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San Diego Braces For A Rent Crisis

Cover image for podcast episode

PHOTO BY MEGAN WOOD / INEWSOURCE

Above: Apartments in the San Diego neighborhood of Talmadge are shown on Jan. 2, 2019.

A patchwork of local eviction moratoriums could end in the weeks ahead and possibly lead to a rent crisis brought on by the COVID-19 economic collapse, major economic interests urge action on climate change, and a new podcast series takes a look at the experiences of Generation Z.

Speaker 1: 00:01 Those who can't pay the rent during COVID-19 have been protected from eviction, but that won't last forever. What happens when that bill comes to climate change, hasn't gone away. In fact, it's only getting worse. Now those with deep pockets are getting worried and hello, gen Z, the new podcast, taking a deep dive into a generation poised to change what it means to be American I'm Mark Sauer and the KPBS Roundtable starts. Now

Speaker 2: 00:36 [inaudible]

Speaker 1: 00:37 Welcome to our discussion of the week. Stop stories. I'm Mark Sauer and joining me at the KPBS remote round table today. Reporter max Riblah Nadler of KPBS news podcast, hosts, Abby Hamlin and Kristy Totten of the San Diego union Tribune and Michael Smolins columnist with the union Tribune. We've wrapped up another month, living with COVID-19 and the pandemic shows no sign of slowing down. San Diego has seen a string of days with record breaking case numbers. Deaths are approaching 600 and contract tracers. A key element in limiting the spread can hardly keep up. Then there's the economic toll unemployment benefits are drying up and another rent payment is due for many. This weekend. Joining us is KPBS reporter max Rivlin Nadler, who just had an indepth report on the looming rent crisis. Max, thanks for joining us. Thanks for having me well this week, the San Diego city council began work to push back the rent payment period to the end of the year. As you worked on your latest story, are you able to grasp just how widespread the problem is?

Speaker 2: 01:39 The it's it's a true crisis right now, a firm found a consulting firm found that just over 40% of California's renters currently are unable to pay rent and are a threat of eviction. If these eviction moratoriums were to be, uh, lifted anytime soon. So, uh, that's California as a whole, in terms of San Diego, we already know it has elevated rents. It's had an affordability crisis, uh, for, for over a decade right now. So, uh, we, we can imagine we don't have statistics, but we can imagine that people are especially rent burdened right now in San Diego

Speaker 1: 02:15 And San Diego is already an expensive place to live. We already have a longstanding housing crisis here long before COVID-19 came along. How is the economic fallout deepen that divide?

Speaker 2: 02:26 Right? It's hit San Diego's. Industry's especially hard. We have a huge tourism industry, a huge hospitality industry, a very lively restaurant scene. So a lot of people who worked in those industries were tenants were younger. People were people from communities that were climbing the economic ladder through the service industry. So it's been pretty devastating. People have not been able to go back to work. And again, with those unemployment benefits expiring, you're seeing people now who already were having trouble keeping up with their rent, a really face kind of a, an situation

Speaker 1: 03:00 Moratoriums mean people at least have peace of mind knowing they won't be on the streets immediately. Who's covered by these moratoriums.

Speaker 2: 03:07 So each municipality in San Diego County has enacted for the most part, their own moratorium. They've all expired a different times or set to expire at different times. The one covering the entire County already expired at the beginning of July. Um, but, but had built into that, that it would be 30 days, sorry, 90 days, uh, before that any eviction action could be taken. And of course this is all being, uh, essentially put on hold by the state's judicial council, which is not allowing eviction proceedings that would STEM from, uh, I believe March 14th onward to move forward. So right now everything's on hold, but the judicial council has said that in on August 14th, they're going to revisit that with the idea that they're probably gonna lift it. And the reason why they've Telegraph that the chief judge has said, uh, in only so many words that they want the legislature to act, they want something to be done for these tenants and these landlords and the courts can't be held off indefinitely. Right?

