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San Diego's housing, homelessness connection

 November 3, 2023 at 10:43 AM PDT

S1: This week on Kpbs roundtable. San Diego's camping ban has been in effect for about four months. Is that impacting efforts to get homeless residents into housing ? Plus , the city is making an effort to change the rules to boost the number of affordable housing units.

S2: So that is a big part of the crisis right now , is that there has been for many decades , a shortage of housing in California.

S1: Something that San Diegans are very familiar with. A recent report says our region is the most expensive place to live in the US.

S3: So it's just an incredibly tight market here. Landlords can pick and choose the people who they think are going to be the most stable tenants.

S1: Don't go anywhere. Roundtable is coming up next. Welcome to Kpbs roundtable. I'm Matt Hoffman. The city of San Diego's public camping ban has been in effect for a little over four months now. Now , the county is proposing a similar ordinance to also clean up encampments. Meanwhile , the city is making an effort to change rules regarding affordable housing for developers. The proposed change comes as the region is still grappling with more people becoming homeless than actually getting out of it. Joining us to discuss the impact of the encampment ban , and how temporary and permanent housing play a role in it are Wil Hansberry. He's a senior investigative journalist with the Voice of San Diego. Jeannie Kwong is also here with us today. She covers economic issues in California for Cal Matters. And Blake Nelson is back with us. He covers homelessness for the San Diego Union Tribune. I want to welcome you all here to roundtable. Blake , we'll start out with you this week. You published an article where you told the story of a homeless outreach worker. His name is Bryce Michalak , and you followed him as he tried to connect people on the streets with housing. It's something that outreach workers across the city and really the county are doing , and that story really showed the ups and downs that can come with that type of work.

S4: One is I checked in with outreach workers from a lot of different organizations to see how San Diego's camping ban is affected their work and got a lot of different answers. So Father Jones said they've their work has definitely been affected. It's been harder finding people since the ban took effect. Someone from Alpha Project told me that there was some initial upheaval that made it hard to find folks , and while now it's actually a little bit easier because people are jammed into smaller areas , especially downtown , that's increased tensions between homeless neighbors. But a lot of different organizations also told me that people living on the street do seem more willing to accept help with the added police enforcement. Now , shelters are often at capacity throughout the region , so just because someone's willing to accept help doesn't mean there's necessarily bad for them , but to. It's one thing to just sort of summarize that for readers. But I wanted to really couch that in a narrative of , okay , what is what is the work of trying to find somebody look like for one specific person ? And I wanted to see that because I'm relatively new to this beat. And it's it's incredibly difficult work because phones are often stolen. Um , you're having to move around a lot , especially if there's increased police presence. And so for an outreach worker trying to find someone who in this particular case is not too far from housing mean potentially we could have this couple under a roof within weeks. But it's like old school investigative work. I mean , you are just walking around cities oftentimes asking people who are living in their own encampments , have you seen so-and-so ? And it can be tedious. People can snap at you and , you know , people who are not homeless , just residents living in the area can snap at you feeling that , you know , the presence of outreach workers somehow invite homeless people to an area so it can bring a lot of animosity. Burnout is burnout can happen in that profession. There's just it's an incredibly difficult job that wanted to show that in in as much granular detail as possible.


S4: It's just incredibly hard. No matter , no matter where he is trying to find people , especially because in East County you have more people living in the riverbed , more rural , isolated areas , and if folks don't have phones or their phones are stolen , if they don't have any sort of vehicles , it can be very , very challenging to track down one specific person. His and the impossible task thing. He was specifically referring to. Just the volume that's growing , growing , growing mean his the number of people that outreach workers all over the region are trying to find is growing exponentially each month. I don't know about exponentially. It's growing each month. And so what's the parallel he drew , which is interesting , is one of his last jobs was he was a US marine , securing Afghanistan for several years as a machine gunner. And that similarly felt like an impossible task. And in both cases , he just feels like you put your head down and you do your best , but you don't actually know if the problem you've been given is solvable.

S1: This discussion about homelessness and housing affordability. It makes me think back to a survey that happened just recently. It was about 3000 unhoused residents , and that was from researchers over at the University of California , San Francisco. And one of their findings was that housing affordability was a large reason that people became homeless and a barrier to getting out of it. Genie.

