Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

County pays over $4 million to woman who blinded herself

 October 20, 2022 at 3:05 PM PDT

S1: Another county settlement after a woman blinded herself in jail.

S2: Her arms were free , her hands were free , and no one was there to try to stop her when she was reaching for her eyes.

S1: I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen CAVANAUGH. This is KPBS midday edition. SD Janney plans another rate hike.

S2: Well , starting in January , the average.

S3: Electric bill for residential customers.

S2: Is projected to go up about $15 per month.

S1: And a close look at who's vying for seats on school boards. Plus the history of one iconic amusement park. That's ahead on Midday Edition. San Diego County will pay just under four and a half million dollars to Tanya Suarez , who blinded herself in 2019 while in jail. The settlement is the result of a lawsuit brought to the county by Suarez , who said deputies on the scene failed to prevent her own self-harm while hallucinating under the effects of methamphetamine. And a warning to our listeners. The following story contains a graphic description of self-harm. I'm joined now by Kelly Davis , an investigative journalist who has been covering deaths and injuries within the San Diego County jails. Kelly , welcome back to Midday Edition. Thank you , David.

S2: She was going through a difficult time in her life. She turned to meth to try to cope. One night after she'd been using meth in a hotel room with her boyfriend , she she left and was wandering around. And that's where police found her. Arrested her , took her to the Las Colinas Women's Jail in Santee. And on the way there. And when she was at the jail , she started having these delusions that she would be tortured and her family would be tortured. You know , can can really mess with your brain. And so she started believing that both her and her family would be tortured unless she removed her eyes. And she remembers having these persistent , terrifying thoughts that that kind of stuck with her as she was being booked into jail.

S1: And she ultimately ended up doing that.

S2: You know , she during the booking process , the fingerprinting process , when she she started crying at her eyes and they did momentarily restrain her. They cut off her clothes. They cut off. She had acrylic nails. They cut off her nails , leaving these these sharp , jagged edges. You know , they could have put her in a restraint chair until she sobered up. They which she really wish they had done , is just talk her have , you know , a nurse or a psychiatrist or someone talk her through her delusions and just say , this is not this is not real. You know , you'll you'll be okay in a little while. They could have done 1 to 1 monitoring of her until she sobered up. They could have distracted her once she started to clot her eyes in the in the jail cell. You know , she was she they they knew that she was intent on harming herself. And they put her in a safety cell to try to protect her. But but her arms were free. Her hands were free. And and no one was there to try to stop her when she when she was was reaching for her eyes.

S1: Surveillance video obtained by Suarez's attorney indicates that deputies either filmed or took photos of her in the midst of this incident. Efforts to hand that phone over its evidence have not been so straightforward. Can you tell us why ? Yeah.

S2: So this is this is a really interesting details. A little complicated , though. The last thing Tanya recalls seeing and she looked over and she saw in the window of her cell a deputy with a digital camera and a red case standing at her cell door , just aiming the camera at her. And Tanya's attorney , Daniel Pena , told me that surveillance video suggests that the deputy was shooting video of Tanya because she was standing still for about 30 seconds. Daniel told me just with the camera aimed at Tanya , and she did take photos , they seemed to justify that a safety cell check had been performed. And Danielle , the attorney , was provided with those four photos. But when she asked about the video , she was told no video existed. So she said , well , let me let me have someone examine that that digital camera that Tanya had seen and the expert examined , the camera found that it could not have been the camera that shot the four photos. You know , he looked at the kind of the digital footprint of the photos and the camera found out that it could not have been the camera that shot the four photos and therefore was not the camera that the deputy used to shoot video of Tanya. So Danielle planned to pursue this further. Why was a deputy filming someone who was who was Tanya was actively inclined at her eyes at that point. So why was the deputy shooting video of that ? But the same day Danielle and the county attorney's received the experts report about the camera , the county offered to settle the case.

S1:

S2: You know , they talk about putting someone in a safety cell and when to check on the person in the safety cell. But they don't go into detail. They do say some and some in medical help. You know , if somebody is engaging in self-harm. But what if there's not time ? What if something is happening very quickly ? It seems like common sense that a deputy , you know , pound on the door , you know , try to distract the person from what they're doing. But that that didn't happen. The deputies , at least two deputies , saw her clean out her eyes. One deputy watched her remove an eye. This is captured on surveillance video and the deputy admitted it to it in the incident report. So I don't know if policies need to be more explicit on on intervening intervention on , you know , duty to intervene. But the the policies right now seem to be lacking on what to do if somebody is is actively harming themselves.

