened a second lab to allow for more testing, but clear this was a bottleneck. Now more and more, uh, public health, uh, counties, uh, have labs that will be able to test and we are definitely hoping that San Diego is one of them.
Speaker 1: 04:40 Now in yesterday's press conference, president Trump credited border restrictions that have blocked people coming to the U S from China for keeping infections low, but now other countries are experienced the larger outbreaks, uh, the news keeps evolving of course day to day on this. Do you think these restrictions are enough to contain the spread,
Speaker 2: 04:58 these restrictions? If there is local spread of disease, these restrictions will likely become moot as we will have to once again switch our strategies to mitigation and to trying to contain this disease within our communities.
Speaker 1: 05:17 And what precautions should people be taking now? Uh, basically the same as they do in flu season in terms of, well, you tell me washing hands and sneezing and precautions, et cetera.
Speaker 2: 05:29 Yes. So clearly fluidity, influenza, like illnesses or spread in the same way. And we think that core vid 19 in the end will be also viewed the same as as influenza. And therefore, uh, keeping a physical distance or of about six feet from another person, not having close contact. Uh, if, if, uh, washing your hands very often and covering, covering your coffin, sneezes and getting vaccinated for the flu, a really important thing.
Speaker 1: 06:10 Now, what do we know, uh, at this point about the rate of a fatality with COBIT 19? And how does it compare with the flu in a typical year? Or is it really too early to really even make that call?
Speaker 2: 06:21 It is a little bit too early. Uh, what we're seeing is, is data from China that is clearly a worrisome. We had, um, more or less calculated a 2.4% mortality rate. Overall, this virus appears to affect, uh, mainly, uh, elderly people with underlying diseases such as diabetes, uh, chronic respiratory diseases, heavy smokers, heart diseases. And so those are the populations where we see the most severe disease.
Speaker 1: 07:02 Now, how fast might we see an effective vaccine for this?
Speaker 2: 07:05 I think that dr Fowchee was very clear yesterday on the briefing that this is a nine or one nine or 12 months away.
Speaker 1: 07:15 I've been speaking with dr Francesca [inaudible] program, director of infection prevention and clinical epidemiology at UC San Diego health. Dr Tory Ani. Thanks very much. Thanks very much for having me. Governor Gavin Newsome held a news conference this morning to reassure Californians about the coven 19 outbreak Newsome said many more testing sites are opening in California. He's getting plenty of help and resources from the Trump administration and people should be focused and concerned but not overly anxious. Going forward.
Speaker 4: 07:52 10 years ago, this month, the murder of Poway teenager Chelsea King shocked San Diego and opened up a twisted story of mental illness and sexual violence. 17 year old Chelsea was raped and murdered while on an afternoon run around Lake Hodges and we were soon to learn that a murder the year before of Escondido teenager. Amber Dubois was also part of the tragic story. Since her death, Chelsea has been remembered first with heartfelt memorials. Then with Chelsea's law, which increased penalties for sex offenses against children and the King family has created the protect the joy organization to remember Chelsea. It's dedicated to advocate for all aspects of childhood safety. Joining me is author Caitlin Rother, who wrote about the murders of Chelsea and Amber in her book lost girls. And Kaitlyn, welcome to the program.
Speaker 5: 08:44 Thanks for having me on
Speaker 4: 08:45 the murder of Chelsea King was a shocking event for San Diego. How did the community react?
Speaker 5: 08:51 Well, you know, this case to me received unprecedented coverage and that's because it raised unprecedented level of emotions in this County. First because we already had the disappearance and murder of Amber Duvall, which we weren't sure what happened to her at this point. And there were search teams both for her. And then again when Chelsea disappeared for her as well. And they were unbelievably popular in terms of how many people felt like they wanted to get involved, that people's hearts went out to this girl because her picture was posted. Even in my gym. I remember seeing a flyer, it went viral and people in record numbers were showing up to help look for, for this girl. And in days it went from this hope and love that this girl would be found to absolute anger when her body was found and John Gardner was arrested. And I've never seen anything like that before, which is why I felt compelled to write this book.