S2: The survey by UC San Francisco was one of the most sweeping , comprehensive studies of California homelessness that we've seen recently , and they found that the primary reason people had become homeless was losing income and thus not being able to afford housing anymore. I think about half of the people that they surveyed had already been living in a kind of what they called non leaseholder arrangement , whether doubling up with somebody , living with his family and somebody else's household , that kind of situation. But then also a significant amount of people had been paying rent and just couldn't afford it anymore after losing income. So that is a big part of the crisis right now , is that there has been for many decades , a shortage of housing in California. The state numbers say that between 2000 and 2022 , the state gained 5.9 million new households and only added 2.5 million new housing units. So you can see that there is just a sheer shortage of units overall , but also that affects those lowest earners the most , those at the bottom of the income ladder.

S1: And will you want to jump in here ? Yeah.

S3: You know you talk about the causes of homelessness and Jeannie's right on with everything she's saying. There's some other recent research from the past few years. Homelessness is a housing problem. And I thought they did some really great work trying to get at the causes , because there's this huge debate in society about what causes homelessness. And a lot of what you hear is that drug addiction and mental illness are the causes. And if you don't fix those things , you're never going to fix homelessness. You know , people like Nancy Pelosi have said that , you know , so this is a view that goes across the political spectrum. They looked at areas like San Diego and West Virginia and Miami and all these different places. And , you know , they found West Virginia , for instance , had the highest rates of drug addiction , but that , like , it really didn't have a homeless problem. And what they found for the areas with the homeless problem was that they had really low vacancy rental rates in particular , you know , and in San Diego , we only have about 4% of rental units available for people to get. So it's just an incredibly tight market here. Landlords can pick and choose the people who they think are going to be the most stable tenants. And there's been a lot of talk about Houston and how it did great work fixing homelessness. You know , they're they're dealing with like a 14% rental vacancy rate. So I think those are just some really interesting pieces to consider as we try to , like , pull apart this very tangled problem.

S1: And sort of along those lines in terms of why building more affordable housing matters. Blake , our region is seeing more people becoming homeless than those actually getting out of it.

S4: And when you talk to San Diego leaders , local officials , I mean , they will point to the hundreds of people on the street or in some form of shelter who are being connected to housing each month. And so a lot of really good work is being done by all sorts of different organizations. But it is that number , the number of people who are finally getting a roof just month after month after month is not comparing to the number of people who are losing for the first time their home. Think March of 22 was the last time those numbers were reversed.

S1: And so to help address this housing crisis , as you called it in a piece this week , Will , you wrote that city officials are looking to ease some regulations when it comes to building more affordable housing or helping to spur the creation , like to incentivize more of it.

S3: It's a small part of a package being pushed by the mayor right now of housing changes. But this change starts with a 2020 law called Complete Communities. And that law allows developers in San Diego to build things as big and as dense as they want to , as long as they build affordable housing units into the project. And , you know , developers have been using that law since it was passed. But the change being pushed now is that developers would be able to build the affordable. All units , the mandated affordable units off site , and they would potentially even be able to build them in poorer communities. And so that especially is a lightning rod. And one council member talked about it and called it a return to redlining. You know , that that if we're going to all of a sudden , you know , we the ideas have mixed use development , mixed income development. Now we're talking about putting affordable housing units potentially in poor neighborhoods , as you say , to spur development. That's the idea from the people behind it. This will allow us to build more , they say.

S1: And when you say build more , I mean , there's all sorts of different like housing density , right ? Or like in terms of like how many , how much money people are making in those areas , like , I think your story said , like they could build like an apartment tower in La Jolla , but then build the affordable housing portion of that somewhere else , like in a less wealthier neighborhood. Exactly.

S3: Exactly. It's all the so the state creates a has an opportunity map , and it divides neighborhoods into opportunity zones based on income and all sorts of other things. And there's five levels highest , high , moderate , low. And then high segregation would be the the lowest income area. So yeah , you could build your original project in La Jolla , which is highest. And then you could build your off site units in Linda Vista or Golden Hill , which would be considered moderate zones. And this is quickly coming to the council. You know , it'll be really interesting to see if people push amendments to it , because I think there is some opposition to this on the city council.

