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Blue Line trolley extension is up and running

 November 22, 2021 at 3:54 PM PST

Speaker 1: (00:01)

Uh, report from onboard the new blue line trolley.

Speaker 2: (00:04)

The rail extension really has the potential to reshape commute patterns along

Speaker 1: (00:10)

I'm Maureen Kavanaugh with Jade Heinemann. This is KPBS mid-day edition. Who's gotten a COVID booster shot. San Diego releases the statistics.

Speaker 3: (00:29)

The CDC has actually simplified that a bit to say that anybody can get a booster. If enough time has passed,

Speaker 1: (00:38)

Do problems at the San Diego crime lab, put convictions in jeopardy. And in anticipation of Comicons revival, we visit a local comic book store that survived the pandemic that's ahead on midday edition San Diego's biggest expansion of public transit, and more than 15 years is now up and running. The blue line trolley now offers a one-seat ride from the border to UCS D and university city KPBS. Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen examines. The impact that extension could have, and the work that's still left to do

Speaker 2: (01:23)

Service on the extended UCS blue line began on Sunday, but last week, MTS offered the media a preview ride. It was fast and smooth with some excellent views. You can't get well driving full disclosure. I've been looking forward to this trolley ride for a long time, and it's hard to understate just how big a deal. The project is nine news stations and 11 miles of new tracks. That's a 20% increase in the MTS trolley network. We're

Speaker 4: (01:53)

So excited about this project.

Speaker 2: (01:56)

Sharon Humphreys is the bubbly director of engineering and construction at SANDAG, the regional transportation agency that built the trolley extension. She says the project has been planned since the 1980s.

Speaker 4: (02:08)

I myself have worked on the project for the last 10 years. So if you are interested in instant gratification, civil engineering is not the field for you.

Speaker 2: (02:19)

One of the key decisions made early on was to build the tracks next to the I five freeway that made the project cheaper and easier to build by limiting the amount of land SANDAG had to acquire.

Speaker 4: (02:31)

Nobody wants to part with their personal property, their land. So by running most of the project through public lands, we were able to avoid impacting property owners and impact personal property.

Speaker 2: (02:45)

The downside to that decision, half the land that surrounds many of the stations is taken up by the freeway where there's no chance of building new housing or commercial development, even where the city does have plans for transit oriented growth. They'll likely take years to come to fruition. No,

Speaker 5: (03:02)

And we look around, uh, we don't see the kind of dense housing here that we might hope for.

Speaker 2: (03:10)

Katie. Chris does a postdoctoral researcher at UCS D the campus has two new stops along the blue line. She's starting a study of how the new trolley changes the transportation habits among university staff.

Speaker 5: (03:23)

And what we expect is that we'll see an increase in physical activity and increase in biking, walking, transit trips, uh, and a decrease in vehicle miles traveled among those people that live near to a trolley stop versus those that live further away.

Speaker 2: (03:39)

Krista plans on riding the trolley to campus a couple of times a week. She lives in normal Heights, miles and canyons away from the nearest trolley stop. But she's a gung-ho cyclist and transit rider eager to get to the trolley. However she can. The extension starts at old town and runs north between Pacific beach and Claremont before reaching UCS, Dede and university city. Kristen, I rode our bikes up and down Balbo avenue. The third stop on the trolley extension, but it's cross at the crosswalk Massive trucks zoomed by us. Like it was a freeway. Many of the new stations are downright hazardous to access by foot wheelchair or bike. And crisp says, most people who live far from these stations, won't go out of their way to ride the trolley. There are plans to improve bike and pedestrian infrastructure around the stations, but there's no clear timeline on when they'll be complete and they may require taking a lane or two away from cars. Chris says she doesn't see another option.

Speaker 5: (04:45)

We've set some really ambitious targets, right? With our climate action plan. We know that transportation is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gases that are warming the planet and causing, uh, you know, public health harm. So I think that that is a trade-off. We have to be willing to make sure

Speaker 2: (05:04)

The benefits of the new trolley may take a while to reach most San Diego wins, but UCS D chancellor Perdeep Koestler says he thinks the trolley will really catch on with students within a year. We have

Speaker 6: (05:16)

Passes for all of our students. It's part of their student activity fees. So the students will have complete access to San Diego

Speaker 2: (05:23)

Without a car or rather access to the parts of San Diego. You can easily get to via public transit.

Speaker 1: (05:31)

[inaudible] is KPBS Metro reporter, Andrew Bowen, who obviously can't get enough of the blue line trolley. He's riding the trolley again today. Hello

Speaker 2: (05:40)

Andrew. Hi Maureen. Good morning.

Speaker 1: (05:43)

How is it getting from your house to the trolley this morning?

