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Bus driver strike brings privatization of public transit to forefront

 June 2, 2023 at 12:38 PM PDT

S1: This week on Roundtable. Some San Diego bus routes still are not running as a work stoppage nears its third week.

S2: Residents of San Diego County are really suffering the consequences of this strike.

S1: How local leaders tackle homelessness is once again in dispute. This is so clearly the number one issue in the region , and there's an effort underway to make La Jolla its own city. Why this attempt is getting people talking. Don't go anywhere. Roundtable is coming up next. You're listening to Kpbs Roundtable. I'm Matt Hoffman. Some San Diego bus routes , they're still not running as a work stoppage is now in its third week. Some bus drivers are on strike , but the ones that are are not actually employees of the Metropolitan Transit system. They're contractors who work for Transdev. That's a worldwide company that contracts with MTS and other transit systems. Kpbs reporter Andrew Bowen had a simple question Why does MTS outsource some of its workforce ? And here to give us the latest on this work stoppage and answer that question is Kpbs metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Andrew , welcome back to Roundtable. Hey , Matt , Thanks. Great to have you here. So let's start with the current situation. Some MTS contract bus drivers , they're on strike right now. And as we and others have reported , it's kind of complicating some San Diegans lives.

S2: Most of the area that this is covering is the South Bay and the East county. Those are the areas , the operation areas that MTS has contracted with Transdev for. So , you know , just to to drill down just how disruptive and not only inconvenient , but really catastrophic it can be for some people. You know , when we first reported on this , when my colleagues in the newsroom here first did a story as the strike was getting started , there was a man who was waiting for a bus that was not going to show up and he was trying to get to a job interview. And he just got to San Diego , you know , was trying to , you know , build a life here. And when this really essential service , this last resort service for many people who who don't you can't afford a car or maybe because of a disability just can't drive. You know , I should also mention , this is also impacting paratransit , which is the sort of door to door service that fills the gaps where there are no fixed route buses. That is also being disrupted. So , you know , some of our most vulnerable residents of San Diego County are really suffering the consequences of this strike. And , you know , it's it's been going , as you mentioned , for three coming. You know , it's a little over two weeks now. So it's really , really causing some problems.

S1: And still at an impasse there. And these bus drivers , Andrew , the ones that are on strike , they're members of Teamsters Local 683.

S2: One is scheduling specifically related to split shifts. And the other issue is bathrooms. So a split shift is basically when you work over an extended period of time and have a really long lunch break. So you might work. Say , I'm just pulling these times , you know , out of nothing but say you work 6 to 10 a.m. you have four hours for your lunch break and then you work 2 to 6 p.m. That's eight hours of work that you're getting paid for. But that work is spread out over 12 hours of your day. So it makes it very difficult if this is a regular occurrence to , you know , have a life outside of work. And that's one of the main issues that the Teamsters , these bus drivers are are trying to get a better deal with. The other contentious issue I mentioned is bathrooms so clean and safe , bathrooms during shifts , a driver could be on the road for hours on end without access to a brick and mortar , actual physical bathroom. Oftentimes they only have access to porta potties. Drivers have complained that they're not always cleaned regularly. Maybe they're not in a very secure area. You know , many , many you know , oftentimes these buses are operating at very , very early hours or very late hours. So , you know , particularly women may not feel safe going in and out of those spaces. We spoke with a female bus driver who really framed this as a gender equity issue. You know , it's often easier for men to get in and out of bathrooms quickly and without having to touch any surfaces. And that's not always the case with women. So why is this at an impasse ? You know , I haven't been in the room for negotiations , so I don't know all of the specifics here. But , you know , it's easy to imagine that Transdev is looking at the costs of what it would take to either build new bathrooms or maybe lease bathrooms from different businesses at certain hours and deciding , you know , we can't afford that. So , you know , go ahead and strike and we'll see who blinks first.

S1: And I think everybody , when they hear MTS or they see , you know , they're very familiar with those red buses , some of them are even double wide. But , you know , for me at least , it was sort of surprising to hear that these workers on strike , while they might drive those red buses , they don't actually work for MTS. And so I know you kind of dug into this. I mean , why does. Outsource some of its bus drivers to this company called Transdev.

