San Diego’s Balancing Act On Homelessness
KPBS Roundtable / April 19, 2019
San Diego moves forward with new support and enforcement on the homelessness issue, a public vote on the Convention Center expansion may be moved to March, and Qualcomm stock rises on the news of its settlement with Apple.
Speaker 1: 00:01 It's a balancing act. Does the city of San Diego tries to serve the unsheltered? A new safe parking zone is coming soon, but a new ban on living in cars might also be on the way. The city council wants an early vote to raise tourist taxes to expand the convention center. How to mayoral candidates disagree on the way forward and the legal fights are over. How San Diego's Qualcomm will benefit from its settlement with apple. I'm mark Sauer. The KPBS round table starts now.
Speaker 2: 00:39 Welcome to our discussion of the week stop stories. I'm mark Sauer and joining me at the KPBS roundtable today. KPBS reporter Matt Hoffman, at least writer of the San Diego Business Journal and columnists. Michael Small runs of the San Diego Union Tribune. Well, San Diego's housing crisis is manifest in many ways, most obvious or the hundreds of homeless people surviving on the streets under freeway passes in river gulches. Various shelters. A step up from those, or are those people living in vehicles? The chronic situation is life threatening and profoundly sad and city leaders this week settle in a way to east some of the stress of living in cars and vans and Matt restart. Start right there with Matt Mirror. Kevin Faulkner's announcement. What were the specifics there? Yeah, so the mayor announced a third safe parking lot. They have to in Kearny Mesa. It's basically a place where people who are homeless living out of their vehicles can come. This one we'll accommodate RVs.
Speaker 2: 01:31 The other two don't. Um, it's worth noting that there's two in Kearny Mesa and then this one is in mission valley. Right? It's an old overflow parking lot that the stadium has right across from Stcu stadium. Um, and the city thinks that that's going to help them ease the street problem with people living on the streets. Okay. And these lots, in addition to be able, you can sleep safely overnight and that's, that's the idea of the lots, the, but the folks in their vehicles, they're, they're going to get some services in addition to that. Right, right. Yeah. So the city kind of pays to keep these lots up and they contract with a nonprofit, a Jewish family service, and they provide things like housing managers, case managers to help people kind of get out of the, get out of housing and get back or sorry, get out of their vehicle and get back into housing.
Speaker 2: 02:10 And it is worth noting too that um, Jewish family service has many of their clients or people who are first time homeless people who whatever situation, they can't afford the rent, they get kicked out. They're living in their vehicle temporarily. Um, they do say they have some people staying out there, lots who have been there for over a year. We had, there will be services there. There's bathrooms, showers. Uh, they bring like food trucks and they say to help feed people to, yeah. And give us a little more a sense about these lots. Um, you've got a itch. You mentioned the uh, the two and Kearney Mason, the one here, this one. When is that going to open up? The one near the statements about a month and a half earlier this week, they said 45 days. Um, and right now they say they have parking for up to 200 people, 200 cars. Uh, this one Jewish family service says they think they can get two to 300 vehicles in there.
Speaker 2: 02:51 It's a huge parking lot. Okay. That's across from STC cu stadium. Um, and it's, it's a program where it's basically it's in by certain time out by a certain time or sorry, I, yeah, in by a certain time out by a certain time. There's, there's some security there. And this is a Jewish family service, provides some security there. It's part of this what they dubbed, they're safe parking program. Um, it's geared a lot toward families too. So they want people, you know, a family friendly environment. Um, but then this begs the whole question of there's people who are living in their vehicles because they're homeless and they can't go anywhere else. And then there's Hes van life people who I know the city is also talking about as well. We talked about that in the show, uh, recently. The whole, the folks living in vans with $1 million view at the ocean and, and that creates its own situation, a whole different problem.
Speaker 2: 03:31 Uh, let's do a little bit of a step back questionnaire. Faulkner's announcement comes to city councils debating a new ordinance, placing restrictions on people sleeping in cars and city streets. Uh, in overview, this comes after the council had repeated this decades old, uh, ordinance that had banned people sleeping in vehicles. We're in this limbo of area now. Yeah, we're in this limbo area. We've actually been here for quite a while. A judge actually a issued an injunction saying that that law was unconstitutionally vague. Uh, so the police department was prohibited from enforcing it. Um, but I think a lot of, once the city council, uh, repealed it, I mean it was sort of just like a ceremonious thing. Um, cause they weren't enforcing it. But once that happened, a lot of people were just started thinking, oh man, there's going to be people taking showers in front of my house and there's going to be all these people on the streets when before they could technically do that.