S1: And this original law was called like complete Communities.

S3: And the idea was that you could build much , you know , each lot in San Diego is zoned for a certain amount of units. And what complete communities did was it waived those zoning limits. If you built a project with affordable units in it. We're reporting on a story right now about a place where there's like four units and the developer is going to build a ten story thing with 108 units in , in replacing it. And it's because they're using complete communities. And so you get this denser thing , you get mandated affordable housing. The idea was that it's a win win , right ? We get badly needed housing units. We're not producing enough , just like Jeanie said. And you also get mandated affordable at the same time. So hopefully people don't get pushed out in neighborhoods , you know , because one thing complete communities does , if you're on a lot bought by developer and you're getting pushed out , you'll get first. If you're low income , you'll get first , right ? Of refusal to the new unit that's built on site. If this change goes through , you still would get first rate of refusal. But , you know , maybe maybe you lived in the city center and maybe you're getting pushed out to the suburbs or vice versa.

S1: And you sort of alluded to it , but not everyone is agreeing with these proposed changes. You talked to the one council member who said that it was comparing it to redlining and calling it basically incomplete communities , and that it would hurt economic diversity. Why do some see this proposal as bad for San Diego ? And I guess the mayor is obviously in favor of this.

S3: I think they see it as violating , you know , a principle of fairness. I think that's the two opposing principles you have here is fair housing principles , like , are we going to allow people to be divided along racial and income lines ? You know , it used to be along racial lines. That was called redlining. Now it's potentially going to be along income lines. Some people think that's very unfair. And the tension on the other side is that , you know , we need housing really bad. And how many breaks should we give to developers to help them build more housing ? And I think people aren't convinced that the law as it exists now isn't working. You know , complete communities. We haven't seen an analysis done of it , other than actually something Kpbs did in 2022. But in 2022 , Andrew Bowen looked at this , and he found that there had been 800 permitted units under complete communities and 200 units would be affordable. So I hope that city staff will bring that forward as we go forward , or I'll be able to report it before this comes to council. You know , it's not clear that Complete Communities isn't working now , but it is clear that developers are going to the council and saying , we think you should change this. We think you should make it easier for it. And , you know , like you said , LaCava had some strong comments against it. Actually , the funny thing is , I didn't interview him. He had said that in a council meeting earlier and no one had noticed it. I went back and pulled it from the video. Since then , he voted for the changes in committee. So despite his comments that he would vehemently vote against any off site change , it's unclear where he's going to land. When this comes before the council. Think a week from Tuesday.

S1: And when you say , LaCava that you're talking about council member Joe LaCava and Jean not sure if you want to jump in here , but we know that obviously creating more affordable housing is something that you know needs to happen statewide.

S2: It's kind of well documented via economic research that the kind of income level of where a child grows up has a pretty substantial effect on their , you know , income levels later on in life , on their opportunities. And the federal government kind of started really pulling away from things that keep all low income people in one area , like these massive public housing projects of past decades , and moved on to things like section eight vouchers , where someone gets , you know , the opportunity to compete in the same private market , private rental market as higher income earners. And so so I think this proposal that I'm learning about now from Will is , is , is really interesting and seems to be kind of moving away from some of those past policies that at the national level , you know , we had been pushing for mixed income communities.

S1: Just ahead on roundtable , we're looking at some of the efforts to bring more temporary housing solutions to California.

S2: There's a lot of proponents of these types of sites kind of feeling like , okay , well , a lot of people don't want to stay in these traditional shelters , and we don't really have enough of them either. And so we need a place for people to be able to stay temporarily while they wait. But sometimes years that it takes to get into an apartment to get into an affordable housing unit.

S1: Our discussion continues next , just after the break. You're listening to Kpbs roundtable. I'm your host , Matt Hoffman , and today we're talking about housing and the role that it plays in alleviating homelessness here in San Diego. Our guests today are Wil Hunt's Barry from Voice of San Diego , Jeannie Kwong from Cal Matters , and the Union Tribune's Blake Nelson. So when it comes to addressing or preventing homelessness and creating more affordable housing , Jeannie , you've been writing about this shift in some cities to build more temporary housing. Like we're talking tiny homes. And when you say temporary , like , what exactly do you mean there ? Versus maybe something more permanent ? Yeah.

