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San Diego initiative aims to close funding gap on affordable housing

 March 8, 2022 at 4:23 PM PST

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A new initiative in San Diego aims to close the funding gap for affordable housing projects.
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So we're , I think , trying to achieve multiple aims here to have a more functional , more healthy housing economy in San Diego.
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I'm Andrew Bone with Maureen Cavanaugh.
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This is KPBS midday edition.
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A proposal from Gov. Gavin Newsom would create a new court system for people with severe mental illness.
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These are hard problems , but ultimately they come down to housing , housing , housing.
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Seaport Village in downtown San Diego could be getting a massive and towering makeover.
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And the San Diego Arab Film Festival kicks off this week.
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Here about the highlights coming up on KPBS midday edition.
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San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria yesterday launched a program that aims to speed up the construction of affordable housing.
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The Bridge to Home initiative combines local , state and federal dollars to finance seven affordable housing developments across the city.
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Joining me to discuss the program and the catch up on some other things he's been up to is San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.
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Mr. Mayor , welcome back.
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Thank you for having me , Andrea.
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So this Bridge to Home initiative is using funds that the city had access to before.
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So what exactly is the new policy choice that the city is making here ? We are trying to be as responsive as possible to the rising rents and increasing homelessness in our community , and so taking some of our former redevelopment agency funds matching it with some state funding , specifically the Senate bill two proceeds and then matching that with other revenues that we have.
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We are trying to get the most bang for our buck that we can.
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And I think our first round of bridge to home 662 units at seven locations across the city , I think really shows that we're able to leverage these dollars to maximum benefit.
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And the good news , Andrew , is that we're not done.
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This is just round one.
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We anticipate additional rounds to hopefully yield similar amounts of housing homes that are available and affordable to more San Diegans.
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Now , competition for these public subsidies for affordable housing is always very intense , and there were some developers who applied but didn't get access to this funding.
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What made these seven projects that are part of this initial round went out ? I think a couple of things.
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First off , when you look at the communities where they're located , San Jose drove downtown East Village and other parts of our city.
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What you see is a nexus with access to high quality public transit and other non vehicle modes of transportation , as well as proximity to jobs.
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Also a balance committee.
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We have a project that we're funding in the community of Rancho Bernardo , which many folks often assume has no affordable housing.
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Well , this will actually help create some housing in that community that would be affordable to low and middle income San Diego.
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I think that's a good thing.
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So it's that proximity to jobs and existing infrastructure , coupled with distribution around the city , I think was most attractive when we were selecting from those who asked to participate in Bridgetown.
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The city is also setting aside a quarter of the program's funding for smaller and emerging developers with projects of 40 homes or fewer.
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What's the goal with that ? Well , I think what we like about that kind of product is that it tends to be a little more naturally affordable.
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You know , these tend to be on smaller properties with , as you mentioned , fewer units.
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And I think is interested in trying to grow the field here.
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You know , there are a lot of extremely creative , very innovative , smaller local builders that we want to encourage.
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You know , we need more folks in this space working because the more homes that we create , the more capacity , the more units that we have that will help drive down the price.
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We want to have a healthy housing economy here in San Diego , and that involves having more folks are capable of building these homes that San Diegans need to live in , as well as more overall inventory.
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So we're , I think , trying to achieve multiple aims here to have a more functional or healthy housing economy in San Diego.
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Of course , you can't talk about housing without infrastructure , and the City Council today is hearing a report that found the city's infrastructure is more underfunded than ever before.
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San Diego would need an extra $4.3 billion over the next five years to fully fund its infrastructure needs.
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What does the mayor do with the problem of that magnitude ? Just keep moving forward.
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I mean , it is enormous to put it in some context for your viewers and listeners.
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This is more than we spend in a year on our entire budget at the city , so it is enormous.
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That said , though , just some of this is driven by current circumstances inflation that average San Diegans are dealing with , the city has to deal with as well.
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We also have the challenge of the great resignation in the fact that workers are hard to find that drives up costs too.
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So there are some peculiarities with our current situation the snapshot in time.
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The council is looking at , but there are also some of our long term challenges , which is that a lot of our city's infrastructure was built in the middle of the last century.
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A lot of it is coming to the end of its useful life.
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So it's not a matter of a pothole here or a street resurfacing there , but it's a pump station that was built decades and decades ago that really can't continue to function.
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We need to replace it.
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It's a big ticket costs that are basically coming due now that we have to find a way to fund good news.
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And all this , Andrew , is that we are making internal changes to try to be more efficient and effective with existing dollars that we are given to maintain our infrastructure.
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And we also have the opportunity to compete for some of the dollars that are in President Biden's bipartisan infrastructure bill that will help us to address this crisis.
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It won't be a cure all.
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We will still have a significant gap between the resources that we have and the needs that we have.
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But we will be able to deal with it a bit more efficiently , effectively with those federal dollars and with those internal streamlining that we're working on now.
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I want to ask you about traffic safety.
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2021 was a very deadly year on San Diego streets , there were 72 traffic deaths , and that's more than any year since the city adopted its Vision zero goal of ending all traffic deaths.
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So though City clearly hasn't been acting with enough urgency on this issue of traffic safety.
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What are you doing to prevent more deaths from happening ? We try to do a lot and what we could , of course , do more.