Speaker 2: 04:16 But since that repeal has gone, there's been a lot of commotion about this. Obviously the mayor has announced a new ordinance and it went through a council committee. It was approved. It's talking about no parking anywhere on city streets between 6:00 PM and 6:00 AM and not parking and sleeping anywhere within 500 feet of a school or a home. So it's a little bit different. They're trying to really narrow it down and they define what it means to live in a car. Uh, this time, Michael, how do they define what it means to live in a car? They said, you know, the final living in the car. I mean, Disney it for sleeping, bathing, preparing meals or having items not normally associated with the vehicle, like cookware, bedding or furniture. Now I don't know. I mean, if you to take it, I'm sure you can. When you're in court, you can argue I have a pillow in there because I take naps or, you know, did you happen to know, do the officers have a certain amount of discretion?
Speaker 2: 05:00 Um, yeah, I have water in my car. Sometimes I might have a sleeping bag, I take gear to, to go surfing. I that's not exactly, you know, living in so forth. But how do they distinguish between some of the stuff I might have and maybe they would take me, I mean, I've got a brush in my car that occasionally I run through my hair. Believe it or not. You don't have a sofa bed, your curls? No, but I've had a mat back there. I've got a station wagon. Sometimes I'll take a snooze. So I think so. And I think a lot of the council members kind of talked about that too at this a committee hearing that they want to kind of hammer out these details because obviously the law is not in effect yet. They haven't passed the ordinance. Um, where we know what, how can we determine what these things are?
Speaker 2: 05:37 How are we going to look at this? So I think a lot of, a lot of that's going to come up. I mean, before it seems like the officer's just had discretion. Um, if someone looked like they were living in their vehicle, they could just give him a ticket for a vehicle habitation. All right. We have a couple of bites here. Of course, this has been a somewhat controversial issue. You touched on that on the people living in the vans. We're going to hear the point of view of one van dweller. A carry. Conga talked about, uh, how the city could do more outreach in the van life community.
Speaker 3: 06:04 I think people could be a little more, uh, inclusive like a the mayor and, and, and actually look at people who are in van life gatherings. There's Van Life App. They have gatherings and trying to propose something that's workable for everybody, you know, and instill also van life. People are, uh, who are part of that. Did educate others in leave no trace. So I think it should be a win win and people could I just to put you in a place that's off somewhere, just nothing cool to look at. Just under the guise of, you know, get out of your hair.
Speaker 2: 06:37 Math. Yeah. And she was talking about, you know, going to the stadiums, you know, she was saying that she necessarily probably wouldn't go there. Um, because, and I think it's interesting, I mean we have to note that there's kind of two separate populations here. When you talk about people living in their cars, there's people who are living in their cars and have been doing it for a long time or short time. Um, because they're truly have to, I mean, they have no other way either they're not getting enough monthly income and so they just resort to living in their car. It's the last piece of value. They have no choice. And then there's other people who are either traveling around the United States of traveling around California, what we referred to as the van life people. Um, and these people are, you know, more think of it as, you know, having fun and they're traveling around and they want to stay in front of the beach and they want to get a beach view and still do it on the cheap.
Speaker 2: 07:14 A lot of them. Right. And that's what Mary, Kevin Faulkner has kind of point out to, you know, taking advantage of neighborhoods. I will say though, that these van life people in the van life people and the people who are homeless living in their cars, I mean they're all technically homeless, but um, they say that like she said, like, no, no trace behind. Um, they really counteract the mayor saying that there's trash all over the place and the neighborhoods are being made on safe. They say that, hey, you know, compared to college kids who were on the beach, they don't leave any track etiquette to it. Michael, it's interesting because, you know, in this day of mobility and the, the, the push for, for transit and getting out of cars, uh, my colleague Chris Reed at the Union Tribune did an interesting call some time ago just about how almost in a futuristic way that, that, that more people actually may be living in their cars by choice.