Speaker 1: 04:08 We should note the landlords, uh, you know, there may be a stereotype of big rich landlords, but a lot of them really rely on this, on this income just as the employees do and their consumers, their taxpayers, they shouldn't really be left holding the bag either, right?

Speaker 2: 04:23 Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you know, there is the myth of the small landlord, um, it's it's or, or the idea of the small landlord. Um, a lot of them are not very small. And a lot of these people, you know, who get held up as kind of these, uh, uh, nest egg landlords, there are few people to, for sure who do that, but a lot of these individuals have, you know, over a hundred properties. Those are the people who, you know, basically are able to kind of throw their economic way to round it's those middle landlords who maybe own, you know, 20 to a hundred properties who have actually gotten on board with some efforts to keep these moratoriums or these repayment plans, delayed repayment plans in place to allow tenants to really find a space and support to repay them, because it does not help you to evict tenants. It is a hard situation. And in this current market, it's not easy to refill those apartments right

Speaker 1: 05:19 Now. If people aren't paying, they need to catch up eventually, is there any chance of rent and mortgage forgiveness on the horizon

Speaker 2: 05:25 That's being discussed right now in the state legislature? Because as we saw with Senate reassessing that it's not coming from the federal level, so it's got to come from the state level, they're working on a foot, couple of bills right now. One of those bills is AB 1432, which is sponsored by Bay area assembly men, David Shu. And that would essentially kind of kick the can down the road a little bit and allow people a well into 20, 22, possibly to continue stretching out their payments, coming to deals with landlords and taking away as a method to deal with non-payment right, because the, the catastrophe that California wants to avoid is having to it's homelessness crisis. So what they want to do is basically take the eviction claim, eviction process and move it to small claims court. If they, if tenants don't have the money that you owe them from during the pandemic, you could work it out at small claims court, but it won't end up with the tenant out on the street.

Speaker 1: 06:21 Yeah. That's the last thing we, anybody would want is any more, uh, uh, exacerbation of the homeless crisis. Well, I wanted to shift gears a bit. You had a busy week reporting on COVID-19. Another story looked at young people trying to dispel some myths about the virus. What are some of those myths?

Speaker 2: 06:38 Well, they're being popped every day, but for a while, it was the idea that young people don't feel the impact of COVID-19 that they barely even feel it, that they get over it. And of course there are a semantic asymptomatic people who end up testing positive, but there are also people who suffer life, lifelong issues because of COVID-19 or at least, you know, people who have lingering effects, heart damage, and other, you know, people who are asymptomatic can be spread. Right?

Speaker 1: 07:04 Yeah. If you think about this for a minute, you know, common sense kicks in, but it's, it's hard to believe they're making these arguments here and across the country. Tell us more about this group youth will in the work they're doing locally.

Speaker 2: 07:14 Well, it's a group that's been around for some time under, under a couple of different names, but really what they've been trying to do since the beginning of the pandemic is to get young people, these youth ambassadors, to reach out to other young people and ask them what they need, because, you know, we really don't have a ton of outreach from the 16 to 25 year old age demographic, be it housing, food, information, jobs, um, because you know, basically if a lot of these people have summer jobs, they've been totally wiped out. The retail industry has been wiped out. So really reaching out to these people, identifying their needs and then advocating on their behalf has been a big part of what this group has been doing. It's been pretty, pretty admirable work.

Speaker 1: 07:54 And the trend of COVID-19 infections it's been shifting, uh, first it was older men, medically compromised people that that's still the case, but now we're seeing more and more people under 30 test positive, right?

Speaker 2: 08:07 Yeah. That's the main vector right now in San Diego County. And that a lot has to do with, um, the lockdown worked for the first couple of months, but as things reopened, people went back out and, and of course, all you need to do is go, you know, to the beach or, uh, any of these restaurants or bars. And, you know, even though they're nominally outside, because they've opened up a few windows and have, you know, patio seating, people are on top of each other and talking to one another, it's tough to change behavior on such a quick, uh, on, uh, on such a dine here,

Speaker 1: 08:37 What's coming up on the radar. Anything else? You're following stories you're working on related to COVID-19 that we'll look for in the days ahead.