S1:

S2: The county has paid out $27.1 million in settlements tied to deaths or serious injuries.

S1: Have you had a chance to speak with Suarez or her attorney now that this settlement is being made ? Yeah , I spoke.

S2: To both of them last week. And I got to say , Tanya is just an incredible young woman. She has been through so much and she is just such a kind person. She has a lot of hope for her future. She's learning how to exist in a world without her sight. She's really working hard to be more independent. She lives at home with her parents and she wants to be a help to them. And so she's learning how to do things like cook and clean just by my touch. And this the settlement money will help her by whatever , you know , things are necessary to help her get around and , you know , perform whatever chores around the house that she feels will help out her mom. And one day she hopes to live on her own as well.

S1: You know how much of this falls on the shoulders of taxpayers ? All of it.

S2: The county is self-insured. So the 4.3 , 5 million , all of it is , is taxpayer dollars.

S1: I've been speaking with San Diego investigative journalist Kelly Davis on her latest article on San Diego County jails in the San Diego Union-Tribune. Kelly , thank you very much.

S2: Thank you.

S4: San Diego's utility rates already among the highest in the nation , will be going up again this January. That's the message San Diego Gas and Electric brought to the city council this week. The reasons given for the increase range from wildfire safety upgrades to the war in Ukraine. Meanwhile , San Diegans are already struggling to pay utility bills after a big rate hike last January. And he says a full 20% of its customers are behind in their payments. Joining me is San Diego Union-Tribune energy reporter Rob Nicholas. And Rob , welcome back to the show.

S2: Thank you , Ari. It's always good to be back. Okay.

S4: Okay.

S2: That works out to about an 8% increase. Now , if you're a customer with the natural gas connection , your gas bills estimated to go up $6 in January compared to the previous January , and that translates to a 5.8% increase.

S4: And do these rate increases still have to be approved by anyone ? Yes.

S2: The California Public Utilities Commission , as always , makes all the final decisions , and they're expected to make a final decision on this in December. Theoretically , the commission could balk at this , but state officials told me that they think their calculations are pretty accurate. So we'll see what happens in December.

S4: Now , San Diego Gas and Electric has given a number of reasons for this rate increase. Tell us what they're saying.

S2: Well , they blame the higher electricity rates on a various number of things , including spending on wildfire prevention upgrades , the completion of a new $300 million billing system and the cost of various projects of California wants to use as far as getting to its clean energy goals. And that includes things like constructing energy storage systems , microgrids and EV charging stations. Also , the price of procuring natural gas is up all across the country , and it's much higher than it was 15 months ago. The war in Ukraine , as you mentioned , has made gas prices worse and that has ripple effects throughout the entire global market. So that does have effect here in the United States and in California. And in fact , just a little while ago this morning , I saw a headline that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission today has warned that the northeastern part of the United States could have natural gas shortages this winter. So you put all those things together , and that's what he says is the reason behind these these increases.

S4:

S2: The community choice energy programs that would be San Diego Community Power , which right now services five cities in the San Diego area. There's also the Clean Energy Alliance , which is basically in North County , serves about , I think , four cities right now. And eventually they'll be servicing more anyway. But those community choice programs in the San Diego area , they purchased the power for their customers. They buy power , purchase contracts for various things like solar and wind , things like that. But those are just part of the equation. They still have to rely on the traditional utilities like you need to deliver the electricity and gas. So if the gas prices or electricity prices go up for many , the community choice energy programs will probably have to adjust their software as well.

S4: And see Genie presented this rate hike to the San Diego City Council this week.

S2: Back when last year , when Genie signed a new franchise agreement with the City of San Diego , a 20 year deal , one of the provisions said that pesky genie would have to appear in front of the city council from time to time to give presentations and take questions from the city council members. And so this meeting the other day was and in adherence to that.

