Tighter COVID-19 Restrictions Return To San Diego
KPBS Roundtable / November 13, 2020
PHOTO BY NICHOLAS MCVICKER
Many local businesses will be forced to reduce capacity as San Diego slides into the state's most restrictive COVID-19 operating tier, women running for political office in San Diego County tell their stories about confronting receiving threats and harassment on social media, and artists go to court to preserve murals slated for demolition at a middle school in Logan Heights.
Speaker 1: 00:00 The dreaded purple tier begins this weekend. Why local businesses fear they won't survive. Another round of COVID closures are toxic and at times threatening environment, women running for office in San Diego tell their stories about the harassment they face online and preserving a colorful part of San Diego's history. Artists go to court to save murals slated for demolition. I am Alison st. John and the KPBS round table starts now. [inaudible] hello and welcome to the KPBS round table. I'm Alison st. John infer, Mark Sauer. Our guests this week include Lori Weisberg reporter for the San Diego union Tribune. Kayla Jimenez reporter for voice of San Diego and Andrea Lopez via Fanya. Also from the union Tribune, California has now surpassed 1 million COVID-19 cases and COVID numbers continue to creep up all over the state. As feared San Diego has fallen back into the dreaded purple tier of COVID restrictions.
Speaker 1: 01:06 They will go into effect Saturday. This is not the first time that many County businesses have been told. They have to restrict indoor operations or cease them altogether. But several factors make this time more painful and threaten the very survival of even well-established businesses. It's only go Union-Tribune report. Lori Weisberg has been talking to business owners around town to get a feel for what they're doing to respond to this new setback. Laurie, welcome to the round table. Thank you for having me no. Under the purple tier, we, we won't be able to sit and eat inside restaurants or bars at all after tomorrow beyond restaurants. What other businesses will be most severely effected by this?
Speaker 2: 01:41 I think the biggest businesses that are impacted are gyms and movie theaters. I think those are and bars, of course, that serve food. So I think those are, those are the biggest impacts. I mean, we know churches and schools are impacting museums, but in terms of businesses, I'd say that. And then retail, while they don't have to shut down indoors, they do have their capacity limited. Right now they've been able to, to, uh, open up at 50% capacity, indoors and models to that will go down to 25%.
Speaker 1: 02:13 You know, the County says that it plans to step up enforcement under these new rules. What would that look like?
Speaker 2: 02:19 Well, um, so that, you know, they do have enforcement now, but we haven't seen them. You know, I feel like to a degree, local law enforcement has looked the other way, but they must have said, you know, multiple times during the press conference this week that they are stepping up, um, that started with a letter that dr. Wilma w N um, sent out from the County public health to all the local law enforcement agencies for warning them, that they, you know, have the power and should exercise it to site businesses that are not obeying the law. They have, uh, the ability to cite. I imagine you have warnings and if need be shut down businesses, supervisor Nathan Fletcher said, you know, we don't want it to come to that. There's a hotline that people can call. So it is, um, very complaint driven. And as, as news of this has come out, I think you're, you're hearing more and more businesses saying either kind of coily or straight out that they're going to stay open. I think the majority won't do that, but I think you're going to see some examples of that happening.
Speaker 1: 03:26 So then we'll have to see how the County decides to respond. Yeah. I mean, the County does put out new numbers most days with all the changing numbers. Did you find any business owners who are too busy really to keep up with those changes and hadn't even heard of the new restriction?
Speaker 2: 03:42 So I would, you know, I would find it hard to believe that they aren't keeping up with that, but we did talk to a small shop owner who said she didn't, wasn't aware of this. And usually there'll be some friends that will text her and alert her to it. So, um, she's obviously aware now, and, and there is, you know, a days long period that they have to adjust to it. So, you know, it was officially known Tuesday and you have until midnight, Friday to comply. But I think, uh, many have been planning for this day, um, because it's such a week to week sort of gut wrenching, stressful period where they keep waiting, well, will it be this Tuesday? Will it be next Tuesday when we fall into a more restrictive tier?
Speaker 1: 04:25 No, you wrote about some who chose to simply close, even though they can legally stay open. Why, why they do that?