Speaker 4: 09:56 Unfortunately, when we talk about Chelsea King, we, we talk about her murder. But what was this 17 year old girl like?
Speaker 5: 10:04 You know, I think the reason that people came out in such numbers was, you know, she had this very intelligent and hopeful look on her face and these eyes, these blue eyes, they just looked so genuine and so pure and I think that really resonated with people. They knew she was a really great student. She had a whole life ahead of her. She was a first amendment advocate. I believe she was, you know, really involved in her school and people liked her. People were hoping that she would be found and then when she wasn't, she became almost, you know, an idolic figure. They'd posted flowers and ribbons at the trail head where she had last gone running
Speaker 4: 10:46 another young life was taken to this story. 14 year old Amber Dubois. Police originally thought she might have run away from home and that was the year before Chelsea's murder. How did police link the two crimes?
Speaker 5: 11:00 Nobody knew really where Amber went and they initially thought, you know, maybe she had run away, maybe there was something else. And you know, her family kept saying, no, no, she never would have done that. After Chelsea went missing, there was this response by the Sheriff's department that was very different from the one with Amber because they knew where her phone was inside her car. They knew that she did not come home when she was supposed to. They knew that she was somewhere in the area or had been, you know, very recently, her parents were on it immediately. And then they found her panties. And because John Gardner's DNA was in the database, they were able to quickly find him, apprehend him, capture him, and then within a couple of days they found Chelsea's body. And then behind the scenes, none of us knew this at the time, but John Gardner in order, you know, save his, his own life from the death penalty. Um, at least at that point told authorities where he had taken Amber and where he had raped and murdered her. And they went there and found her remains,
Speaker 4: 12:07 no. Your book describes the, the history of sexual violence at the murder of John gardener had and the efforts by his family to get them off the streets to get them committed into some, some kind of program. Tell us about that.
Speaker 5: 12:20 Well, you know, there was really an outpouring of anger at his mother and I spent quite a lot of time interviewing her now. She had her own troubled past. She had been molested as a child. She had been raped, she was a psychiatric nurse and yet she couldn't see what her own son was. So people thought that she purposely, you know, was holding him there and protecting him, but in fact she didn't realize what he was capable of because he had, you know, assaulted and molested this 13 year old girl who lived next door to them. But he told his entire family that she had been making the whole thing up and they believed him because there was this whole other side to John Gardner that I described in my book that you know to even to his girlfriends that I interviewed that years later, they said, I never saw this monster person that everybody's describing. So you know, his mother basically didn't know where he was. He was out on these trails and he actually told me in an interview at Corcoran state prison that he had been after another woman who had been jogging. He ran after her and couldn't catch up to her, and Chelsea just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, and he grabbed her and badly raped and killed her at the trail side.
Speaker 4: 13:37 When your book came out, Katelyn, you were criticized by Chelsea's family and others for writing it. Did you expect that reaction?
Speaker 5: 13:45 I felt like I had good intentions. I always was trying to prevent something like this from happening by educating the public on what to look out for. You know, your daughter's boyfriend who might actually be a sexual predator like John Gardner. So to me I was just trying to tell the community and help educate the community on what happened and hopefully try to prevent something like this from happening again.
Speaker 4: 14:09 How has this tragedy had a lasting impact on San Diego?
Speaker 5: 14:13 So my hope is that because of this case, because of we found out how they were murdered, how he managed to capture them, he got Amber when she was walking alone to school. He got Chelsea on the running trail where she was running alone. Um, I don't know whether she had earbuds in or not, but you know, in the book I tried to give lessons and, and helpful information to people to protect themselves and I'm hoping that this really did have that effect on the community.