S4:

S2: Most of the five people were from environmental groups in the area. They chastised SDG Annie for their proposed rate hikes. One said that they shouldn't keep spending on aging infrastructure that uses fossil fuel like natural gas. Another environmental group said that $15 more per month is a lot for low income people to pay , especially when you've got inflation surging. It was up 8.2% , I believe , in the past month compared to a year ago.

S4: Ron , can you remind us ? How San Diego's electricity rates compare with the average cost of electricity in the country.

S2: They're very high. For the first few months of this year , the San Diego area paid the highest average per kilowatt hour in the country , according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. If it's much consolation , Hawaii recently passed San Diego as number one in the country. As Eugenie has long said that when when I've asked them and other people have asked them why their rates are high , especially higher than Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison here in the California area , they've pointed to a number of reasons , including that they have a smaller customer base than Puccini or Southern California Edison does. And because of that , there are fewer customers to share the fixed costs. And that's one of the reasons why. Also , Eugenie has spent $3 billion on wildfire mitigation measures since the deadly wildfires in 2007 that we had. Admittedly , San Diego Gas and Electric wildfire prevention efforts have been considered state of the art , and they've been effective. We haven't had any massive wildfires since 2007.

S4: 20% of any customers are already behind on their bills. Is anything being done to help.

S2: Janie and the other utilities in California have customers enrolled in payment plans that are funded by the state ? Altogether , about 3.6 million utility ratepayers fell behind on their bills in the wake of the financial effects of the COVID 19 lockdowns in California. And earlier this year , Governor Newsom signed a law that will disburse about $1.2 billion for customers who fall behind on their bills.

S4: And we're not done with this , are we ? Rob ? Projections are that rates will keep rising for the next few years. Yes.

S2: Yes. Back in May , the California Public Utilities Commission came out with its annual report. And I looked it up because I was very curious to see what they thought , what trajectory we would have for rates. And the news is not good. The CPC projected that all three of the investor owned utilities will raise their rates for the next three years at least. It anticipated that monthly bills for a typical residential customer service territory will go up 9.2% each year through 2025. And for Eugenie , they predict that they'll go up 8.2% each of those years and Southern California Edison up 4% for each of those next three years. So the outlook is not very good.

S4: I've been speaking with San Diego Union-Tribune energy reporter Rob Nicholas. And Rob , thanks.

S2: Thank you , Maury.

S4: This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Jade Heineman. The November election will have a significant focus on local school board races , although candidates for those campaigns have usually been listed at the bottom of the ballot. KPBS education reporter MJ Perez tells us the ongoing pandemic continues to fuel high emotions and interest in how school districts are run.

S2: Well , I'll speak quickly because I listen to all these folks. Well , I'm sorry it's not OC , but it came fast and furious from hell. Hard.

S3: Hard. I stop at the whip.

S2: Those are voices from school board meetings in San Diego County at different times during the COVID pandemic of the past two and a half years. Hostility and hatred directed at those elected board members whose job is running school districts and spending taxpayer dollars. This is from a board meeting in May in the San Diego Union High School District. I wanted the money of the district to be spent wisely. I'm a lawyer. It's my time. Do you want to spend that ? Shut up. There's nothing. Then there's this from a meeting of the Sweetwater Union High School District in 2020. You want a fight ? You want a lawyer ? We're coming , and we're not going to take it.

S3: And we're not going to stand for it.

S2: Parents and teachers and community members have shown up like never before to blame and berate school board members about everything from mask mandates and vaccination requirements to critical race theory and LGBTQ representation.

S3: If we don't start from an established set of facts , then it makes it very difficult to have any conversation beyond that.

S2: Evan Crawford is a political scientist at the University of San Diego. He studies trends in school boards across the country.

S3: Most of the job is what we would probably all still agree is nonpartisan. We have a certain budget that we have. Are we going to construct a school here ? Are we going , you know , we got to set the bus routes. We're hiring personnel.

S2: There are more than 13,000 school boards in the U.S. , 1000 of them here in California alone. They are supposed to be nonpartisan , solving very localized problems. But COVID created universal chaos in education , along with deep rooted political lines. Which means your ballot for the November election has candidates with big party support , even if there is no capital R or D next to their name.

S3: For whom is it worth it ? Now , if it's becoming a partisan issue , we have to wonder maybe strong Republicans or Democrats who have these passionate kind of partisan feelings and now see the school board as a partisan body that might be now be attractive to them.