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Last year's budget , we established a team here at the city that as we are moving forward , the road repairs are making sure that they include multimodal options that bring in bicycle enhancements.
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Our new stat team , which is interested in trying to take our existing adopted bicycle master plan and executing those projects faster than they have been historically working with SANDAG to cut down the time it takes to actually deploy some of their projects.
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We've seen progress on Pershing Avenue through Balboa Park , where we've made the decision to move forward , and there are people actually working out on that street today with more must be done.
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We're not where we need to be , particularly not just for safety of individuals , which is the most important thing , but also when it comes to meeting the obligations under our Climate Action Plan.
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I do want to know Andrew.
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We do see a fair amount of negative behavior from motorists.
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People driving at excessive speed , distracted driving things of that nature.
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We can build some of the greatest infrastructure possible and that may reduce the probability of a terrible and tragic outcome.
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But motorist behavior is a big part of this.
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The L.A. City Council voted last month to lower speed limits on more than 100 miles of streets in the city.
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And this was made possible by a state law that now gives cities more discretion over setting speed limits.
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Is that an idea you would support for San Diego ? I wouldn't.
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I mean , I think that that's obviously a way that you can reduce the likelihood of an injury or fatality.
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You know , we had successful slow streets pilot in our city during the pandemic.
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This is stuff that we're currently evaluating to make permanent , and we continue to look at other opportunities to pedestrianised key corridors , things like Fifth Avenue , food , gas and water.
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I mean , I think these are things that just a few years ago , Andrew were extremely controversial , had a significant amount of pushback that today , you know , in power well embraced by the community.
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And now we're simply looking for the funding to do this.
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Last week you were up in Northern California with Gov. Gavin Newsom to support his proposed creation of care courts.
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This would be a new division of civil courts that could force people with severe mental illness into treatment , and the county governments would then be required to pay for that treatment.
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Why are you supporting this program ? Because , like most San Diegans , I'm extremely frustrated by the humanitarian crisis we see playing out on our streets every day.
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And it's not just here in San Diego.
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What we have is a situation where our behavioral health system is broken and we have to acknowledge that and we have to start finding fixes for it.
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I believe the care court is a way that we can address the needs of the individuals that your listeners and viewers see every single day.
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You see people who are active in their addictions have significant mental illness , and yet we just leave them on the sidewalk.
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That is not compassionate.
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We have to do something , and I believe it is a tangible , specific and achievable way of being able to address the needs of those individuals by giving them the opportunity to work with the public defender and advocate to figure out a individualized care and housing strategy to get them off the streets for good over a 12 or 24 four month period.
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I think that that could help take a significant number of the people who are currently calling the sidewalk at their home , get them into housing and would better address the humanitarian crisis that is our homelessness crisis in our city , our state and our nation.
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I've been speaking with San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria.
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Mr. Mayor , thanks as always for joining us.
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Thank you , sir.
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We were just speaking with Mayor Gloria about care caught.
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The full name of the program is the Community Assistance Recovery and Empowerment Court , or Simply Care Court.
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If approved by the Legislature , it would require each county in California to add a care court program to their justice system.
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That way , families , first responders and others could petition the court to evaluate an individual and potentially place that person in a court ordered program of treatment and housing for up to two years.
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Care court would not only be for the homeless , but its main focus is on getting severely mentally ill and chronically addicted people off the streets and into shelter.
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But some mental health professionals have concerns about how care court would work in the real world.
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Joining me is Michelle Cabrera , executive director of the County Behavioral Health Directors Association of California.
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And Michelle , welcome to the program.
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Thank you.
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Good morning.
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Do you think it's a good idea that the state is finally investing real money in a program like this ? I think that is actually part of the problem or the concern that we have with this proposal.
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This new.
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Court structure would pump resources into the court's public defenders , supporters to provide support to individuals in the court hearing process.
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New funding for judges and all the clerks and staff were needed to make this court run , but it would not add any new money to the actual service delivery side of the equation.
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And that's where we believe that this proposal is fundamentally flawed.
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When we are talking about trying to go upstream and sort of connect people with treatment services , we need to understand that we are living in the midst of a global pandemic that has had significant impacts on the behavioral health workforce as both demand has gone up.
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And frankly , our workforce has really been stretched thin over the course of the pandemic.
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That is on top of decades of underinvestment in our behavioral health safety net , not only for people with Medi-Cal and other forms of public coverage , but certainly anyone with commercial coverage can tell you that commercial insurers have been woefully inadequate in providing for the needs , particularly of people with significant mental health and substance use disorder needs.
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Well , let me ask you this.
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A main argument in favor of the concept of mandated treatment is what Mayor Gloria has said that for too long we've left severely mentally ill and addicted people on their own to languish unsheltered in the streets.
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Is is that what you've seen as well ? Well , you know , as much as I love Mayor Gloria on a personal level , I have to say that I vehemently disagree with his problem analysis.
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The problem of homelessness is caused by a lack of affordable housing for very low income people.
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You see a number of groups who face challenges in terms of education and employment , or who lack social networks and family support overrepresented in the homeless population.
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This includes Black Californians , LGBTQ youth , survivors of domestic violence veterans and , of course , people with behavioral health conditions.
