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California Announces June 15 Reopening Date And End To COVID Tier System

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PHOTO BY KPBS STAFF

Above: A sign warning people to wear masks due to COVID-19 at Torrey Pines State Beach, Feb. 26, 2021.

On June 15 California will do away with the color-coded COVID-19 safety system and plans to fully reopen the state, as long as the vaccine supply holds and infection rates remain low. Plus, the March 2 tragedy in Imperial Valley where 13 people were killed in an human smuggling attempt is a tragic consequence of the humanitarian crisis at the southern border. Also, San Diego County schools are expecting close to $1 billion in stimulus money from the third COVID-19 federal relief package with the biggest chunk going to San Diego Unified. In addition, the family of a man who died after sheriff’s deputies forcibly removed him from a jail cell received a $3.5 million settlement from the county. And, some California cities are doing away with single-family home zoning to encourage high-density housing, but will it make a dent in the state’s housing and affordability shortage? Finally, as the state moves toward reopening for live, in-person events, what does that mean for organizations that have a long lead time for their events, such as the San Diego Opera?

Speaker 1: 00:00 California announces that COVID tears are on their way out.

Speaker 2: 00:05 We'll be getting rid of the blueprint as you know it today. That's on June 15th. If we continue the good work

Speaker 1: 00:12 Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Hyman, this is KPBS midday edition Lessons from last month's deadly border related crash in Imperial County.

Speaker 3: 00:29 Driving factor of this migration currently is the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic on countries. In the developing world.

Speaker 1: 00:40 San Diego County schools receive a huge influx of funds from federal COVID relief on the San Diego opera and navigates its major productions through fluctuating COVID restrictions. That's ahead on midday edition With COVID vaccinations up and COVID case rates continuing to decline California is preparing to eliminate the COVID tier system. Governor Newsome has announced that the standards that have ruled our lives and economy for months, that tears from purple to yellow will end in mid June.

Speaker 2: 01:20 We are announcing today that on June 15th, we will be moving beyond the blueprint and we'll be getting rid of the colored tears. Well, we're moving past the dimmer switch. We'll be getting rid of the blueprint as you know it today. That's on June 15th. If we continue the good work,

Speaker 1: 01:41 The entire state will be reopened to business and everyday activities adhering to what's being called common sense measures. Joining me is KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman, Matt. Welcome. Hey Maureen. So does the elimination of tears mean the state is going back to pre pandemic normal?

Speaker 4: 02:01 It sort of does, you know, state officials are re are referring to this as the post blueprint era in California. Now there will still be some restrictions. Now the governor and his staff are referring to this as a full reopening. Uh, but we did hear from health and human services, secretary Mark galley, uh, sort of nailing down this a little bit more. He said things like conventions with 5,000 or more people will not be allowed to happen, uh, past June 15th. Now, if the Ben organizers can prove that those people are vaccinated, maybe they can and some big indoor, large events and outdoor events like Coachella, those will still be not allowed, uh, past the summer.

Speaker 1: 02:35 Okay. So how does this affect how and where we need to wear masks and social distancing,

Speaker 4: 02:41 Right? Yeah. Some States don't have massive mandates. California does. And governor Newsome says that they're going to keep it for the foreseeable future. Now we don't really know how long that's going to be in effect, but the governor says, you know, even post the summer when these restrictions are lifted, the mask mandate will still be in effect.

Speaker 1: 02:56 Okay. So why did the governor say he's this step now?

Speaker 4: 03:00 Well, basically he says hospitalizations are way down and, uh, vaccinations are way up, you know, more than 20 million doses have now been delivered in California. The governor says that beats out every state in the country. Obviously we do have a lot more people living in California, but he now says 41% of residents over the age of 16 have gotten at least one dose. So he says we're on a good path to getting toward herd immunity. And basically, you know, coming up April 15th, vaccinations open up to everyone, age 16 and older. And you know, between then, and this announcement is about eight weeks and state officials are thinking that's enough time to give everyone the opportunity who wants to get a vaccination to get one. So part of today's announcement, you know, we know it's still, you know, uh, more than a month away, but he wants businesses to be able to prepare for what's coming.

Speaker 1: 03:43 Now, when the COVID tears are eliminated in June, what types of things will we be able to do that we can't do now?