S2: Yeah , well , Transdev is , as you mentioned , a very large multinational company. They get hired by a public transit agencies literally all around the world to provide these services. MTS told me that they save about 25 to 35% on the routes that are operated by Transdev compared to if they had been doing those services or providing those services in-house. They said , you know , a large company like Transdev is able to achieve economies of scale so they can , you know , pool their risk with liability and maybe pay a lower liability insurance premiums , lower insurance premiums general generally , or , you know , able to achieve some savings with benefits with their employees or on wages. I was actually surprised to learn that 74% of bus routes in in the service area are operated by contractors. When you look at the actual service hours , so many of these contracted bus routes are lower frequency buses and the higher frequency ones are the ones that MTS does in-house. So when you look at the service hours , it's still more than half , though it's less than 74% , but it's still more than half. So most of our buses , you know , more than 50% of the time if you get on a bus in San Diego , it's not an employee who's driving it. The theory , of course , is that private companies will have to compete for this business and that competition will spur innovation and efficiencies and that taxpayers will end up saving money. The problem with that is that there has been a huge amount of consolidation in this industry in recent years. MTS still contracts technically with two separate companies Transdev and First Transit. First Transit was recently acquired by Transdev , so it's really just only one company at this point. And you know , when when MTS puts these contracts out to bid , they might get a couple of different responses , but there's really not a whole lot of choice in the matter. And so , you know , when they're in a situation like they are now , where Transdev , the contractor , is not able to provide this service for the people of San Diego and on behalf of MTS , MTS doesn't really have any alternative. There's no other you know , there aren't a lot of startup companies waiting in the wings to disrupt this industry of transit operations. It's a very high , you know , barrier to entry into this. And so , you know , the cost savings that you get from private contractors are , you know , when you look at the dollars and cents , they might look one way , but that savings can sometimes be on the backs of workers. Transdev workers bus drivers earn quite a bit less than MTS drivers , and this strike is an example of how that is playing out.

S1: So Andrew , your reporting notes that this move to privatize public transportation , it's been a trend in recent decades and if you're just out on the streets , it's really not hard to notice. You know , you even see the the MTS , the Trolley cops , people call them. Those are private security guards. But all this privatization of a public entity with any idea of how that's changed , like in this case , public transit.

S2: Well , we should note that contracting or outsourcing in public transit has been around pretty much since the beginning. If we could even go all the way back to the late 19th century when the first , you know , electric rail railway system was established in San Diego , it was a private for profit company that was operating that system. MTS And all of its predecessors , you know , different public transit agencies that have had different names over the years have have always turned to private companies to provide these services to some extent. If we zoom out from MTS in particular , there has been a big push for more outsourcing and more privatization over the past ten , 20 years , let's say , how privatization is impacting us here and now. You know , I can say MTS employees have not been calling strikes recently. I don't know if they ever have. They've done a much better job at keeping their employees working and Transdev and First Transit. The two contractors have both experienced strikes this year. The other thing to keep in mind is , you know , there's this a middleman now that kind of slows down the responsiveness to a strike. So rather than the rider is being able to go directly to MTS and say , hey , fix this now. Do whatever it takes to get the buses running again , they have to go to MTS and then MTS has to put pressure on Transdev and there's like they have to call an emergency board meeting and , you know , flex their muscles a little bit or make some threats. And from a riders perspective , you know , they don't care. They don't they just want the bus to show up on time.

S1: And so I guess what is supposed to do here then ? I mean , we heard from their board chair , Steven Whitburn , that if transit service is not restored , that he's going to call for , as you mentioned , one of these emergency board. Meetings.

S2: So they could at that point , you know , either let it expire or put , you know , ask for for new bids. There is contract language that allows MTS to cancel the contract in the interim if Transdev fails to perform its obligations. The leverage that MTS has in this equation is not immense. They could theoretically cancel this contract , but what would they how would they replace all of those services ? It would take , you know , if they were to theoretically try and hire all of the bus drivers that used to work for Transdev and instead make them MTS employees. They're going to have to pay higher wages because they have different collective bargaining agreements that set different wage scales. And where are they going to find that money ? And I think that Transdev knows this , that they know that , you know , sometimes the public agency doesn't have quite as much leverage as they think they might or that it may appear. You know , on the surface.

S1: When we talk about these current negotiations , the strike , it's been three weeks.