Speaker 4: 14:44 I've been speaking with Caitlin Rother, author of the book lost girls and Katelyn. Thank you. Thank you. The Naval information warfare systems command or nav war is the Navy's high-tech communications hub, but it's located in a world war two era warehouse in the midway district. KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen says, plans to build a new nav war headquarters could have a big impact on the neighborhood
Speaker 6: 15:20 on this side over here behind that is actually a storage area. It was being developed and built up, uh, up until about a year ago. Greg guys is walking me through a giant empty room at nav war, the Navy's cybersecurity division headquartered right here in San Diego. It's 32 feet to the bottom of the beams. It's about 55 feet to the top of the peak guys and describes nav war as the cyber geeks of the U S Navy. They develop secure communications technology for Navy vessels and they do it in a sprawling 70 acre campus built during world war II for manufacturing aircraft. To say the facilities are a bad fit for nav Wars 21st century mission is an understatement. The challenge we have is providing the security and locking that down and the efficiency and modern spaces that these world war II factories just don't have. Beyond the security challenges. Buildings can get sweltering in the summer because they lack air conditioning and if guys and has a meeting on the other side of the campus, it can take a half hour just to walk there and back.
Speaker 6: 16:18 So it's a lot of inefficiency in the way that we're spread out over the whole property. If I could just step into an elevator and we have a meeting like that, I'd save hours every day. The Navy planes do design and build a more compact headquarters and pay for it by leasing or selling off its excess land for private development for help with that vision. The Navy has turned to the county's regional planning agency SANDAG. It's going so well right now. It's a little scary actually. Asana Curata is SANDAG is executive director. The two agencies are now meeting weekly trying to hammer out a joint development deal. A big part of the carotids vision is a new mass transit center with a rail line connecting to the airport less than two miles away.
Speaker 7: 16:57 It told us what they need and we told them, if we give you that when you give us the land, that's pretty much the term and we will take about 14 acres of the land and we will build a San Diego grand central and we'll open the rest of it to private development.
Speaker 6: 17:14 It grata says the addition of a new transit center could kickstart the revitalization of the midway district, which is plagued by blight. New housing and commercial space would fund some of the transit hubs costs, but it would also require some local taxpayer dollars. It Kratos says, finally, connecting rail to the airport would be worth it.
Speaker 7: 17:33 I want to convince people to San Diego that is to their interests and to their kids and grandkids. Interests is to do this. The whole system for this special, this is transformational. This is going to influence what happened from the sport that all live way to downtown.
Speaker 8: 17:50 All this may seem like a done deal, but the Navy insists it's not. At a recent open house meeting, the Navy presented a range of options, low or high density development with or without a transit center. Clifford Weiler of mission Hills expects whatever happens, traffic will get worse in the midway district, but he's withholding judgment until the Navy gives more details. His bottom line, the status quo for nav Wars facilities is not an option that needs to be replaced. It looks nice on the outside, the skeleton looks beautiful but the inside is, is deteriorating and needs to be replaced.
Speaker 6: 18:27 So this is a modular furniture. Uh, this is what a cube looks like in a cube farm before it's assembled back at the nav war site. Greg guys and says the Navy's objective of getting a new facility comes first. But if they can help out with other regional goals, like building more housing and improving public transit, even better, all the pieces fell into place. A lot of good thinking by a lot of good people put a lot of combined issues together and we might have a viable and mixed sense solution, which doesn't often happen in local and federal government. That things just kind of make sense after it's, it's environmental
Speaker 8: 19:01 review. The Navy says it plans to make a final decision on what to do with its land before the end of the year. And nav war isn't the only big redevelopment project in the works in the midway district. Tune in tomorrow for a deep dive into how this languishing neighborhood could be on the verge of a building. Boom. Joining me is KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Andrew, welcome. Thank you. Maureen. You got a tour of the current nav war headquarters. What's it like? It's definitely makes you feel pretty small. Um, it's, it's more, it looks and feels more like a factory or a warehouse than a cybersecurity operation. And to reiterate, these hangars were built in the 1940s to manufacture B 24 bombers for world war II. And not a lot has actually changed to the skeleton of the building. There were some broken windows at the top of the structure, so, you know, pretty rundown.