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They are , unfortunately , the casualties in a very unaffordable housing market up and down the state of California.
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And as housing prices and rent prices have gone up , our clients have to compete with everyone else for those housing slots that in addition to HUD policies that actually did prioritize people with behavioral health conditions for available housing flats have really challenged our clients in accessing housing , even when it's made available through our local continuum of care or the local structure for providing homeless individuals with housing.
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So if you're coming out of a treatment facility or out of incarceration , you actually go to the back of the line when it comes to trying to access housing resources.
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So there are structural issues that have led to our clients facing homelessness disproportionately.
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But I think it's also important to note that the longer someone spends unhoused , the more likely they are to either develop a new behavioral health condition or for their condition to worsen.
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And so we've had a massive problem on our hands that has only been compounded over time.
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Our clients to say that they are driving this problem or the safety net that serves them , is actually misplaced blame.
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And frankly , it's unproductive.
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What we need to do is treat this like the crisis that it is , and both prevent individuals from becoming homeless in the first place by connecting them with affordable housing options.
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And we need to provide a crisis intervention style approach to offering people services voluntarily and housing voluntarily.
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I can tell you that we have people who are actively involved in recovery services today , and they are unhoused because we don't have enough housing flats for our clients.
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That is a problem.
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Have professionals like yourself been involved in developing this proposed care court program ? Our county behavioral health safety net and directors were not involved in conceiving of this proposal.
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However , the administration has indicated that they do intend to bring us to the table to really finalize it and to help give it shape and form.
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And so we are hopeful that in that process of engagement , the expertise of the service delivery system will be brought to bear and help to guide and shape what this ultimately becomes.
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OK , so if the Legislature does give the OK to the whole concept of care court , what in your opinion , does care court need to provide in order to be successful ? Well , as I've mentioned , the first thing we need to do is we need to put our most severely mentally.
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Ill and sick individuals at the front of the line for housing resources across the board , if care courts can help to prioritize people with serious mental illness and substance use disorder needs for housing resources where they are available , then ultimately that could potentially be helpful.
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The other thing that we need to do and this is going to be a harder part of the conversation , is we need to right size funding for the public behavioral health safety net system.
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And what that means is we need to add funding so that we can expand services to meet the need on the streets right now.
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Three out of 10 people experiencing homelessness have some form of serious mental illness.
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Two out of 10 have a substance use disorder at roughly half of the population that is living on the streets right now.
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But we can't ignore the other half lest their needs become worse , or they develop a substance use disorder or other condition just because of the trauma of living on the streets.
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These are hard problems , but ultimately they come down to housing , housing , housing.
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I've been speaking with Michelle Cabrera , executive director of the County Behavioral Health Directors Association of California.
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Michelle , thank you very much.
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Thank you , Maureen.
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This is KPBS midday edition.
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I'm Maureen Cavanaugh with Andrew Bohn in for Jade Heinemann.
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After nearly a year long search , the San Diego Unified School District has named a permanent superintendent.
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Dr. Lemon Jackson was chosen out of two finalists for the job.
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Jackson was appointed interim superintendent right after Cindy Martin was named deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education last year.
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Joining me is KPBS Education Reporter Meg Perez and MJI.
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Good to be here.
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Remind us about Lamont Jackson's background and his long association with San Diego Unified.
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Lamont Jackson is a person who grew up in the San Diego Unified District.
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He started in kindergarten , went through 12th grade and then graduated from Claremont High School and on to San Diego State and then eventually to his doctorate at University of San Diego.
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So this man is home grown and happy to be in the position that he finds himself now.
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And how long has he been associated actually working for San Diego Unified 30 years and in those 30 years , that includes he was a teacher.
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He was a principal.
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Most recently , he was an area superintendent before he was named the interim.
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And so he has worked.
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He also worked in H.R.
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He hired people.
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So that is 30 years worth of employment with the district.
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And did the board of trustees explain why they chose Jackson over the other highly qualified candidates ? Dr. Susan In-field from the Seattle area was very qualified , and they did mention her at the press conference on Monday afternoon and her incredible credentials.
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Ultimately , what it came down to , I believe , and what the board member said was he knows the district inside and out.
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He has been in the district at every level.
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And for that reason , he was the best qualified candidate for the job , they said.
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Now , when we spoke with Dr. Jackson on this program and for your report on the two finalists , Jackson spoke often about the necessity of getting to know students , knowing their names , knowing their needs and challenges.
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Is that a common theme of his ? He is very well-liked by the students of this district , and I say that because at the press announcement on Monday , there were a lot of students there , and he shared personal stories with them and about them.
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And so , yes , that is a theme of his , mostly because he's been a student , he's been a student in the district as well as the other side of it , which is being a teacher , educator and so forth.
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So , yes , definitely a theme.
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And he is well connected and well-liked by a lot of students.
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Speaking of challenges , though , what kinds of issues will Lamont Jackson have to address as the new school superintendent ? Well , I said to him one of the first questions and I asked it was What do you say to those who do not support you , those who continue to protest against mandates and take the district to court ? And what he said to me is , I don't think they don't support us.
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I think they have a different opinion and we are here to hear that.
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And of course , we're talking about masks and we're talking about vaccination mandates.
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And by the way , those will continue.