S2: So we're not quite two , three weeks. But but it's coming up. And so what council member Whitburn , the chair of the board , said was that if the services aren't restored by the end of this week , he's going to call an emergency board meeting. I imagine that the Teamsters and Transdev are , you know , for a while they weren't even talking there and Transdev was putting out some statements , you know , kind of implying something else. But the Teamsters came out and said , hey , hang on a sec. Like they haven't actually come to the bargaining table. We're still at an impasse and we haven't sat down at , you know , at the table to talk. So those negotiations have resumed. And , you know , I imagine they're going to be working this weekend to to figure out how they can reach a deal.

S1: I've been speaking with Andrew Bohn , Kpbs metro reporter. Andrew , always great to have you here.

S2: Thanks , Matt.

S1: We'd like to hear from you. Have you been impacted by this bus driver strike ? Give us a call at (619) 452-0228. Leave us a voicemail there or email us at Roundtable at Coming up , how some San Diego Republicans are pushing back on the region's housing first approach to tackle homelessness. You're listening to Kpbs Roundtable. You're listening to Kpbs Roundtable. I'm Matt Hoffman. How Local Leaders Tackle the seemingly growing issue of homelessness is once again in dispute. This time , the debate isn't over where a shelter should go or how many should be built. It's over this broader idea of a housing First model. That model seeks to immediately get unsheltered residents into some type of housing with little to no barriers. Joining us to discuss these latest developments that seeing some local Republicans pushing back is voice of San Diego's managing editor , Andrew Keates. And Andy , welcome back to Roundtable.

S3: Great to be here. Thanks for having. Me.

S1: Me. Awesome to have you here. So let's start off with the why.

S3: Before we would do that , though , I would say the immediate answer to to why is this is so clearly the number one issue in the region. Poll after poll conducted by different candidates or organizations all shows that most San Diego residents put this at the top of their list of problems. And so if you're going to run for office , if you're going to stage a political comeback as the Republican Party , if you're going to build a movement , you need to have a theory of the case. You need to be able to offer some sort of explanation about why this has happened , what has gone wrong and what you would do to fix it. And so it appears on that that point about messaging that the local Republican Party has has narrowed in on the housing first principle itself as the problem , and that their solution to it would be to abandon that principle.

S1: And talking about what this strategy is , we know it's been around for at least the last few years here in San Diego and in California state government. And I think that's due partially to a state law that mandates that.

S3: And it could a lot of different policies or services could fall under it. But but basically what it is , is that the best way to get somebody off the street and to end their homelessness is to get them into permanent housing , housing that is theirs and that will stabilize their life. And then you can begin tackling whatever other problems they have , whether it's addiction , mental health issues , job training , that sort of thing. But crucially , that people to get into that permanent housing do not need to graduate through a series of programs to prove they deserve housing or anything along those lines. So so that's really the big idea at the center of it. And this was a little over ten years ago , the federal government and HUD began mandating that organizations pursuing funding cities , pursuing funding from the federal government needed to abandon the previous model that was called transitional housing and pursue instead this Housing First model. And they certainly support that mandate , support that requirements , support that priority with a lengthy academic literature that suggests this is the best way to to truly end somebodys and somebody's homelessness. And so you'll often hear people say , you know , we we know that this is what works best. We or all of the research proves that this works best. So that's sort of the the information that went behind the federal government's decision. And it was the federal government's decision that generated sort of at first a slow but at this point now a pretty consistent acceptance by anybody who's working in the homeless services space that Housing First is the principle that they need to follow.

S1: And it hasn't been the only policy. I think you mentioned before , transitional housing is what was used.

S3: But but basically the idea is you provide your clients something that is maybe has a little bit more privacy than a shelter , but less autonomy than a true home. And it comes with strings attached. It may require that they go to job training or that they graduate some sort from some sort of addiction treatment program before they move into even that that sort of housing system that they might have. And so that's that's really the big the big difference is , is do you put barriers up and say that that that that there are other things going on here beyond just the fact that you don't have a home. And because of that , we're going to deal with those things first or as a housing first , Do you just say first things first. Get in a home , stabilize your situation , and we can start talking about all the other stuff after that.

S1: And it seems like why this debate is bubbling up right now is because at least a couple local Republicans are not happy with the county and the city of San Diego's new plan to buy a few hotels , and that would be just north of $150 million.