Speaker 8: 19:52 Uh, some of the buildings had classified work going on, so we weren't able to go in there. Um, but the two, uh, buildings that we did get a tour of, um, there was a lot of empty space, a lot of just storage area, uh, and some offices that were built inside the, the, the shell structure. So they found their ways to adapt, but it's certainly not the most comfortable environment. Um, we saw a food truck parked on our way out, so they, they've kind of, you know, figured out ways to bring in food and get their employees fed, uh, in a nice kind of way. 21st century way. If part of Navara is converted into a new San Diego transit center, how much work would it take to connect it to the airport or vice versa? Quite a bit of work actually. So they would have to, um, if they, they create the transit center on the, this, uh, property, they would have to move the trolley and the coaster tracks over from where they currently are are right now, they're right next to the I five freeway on the West side.
Speaker 8: 20:47 So that could involve trenching, um, possibly creating multiple platforms going underground. The rail airport, the rail line to the airport could either be above ground or underground, if it's underground, the, you know, obviously that's tunneling and you would be going under the, uh, terminals. So that would require approval from the FAA. Um, if, if it's above ground, it's a little bit more of a circuitous route. Um, but as far as Costco's SANDAG estimates that the cost of the transit center would be 3.5 to four point $5 billion. So a big price tag certainly, and they would pay for it with a mix of a bunch of different, uh, sources of revenue. If the transit center is ultimately included in the redevelopment project, my guess is it would probably be one of the last things to actually get built because of that uncertainty around where all of the money will come from.
Speaker 8: 21:34 Why does his [inaudible] call this proposed transit center? San Diego's grand central. I think part of it is he just wants to create some iconic project for San Diego, uh, to look towards, uh, for, for public transit and for, you know, transportation infrastructure. He points to union station in Los Angeles, grand central in New York city, obviously, um, all places where you have multiple transit lines that are converging and, and, and you're able to make quick transfers. Um, he wants to create something big and pretty for San Diego and longterm. He's also envisioning expanding the coaster service from North County that would allow residents up there to, to make a quick and easy transfer to the airport terminals. So this is really a longterm investment that they see in, uh, transit for San Diego. Now the plan actually brings several redevelopment plans together. The Navy's new cybersecurity unit, the counties regional transportation plan, and the airports new terminal one.
Speaker 8: 22:30 Tell us about that. Yeah, it's really remarkable. Every time I think about it, how, um, the stars are aligning on so many different things happening all at once. So as you mentioned, the airport authority has plans to expand terminal one and under pressure from virtually every other government agency in the County. They decided to ultimately pledge some money toward improving transportation to those terminals. As part of that whole project, the nav for redevelopment could potentially bring in new housing, new office space, new retail space. And at the same time SANDAG is working on its regional transportation plan. They were given a mandate from the state to reduce vehicle travel in that, in that plan by 19% and that's a very tall order. So a year ago the board of directors approved extending the timeline for their regional transportation plan so that they could kind of take a fresh look and reevaluate some of the fundamentals of our transportation network. So you know, all of these and what SANDAG and the Navy told me was that this partnership almost didn't happen. The Navy was not expecting a response from SANDAG when it put out this request for information on what to do with this property. Um, but when they, the more they looked into it, the more it kind of made sense to them. Even if this is approved, aren't we looking at ears of red tape as the federal government and SANDAG hammer out
Speaker 4: 23:46 a deal?
Speaker 8: 23:47 Well, the Navy wants their new facility for nav war quickly and their goal is to have a, uh, what's called the record of decision from the secretary of the Navy in about a year. So late 20, 20, early 20, 21 after that construction could theoretically start fairly quickly. Um, you heard from Hassana cried in my, in my story that the executive director of SANDAG that it's going so well. It's a little scary. So, um, I think that at this point, you know, the Navy is going through its national environmental protection act, uh, process. This is a very formal, you know, legal process that they have to do to analyze the impacts that this redevelopment would have on the environment. Uh, but you know, it seems like the, the option that is making the most sense for them right now is, um, is high density development with a transit center. And, uh, you know, we'll see if, if after the public comment period and all that plays out, you know, if that's ultimately what they settle on.