Speaker 2: (05:47)

I live in university Heights and I wanted to experience it, you know, without driving. So I rode my bike, uh, through Hillcrest mission Hills. It was a really beautiful ride, uh, views of point Loma and mission bay, uh, went through Presidio park. Um, once I got to old town station, it was a bit of a struggle, just getting to the actual trolley tracks. Cause there are a lot of fences and not really clear wayfinding signage. And then I'm parking. My bike at the station was also a bit of a hassle because there's not a very clearly marked bike parking anywhere. Uh, so, you know, uh, it was a bit of a struggle, um, but a beautiful ride. And, uh, one that I expect I'll be making, uh, you know, more often in the future

Speaker 1: (06:29)

Age ridership on this first week day that the trolley is operational. Like how many people are in your car?

Speaker 2: (06:35)

I would say there are about 15 to 20 people on the car that I'm riding in right now. I didn't get a good look at the other two cars that are, that are connected to this, uh, yesterday, uh, in the big grand opening, there were cars that were just absolutely packed standing room only. And it was also free yesterday. So I'm sure that had played a role in it MTS before the pandemic projected that the extension would add an additional 27,000 trips per day, but it hasn't revised those projections since the pandemic hit right now. Their ridership overall has recovered to only about 65% of what it was pre pandemic, but of course these projects are built for literally decades. So you really can't measure the impact just based on a day or even a couple of years.

Speaker 1: (07:22)

And how long does it take to ride from the border to UCS D?

Speaker 2: (07:26)

Yeah, this is a big peg, a caveat to the selling point of the one-seat ride with no transfers. Uh, so it's roughly an hour and 20 minutes from the border to UCF. And even on a day like today with rush hour traffic, uh, you know, that could still be two to three times faster if you just make that, uh, via car. Of course, a lot of people around the border and everything don't have cars. So it's nice for them to have that one seat ride and not having to transfer. Um, but you know, even, even though it is a faster and smoother and more convenient ride for a lot of people, it's still probably going to be faster to drive for a lot of people.

Speaker 1: (08:07)

Now, you and other Metro Watchers have been very excited about the opening of the blue line. Can you encapsulate for the rest of us, why this is such a big deal?

Speaker 2: (08:17)

Rail infrastructure is really difficult and expensive to build in the United States, partly because it's difficult and expensive to build any mega project, big infrastructure projects just don't get built as often as they used to be. But partly that's because most of our money goes to building and maintaining roads and freeways. And in San Diego in particular, there's a certain antipathy, I think, toward public transit that you hear among some elected officials, you know, they say that public public transit benefits only a fraction of the population and they should spend more money and more time subsidizing driving. But in terms, the project itself is actual, uh, you know, 11 new miles of light rail, nine news stations, university city, where this line ends is a huge employment hub. It's not just UCLA. They're also big office buildings around their retail at the UTC mall. Uh, the VA hospital is a big employer as well. So the rail extension really has the potential to reshape commute patterns a lot, but a lot would also have to change in terms of, you know, ways people can get to those stations and the development that happens around them.

Speaker 1: (09:26)

Yeah. Yeah. You mentioned several downsides to the blue line trolley extension. And so if enough people can't live near a trolley stop or safely get to and from the trolley, will it really have a significant impact on San Diego?

Speaker 2: (09:43)

Yeah, I think it really depends on what happens next. So I think we are likely to see plans for a denser housing, become a raw reality around some of the news stations, by the way, I'm right between Claremont drive and Balbo avenue. I'm looking by at mission bay as we go by and right around here, there are a lot of plans for dense housing to my left. I'm looking at, uh, I'm heading backwards to my left and looking at a lot of homes in Claremont. And, uh, right now the city is debating the Claremont community plan update, which would add some density, uh, around this area, around the stations. And if the city really wants to improve the transit experience, it would probably have to spend a lot of money, uh, making changes to the streets that, uh, get people to these stations. Uh, some of those changes might also upset people. You might have to take away a lane of, uh, for cars and give it over to buses so that people can be whisked away in a rapid best from Claremont or Pacific beach to, to the trolley line. So I think there's a lot of potential and the seeds of a lot of success in this project, but it's just, um, not all of those things have happened yet. Now,

Speaker 1: (10:49)

Reporting ridership on all of San Diego's trolley lines have gone through ups and downs. One of the main reasons you think that keep people away from using the trolley,

Speaker 2: (10:59)

The bottom line is that the trolley network doesn't go to or come to where a lot of people live or, uh, where they're going. And that even when it does cars are still faster most of the time. And so, you know, it's going to take, um, probably some carrots and sticks. If you talk to any economists, they'll say, you know, you can subsidize, uh, transit passes. You can build new lines and make it faster and better and everything, but without a stick to sort of nudge people out of their cars, uh, then you know that the success that can only take you so far. So, you know, if, if San Diego really wants to change, it's going to have to start seeing transit as, uh, the, the option of first resort rather than last resort and make the changes to the infrastructure. Accordingly.