S2: A hidden giant and so many opportunities to get people in , to have some say in their local school boards. Shawn Steele is a lifelong Republican. He chairs the California Republican Party and is the state representative on the Republican National Committee. He has been at work recruiting and training candidates for school boards in a program called Parent Revolt. I don't care how much experience they have , if they are parents and they love their kids and they're reasonable , I would support them. And that's including non-Republicans. I would tell students in San Diego and across the country that your voice matters. You can make a difference. Shiva Raj Bhandari is on the other side of the aisle and a couple of states away. He is 18 years old , a high school senior , and in September he was elected to the Boise , Idaho School Board , defeating an established incumbent candidate who accepted the endorsement of a local far right paramilitary group known as the Idaho Liberty Dogs. The only way is to crack down and say no enough that extremism has no place here. Everyone is welcome to participate in decision making regarding our schools , but hate and violence have no place in Boise and anywhere else in the country. Shiva's historic election is one solution to the unfolding political problem that is gripping school boards everywhere. It also provides a teachable moment. Yes , we can say we will not apply. That lesson will not go quietly.

S4: That report was by KPBS education reporter MJ Perez , who joins me now. And welcome , MJ.

S2: Good to be with you , Maureen.

S4:

S2: California is different from most states in the number of contested school board races that happen during any given election year. 90% of the elections are usually contested , meaning they have several candidates running for a very limited amount of seats. That is unusual because in other states , in fact , a majority of states , we're told that is as low is about 30 or 40%. So in many places other than California , there are school board elections that happen with just one candidate and they just walk into the office. So here in California , here in San Diego County , the answer to that question is absolutely , they are contested and there's some rather heated races coming up in a couple of weeks.

S4: So there are no more mask mandates , no more school closures.

S2: Those communities tend to be majority white districts , lower poverty districts and suburban and rural districts , all areas where people are less likely to be worried about COVID 19 or anything , any issue that they feel might be violating their personal rights.

S4:

S2: Taxpayers pay in to the district so that we have schools and classrooms and supplies and all of those things and are able to pay teachers and so forth. And so that's their main function. They also make decisions on personnel. Are we going to build a new school ? Those kinds of things , which up until the last couple of years really were non-controversial. But as we heard in the report that I did , that has changed dramatically. And all of a sudden it has become a politicized environment when it comes to school boards and the things they do.

S4:

S2: In California , that can be a part of the equation as far as determining textbooks and in curriculum and material. But in other states , for instance , in Texas , there is a body that is specifically designated to determine what textbooks children will read and study from in the course of a school year.

S4: Now , in politics , it's usually a good thing to follow the money.

S2: So the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are very much supporting specific candidates that will be on the ballot in November. I should also mention that teachers unions are incredibly powerful in the state of California , and they try to designate candidates and spend money towards their campaigns in order to get them elected in hopes that they will be the best fit for serving students and their needs.

S4: And I'm assuming that we're seeing significantly more money being put in these races than perhaps usual. Is that right ? Absolutely.

S2: I'm sure you like me. I have experienced in my mailbox getting lots of campaign material and there are many more for school board elections and races for people to contemplate as they get ready to vote , whether before November 8th or actually on Election Day.

S4: Now , you spoke with the chair of the California Republican Party who is all in on getting conservative parents to run for school board positions.

S2: In California , it's a challenge. As you know , it's a heavily Democratic state and the Republican Party knows that. And Mr. Steele , who I spoke to , is very aware of that. But they feel they being the GOP , that this is an environment , a community. And I'm talking about school boards , that they can actually get a foot in the door in being able to make a difference in decision making , not only for students , but ultimately for a community. So , yes , this is a concerted effort , in particular in California , the Parents revolt organization that the GOP has formed in order to train , educate and support parents or anyone else who is of a more conservative leaning that they can get elected to school boards.

S4: Now , voters don't get a lot of information about school board candidates in their election pamphlets.

S2: All of these candidates have very slick Web sites so that you can have a look in and learn more about what they believe and more importantly , what they would like to see at the top of their agenda if they are elected to school boards come November.

S4: I've been speaking with KPBS , education reporter Meg Perez. Angie , thanks.