Speaker 2: 08:45 Yeah. I mean, you know, basically we were all very focused on the second wave of the pandemic, but really we're going to begin seeing the first wave of kind of the economic collapse here because

Speaker 3: 08:56 People's reserves are pretty much finished. Rent is going to come due. And without that extended unemployment, I don't know what people are going to do. Municipalities are basically out of money States themselves can't print cash. The only place that could break that could print cash and just kind of refill these coffers is the federal government. And they've shown that at this point, they're, they're not interested in moving on that front. So I would say basically the economic impacts of COVID-19 are beginning to get set in stone, unfortunately, and we're going to see a lot more kind of negative health impact on top of that, because if you're dealing with a pandemic, but then also an economic collapse, you're going to see a lot more, um, essentially illnesses of despair. It's it's dark. Um, but it does kind of call for bold action from the government right now.

Speaker 1: 09:43 Right? A lot of these stop gap measures are like, Novacane at the dentist, they don't kill pain, they just delay it. And we may be seeing that pain coming here around the corner. Yeah. Unfortunately, I've been speaking with max Rivlin, Natalie reporter for KPBS news. Thank you, max. Thank you. COVID-19 is disrupted daily life. Unlike anything we've seen the threats to our personal and economic health is serious and rightfully has our attention, but there's another threat that hasn't let up. And while a lot of people that put climate change on the back burner, those with deep pockets of not joining us to talk about climate change and those pushing for action, despite the pandemic is Michael Smolins columnists for the San Diego union Tribune. Hi, Michael Mark. How are you doing well? Uh, as well as everybody in this pandemic age, I wanted to start by asking about your, your column. This is a topic of overriding importance, and it's been sidelined in recent months, as you point out, and your column tells us how concerns have move beyond science journals and environmental groups who are some of the business interests now, demanding action.

Speaker 3: 10:46 Well, as you say, just a little preamble, the timing is an opportune, you know that, but, uh, we, we do have another existential crisis that we're facing and it's, uh, you know, climate change. This was a group of some 40 investment firms, pension funds and other wall street, you know, organizations that are invested in wall street. Uh, it was on the letterhead of a organization called the Sherry's financial network. Uh, that's a nonprofit sustainability company. So they're interested in this issue. So that's what the, you know, they, they sent this letter to the federal reserve chairman and other regulatory agencies calling on for them to, for some action. Cause they're fearful that climate change will have a really bad effect on the market and they could collapse.

Speaker 1: 11:29 We're also asking the federal reserve to get involved on the issue of what could the fed actually do to help matters.

Speaker 3: 11:35 Well, the primary thing, there's, there's many things, but the key thing is basically they want to require certain disclosures or risk factors. What they're calling on is for companies to report what their greenhouse gas emissions situations are, where their facilities are that might be threatened by climate change. I've typically the key one is long coastal areas that might be flooded really in the, not too distant future wildfires and so forth because their concern is that that these companies that, that are increasingly at risk for surviving basically cause of climate change and may be effected if investors aren't aware of that could really kill these loans that are out there. And just, you know, a lot of, uh, a domino effect would take place in the economy and the markets. So the bottom line is that they're hoping with this information becoming public, that it would also, uh, convinced these companies that do have these climate change risks to change their ways and to start taking action that would make them more, uh, more attractive to, uh, to getting loans.

Speaker 1: 12:39 Yeah, I'm thinking of a, some oil company interests in the middle East. For example, I was just reading bod record heat and bagged at 125 degrees. That's over 120 throughout the middle East, lots of American oil interests. They're now much of the narrative on climate change, especially from those opposing new regulations, is that any drastic action could hurt the economy, but your column kind of flips that script, those speaking up. Now I would say doing nothing will be even worse when it comes to economic interests.