Speaker 4: 24:41 Can you tell us just a little bit about part two of your feature tomorrow?
Speaker 8: 24:44 Yeah. So another big project in the midway district is the Pachanga arena or more formally, formally known as the sports arena property. Uh, the city owns that land and they put out a request for developers on, on what to do with that land. Um, the community plan update was also, uh, passed by the city, um, a few years ago. So there's a lot of potential for new development in the midway district. Um, but there's a big complicating factor, which is the 30 foot height limit. So you'll hear more about that in part two.
Speaker 4: 25:11 Terrific. I've been speaking with KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Andrew. Thank you.
Speaker 9: 25:24 [inaudible]
Speaker 4: 25:25 the San Diego chapter of the NAACP displayed a PowerPoint presentation to the County board of supervisors. This week. Its content was disturbing. It showed the supervisors images of racist social media posts, allegedly made by a County employee and even more disturbing. The employee in question is in charge of helping low income San Diegans obtain section eight housing. Joining me is KPBS reporter Prius Aretha and Priya. Welcome. Thank you. The person at the center of this controversy is a housing specialist. What can you tell us about him and the type of work he does at the County?
Speaker 10: 26:03 So essentially he meets with people who, um, get section eight housing and he's sort of responsible for distributing the vouchers and making sure that people are meeting the right income bracket to be eligible for those vouchers. So this all came about because an, uh, African American disabled woman, uh, was actually in a meeting with him and felt as though she was being harshly interrogated as the way that the NAACP described it. She actually notified his supervisor and also filed a complaint with the local San Diego branch of the NAACP. They started looking into it. They didn't want to make these allegations public until she was switched to a different case manager. Once that happened, that's when they decided to come to the County board of supervisors and, uh, present the PowerPoint that also included a lot of, um, racist memes that he had shared allegedly on his social media. So, um, essentially what the NAACP is saying here is that the County was notified. This man's supervisor was notified what was done about it. Had there been similar complaints against this employee in the past?
Speaker 4: 27:08 He's been named in other media reports, but not by KPBS. Why
Speaker 10: 27:13 I didn't feel comfortable identifying him at this point because we weren't able to independently verify that those social media accounts actually belonged to him. So just to be a responsible journalist, I felt as though his name honestly wasn't really important to the story. It wasn't what made this news worthy. What made it newsworthy is the county's response and how they go about their hiring practices, which is really what the NAACP wants them to be looking into.
Speaker 4: 27:36 Can you describe for us the kinds of posts we're, we've been talking about here, the kinds of posts the NAACP brought to the awareness of the supervisors?
Speaker 10: 27:45 Yeah, so they were, they divided their presentation into three categories and one was a lot of memes and posts that he shared about illegal immigrants. The second group was about African Americans and the third was about Muslims and some of them were characatures of a Senator, Kamala Harris as a prostitute. Um, the former speaker of the house here in California as a pimp. Um, he had characterized, uh, Michelle Obama as being quote fluent in ghetto. He had shared some memes that had, I'm frankly not correct, not accurate facts. Uh, that said that 95% of warrants that were issued in Los Angeles County for murder were for illegal immigrants. So just, you know, essentially what the NAACP is saying here is that, you know, uh, when you look at the demographics of people who are living in section eight housing, oftentimes these are the most vulnerable members of the San Diego community. They're oftentimes people of color, people obviously, who aren't making a lot of money. And so if this is the way that this man feels about those certain groups, is he really gonna be able to be in that position and be giving out, uh, housing vouchers in a fair manner?
Speaker 4: 28:53 The NAACP told supervisors that racist sentiments against section eight applicants might be shared by others in the County housing department. Why did they make that claim?