S3: And the city and county have already done that in the past. There's a state program that has made funding available for cities to buy hotels. This was a Covid era policy at the time. The principle was , boy , you know , no one's allowed to travel. These hotels are going to be hard up for money. Maybe we could get some of them for for a deal and then we can turn those into housing and we can do that much more quickly than our typical path of providing new housing , which requires , you know , often years and many , many millions of dollars to build housing from scratch. This would would be you buy buildings , you have to put some work in to transition them into homes , but nonetheless , you can change them into homes. So that was the idea. And , you know , on partisan lines , you know , Mayor Kevin Faulconer , who was a Republican , was the first chief proponent of this idea here in San Diego. He was a major proponent of it when the city last acquired two homes back or two hotels to turn into housing back in the summer of 2020. So this has been a shift that's been going on for a while. And the idea is that these would be , you know , sort of units that would be part of the county and the city's overall housing first focused response to homelessness.

S1: And to be clear here , a lot of funding for this project would be coming from this state , right ? I mean , it's a project called Project Homekey that gives cities and counties money to stand up more housing.

S3: Yeah. And I mean , there's it's very hard to come by state or federal money at this point that wouldn't have a requirement for a housing first approach. But yes , this is this is state money that would be used to buy these homes. You know , the city would have to the city and county would have to come up with some money for operations ongoing. But the acquisition itself would be almost entirely funded by the state. Even that being the case , you have these a couple local Republicans who have come out to say it's still a bad idea , either it's a bad deal or just the continued commitment to a housing first approach is bad. And just take a look at the state of the streets. It obviously hasn't worked.

S1: And a couple of those Republicans are County Supervisor Jim Desmond Coronado , Mayor Richard Bailey. Why are they opposed to this ? Do they say it's just it just doesn't work , this housing first approach and that's why they don't want to buy these hotels or.

S3: So it's been about ten years that Housing First has been the approach. And I think people are whether we're talking about these specific Republicans or your neighbor , I think most anyone can can walk and see evidence in front of them in this city that homelessness is very bad right now. There's a lot of it. The desperation is pretty significant. The scale of encampments downtown or in other parts of the city is vast. And so they're pointing at that as evidence that this approach over the last ten years has failed. So , you know , we could we could spend a lengthy seminar style debate sussing out all of the arguments about whether whether that is correct , whether that is sufficiently rigorous to come to that sort of conclusion , whether there are available alternatives that would have done a better job regardless , I think we can say that they have settled on their policy position and their messaging position as it's time to abandon this housing first principle. But I would just say that opposition to housing first per se is not new. It's it's been around since Housing first came about.

S1: And Andy , as we wrap up here , obviously those involved in this debate , they're politicians , right ? I mean , people have to vote to get them in. You kind of touched at the top , maybe a little bit of kind of political grandstanding here back and forth.


S3: It's a little bit odd for me to imagine housing first , like this wonky policy term that had been debated by bureaucrats about the wisdom and whether the academic literature supported it for the last ten years. It's a little bit weird for me to imagine that that is going to become the grounds on which we have a public debate about homelessness. It's. Just so specific. And it sort of requires quite a bit of a of a typical voter to to be really tuned in to the to the debate. But that's really that that does seem to be what the Republicans here are going for. You know , they're not saying just that they you know , they're not just describing the idea that they disagree with. They're using Housing First Capital H , capital F as the direct public facing message. They're talking to the public and saying housing First has obviously failed , has it not ? And I don't know if that will gain steam in the same way that a know another previously jargony term became a rallying cry like critical race theory. I don't know if they'll have the messaging success of of turning housing first into a bad word that people have to run away from. I don't know. But obviously the homelessness debate itself is not going anywhere. You can look at any poll conducted by any candidate. It's the number one issue of concern for for San Diego County residents. And I don't think anyone expects it to get so much better anytime soon that that would change.

S1: And before we go on a personal note , it sounds like you're leaving the voice of San Diego soon , Right ? But maybe good news for us. It sounds like that you're staying locally.