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The mask mandate will end after spring break as it's already been announced , but he made a point of saying at the press conference that he will honor those students and teachers who want to continue wearing masks to make sure that they stay safe from COVID.
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And when will Dr. Jackson be officially installed as San Diego Unified superintendent ? Well , the contract he will sign and it will be ratified at the board meeting on March 22nd , but he's already in the job.
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He is continuing the leadership he started last year as interim.
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So , but officially the contract will be signed on the dotted line , as they say , March 22nd.
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I've been speaking with KPBS education reporter Maggie Perez.
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Marie , thank you.
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Thank you.
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Seaport Village is a San Diego landmark.
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Tourists and locals go for the restaurants , shops and the beautiful beachside views.
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But a new $3.5 billion mega-project may soon be replacing the original Seaport Village and central Embarcadero port.
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Commissioners are reviewing the proposal today , though a final vote is still a ways off.
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Joining me now with details on the project is San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Jennifer Van Grove.
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Jennifer , welcome.
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Thanks for having me.
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The development team won.
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Highway one has been working on this project since 2016.
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So just how big is this project and tell us what are the main components ? It's a huge project.
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I think it's fair to say by anyone's standards , it's extra large.
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Initially , the team bid on what's considered the entire central Embarcadero , so it extends from just south of the Midway Museum , follows the coast , includes some of the land there across the harbor drive and goes all the way down and includes Embarcadero Marina Park North and is on the water side as well.
00:22:45.360 --> 00:22:54.930
But in the project description that they submitted to the port at the end of 2021 , they extended their boundary in the water by another 30 plus acres.
00:22:54.930 --> 00:22:58.380
So now we're talking about one hundred and five acres.
00:22:58.770 --> 00:23:08.460
And to put that into perspective , that's , you know , you have two point seven million square feet of mixed use development on the land side.
00:23:08.460 --> 00:23:15.690
And then you have three hundred and fifty five boat slips in the water and we're talking hotels , retail space.
00:23:15.690 --> 00:23:22.100
But what are some of the components ? What are people going to see there ? So the hotel aspect is one of the bigger aspects.
00:23:22.110 --> 00:23:39.540
We're talking seven different hotels in six buildings spread across the site , so the primary hotel is going to be and the tower that people have probably seen in renderings and the towers , this cylindrical pyramid that extends thirty four storeys , five hundred feet up in the air.
00:23:39.900 --> 00:23:42.420
But the base of that tower is going to be hotel.
00:23:42.840 --> 00:23:46.130
Otherwise , you kind of have a hotel campus of sorts.
00:23:46.170 --> 00:23:50.580
So lots of hotels and of course , lots of parks and open space as well.
00:23:50.850 --> 00:23:58.680
Why does the port feel this project is necessary now ? What's wrong with the Seaport Village that we have today ? You know , that's a very important question.
00:23:58.710 --> 00:24:12.170
I suspect that we'll hear that discussed a lot today because actually , I don't know that the port feels that this project is as necessary as it did in 2016 , when they made the selection right.
00:24:12.190 --> 00:24:19.680
So we're talking about over five years ago , almost six years ago , that they picked one highway one to do this development.
00:24:19.680 --> 00:24:24.420
And they did so at a time when Seaport Village was extremely rundown.
00:24:24.420 --> 00:24:31.710
There were a lot of vacancies , and it wasn't the attraction that the port had wanted it to be.
00:24:31.980 --> 00:24:35.520
But in 2018 , the port actually took over.
00:24:35.760 --> 00:24:44.880
So the parties always own the land , but they took over operation of Seaport Village and they've been on a very I would maybe characterize it as successful change.
00:24:44.880 --> 00:24:52.680
And they've spent a couple of million bucks and they've they've renovated it primarily with pain , but also with activities.
00:24:52.680 --> 00:24:56.850
And they've spent a lot of time and money into attracting new tenants.
00:24:56.850 --> 00:25:00.300
So they're investing in Seaport Village to make it this asset.
00:25:00.300 --> 00:25:06.890
And now we have something that's come along that I don't from the wrong word , but certainly would destroy that.
00:25:06.900 --> 00:25:09.650
So I don't know that we have an answer to that question.
00:25:09.660 --> 00:25:20.550
I just think the dynamics of that space has changed substantially since the port issued the RFP and where we are today , just because it's taken five and a half years to get to this point.
00:25:20.910 --> 00:25:24.840
Now , it's still pretty early since this project has been actually unveiled.
00:25:24.840 --> 00:25:38.340
But how are people reacting so far ? Well , the emails I got , people are loving it , but I think that's a very specific type of person who really likes what we have there today , like a couple of controversial points.
00:25:38.340 --> 00:25:52.650
Are the waterside development , right ? So if you are on the Embarcadero looking out towards Coronado in front of Seaport Village today , there are no boats , so you have this unobstructed view of the water all the way out to Coronado.
00:25:53.380 --> 00:26:05.660
You know , some people are taking issue with the fact that this project would put , you know , I think in that particular area , over 100 boat slips , right ? So it becomes more of a marina feel and and in their mind would destroy , you know , the view corridor there.
00:26:06.450 --> 00:26:10.350
Other people are just taking issue with the sheer size of the development.
00:26:10.360 --> 00:26:17.950
It's 2.7 million square feet of mixed use development in a place where there's 90000 square feet or at least four sea ports.
