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Justices raise doubts on race-conscious college admissions

 October 31, 2022 at 1:55 PM PDT

S1: The Supreme Court weighs affirmative action today.

S2: Well , the basic issue is whether race can be used in selective college admissions.

S1: I'm Jade Hindman with Maureen CAVANAUGH. This is KPBS midday edition. Opening park land for child care is up for a vote.

S3: It makes no sense that we aren't looking at every city facility and seeing.

S4: How we might be able to incorporate child.

S3: Care into it , both for our employees and for the public.

S1: California will now allow high rises made out of wood. We'll tell you what's special about it. We'll also tell you about San Diego Opera's latest world premiere. That's ahead on Midday Edition. Arguments are underway in the US Supreme Court today that could upend affirmative action in the nation's colleges and universities. The court is hearing two cases challenging race conscious admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina. Though the court has upheld affirmative action in the past , the new conservative supermajority makeup of the court has some wondering if affirmative action will end and worry about what it would mean for diversity on college campuses across the nation. Joining me now with more is Dan Eaton , a constitutional law expert and partner at the San Diego firm of Seltzer , Kaplan , McMahon and Vitek. Dan , welcome back to Midday Edition.

S2: Good to be with you.

S1:

S2: That's really the critical question. There are two different laws that are involved. One is the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment , which basically guarantees equal protection to all folks. And if you're using race , you've got to have a very , very good reason. It's got to be very narrowly tailored. And the other law , which is the issue in the Harvard case , deals with Title seven of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 , which prohibits those who receive federal funds or form of student loans or what have you , from discriminating on the basis of race , the variety of other factors. Hmm.

S1: Hmm.

S2: And they say that is not allowed under Title six of the Civil Rights Act. And this is a group that is brought to similar challenges throughout the lost to the district court in Massachusetts. They lost the first Circuit Court of Appeals , and now they're before the Supreme Court saying , look , you cannot do that based on these laws that are in place. But the the head win that they have is that in 2003 , there was a decision by the name of Grutter , which was a case brought against the University of Michigan Law School , where Justice Sandra Day O'Connor , writing for the majority , said , yeah , you can't use race as part of the holistic consideration of candidates because diversity does matter. And it is important , though she predicted back when that ruling came out in 2003 that the need for it would expire in 25 years. But nonetheless , Grutter is controlling law at this point and the Supreme Court , if it does strike down the Harvard or USC regimes where they they use race as a holistic factor , will essentially have to overrule that earlier decision.

S1:

S2: The other argument is from a basic issue of the beneficial consequences , that taking race into account has resulted in a rich diversity of leadership coming out of these selective institutions that has benefited the country as a whole. The third argument , which is sometimes overlooked , is that , look , the statistics have shown that in fact Asian students are not being discriminated against in these policies. There is no automatic entry , for example , or quota system for African-American , Hispanic or Native American students. And you have all of these friend of the court briefs that have been written by corporations and other institutions that say we are benefiting from the presence of these minorities in our institutions , and that to eliminate affirmative action could change the very makeup of this nation's leadership in the private sector , as well as the public sector , leaving aside the classroom.

S1: In the 1990s , California ended its policy of including race as a consideration in admissions for its public colleges and universities.

S2: In our selective colleges are public colleges and universities. It will have an effect on our private colleges and institutions such as Stanford. So there are a variety of different effects that will be felt even in our state. Even though they won't be felt in the public universities who are already barred from taking race into account.

S1:

S2: And the issue is , well , look , the implications of this decision are going to be felt in a full range of different kinds of enterprises , private enterprises , K-through-12 selective admissions in any other kind of endeavor. The logic is going to extend to that in court. You're going to look at that depending on how the court ultimately decides one way or the other. That's why you have so many friend of the court briefs coming in from private enterprises and so forth and saying , look , if you eliminated at the college or university level , it inevitably is going to affect us in the private corporate level in how we achieve diversity , equity and inclusion in how we run things , because there are laws that have similar language that are going to be applied that will similarly be bound by similar logic.

S1: And finally , you have a strong personal connection to Harvard. You're an alum of the law school and you're a board member of the Harvard Alumni Association. I'm curious what your thoughts are about the case , given your own experience at Harvard.