S3: It's been a fantastic and fulfilling 11 years , nearly 11 years , I should say. But , you know , change is pretty good. Maybe time to shake things up a little bit. So I'm going to Axios , San Diego. We will be launching a website and newsletter. You can Google Axios , San Diego , pop up and put in your email address and you can subscribe to our newsletter. But yeah , we're going to stay here and keep covering all the stuff. I care about the biggest issues in the region , but I'll be doing it for access instead of Voice of San Diego now.

S1: Well , we're glad that you're staying and we look forward to having you again here on Roundtable soon. I've been speaking with Andrew Keats. He's the managing editor at Voice of San Diego. And Andy , it's always great to have you here.

S3: Thank you.

S1: We'd like to hear your thoughts. Give us a call at (619) 452-0228. Leave us a voicemail there. Or you can also email us at Roundtable at Coming up after the break , La Jolla is considering independence from the city of San Diego. You're listening to Kpbs Roundtable. You're listening to Kpbs Roundtable. I'm Matt Hoffman. There's an effort underway right now to make La Jolla its own city. We're talking about basically seceding away from being a part of the city of San Diego. These independence attempts for the upscale coastal community , they've been made over the years. But this latest push is getting people talking. Here to catch us up. Ah , the San Diego Union-Tribune community reporter Emily Alvarenga. And David Garrick is back with us. He's also a reporter with the Union-Tribune that covers City Hall. I want to welcome you both here to roundtable. David , first question to you , kind of break this down for us. Laid out we're talking about La Jolla. It's sometimes called the crown jewel of San Diego. Torrey Pines is up there , some great beaches , but people want to leave the city of San Diego.

S5: Think La Jolla has always sort of had its own self-identity. They have their own postal zip code , 92037. There's a lot of community pride there. But of course , all neighborhoods have community pride. I think this one is a little bit different. I think there's sort of new frustration with San Diego , some policies down here , some housing policies , lack of the city , focusing on infrastructure needs up there as a city , as La Jolla gets older and also city services , they complain that bathrooms at the beaches are not being properly maintained. And those kind of things like that's the main motivations for it.

S1: And we're going to get into all that here in just a little bit. But Emily , you know , it sounds like that some people in La Hoya , they've made efforts at becoming independent from San Diego in the past.

S6: Every decade or so , La Jolla has kind of tried to secede. And this time , really what makes it different is they've got the funding they need to hire a consultant to do a fiscal impact study to figure out if La Jolla succeeding is feasibly financially possible. Actually , the president of the association heading the group said back in April that the group has already raised close to $55,000 , and although an initial study was already done in the early 2000 , the most recent push in 2019 failed because they were unable to raise the money that they needed to fund a new study to figure out what financially would be able to be done.

S5: I would also mention that in the past that a lot of the times the efforts were sort of single issue efforts , and this seems to be a broader approach. And when you talk to sort of the people in the know in La Jolla , you know , they'll constantly tell you , they'll give you a look and say , this is a different kind of group. This group is not to criticize previous groups , but better organized , better prepared , more serious. It's not some cranky people who are upset about one thing. It is a more professional guess , for lack of a better adjective attempt.

S1: And David , when we're talking about that , like who is behind this effort ? We hear that , you know , La Jolla wants to become its own city. Are we talking about like just a small handful of homeowners , thousands of residents there or.

S5: Most city council members haven't , because until it becomes realistic , I don't think people want to oppose it. I don't think that they support it , but they don't want to talk about it because there's really nothing to be gained from that. And the same is true of a lot of people in La Jolla. So I don't know if we know exactly who's behind it. There's a group of 6 or 7 people , I believe , who are on the board doing this , and they've put themselves out there. They could claim that there's widespread support for it. And the money that they have sort of indicates that's true. But I don't know if we exactly know exactly who's involved , but it's certainly , by all accounts , a more widespread and wider supported effort than the previous ones.

S1: And David , you sort of touched on the process there.

S5: But one thing I would say is this group is impressive in their organization. They have already touched base with the city's chief financial officer , Matt Busby , and they basically have financial analysis coming in of tax revenue in La Jolla compared to the rest of the city , compared to the amount of money the city spends there. They say that their financial analysis will be available mid-summer , but I think they've pulled people off the record , maybe early July , late June. The next step in the process is taking it to the local agency formation commission , which is a county agency that handles when communities want to be annexed or they want to become independent and secede. That's sort of a complicated part of the process , which involves more financial analysis.