Speaker 4: 03:51 Wow. You know, uh, uh, Dr. Galley said, you know, we can go and visit our family again. Um, also, you know, a lot of restrictions are gone for capacity, you know? So that could mean we're back to seeing, you know, full packed bars, packed sports venues, some of the, uh, much, much larger events like those, you know, music festivals that drop more than a hundred thousand people. Those are still on hold. But I think you're going to be seeing a return to, you know, pre pandemic normal, obviously though, a mask wearing is still going to be something that's required.

Speaker 1: 04:16 Okay. This was a big announcement today, but San Diego was just about to fall from the red to the orange tier this week. Is that still happening?

Speaker 4: 04:27 Yeah, we actually did fall from the red to the orange tier. So that means now that restrictions are being used even more in state officials basically said that they're going to keep updating the guidance as we go along here. You know, the blueprint while it is going away in 10 weeks. It's, it's still here for, for 10 weeks. Um, and basically, you know, retail and malls capacity increases, uh, bars that don't serve food can open up outdoors gyms, you know, capacity can increase inside movie theaters. It was only 10% now that that can increase as well. And as we progress more through the tiers, that capacity will only increase Maureen.

Speaker 1: 04:58 Now, other areas of the country, they are saying spikes in COVID cases. Is there concern that that could still happen here?

Speaker 4: 05:06 Yes. You know, state officials are obviously concerned that that, that that could happen, but they think that we've passed the point of having enough vaccinations also to going through this process, they're going to be monitoring a couple, couple metrics, you know, one basically vaccinations. They want to make sure that everybody who's interested in a vaccination can get one within two weeks of first having that, that, that thought of wanting to get vaccinated. Um, also they want to make sure that hospitalizations don't search, you know, that was something that, that was the whole point of these restrictions, right. Is to protect the hospital system, not overwhelm our healthcare system. That's something that they're still going to be focusing on. Um, obviously they're going to be monitoring, you know, if coronavirus patients are coming in, that's not as big of an issue if they have been vaccinated. Uh, but something they're going to continue to monitor as we move through here, the governor kind of also said that it's sort of dependent on keeping these metrics low, the case count low, the hospitalizations low, um, to get to this point where we lift all the restrictions come summer. And what about the

Speaker 1: 05:59 Threat of the variants that we've been hearing

Speaker 4: 06:01 About? Right. Well, you know, the governor, he's sort of a Kansas to like a race, right? In terms of vaccinating people as quickly as they can, right? Because for a variant to happen, there needs to be a mutation and mutation can only happen if the virus is spreading. So really they're trying to vaccinate as many people as they can, as quickly as they can, obviously, knowing that those variants are out there.

Speaker 1: 06:20 Did the governor talk about any road bumps that could maybe slow us down on our progress toward that June 15th date?

Speaker 4: 06:29 Well, he did talk about vaccination supply, you know, getting a lot of questions from reporters asking, you know, when's the supply increasing? How much is the supply going to be increasing? Um, you know, saying that they are getting assurances from some of those drug makers, that those supplies are increasing, but they're going to need to see that steady supply increasing. Obviously now, you know, when this announcement comes, a lot of people might hear in their head, you know, boom, California is reopened for business. Um, that might be in a lot of people traveling in-state out-of-state. Um, so they're really going to have to monitor to make sure, you know, we don't increase above the threshold for hospitalizations, even though there's no specific number. And also Maureen, something to keep in mind, two counties, they still have local control. You know, we're going to be hearing from our County officials later today and, you know, they might say, Hey, we're not ready. You know, come June 15 to move this fast.

Speaker 1: 07:13 Okay then, well, thanks so much. I've been speaking with KPBS reporter, Matt Hoffman. Thank you, Matt. Thanks Maureen.

Speaker 5: 07:30 In the early morning of March 2nd and SUV packed with 25, people was hit by a big rig. When the driver of the SUV ran a stop sign. The crash in Imperial Valley is one of the deadliest border related crashes. In recent decades. Those in the SUV paid a smuggler to help them cross into the United States. The suspected smuggler was charged with organizing a human smuggling attempt that caused serious injury. This tragedy highlights a humanitarian crisis at the Southern border. Joining me is New York times, reporter Miriam Jordan, who reports on the impact of immigration on the society, culture and economy of the United States. She's based in Los Angeles. Miriam. Welcome. Thank you. Happy to be here. So in your piece, you say the 13 people who died in the crash are a portrait of the migration explosion. The U S government is struggling to address how do the backstories of those who died and survive this crash? Give us a look into why we're seeing this increase. Well, I think that the main driving factor of this migration currently is the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic on countries, in the developing world. And in particular, the piece sheds light on the fact that we have growing numbers of single Mexican adults, both men and women coming to the United States after

Speaker 6: 08:56 Reframing from doing so for many years, because the Mexican economy has been badly battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaker 5: 09:06 And how does this surge in migration compared to previous surge, as we've seen,

Speaker 6: 09:11 It's a surge that we have not seen in about 15 years. The likes of it's a surge, that's more diverse than some of the surges in, you know, the past year say in the early two thousands, but it's composed of women and children, single adults and unaccompanied minors. And if there was one thing that they all have in common is that they are seeking a better life in the United States.