S2: Well , first of all , Jade , of course , I'm not talking as a legal analyst now , but I just last night came back from Boston of a weekend of activities with the Harvard Alumni Association. So the timing of this interview was very interesting. But more to the point , when I was at the law school from 1986 to 1989 , I saw the benefits of a rich diversity of voices , because ultimately , whether we are talking about San Diego State University or Harvard or USC or what have you , the richest educational experiences involve dialogues and conversations within and outside of the classroom. That's really where the education comes in. And that kind of ability to discuss , to reason across diversity is what has enabled us as a country to make so many tremendous advances. I do understand the arguments on both sides. I have been at Harvard and I have seen the specific benefits that have been realized as a result of the holistic policy they have of including race as one factor in admissions. Harvard is going to look and sound a lot different , as well as those who filter up to positions of importance from Harvard. If the Supreme Court decides that its existing policy on admissions cannot stand.

S1: I've been speaking with Dan Eaton , who is a constitutional law expert and partner at the San Diego firm of Seltzer , Kaplan , McMahon and Vitek. Dan , thank you very much for your insight. Sure.

S2: Sure. Good to be with you.

S1: San Diego's measure H would open parks and rec facilities on city land to child care businesses. But the measure includes a confusing word choice that has led to some opposition. KPBS reporter Claire TRAGESER looked into the fine print and spoke to city leaders about the measure's language , its intent. And she joins me now with more. Claire , welcome.

S5: Thank you.

S1: What is Measure H proposing to do ? Right.

S5: So the summary is that it would let the city lease out city owned land to child care businesses. Currently the city charter only allows city properties to be used as parks , recreation centers and cemeteries. And so measure age , if approved by voters , would add language to the charter that would allow child care at recreation facilities and city owned buildings and parks and things like that.

S1: This is a measure that the city council put on the ballot. What is the problem they say they're trying to solve ? Right.

S5: Well , you know , as I have been covering for a while and I think everybody knows there's there's a massive child care shortage. And one of the issues is just being able to have affordable spaces to have child care. And so Councilman Raul Campo did an assessment of all the city property and was looking for places where they could set up child care businesses on city property and then came to find out that that's not allowed because of the charter. And so it's overall addressing the the lack of child care in one small way , which is enabling child care businesses to to lease out space on city property.

S1:

S5:

S1: And let's talk about the logistics a bit.

S5: I mean , right now what what they're doing is just enabling it to even be legal by by trying to change the city charter. You know , then I think the council would have to go through and and work on details. But but the overall idea is that childcare providers would be able to lease space from the city. Or maybe the city could employ , you know , staff who could do childcare for city employees , things like that. But but first , you know , they can't do any of that right now because it's not allowed under the city charter.

S1: I mean , I guess making the space available helped solve part of the problem. But , you know , one of the biggest problems in the child care industry right now is finding licensed staff. I mean , many people have left the field.

S5: I mean , it's still you know , there's still just a huge problem in the child care industry where businesses are run on such a thin margin of of profit , where , you know , if they want to pay staff more , they would have to charge families more and families really can't pay any more. And so people are leaving the field for for better paying opportunities. You know , I wouldn't want to really speculate on on how this could address the staffing issue , but that's not really even the argument that that the supporters are making right now. They're just talking about let's have more spaces to set up childcare businesses that are close to where people live. You know , parks and recreation centers can be right in people's neighborhoods. And so and so that's really the issue that they're trying to tackle with this.

S1: An odd word choice in the ballot language has fueled some opposition to the measure. What does the wording say ? Right.

S5: So this is where it gets a little bit confusing. The overall the intention , according to the measure supporters , is for the city council to have the power to authorize child care at these city owned facilities like parks and recreation centers like we've been talking about. But the actual text of the measure , what the language it would add to the city charter , says city manager , not council. And so another thing is that San Diego actually no longer has a city manager , but the word city manager is used throughout the charter. And the city attorney's office says that whenever that term is used , the power is actually given to the mayor. So if it's passed , Measure H would give Mayor Todd , Gloria and any future mayor the power to authorize child care at city owned facilities. I should say there's no organized opposition to this at all. But recently , the San Diego Union-Tribune endorsed a no vote because the measure , quote , gives a single official , vast power over extremely valuable parkland. Now , that editorial left out a lot of important context , but including equating this measure to a very specific situation with San Diego High School , which has its own exemption in the in the charter to operate in Balboa Park. But because of that word choice , that's , you know , in part fueling at least the Ute's editorial.