00:26:18.390 --> 00:26:23.460
Village alone , it's 90000 square feet , and then you have the issue of parks and open space.
00:26:23.460 --> 00:26:27.210
So Roko Park today is a very , I guess , well known.
00:26:27.210 --> 00:26:31.890
If you're a local , if you know the area of open space park , that's very passive.
00:26:32.550 --> 00:26:41.040
The developer would like to relocate Roko Park , and I believe it would be a smaller footprint , and I've seen some people email me about having concerns about that.
00:26:41.430 --> 00:26:56.090
So there are a lot of concerns that are surfacing in my email , but I also know on the flip side , you know , some City Council members , even though this is a port decision , have expressed support for the project and they've let some of the commissioners know that they're very excited about this project.
00:26:56.100 --> 00:27:01.650
They think it could be a great engine for generating economic growth here in San Diego.
00:27:01.950 --> 00:27:09.920
What's the timeline on this project ? When could it be ready for a final vote and when would it actually get built ? You know , that is also a good question.
00:27:09.970 --> 00:27:11.660
I wish I knew the exact answer to.
00:27:11.790 --> 00:27:19.580
If you ask the developer , the developer would like to push forward with a timeline that sees them break ground in twenty twenty five , but that is very ambitious.
00:27:19.590 --> 00:27:25.320
That means that they get approval from the port this year , and that's not necessarily a given right.
00:27:25.330 --> 00:27:29.790
So today's meeting is they'll get some feedback from port commissioners.
00:27:30.210 --> 00:27:39.360
Staff still has to come back and present this in a way , and I think they still have to finalize negotiations as far as lease terms.
00:27:39.360 --> 00:27:51.720
But the most aggressive timeline would see the developer break ground in twenty twenty five , complete the project over a five year phasing timeline and finish in 20 30 , but I would say that that's aggressive and ambitious at best.
00:27:52.110 --> 00:27:57.810
All right , I've been speaking with Jennifer Van Grove , who covers growth and development for the San Diego Union-Tribune.
00:27:57.820 --> 00:27:59.190
Jennifer , thanks for joining us.
00:27:59.400 --> 00:28:00.090
Thanks , Andrew.
00:28:02.120 --> 00:28:13.980
And now on stage at the Old Globe is a new play elaborate show which explores the realities of a Mexican American family dealing with an alcoholic family member.
00:28:14.310 --> 00:28:20.910
The play is named after the popular lottery card game , specifically the card that depicts a stereotype of a drunkard.
00:28:21.330 --> 00:28:31.710
In 2020 , an early draft of the play was included in the Old Globes Powers New Voices Festival , a renowned workshop and reading series for new works from across the country.
00:28:32.070 --> 00:28:43.860
El Dorado is now back at the globe for a full production , and playwright Tony Meneses and director Edward Torres spoke with KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans.
00:28:44.910 --> 00:28:48.030
Edward , Tony , thank you so much for joining me today.
00:28:48.360 --> 00:28:51.030
Yes , thank you , Tony.
00:28:51.300 --> 00:28:53.340
Let's start at the very beginning.
00:28:53.370 --> 00:29:02.940
What drove you to write this play ? I was in school at Juilliard and my teacher , Marsha Norman , who is a renowned Pulitzer Prize winning playwright.
00:29:02.970 --> 00:29:07.470
She has this philosophy that at one point in a writer's career , you have to write the play that scares you.
00:29:07.500 --> 00:29:10.710
And that phrase alone immediately conjured this play for me.
00:29:10.800 --> 00:29:12.870
So it's a very personal story.
00:29:12.900 --> 00:29:14.670
It's a play about my father.
00:29:14.910 --> 00:29:21.900
And when he passed away , it's something that when it happened as an artist , I sort of knew one day I would have to contend with it in that way.
00:29:21.930 --> 00:29:24.780
And it took a while for me to finally be ready for that.
00:29:24.780 --> 00:29:32.100
And I think this sort of homework assignment for Marsha was sort of the kick in the pants probably that I needed because I was wrapping up my time in school and I had written this play.
00:29:32.100 --> 00:29:40.490
I'd written five others and I had one more left to write and I thought , You know , let me just finally do this thing that she believes is something that every writer has to go through.
00:29:40.500 --> 00:29:49.500
So I wrote it then and thankfully , you know , it went well and I was terrified of sharing the story and terrified of sharing this play and exposing my family and myself so vulnerable.
00:29:49.770 --> 00:29:59.690
But you know , now that we're already open and we've gotten to see the show in front of audiences , it's been really rewarding that what I thought was perhaps too specific , too rooted in my family story.
00:29:59.700 --> 00:30:03.570
Actually , a lot of people have been able to access and connected to themselves and their families.
00:30:03.600 --> 00:30:06.240
So the alchemy , I think , worked out all well for the end.
00:30:06.600 --> 00:30:07.510
I love that.
00:30:07.530 --> 00:30:25.660
And as you sort of mentioned , this story revolves around a single family , and there are just three characters in the whole play a divorced couple , Alma and Raul , who moves back into Alma's house when she begrudgingly agrees to take care of him and there is their adult son.