Speaker 10: 29:03 Right? So, I mean, that's really what they want to look into. Um, I talk to them and ask them what, what do they want done by the County at this point? Um, I did also get a chance by the way, to speak to the County and they said that their chief administrative officer, Helen Robins Meyer asked the office of ethics and compliance to begin a thorough investigation immediately. And that includes one and, uh, what the County knew about this situation. So the NAACP, I asked them, you know, what, what do you guys want out of this? And they said they want to know that there are best practices being done when it comes to human resources with the County and that these people are being vetted thoroughly. Perhaps their social media should be looked at. But even further than that, they want to make sure that discrimination didn't actually happen when it comes to that department.
Speaker 10: 29:47 So that's something that could perhaps take a little bit longer to dive into new for the social media posts themselves. Could that County worker be fired? So that's a great question because obviously this brings up a matters of freedom of speech. And so I was not really able at this point to find out if the County has a policy for their employees about what they're allowed to share or talk about on their personal social media. And this is something that you know, impacts everyone who is a worker in, in companies. And oftentimes companies will have explicit policies. It's unclear if the County has one at this point. So I don't know if there could be any disciplinary action against this employee unless they can somehow determine that he was in fact discriminating when it comes to how he was divvying out those vouchers. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter Prius, Aretha Priya. Thank you. Thank you.
Speaker 1: 30:53 Coal fired power plants are closing across the country and arid Western States. These facilities use a significant amount of the region, scarce water supplies with closure dates looming. Luke Runyon reports communities are starting the contentious debate about how to use this newly freed up water after coal.
Speaker 11: 31:14 Hi, you must be the guy looking for Jennifer. It's snowing in downtown Craig, Colorado. When Jennifer Holloway walks into the local bookstore. No, I was thinking maybe you just didn't call me. Cause Holloway runs the city's chamber of commerce. The start of 2020 has been full of mixed emotions. She says in January, the company operating the nearby coal plant, Tristate generation and transmission confirmed the rumors it will shut down by 2030. It's been hard to face the fact that, okay, we are needed because we've been providing electricity for millions of other people and that is a source of pride. At first, people worried about the loss of jobs and the ripple effects it would have on local businesses. Then other nagging questions came up like, what's going to happen to the plant's sizable water portfolio? It uses about 10 times more water than all of Craig's nearly 9,000 residents.
Speaker 11: 32:11 There is some discussion on this in the community and people have different views. Um, but my personal view is that that water needs to be safeguarded for longterm environmental usage in the arid West. Water and access to it is intimately tied to local economies where water goes to a coal plant, a residential tap or down a river channel says something about a community's present and future economy. Water is become quite the commodity if you will, and it's a very precious Ray Beck is a Moffett County commissioner. The coal plant is in his district and he's a longtime booster of the industry discussion over the plants. Water rights is just beginning, he says, but he'd like to see some of it set aside for agriculture. His worst case scenario that it didn't get utilized for anything and they just hung onto the water. Right so far, tri-state hasn't tipped its hand. Dwayne highly Tristate CEO said at a news conference that his company is already fielding calls from interested buyers. When you look at a typical call facility, it uses an enormous volume of water and the fact that that will be liberated and available for other reuse is going to be significant. The interest is due to scarcity. Craig's coal plant and the Yampa river, which it draws from are both in the drought plugged Colorado river basin. In the Southwest. It's unheard of for large amounts of water to be freed up all at once.
Speaker 12: 33:45 This creates a big opportunity to, you know, make the Wilder decisions more wisely.
Speaker 11: 33:52 [inaudible] and John researched coal plants and their water rights while a grad student at the university of California. The project was commissioned by the nature Conservancy. It's one of the environmental groups interested in buying water from plants, slated for closure in Wyoming, New Mexico and Arizona and keeping it in rivers.
