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San Diego energy outlook points to lower prices in 2024

 December 8, 2023 at 3:15 PM PST

S1: This week on Kpbs roundtable. Next year's power forecast for gas and electric customers. Delivery costs for electricity is trending down. Delivery means the transmission and distribution systems. Plus , a Kpbs investigation reveals California credit unions are collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in overdraft fees. It surprised a lot of people just how much money it was a quarter billion dollars last year alone. State chartered credit unions brought in , and we'll hear about a ballot initiative that would make it easier to prosecute drug dealers for homicides after fatal overdoses. Don't go anywhere. Roundtable is coming up next. Welcome to Kpbs roundtable. I'm Matt Hoffman. Fingers crossed. The outlook for SDD bills in the new Year appears positive. That headline comes from the Union Tribune's Rob Nichols. He's been reporting on San Diego gas and electric forecasting for next year. And part of that , state officials were at a San Diego City Council meeting earlier this week. That did get tense at times. Joining us to dive into the power outlook is the Union Tribune's energy reporter , Rob Nicholas. Rob , welcome back to roundtable. Good to be.

S2: Back , Matt. Thank you. Great to have you here.

S1: So let's just jump right into this. You know , every single resident of San Diego , they have an SDG bill , whether it's gas , electric or both.

S2: There's electricity delivery costs and electricity generation costs. And that's what SDG was talking about this week , that the delivery cost for electricity is trending down. Delivery means the transmission and distribution system from transmission lines to substations , and bringing that electricity to each individual residents in in San Diego or each individual account. And the numbers are trending down for this coming year , the new year. And that will translate SDG and says to about a $5 reduction in bills for a typical SDG and residential customer in January compared to their December bill.

S1: Now , some people with gas appliances they might be thinking about last winter when they reach like record high levels.

S2: Number one , last year there was a ruptured gas line that was that was sending natural gas from West Texas into Southern California , that was supplying natural gas to so many customers and other customers in Southern California that gas line was ruptured last year , and then around February or March early last year , that gas line got repaired. So right now , as we speak , there's no major gas line problems as far as sending gas supplies into Southern California. Another reason why the outlook is looking better is because the weather is not as cold so far this winter as it was at the same time last year. And when you've got a really cold winter that sends up gas demand because people are cranking up their gas heaters. And then the third reason why is because we have more storage this year in Southern California is about 28% more natural gas in storage. So you've got more supply. And that's helping make things look a little better.

S1: And we know that this outlook report , it came to the San Diego City Council earlier this week. But some council members , they were not happy with SDG. And many were pointing to a recent state auditor report which found that SDG charges the highest rates in the nation for power. We're going to start with this clip. Here's what San Diego Councilmember Marni von Wilbert had to say.

S3: The gas and electric rates that STD charges are too high. They are the highest in the nation. People cannot afford them. Here in San Diego , an SDG is a for profit company. You do have to make a profit. I understand that at the same time , you don't have to gouge our customers.

S1: Then moments after that statement , here's a rebuttal or some type of pushback. It was from SDG and Senior Vice President Scott Crider , and he has this little exchange with von Wolpert.

S4: I know sometimes I get an eyeroll every time I say this , but in the city of San Diego , SDG does not have the highest prices in the country. Wait. Because if an accurate statement would be San Diego Gas and Electric and San Diego Community Power have the highest electricity prices in the country , we do not set the prices for the commodity. We only set the prices for the delivery. Our rates are high. Our delivery rates are high. I'm not. I'm not discounting that. But our but the the the full rate that a customer sees in their bill about 60% comes from us , 40% does not come from us.

S1: All right , Rob , now let's break that down. I think when most people get a bill , they think it all comes from SDG. And why.