Speaker 1: (11:46)

I've been speaking with KPBS, Metro reporter, Andrew bow, and Andrew have a good and safe trip and drill yourself. Okay.

Speaker 2: (11:53)

Thank you very much, Maureen. It's been a pleasure.

Speaker 1: (12:05)

Who's gotten a COVID booster shot in San Diego. Well, if you're older, white, and female, you are in the highest percentage of booster recipients, but if you're a 20 something black or Latino male, you probably haven't gotten that booster shot yet. The statistics released by San Diego county reveal wide gaps in booster vaccinations health officials are concerned that a lack of interest in getting boosters could result in an increase in COVID cases over the holidays. Joining me is San Diego union Tribune, biotech reporter, Jonathan Wilson, and Jonathan, welcome back to the program.

Speaker 3: (12:42)

Good to talk with you.

Speaker 1: (12:43)

Now do this statistics on the booster rollout reflect what happened with the original vaccine rollout earlier this year.

Speaker 3: (12:51)

You know, they pretty much do. And that's because if you think back to the vaccine rollout early this year, actually towards the end of last year, to the people who first got an opportunity to get vaccinated, were healthcare workers, folks who were living in nursing homes, working in nursing homes, and then from then on, uh, you know, seniors and progressively that opened up to everybody else. And when you take a look at the data that San Diego county released last week, you can see that the people who tend to have gotten a booster at this point, uh, look a lot like that initial population. So about six out of every 10 people who've gotten the booster shot in the county are at least 60 years older, older, uh, about two out of every three of them are white or Asian. So if you look at that data and take a close peek at it, you'll see that the people who have gotten boosters look a lot, like some of the people who first got a chance to get vaccinated early this year. And that's not really surprising because the boosters are for people who have already been vaccinated, you know, several months and into the past at this point.

Speaker 1: (13:59)

Yeah. There have been a lot of mixed messages on who needs a booster shot. And when can you give us the most recent guidance on boosters?

Speaker 3: (14:08)

Yeah. So it has been a little confusing. So what I can tell you based on what the state and county public health departments have said, is that anyone who is fully vaccinated and got their second shot of the Pfizer or maternal vaccine at least six months ago is recommended to go ahead and get a booster. Uh, if you've got the J and J vaccine, which is a one-shot vaccine at least two months ago, uh, you can also go ahead and get a booster. And this is for people who are 18 years and up. And so that's the message. That's the guidance. That's actually a lot clearer than what the centers for disease control and prevention had originally said. The CDC has actually simplified that a bit to say that anybody can get a booster if enough time has passed

Speaker 1: (14:56)

And are the low numbers of Latinos getting booster shots surprising considering the success and overall vaccinations among that population,

Speaker 3: (15:05)

As you mentioned, the Latino population in San Diego has had actually a pretty successful vaccine rollout. And that has a lot to do with what community based groups were doing. Public health workers, trusted messengers, as well as the county in terms of, uh, setting up an infrastructure and building trust in the vaccines too. So if you look at the percent of people who are fully vaccinated by race, it actually looks pretty good among Latinos and Hispanics as high as the rate among Asians and a bit higher than the rate among white residents. So the fact that that is not the case among people who've gotten a booster. Uh, so basically 14% of people who've gotten a booster are Hispanic or Latino. Uh, 53% give or take are, uh, are white, uh, 13% Asian, two and a half percent black, and we can sort of go from there. So that was a little surprising. It might reflect to some degree that the vaccination rates among Latinos didn't really pick up until a few months into the vaccine rollout when all of these community-based efforts got off the ground. Uh, but it could also also reflect other things like general confusion around whether you could or couldn't get boosters. As you mentioned, there's been some mixed messaging there. Uh, it is a little bit surprising because those numbers aren't higher than, than what they are

Speaker 1: (16:32)

In a companion article in today's UT there's a report on the lagging percentage of blacks and native Americans in San Diego who have gotten any COVID vaccinations. It finds that just 46% of blacks and 51% of native Americans have begun the vaccination process. And the article says a lack of trust in government is to blame for the disparity. Is that also keeping the same populations away from boosters?