S1: And David , you write that proponents of secession , they've been framing this as more of a benefit to the rest of San Diego , like like not just La Jolla or this new city , but it seems like losing a wealthy area like La Jolla , it could have some type of a negative economic impact for the rest of the city of San Diego. I'm thinking like property taxes. Events like the farmer's insurance open all the hotel room. Rooms that those events generate.

S5: They have to get an approval vote from people who live in what will be the new city of La Jolla. And then after that , they have to get a subsequent vote from the wider city of San Diego. So with that in mind , they're trying to sell the benefits to the wider city of San Diego because that is perceived as the greater challenge that they expect to sort of win the La Jolla vote pretty easily. The vote that they're concerned about winning would be the wider city of San Diego vote.

S1: Yeah , it's like , how do you kind of convince other people that like , yeah , let's push La Jolla out of here ? But Emily , you guys both write that San Diego has made social equity a priority in recent years , arguing that many neighborhoods have not gotten their fair share of city resources and investment historically , whereas other wealthier areas like La Hoya have. But some of these community members pushing for La Jolla to secede , they say that that's just not the case. And I know there was one person you spoke with that said , hey , you know , maybe it takes a while for potholes to get fixed there. Now , you know , welcome to the club. I'm curious if you guys ask those behind this effort if this is really a move to just kind of become their own , you know , wealthier community versus being part of the bigger pie that is San Diego.

S6: Yeah , that's where the group really argues that secession will be a benefit to the rest of the city. They say that , you know , by taking La Jolla out of the running for some of these infrastructure funds or some of the public safety and all the other funding that's direly needed in all areas of the city. That kind of other community members really agree that they are allowing the city to focus on funding those underserved areas really , and to maybe get those funds to those areas quicker than if La Jolla was also vying for them.


S5: And typically infrastructure lasts 50 or 60 years. So the entire city , except for the newest communities , are facing sort of the end of the shelf life of a lot of infrastructure. It's a big crisis for the city. And La Jolla , which was one of the earliest communities , certainly faces that challenge. But I think what Emily mentioned is kind of a nuanced argument , because the city of San Diego's plan to solve infrastructure south of Interstate eight , where there's a lot of low income communities , is to sort of take all the infrastructure money generated across the city and then spend it more aggressively south of Interstate eight. And the La Jolla proposal , the city of La Jolla people proposal is completely different. Their idea is we'll leave the city so the city will no longer have to worry about us. We'll pass a bond and we'll handle it that way. I don't know what voters are going to prefer , but they're very different approaches to the same problem.

S1: So , David , proponents , they have this plan to fund La Joy's infrastructure should this actually happen. They break away from the city of San Diego , and that's through floating bonds. Can you explain what those are and why they think that would work better for La Jolla than like all of San Diego ? Yes.

S5: First , I should note that the bonds aren't officially part of the proposal. They're saying it , but it's not an official part of the vote or any any part of the proposal. But certainly that's something that they have mentioned and it makes a lot of sense. I think that's one of the things I think that would I would commend them for the city of San Diego has discussed because of its infrastructure problems I mentioned before , with half the city , 60 years old , with all the pipes and all the roads. They have mentioned passing a mega bond where voters would approve higher property taxes to pay for lots of infrastructure projects. Those types of bonds require a two thirds approval , and that seems almost impossible in the city of San Diego to get two thirds of voters to approve an increase in property taxes. The La Jolla secession. People argue that if if the La Jolla people knew that the money would be spent only in La Jolla , which would be the case if La Jolla was its own city , that something like that could pass so that the way to fix La Hoya's infrastructure is to separate as a new city and then put a bond on the ballot. It would pass because La Jolla voters would be willing to pay for higher property taxes if they knew the money would be spent in their own community. And that's their solution. Think it's an interesting idea.

S1: So if we go down this hypothetical path of La Jolla becoming a city , do we know how many people like , live in that community ? I mean , I know that the city of Del Mar is only around 4000 people.

S5: The estimates we hear are 43,000 , which is roughly 3% of the city of San Diego , but 43,000 is bigger than a lot of cities in the county population wise , including Coronado , Solana , Beach , Del Mar , Lemon Grove , some of the smaller cities. Obviously , though , then you deal with you have to have department heads , right ? Right now , La Hoya doesn't have a recreation department , had a Parks Department had a transportation department. There's a lot of of overhead that I don't know if they thought that through. Maybe they have. I think it would be very expensive to have a whole new bureaucracy. But but I do think it is feasible with 43,000. It's been done in a lot of other places.