Speaker 12: 34:11 It all comes down to who can negotiate with these plant owners and you know who can make it better claim or make a better offer
Speaker 11: 34:18 and to the priorities of the energy provider. If it sees water as a moneymaking asset, sell it off to the highest bidder. If it wants to do a good deed, listen to the local community. We just got the place painted. Okay. People like Megan Veenstra, she Dodges rolls of woven plastic fabric as we walk through her new storefront in Craig, she and her husband run good vibes, river gear
Speaker 13: 34:44 rafts, life jackets, all kinds of stuff to just to get you out on the water and get your recreate and on our beautiful river
Speaker 11: 34:51 she says, Craig is starting a transition that other communities in the West over the last century have gone through from mining to recreation based economies.
Speaker 13: 35:02 It's been a boom and bust town for a long time. It's time to just kind of get away from that and be just a steady growing town
Speaker 11: 35:11 and if the community is ready to double down on a new persona as a tourist destination. Veenstra says the decision is simple. Leave the water in the river. I'm Luke Runyon in Craig, Colorado. How does your neighborhood stack up when it comes
Speaker 14: 35:38 to flood risk? Tree coverage, asthma rates, pedestrian access, and the burden of housing costs. Neighborhoods within the city can vary greatly. San Diego leaders will now have a new tool, the nation's first to determine climate inequity across the city's neighborhoods. As part of our coverage from the KPBS climate change desk, we're speaking with Roberto Carlos tourists, climate equity specialist with the city of San Diego's sustainability department. He helped create the new climate equity index. And a welcome. Thank you for having me. First a, how do you describe what climate equity is? It's an unusual term. Yeah. And so, uh, we actually worked with community based organizations to come up with an understanding of what climate equity is in the city of San Diego. And it's essentially looking at the historical inequity suffered by our communities of color and trying to equalize the benefits and burdens of climate investments into communities and explain this new tool, how does it work?
Speaker 14: 36:38 So it's a climate equity index essentially looks at 35 indicators through a broad stroke of different categories ranging from, uh, mobility indicators, health indicators, socioeconomic, some housing indicators, and then environmental indicators to really assess what the relative access to opportunity is in each community, uh, through census tracks and really understand what areas face more barriers than others when it comes to trying to improve the quality of life in that area. So you've got, as you say, almost three dozen, uh, factors that you're, you're looking at and what are some examples of those? Yeah, some of those are looking at things like asthma rains as well as the, uh, level of access to pedestrian amenities. So whether they have sidewalks, crosswalks, streetlights, that kind of thing. Understanding that there are some communities that have more infrastructure to facilitate, uh, using alternative modes of transportation while other neighborhoods might lack, uh, sidewalks and be unable to choose to walk to work if they can.
Speaker 14: 37:44 Or even bike infrastructure. And the, a, I wanted to clear up the question of census tracks about how big an area are we talking about there. They really range the a, it goes by population. I forgot what the exact number is, but it's determined by the U S census and then so they're broken up. So some can be really dense and have I believe about 12,000 folks in that. And it can sometimes be smaller, but really big geographical area due to who's living where. It depends on the nature of the neighborhood, the community. Now it's interesting as you described this, it, it, it strikes me that it gets to this the green new deal, which has been controversial. Progressive members of Congress have put this forth. It's involved of course in the presidential year debate and all, but it's really kind of getting to a broad, um, concerns, broad aspects of a lot of things that may not directly seem like they're tied into a climate change.
Speaker 14: 38:37 And then to, uh, uh, the whole global crisis that we're facing, but really overall are, yeah. When the city, uh, adopted our climate action plan in 2015, our leaders understood that we needed to address equity as a part of implementing our climate action plan goals. We understand that our underserved communities are hardest hit when it comes to dealing with a changing climate. And so the theory is that we need to put a lot of investment and understand where those communities are and what type of investment needs to go in to help them be more resilient. And uh, in general, the areas with the lowest scores on the scale are South of interstate eight. That's not surprising going in you, you pretty much knew that. Right? Right. Yeah, we definitely knew that. But this tool now gives us kind of a ranking order to understand what area suffered the least access to opportunity so that we can really start prioritizing those areas.