Speaker 5: 09:38 How did you go about finding the backstories of those in the SUV for this piece you wrote?

Speaker 6: 09:44 So, um, the story is based on interviews with, you know, survivors and family members, who I was able to track down with the assistance of, uh, Mexican consular officials, as well as, uh, officials from the Guatemalan consulate in Los Angeles. I interviewed agents with the California highway patrol, the U S border patrol and Homeland security investigations. And I, you know, reviewed police reports and a federal complaint that was recently filed against the man accused of organizing this trip. I E the, um, coyote,

Speaker 5: 10:19 Let's talk about some of those people who were being smuggled into the U S when the SUV crashed one of the survivors, Zephyr Rena Mendoza, who was badly injured in the crash, why did she say she decided to make the often dangerous track to the U S

Speaker 6: 10:35 Well, you know, as a Farina lives in a very poor region of, of Mexico called Guerrero, a single mom, um, trying to eke out an existence, um, you know, doing odd jobs, but even somebody like her in the informal economy wasn't making ends meet. So she decided to try to make her way to the strawberry fields of California, where she had family already working, as you said,

Speaker 5: 11:07 Mendoza was making very little money. How did she, and how do others pay smugglers? The high cost of getting them into the U S

Speaker 6: 11:15 Um, what I learned from Zephyr Rina is that some of these coyotes even offer installment plans for paying the debt that these people incur. I mean, obviously she did not have $9,000 on her. So what she agreed was that once she began working, she would pay, you know, by the month, whatever she could toward what she owed. Now, it's quite possible that later she would get threatened or family members in the United States could receive threats from the coyote saying, you know, we want you to pay up or else, but that was the arrangement that she had struck.

Speaker 5: 11:54 And another one of the people you profile is Yesenia Melinda paras, who died in the crash. Tell me a bit about her and why she decided to make that

Speaker 6: 12:02 Journey, right? So she's an example of a central American fleeing gang violence that has really engulfed much of, uh, central America in the last, you know, decade or so. Uh, she was receiving threats on her phone, according to her uncle who lives in California felt, you know, that the threads were menacing and, um, life-threatening enough that she should leave immediately. And so she and her mother embarked on this journey,

Speaker 5: 12:35 The driver of the SUV also died in the crash, his backstory lines up with why it's believed he was driving. Tell me about that.

Speaker 6: 12:44 Right? So his wife, who I interviewed in Mexicali, the city where the SUV left from told me that he had less work as a result of the pandemic. He worked in a bakery and Anna Michaela Dora one of those factories along the border that churns out electronics and other products for the American market in any event driver had less work as a result of the pandemic was desperate to make money. Um, he had had this idea to start driving for Uber. However, Uber requires that cars be of a certain standard. If he went to the United States, he felt that he would quickly earn the money that he needed to buy a car and, you know, start driving in his home country. 13:00 PM.

Speaker 5: 13:38 People died in the crash. 12 survived, will the survivors stay in the United States.

Speaker 6: 13:44 There is a strong chance that they will be able to stay in the United States because they could avail of visas that are made available to witnesses of crimes. They obviously have insight information about how this human smuggling operation was organized, how much, you know, they had to pay how many people might've been involved in, fairing them across, stashing them in a remote location or a staging area before they went across, et cetera. So it's possible that cooperating would enable them to remain in the United States. Long-term, but that's, you know, not a hundred percent certain.

Speaker 5: 14:34 I've been speaking to New York times, reporter Miriam, Jordan, Miriam. Thank you very much for joining us.

Speaker 6: 14:40 You're welcome. Thank you for having me. This is KPBS mid edition. I'm

Speaker 1: 14:52 Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade. Heinemann the American rescue plan act. The third federal COVID relief package is bringing a major influx of cash, just San Diego County schools. The congressional research service estimates that the rescue act will bring more than $908 million to County school districts. The biggest chunk of the money more than $340 million is slated for San Diego unified the county's largest school district as the district prepares to resume in-person classes next week, San Diego unified and other districts across the County have to decide on the best use of those federal dollars. Joining me is San Diego unified board, president Richard Berrera and Richard. Welcome.