S1: You spoke to City Councilmember Raul Campo about this. What did he say ? Right.

S5: Well , so he says that the power to lease out these spaces is still limited by the city's municipal code , which says that all leases for three years or more have to be approved by the city council. And no child care provider would want such a short lease because they would have to do all these kind of capital investments into the space. And he also added that the charter says that the council has control over park spaces. It has this language that the City Council shall , by ordinance , adopt regulations for the proper use and protection of said park property cemeteries , playgrounds and recreation facilities. So , you know , he's saying that what the U-T has editorialized is not correct , that the measure would not just give unilateral authority to the mayor , both because of some of this language in the charter and because of the specific thing in the municipal code that says the mayor cannot do any leases for three years or more without council approval.

S1: I've been speaking with KPBS reporter Claire TRAGESER. Claire , thank you very much for that breakdown.

S5: Thank you.

S6: This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with David Heineman. California recently updated its building code to allow high rises made almost entirely out of wood. But not just any wood. An emerging type of wood product called Mass Timber. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen says its use is growing in San Diego , fueling hopes that mass timber can help with the city's climate goals.

S3: On the western edge of Scripps Ranch , just off I-15 , crews are assembling a ten story building made out of mass timber. The product is made by joining several planks of wood together , usually with glue , to form large structural panels and beams.

S7: They're first fabricated. By gluing plywood together , you can still see the same shilling.

S3: Pay as an engineering professor with the Colorado School of Mines. This building won't ever be inhabited. It's a research experiment. Pay is leading to test how mass timber responds to earthquakes. The building's walls are specially designed to move and absorb energy. It's built on something called a shake table. In February , it'll mimic earthquakes of increasing intensity.

S7: I know our mass engineering is pretty solid and we have good material. I think we're going to put on a good show. But the reason we do research and the reason we do test is we don't know the full story.

S3: The main appeal of mass timber is environmental. Steel and concrete cost huge amounts of energy to produce mass timber. On the other hand , is made from a renewable resource grown by the sun. Trees capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it in their cells. That means sustainable production of mass timber can offset the burning of fossil fuels. Pay hopes his research will help the product go mainstream.

S7: So in a way , we're playing a role to be a good educator for the public and for also building officials to say that this is a total defendable and there's a great benefit.

S5:

S3:

S5: The building industry contributes about 40% of the total greenhouse gases globally. And if you look at just building materials alone , it's somewhere between 9 to 11%.

S3: This summer , California amended the building code to allow structures up to 18 stories tall , made with mass timber. Cover says those updates came after research showed mass timber is remarkably resistant to fire when exposed to flames.

S5: The solid piece of wood begins to char. And what that does is create an insulation layer against further heat damage. And so the wood is actually protected and itself extinguishes.

S3: Despite its potential to help decarbonize the building industry. Mass timber remains something of a novelty in North America , but its popularity is growing fast.

S4: What you're going to be seeing is the building comes in through here and makes it now and you're going to have an outdoor plaza.

S3: Alex Alimony shows me around a lot and North Park where he's planning to build a five story 55 unit apartment building. It'll be a hybrid with mass timber floors and ceilings , but conventional wood framing for the walls. Alemana estimates the mass timber is adding at least 15% to his construction costs , but he's betting future tenants will pay a premium for the aesthetic appeal.

S4: When you go in , you're going to see these huge exposed mass timber panels , right ? Completely unobstructed , and you're going to have that nature element inside of your unit , kind of like you're in a wooden cab.

S3: A lot will have to change before San Diego sees its first mass timber. High rise Contractors with experience in mass timber are in short supply here. Alemana expects the material will have to catch on with large deep pocketed developers first.

S4: And the more and more those larger scale projects get accomplished with mass timber. There's going to be a trickle down effect to the mass market and the smaller projects.