S2: All that goes into the rates that customers pay. Now , the reason why. FDA says that their rates are higher than the other investor owned utilities in California , which is Southern California Edison and PG and E Pacific Gas and Electric is because their service territory is smaller than those other two service territories , and because that service territory is smaller , there's a smaller base or smaller rate base to to derive their , their costs from , and therefore their costs are a little bit higher. There's also more industrial customers that use a lot of energy , use a lot of electricity in PG and E and Southern California Edison's territory than there are in southern in San Diego gas and electric territory. That's another reason for that. And in addition to that , a lot of SDG and uh , service territory power lines are underground , much higher percentage underground , which is more expensive than it is in other parts of the country , for example , about 60% of SDG needs power lines or underground and about 40% across the nation. So you add up all those things together. And as Eugenie says , those are some of the reasons why their rates are so high , especially compared to the other California utilities , which are also high , by the way.

S1: And we also heard in that clip that San Diego Community Power , they were mentioned there , and they're one of two community choice energy programs. How do they factor into this ? Because it sounds like SDG is saying like it's not just us. Yeah.

S2: Yeah. What they're saying is it's I think what Scott Kreider was pointing out was that the rates are broken up between the electricity rates and also the transmission and distribution costs , the way that a community choice energy program like San Diego Community Power or the Clean Energy Alliance , the way they are set up , is they are able to set their rates for their customers. But everything else in the power system , in a utility power system , such as transmission and distribution , costs poles and wires , repairing downed poles and wires , all those other costs besides the power purchases that the rates that go into that San Diego community power pays for , all those other costs are paid by the incumbent utility. In this case , it would be San Diego Gas and Electric. So technically , within the city of San Diego , when you're talking about the overall rates , the rates are charged by San Diego Community Power for most of their customers in the city of San Diego. The rest of those charges are attributed to San Diego Gas Electric. So it's a bit of a fine distinction. But he technically is correct.

S1: And we know that you've reported that San Diego Gas and Electric made like $900 million in 2022 , and that's just profit we're talking about. But at that city council meeting earlier this week , you know , von Wolpert also brought up this idea that SDG e for years has been making more money than their authorized return. That sounds very technical , Rob.

S2: And that means for local distribution charges , that there is a specific rate that the utilities can earn up to , for example , for SDG. And it's right around that authorized rate of return is a little bit under 8% for various projects , like we were talking about wildfire mitigation and all these other infrastructure projects that they make. Now , there is also within that there is a an incentive that the Utilities Commission and other utilities commissions across the country make , which is okay. Your authorized rate is , let's say , 8%. That means that if you go through all the you jump through all the hoops , you're able to build the infrastructure at the , at the amount of money that is expected to make that infrastructure investment. You can make 8%. Now , there's an incentive there that if the utility is able to efficiently construct and implement those programs at a slightly better rate , then they can pocket that difference. So in other words , if , let's say a project cost $500 million or was budgeted cost $500 million , and SDG e is able to complete that project at $480 million , the CPUc allows them to make that $20 million difference or able to pocket that difference. That's what they're talking about.

S1: And as we close out this segment , Rob , there was an effort this week to replace SDG Genie with a public utility. That effort was launched , I should say. How're San Diego ? They're trying to collect 80,000 signatures to basically get a measure on the 2024 ballot. And proponents reportedly say that the current power system is broken and putting the power , for lack of a better word , and the hands of the public would cut electric costs by 20%.

S2: It could go on to the ballot. There are some challenges , though. There's , first of all , the cost. It's estimated that the people from Power San Diego have estimated that it would cost about $3.5 billion to take over. In essence , take over all all of the infrastructure within the city of San Diego. And that should be pointed out that this proposal to try to get onto the ballot applies only to the city of San Diego , not the rest , not all of SDG and service territories , just for the city of San Diego. So the people who would sign this petition who are eligible to sign this petition , they have to be registered in registered voters in the city of San Diego. It could theoretically happen. Um , the people at Power San Diego say since we would not be a for profit corporation , then they estimate they could maybe save 20%. But there are some challenges , not just the cost , but also the labor union that represents the electrical workers at StG and they've come out against it. They're concerned that a carve out and a brand new community energy program would threaten their jobs. And also , there's been some other cities across the country that have tried to quote municipal ize the electrical service for their respective for profit utilities , and they haven't been able to get very far. So there are some challenges there , but theoretically it could happen.