Speaker 3: (17:02)

I mean, basically, yes, because to get a booster, you have to have been fully vaccinated at least two months ago for the J and J vaccine or six months ago for Maduro or Pfizer. So to the extent that black residents and native American residents in the county are less likely to have been vaccinated to begin with, they're also less likely to be eligible to be getting boosters. So there's sort of a follow on effect where, you know, people who weren't really reached by the initial vaccine rollout are at risk. And they're also continuing to be at risk too, because you know, they are underrepresented among the folks that have gotten boosters. So that that's definitely some of the trust issues that were initially, there are having consequences as we go further and further into this pandemic.

Speaker 1: (17:52)

The data shows there's a gap in people 80 and over getting their boosters. And that's a concern for health officials. Isn't it?

Speaker 3: (18:00)

It is because when you look at COVID data and this has been pretty apparent since the very beginning, early 20, 20, uh, older adults have always been at highest risk. So, you know, upwards of 80, 85% of people who died of COVID-19 in this country have been at least 65 years old, local data back that up as well. Many of the people who died in San Diego have been 80 and up, uh, the fact that they don't represent as much of the booster recipient population as other groups residents. So basically 12% of people who've gotten the booster or 80 and up, uh, compared to 26% among people, 70 to 79. And, uh, you know, people who are home bound for example, and that, that often includes older residents are going to be less likely to be able to go to a pharmacy or healthcare provider or some other vaccine sites. So that may be part of the issue. People who are in that situation can call 2, 1, 1 to have vaccine actually brought to them. Uh, but, but we are seeing a bit of a concerning disparity in terms of age as well.

Speaker 1: (19:06)

I've been speaking with San Diego union Tribune, biotech reporter, Jonathan Wilson, Jonathan, thank you very much.

Speaker 3: (19:13)

You're very welcome. Thank you.

Speaker 7: (19:21)

You're listening to KPBS mid-day edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh and audit of the San Diego regional crime laboratory has revealed major lapses in security and testing protocols over the past several years, the audit, which lasted nearly 18 months underscores a number of key issues and the overall operation of the lab issues that may even cast doubt on the credibility of evidence used in previous criminal cases. Joining me now with more is Greg Moran, who covers criminal justice and legal affairs for the San Diego union Tribune. Greg, welcome back to the program. Thanks.

Speaker 8: (19:58)

Good to be here.

Speaker 7: (19:59)

What was the reasoning for this audit in the first place?

Speaker 8: (20:02)

I think this was a fairly routine audit that the department of justice, the federal department of justice does two crime laboratories around the country that participate in a very large, uh, DNA database system called CODIS, which is kind of the major repository for information on people who have been arrested or convicted for crimes around the country that various police departments and Sheriff's departments can kind of tap into to see if a DNA profile they have matches anybody who's been previously convicted. So the FBI wants to make sure that crime labs are operating to the federal standards to participate in this program. And periodically they will go to labs and do an audit.

Speaker 7: (20:42)

What are some of the major red flags that auditors found? Well, this

Speaker 8: (20:46)

Audit was conducted in 2018, and while they found a lot of compliance and good meeting of standards by the lab, they were troubled by one thing in particular, which is sort of the security aspect. Um, and in particular, they found that the San Diego crime lab really had a poor control over who had access and who didn't to the lab itself. Mostly that was in the form of who had, uh, sort of electronic key cards, which is the way you get in and out of the lab. There was no, apparently a comprehensive

Speaker 7: (21:15)

Versus systematic way to keep track of who had these cards and who didn't. And when people who no longer had business at the lab, either private contractors who would do work once in a while, or employees who worked there and then left their key cards, remained active for a very long time. And in one case, as long as 14 years, this raises questions about the security of the lab who can get in and who can not. And obviously when you're dealing with evidence in criminal cases, that's a real concern. Why did this audit take so long to complete?

Speaker 8: (21:46)

They've finished most of it, but this question about the key carts in the security, just kind of lingered for a long time. The auditors said, look, here's our finding. You, you don't have a real tight control over this access point. Please let us know how you're going to fix it and tell us. And either that information didn't get communicated to the auditors or they got it. And then didn't inform the FBI and people. But, uh, it was at least a year before, um, the auditors who had done this communicated again with the county, with the crime lab and said, look, what have you done to reconcile or to resolve this error? And then the county was able to kind of get them the information that said, this is what we're doing now. This is sort of our new process and things like that, but it just took a long time for people to kind of tie that one down,

Speaker 7: (22:35)

Have lab officials contested the findings at all

Speaker 8: (22:38)

Those, um, they acknowledged, and I think they kind of embarrassed. Uh, if you sort of read their formal response that they did not have a real good control over this now in their defense, they said, look, this audit was done at what was the laboratories old building there for many years, the lab was in a small building on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard. Then in late 2018, they moved into this brand new a hundred million dollar five story building on the county campus. And part of their response was when we get into that new building, you know, we'll have new security procedures, the old key cards won't work anymore. You know, we'll really tie it down, but yeah, they didn't contest the fact that they had not kept very good track at all of those key cards and who could get in and who could get out.