S3: San Diego's Climate Action Plan briefly mentions mass timber as a more sustainable building material that the city should seek to incentivize. Exactly what those incentives will look like or when they'll take effect is unclear. In the meantime , Alemany says , the city has to get more familiar with the material. He submitted his blueprints for review last December and is still waiting for a building permit.

S6: That story was by KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen , and he joins me now. And Andrew , welcome.

S3: Hi , Maureen. Thank you.

S6: Tell us a little more about how the mass timber building material is made. They glue together planks of wood.

S3: Yeah , mass timber is an umbrella term and it includes several different types. So you can join of these pieces of wood together with nails or dowels. But glue is one of the more common methods , and probably the most common type of mass timber is called cross laminated timber or KLT for short. So they take a bunch of two by fours or two by sixes. They lay them in a row all parallel , and then they take another row and lay them on top of that first row perpendicular. So you get that cross. That's where the cross from cross laminated timber comes from. And so when you glue them together against the grain of the wood in alternating directions , it makes that material incredibly strong. And that's why you're able to build up to 18 stories with this material now. And it's also lighter than concrete or steel. So the supports that go underneath the building don't have to be as large. And you know , buildings can often save a bit of money there.

S6:

S3: So conifers , the types of trees that have needles rather than leaves. And one benefit to mass timber is that you can use trees that are relatively small in diameter. You don't have to go into the mature forests and cut down older trees. You can use these tree farms where the growth is constantly being replenished and you can also use trees that have been affected by wildfires going into forests and trees that have already died but are still standing there , trees that have been affected by beetles or diseases. So there's a lot of potential to use. Trees that are not really usable by nature anymore.

S6: Is the wood especially treated with anything like , as you say , it's very strong. But to make it more fire resistant.

S3: Not typically. And you don't really even need that type of treatment or chemical treatment. At least what makes it fire resistant is you're limiting the surface area that's actually exposed to flames. I remember in middle school there was this experiment where our teacher held up a a sort of block of wood over a flame , and it took a really long time for it to catch fire. It mostly just charred on the outside , which is what mass timber does when it's exposed to flames. If you have a thinner piece of wood , there's more surface area that's exposed to those flames. And that's why , you know , stick build , traditional stick building , they call it where you're using the thinner two by fours. It's less safer for fires and that's why you're not able to use that type of wood in taller buildings.

S6: So this mass timber can be assembled from trees in many various locations , various levels of disease and and fire destruction. But it does take trees ten years to grow. And we have seen forests demolished by overuse.

S3: So Alex Alemany , the developer who's using mass timber in that North Park apartment building that I went to his getting his materials from a supplier in Oregon. And for almost 30 years , Oregon has had a law that requires the logging industry to plant a new seedling for every time it harvests a tree. So the industry has been working on sustainable logging practices. And also the real decarbonizing effect for mass timber comes when it's replacing concrete or steel. So if you're building a smaller apartment building that you could have built with with regular two by fours , you know , using mass timber doesn't necessarily have the immediate impact of of , you know , decarbonizing the building industry. What it does do , however , is sort of make this more mainstream and get the building industry more comfortable with this type of materials. So that further down the line , you know , we could see more mass timber buildings that are actually replacing the more carbon intensive types of building materials.

S6: Now , the apartment developer you spoke with believes renters will be willing to pay higher rents in his planned building because it will have timber panels. But one of the priorities of the city is to build more affordable housing with lower rents and home prices.

S3: The hope is that with innovation and competition among the manufacturers , that will reach some sort of equilibrium where the supply is matching the demand , and particularly because the building material might be more expensive , the actual panels of mass timber. You can , however , save some. Money on labor because these panels are built basically customized for each building. You can assemble them in in the building with fewer people. And the shortage of of construction labor is is a very real problem that the industry is trying to solve right now.

S6:

S3: And that , you know , sort of conservative hesitation where , you know , prevent somebody from actually using it would does have a perk in comparison to concrete and that it's not as prone to cracking. So you can build a high rise out of wood really with no sacrifice to safety. And you know , that's I think definitely what the researchers are hoping to prove with this experiment.

S6: I've been speaking with KPBS , metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Andrew , thanks.

S3: My pleasure , Maureen.