S2: There's been an increase since the pandemic in interim housing across California. During the pandemic , the state really put some money towards housing the homeless population in hotel rooms. And then since then , there's been a big rise in the use of these tiny home sites. Or some might call them modular homes prefab. But these are all , you know , these kind of cabin sites that we we might have seen pop up around the state , all kind of like small houses , maybe tiny mobile homes , smaller than even 400 , 200ft². And these are all still part of the shelter system. Like , none of them are really considered , quote unquote , real housing , but they've been really popular amongst city officials and politicians as a kind of step , another step on the ladder from from someone being in an encampment all the way to getting their own housing. There's a lot of proponents of these types of sites kind of feeling like , okay , well , a lot of people don't want to stay in these traditional shelters , and we don't really have enough of them either. And so we need a we need a place for people to , you know , be able to stay temporarily while they wait. But sometimes years that it takes to get into an apartment to get into an affordable housing unit. And so that type of this type of , you know , interim housing has become it's become very popular , especially as as people are kind of getting tired of seeing encampments on the streets and wanting those people to be moved somewhere else.

S1: And we've certainly seen more of these temporary projects going up , whether they be like shelters , as you alluded to here in San Diego , we've seen an increase in shelters , also have some tiny home projects , even here in our backyard. But Jenny , do we have any idea of things like tiny homes are working ? Yeah.

S2: I mean , there are some preliminary numbers out from parts of the Bay area. I focused a recent story on San Jose , where the mayor is kind of all in on tiny homes , and he kind of shares that in their city. They've seen nearly half of the people who come through their tiny homes go on towards move out towards permanent housing. That number is a lot lower. It's closer to 30% or even less for some of the region's kind of traditional shelters. We're talking those big congregate spaces , maybe a bunch of bunk beds in a room , that kind of thing. Um , and they're , you know , they're a good place for for people to really get back on their feet. It really depends on what what , you know , types of amenities each project has. They really vary. But as you know , Blake described in his story , it can be very difficult to help somebody who's literally on the street find housing. They get their stuff stolen , they lose their documents. You know , it's you might just lose track of the person. And so having social services attached to a tiny home site , it's much easier for , you know , social workers to come find them and provide that housing search help or other types of services that they might need while they're at one of those sites. And then , of course , the biggest thing is that those sites provide a level of privacy and dignity that a lot of the traditional shelter sites don't. And having like a door that locks and in some cases , even your private bathroom. I think that is huge for some people.

S1: And Blake here in San Diego , at least the city of San Diego , in terms of temporary options , it's more congregate right than in terms of some of these tiny houses with individual rooms.

S4: So the county of San Diego has made at least two attempts to set up tiny home villages , one in Lakeside and one in Santee , and both plans were scuttled after large groups of residents pushed back very strong against. In this case , it was Supervisor Joel Anderson. So the county is making a renewed push right now to try to find some more spots for additional housing , because or at least one of the reasons why is because the county is trying to pass its own camping ban right now , and it will because of court ruling. So it will be easier to enforce that through the sheriff's department if they have more shelter options to offer.

S1: And Jeannie , when we're talking about these temporary housing efforts , you say that they're growing faster than permanent housing in the state. You mentioned that earlier.

S2: It's also a lot faster to set these sites up mean these types of units. You could put them up in months , as opposed to the years that it takes to get like a real housing or a real apartment building committed and financed and everything. And then I think the other thing is just it was the it was the pandemic. I mean , there was a need for social distancing. And so I think a lot of funding was put towards , you know , again , housing people in hotel rooms , housing people in these tiny home sites just to. Um , give somewhere , a place to go where they didn't have to come into contact with other people as much. And so I think that kind of spurred some of that growth in the temporary housing space.

S1: Well go ahead. Yeah.