S1: So if people are out at grocery stores or something , there might be signature gatherers asking about this specific initiative. I've been speaking with the Union Tribune's energy reporter , Rob Nicolai. And Rob , thanks for being here.

S2: Thank you. Matt.

S1: Next on roundtable how one Southern California father is leading an effort to bring tougher penalties for drug dealers involved in overdose deaths. The push comes after failing to get legislation passed in Sacramento.

S5: The main pushback was hesitation that this is a slippery slope that would worsen mass incarceration without actually leading to a solution.

S1: Roundtable is back in less than two minutes. Welcome to Kpbs roundtable. I'm Matt Hoffman. Credit unions. They've long been seen as an alternative to big banks. Unlike banks , they have local ties to the communities that they serve their nonprofit businesses. But that image might be changing. Credit unions chartered in California made a quarter of $1 billion last year , and that's just through overdraft fees. A recent Kpbs investigation found that some local credit unions rely heavily on those overdraft fees from customers. Here's what credit union member Tony Brumfield had to say.

S6: If you think of them as being a local , a local service to the community. You know , and they're not supposed to be in this for making the big buck. They're supposed to just be making ends meet like the rest of us.

S1: Here to tell us more. We're joined by Kpbs investigative reporter Scott. Rod and Scott , great to have you here back. Thanks for having me on. So we know that you've been digging into this , but before we get into some of these overdraft fees , let's talk about what a credit union is and isn't , because I think some people have this image in their mind of maybe what it is like , as we just heard from the guy before versus what they are compared to banks.

S7: You know , they have a lot of the same products. They , you know , you can do checking and savings with them. You can get loans from them. But there are some key differences. So a big one is that credit unions are not for profit. That means that any profit that they bring in , it's supposed to go back to the members in some way. So it's supposed to go towards better loan options , go towards better returns on savings , stuff like that. They also are member owned technically. So by that members have some sort of common trait. So they may be employed by the same type of employer like they may be in the military , they may be teachers , or they may be in the same geographic region. Those distinctions have kind of loosened in recent years. A lot of times , if you're a family member of someone who qualifies , you can also join. So the credit union member ranks have kind of grown in recent years. But those are some of the key differences between banks and credit unions.

S1: And they seem to be like regional to like I'm thinking like ones in Sacramento are different than ones here in San Diego. But it also sounds like that there's different rules that govern banks and credit unions , even though like if you walk into one , they look virtually the same.

S7: So they have to pay less in taxes. They have different regulatory requirements. So if you ask experts , they'll say the regulations and requirements for credit unions and disclosures that they have to make to the public are a bit looser than big banks. And especially in the last ten plus years after the Great Recession , you know , banks , especially big banks , have seen much tighter regulations in terms of what they have to report to the government and what they have to disclose publicly.

S1: But some of that disclosing publicly is changing , right ? We have like a new law here in California.

S7: So big banks for a number of years have had to disclose how much money they bring in in overdraft fees. And quickly , when we say overdraft fees , that essentially means when you go to a store , you go to make a purchase with a debit card , and either you are able to make the purchase , but you have then a negative balance , or you may make a purchase or attempt to , and your card gets declined because you don't have enough money in your account. For the sake of simplicity , I'm going to refer both of those as overdrafts here. And essentially banks and credit unions issue fees when that happens. And for years , again , big banks have had to disclose how much they brought in. They brought in , especially before the pandemic , you know , upwards of $10 billion a year in overdraft revenue. But credit unions have escaped this scrutiny. They haven't had to disclose how much they're bringing in , even though they also have these fees. And , you know , it may be a $20 , $30 fee , typically , sometimes even a little more. But those fees can definitely add up. But now here in California , after this law passed last year , credit unions have to disclose how much revenue they bring in in overdraft fees. And it surprised a lot of people just how much money it was a quarter billion dollars last year alone , state chartered credit unions brought in. And so again , some credit unions are chartered at the federal government. Think like Navy fed mission fed. But the ones chartered here in California brought in over $250 million last year in overdraft fees.