S1: And Emily , your guys's reporting talks about how neighboring areas of San Diego , they share some of these same frustrations , you know , maybe a lack in city services or timely repairs.

S6: But some who have raised concerns are that La Jolla leaving would mean that its critical role in generating revenue for the city as a tourist destination. And one of San Diego's biggest arguably would also mean that the revenue would be removed from the city and there would be less funding for communities south of eight where the city has begun that push for equity. And some have also noted that the timing of La Jolla is most recent effort coincides with this equity push from the city and that now it's even more difficult for La Jolla to get funding that they're looking for.

S5: And I would add that on top of that , that the people who are supporting this effort say that that San Diego really wouldn't lose. La Hoya doesn't have a lot of high rise luxury hotels. They say that people would come to La Jolla , Shores Beach , they would come to hang out and see all the joyous attractions , but they would pay taxes , hotel taxes in the city of San Diego. They would be flying into our airport. So they say that that the Hoya wouldn't really be stealing a lot of money. San Diego would still get all the money it gets now , and La Hoya would have to fix the beaches up , fix the restrooms at the beaches , pave the streets.

S1: And we should know , too , David , I mean , I don't know if you know the answer to this , but there's a lot of business up in La Jolla , right ? Like when we talk about like biotech or even UC San Diego , like , do we even know if like the UC San Diego campus or that hospital would be included , like in this new city boundary.

S5: And their preliminary map ? They've specifically chosen not to include the university. And that has to do with some housing goals that will be forced upon them if they had the university within the boundaries of the city that they would create. And there's part of the stuff that thinks maybe we think of as La Jolla , like East of five that you and I might think of as La Jolla , that would also be excluded.

S1: And we know that when talking about local politics , David , you know , housing is usually involved. You kind of just touched on it there.

S5: The proponents have said that that's definitely part of the equation. They haven't stressed that as the main issue , but they said that's definitely part of the equation. And I think the city of San Diego , we should mention here , has been particularly aggressive about dealing with the housing crisis. They have some of the loosest rules for granny flats , backyard units , adus in the state. They are one of only two places in California to embrace a Senate Bill ten , which allows people to build ten units on certain lots in single family residential neighborhoods Humboldt County and the city of San Diego. The only places to embrace that. And so the La Jolla , the leaders of the La Jolla Secession movement have said that some of those rules so the city's approach to those rules has concerned them. So that's definitely part of the equation here.

S1: And David , it also sounds like sea level rise is involved in this and some of these proponents talking about concerns in that area. I mean , are they making the case that San Diego isn't doing enough on that front and people listening might be familiar ? I remember Del Mar had this big battle that brewed with the state and years past.

S5: I mean , they're trying to be very careful here not to criticize the San Diego city of San Diego too harshly. Right. But yes , I think they feel like San Diego has not been as aggressive about planning for sea level rise as they could be. You know , I have to say , I don't know , comparing I'm not aware of how Newport Beach and , you know , Santa Barbara and other cities have done it. But I do cover the city of San Diego. And while it does come up , I certainly wouldn't say they have an impressive comprehensive plan to cope with sea level rise. So it sounds like the La Jolla , the people behind this movement have maybe a legitimate point that San Diego could be more proactive on that subject. And that's obviously a key subject which matters to La Jolla much more even than the other beach communities , because the amount of coastline like PB and Mission Beach have a relatively limited amount of coastline because La Jolla bends and curves , it has by far the most coastline in the city of San Diego. So really is the neighborhood with the most to lose from sea level rise.

S1: Definitely something to watch and keep our eye on. Emily Alvarenga and David Garrick are reporters with the San Diego Union Tribune. Thank you both for being here today.

S5: Thanks for having me.

S6: Thanks so much.

S1: Before we go here on Roundtable , we want to talk about some other stories that are happening here in San Diego. And with me to help get us there is Kpbs roundtable producer Andrew Bracken. Andrew , welcome. Hey , Matt.