S1: Election Day , November 8th is still a week away , but we're already in the thick of casting ballots. But like during the 2020 election , there are some unfounded concerns about fraud this election cycle , even if evidence for any unscrupulous behavior is scant or nonexistent. Those fraud worries , however , are especially high in one northern California county. Roman Batalla from Jefferson Public Radio tells us about it.

S3: The recent primary election in Shasta County struck a nerve with some of the county's far right constituents. Voters elected more moderate candidates rather than choosing ultra conservative politicians. At his family's gun store in Redding , Shasta County Supervisor Patrick Jones says what he saw during the latest election is driving his motivation to further confirm the results.

S8: With the work that went into it , the money that went into it , the effort , the issues , it doesn't smell right. It doesn't look right. It doesn't smell right.

S3: Jones believes in the possibility that somebody interfered in the primary election , but he's offered no hard evidence. When asked what he wants to see done , Jones says a full independent review of the ballots is needed to ensure no cheating occurred over at the Shasta County elections office. County Clerk Kathy Darling Allen says these claims of election fraud are making it hard to build trust in the process.

S1: I believe it , frankly , is an attack on our system and I'm not alone in that. It's happening all over the nation.

S3: She says a lot of these claims aren't coming from local residents. They're introduced by national election fraud speakers such as Mike Lindell or Seth Kessel , fueled by former President Trump's denial of the 2020 election results.

S1: Several folks who do this are doing some kind.

S5:

S1:

S3: Those same speakers have traveled up and down the West Coast. Neil Kelley is a former elections official in Orange County. He's now the chairman of the Committee for Safe and Secure Elections , a national election security group. Kelly says he sees people from outside the state filing public records request for mountains of data with no clear purpose on what they'll do with that.

S2: So definitely we're seeing this narrative being driven by national organizations that have an agenda. And I hate to.

S3: Say this.

S2: But half of their agenda is raising money. And when they can get the word out and and put fear into people.

S3: That helps them raise money. Darling Allen says some of these speakers are charging 20 to $40 per person to present their unproven or manipulated data all around the country. Political scientist Neil O'Brien at the University of Oregon says the past few elections have driven hyper partisan polarization. He says the real danger comes from the increasing distrust in the election system. No matter how safe it actually is , there are rules.

S2: But the rules only matter if kind of everybody or.

S3: Mostly everybody wants to play by them. If you have really an entire.

S2: Party that doesn't want.

S3: To play by the rules , that really has a serious threat to the functioning of our government. That's why working with already trustworthy leaders in those communities is important , says Neil Kelly. It starts by simply refuting a false claim made at the dinner table.

S2: My own father , who's almost 90 years old and I was an election official for almost 20 years , I still have arguments and debates with him about this. So it's everywhere. And we just need to continue to have the conversation.

S3: Just like how claims of election fraud popped up in Shasta County after their primary election. The real challenge is whether the system can withstand an attack once the results come in. I'm Roman Battaglia in Shasta County.

S6: The school bond measure on the San Diego city ballot this year would be used for many of the usual expenses , like infrastructure and campus security. But there is one new proposal in Measure U. If approved , the San Diego Unified School District would use some of the bond money to build housing for teachers on land it already owns. The district says $200 million of the bond money would be used to construct teacher housing at the site of district headquarters in University Heights. Joining me now with more is Jacob McKinney , education reporter for Voice of San Diego. And Jacob , welcome.

S9: Hi , Maureen. Thanks for having me.

S6: Can you start off by telling us a bit about Measure U and how it would provide funds for affordable housing ? Absolutely.

S9: Measure you which San Diegan will vote on on Tuesday is San Diego Unified's latest bond proposal , the fourth it's put on the ballot in about 14 years. It's a $3.2 billion bond measure that would provide funding for a whole range of things related to facilities. Many of the priorities , like you mentioned , are similar to those in past bond measures like security improvements , facilities , maintenance and money for charter school facilities. But for the first time , the district would allocate money from the bond to build affordable employee housing on district owned land. In University Heights , where the central office is currently located. In presentations the district has listed , it will spend around $206 million of the bond on that project. They're not the first local district to make this move. The Chula Vista Elementary School District narrowly passed a bond in 2020 that that allocated 65 million to building affordable employee housing. But they haven't broken ground on anything there yet. So the San Diego Community College District is also working to build affordable employee and student housing , but isn't using bond funds and hasn't secured full funding yet. So if Measure U passes , San Diego Unified could become the first district in the county to offer affordable employee housing.