S2: Thank you.

S1: Four seats on the San Diego City Council are up for election this November. And today we'll be talking about two of them districts two and four. Joining me to unpack these races is KPBS , metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Andrew , welcome.

S5: Hi , Jade. Happy to be here.

S1: So let's start with district two.

S5: So as far as the community is now in District two , Claremont is united as one neighborhood and one district. Previously , it was split down the middle between two city council districts. District two no longer includes Pacific Beach , so folks in that district are now part of District one and will not be voting for a city council member this year. And so the rest of the district is Mission Beach , which , you know , stuck with District two. It's still there , all of Mission Bay and the communities south of there. So the Peninsula communities of Ocean Beach , Point Loma and the Midway District. As far as issues in this race , I mean , housing is obviously one of the biggest issues across the entire city. And it is definitely a big issue in this race because Claremont is on the verge of updating its community plan. So a lot of areas in that neighborhood are going to be seeing a zoning for higher density housing. And so that that's an issue that's come up in the race. Another issue is simple customer service. So a lot of folks have been disappointed with the incumbent and feel that she hasn't really been responsive to their needs and concerns and criticisms. And so that's that's an issue that you're hear that we're hearing talked about a bit in in District two.

S1: And the incumbent in District two is Jennifer Campbell. Tell us who she is now.

S5: Jennifer Campbell was first elected in 2018. She is a Democrat who unseated a Republican incumbent in that election year , which is something that doesn't happen all that often in city politics , somebody unseating an incumbent. But she really rode this blue wave in 2018 , the first election after the Trump presidency , to victory. So she is she her campaign really harped on the issue , this issue of her being a Democrat and her opponent being a Republican. And we're we're hearing that very much repeated this election cycle. She is a physician by training she has on her time in the city council , shown some willingness to take on really controversial issues that other council members just don't want to touch. The most notable being regulations for the short term home rental industry. So Airbnb basically a lot of of folks on the city council just felt like it was too controversial and not worth , you know , talking about too much. And it had been at a stalemate for a really long time. And she decided , you know , let's figure out a compromise here. She got it passed through the city council , but that , frankly , cost her some support in her district. A lot of folks in District two wanted to take a really hard line against that whole industry. And , you know , Campbell showed some willingness to try and seek a compromise , even if that meant that , you know , she's going to take some political hits for it.

S1: Campbell's challenger is Linda Lucas.

S5: She's also a professor of dental hygiene. So she's an educator and she holds a real estate license. She told me when I interviewed her that she's running. She really talked about this customer service issue of , you know , District two constituents wanting a council member who they feel is listening to them and responding to their concerns and answering their emails and phone calls. She said that she , you know , fully supports the police. She wants to fully fund the police department and sees public safety as a big issue. She did not , however , win the endorsement of the Police Officers Association. So the incumbent , John Campbell , has has won a lot of the support from interest groups and city hall institutions. Another interesting thing about Lucas and I alluded to this earlier is that she is a Republican and the only candidate on the city ballot who has the endorsement from the San Diego County Republican Party. She , however , doesn't really want to talk about it all that much. I think she probably knows how toxic the GOP brand is in San Diego in the post-Trump era. So she talks a lot about not seeing herself as a partisan , not wanting to lead as a partisan. Nevertheless , she is a Republican. And I think that that certainly the Campbell campaign is trying to harp on that message a lot , trying to frame. Name this as as an issue of red versus blue.

S1: Now , let's move on to district four.

S5: So Encanto , Skyline , Paradise Hills , those neighborhoods. It's historically the seat of black political power in the city. And the the incumbent Monica montgomery step is , you know , the only elected African-American in city government. And I think that's really important to a lot of folks there. And as far as the issues , you know , it goes without saying , housing and housing affordability is a big issue in this race. But something also that's that's been talked about a lot is public safety and police oversight and accountability for law enforcement. And that's really because of the incumbent and the issues that she's chosen to take take on and talk about.

S1: And as you mentioned , the district four incumbent is Monica montgomery Stapp.