S7: You reported on earlier this week on Memorial Day , you did a story on May Gray. And it's just something we've seen a couple different stories about it over the last few weeks , but it's something that I just keep hearing people talk about. And it's really I had the first conversation in my , you know , over 15 years in San Diego about almost seasonal depression as a result of how much Mae Gray , now June gloom we've been seeing. And I think it's it's been more frequent than than a lot of us can remember in San Diego and years past. Oh yeah.

S1: I haven't lived here for that that long but I mean almost a decade. And yeah , it seems like there's a lot of Mae Gray out there. And I was down there on Memorial Day Monday. A lot of tourists , not so happy with the Mae Gray. They wanted to sit out on the sun. I was down at Mission Beach. But yeah , it's been really gloomy and it's been cold.

S7: Well , and I also think , you know , I mean , the winter we had adds to it , right ? Because we are familiar. I mean , we know Mae Gray and we expect it. I live near the coast. It's very common. But after the winter we had and then the Mae Gray and now it's looking like June gloom is going to be continuing. It's just only adding to that sort of malaise that I think some of us are feeling.

S1: Yeah , now it's June gloom. I don't want to hear Mae Gray anymore. All right.

S7: But I just think it's a larger part of a larger trend. We've seen , or at least anybody that watches sports is a lot of this has changed from cable television to more of these different streaming options. And I haven't had honestly cable television in years , but I do rely on this kind of mishmash of different digital streaming services to find the teams. I want to watch.

S1: I wouldn't say I'm a Padre fan fanatic , but I am into the Padres and I also don't have cable , so I have to watch the highlights later or , you know , go out to an establishment and watch it on TV there. But I'm kind of excited because in this interim period until the weekend ends , they're going to be free broadcasted on MLB TV. So there's a chance , if you're hearing this on Friday or hearing this on Sunday , that you might be able to watch at least one of those games for free. All right. Final thought.

S7: She's been here for 25 years. I think I don't need to introduce her to any Kpbs listener. You've heard her voice. You've heard her interview thousands of people in San Diego over the years. And Kpbs is going to just sound a little bit different without Maureen here. And I can just say I think a lot of us in the Newsroom are going to miss her. She is a masterful storyteller , and her interviewing skills are second to none , in my opinion.

S1: You also work with Maureen quite a bit in your role on Midday Edition and now is filling in as senior producer. But yeah , definitely sad to see Maureen leaving Kpbs. She's been here , you know , at least 25 years. And I think she said she did like 8000 interviews , at least during that time. You know , I've always been very fond of Maureen trying to emulate her style , but nobody does it as well as Maureen. And everybody always says , Maureen , I hear you all the time and you are awesome. It's great to work with Maureen. And I remember I came in as a student here. Geez , I don't know , almost a decade ago. And Maureen was there and she's just been a great guiding hand along the way. I wish she wasn't leaving , but you know , it's going to be some big shoes to fill on midday. All right , Andrew Bracken , that's the roundup. Thanks , Matt. Thanks for being here. We're going to have to end it there for this week's edition of Kpbs roundtable. And I want to thank our guests for being here , Emily Alvarenga and David Garrick from The San Diego Union-Tribune. Andrew Keates from Voice of San Diego and Kpbs own Andrew Bowen. We'd love to hear your thoughts on this show. Leave us a voicemail at (619) 452-0228. If you do leave your name and where you're calling from and we might put it on the air. Don't forget about the Kpbs Roundtable podcast. You can find it anywhere you get your podcasts. Our show airs at noon on Kpbs. That's Fridays and again on Sunday at 6 a.m.. Roundtable is produced by Andrew Bracken , and Rebecca Chacon is our technical director. I'm your host , Matt Hoffman. Thanks so much for being here with us and have a great weekend.

Bus drivers who work for Transdev walk the picket line in Chula Vista, May 31, 2023.
Matthew Bowler
Bus drivers who work for Transdev walk the picket line in Chula Vista, May 31, 2023.

A bus drivers' strike continues into its third week, complicating the lives of many public transportation riders in San Diego County. Then, San Diego Republicans reject a “housing first” approach to homelessness. And, a movement is underway for La Jolla to become an independent city and secede from the city of San Diego.


Andrew Bowen, metro reporter, KPBS

Andrew Keats, managing editor, Voice of San Diego

Emily Alvarenga, community reporter, San Diego Union-Tribune

David Garrick, reporter, San Diego Union-Tribune