Speaker 2: 07:54 A real estate is becoming such a big deal. And whether they are not, they have the means to get a structure. Uh, this might be a, uh, an option that they gravitate to, to the point that some automobile companies are looking at expanding amenities in vehicles, not just van spit that to make that easier. I mean you look at how cars are progressive, all the things that make our life easier from, you know, being able to call people without, you know, you're picking up a phone the, the music has and even your computer tracks and dashboard and so forth and you know, things to help with sleeping and things like that. So it's kind of interesting if that aspect kind of grows sort of in response a bit too. Not just, it's fun but also the real estate is so much that that's maybe come sort of a, a more a regular option and that could kind of butt heads with this approach by the city.
Speaker 2: 08:44 Yeah, I got more cup holders and they can use right now and like I was kind of saying how many of these people in these, lots of Jewish family services are first time homeless. And when you come to one of these lots, it's not just a place where you just park and sleep and then that's it. They have to, you know, take these services. Um, whether it's housing, navigation or what have you. And many of the people who I've talked to who are living in there, man say that they don't want those services for whatever reason. They say, I'm fine the way I am now American. And Faulkner says, Hey, if you're living in an event, we want to help you get out of your van and get into some type of housing that works. They say they just don't have the money to do that. Um, I think it's also worth noting too that to this lot's gonna open up in mission valley. There's two in Kearny Mesa and the Kearny Mesa area. Um, the, the mayor's office has, this problem is really big along the beaches. There's no safe parking lots down there. And Scott Sherman says, Hey, every council member was asked, uh, he's the council member district where this is going to be going. The new one. He says, every council member was asked to put forth places and I mean this is the only one that got it.
Speaker 1: 09:34 Take nobody's keen on it. All right, we're out of time on this, but we'll follow up. We'll see what the council does and what the rules become as we go along. Well, we're going to move on. It was never supposed to have come to this four mirror or candidate Barbara, Brie and other city council members, the vote on whether to raise taxes on tourists to expand the downtown convention center and raise money to fix streets and fight homelessness. It was supposed to have been on last November's ballot, but the initiative fail to qualify. It's got enough signatures now and rather by default could have been expected to go before voters in the presidential election of November, 2020. Instead, it appears to be moving up to the California primary in March and a city council debate and vote on Monday. Put bread on the spot. And Michael, this is kind of the, uh, below radar thing, but that's why your column was so interesting because this kind of stuff can make or break a campaign.
Speaker 4: 10:24 Well, it could, whether this is going to be a determinitive a moment in the mayoral campaign, we still have a ways to go. Remember this is about the timing of the election. She's expressed support for the goals of the, the hotel tax raising to expand the convention center, help on homeless services and repair roads. So clearly the interest behind the, those those needs are, or those goals, we're disappointed in her vote, but they did get a five, four victory. Uh, so whether the, this harms her, it, it with, with certain interest groups.
Speaker 1: 10:58 Well, she's trying to be consistent. Right? That's what noted in your car. Yes, US
Speaker 4: 11:01 and uh, you know, frankly, I mean it all gets very complicated because by default, as you mentioned, it was supposed to go on the November, 2020 ballot in 2016 San Diego voters overwhelmingly approved and initiative that requires, or that directs citizen's initiatives like this one to go on in November ballot. Why? Because that's when most people turn out to vote and they think important things should go before the most voters. And so she had voted against early elections before as did a council majority are enough to block it. There were a couple of attempts to do that and uh, this time around, uh, she didn't point to her past actions, but it is consistent with that. It would have been inconsistent, but also she views it as keeping faith with the voters. There were almost 66% of the voters said we want it to November, but the, that initiative did have some wiggle room. Most people believe it's a little bit of a contentious point that gives the council have the authority to change that if they want to.
Speaker 1: 11:54 And we'll get to that in a minute. Here is, we get a little deeper into the segment, but um, you know, it's, it's interesting. What were the reasons that so many, uh, uh, leaders there on the council wanted to go to March instead of November?
Speaker 4: 12:06 Well, the um, Eh, there's a lot of political calculus and people disagree with a March and November is the best. But the, the key thing seems to be that there are going to be several tax and spend measures, state and local measures on the November, 2020 ballot and they thought this sort of gets lost in this, this might get diluted a, there'd be a greater focus on that. There's all sorts of scenarios about what's the better turnout for this kind of tax initiative. So that was really sort of the driving force and frankly some people have or proposing some ballot measures that would require taxes to go up in November and they didn't want it to competing with the convention center tax. So that's why they were supporting that as well.