S5: She worked for the American Civil Liberties Union , the local branch of that. She also worked in various staff positions in city in City hall. Her pitch to voters is that she has basically just been doing a good job over the past four years , she wrote. She also unseated an incumbent in 2018 , which again , does not happen often in city politics. You know , she really campaigned on this issue of accountability for law enforcement and was successful in getting a ballot measure passed that established a new civilian oversight body for San Diego police officers that , you know , to review complaints against them. So she , you know , has really made that one of her main issues. And she is also talks a lot about trying to expand the definition and the conversation around public safety. So , you know , talking about how our city isn't safe because we give more money to the police. And police are not the only arbiters of of public safety , but rather it's important for neighborhoods to feel safe by having afterschool programs and libraries and parks and places that , you know , kids can go to after school so that they're not captured by , you know , bad influences. So she , you know , frankly , is in a very good position for re-election. She won the primary with almost three quarters of the vote , which is pretty staggering. So I think , you know , voter she is definitely feeling very good about her chances in November.

S1: And her challenger is Gloria Evangelista. Tell us more about her.

S5: Yeah , Gloria Evangelista is frankly something of an enigma. She doesn't have any experience in elected office or in politics. She's a dietitian by by training. And she declined our interview request. She did answer a survey. So she answered some questions in writing , but she also didn't give us a picture of her that we could use for our our Web story. She's got a website that has a bit of information on her and where she stands on issues , but nothing really that goes all that deep. She's got some Bible verses on there , which I think is interesting. And she is a Republican. However , she did not get the endorsement of the county Republican Party. So she she's probably not going to do very well in the November election , but nevertheless , she will be on the ballot. And so , you know , it'll be interesting to see just how many votes she does get.

S1: I've been speaking with KPBS , metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Andrew , thanks.

S5: Thank you , Jade.

S4: This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Jade Heineman. And now we're heading to San Francisco's Ocean Beach and traveling back in time to the early 1900s. That's when trolley lines were brand new and started bringing passengers from downtown out to the beach. And that's where an amusement park sprang up , which drew loyal visitors for decades. KQED is Bay Curious. Podcast reporter Christopher Beal takes us on a journey to learn about this iconic park.

S3: In 1914. They actually put in the merry go round there. That was the Lives Hippodrome. That's Jim Smith and the author of San Francisco's Play Land at the Beach the Early Years , and the second book , The Golden Years. Shortly after Luce Hippodrome , this ornate carousel opened. John Friedel bought it and brought big ideas to the area. Residents were now calling shoots at the beach. Friedel decided that he wanted to make a first rate park out of it. So in 1919 he went in and started building a lot of rides. And people loved it. I mean , at that time there was nothing near like it anywhere else in the West Coast. George Whitney became the manager in 1926 and formally changed the name of the roughly three block area to Playland at the beach. Now , one of the smart things they did was they made it free to go in the park. So no gates. You just go down there and if you've got a quarter or you've got a dime , you can put those towards ride. I don't know how that's laughing , Sal. Possibly the most iconic character to actually survive Playland at the beach. More on that later. She was sort of this early animatronic and this was way before Disneyland came onto the scene. She was located at the entrance to the Funhouse. Jeannie Lawton remembers visiting in the sixties.

S6: And always the scariest thing about going into the funhouse when wearing a skirt was the ear holes in the floor that randomly would blow a shot of air as she stepped over them. And we girls would scream with delight and try to jump over them before they got us. But we never succeeded.

S3: One night , she and her girlfriends discovered the secret to that gag.

S6: I happened to look up in the balcony and saw a guy who was working there grinning from ear to ear because the bursts of air were not random at all. He was watching for the girls in skirts to come close to the air holes in the floor. And then he would hit the button.

S3: The playhouse was one of a whole selection of attractions available at the park. There were food vendors too. One of the more popular ones was an item actually invented by George Whitney in 1928 , when he got the formula right for this dessert. He's said to have yelled out , It's it. And the it's it was born.

S6: Back then , they made their own oatmeal cookies and put a scoop of vanilla ice cream in between two cookies and then hand dipped the whole thing in hot chocolate and handed it to you to eat right away.