Speaker 3: 13:05 That's what really caught my interest. Unfortunately, the news has been so bad out of the scientific community. I think people are become sort of immune to it, but yes, when, when you know the narrative is well, it's, you know, battling climate change versus the economy here, you have people that are deeply involved in business that is their business and the financial institutions saying if we don't do something that's going to hurt the economy. So, you know, they're trying to shift investment towards sustainable companies. And even those that didn't sign this, like a Morgan Stanley have been for some time making recommendations about what kind of investments for the longterm, uh, should be considered in context of climate change.

Speaker 1: 13:46 Right? And of course, they're talking about a terrible season for hurricanes and storms. They've already seen some tropical storms and some great rainfall in Texas here, all connected to climate change. I want to talk about public opinion, cause this was seen for a lot of years. Politicians couldn't get excited cause it wasn't that sexy an issue for the public, but how has public opinion shifted and climate change and the need for action? What does a recent polling say?

Speaker 3: 14:11 Well, the polling shows that three quarters of people believe that that action needs to be taken, uh, that, that, uh, climate change is real and going to have devastating effects. The numbers drop. Uh, frankly, when you talk about, uh, you know, will acting on climate change, help or hurt the economy. And still, even though, you know, a lot of Democrats are uncertain about whether there would be a negative, uh, economic impact if government really shifts and starts attacking climate change, there's fear that it will hurt the economy. The, the needle has been moving towards, you know, more convincing. I don't think that dynamic has changed as to whether it's real or whether it's worth fighting, frankly.

Speaker 1: 14:54 And of course, we've got the most important poll coming up in November. How critical is this issue going to be as we, uh, heat up in whatever form this campaign takes that is climate,

Speaker 3: 15:04 You know, we've, we've learned that, that what, we're just a little less than a hundred days from the election, that's going to be a lifetime in what changes here as we've seen from the whole COVID pandemic, coronavirus, pandemic, and outbreak, that's really going to be driving things. Uh, you know, this kind of news is really sort of Backpage stuff still is as vital as it is. But I think cumulatively that, that Trump is either in a denial or doesn't care about this Biden has incorporated, you know, some green elements to his economic plan. In fact, a lot of his job creation is focused on, on, uh, you know, sustainable jobs in the clean energy industry.

Speaker 1: 15:44 Well, we'll keep an eye on that and be talking with you throughout the weeks to come here. It's amazing off as it's moving up on us. Well, I've been speaking with Michael Smolins columnists for the San Diego union Tribune. Thanks for being with us today, Michael, thanks for having me on whether you're a baby boomer generation X or a millennial, you didn't have to grow up in a time like this. A tech revolution, climate change is sky high rents, political chaos, and now a pandemic are all defining characteristics for the latest generation coming of age, gen Z. And now the San Diego union Tribune is sharing their experiences and voices in a new podcast series. Hello, gen Z, joining us our cohost Kristi Totten and Abby Hamblin. Thank you both for being here.

Speaker 4: 16:27 Thanks for having us happy to be here. Thank you.

Speaker 1: 16:29 Well, let's start with Kristi first, define gen Z, who are these young people they're more diverse and better educated than any to come before, right?

Speaker 4: 16:37 Yeah. So one of the defining things about gen Z is the racial and ethnic diversity. You know, gen Z is 40, per 48% on white. That's higher than we've seen in any gender, any previous generation. Um, they are on track to be the most educated. In addition to that, you know, they're digital natives, they're born in 1997 and after if you remember the smartphone was invented in 2007, so they've truly, really never known a life without sort of a computer in their pocket. Um, and they're also, you know, pretty progressive and active. We've already seen a lot from them in the news, you know, protesting and just creating change

Speaker 1: 17:11 And Christie, you're an opinion editor producer for the UT. Why is this an important project for you?

Speaker 4: 17:16 Uh, you know, I think like we said, uh, you know, they've been in the news so much. So when you think of gen Z, Malala, Simone Biles, uh, gratitude, Berg, these are all, uh, you know, kids born in 1997 or after that are already making a big impact. They're doing things differently. And we just thought we would get to know them and get some better insight.