S1: Just in overdraft fees. That's kind of amazing. And we know that you looked at a number of local credit unions , too , who sort of like relied on this income.

S7: San Diego County Credit Union is one of them. They brought in $18 million in overdraft fees last year , and it's not too surprising on the one hand , because they are one of the larger credit unions in the state. But that was the second most among all state chartered credit unions in terms of overdraft revenue. The customers , the members that I spoke to at San Diego County Credit Union , they were surprised by that figure. They were surprised just how much the credit union was bringing in , because , again , they didn't think of their credit union as a big bank. In fact , the motto , the tagline for San Diego County Credit Union for a number of years has been it's not big banking. It's better. Right ? So they've drawn this distinction between them and the big banks. So a lot of members were surprised to hear that there were also some smaller credit unions that maybe brought in less overdraft revenues , such as Front Wave Credit Union , based in Oceanside. They brought in $8 million last year , but it made up a significant portion of their revenue , something that it was clear that they really relied on this as a key revenue stream. In fact , it made up a 140% of their net income , which essentially means without overdraft fees , they easily could have lost money last year.

S1: And is that a problem for credit unions ? If they were lying so much on this money to to sort of , you know , make it all work.

S7: The banking and financial watchdogs I talked to for this story , they said if credit unions or banks rely too heavily on any source of revenue , that is a concern. But this revenue stream in particular caused them concern because , again , it's dependent on people not having enough money in their checking account and it's a fee. So if that's where a sizable portion of revenues coming from , these experts I talked to , they questioned whether or not this is something that the credit unions should really be turning to , to generate revenue like that.

S1: And when we talk about overdraft fees is a couple bucks. There's like $25. Do you have any idea of the scope or the size of them.

S7: It ranges so it can be ten bucks , 20 bucks , you know , up to over $30. So it definitely ranges depending on the credit union or the bank.

S1: We're talking about hundreds of thousands of these for San Diego County Credit Union , like hundreds of thousands of these like overdraft fees that they've doled out. Exactly.

S7: Exactly. So it may seem like a small dollar amount for each individual one , but they really do add up. And again , it's each time someone goes to make a purchase and they overdraft their account. So I think San Diego County Credit Union , you may be charged up to maybe four times a day. So again , you know , that may be over $100 in fees if you don't realize , oh wait , I don't have enough money in my checking account. I didn't transfer over enough money for my savings. So that money really does add up.

S1: And you also write that big banks that they've made some reforms when it comes to overdraft fees. But credit unions , they've avoided that same level of scrutiny. I mean , what exactly are we talking about there ? Like banks eliminating these overdraft fees and the credit unions not.

S7: There have been some big banks that have eliminated overdraft fees. There have been others who have soften their fees , you know , sometimes creating kind of a repayment grace period. Some have reduced the amount that they charge in fees. And a lot of that came from , you know , these disclosures that the big banks had to make and the public and politicians seeing just how much money was they were bringing in and the scrutiny caused a bit of a fallout for some of these big banks. It was really bad press for them , and they got a lot of pressure from the public and from Capitol Hill. But again , credit unions until this year in California haven't had to disclose this information. So some of the folks I talked to wondered if there might be similar changes that may happen in the credit union space.


S7: We found that about a decade ago , the CEO of San Diego County Credit Union was making just over a million and a half dollars in total compensation. And fast forward ten years , she was making close to $12 million. So a pretty substantial increase. Again , when I talked to members and shared that information , they were surprised to see just how much money the executive , the chief executive was making at San Diego County Credit Union. And they wondered again , excess revenue , profit , so to speak , at at credit unions , it's supposed to be returned to the members through different forms of benefits. Um , so they wondered , you know , is this where the excess revenue , extra revenue is going at the end of the year ? Should that be something that's returned more to members or the community at large ? There were some others as well where we saw the their compensation had increased , you know , double , maybe triple in recent years. But San Diego County credit unions was the one that stood out the most.