S3: Yeah. I think when it comes to this transitional housing question , we might call it right , of how to get people into permanent housing , how to give them a place to get off the streets quickly enough. You know , I know in San Diego something that's interesting is over the past ten years , maybe a little bit less. We've lost a lot of transitional housing , and it's because of changes in policy , the transitional housing. We had looked kind of like halfway houses as my understanding , and it had high barriers to entry is what a lot of people now think was the problem. You know , you used to could get into transitional housing and get off the street temporarily , but you had to be like sober or trying to get sober. And I think a lot of housing advocates ultimately saw that as poor policy. And we got rid of a ton of transitional housing units in San Diego for that reason. And then there's been a kind of realization , actually , like , we need those transitional housing units.

S1: About a quarter of those were deed restricted for affordable housing. So if this proposed change happens and developers can , you know , build these affordable , these mandated affordable units somewhere else , has the mayor's office said , like we think this is going to make hundreds more or thousands more.

S3: You know , the the the way I heard it explained to me was that if you're the kind of person who's gotten a project off the ground now under complete Communities , clearly you got it to pencil out with the affordable units on site , and that means you're going to make more money in the future if you can do it off site. And the question is , does it change the margins enough so that new projects happen that weren't happening before ? But , you know , I do not know if some analysis has been done on volume. If so , you know , I asked the mayor's office for comment and they didn't share anything like that with me.

S1: Earlier , we were talking about the City of San Diego's encampment band that they passed earlier this year. And Blake , you write that that band created some real concerns for outreach workers. You mentioned it up at the top , and those are people who are out there trying to connect unhoused residents with some type of housing.

S4: As far as I mean , several outreach workers did say this has affected their ability to find people. Several also did say the extra pressure from law enforcement has at least some cases made people more willing to accept help. But again , we're running up against limited shelter space in a lot of different cases. So enforcement though , I mean , as of over the first couple of weeks , there was only one arrest dozens of citations or many citations , dozens of warnings. So the actual enforcement numbers have not been sky high specifically for San Diego's camping ban , but it has corresponded with people moving around a lot more.

S1: And we know that one requirement of San Diego's ban on public encampments is that shelter beds need to be available to enforce it , and that's except for in those quote unquote , sensitive areas. But , Jeannie , your reporting has raised some questions about what California cities mean when they say adequate shelter. What sort of at issue here ? What's like the rub ? Yeah.

S2: So that's a reference to a quote from a 2018 federal court case that happened in Idaho that is sort of the the big the big issue here when it comes to any of California cities trying to ban homeless camps on public ground. That court case said that it's cruel and unusual punishment to sort of ban sleeping out in public at large across the whole city when there's nowhere else for people to go. And so that kind of led to this precedent where every time a city passed some kind of ban on public camping , advocates would often sue them and say , this is not fair. These people don't have anywhere else to go. You are criminalizing them for not having anywhere to go , which is illegal under this court case. And so that's basically just led. To this big debate across every city about , well , what does it really mean for us to have adequate shelter in order to ban camps , in order to sweep camps ? And so there's just a lot of questions. I know in San Diego , you all have reported the city kind of considering like , well , what if we only had a top bunk and it's an elderly person that we're sweeping ? Or , you know what , if somebody wants to stay with their pets or stay with their partners and they don't want to go into a shelter as a result of that. And so there's all these , like , kind of implementation questions that every city in California is dancing around trying to figure out how do we comply with this court case while also saying , you can't just , you know , sleep anywhere out in public , which is , you know , it's just it's that obviously that's something that many thousand constituents are pushing for those bans. So California cities are sort of finding themselves caught in the middle there , saying that they do not know what the courts say they can or can't do.


S4: Mean. You have one San Diego Council member , Kent Lee , who had voted against San Diego's camping ban but did agree to signing on to this sort of brief filed along with the court case. And when both I and voice asked him why ? Because it sort of looked like he was changing positions , he was saying , no , I'm not changing positions , but we do need the justices to step in here and offer some clarity over what can be a pretty murky legal landscape.

S1: And Jeannie , go ahead.

S2: I actually had a question for the San Diego reporters of Blake and Will. I'm curious whether you all have seen any more updated numbers on , you know , when police go out and enforce this new ban , are people accepting offers of shelter ? Because that's something that officials often say is like , well , there's nothing we can do because people don't want to go into shelter. And I just wonder how that's actually playing out.