Speaker 1: 12:44 All right, well I've got a couple of bites I want to us set up here. I'm Barbara Brie and then the her chief opponent in the mayor's race so far, Todd Gloria course. He's a former city councilman, the interim mayor and current state legislator a and they're both for that. They were both there at this meeting there the day that you wrote about where this vote was held and let's hear it back to the backyard.
Speaker 4: 13:02 Okay.
Speaker 5: 13:03 And we, we need to do better. We can do better. We're spending a lot of money right now we were, we don't really have any data on how we're spending our money on what the outcomes are, whether we wait eight months or not, we, there's a lot we can do in the eight months with funding we already have. And when I think about my decision, I also think about all the efforts to pass measure l and all the working families who voted for it and some of their union dues were spent on getting measure l past. So this measure is going to the voters and I can't find a compelling reason to move it to the march ballot. So I will be voting no today.
Speaker 6: 13:43 You don't need an emergency to do this, but if you, if the you take the Porta Potty, I just walked by with the armed security guard downstairs as evidence of the fact that we have an emergency in this city. When it comes to homelessness, I would take that as an example. Ask any of your constituents what their top concern is. It is homelessness. The state of California has reflected that by sending homeless emergency opportunity grants to the city and to the regional task force on the homeless to address this particular challenge, your ability to create additional funding to help leverage those funds and to help more people is something that is in your hands today if you choose to take that opportunity.
Speaker 1: 14:18 All right, so Michael, you, uh, there's like we heard there from a couple of Merrill candidates, but there's a lot of powerful interest as you note in your, in column with the stakes in this particular battle on the convention center. Tell us about that.
Speaker 4: 14:29 Well, just getting to the mural can just for a second that this is yet another thing that I think we're going to see more and more definition of the differences between them. They're both Democrats, uh, and agree on a lot of things. But, uh, he will see areas where they're going to draw distinctions. Uh, the convention center proposal and Homeless and, and road repair has really broad support. Uh, whether a passed or nuts have a question, but the tourists, Andrews Street and hoteliers have been behind something like this for a very long time. Uh, the Labor is onboard because it's a huge construction project and it means a lot of jobs and they will have the kind of agreement that guarantees basically labor. Uh, you know, workers will be used. And what's sort of intriguing is many, but not all of the key homeless advocates in town have come on board.
Speaker 4: 15:14 They were skeptical because even though this did, you know, call for part of the money being used for homeless services, which everybody believes they could use, they thought it was sort of being added on just as a sweetener for voters. They didn't feel that they were being consulted. Now, the being brought in, they have a seat at the table, a, they haven't determined how that money would be spent, a, that's maybe getting ahead of themselves, but they're putting some plans forward that at least they're being listened to. So they clearly are on board. Plus, frankly, there's this, a bond proposal for a housing in November, 2020 that they don't want that to come
Speaker 2: 15:46 like with as well to put one. I'm kinda interested, I mean I know this has been a trying to trial and tribulation thing for the last few years here. What does the, has there been any response from mere Kevin Faulkner about this? Is this a window?
Speaker 4: 15:56 Oh yeah. I mean he definitely, he, he wants, this expansion has been probably the central aspect of his, uh, you know, mayor all tenure and he hasn't been able to even get it on the ballot. That was embarrassed. But he, yeah, he, he wanted to get on the ballot. He wanted it in March. So yeah, he was the one pushing for this. So this is a, you know, a win, but uh, nothing, nothing's been approved by voters yet.