S1: And we know during this process you reached out to a number of these different credit unions to try to get some comment on what you found , and you only got an interview with one of them , Front Wave , and their CEO , Bill Bernie.

S7: He was the only one who agreed. To an interview and he he acknowledged , yes , this is an important source of revenue for us. This you know , we do bring in $8 million a year. But he said this is actually a service for our members. You know , some of our members may be lower income and they may not have enough money at the end of the month. And so some of them use it as a kind of bridge to pay for essentials like groceries and gas before their next paycheck. And this overdraft program , you know , gets them across the line , so to speak , to make sure that they can get what they need. Um , and he emphasized , you know , we don't call it a fee. We call it a service. So that was something that he really hammered home. I will say , though , that the consumer advocates and financial watchdogs I spoke to weren't buying this argument. They said , you know , these fees can be exploitative for people who are lower income , who live paycheck to paycheck. That's who faces these fees most. It's not going to be someone making , you know , 100 , $200,000 a year. It's going to be the people who are just barely scraping by. And that's , you know , 20 , $30 for a family that is just making ends meet. That can be a significant hit for them , especially if those fees add up. Oh , totally.


S7: Some have shared their personal experience with overdrafts. And , you know , some of them have said they felt like the overdraft policies were not totally clear. They felt like they were hit with multiple overdrafts sometimes , and it just felt like it was something that they were being squeezed by their credit unions for a little extra money , in that it wasn't really in line with , again , that community friendly neighbor ethos that a lot of credit unions have. So that's by and large , the response we got was surprise at this. But then also folks saying , yeah , hey , me too. I've gotten these fees and they're no fun.

S1: And one more before we go , a little bit of a reporter's notebook question here. How did you find out about this story ? What was the process ? If you like to look at this data and actually get this done.

S7: So this data was required under a state law that was passed last year. The key with stuff like this is there are so many bills proposed at the state level in California , the ones that are signed. It's also a very large number. A lot of times what happens is people say , oh great , we pass this law requires this disclosure , these data disclosure requirements , but then it's kind of forgotten about. And this was sort of one of those where this was passed. People cheered it. And then the data was disclosed this year and not really much came of it. And I realized , oh , wait , there's this trove of information that's sitting there that's super interesting , really fascinating. And that happens a lot with state laws that this stuff's kind of sitting out there , but people aren't always following up on it or remembering , oh , wait , last year they passed this thing and there's this really interesting information out there. Now , digging into the financial records that was a little more complicated. You got to know where to look. It's not rocket science , but it's not necessarily something that credit unions or other nonprofits are , you know , sharing openly and yelling it from the mountaintops that you can look dig into their financials. So that took a little more legwork.

S1: Very cool. It was a great story. Scott Rod is an investigative reporter with Kpbs news. And Scott , thanks so much for being here.

S7: Thanks so much for having me on.

S1: Next on roundtable how one Southern California father is leading an effort to bring tougher penalties for drug dealers involved in overdose deaths. The push comes after failing to get legislation passed in Sacramento.

S5: The main pushback was hesitation that this is a slippery slope that would worsen mass incarceration without actually leading to a solution.

S1: Roundtable is back in less than two minutes. Welcome back to Kpbs roundtable. I'm Matt Hoffman. Overdoses are the leading cause of death for Americans 18 to 45 years old. Increasing numbers of these fatal overdoses are from opioids. And after state lawmakers failed to take up harsher penalties for dealers , one Southern California father is leading an effort to bring an initiative to California voters. It would make it easier to prosecute. Overdose.

S2: Overdose.

S1: Deaths as homicides. Kpbs Racial justice and Social Equity reporter Katie Hyson is here with more. Katie , welcome to roundtable.

S5: Thanks for having me.

S1: Great to have you here. So the main driver of this push for a statewide initiative meant to toughen rules for overdose deaths is Matthew Capelouto. He's from Temecula , south southern California , and he has a really personal connection to this issue.