Speaker 7: (23:26)

What does this audit say about the overall quality control at the San Diego crime lab? It is this indicative of further issues that could be going on.

Speaker 8: (23:35)

Well, they didn't go that far. The artists did not go that far. This is pretty a narrowly focused, you know, review of procedures, but this audit take it in the context of other records and documents, previous audits and assessments that were done by other entities. Some information that has come out in court cases and stuff shows that this is not an outlier me. Let's say that, you know, the, the, the lab it's become apparent, you know, on and off over the years has had problems with testing results with this access kind of issue with personnel and things like that. And it's not widely known, you know, they're, they're a real key part of the criminal justice system, but a lot of what happens in the lab and what comes out of there, isn't heavily scrutinized. And this particular lapse insecurity seemed to be, to me at least, you know, a piece of a larger view of the lab that it, uh, has had, you know, some rough patches over the years that it's unknown if it's effected any cases, but it's certainly a cause for concern, you know, I talked to one expert who said, look, there's no lab in the country.

Speaker 8: (24:38)

That's perfect that doesn't have any findings or, or doesn't have any problems, but here, you know, the issue is kind of like, well, these are the things that they're finding. What are the things that they could be missing?

Speaker 7: (24:48)

Do these problems present any issues for the labs inclusion into the larger FBI database?

Speaker 8: (24:53)

No. And that's a great question. No, they were, they were still able to pertain their accreditation and their approval to participate in this. I mean, overall I think that the artists here by the federal government found that, you know, generally they were complying with most of the requirements to participate in it and they certainly haven't been, you know, suspended or, or taken out of the system. They can still access codas. So no, they're, they're still part of it. Um, I just think it was kind of, as you said, these were kind of red flags that you wanted to kind of send up and say, Hey, you know, you really need to kind of tie this down.

Speaker 7: (25:24)

So is there the chance that some of these issues raised here could cast doubt on evidence used in previous criminal cases?

Speaker 8: (25:33)

That's really the question, isn't it? Uh, unfortunately I don't have a great answer. So, uh, I mean, you know, a lot of the things that, I mean, this audit was three years ago. I reviewed and read through other artists that are as long as 15 or 20 years ago. Um, so it, but at this point, I don't know of any case other than, uh, there's a case pending up in, uh, north county, which kind of began to reveal a lot of the problems with the labs. But I don't know of any case right now where somebody said, Hey, you know, I want somebody to take a look at my case because it could have been affected by these kinds of lapses or errors or mistakes. However, that's not to say that there isn't one out there it's, um, kind of, uh, I don't know any of the defense lawyers who are pushing forward in the DA's office, isn't really moving to, to go and review a lot of cases that either individual criminalists whose work may have been, has been, uh, subject to scrutiny or overall processes, the lab have affected, they're kind of leaving it in the hands of the defense lawyers who kind of say, well, it was a long time ago.

Speaker 8: (26:35)

We don't know what criminalist worked on our case where things like that.

Speaker 7: (26:39)

I've been speaking with Greg Moran who covers criminal justice and legal affairs for the San Diego union Tribune. Greg, thank you very much for joining us. You're welcome.

Speaker 1: (26:54)

Universal preschool is coming to California in 2025 yet not everyone is celebrating. In fact, some believe that universal preschool could have disastrous consequences for childcare centers and families seeking early care with the impact falling hardest on communities of color. With a closer look here is Deepa Fernandez reporting for the California report.

Speaker 9: (27:19)

Many people are excited about California's new law that will bring free preschool to all the states four year olds by 2025.

Speaker 10: (27:27)

This action universal TK is the biggest thing we've ever done in California for our youngest learners

Speaker 9: (27:33)

Assembly member, Kevin Makati is the architect of the $2.7 billion universal program. This is a

Speaker 10: (27:40)

Game changer. The

Speaker 9: (27:41)

Program will provide free preschool through the public school systems, newest grade, transitional kindergarten, or TK,

Speaker 11: (27:50)

The biggest bubble, other than all,

Speaker 9: (27:54)

But lucky award is not celebrating. Woolard runs five early education centers like this one in San Leandro. She's really worried that the state's newly minted universal transitional kindergarten plan will siphon off all her four year olds.