Speaker 2: 04:31 You know, I was talking to David cone of the Kong restaurant group, who I'm obviously is a very long time experience for us to tour with about two dozen different restaurants in the County. And he said, you have to kind of do this calculation. Does it cost me more to stay open than to close? And that means keeping the utilities on hiring workers and then letting them go retraining workers, trying to find workers, paying, paying, you know, their payroll. Maybe it makes more sense, more financial sense to avoid all those expenses and just stay close. No, you won't get any revenue. Uh, but most of these restaurants at 25% capacity and outdoors still say, they're lucky if they break even. So it's not like they're, they're making money. I think a lot of them have stayed open in part to help their employees. So I think there is a calculation and, uh, David come work with, he rarely closes restaurants and he's closing three venues in Hillcrest, including his, you know, this first nonprofit restaurant tacos, LIBOR thug.
Speaker 2: 05:36 Cause it hasn't been able to be open anyway because they have no real ability to do outdoor dining. And there just wasn't enough room inside to do much in the way of 25% capacity. So they're going to close those permanently, which was surprising to me because they're, you know, they're so successful, but they, they ha they're making those calculations. Like every other restaurant owner is, uh, I don't, frankly, I don't know how many are, are even staying open now. Um, cause I think they're having to dip into their own reserves and savings to pay the bills.
Speaker 1: 06:09 Right? The first time that we had this level of shut down, there was the, the paycheck protection program. But now the inability of Congress to agree on a COVID relief package, it's really gonna hit home. Right, right,
Speaker 2: 06:20 Right. I mean they long ago, most of them long ago ran out of that money. And I think it was a really important lifeline. They, they did need that, that money and right in there, they recognize just as you and I do that. It's going to be sometime before Congress agrees on a stimulus package. So until then, how do they last? And of course, then we're going into cooler, sometimes rainy weather where maybe people even with plenty of heaters don't want to dine outside. So they they've got that. They're worried about, I mean, during the summer, a lot of them did pretty well cause it was a very appealing just to sit outside. And if you had the real estate to do that, living your sidewalks streets, parking lots to turn into impromptu dining areas. Um, it worked out well, but now the cold weather we're kind of wimpy and you go Kennedy about being out in the cold. So I think, I think they're worried about, they're worried about that. The colder season two.
Speaker 1: 07:16 Yeah. We'd really have to wrap up warm to go eat in the outdoors right now, but how much help would it be? I mean, we can still order takeout. Is that enough to keep some of them going?
Speaker 2: 07:25 Right. So I think some can survive on, on takeout, but I think many, many more cannot, I don't think, um, I don't think they make enough to do that. And there is kind of to go cocktails. Um, one restaurant tour told me that the novelty of that wore off long ago. So I don't think they can do that unless you're more a fast casual place. Or I talked to somebody who owns with his brothers, some Jersey Mike's places. He said, those are doing just fine, but a restaurant they have, that's more traditional restaurant, you know, is not. So I think it's the type of restaurant venue you have and that's why to go work for some, but it's not, I don't know that it's enough to, to prop them up during this time,
Speaker 1: 08:09 But that is perhaps the least we can do is look around for establishments that are doing takeout and, and go ahead and patronize them. Yeah.
Speaker 2: 08:17 You mentioned that in his press conference, maybe we can support these restaurants by getting takeout on the gyms, by paying for our membership. Even if we can't go inside those sorts of steps,
Speaker 1: 08:28 Would this affect all the retail stores that, you know, rely on the Christmas season to make their operation operations profitable?
Speaker 2: 08:34 Right. So this is pretty bad timing for that. Um, I mean they already are battling, you know, the competition from online shopping with some of them can, you know, they can have their own online outlets themselves. I think it will hurt them maybe 25% capacity. And if they can do some stuff outside their shop set up, but generally that's going to be during what normally be a pretty busy season, letting only 25% of what your normal customer volume would be to come in inside is going to be tough. So, no, I think, I think they're going to have a tough time of it unless they're very savvy and, and can convert much of their business to online
Speaker 1: 09:12 If we can bring the case rate down and if restrictions were to ease again and then, uh, that's a big F um, how soon could that happen? That we would change from the purple back to the red here.
Speaker 2: 09:24 The estimate I'm getting is about at minimum three weeks that we could be out of this in three weeks because you have to have two weeks of consecutive good scores on your testing, um, on your infection rates. So three weeks, but most, most people I'm talking to. And even the businesses themselves, aren't holding out hope that it'll be that brief a period. They think it will be longer. And then there's of course the worry that okay, they get out of it. Let's say they do get out of it in three weeks. How do they do they reopen right away with the, with the fear that oops, we can drop back into purple chair again, it's that, it's that on again, off again, cycle of openings and closings, that's really got them worried and fearful of, of making any move to haste, hastily
Speaker 1: 10:11 Hope these new restrictions do bring the case load down. Um, Laurie, thanks so much for being in touch with the businesses and bringing us some news of their progress.