Speaker 2: 16:16 Oh, we got a short time left in this segment. A couple of things, uh, one of the ballpark numbers on this. How much revenue over time with this raise? I'm trying to remember. It's been, we've talked about it so often on the show. I think it's about a, what is it, about 6 billion
Speaker 4: 16:29 or over 40 years or something like that. And I forget how it's a put down, but one thing before we go there, the more key thing is what it's going to take to pass. And it's a tax increase, which requires two thirds of a vote. Now some people think there's legal rulings coming down that could change that. That's the standard now. Uh, and there's doubtful people are doubtful whether that could ever change. But San Diego is a tough town to get a tax increase approved. It hasn't happened much in the past. And famously, and I know you're getting sick of me saying this,
Speaker 2: 16:57 no design to wonder, well known in San Diego or la, you know, influential person said you can't get two thirds of a vote for free ice cream in San Diego. So, uh, the town has a kind of a reputation, so it'll be a big climb once it gets on the ballot. Right. Famously after the o seven fires, we had all sorts of improvement on fire safety and we couldn't get a vote on that. Uh, okay. Last quick question before we get out of here. Early handicapping and whether it'll pass and it'll depend on them, whether it's 50% or not, but I mean as a strong support for the swelling,
Speaker 4: 17:25 I mean there's some big interest behind it, but they've been behind candidates and issues before that have failed. Uh, it's hard to, you know, rule against it. If it was a simple majority vote, I'd say that, that the odds favor of them. But I still don't think, I think the odds are slightly at least slightly against them if not greater than that. It doesn't take a whole lot. They'll outspend whatever opposition there is. But even though the tax is on visitors, mostly hotel guests, uh, it doesn't take a lot to in San Diego to, to get a third of, of voters against it. I think so many voters are predisposed to vote against tax increases period. But the homeless aspect is very compelling and I think we're going to see that driving a lot of the discussions certainly from the pro side on the camera.
Speaker 1: 18:07 Well for the primary weren't interesting enough and it is with California moving up. This certainly adds to it and we'll see what happens as we move along.
Speaker 1: 18:16 Well, we are going to move along. It was the settlement nobody saw coming for years. Two California based tech giants, apple of Cupertino, Qualcomm of San Diego had been duking it out in court or mini skirmishes and much blood drawn by both sides. The legal death fight was set to begin in federal court. This week case was before the same judge who presided over the $25 million in fraud claims paid by Donald Trump for his defamed university. Apple versus Qualcomm was being watched by various interests across the globe. Then sadly the two parties settle. And Elise, it's complicated, but start with what the main fight was, was all about.
Speaker 7: 18:52 Sure. So this has been going on for two years now. A little over that and I think it really came down to licensing. So CalCom has this library of patents that, um, phone makers like apple and Samsung use, and they also make the modem chips that allow their phones to connect to a network. So apple was paying both for the chip and a feed, a license, Qualcomm's technology. And um, I think Apple's executives thought that that was not fair. Well, Qualcomm's executives thought it was more than fair since they have put in the time and effort to develop all this technology. So that's kind of what the past two years have been about.
Speaker 1: 19:30 And what was at stake here if this thing had gone through the whole court fight and the jury.
Speaker 7: 19:35 Gotcha. Yeah. So billions of dollars were at stake at this case. Um, apple I think had been seeking up to 27 billion in damages, basically saying our contract billion with a B billion with a B. Yes. It's a lot of money. So yeah, they were saying it's a contract. Manufacturers like a Foxconn had been paying seven or 9 million over billion over what they should have been paying, um, in licensing fees. So,
Speaker 1: 20:02 so a lot of money at stake now. There had been some previous rulings in this, I ain't going to case. Give us an example or two that kind of swung here and there on that.
Speaker 7: 20:11 Yeah. So, um, in, in total across this whole battle, there been more than 80 different cases worldwide, so it's amazing. But a lot of the major rollings have happened just in the last three months here. So, um, uh, the ITC, Qualcomm took its case to the International Trade Commission two years ago and was essentially saying that apple had violated some of its patents. And the reason why Qualcomm wanted to go to the ITC was because the ITC could secure a ban on importing iPhones that if they found that they, um, violated Qualcomm's patents. So. Huh.
Speaker 4: 20:48 At least to the uninitiated, this sort of came out of the blue. We were expecting this, a titanic battle. And were there any hints to somebody that's been falling at that, that they might be headed in this direction? Or was it a big surprise to the people really following that?
Speaker 7: 21:01 I think yes and no. Um, it came very suddenly in court on Tuesday. So I think the, you know, the attorneys had just finished making their opening statements. They had just selected a jury. Everyone had kind of, you know, they were about to break for lunch and then all of a sudden they're, the judge and judge curial announced that they have settled.