Speaker 12: (28:12)

It will be difficult for us if we no longer able to serve four year olds. And that's because we depend on those tuitions in order to pay for the expense of the younger children

Speaker 9: (28:28)

In California childcare centers are required by law to have one adult present for every four kids under two while for four year olds, the ratio is one adult for every 12 kids, Dave Espen, executive director of California quality early learning says this,

Speaker 13: (28:47)

You take a loss on infants and toddlers and you make a marginal gain on the four and five years.

Speaker 9: (28:51)

Losing the fees from older children will cut into the small padding preschools, have to help cover the more expensive care of children under two.

Speaker 13: (29:00)

So many providers will close forever in the coming years. Those that don't close, we'll need to raise infinite toddler tuition. There's five, which will be completely unaffordable to even more families. So

Speaker 9: (29:10)

Parents might win by having free preschool for their four year old, but it could mean less available care for the very youngest.

Speaker 14: (29:18)

I'm really worried that the state of early childhood education is going to be catastrophic. We miserable. And about five years,

Speaker 9: (29:25)

Jennifer ricotta runs two preschools in Southern California. A lot

Speaker 14: (29:28)

Of black and brown women are going to be out of work.

Speaker 9: (29:31)

The early childhood workforce is overwhelmingly women of color and many won't have the required credentials to teach TK in the public school system. There were also worries about the overly harsh disciplining of black preschoolers. The behaviors that are normal for four year olds says Keisha and Zoe direct of public policy at the California childcare recess and referral network.

Speaker 14: (29:55)

My concern is starting a school to prison pipeline even earlier because behaviors that are age appropriate are not going to be tolerated on a public school campus.

Speaker 9: (30:04)

The civil rights group advancement project, California, once the universal plan to be equitable to California's many children of color, senior policy director, Kadesia alum acknowledges there are issues to still be resolved and she believes there is a role for home childcares and small preschools.

Speaker 15: (30:22)

Honestly, I just don't see, you know, school districts is taking on the whole responsibility of UTK on their

Speaker 9: (30:29)

Dave Espen of California quality. Early learning suggests private providers be allowed to keep serving their four year olds possibly contracted out by local school districts who will be receiving the funds to expand TK.

Speaker 13: (30:43)

The states have implemented mixed delivery systems and included the entire childcare community to take part,

Speaker 9: (30:48)

But assembly member Makati is opposed to the idea.

Speaker 10: (30:51)

You know, we don't contract out eighth grade and fifth grade and third grade. So I don't know how we're going to contract out a grade

Speaker 9: (30:57)

Of advancement project. California is hopeful. All the issues can be resolved.

Speaker 15: (31:02)

I think it's an opportunity for growth. It's an opportunity for partnerships,

Speaker 9: (31:07)

The California report and the power Fernandez.

Speaker 16: (31:10)

[inaudible],

Speaker 7: (31:20)

You've likely seen electric scooters and bikes for rent somewhere around San Diego. You may have even taken one for a whirl, but did you know there's a permitting system in place that each operator needs to apply for Monday edition producer Emelyn Mohebi spoke with the city's sustainability and mobility department director, Alyssa Muto about how the city is going to start limiting the number of operators and E devices in the city. Muto starts with the pros and cons of having these electric bikes and scooters for rent.

Speaker 14: (31:51)

So in the city of San Diego, we're really seeking to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions in line with our climate action plan, by increasing mobility options, um, mobility options that are green and sustainable, low carbon emitting, and that provide convenient and safe options for people to move around, whether it be for work or for pleasure, or just running down to the store, like many new mobility technologies or devices, there is a learning for, for the users and working with our scooter operators to provide for educational information to users, to adjust speeds on devices for first-time users. Also with the number of scooters that are deployed, we can work with the operators to limit the amount of scooters around town and adjust the deployment to meet the demand and not exceed it. Now operators like bird wheels and Lyft are ramping up their fleets with new devices and more of them.

Speaker 14: (32:56)

How will the city make sure there aren't too many bikes and scooters on the streets? Yeah, so right now we are moving forward with our first request for proposals, for scooter operations within the city of San Diego. Previously, we have been under a permit process where our development services take in applications on a biannual basis. So that's in January and in June from as many operators who are interested in operating in the city of San Diego for as many devices as they would like to deploy. Usually they make those decisions based on market demand and utilization. Under the RFP, we will limit the amount of operators from unlimited to two to four operators and a maximum number of scooters of 8,000 scooters within the city of San Diego. And currently which companies have scooters and bikes are permitted in the city. Presently, we have six operators operating within the city of San Diego.