Speaker 7: 15:38 Thank you.

Speaker 1: 15:39 What do you think the district needs to do first with this influx of money?

Speaker 7: 15:43 So we need to focus first on making sure that as we returned students, uh, to our classrooms beginning, next week, we have all of the health and safety mitigations in place. And so that includes everything from proper ventilation of classrooms, PPE and masks, available to everybody, regular cleaning of classrooms, and of course, regular COVID testing. So we will be spending resources on, uh, all of those, uh, necessary health and safety measures. We then Marine, uh, are planning a dramatically expanded summer program this year. So, you know, normally our summer program, uh, is just a few hundred high school seniors that need to make up some credits in order to graduate from high school. We're planning on offering a robust summer program to tens of thousands of students this summer at all grade levels. And that will be a combination of, uh, students coming into class, working with teachers in the mornings, and then going out and participating in a whole variety of community-based programs in the afternoon. And we're partnering with the San Diego foundation. We are investing some of the money that we're getting from the recovery act into micro grants for community-based organizations, uh, to offer activities for our students over the summer

Speaker 1: 17:12 Question about the expanded summer program. You say you're offering that to students. Is that something that is required or is that something up to a student to decide whether or not they want to attend?

Speaker 7: 17:25 Yeah. So we've made the decision to have a voluntary, expanded summer program for students whose parents, you know, wish to participate, as opposed to, you know, for instance, extending the school year, which would be mandatory for all students. We know, you know, students and their families are in very different places. And we think that, you know, many, many of our families will want to take advantage of the summer program. So, so rather than a mandatory extension of the school year, what we're doing is opening up, you know, uh, a summer program for all students who want to participate in that.

Speaker 1: 18:02 How does the district plan to be accountable for how it spends this huge amount of taxpayer dollars?

Speaker 7: 18:09 Yeah. So first of all, we need to submit a plan to the federal government and regular reporting about how we're spending the money, but we also, you know, we want to engage our community in a pretty deep way about look, we've got resources now that are available, that we believe California public schools should have had for the last several decades. I mean, we think this is actually the adequate level of resources for public education, but now we have it at least for a while. And so what are the key investments that we want to make, uh, you know, in our students, how do we want to transform our school system? So it's not just going back to where we were pre pandemic, which frankly was not adequate, you know, for, for too many of our students, how do we create, you know, the smaller class sizes, the extra time that students need, uh, you know, whether it's, uh, extra tutoring, extra time after the school day. And as we're talking about, you know, expanded summer programs. So we want to engage our community in a real conversation about what's our longterm vision, you know, for the way public education should happen here in San Diego. And how do we use this influx of money to start to build a foundation, to get to that, to get to that vision.

Speaker 1: 19:32 And last question, uh, San Diego unified starts reopening next week, one week from today,

Speaker 7: 19:38 Ready, we are ready. Uh, and in fact, we're spending this week. So all of our staff are now back on our campuses. Uh, and that began yesterday and, and staff were getting ready to implement, you know, all of our health and safety protocols. Uh, but our classrooms are equipped, ready to go. The supplies are there and are necessary. And, uh, and parents will be getting notification today from their schools about, uh, what the, what the schedule will look like. At least at the beginning. Um, most of our schools, uh, we believe we'll be able to offer a four day a week in-person program and then continue online learning for the students whose parents, uh, you know, are not yet comfortable having students come back online. We will have some schools that will likely be two days a week because we have, you know, a, a very large number of students that will, uh, plan to return. So, uh, this is a week of preparation for the staff and the, and then on Monday, our students at all grade levels will start to return. Okay. I've been speaking

Speaker 5: 20:48 With San Diego unified board, president Richard Barrera,

Speaker 8: 20:51 Richard, thank you. Thanks so much. Maureen

Speaker 5: 21:10 San Diego County will pay $3.5 million to the family of 39 year old Paul Silva, a mentally ill man who died in custody after Sheriff's deputies tried to force him out of a jail cell back in 2018, the settlement is the largest foreign in custody death in the San Diego County jail system. And it may not be the last Kelly Davis is a San Diego writer. Who's been covering the County jails. This latest article was a collaboration with the San Diego union Tribune. Kelly, welcome. Hi, thank you. Remind us of why Paul Silva was in custody and what his health condition was like while there.