Speaker 4: 21:20 Did it come down to a, what is it, a commercial dollars and cents thing that they realize the market or something was going to pass them by if they were just duking it out in court
Speaker 7: 21:28 the whole time? I, you know, I think there were a couple of different things going on that really made this in both company's best interest to settle. Um, before this happened, there were some indications, um, at apple was working with Intel to make it five g I iPhones until it was going to make the chips that would allow them to connect to that network. And there were some reports, I think just like a week before the trial started saying that until might not be able to deliver those by 2021 which is one apple wanted them.
Speaker 1: 21:58 It sounds like it was a huge case of billions of dollars at stake. Do we know what the details of the settlement word?
Speaker 7: 22:02 Yeah, the, there are not a lot of details yet. Both companies have been pretty quiet about it, but we do know that Apple's paying Qualcomm some amount and analysts have estimated that to be 5 billion to 6 billion. But um, you know, we'll find out eventually
Speaker 1: 22:20 and speaking have figures in the big figures were thrown around here. Um, uh, apples refusal to pay licensing fees that had affected Qualcomm's bottom line in recent years. Right. Your stories as you were talking about that.
Speaker 7: 22:30 Yeah. So licensing is a big part of Qualcomm's business. Like a quarter of a cluster. It counts for almost, yeah. Almost a quarter of its, of its revenue. And, and back in the day account accounted for like a third of it. So yeah, back in 2016 before all of this kind of really came to a head, um, they were bringing in about 7.6 billion in licensing revenue. Um, and last year it was five, a little over 5 billion.
Speaker 1: 22:58 Yeah. So Qualcomm was feeling the squeeze here and moved on to court and the settlement, what does it mean for all these other various contractors and companies around the world are still interested in the outcome of this case?
Speaker 7: 23:11 I think for some of the carriers, like I'm 18 t Verizon, sprint, it's good news for them because it means that they'll have a five g iPhone that they can, um, that they can offer.
Speaker 1: 23:21 Okay. Let me stop right there. For some of US old fogies here explaining five g, just look at me. Just briefly explain what we're talking about, your why, why it's a big deal. Um, but basically, yeah,
Speaker 7: 23:33 think about the, the kind of, the different tech standards we've had in the past. We've had three g four g right now, which basically kind of gave us the rise of smartphones. If you think about it, it allowed us to, um, do of the more things on our phones that use a lot of data, like, you know, the youtube or, or Uber. Yeah.
Speaker 1: 23:53 And so by five g will just take us another step in the evolution.
Speaker 7: 23:55 Yeah. We'll, we'll have faster speeds. Um, it should be more reliable and lower latency, which means less lag time if you're around skyping with friends or something like that. Okay.
Speaker 1: 24:05 No immediate impacts on this settlement. A Qualcomm, their stocks were affected, were they not?
Speaker 7: 24:11 Oh yeah. QUALCOMM's stock, I think in the last couple of days it was up like 33%. So it's huge. Um, that it gives them a lot more to work with.
Speaker 1: 24:20 So investors are very happy man. And I mean, I mean I think a lot of us have iPhones. If we have an iPhone, I mean are we in impacted in any way by this or what's the change is going to be Friday?
Speaker 7: 24:28 I guess the, the, the changes, it's very likely, almost certain that I, apple will be using Qualcomm's modems and it's um, five g iPhones and that those will be able to come out by 2020 as they had wanted. Michael.
Speaker 4: 24:43 Well, uh, no, I was going to say that. What is the impact of for person day and is that, do they expect a big rush of people to go out and buy that five g those five g phones and technologies are going to be that much faster? That
Speaker 7: 24:58 that's a really good question. Um, but the clears the way for these companies directly, it makes it possible. I think there's been a lot of marketing buzz around five G. I mean the carriers have been really trying to push for it. Um, and some of the filmmakers like Samsung had been touting it too. Um, I'm not sure if consumers, how many consumers have taken that up or not because the networks are still really early on. So it's, there are still kind of like a limited number of places where you can really take advantage.
Speaker 1: 25:28 All right, well that's a question we'll look at as we follow up because we are out of time. But it's fascinating stuff and big news this weekend on that front. Well that does wrap up another week of stories at the KPBS round table. I'd like to thank my guests, Matt Hoffman of Kpbs News, at least writer of the San Diego Business Journal, and Michael Smollens of the San Diego Union Tribune. And a reminder, all the stories we discussed today are available on our website, kpbs.org I'm mark Sauer. Thanks for joining us today and join us again next Friday on the round table.
Speaker 8: 26:06 Yeah.