Speaker 14: (33:57)

We have bird lift, lime link, Veo and wheels. And are they spread out or are they more clustered in certain areas? We tend to see scooter and bike deployment in specific areas of the city, usually where we have, um, a lot of employment. So in the downtown area, as well as recreation along the beach areas from ocean beach up to LA Jolla and then in and around our universities. So near USC, UCLA and San Diego state. Now speaking of university scooters were previously banned on the SDSU campus, but they're now back concern areas in the city like on the SDSU campus set their own rules for these schools and bikes, San Diego state, uh, university of California, San Diego can both set their own rules on campus for how maybe they geo-fence or if they prohibit them on campus. However, the utilization of scooters within the city of San Diego originates in our permitting process, as it's kind of difficult to restrict operations between the university property and the adjacent city property.

Speaker 14: (35:09)

So we expect that if a scooter or bike operator is on a university campus, that they are fully permitted within the city of San Diego, why did the city decide to limit the number of companies east scooters and bikes? The city did a comprehensive analysis of over 35 cities across the nation to better understand what shared mobility device programs look in other cities, how we could learn from other practices, uh, where enforcement or operations or even technology, um, is different than what we have here in the city of San Diego. So in the city of San Diego, we identified having two to four operators as being the optimal arrangement or our city to give us the opportunity to have competition and technology and rates as well as an equity programs. And then to provide for partnerships that will allow us to have better transparency and data management of the scooter operators, citywide.

Speaker 14: (36:13)

We saw fewer scooters on the street during the pandemic, and we're now seeing them coming back again. Do you foresee demand for east scooters and e-bikes increasing going forward? Yes. We definitely saw a contraction of operations, um, both from users and from the scooter operators, but we've also seen that demand jump right back where it was before the pandemic. And I anticipate given the popularity and demand for e-bikes and the marketplace personal e-bikes that we will continue to see the demand increase as we start to see a mixed fleet of bikes and scooters and other mobility technology

Speaker 7: (36:52)

That was Alyssa Muto the city of San Diego sustainability and mobility department director speaking with midday edition producer and Mullin Mohebi You're listening to KPBS mid-day edition. I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen Kavanaugh. Comecon special edition happens in person this Friday through Sunday, the event focuses on comics and pop culture. So to kick things off this week, KPBS arts reporter, Beth Armando wanted to talk to a comic book store to find out how it's been impacted by the pandemic. She speaks with lucky Bronson of kamikaze comics on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard in San Diego. So lucky

Speaker 17: (37:39)

I want to get a little background on kamikaze. So give us a little recent history on comic con

Speaker 18: (37:45)

Robert Scott was the original owner and he'd been in San Diego for almost 30 years, created a community of comic lovers. And in the end of 2019, December, 2019, he passed, uh, because of medical condition. After that his wife, Denise helped us keep the store around and, and going. And so we were kind of in survival mode until the beginning of the 2020, we closed down or, uh, point Loma store. And, uh, then the pandemic hit, which turned out to be a good thing for us. At least the shutdown was, um, it let us regroup, pull ourselves together as a store and, and kind of bounce back because we didn't have to deal with new product and paying for new product constantly. And we could focus on them, the product we have, which is a lot of stuff. It was interesting going through that transition and into, um, the pandemic or the shutdown, I should say, because, you know, like when everything's going, well, you can talk about community and we're a big community, but when faced with possibly closing our customers, our family and friends, they stepped up and started, you know, buying stuff and keeping us open.

Speaker 18: (38:59)

And that's when, you know, you're part of the community is when you're at your lowest and people show up and, and helped us stay open. And so, so yeah, because of what Robert built, as far as a community in San Diego with kamikaze, it allow us, it allowed us to survive the pandemic because people wanted us to stay around because they recognized that we were, uh, important to them in their day to day and in their lives and stuff like that.

Speaker 17: (39:30)

Now for a bookstore that specializes in comics, you guys do have something that probably helped you during the pandemic, which is people do anticipate certain things coming out on a regular basis. So it was that part of what helped keep you going with some of the orders and mail orders for, you know, weekly comics?

Speaker 18: (39:51)

No, and the reason for that is because our main distributor diamond comics completely shut down and they said they were not shipping any new product until the lockdown was over. And I'm sure a lot of that had to do with staffing issues on, on their end, um, which caused a really big disruption to, uh, the comic industry as a whole, because they were the main distributor for Marvel, Marvel comics, DC comics, image comics, uh, basically everything that we needed to be at to run as a store. And so, so that was a wake-up call for, for diamond and for the industry as a whole. And what was interesting in that time was that DC comics decided to BR uh, and their contract with diamond and go to another distributor. And so the shutdown caused a lot of disruption, a lot, a lot of comic, a lot of the comic industry had to recalibrate and kind of figure out how they're going to survive.