Speaker 8: 21:49 Yeah, so, uh, Paul Paul suffered from schizophrenia. He was, he was 39 years old. He'd been diagnosed when he was in his twenties and every now and then he stopped taking his medications. And when he did, you know, his mom, his parents would, would try to get him help his mom in the past had called nine one one and, and requested that the San Diego police departments, psychiatric emergency response team, asking for them for their assistance. And, and they would show up, they would talk to Paul calmly and they'd get them to comply. He'd start taking his medication again. And he was fine. So, so this was, uh, in February of 2018 and he had stopped taking his medication again. And this time, instead of the PERT team, the psychiatric emergency response team showing up three San Diego police officers showed up, they insisted Paul was on methamphetamine. His mom said, no, he's just having a psychotic episode. They arrest them. Anyhow, took him to jail and booked him for being under the influence, held him for 36 hours. During which time he kind of fell deeper into psychosis.

Speaker 5: 22:56 And now San Diego County taxpayers will pay $3.5 million settlement to Silva's family. What did Silva experience while in jail? And where did officers go wrong and how they handle this?

Speaker 8: 23:08 His mom had hoped he'd be taken to a psychiatric facility or that when he was in the jail, he would be assessed, you know, for being schizophrenic and maybe placed in a holding cell where a clinician could, could meet with him and talk with him. Instead, he was kept in a holding cell for 36 hours. The lights were on constantly. He had no access to fresh water, no access to medical care. You can't lay down in these holding cells. We barely got enough food, which became an issue because he was diabetic and there's a video footage showing him increasingly acting running around the cell, throwing himself to the ground, yelling at the wall. It was very clear that, that he, it should have been very clear to, to law enforcement, to deputies that this was signs of mental illness. Um, and so then because of his diabetes, he was also kind of showing the effects of, of hypoglycemia.

Speaker 5: 24:05 The Sheriff's department has since changed its cell extraction policy. Can you tell me about that?

Speaker 8: 24:10 Yeah, so, so one thing with Paul, you know, that it was a very violent sounds extraction. He had stopped breathing because of the weight on him from these six deputies, this tactical team that was trying to restrain him. And one of the saddest parts of, you know, there's video of this, they finally restrained him after many, many minutes of him, you know, begging, pleading saying that he can't breathe when they restrain him. About three minutes have passed since, since you could hear his voice or anything. And finally someone says, is he still breathing? And so one of the new policies is that there has to be a safety deputy who's during a cell extraction. That deputy, his only job is to monitor the person to make sure that they're still breathing basically that they haven't and haven't suffered any serious injury. So I think that's the most significant change that definitely would have probably saved Paul's life.

Speaker 5: 25:06 You know, how many other lawsuits are there like this and how many in custody deaths have there been in recent years?

Speaker 8: 25:13 Yeah, so the, the, the Sheriff's department, sadly, um, averages at least a decade or more a month, and this we've been, we've looked back, you know, 10, 12 years. And, and this has been a pattern and the County is currently facing at least a dozen lawsuits tied to deaths. Most of them are, have to do with deaths. Um, some of them have to do with, with serious injury where the, where the person is now in capacitated, you know, because of what happened to them in jail,

Speaker 5: 25:40 Based on the settlement Silva was having a medical emergency. Can you explain why it is? So often people experiencing psychological distress are taken to jail rather than a medical facility, and how's the County addressing that

Speaker 8: 25:54 Because it's police police who are called to, to handle these folks. The default is that there must be some, this person must be on drugs. It's it's, it can be hard to tell unless you have, you know, trained professional there, even then it could be tricky. Uh, but yeah, so that's what happens so often is that, is that folks who are experiencing a mental breakdown, it's assumed they're on drugs, they're taken to jail. Um, there's often not enough clinicians on staff to do a diagnosis, uh, and, and beds in, in psychiatric facilities are so often full and there's no room. And so jail is, is the default. And, um, you know, supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who's now the chair of the board of supervisors. He's promised to allocate more money to health treatment, to open up more beds for folks having psychiatric emergencies. So that, yeah, so hopefully for folks like me, you know, what happened to Paul in the future? The default will be to, to have him taken to one of these facilities to be checked out first, instead of being taken to jail. I've been speaking

Speaker 1: 27:02 With Kelly Davis, a San Diego writer who covers San Diego County jails. Kelly, thank you for joining us.

Speaker 8: 27:08 Yes. Thank you so much. Jane,

Speaker 1: 27:18 A new study has concluded that the cost of sexual assault and harassment in the U S military extends beyond the victims. It's also causing troops to leave the service prematurely hurting military readiness from San Antonio Carson frame reports for the American Homefront project.