Speaker 2: 10:23 I've
Speaker 1: 10:23 Been speaking with Lori Weisberg who covers tourism and hospitality for the San Diego union Tribune, developing a thick skin as part of the job for someone running for public office. But what gets expressed on social media these days goes well beyond criticism of policy, that's especially true for the growing number of women running for political office across San Diego County. Their stories bring to light the rampant misogyny. And in some cases, threats made by those threatened by our changing demographics voice of San Diego has Kayla Jimenez reported on this alarming trend and spoke with some of the candidates who are sharing their personal stories. Welcome back to the round table. Kayla, thanks for having me. What prompted you to think this was a story that needed to be investigated and told?
Speaker 3: 11:08 Yeah, so I have been talking to a woman candidates and sending office members up in North County for a while now. And they've kind of shared their stories with me of either receiving harassment online or in person via stalking or text message and phone call with Pria bot Patel, the council women from Carlsbad and Infineon as Councilman Kelly Hinsey or a few of those women. And then I just saw a larger trend and then kind of questioned whether those harassed, that trend of harassment impacted other women running for office, particularly on the democratic party as the County seems to be shifting blue.
Speaker 1: 11:49 Well, let's start with Carlsbad, which of course has been a Republican for many years and is sort of shifting blue along with all the other cities in North County. And you tell the story of Councilwoman, uh, Corey Schumacher, who, who felt the need to get a restraining order against her harasser. What did she say she was objected to? And, and what were the issues that sparked?
Speaker 3: 12:10 Yeah, I think this is a preface. This is a very complicated case. And, um, Christian Walker came out and said, Rowan court filings that one of the mental lists per district's doctor and posted on social media that he intentionally tended to force her to leave her home. And she said that this was going on for a while, but had become increasingly concerning between July and September. I think there is a line where this man and other men have said that it wasn't intentional towards her. And it was policy based. Those criticisms, two of them might have come back with Anti-Flag suits against her. And then that is part of that case. But she generally said that as the County have been shifting blue, she is part of the LGBT community. She said people in that community and that women of color have been increasingly facing harassment by men and other women who have kind of come out them if they don't agree with their policies. For example,
Speaker 1: 13:11 About the line between something that's, that's impolite versus illegal, what, what can law enforcement do in these scenarios? Has it been difficult for these women to find any help from,
Speaker 3: 13:21 Oh well, law enforcement officials told me in general that they investigate any criminal threats, um, that comes to them if they're known or flagged some of the trouble that these women have had is that these text messages or harassment emails or content hasn't been explicitly that I'm going to kill you. It, but it's something of the sort that makes them fear for themselves and their families.
Speaker 1: 13:50 Well, I sort of a lack of civility in politics has been a growing problem and Mesa college professor, Carl Luna, for example, tried to combat this with conferences about civility in politics, but I don't remember any male candidates filing restraining orders. What makes threats against women worth paying more attention to, would you say?
Speaker 3: 14:08 Yeah, I talked to a, um, associate professor of criminal justice at San Diego state. Her name is [inaudible] and she had told me that the reason, um, to pay attention to these threats particularly are because women, politicians are just an extension of the violence against these women is an extension of the violence that women kind of face every day. And that's highlighted marginalized groups like black, Latino, and Asian woman, and those, um, that traditionally transcend gender roles where they're put in this place where they have some sort of power, right.
Speaker 1: 14:42 I mean, there was, there was even a couple of candidates who were running against each other who agreed that this was going too far. Weren't there. How did the Encinitas mayor, the candidates, friends Nita's mayor find common good.
Speaker 3: 14:56 Yeah, there was a, uh, virtual forum hosted by the coast news back in October where Encinitas layer, Catherine spear and her challenger, Julie thunder disagreed about a lot of issues in town, but they both swapped stories about the kind of toxicity that comes with running for office and that coastal town in particular. And I think it themed by a lot of the residents there in certain Facebook groups that have come up kind of a text toward both of the women. And I know that there has been some fear there as well as protests have gone on, um, in recent months about just the safety of, um, Catherine Blake SBIR and then insignia it's council, woman, Kelly Hensey has expressed that to me as well.
Speaker 1: 15:39 A lot of this of course is taking place on social media platforms. What role would you say Facebook and other social media platforms have in, in reigning in this kind of abuse?