00:30:25.680 --> 00:30:38.550
So Toni , can you tell us a little bit about the dynamic between the three of them in the play ? What felt important to me that the character , the son character is a little bit my proxy , my stand in in the narrative , and I just didn't want to center that character too much.
00:30:38.730 --> 00:30:50.580
His point of view into being there and the relationship in the family , so it felt really important to me was to actually read it in the couple , in this estranged couple and this , you know , divorced couple and the parents of this young character.
00:30:50.580 --> 00:30:52.650
And that that for me is the mileage of the show.
00:30:52.650 --> 00:30:58.350
So it removes headache , my own accountability in my own subjectivity of what happened , and I feel like I haven't seen that dynamic.
00:30:58.360 --> 00:31:04.320
I think we've seen narratives like coming home stories where it is the kid or the young child that comes home and you see the world through their eyes.
00:31:04.320 --> 00:31:10.260
So I thought reply to flip that narrative and actually tell it through the ones who are home and what they experience in that story.
00:31:10.500 --> 00:31:14.740
So Eddie , I wanted to ask you a little bit about these characters , too.
00:31:14.760 --> 00:31:19.360
I can imagine that when you're working with a script with just three characters.
00:31:19.380 --> 00:31:22.110
A lot depends on those roles.
00:31:22.380 --> 00:31:33.630
So what drew you to them , to this family ? Well , I mean , you know , I think one of the really lovely things about this story , and yes , it's a personal story for Tony , and that is already , for me , fascinating.
00:31:33.630 --> 00:31:39.000
But I think also I was able to draw my own personal experiences from my own parents as well.
00:31:39.180 --> 00:31:41.010
So it made the story really universal.
00:31:41.010 --> 00:31:48.150
So the characters were very intriguing and kind of stood out to me because of the way Tony had laid those characters out.
00:31:48.420 --> 00:31:52.290
Raul is not your mean drunkard by any stretch of the imagination.
00:31:52.290 --> 00:31:55.090
He's actually quite charming and quite wonderful when you see him.
00:31:55.110 --> 00:32:02.230
You know , the son is also someone who is very warm and genuine and someone who really cares about his parents.
00:32:02.250 --> 00:32:04.530
Alma is someone who is also very smart.
00:32:04.530 --> 00:32:14.700
Your mom's grandmother and my grandmother and other matriarchs in my family who were very , very stern but loving and caring , but very disciplined and very centered and focused.
00:32:14.730 --> 00:32:18.350
And so I was like , Wow , this is not too far from my own family.
00:32:18.360 --> 00:32:28.410
And so the task was to find a set of actors that would embody that , not just within the physicality of the characters , but also within the narrative that Tony had set forth.
00:32:28.440 --> 00:32:32.130
So it was a lot of fun looking for these characters.
00:32:32.130 --> 00:32:37.320
And then actually , when you find them , then it's a whole nother , you know , a whole nother surprise.
00:32:37.470 --> 00:32:51.000
So the actors were then also bring their own experience in there because , you know , I think the idea of addiction and loss and family that that breaks apart , there is something very human about that.
00:32:51.030 --> 00:32:55.460
It's not just the idea that , OK , well , this is a lab next family or Mexican family.
00:32:55.470 --> 00:33:01.080
This could be somebody you know , who could be from Poland or somebody from , you know , an African-American family.
00:33:01.080 --> 00:33:13.320
It could be many different ideas of what families are in this entire world and universe , right ? So to me , that was probably the most fascinating , endearing qualities , actually really , really powerful as well.
00:33:13.890 --> 00:33:21.270
And I wanted to ask a little bit more about that and Latinx stories and how they're underrepresented in American theaters.
00:33:21.300 --> 00:33:30.210
Eddie , it was about 30 years ago that you co-founded Theater of Easter in Chicago , and that company has been working to change that.
00:33:30.780 --> 00:33:42.600
Can you talk a little bit about how that work has evolved over the last 30 years ? I mean , I think it's it's really fascinating because there's always been , you know , plays about American families now.
00:33:42.600 --> 00:33:44.220
The term is Latin X or LA.
00:33:44.900 --> 00:33:55.280
Families with their experience in the United States different from Latin American theater versus abroad , whether if you're coming from Ecuador or Venezuela or Colombia , that's mostly Spanish speaking theater.
00:33:55.280 --> 00:33:59.830
This is more about the US experience of Latinos here in this country.
00:33:59.840 --> 00:34:01.430
And so there really wasn't much of that.
00:34:01.430 --> 00:34:11.390
But there's been a culture for quite a long time , actually going back to the West Coast and Luis Valdez going into the American theater in the 50s and 60s in New York.
00:34:11.390 --> 00:34:18.050
And I discovered a whole plethora of wonderful writers from different parts that had the American experience.
00:34:18.050 --> 00:34:22.040
So they were either Cuban or Puerto Rican or Colombian or Venezuelan.
00:34:22.070 --> 00:34:30.670
And so finding that work out and knowing that we weren't being represented in the theater in Chicago at that period of time in the 80s was kind of like a missing note for me.
00:34:30.680 --> 00:34:39.140
And so I decided to start tap to Vista , which evolved out of another theater company , Chicago name Latino Chicago Theatre Company , which I was also a member of.
00:34:39.150 --> 00:34:43.240
So that evolved and gave rise to tattoo , visa and then tattoos to give rise.