Speaker 8: 27:36 When Amber Davula joined the army in 2011, she planned to stay in for the full 20 or until retirement. She took pride in her communication security job. It made her feel like part of a team and a greater good. I used to joke that I was gonna, um, eventually become the first female command Sergeant major in the army that all changed when Davina was sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier in Korea, even though she was terrified of being ostracized, she eventually reported her attacker and he was discharged after a lengthy investigation. But for law, the ordeal wasn't over, you think you're okay. And then, you know, the commander says, um, you know, horseshoe on me. So everybody kind of moves in. Um, and then suddenly someone's brushing against me. And I'm right back in that formation in Korea where this man is torturing me and it just became overwhelming.

Speaker 8: 28:24 She spiraled into anxiety and destructive behavior and spent more and more energy trying to appear fine when it came time to re-enlist, she had a panic attack and that's when I decided I couldn't do it anymore. And that I needed to get out Debbie law isn't alone in that decision, according to a new study by the Rand corporation, sexual assault doubled the odds that a service member would leave the military within 28 months. And about a quarter of troops who were sexually harassed didn't rehab. Andrew Morrell is a senior behavioral scientist at Rand and the study's lead author.

Speaker 9: 28:56 Y'all know. I think that, uh, sexual assault and sexual harassment has tremendous costs to the individuals involved in it. Uh, but I think less attention has been paid to what the institutional costs are

Speaker 8: 29:08 Using defense department data. He tracked the careers of a group of service members who reported sexual assault or harassment. Then he used statistical analysis to figure out how their experiences translated to the entire force assaults were associated with about 2000 more people leaving the military than would normally be expected. Sexual harassment contributed to the departure of an additional 8,000 service members. Most who left did so by choice, often sacrificing retirement and other benefits.

Speaker 9: 29:36 They may not have felt like they had bunch of choice if, if it was a very toxic work environment, uh, but they weren't

Speaker 8: 29:42 Kicked out after the killing of specialist, Vanessa Guian at Fort hood in central Texas and independent review found that commanders weren't paying enough attention to sexual assault and harassment. In some cases, noncommissioned officers didn't encourage reporting and shamed victims. Morales says that's been a problem across the military, but he hopes framing sexual assault and harassment as a retention problem will get their attention. Well, I hope that they use it to emphasize the importance of leadership, promoting a command climate that is not permissive with respect to sexual assault and sexual harassment kinds of behaviors. And I think it's been hard to get those messages all, all the way down into the junior enlisted ranks. President Biden recently ordered a 90 day commission to pursue solutions to sexual assault in the military. One of its goals is to figure out how to reorient the culture against sex crimes. Lynn Rosenthal, a long time advocate for survivors of gender violence heads, the commission. She told reporters in February that she'll organize listening sessions with service members, especially survivors.

Speaker 5: 30:48 This commission says to that service member, you do belong. And this military you belong and it's our job to make this climate safe for you to be here.

Speaker 8: 31:02 The commission is slated to give recommendations to the president this summer that's too late for former service members like Amber Davula since leaving the military in 2015, she started work for the pink. Barets a women veterans organization in San Antonio. It supports survivors of military sexual trauma and advocates for policy change, but she says she feels a lingering grief about her service, especially when talking with friends whose army careers have taken off I'm Carson frame in San Antonio.

Speaker 5: 31:30 This story was produced by the American Homefront project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans funding comes from the corporation for public broadcasting. Cities from Sacramento to Berkeley are moving forward on zoning changes to encourage higher density housing, such as duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes. But how much of a dent will these new options make in California's housing shortage? And will they be affordable cap radios? Chris Nichols has this story.

Speaker 10: 32:06 Construction crews are digging trenches for dozens of new homes in a subdivision in winters, just outside Sacramento. A small fraction of them will be duplexes. What Laura Pope calls duets. She's a sales consultant for town development right here on this corner. And then the other corner we'll have the two duets. So this first driveway hope says these two unit homes with a shared wall will go for about $400,000. Each that's about 20% less than the standard single family homes in the neighborhood. And she

Speaker 11: 32:40 Says it might make the difference for middle income families, such as young couples trying to buy their first.

Speaker 12: 32:46 Are you able to get into the Northern California housing market, you know, on a brand new home, in a very desirable location, under $500,000 is a unique situation.