S6:

S9: Actually. Districts up and down the state have begun working to build housing around 40 in total , it seems often using bond measures as a funding mechanism , though 40 haven't passed bond measures. Much of that has been driven by legislation over the past couple of years designed to make it easier for districts to build housing , but also because districts seem to have the land to do so. According to a 2021 study , every county in California has land owned by a local education agency where housing could be developed. Combined , that land comes out to around 75,000 acres or about five times the size of Manhattan. Wow.

S6: Wow.

S9: According to Zillow , the medium rent for a one bedroom is around $31,000 a year , while the average teacher at San Diego Unified makes around $88,000 annually and the average employee without a teaching certificate. So think janitors and clerical staff makes around $41,000 annually. That means teachers would be spending more than one third of their income on a one bedroom , while non certificated employees would have to spend nearly three quarters. But despite that significant crunch , advocates I spoke to have said the state isn't really doing enough to bring down those prices , so districts need to start taking actions themselves.

S6: Would all teachers and school staff be eligible for these affordable housing units ? Yeah.

S9: The district has said that all employees would be eligible , but given the disparities between teacher pay and the pay of non certificated employees who are generally paid much less , they may choose to prioritize lower income individuals and families.

S6: And the units themselves.

S9:

S6: So the project would essentially make San Diego Unified a landlord.

S9:

S6: Who's come out in support of Measure U.

S9: A number of organizations and individuals have. That includes the San Diego Education Association , the union that represents teachers , the San Diego Taxpayers Association , which has opposed some bond measures in the past. And almost all of the current candidates for San Diego Unified School Board seats.

S6: But the taxpayers group that supports this measure does have some concerns about it.

S9: Yeah , they did. They opposed past bond measures , but they said that this current bond measure was structured in a way that made them feel comfortable supporting it. The organization's president , Hany Hong , he did cite skepticism about the housing portion. His primary concern was that any potential income generated by the housing should be spent on facilities improvements as opposed to things like teacher pay. But the district has said that bond funded projects are actually not designed to generate income.

S6:

S9: She , for example , has two children and a husband and would prefer to own her own home in the community where she works. She feels this would provide her and teachers in a similar position more permanent stability than affordable rental housing. It would also offer her the space she feels her family needs , which she's skeptical an apartment can provide. But even after working for the district for over 15 years , she says she still can't afford a home because of how high prices have gotten in the area. She says that inability ability to find permanent housing in San Diego has led teachers she knows to pack their bags and move elsewhere.

S6:

S9: So even if Measure U passes , I wouldn't expect moving day to come any time soon.

S6: I've been speaking with the Jacob McSweeney , education reporter for the Voice of San Diego. And Jacob , thank you so much.

S9: Thanks for having me , Maureen. Happy Halloween.

S6: This is KPBS midday edition. I'm Maureen CAVANAUGH with Jade Heinemann. San Diego Opera held the world premiere of The Last Dream of Frida and Diego on Saturday. The Spanish language opera is inspired by the life and art of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. KPBS arts reporter Beth ACCOMANDO attended the rehearsal last week and spoke with the stage director , Lorena mesa. As the orchestra warmed up.