S5: He lost his 20 year old daughter , Alexandra , to an overdose death. He says she bought what she thought was Percocet from a dealer on Snapchat , but it contained fentanyl. She took half a pill before she went to bed and never woke up. That dealer is serving nine years in prison , but capelouto says it's not enough and many don't even get that. So he proposed a law in her name Alexander's law. If someone is convicted of providing drugs that lead to someone's death , the court would be required to give them a warning that if they continue and someone else dies from the drugs they provide , they could be charged with murder. Hmm.

S8: Hmm.

S1: And in making his case , capelouto says in your story quote , I would rather fill our jails than our morgues. So we heard about how Alexandra's law might change prosecuting.

S5: But it's fairly rare because for homicide , you have to prove that they have full knowledge and intent. And a lot of times people don't know what's in their drugs , even the people who are providing them. Capelouto says this warning would take care of that knowledge and intent component , because it's on record in a court of law that they were told. The latest package of this proposal also adds this mandatory minimum 10 to 12 year sentence for anyone who provides drugs that result in someone's death. So it's raising the baseline penalties and also making it easier to prosecute as homicide.

S1: And we know that Capelouto first started this effort trying to work with state legislators. But that law , that proposed law , I should say , never made it out of this of the state Senate Safety Committee.

S5: And some legislators seemed concerned that it would really start blurring the lines around that knowledge and intent component of homicide. It's worth also noting they estimated it would increase state justice system costs by tens of millions of dollars every year , mainly because more people would be incarcerated.

S1: And for this story , Kati , you spoke with Jeanette Zina Pantene , and she's the director of California's Drug Policy Alliance. They raise some concerns with these proposed changes.

S5: She's approaching it both as a lawyer herself and as someone working to end the war on drugs.

S1: You also spoke with one harm reduction consultant , and they made the case that tougher penalties for drug dealers do not actually lead to a reduction in overdoses. And you also cite data that corroborates that.

S5: Overdoses actually increase. So when police do drug busts and arrest neighborhood dealers , there's this bull's eye pattern of higher increases in overdoses. The closer you get to where the dealer was located. And that's because new dealers come in to fill the demand. But people are less familiar with what they're selling. So often their bodies have built up tolerance to what their regular dealer was selling , and they might buy a pill under the same name from a new dealer that actually contains a very different mixture or amount of drugs , and they overdose. I spoke with a national harm reduction consultant , Jess Cochran. She's visiting San Diego from Indiana right now , and in Indiana , they implemented much harsher penalties for these overdose deaths five years ago. And she talked about how that's played out and who she's seen getting prosecuted. Here's Jess.

S9: Oftentimes , they're the folks that are closest to the recently deceased because there are people who are at the same party or this is your family or these are your friends , right ? Or this is somebody that you went to school with. And so you're in this situation where , like the information that anybody could have had to make that a safer situation is not available. And in some cases it's actively denied. And you're grieving a loss which was totally preventable. Right. And then you're charged with homicide.

S1: Also , for this story , you spent some time with San Diego's Harm Reduction Coalition. They're a nonprofit that gets some funding from the county , and they basically hand out supplies from pipes to Narcan or even hand sanitizer. Can you tell us a little bit about the work that they do , this concept of harm reduction ? Right.

S5: So they're focused not on ending drug use but on making it safer. So they drive out to folks on the street and distribute supplies , including things like fentanyl test strips that are proven to save lives. And they also machine test people's drugs anonymously so they can know what they're actually taking. They also advocate for safe consumption sites. So in the same way that you can go to a bar and use alcohol in a place where the supply is regulated and someone can keep an eye on you and take your keys if you're too drunk to drive. They want similar spaces for hard drugs. The founder of the Harm Reduction Coalition told me that overdose deaths have held steady locally over the past year , but that's only because of how many overdoses their team has been reversing every week.

S1: Okay , so we know that this father , that he's been trying to work with the state legislature to get something done now is doing this initiative effort , what's next there or like what needs to happen for it to make the ballot ? Maybe next year. I don't know if they're shooting for later.