Speaker 11: 32:57 Developers in California tend to build two kinds of housing, either single family homes or large apartment buildings. Cities want to add more of a third option. So-called missing middle housing, like duplexes and triplexes to add more density in a way that fits the neighborhood right now, they can't that's because most residential areas are zoned exclusively for single family homes. Supporters say these missing middle options will cut down on sprawl and create more walkable communities. And they're hopeful. There'll be more affordable to housing expert, Tom Davidoff of the university of British Columbia and Vancouver says they will be less expensive, but they still won't be in reach forever.

Speaker 2: 33:42 The same structure divided into two. Definitely those two units sell for less than the bundled unit. And it allows more people to live in. The neighborhood

Speaker 11: 33:51 Says he doesn't expect a surge in construction because there's not that much profit and turning a single family home into a duplex. He says cities should zone for much greater density, such as apartment towers to really solve the house

Speaker 2: 34:05 Crunch. If you don't offer too much extra density people, aren't going to tear down the existing homes and build new because it's costly to tear down an existing structure

Speaker 11: 34:15 Supporters of missing middle housing point to Minneapolis as a model that city gained national attention in late 2018, when it became the first in the country to eliminate single family zoning followed shortly after by Portland, I asked housing advocate, Margaret Kaplan of the housing justice center in Minnesota, whether she sees signs of new affordable homes in Minneapolis, more than two years later,

Speaker 2: 34:42 Not much

Speaker 11: 34:44 Kaplan says in the first nine months of last year, Minneapolis issued just three permits for triplexes, but Kelly Snyder says the slow pace of production is not a reason to deny this change in California. Snyder teaches real estate development at San Jose state and works as a consultant in the industry. She says California cities should move forward with these new housing options because they won't cause the neighborhood disruptions many fear

Speaker 2: 35:11 Have seen in Portland and Minneapolis that this is not a dramatic change. She says

Speaker 11: 35:17 There's a lot of other strategies to focus on such as funding, truly affordable housing, but for missing middle

Speaker 2: 35:24 Saying, it's not worth doing is not an answer. It is worth doing it. Won't alone solve a problem, but it's one more tool in the tool box

Speaker 11: 35:33 In California. It may be several years before we know how well tool works

Speaker 13: 35:39 In Sacramento. I'm Chris Nichols.

Speaker 1: 35:52 This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen Cavenaugh with Jade. Heinemann the ability to hold in-person events is rapidly moving forward, but San Diego opera has a long lead time for planning its events, KPBS arts reporter, Beth Huck Amando speaks with the operas general director, David Bennett, about what these changes mean for the company and about its events scheduled for the end of this month.

Speaker 14: 36:18 David things are changing rapidly right now in terms of what organizations can do in terms of in-person events. So how are these changes impacting the opera right now?

Speaker 13: 36:30 Well, you know, opera has a bit of a long time horizon. So, you know, booking artists and everything, we have to plan fairly far into the future. You know what we have starting today with rehearsals was planned quite a while ago, but you're right. Things are changing. So what it's making us do is look at next season with a more clearer open eye. Let's put it that way and we already have some plans in place for what we want to do for next season. We just had our budget approved by the board, finalizing casting for all of that. We will be returning to theaters next season when we actually make a step back into side inside of a theater may change a little bit based upon the recent changes. And also more importantly, how many people are allowed back in theaters. That's the real big unknown, but things that are looking hopeful now, right?

Speaker 13: 37:15 There was a directive from the governor just last week about how live performances are really they're now allowed even at, in where we are right now, which is the red tier. There are performances that are permittable, albeit with a very, very small audience. And that's the question, you know, how does it really work out in terms of a business proposition to be able to take on the expenses of producing opera? And where's the moment where we can do that with a lower number of audience members that we can allow. So that's the big unknown, but we're looking, it's looking hopeful

Speaker 14: 37:48 With some of these new restrictions. Is it also going to be complicated in terms of there may be the vaccinated audience versus the unvaccinated audience and then how much responsibility is it going to be on your organization to monitor all this?

Speaker 13: 38:03 Yeah, it's a really good question because that was clearly part of the directive that was released last week is that there is under the guidelines that they are there now stating there is a larger number of an audience that will be allowed if you can prove vaccination as well as negative tests within seven days prior to the performance now will that change? Who knows, but that's the directive right now. And you know, we don't quite know the answer who's going to be responsible for that will the venue, you know, we don't own any of our venues. Is it a combination? The venue and the producer like us as the opera, will there be legal challenges to that? Does that put a responsibility on us that we really shouldn't be placed in that role? Who knows anyway, but the encouraging news is that it's all being dealt with right now. And it looks like there are some answers coming.