Speaker 1: 17:35 And Abby, you're also part of the union Tribune's editorial board. Your team spent more than a year prepping for this rollout of the podcast. Why did the UT feel it was important to devote so much time and energy into these stories?

Speaker 4: 17:47 I think this project is a really good of two things. One, um, you know, it, wasn't just recently that we've been having these big national conversations about race and equity and those issues, but we also want to make an effort to really include young people in the news. You know, um, Christie and I are both millennials. I think we find it really important to have that millennial perspective represented in what we see in the news. And so it's, it's the next generations turn, you know, they're entering the workforce, they're starting to have a vote in politics and their first election, some even voted in 2018. And I think it's just a really good time to sort of pass them the mic and hear what they have to say about these things and how they want to make an impact.

Speaker 1: 18:28 We have a clip from one of your episodes that touches on the misconceptions of gen Z. And we'll get you to respond on the other side. Here's that clip.

Speaker 4: 18:38 You may have heard some of the cliches and stereotypes about generation Z, and you may even believe them. The young Americans who make up this generation, those born in 1997 or after are aware of what you might think of them. The main misconception is probably that we are bound to our devices and that we mindlessly follow woke culture without, uh, fully interrogating those issues. People look at us like we're very young and very stupid and childish, and that we we're very oblivious to things.

Speaker 1: 19:17 They try to represent it.

Speaker 4: 19:21 These are some of the things you're going to hear from gen Z, as they explain who they really are on this episode, we're going to take a deep dive into one of generation Z's defining characteristics. They're the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in us history.

Speaker 1: 19:37 So Abby, any other misconceptions?

Speaker 4: 19:40 So, yeah, that was one of the favorite things that they loved when we talked to them to speak on is, you know, what do people get wrong about us? And I think that connectivity one is probably the biggest one, but there it's multifaceted. So while they have grown up with smartphones and you may think that, um, they're very connected and social in that way, we actually have an op ed in the union Tribune right now from a young writer who says that, you know, just because we seem so connected doesn't mean we don't have problems with loneliness and mental health stemming from social media. So, you know, while they look like they're on their phones all the time, that doesn't mean that the phones are always making them happier. That they're enjoying that time. Um, I think also with politics, you know, on this podcast, you're going to hear from, um, of course, liberal members of gen Z and they're kind of known for being progressive, but we also talked to some conservative members of gen Z. And so I think that's going to be really interesting for people to hear, um, you know, you can't, we tend to paint these generations with a broad brush, you know, but they are, they're all very different in the same way that millennials have had different experiences and that goes for other generations. So it's really for them to voice that. And that's what we've been trying to do is really let them speak for themselves and Christina. And the first

Speaker 1: 20:48 Full episode you get into the election and how a diverse field ended up being another choice between two old white men. You also asked what they want in a leader. What did you learn?

Speaker 4: 20:58 People? We talked to Alison akin. She's the one that's quoted in our first episode. She's the president of the college Democrats at SDSU. And she had a pretty bold answer. You know, she said, I think she wanted a, a black trans president, but then she went on to explain the reason being, she just wanted somebody. That's had a lot of difficult experiences that could relate to her generation. You know, this generation, we're all going through the pandemic now, you know, we're going through another recession. They went through the last one as well. They've just kind of had a tough goal already. They feel like they're being left with this destroyed planet. You know, they just, they really feel this. And so, uh, from her, she wanted somebody that could also understand those problems. Uh, but you know, it was also interesting, you know, the candidates were typically kind of old. She liked Bernie Sanders. I mean, he's from the silent generation. He's nowhere near her. Yeah, yeah. In age. Uh, but, uh, you know, she felt like of all the candidates he could best relate to gender

Speaker 1: 21:52 And Chrissy utilizing social media is a form of gen Zs activism. And one episode has an example of a makeup tutorial and tick tock raising the issue of human rights abuses in China. The rise of television was a key part of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. Might we be seeing a similar trend today was social media and gen Z.