S4: The last group of data that I got from the San Diego Housing Commission did show a lot of people asking for help in the build up to San Diego's camping ban enforcement. But again , shelter beds often fill up here within a couple hours , late morning by noon. And so again , just because people are saying they're willing to accept help does not mean that there is anything available for them.

S1: And , well , go ahead. Yeah.

S3: Yeah. I mean , I think I think Blake had this in his , in his piece. Um , but even though there haven't been a lot of tickets from the camping ban , there has been a lot of displacement and think there has been a lot of police officers asking people to move on , and they feel empowered to do that because of the ban. And one really interesting takeaway from Blake's piece and had heard advocates say this before the ban took effect. It's like people are now having trouble finding these homeless people who might all of a sudden be in line to get housing , like , like , how do you get to them , you know , mean the biggest encampment in downtown San Diego , easily encompassed hundreds of people , is no longer there. And I think that's created a little bit of out of sight , out of mind. And maybe that's exactly what people intended. But , you know , there's a lot to be wrestled with from what happens from this displacement , I think , and.

S1: We know that the city has also said that they're still enforcing other laws on the books , like encroachment or vehicle habitation as well , too. But as we wrap up the show here , we just want to ask you guys a final question of what's still unanswered or what are you guys going to be looking for in the coming weeks and months ahead ? As we talk about homelessness , as we talk about trying to build more affordable housing ? And , Jeannie , we can start with you. Yeah.

S2: Yeah. I think what I'll be watching for in the next few weeks is whether or not the Supreme Court takes up a case that could overturn that Idaho case that I talked about earlier. As Blake mentioned , it is something that numerous officials of all political stripes across California , including the governor , has asked the Supreme Court to weigh in on this issue and kind of clarify , you know , are we allowed to ban camping ? What do we have to do in advance of that in terms of offering shelter and what kind of shelter if we do want to ban it ? And I think that if the Supreme Court takes the case , there's a high chance that they might just overturn that prior Idaho case altogether , which would free a lot of California cities hands to become harsher in their anti-camping laws. I don't know if that's going to happen , but I'm certainly very curious to see whether or not the court wants to take up.

S1: This case would certainly change a lot. And Blake , go ahead.

S4: Want to see if , as more cities and governments are considering their own camping bans , if they similarly ramp up shelter capacity. At the same time , there's some former barracks being considered in San Diego called barracks. At some Point , Loma , residents are opposed to San Diego. Officials have floated other safe sleeping sites. The county is looking for more sites right now , so as as enforcement , or at least the potential for enforcement increases. I'm going to be really curious to see if shelter capacity also rises.

S1: And , well , you have the final word.

S3: You know , I'm going to be following these proposed changes I wrote about in a couple others that are set to come before the council a week from Tuesday. And I think it'll be interesting to see if Joe LaCava , the council member , sticks to his word that he would vote against any change for off site , or if maybe they land somewhere in the middle and amendments are offered where yes , you can build affordable on site , but you can build it in poor neighborhoods. You know , it's one of those things that's like a small piece of a huge housing legislation pack that also just seems massively important , and it'll be interesting to see where the city council members stand on it.

S1: And we will definitely be following that as well. I've been joined by the voice of San Diego's Wil Hansberry , Jeannie Kwong from Cal Matters and Blake Nelson from the San Diego Union Tribune , and all of you. Thanks so much for being here.

S3: Thanks for having me.

S4: Thanks so much. Glad to be here.

S2: Thank you for having me.

S1: When roundtable returns , it's time for our weekly roundup of San Diego stories with producer Andrew Bracken , and were answering a listener question from last week's show. Roundtable is back in less than two minutes. You're listening to Kpbs roundtable. I'm Matt Hoffman. It's time for the roundup with producer Andrew Bracken. Happy Friday. Andrew. Hey , Matt. All right , so first question. It was just Halloween last week. How was Halloween ? You said you were going to do an 80s wrestler costume.

S5: Yeah , Halloween was great. I will say one thing. There has been sort of a movement that I've heard in the last few years of moving Halloween from October 31st to the last Saturday in October. And as a parent , I think I fully support that effort because it was a Tuesday this year , right ? Yeah. And so it just really I mean , it's super fun , but it's like , you know , getting up to school the next day is just an effort. So I'm just I think I made my colleague I'm for moving it to the Saturday. Okay.