Speaker 18: (40:50)

And so, so did we, as, as a local store? Yeah. So we had to deal with a lot of disruption and a lot of rethinking of what the comic industry was going to be. Uh, at least on the retail level, it was always like the, the companies with the least amount of resources were the ones that stepped up the most to try to help the stores, for instance, uh, Robert Kirkman's company. Skybound, uh, he, you know, also created walking dead and invincible. They, they published a comic, sets it to us for free a new walking dead story that no one expected published it for free sets it to us for free so that we could sell it and, and, you know, make some money while, while this whole thing was going on.

Speaker 17: (41:31)

How are things going now in terms of new product coming in and what you're able to actually offer to customers

Speaker 18: (41:38)

Starting to get back to normal? It feels like it's back to normal. Our weekly people that come in Wednesday mornings are back in full force, but yeah, everything see everything's back to normal, but we'll see because of the paper shortage, right. And supply chain issues for us right now are our big issue is getting supplies like comics, collectors, like to keep in bags and boards, right. To keep them protected and, and boxes that are designed for comics. It used to be that we can order put in an order and get stuff within a couple of weeks. Now we're waiting up to four to five months before we can see that product in

Speaker 17: (42:14)

With something like a paper shortage. What kind of problems do you foresee that that could have on you? Is this something where your publishers aren't able to print or aren't able to do reprints? How does that affect?

Speaker 18: (42:27)

I mean, after they announced the, uh, shortage, the paper shortage publishers decided, or they announced that they weren't going to do second printings. Um, but right now it's a wait and see what's going to happen, but what we're anticipating or what we're hoping for is that the publishers take a minute and reevaluate how they've been publishing comics. And what I mean by that is for instance, Marvel and DC will do variant covers, right? So the interior is the same, but they put a different artist on the cover to entice people, to either spend more or buy two copies of the same book. So the market has narrowed down to people who can afford comics as opposed to just being a disposable entertainment. So what I'm hoping is publishers stop and go and figure out what's important for them to publish and what we can sell.

Speaker 17: (43:16)

And at this point, what are you seeing as kind of the biggest challenges to keeping the business running challenge

Speaker 18: (43:23)

Just for us, is dealing with these companies. And because they don't always, they don't always listen. Like some of them treat us as employees as opposed to partners. So the frustration that's, I think it's been around for awhile is these companies don't want to spend any money on advertising to bring in new customers. They keep advertising to the people that come into the stores. So the pie is going to keep shrinking the more, you know, the higher the prices on the comics go. So that that's part of our frustration. Otherwise, as a store, it's just, you know, paying the bills and keeping the store open and keep the product on the shelves. Um, stuff like that.

Speaker 17: (44:02)

You know, you talk about trying to get some of these publishers and companies to recognize the needs of the comic book store has. So do you have an ability to work with other comic bookstore owners to kind of increase your notice or increase your ability to kind of, uh, get your needs known to these larger publishers?

Speaker 18: (44:21)

Yes, there's, there's a couple of forums. There's a couple of Facebook forums that allow comic shop owners just to communicate with each other and let each other know what's going on. And what's interesting is that a lot of that, I think I believe came from something that Robert did. Robert Scott did the original owner, which was created. He created a forum called the CBIA, which allowed, uh, retail, retailers, publishers, and creators to communicate. Right. Because for a long time before the internet, it was just what you knew and that locally and whatever they got in the fax machine. But now recently, because of, uh, the changes in the technology because of Facebook. Yeah. We communicate with other retailers and we see what's bothering them. What product comes out that doesn't sell ourselves. And we see where, where the communication seems to break down between retailers and publishers. Um, but yeah, uh, there are avenues for, uh, retailers to communicate with each other. All right. Well, I want to thank you very much for talking about kamikaze and comic books. Oh, thanks for having me.

Speaker 7: (45:26)

That was Beth. Amando speaking with lucky Bronson of kamikaze comics located on Clairemont Mesa Boulevard in San Diego.

San Diego's biggest expansion of public transit in more than 15 years is now up and running, but there are still issues accessing the new line. Plus, public health officials say there’s a disparity in who’s getting the COVID-19 booster shot. Also, an audit of the San Diego Regional Crime Laboratory has revealed major lapses in security and testing protocols over the past several years that could call into question the credibility of evidence used in previous criminal cases. Meanwhile, universal preschool is coming to California in 2025, but some believe it could have disastrous consequences for child care centers and families seeking early care, with the impact falling hardest on communities of color. And, with the proliferation of e-scooters and bikes, we take a look at the city of San Diego’s permitting system and how it plans to limit the number of operators and e-devices. Finally, with Comic-Con Special Edition happening this Friday, KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando talks to a comic book store to find out how it has been impacted by the pandemic.