00:34:43.280 --> 00:34:48.240
Probably another three or four other Latin acts , theatre companies doing the same type of work.
00:34:48.260 --> 00:34:52.550
And so now , you know , we weren't the only ones carrying the banner of Latin theater.
00:34:52.580 --> 00:34:57.050
There are now many other theaters in Chicago that are doing that , including Spanish language theater.
00:34:57.080 --> 00:35:06.770
So it was quite a wonderful 30 years experience to see that evolve and grow and to then , of course , you know , focus on continuing plays.
00:35:06.810 --> 00:35:10.500
My relationship with two out of these two still exist continues.
00:35:10.650 --> 00:35:25.700
I'm also part of the ensemble as well , so hopefully I will get back there , maybe within the next couple of years to continue to work and continue to give Latinx artists an opportunity to right see their plays being produced and to act and to also work behind the scenes.
00:35:25.820 --> 00:35:33.850
This was fascinating for us because I think this is , I think , the first time I worked with a Latin X lighting designer , set designer composer.
00:35:33.860 --> 00:35:38.690
So it was a real big thing for me to see that happen , especially with this production.
00:35:38.820 --> 00:35:41.960
Eddie Tony , thank you so much for being here today.
00:35:42.200 --> 00:35:47.660
Thank you and thank you for having us over here and for giving us a really wonderful experience and thanks to the Old Globe as well.
00:35:47.870 --> 00:35:48.470
Thank you , Julia.
00:35:48.500 --> 00:35:49.790
Really a pleasure to chat today.
00:35:49.830 --> 00:35:53.240
And Eddie , it's great to hear your voice and of course , lots of love to the old globe.
00:35:54.140 --> 00:36:00.770
That was playwright Tony Meneses and director Edward Torres speaking with KPBS Arts Editor Julia Dixon.
00:36:00.770 --> 00:36:04.790
Evans Alboreto runs at the Old Globe through March 20th.
00:36:22.370 --> 00:36:24.450
This is KPBS midday edition.
00:36:24.470 --> 00:36:27.860
I'm Maureen Cavanaugh with Andrew Bohn in for Jade Heinemann.
00:36:28.370 --> 00:36:33.290
Karama is a non-profit organization made up of Arab and non-Arab members.
00:36:33.560 --> 00:36:44.450
This Friday , the organization kicks off its 11th annual San Diego Arab Film Festival with food and a Palestinian film at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.
00:36:44.840 --> 00:36:51.020
KPBS film critic Beth Accomando speaks with the group's president , Larry Christian , about the upcoming festival.
00:36:51.830 --> 00:36:58.100
Larry Karama is celebrating its 11th year of presenting Arab films here in San Diego.
00:36:58.550 --> 00:37:02.060
So explain what Karama is and what it does here in San Diego.
00:37:02.360 --> 00:37:04.840
Karama is a small nonprofit.
00:37:04.850 --> 00:37:20.300
We focus on issues of the Arab and Islamic world with a special emphasis on Palestine and do a variety of things , including speaker programs and developing materials for teachers who have to teach about the region and things like that.
00:37:20.840 --> 00:37:27.650
It has always been a mix of Arab and non-Arab people who have an interest in the issues of the region.
00:37:28.070 --> 00:37:35.720
In 2012 , we decided that we would take on developing Arab Film Festival in San Diego.
00:37:36.600 --> 00:37:44.520
And I'm the president of Karama , and I get to be that in part because I'm retired and I have more time than other people do.
00:37:45.030 --> 00:37:46.740
And so , so I do that.
00:37:46.740 --> 00:37:57.900
We have actually assembled a support committee now , almost all of whom are are Arab , and they are kind enough to let me keep doing this.
00:37:58.260 --> 00:38:03.270
So Larry , you mentioned that you have Arab and non-Arab people on the board and involved with the film selection.
00:38:03.510 --> 00:38:05.250
And you yourself are not Arabs.
00:38:05.250 --> 00:38:24.060
So how did you get involved in this group ? I studied history at the University of California in Berkeley in the 60s , you know , and I and I had an interest in the issues of how the colonized world was responding to the growing national liberation movement and independence of so many countries , all in that period.
00:38:24.390 --> 00:38:37.350
I concluded then that the history of my lifetime was really going to be revolve around how that happened and the goals and success of the colonized people and achieving their aspirations.
00:38:37.950 --> 00:38:39.570
So that's always been an interest of mine.
00:38:40.170 --> 00:39:00.720
And back in the in the late 80s , there was a case in Los Angeles where a group of Palestinians and the Kenyan wife of one were raided and apprehended by the FBI , who under the Reagan administration , wanted to deport them for being radicals.
00:39:01.110 --> 00:39:09.390
So a defense committee was was formed around around them , and my wife is a member of the National Lawyers Guild and its lawyers were defending them.
00:39:09.750 --> 00:39:12.360
And so I started to get involved in that.
00:39:12.690 --> 00:39:33.480
And then the first Palestinian intifada happened and and a group of Arabs started having nightly vigils and at us at a certain point , one of them who I had met through this , this other Elliott case approached me and said they really needed to have.
00:39:33.900 --> 00:39:45.930
They needed to have some literature to be able to give to people because those were in the days when you dealt with paper , right ? And they really wanted someone who was a native English speaker to develop those.