S1: Okay. Two rapid fire questions. One , who was the 80s wrestler.

S5: Andre the Giant. Nice.

S1: Nice. Not Hulk Hogan. You could do the beard.

S5: He fought and he did.

S4: He did.

S1: Hulk beat him. Right. Okay , second quick one. Did you hand out candy ? And if you did a lot of trick or treaters in Obi or not a lot.

S5: I did not. I was out with one of my kids. Well , it.

S1: Sounds like you had fun. Sorry you had to go to work on Wednesday after that. All right.

S5: It was an article about , you know , long wait times at the border. Now , that's not a news story for us here along the border , but this story is particularly about some of the longer wait times heading south in the afternoon. I think , you know , the normal long border wait times we hear about are coming north. But we've seen these peak afternoon hour waits really expand. People are saying it can take them 2 or 3 hours to , to get south. You know , at the end of the day , Dibble talked to the Smart Border Coalition. It's a group that kind of monitors this sort of thing , and they called it a throughput issue. Apparently a lot of the gates are just not open. I think they said , you know , even in these like peak times , less than half of the gates are open for for motorists to kind of come back into Mexico and those afternoon hours.

S1: And that's something that impacts people going into Mexico and people coming back here to the US. And we know that that's a there's a huge cross border economy that goes back and forth , people going to school , as we've talked about here on roundtable or maybe even going to work down there. Yeah.

S5: Yeah. And that was sort of another sort of reason that was given. And I know we've heard from Kpbs border reporter Gustavo Solis has covered this , just the increase of San Diegans moving to Tijuana and areas around Tijuana , you know , for a lower cost of living. But one of the impacts is , you know , on things like transportation. And I think this is an example of it.

S1: Something we'll have to keep following. Okay.

S5: Jeff McDonald from the Union Tribune had a couple articles updating some of the appointees for the San Diego Ethics Commission , the Ethics Board. It's responsible for city election laws and things like that. And it's been not at full capacity for several , several months now. And the mayor made a couple of appointees , one of whom was former San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore. He was appointed back in September , but appointees actually need city council approval. And then when that appointment was announced , there was a there was an outcry from from parts of the community , from criminal justice reform advocates who really thought it was inappropriate that someone , Bill Gore , who was in charge of San Diego's jails , San Diego jails had one of the highest death rates among large counties in California , and that was during Sheriff Gore's administration. And he actually resigned in 2022. You may remember right around the time that a pretty devastating report on those jail deaths came out. So , you know , the public pressure seemed to work. And former Sheriff Gore is withdrawn from consideration of being on that board. And now the mayor will need to find other people to to join the ethics board. There was one other name that did go in front of the city council and was approved. That's Deval Zaveri , a former Navy lawyer. But I think there's still two more vacancies on the San Diego Ethics Commission that the mayor needs to get filled.

S1: All right.

S5: The San Diego Union-Tribune Mark siegler initially broke the story. Kpbs education reporter MJ Perez is reported on it. And also Alexander Wynn , who we'll hear from later , also has done some reporting on it. But in the wake of these allegations of sexual hazing at the University of San Diego's football program , those allegations came to light last week in a lawsuit filed by former quarterback AJ Perez. And they included some pretty disturbing allegations of sexual hazing and others this week. There was an update , and the University of San Diego's athletic director , Bill McGillis , resigned immediately. The university made no mention of the lawsuit , made no connection. There's been no response , you know , connecting those two stories. But it is interesting that news of this lawsuit comes out. And then the next week , the university's athletic director is now gone.

S1: I saw the statement from the athletic director McGillis there. He said , my wife , Margie , and I decided that now is the right time to step away , hit reset , and embark on new and exciting opportunities that are ahead. No mention of any of this , you know , hazing scandal or whatever you want to call it in there. But you've got to wonder if that contributed to his departure.

S5: We don't know. But obviously , you know , there's this lawsuit , so more information will be coming to light. And I believe the university said that they're still completing their internal investigation on those allegations.

S1: A story we will continue to follow here. Okay. Sounds like you got a sports one.