Speaker 14: 39:38 When we're talking about things like infrastructure improvements. Now, how will the cities specifically use this new tool? So, uh, we're working right now with, uh, the sustainability department is working with different departments. Uh, public works department has a CIP prioritization process and we're trying to incorporate the climate equity index score into that consideration. The planning department is also moving forward with several different initiatives, including the complete communities initiative. Uh, and looking at the resilient SD initiative as well. We want to tackle climate equity in those policies. And so we're looking at how best to incorporate it. All right. Well, so give me an example. If you have, say you have so much budgeted for planting trees for example, or improving sidewalks and, and walkability in an area, you would use this tool to say this is our priority communities here and then these others are further down the list.
Speaker 14: 40:32 Exactly. And that, but we would also do it in a way to ensure that like for planting trees that we, we can now target areas that we know, lack of tree canopy coverage. Um, so that it's a much more data-driven methodology to do that. Okay. The far more general in the past we kind of generally, and vaguely approached it this way, but this will be a more specific precise tool. And then, and really cool too is that the community really had a voice in developing this tool. So it wasn't just a bunch of folks getting together. And saying, Hey, let's just look at these indicators. We spoke with community based organizations who talk to their residents about what's important to them. And so that was really unique in this and is that we worked side by side with the community to do the develop this.
Speaker 14: 41:16 The city previously used other tools to do a similar job. Tell us about the, what were some of the uh, the previous tools used and how this one is an improvement? Yeah, so the city used to use CalEnviroScreen looking at the top 30% dial in the city of San Diego. Additionally, you're looking at census blocks, which are smaller than census tracks, um, that are CDBG eligible. And then on top of that, any area within a half mile radius of affordable housing. So it was kind of looking at those three different tools used by the state or the federal government to identify what what's termed disadvantaged communities. We took that and really defined it specifically, uh, working with the community to determine what are our areas of concern. And now we're able to actually rank and prioritize that versus the previous definition didn't give us that ability. Now I imagine this is a tough challenge, but when you use a tool like this, I mean there's the hope in five years from now, 10 years from now, you take a look at the city's climate action plan and you would hope to see some measurable results because of the precision of this tool and how much broader it is than what you've just described and what was used before.
Speaker 14: 42:28 Exactly. Our climate action plan had as developing a tool to be able to measure the city's progress. We understand that we're trying to tackle some historical inequities that are deeply ingrained. So it's not something that in one year I will be able to change. But, uh, we do have every five years we're going to do a refresh of the data so that we can measure what that progress is looking like and if we're moving in the right direction. Uh, we also want to ensure that we are advancing climate equity as we're moving forward and implementing our climate action plan. And so the climate equity index will be that tool that we'll use to kind of measure, um, our progress. Uh, now can people find out the area they live in, how they scored on the index? Yeah. If they go to San diego.gov/climate equity, they're able to actually type in their address and it'll take them right to where they live and they'll see what census track thing. Cause I don't think anyone knows where it's and just check. They're not walking around with that info now. Um, and then it will tell them right then and there what is their level of access and then it'll break down every single indicator so that they can know why they are in the score that they're in. I've been speaking with Roberto Carlos Torres, he's climate equity specialists with the city of San Diego sustainability department. Thank you Roberto. Thanks for having me.
The Centers for Disease Control is investigating what could be the first instance of “community spread” of the novel coronavirus after a patient being treated at Sacramento-area hospital tested positive for the virus. Plus, remembering poway teenager Chelsea King 10 years after her murder. Also, the Navy is in the process of putting together what could be one of San Diego's most consequential redevelopment projects in decades, as it seeks a new facility for its cybersecurity operations in the Midway District. And, an employee in charge of helping low-income residents get housing subsidies is being accused of posting racist memes on social media. The county ethics board is investigating. In addition, coal-fired power plants are closing across the country. The question now, what to do with the newly freed up water supply. Finally, in an effort to help address environmental justice, the city of San Diego has unveiled its new Climate Equity Index. The tool will help the city with implementing part of its Climate Action Plan goals.