Speaker 3: 15:49 Um, yeah. Going back to that, I think I, when I talked to Anthony as Councilman Kelly Hindi, she expressed a frustration with the lack of moderation on Facebook and said that for example, one of the Anthony is focus groups, allowed people to continue posting dislike calling council members, not see example hate speech. I think Facebook has a lot of power here. We saw a few weeks ago that Facebook banned the defense East County group and attempt to continue crackdowns on election-related information and threats. So I think we're seeing this increase of information spread or violence against women, and it really has become kind of on the social media platforms to manage that content. And it's interesting to see what's going to happen post election.
Speaker 1: 16:37 In spite of these stories, women and democratic women do seem to be making some headway in, in North County. Oceanside has its first woman mayor as to Sanchez. Who's also the first Latina. Did she talk to you about her experience of years in politics and Oceanside?
Speaker 3: 16:52 Yeah. And one of the reasons why I also decided to write the story is because I was talking to all the 12 candidates for Oceanside mayor and realize that there was the only woman running for office. We talked after election day and she told me a little bit about how a lot of the press that she has gotten have been on social media. But she said that most of the worst that she's faced has kind of been in the pub in the public eye of people that she knew personally, who had attacked her. And she said she has been dealing with bias for a long time. So she's used to it, but that this was kind of a different sort of bias she felt. And she wasn't sure if it was because she was a Latina and a woman in somewhere where there's not many women who run or did on the council.
Speaker 1: 17:34 Yes. You have to be a tough to run as, as a woman. In some cases, I know the San Diego democratic party has been actively recruiting women to run for public office for years. Are you hearing that, that this is an issue that makes some women hesitate to come forward? Yes, multiple women
Speaker 3: 17:50 In the democratic party, I sat with them in a zoom meeting and they kind of talk to me about their experiences with threats and public harassment against them while running for office. And that they knew of others who kind of share the same Breton and concern of, um, other woman saying how they were shocked that they could run for office and kind of be put in the spotlight like that. And then through all their sin and someone who has been prominent in democratic clubs said that they're asking people who are trying to recruit and saying, what if I want to have a family? Are they going to be at risk if I decide to run for public office? So I think there's a lot of contention back and forth, but then also other women are saying that that pressure on them has pushed them further to want to run for that position and represent their communities.
Speaker 1: 18:37 Well, let's hope the next election cycle, this might recede somewhat, but we shall see Kayla. Thanks for joining us. Thank you for having me. We've been speaking with Kayla Jimenez. Who's a reporter for voice of San Diego out with the old, in, with the new that's what's happening for a couple of schools in Logan Heights, but modernizing means saying goodbye to colorful parts of the community's history in the form of murals that were part of the campus for decades. A legal fight has emerged as the artists try to save their work. It opens a larger conversation on the importance of public art and how we preserve that history. Joining us is Andrea Lopez via Fanya who covered the story for the San Diego union Tribune. Hello, Andrea, thank you for having me. Well, first of all, set the scene for us in Logan Heights, there are four murals at stake and one has already been destroyed. This is radio, but give us a visual. What do they look like? Where are they?
Speaker 3: 19:30 Well, first off these, these murals are a beautiful, and as you can imagine, they're pretty large. Two of the ones that are still there. Those are by artists. Albert has, uh, one of them is on the side of a building. It's about 25 by 10 feet. And it's an image of, you know, two graduates holding a book and a diploma, basically capturing this idea of, you know, these, these students are going to graduate soon and go on into a new world. The other image, uh, the other mural by Sal Barahas is on the outside of an old elevator shaft. And, um, it has three words, graduation, education motivation. And on the side, it has images of civil rights leaders. Then there's the mural by Mario Terrero, that one was painted on removable panels and it was originally inside the school's library. Um, but the artists tell me it's since been removed and it's been placed in storage, which has caused some damage to the mural, but that one's called cosmic Testament. And it's an image of 1970s musicians. It's very colorful, very, uh, kind of like hippy feels like it when you look at it. And the one that was destroyed that was demolished, uh, was by Salvador Torres. That was a mural that featured Memorial students graduates, uh, veterans of world war one. And it also had an image of one of the astronauts who died in the 1986 space shuttle challenger crash.
Speaker 1: 20:52 And these are all local artists, right? And they've been part of the school environment for quite a while. Huh.