S5: Yeah San Diego Wave FC talked about it in recent weeks. They're playing their semifinal match this Sunday November 5th. That's at 6:30 p.m. at Snapdragon. And if they win that match , they would be in the final which also is being played at Snapdragon. And that's next Saturday , November 11th. So some potential you know there there in it. We we talked about before when they won the NWSL shield. That was the award for , you know , the best record in the league. And just you know another successful season. It's their only their second season. And they've been doing pretty great.

S1: There's certainly a lot of buzz around soccer right now. It's so cool to see you know the top women's league doing so well. And then there's kind of been all this , you know , bubbling up news about the top men's team that's going to be coming here. Yeah.

S5: Yeah. And then in between just a couple of weeks ago , San Diego saw the end of another professional soccer team that was San Diego Loyal and actually a local soccer writer from ESPN. Cesar Hernandez had an interesting piece a couple of weeks ago about the loyal and sort of their lasting legacy. They did lose in a heartbreaking fashion in the playoffs , and that's the end of that franchise. But it had a really strong community associated with it. And as you mentioned , yeah , there's all kind of incoming news about this Major League Soccer team , San Diego FC. They , you know , the last month or so have released their crest , their logo , their colors. They leased some office space down a Little Italy for their corporate headquarters , even though they are not going to start playing until early 2025. But there is still a lot of movement. There's some new beginnings , some endings , and then this rise for the for the wave. So we'll see how that goes and we'll know more Sunday night. Okay.

S1: Trying something new here. It sounds like we have a question for one of our audience members about a previous show.

S5: Well , last week we talked about some of the special election races. One of those involved , Fallbrook and Rainbow. They're looking to leave the San Diego Water Authority. The water divorce story , I think we called it. And for that conversation , we talked with Kpbs North County reporter Alexander when he joins us now , we actually received a voicemail from a listener , Shane , in San Diego.

S6: Just want to know if saving water is so important , why haven't we switched to smart meters so we can know in real time if we have a leak ? It seems like a no brainer.

S7: Well , interestingly enough , the city of San Diego did roll out some smart meters in about 2012 , and they kind of stopped that program about five years ago because of issues with billing people for stuff that they didn't use for because of a glitch in the technology , but they are going to roll out that program again. And this year they're saying they fixed the glitch , and we won't have that issue where , you know , people are being billed for stuff that they didn't use. Alexander.

S5: Alexander. Would these smart water meters , would they kind of like detect leaks , like kind of Shane referred to there or how do how do they work ? Do you know ? Well , what.

S7: They do is they measure in real time the usage. So in theoretically they can detect leaks if of all of a sudden you get a huge spike in one month that , you know , or in one day that you didn't have previously. So , yeah , they can't detect leaks , but I don't think it was meant for that.

S1: Well , Alex , we appreciate you being here with us and obviously Kpbs roundtable producer Andrew Bracken. And if you have any questions for us , feel free to help. The roundtable voicemail at (619) 452-0228 about anything you hear on the show. Andrew. Alex , thanks so much.

S7: Well , thanks for having me again.

S5: Thanks , Matt.

S1: We appreciate you joining us this week for roundtable. If you missed any part of our show , you can check out the Kpbs roundtable podcasts wherever you get your podcasts. Our show airs on Kpbs FM at noon on Fridays and again on Sunday at 6 a.m.. Roundtable is produced by Andrew Bracken , and Rebecca Chacon is our technical producer. I'm your host , Matt Hoffman. Don't forget to set your clocks back on Sunday and use that extra hour wisely this weekend. Thanks so much for being here with us.

Rows of tiny homes at Chula Vista Village at Otay are shown on May 11, 2023.
Roland Lizarondo
Rows of tiny homes at Chula Vista Village at Otay are shown on May 11, 2023.

San Diego's public encampment ban has been in effect for four months. On Roundtable, we take a look at the effort to connect homeless San Diegans with housing. Also, the city is looking to change affordable housing rules for developers.

Plus, we take a look at some other local stories we are following on this week's roundup.


Will Huntsberry, senior investigative reporter, Voice of San Diego

Jeanne Kuang, reporter, CalMatters

Blake Nelson, homelessness reporter, The San Diego Union-Tribune