S5: He just has to get enough signatures. He is aiming for the ballot next year , so Californians might see this initiative on a clipboard when they walk out of Vons , for example. And he's pretty confident that they'll get those signatures. He says public support is strong , and he hinted that he had some funding coming in. So Californians may very well see this on their 2024 ballot.

S1: And there was one quote in there that sort of stood out to me , and it was that the leader of San Diego's Harm Reduction coalition , she says that her and capelouto , they have the same goal , but that she doesn't think that more people putting more people in prison is a solution there.

S5: In the US , as you mentioned , 111,000 a year.

S1: And we know that there could be an effort here on the federal level that involves actually a local congressman.

S5: So we could be seeing this debated on the national level very soon.

S8: Well , I've been.

S1: Speaking with Katie Hyson , Kpbs , racial justice and social equity reporter. And , Katie , great to have you here on roundtable.

S5: Thanks for having me.

S1: It's roundup time. Kpbs roundtable producer Andrew Bracken is here with a list of some other stories that he's been following in and around San Diego. Andrew. Welcome back. Hey there. Matt. Great to have you here. Okay. What's on your list this week ? To start with Kpbs , Khouri Suzuki published another story.

S10: It's been an ongoing story involving Chula Vista Council member Andrea Cardenas. She's facing criminal charges in regards to a federal pandemic emergency loan that she and her brother took out of $175,000. The latest development here is that the council member is still in office , but will not stay in her sandag seat. You know.

S1: Sandag the San Diego Association of Governments , that's like the transportation Planning agency. And I think when I saw Corey's story , it was the first time that she had been back at a meeting since getting those charges in terms of , you know , maybe misspending some of that pandemic money. And she said that she understood the decision to to take her off Sandag.

S10: And yeah , in that same meeting , she was not assigned to any other committee seats. And I think , yeah , that's the first sort of public reaction to these charges. She's still in office. She has not resigned. But we'll see where the story goes next. Right.

S1: Right. Obviously these are allegations at this point and a legal process has to play out. But it does seem like a lot of people in Chula Vista are upset with these allegations. And but first time back at a council meeting. Yeah.

S10: I mean , I think it's just , you know , it's really the first public response from her colleagues to these charges. She's still in office. These are just allegations at this point. But these are serious charges. And we'll see where it goes from here. Next , there's a story from I news sources , Andrea Figueroa Briseno , about the shortage of dual language teachers in California. But specifically , a lot of the reporting is about San Diego Unified. California has a pretty ambitious goal to see half of its students be bilingual by the year 2030. And her reporting here just kind of opens up some of the questions of of how that's going to be possible without more investment , without raising the pay to add more incentives to get more of these dual language teachers that are so needed in San Diego Unified.

S1: Well , I think I was reading her story and there is like an incentive right now , but it's just like a stipend. It's like a few thousand dollars. I think the teacher she talked to was hoping that there could be more investments like in that later to attract more , you know , dual language teachers to this. But and I think I can't remember what it was exactly. But the number of kids who are currently graduated that are like certified as bilingual , it was pretty low. It was nowhere near 50%.

S10: No one in San Diego unified its last year. It was 6%. So that's a long way to go to get to , you know , 50% , which is this initiative. It's called the Global California 2030 initiative. It's an interesting story. I always think bilingual education is so meaningful , especially here along the border in San Diego. And this opened my eyes to this issue of not having enough , you know , teachers to teach these these dual language programs in the county and and again , across California. In a related story. This is at a national level , but it definitely has San Diego ties. The New York Times did a report on the impacts of the shortage of air traffic controllers. You know , that's across the country. There's been something like a 9% drop in the number of air traffic controllers over the past ten years or so , I think from 2011. And it basically profiles a lot of air traffic controllers , both current and past , um , expressing just like being totally burnt out , being overworked , overtired , but also like making mistakes and really like potentially very dangerous mistakes. It documented one near-miss in August at San Diego's Lindbergh Field , involving a Cessna that that came within 50ft from hitting a southwest jet. And that was just one of at least seven in San Diego over the past couple of years in that reporting from The New York Times. So it's just a very important job is managing all these planes. We're seeing an increase in air travel , but a decrease in the number of air traffic controllers and obviously their quality of life. Some of the reporting talks about the negative health impacts , mental health problems , substance abuse. Interesting reporting there.