S5: Maria , you are directing a world premiere opera. So how does that feel ? You know , it's really exciting. It's really a challenge. And there are so many expectations that I don't want to think about that. But it's rare. I mean , there are not so many opera productions , especially not new productions. And then there are even fewer operas in Spanish and even fewer operas in Spanish that represent or depict to Mexican cultural figures like Ferdinand Diego. So it has many elements to make this a very unique and exciting project. And we are in front of this gorgeous set which plays up the idea of the Day of the Dead. So what role does Day of the Dead play in this opera ? Well , it plays the let's see , the the greatest context and kind of the dramatic trigger. In fact , the dramatic trigger of the story is Diego's last day on earth. Diego Rivera is sick and he's dying three years after Friday's death and he comes to the graveyard in the other Muertos to invoke Fati , then call her back to help him cross tomy clan to the underworld , the Aztec underworld. The whole first act is in the cemetery , which is , you know , the threshold of MC Clan. And then there is this huge invocation. So the doors open and the dead can come back to the world for one day. So it is quite a huge part of this show. Talk a little bit more about the production design and the costumes in this. You know , we all knew we didn't want to go to the typical cliche of Mexican folklore , full of color and full of suffering in this case , and using the same type of imagery for , you know , that mass media has utilized this freedom mania thing. But what most informed the design , I must say , is the story itself , because we're not doing pretty than Degas biography , which is usually what we see in pictures and films and many other types of shows. So the story was asking for something different and for a sort of container that could tell the story. So it is a very simple design , but very strong in toto , which I like. You know , this is far from being realistic. It's absolutely symbolic. It's an allegory. It's pure fiction. I mean , she's coming back from the dead and she's going back. And , you know , she comes from the clan and we see all the dead souls coming back to the world and whatever. And also the encounter with the eagle when she decides to come back at the end of Act one , Katrina tells her , But don't you dare touch Diego. Don't you dare touch your painting brushes. You cannot do that , because if you do that , you'll feel the agony again. So she doesn't let him come near. She's not doing it until she cannot do it anymore. At the end , she wants to go back to her painting. And at the end she adores Diego , inevitably. So she does embrace him. She does go back to her easel and and try to paint again. How does painting kind of play a role in the opera and how is her art represented ? It's all there because what we decided very consciously is not to use technology , but to go into a very pictorial style. That is , we have frames all over the main , you know , opening of proscenium is a frame , and then we have a lot of frames. We have these very frontal two dimensional style that really remembers , reminds us of the painting the way they painted. So we don't reproduce anything literally. We don't project anything. We don't we don't use any technology or projections or mapping or all of that. But still , you can recognize , of course , that. So even if it's not identical and we reproduce ten self-portraits and even though there are a translation of them , you can recognise them. For me , this style is so recognizable. She's one of the few people in the world , artists in the world , that immediately her art is recognizable. Also , this is a journey from the underworld and back. Which is interesting because it's not a journey to the underworld and back , and it is mainly a love story , a tragic love story , and then a love story that goes beyond life. So that's why this is very beautiful and moving. It's their last encounter , a dream of a last encounter in order to be together one more day on earth. And it's it's a beautiful encounter. The second act , Diego takes her to her casa , all her house so she can remember herself painting. But she's dead. She cannot see herself. There's no reflection. So. And she was her own subject. Her main subject. So how to paint my absence ? She has this crisis because she cannot reflect herself , see herself and paint herself. So Diego says , See through my eyes , paint through my hands. And then she allowed him to embrace her in order for her to remember the pain , because it's only then that she can regain her identity as a painter. It's the pain when she was alive that really was her inspiration for painting. She painted her autobiography always. Why do you think we keep returning to Frida Kahlo , both her personal life and her art ? What makes her so relevant and timeless ? I think the uniqueness makes it makes her transcend. She was so unique. Her art was so personal. And I think the more personal , the more universal. And also because she depicted herself completely as a woman and she was disabled and also she had relationships with her own sex. So she can represent and the strength. She was never a victim. She dignified herself through her painting. So feminists can see her as an icon for them. Also , the community , LGBTQ plus community can also see her as part of them , also the disabled community , because she was never stopped to transcend in this way for so many communities , embracing her as their representation. It is amazing. It is very unique. All right. Well , thank you very much. Thank you.

S6: That was Beth ACCOMANDO speaking with Lorena mesa. San Diego Opera's the last dream of Frida , and Diego has three more performances through Sunday.



The Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases challenging race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina Monday. A decision from the conservative-majority court could have far-reaching implications. Then, San Diego’s Measure H would open parks and rec facilities on city land to childcare businesses. But the measure includes a confusing word choice. Next, California recently updated its building code to allow high rises made almost entirely out of wood. But not just any wood: An emerging type of wood product called mass timber. And, even if evidence for any election fraud is scant or nonexistent, worries are especially high in one Northern California County. Then, the school bond measure on the San Diego city ballot this year would use some of the money raised to build housing for teachers on land it already owns. Finally, San Diego Opera's “The Last Dream of Frida and Diego” has three more performances through Sunday. The Spanish-language opera is inspired by the life and art of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.