S3: You can still buy its it at many West Coast grocery stores. Just check the freezer section. A lot of the food stands and the attractions at Playland at the beach were independently owned and operated like small businesses. Bob's roller coaster , the merry go round the whirlpool ride , which you're sitting in a cage spinning around. That was really fast. They had Dodger. Originally it was called Dodger , and then it became Dodger. And they didn't ever call them bumper cars because they didn't want you to slam into each other. They remember the Big Dipper when they built that was really tall , 65 feet , like almost a seven story building. And it had huge drops and long climbs. It was really an exciting ride and everybody wanted to ride that thing. By the way , it had no seatbelts , no bar , nothing to hang on to except the rail on each side. People did get hurt or that once in a while , like the rides weren't very safe. No , there was no OSHA back then. Diving Bell was full. It was a bell shaped thing. Once you get in , They broke down the doors , you know , tie it down like a you know , like in a submarine. They had this 40 foot deep. Well , and as you were going down , you'd see fish in there. I mean , had sharks that had octopi had had all kinds of different saltwater animals. I think it was designed this way on purpose. It leaked and the guy was operating. It would say , oh , we're leaking. Here's where we're going to sink. I'm not going to be able to get this thing back up. He says , let's see if we can come up. Well , he'd pull the brakes off this thing and it would bobbed to the top like a cork. Some people thought it was a riot and some people were scared to death. During the Great Depression in the 1930s , Whitney was able to consolidate power by buying out the other concessions at Playland as they failed. And through this he garnered control of much of playland at the beach. The Whitney's even bought the land. Playland sat on and nearby plots with plans for future expansion. But in 1958 , George Whitney died , and without him , Playland at the beach was sort of rudderless , and it began to fail. They started pulling down the rides. The property itself fell into disrepair and folks stopped visiting. Then in 1972 , Whitney's widow sold Playland at the beach to a developer , Jeremy at Holker. Eventually , the property's new owner decided to close Playland. He wanted to build on it. And he wants to build these big condos up there. Everybody hated him and said , Why do people hate him ? The way they saw it , as he stole a playground from them. Nobody wanted to see Playland go away except for the ones that were the money at Spokane. Had playland at the beach torn down. He had no permission or anything. And then the city fathers got all ticked off. So they put a ten year moratorium on building on that lot. So he was stuck with this thing. He paid a fortune for it , but he couldn't do anything with it now. The moratorium eventually ended , and today , those apartments that are like various shades of pastels and that Safeway on 48th Avenue are where Playland at the beach used to be. Thankfully , several important pieces of playland survived the demolition. A pretty visible one is the big Wurlitzer organ at the Santa Cruz boardwalk. Of course , there's laughing still at Pier 45 , a mechanic and the original carousel from Luke's Hippodrome is still in San Francisco as well. Today. The Leeroy King carousel , as it's known , is operated by the Children's Creativity Museum at Yerba Buena Gardens. I didn't get started. He made Mission Valentine. Welcome to Le Roy and Carousel. Please remain seated facing forward while the ride is in motion. Okay , so I heard that earlier. I thought it was a recording. I didn't realize it was actually you saying Thank you. My name is David Solorzano. I'm the Operations and events coordinator here. Carousel operator , amongst many other things. Is it crazy to stand here every day and operate something that is like several lifetimes older than you like that has been around all this time and people have cared for it and now it's in your hands ? Yeah , well , I mean , it's a really cool job. It's not even a job. I don't need it. I'm literally just here. Yeah , Don't. Don't tell them you'll do it for free. Yeah , well , no , I won't say that. Playland has been gone almost 50 years. But these remnants of playland at the beach like organs and carousels and weird carnival attractions , like laughing , still will continue to live on under the watchful eye of their caretakers , allowing the next generation of thrill seekers and those chasing nostalgia. Another trip back in time.

S4: That was KQED Bay Curious podcast reporter Christopher Beal.

San Diego County will pay just under $4.5 million dollars to Tanya Suarez, who blinded herself in 2019 while in jail. The settlement is the result of a lawsuit filed against the county by Suarez, who said deputies on the scene failed to prevent her own self-harm while hallucinating under the effects of methamphetamine. Then, San Diego’s utility rates, already among the highest in the nation, will be going up again this January. And, local school board races are of high interest in the upcoming election, in part because of school districts’ role in pandemic response. After, we cover the District 2 and 4 races on the San Diego City Council. Finally, we hear about an amusement park that used to call San Francisco’s Ocean Beach home.