Speaker 14: 38:53 Yeah. It seems like an awful lot of responsibility may be placed on venues and organizations. And then, you know, do you have to check, are those vaccine cards forged? Are they real? The person who, who actually got vaccinated holding the car,

Speaker 13: 39:09 Right. I mean, you know, there, there's a lot of national talk about pros and cons of, you know, some kind of passport, um, whether that will be something that will actually happen, whether there'll be any kind of an electronic system that we have where we show it on our phones. We do know before COVID, there was already a discussion about having increased security being required at our venues. So I think now there'll be just general security folded into some kind of COVID testing security protocols. Yeah. All yet to be determined. But the fact that it's moving forward in the conversation now, sooner than I'd anticipated it happening is good news for us.

Speaker 14: 39:46 But you do have some events currently planned that are almost in-person, you're doing drive in opera and concert. First talk a little bit about the concert and how this is has been conceived and what it's actually going to be for an audience.

Speaker 13: 40:01 Sure. So, you know, we've had for the past four or five years, a concert that we call one amazing night and we call it that because it is only one performance and it always is amazing. So we're using that concept, but we're instead of featuring a guest artist, three members of our chorus, along with some local talents and wonderful local singing actors that are not usually performers with the opera and the subtitle of one amazing night is when I see your face again, which you know, is the world, we're all living in, hidden behind our masks. And the point of that title is we're selecting music that has been inspired by or composed in reaction to moments of pandemic ranging from the Renaissance period, all the way up to post AIDS crisis, and a variety of music that features choral ensembles, but also individuals solo singers, opera, choruses, Renaissance, choral music, um, music from the Baroque period, individual Arias music theater spoken word. And we have three local artists that I think are talent that our audience is really going to enjoy seeing Angelina Rio. Also Allison Spratt Pearce. Who's a very well-known music theater singer and James Newcomb. And the three of them are joining members of our course. And also of course, the musicians of the San Diego symphony.

Speaker 14: 41:23 And then you also have something to really lift our spirits, which is barber of Seville. And that is going to be another drive in opera. And you've, this is going to be your second one. So how do you feel going into

Speaker 3: 41:34 A second one? Have you learned a lot?

Speaker 13: 41:36 Yeah, actually the first thing I learned was to make sure I hired the same director because she was so brilliant in Bo em, so we brought her back for this barber of Seville and, you know, directing a, an opera for a driving audience and also meeting the spacing requirements that we have to abide by to keep the self, the health and safety of our performers is not an easy thing. And Katurah did a great job in both. I'm still told the story very clearly she'll do the same with barber, but one big learning that point that we had, which was a surprise to me was that really, we were able to create a sense of intimacy inside of this very big experience. And the reason why is the audience is still inside of their cars, right? So you have really high quality audio coming through the FM radio system mixed beautifully.

Speaker 13: 42:23 And then what mostly you're seeing, yes, you see the performers on the stage, but there are eight very large screens around the area where the audience is parked and you see closeups of the artists. So you have this sense of intimacy that you really are not able to, uh, achieve inside of the civic theater, which was a great surprise. And people really enjoyed that. And also the opportunity to actually comment to the people in your cars. It's okay to talk a little bit, right. So it came to sing along as far as I'm concerned, if you have your windows rolled up. So yeah, there's a lot of interesting things to recreate in this barber that we did in our rom

Speaker 3: 42:59 Touristic and directed Labo em, and found an innovative way to recreate that for a drive. And so what is she doing for a barber of Seville?

Speaker 13: 43:07 Well, we were taking a cue from the costumes that we're using from this production, which was set in the late sixties, early seventies. And so if we think of that world cutter, Katurah just told the cast and a meeting that we had earlier to sort of think of television during that era. And if we think of that, the strongest, uh, television moment she talked about was laughin, particularly the, um, cocktail hour and laughing. So I think that world also the world of, uh, the Beatles movies of the monkeys, zany, lots of dancing, lots of color and funny. And there, you know, barber of Seville is a comedy at its heart. And so if it's not funny, it's not fun. So this is going to be a funny, fun zany colorful.

Speaker 3: 43:50 All right. I want to thank you very much for talking about the latest updates on San Diego opera. It's my pleasure. Thank you very much. That was Beth Huck. Amando speaking with San Diego opera is David Bennett. The barber of Seville starts April 25th and one amazing night takes place on April 24th. [inaudible] [inaudible] [inaudible].

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KPBS Midday Edition

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