Speaker 3: 20:58 And not just part of the school, but part of the community. These are artists and founders of, of the murals in Chicano park, in Barrio Logan, it's next to, you know, in the Logan Heights area.
Speaker 1: 21:08 So why are they being torn down? What's happening at the schools?
Speaker 3: 21:12 Well, the schools are being renovated. Essentially the campuses will become this large complex that serves K through 12 students. And, um, I do have to mention that the community is extremely excited about this transformation, right? This large educational campus is really important for the community, but a lot of them, you know, are heartbroken by, by, by the thought of losing these murals that so many people in the community who've attended, these schools grew up, you know, seeing every day when they were at school,
Speaker 1: 21:39 No, the artist wants to safely remove the murals. How do they propose doing that? You know, could they be preserved somewhere else?
Speaker 3: 21:46 Yeah. Well it's, it's not an easy process, but, um, they do have the help of, uh, art conservator, Nathan, Zach sacrum. I hope I'm pronouncing that right. He uses a specific technique to remove, remove murals from, from walls safely. And you know, this is a technique he's used for 30 years plus, and essentially you remove, you remove a piece of the wall with the mural and it can be transported safely anywhere where they would store those murals. They weren't sure on that yet
Speaker 1: 22:15 Read your article. The law does give artists the right to remove their work in cases like this, but what are the obstacles?
Speaker 3: 22:21 Yeah, well the biggest one is the money. And in this case, it's time because construction is going already on school, but, but money for, you know, removing, as you can imagine, removing an artwork from a wall, especially one that is a piece of a wall is complicated, costly, and time consuming. So the artists are kind of in a difficult position with, you know, deciding on whether just watching their meals be destroyed and having to follow some, seek some kind of legal action or give up the rights to their murals and seek some other kind of remedy.
Speaker 1: 22:55 I take it. The school has not offered to pay. Uh,
Speaker 3: 22:57 The school did not provide any details about their negotiations, but the artists did tell me that the school has offered to possibly have one of the artists recreate two of the murals, which they would pay for, but the artists are really sticking together in these negotiations and they don't want to give up the rights to any of their murals or do anything without making sure that every, um, every artist is going to be, uh, compensated or helped in some sort of way,
Speaker 1: 23:24 If the murals are eventually destroyed, they are being documented for posterity in other ways. Right.
Speaker 3: 23:32 Right. Yeah. So the school district took high resolution photos of all the murals and that's common with these kinds of situations and the photos will be housed at the San Diego central library, uh, the San Diego center and UC Santa Barbara library, special collections, which also houses, um, some papers by one of the artists, Salvador Torres.
Speaker 1: 23:54 There is a plan I understand to develop art for the new educational complex. Once the construction is complete water.
Speaker 3: 24:01 Yeah. There is an, and like I mentioned, they're still discussing with the district. You know, it could be possible that, uh, the district ends up, you know, working some kind of deal with the artists where the artists would be paid to recreate their murals on that campus. But, but that still hasn't been worked out yet.
Speaker 1: 24:21 It's the artists who want the paintings preserved. Right? I mean, how important is this public art for the, for the community as a whole,
Speaker 3: 24:27 Right. And, um, like I mentioned earlier, a lot of community members, especially in the Logan Heights areas, they, you know, they, they live here and now their children attend these schools. But when they went to these schools, they grew up with these murals. In fact, one of the muralists went to Memorial when he was young and there was a, uh, an, a piece, a piece of artwork there that inspired him. And it's really what inspired him to become an artist. So a lot of people in the community have connections, not just to the artwork itself, but also to the artists who have been instrumental to the community when it comes to activism and capturing the community's culture. So, so people are very, um, you know, connected to these murals and the artists,
Speaker 1: 25:08 San Diego unified says that the district does hope to reach an amicable agreement. So what is, what is next is construction on hold what's happening, right? Yeah.
Speaker 3: 25:17 Uh, construction is on hold, but only in the areas near the murals, the, uh, construction is still ongoing on other parts of the school, but they were able to find a way to move construction away from, from the murals for now, while they're still in the negotiation process. Okay.
Speaker 1: 25:32 It'll be interesting to see what happens. Thank you so much, Andrea. Thank you. That's our show for this week. I'd like to thank our guests, Laurie Weisberg and Andrea Lopez via Fanya from the San Diego union Tribune and Kayla Hermanos from voice of San Diego. A reminder, you can always find our shows on our email@example.com and on all major podcast. I'm Alison st. John, and we'll see you next week on the round table.