S1: We'll talk about a stressful job like , you know , you kind of alluded to it. But one small mistake could literally cost , you know , hundreds of people their lives. All right.

S10: Uh , the Kano's in Hillcrest. It's like in the heart of Hillcrest. It's. This building used to be an Italian restaurant. Years and years and years ago and was long dormant. Well , it's finally been redeveloped. And there's a new apartment building opening there , and we know Hillcrest. It's an area like all of San Diego that is in dire need of housing. This is a luxury apartment building called the Dennison and NBC seven San Diego has a preview of it , and it says they're going to have more than 60 units. Studios are going to go for like over $2,700 , it said. And I think like up to two bedrooms in the $4,500 range. So not no , not affordable housing. There is more housing. But , you know , is it for , you know , everyone that needs it in in Hillcrest. Probably not. Yeah.

S1: And that's the old , uh , Purna Kano's print of Kono's. I don't know if I'm saying that. Right. The restaurant in Hillcrest. I was reading a channel eight story that said it got sold for like $9 million back in 2019. Uh , to develop this , I guess , luxury apartment building. Like , as you said , we know we've heard people say we need more housing. Um , but 2700 bucks for a studio per month. It's a lot.

S10: The Port of San Diego commissioners voted earlier this week unanimously for this deal. It's now it's it's non-binding at this point , but it's an agreement for , you know , decades to build this Topgolf. It's like a multi entertainment suite. I don't know if anybody's heard of those.

S1: It's like a driving range right. Yeah.

S10: Yeah. And with very high tech and right. And shoot it into things holes.

S1: And because Callaway up in Carlsbad they're now the majority owner of Topgolf. But since that announcements come out a lot of people have covered it. A lot of buzz on social media. Right. Have you been seeing some of that too ? Just people reacting. Yeah.

S10: I mean , in Van Grove's piece she talks about some of the objections to it. I think always when there's even bayfront waterfront property developed so large. I think her piece , you know , refers to somebody refers to it as a monstrosity. Um , but they're concerns that , you know , it'll block bay views again. It's not finalized at this point. I think there's some environmental impact reports that need to be done. Some other reviews and public comment needs to come in. But it was like I said , it was a unanimous vote. I think it was bring some $4 million in that agreement if it , you know , comes to pass.

S1: We know top golfs are very large. Andrew Bracken , thanks for being here on the roundup.

S10: Thank you Matt.

S1: That's going to round out round table for this week. We appreciate you being here with us. If you have any questions or comments about things you heard today , leave us a voicemail. (619) 452-0228. Also , if you missed any part of our show , go ahead and check out the Kpbs roundtable podcast wherever you get your podcasts. Roundtable is produced by Andrew Bracken. Rebecca Chacon and Ben Red Lusk are our technical producers , and I'm your host , Matt Hoffman. Thanks so much for being here with us. Have a great weekend , San Diego.

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Power lines at an SDG&E facility in North Park are seen here on Sept. 26, 2017.
Andrew Bowen
SDG&E power lines in rural San Diego appear in this undated photo.

On this week's Roundtable, we take a look at the outlook for San Diego energy prices in 2024. Plus, a KPBS investigation looks into how credit unions chartered in California have been relying on overdraft fees for revenue, putting their community-first image at risk in the process. Then, California voters could soon see a ballot initiative that would make it easier to prosecute overdose deaths as homicides.


Rob Nikolewski, energy reporter, The San Diego-Union Tribune

Scott Rodd, investigative reporter, KPBS News

Katie Hyson, racial justice and social equity reporter, KPBS News