00:39:46.140 --> 00:39:48.270
And would I be that person ? Sure , I said.
00:39:48.570 --> 00:39:55.830
That evolved into the precursor of Karama , which was called the Middle East Cultural and Information Center.
00:39:55.950 --> 00:40:04.260
And what do you feel the goal or the mission is of the film festival ? The the film festival has always had a two-part goals.
00:40:04.470 --> 00:40:18.420
One was to be a kind of a cultural signpost signpost and a means for celebration of Arab culture by the local community.
00:40:18.750 --> 00:40:28.620
You know who has long been not recognized ? So , so one of them was to was to create a focal point for celebration of culture.
00:40:29.040 --> 00:40:58.710
The other part of it was to show the community at large the an honest and real portrayal of Arab culture show that it's it's it's essential humanity , it's creativity and and and recognize that and recognition that Arab Arab culture has been a dynamic major contributor to world culture as we know it.
00:40:59.160 --> 00:41:14.290
And that by doing that , then we provide a basis to overcome the very narrow stereotypes , the very negative stereotypes that that dominate public discourse about Arabs in.
00:41:14.290 --> 00:41:21.720
And that , I mean , that's been true since , you know , in film terms since Rudolph , Valentino and the Sheik.
00:41:22.360 --> 00:41:33.030
And but but especially since since nine eleven Arab-Americans have had a very tough spot in American culture.
00:41:33.420 --> 00:41:46.350
And so we're we're trying to show that that there is a a rich history and culture that it that that people here are products of it.
00:41:46.740 --> 00:41:54.100
We wanted to provide a framework to highlight that in a in a modern sense and medium.
00:41:54.130 --> 00:41:58.140
Our film is a really good medium for showing humanity.
00:41:59.470 --> 00:42:13.310
So it's those it's those two things , the celebration of Arab culture and a sign of pride for the local community and to reach out to the broader community to show we have.
00:42:14.320 --> 00:42:23.440
What the Arab community really is , Larry , one of the things I really appreciate about a specialized festival like yours is that it invites us to look at the world from new perspectives.
00:42:23.710 --> 00:42:34.480
And two of the films I got to preview for this year's festival gave us a different point of view on historical events that we probably have heard about , but likely only seen through a white western lens.
00:42:34.810 --> 00:42:50.080
So you have French colonialism in 1940s Algeria and Heliopolis and the 2011 Egyptian Revolution entrapped , you know , for better or worse , the history of the of the modern Arab world is tied up in exactly that topic.
00:42:50.500 --> 00:42:55.540
And even our opening night film , The Stranger , is a Palestinian film.
00:42:55.780 --> 00:43:01.630
It is actually set in occupied Golan Heights , which has been annexed by Israel.
00:43:01.630 --> 00:43:02.020
And so.
00:43:02.170 --> 00:43:26.110
So here we are in our opening night is the issue of how it is that there are occupations and annexation that happen in Europe that are widely condemned and those that happen in the Arab world that are accepted and recognized even by the US and the way in which European and American culture have kind of otherize the Arab world.
00:43:26.440 --> 00:43:34.180
In addition to films that look at history , you also have some films that look at very personal stories like Daughters of Abdul Rahim , which looks to for women.
00:43:34.540 --> 00:43:41.420
That's true , and there are other films that approach a very particular social issues that are personal in nature.
00:43:41.440 --> 00:44:08.950
You know , the Farah about a woman in Lebanon who has serious mental health challenges and is trying to get those recognised and accepted in a modern Lebanese family ? So you're right , the films do range from the very personal and individual to the family as daughters of Abdulrahman to the kind of larger historical political issues.
00:44:09.370 --> 00:44:17.950
And Heliopolis , the Algerian film , which we're pairing with another film about Algeria that goes back the other way there.
00:44:17.950 --> 00:44:33.250
Algeria , which is about an older couple who had from Algeria , has lived in France for a long time , and they're kind of thinking back about the process of how , how they got there and how they relate to their their culture in this new place.
00:44:33.700 --> 00:44:33.970
All right.
00:44:33.970 --> 00:44:37.450
Well , thank you very much for talking about this year's Arab Film Festival.
00:44:37.990 --> 00:44:39.280
OK , well , thank you for asking.
00:44:39.410 --> 00:44:40.930
We're very happy to do it.
00:44:42.560 --> 00:44:53.150
That was Beth Accomando speaking with Larry Christian , the San Diego Arab Film Festival runs the next three weekends in March at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria launched the “Bridge to Home” program on Monday. It’s goal: to speed up the construction of affordable housing. Next, if approved by the legislature the state will give counties money to expand the courts to focus on getting severely mentally ill and chronically addicted people off the streets and into shelters. But some mental health professionals have concerns about how the so-called Care Court would work in the real world. After, Dr. Lamont Jackson will be the next superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District. What challenges will he face as leader of the state’s second largest district? Then, a $3.5 billion mega project may soon be replacing the original Seaport Village and Central Embarcadero. And, The Old Globe introduces "El Borracho," a play which explores the realities of a Mexican American family dealing with an alcoholic family member. Finally, a preview of the 11th annual San Diego Arab Film Festival which begins Friday at the Museum of Photographic Arts.