Speaker 4: 22:12 Yeah, absolutely. I think we're already seeing it. We interviewed young people who have planned protests overnight over social media. You know, they're sharing tips on how to protest on social media. Again, they're just complete, uh, digital natives who are so quick and so effortless at doing this and feel completely comfortable. But you know, they're not just using social media to post selfies and share frivolous information. They're really doing it to create a change. And we've seen that already.

Speaker 1: 22:38 And Abby, hello, gen Z already has a few episodes available. It's not just politics, race and activism. What else do you hope to explore with the podcast?

Speaker 4: 22:47 Yeah, so I think gen Z, one of the big things that they really liked to speak on, and then you can't really avoid is mental health. So we're gonna look at that for a little bit. Um, I think social media plays a big role there, and then we're also gonna get into kind of this idea of identity. You know, a lot of where gen Z comes from is how they sort of cultivate their identity online and through what they see in the news and with all the information they consume on social media, but also who they are, you know, they come from families of immigrants, they come from, um, all different kinds of experiences that maybe boomers didn't have or gen X. And so, you know, they're really going to speak to who they are as a generation. And, um, we're really excited to share that.

Speaker 1: 23:26 Yeah. If I found it interesting, you noted early on that the folks under 16, I believe are already a majority diverse as opposed to the white population. Majority of all of us who are older.

Speaker 4: 23:38 Yeah. It just so happened. You know, we've been working on this project for a while, but that news came out from the census. And I think it really speaks to, you know, we have one from the Brookings institution on this podcast who wrote a book called diversity explosion. And on our latest episode, we really look at that and you know, what it means and how it feels for those young people to be sort of dealing in real time with, um, you know, being such a diverse generation and how they, that sort of, um, impacts how they're going about their lives. So definitely interesting.

Speaker 1: 24:04 And Christie a, we make the point that gen Z gets news from social media basically. Are you trying to change that by featuring all the coverage of this generation in the dinosaur medium, a newspaper, or are the gen Z stories in the UT aimed at all the other generations? I just find it kind of ironic.

Speaker 4: 24:21 Yeah, no, that's a, that's a really good question. So, you know, when we made the pod cast, we realized we wanted it to be for everybody, you know, for older generations to help learn about gen Z, but also we want to gen Z to feel reflected. I don't selling gen Z any newspaper subscriptions with this podcast, but we're going to social media, you know, hopefully to, um, connect with them there. But that is pretty funny.

Speaker 1: 24:43 And Christie, uh, please remind us, let everybody know how we can follow the podcast when new episodes post, where to find it.

Speaker 4: 24:50 Sure. I think the easiest thing to do would to go, uh, would be to go to union trib.com/hello, gen Z. Uh, you can actually find the episodes and play them there on the page, or you can also find a link to subscribe on your favorite platform, whether that's Apple podcasts, Google play, Stitcher, Spotify, you know, any of them,

Speaker 1: 25:10 While you're on the union trip website, you can take a look at the stories you've done so far in the voices they're in print, which, uh, I hate to betraying my age in my long career in newspapers. So that's where I see most of this stuff. Still. I've been speaking with Abby Hamblin and Christie Totten, cohost of hello, gen Z, a new podcast series from the San Diego union Tribune. Thanks to you both for joining us. Thanks for having us. Thank you. That wraps up another week of stories on the KPBS round table. I'd like to thank my guests, Michael Smolins of the San Diego union Tribune, max Rivlin, Nadler of KPBS news and podcast hosts, Abby Hamlin and Christie Totten also of the union Tribune. If you ever miss a show, you can catch up on the round table podcast available on your favorite podcast app. I'm Mark Sauer. Thanks for being with us today and join us again next week on the round table.

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Mark Sauer hosts KPBS Roundtable, a lively discussion of the week's top stories. Local journalists join Sauer to provide insight into how these stories affect residents of the San Diego region.