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Wildfires Scorch A Growing Rosarito In Baja California And More Local News

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California isn't the only region dealing with devastating wildfires. In Baja California, Mexican firefighters have squared off against quick-moving fires. We look at fires in Baja that have destroyed homes and left local residents with little time to get to safety. Plus, California's doctors are coming together to tackle homelessness. How the medical community is lobbying for change. And, San Diego is proposing new rules that would help churches, mosques and synagogues build housing on their parking lots. Some churches have been pushing for this change.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's Thursday, October 31st I'm Deb Welsh and you're listening to San Diego news matters from KPBS coming up. Wildfires devastate Baja California and California's doctors are coming together to

Speaker 2: 00:14 tackle homelessness. We're trying to focus to actually say these are the things that we believe you can focus the expenditure on. Be efficient in doing that and stop the cycle of homelessness.

Speaker 1: 00:26 That more coming up right after the break. Red flag warnings and extreme Santa Ana winds are forcing power outages all over the County. At least 25,000 SDG and D customers are already affected. KPB as reporter Matt Hoffman went to San Isabel to speak to people left in the dark.

Speaker 3: 00:49 Dawn's market had its power shut off last week and was hoping that it wouldn't happen again. Owner Scott Brown says he does not have a backup generator and had to throw out thousands of dollars of food then

Speaker 4: 00:58 yeah, we lost everything that was cold, frozen. Um, a lot of produce, everything is probably probably 30, $40,000.

Speaker 3: 01:07 Then Wednesday afternoon, SDG pulled the plug on Don's market again, the utilities estimating the power could be off until Friday evening. Realistically, we'll probably, we'll lose some stuff, but we're hoping that we don't. Dawn's market sent all of its employees home and closed the doors after the power was turned off. It put all the perishable foods in the freezer and coolers and is hoping that it won't spoil before the lights come back on. Matt Hoffman, K PBS news,

Speaker 1: 01:32 Uber or DoorDash and other gig economy companies have taken the first formal step toward asking California voters to let them keep their drivers classified as independent contractors. Capitol public radio's been Aval reports the November, 2020 ballot measure they submitted Tuesday is pleading their drivers ever since the California Supreme court's dynamics ruling last year, set a new tests for when a worker is considered an employee. Good companies have tried to exempt their drivers, but a new law signed last month codifies dynamics into law while only exempting some industries like lawyers and hairstylists. So good companies pledged $90 million for a ballot fight. Sacramento driver, Lynn Regan says she needs the flexibility to care for her four grandchildren. If this was taken away from me, it would devastate me because there's no job out here that I can get, especially at my age. This gonna allow me to come and go as I need to do. The ballot initiative is narrowly crafted to only apply to app based rideshare in delivery drivers. It promises new benefits such as a wage floor and healthcare subsidies, but doesn't include social security or the right to unionize. Another Sacramento area driver, Jeff Perry says, the only path to fairness for workers like him is to make them full employees.

Speaker 2: 02:45 Drivers were saying, this is poverty, we're struggling, right? And then they come and they cut the pay and they put a nice name on it. Really pretty name, fancy right for it. The $90 million, but they don't tell the real story behind it. And the real story behind it is, this is a pay cut

Speaker 5: 02:58 the gig, say they're open to a compromise with unions at the state Capitol next year to avoid a high spending campaign at the state Capitol. I'm Ben handler.

Speaker 1: 03:07 San Diego is proposing new rules that would help churches, mosques, and synagogues build housing on their parking lots. KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen says some churches have been pushing for the change,

Speaker 5: 03:20 so this will be this, this spot because a it'll use is a little space of our property as possible. Pastor Jonathan do little shows me around the parking lot of Claremont Lutheran church where he hopes to build affordable housing. The congregation came up with the idea years ago, but they ran into trouble with the city's municipal code, which requires houses of worship to maintain a certain number of parking spaces based on poo space. Do little says affordable housing is a better use of the land. The affordable housing addresses the needs of the neighborhood, help people get off of the streets and into productive lives and really transform families into what they can be. Do. Little is excited about a fix proposed by city planners that would allow housing to be built on church parking lots without running a foul of those parking minimums. As long as the site is near public transit. Brian shown fish of the city's planning department says church parking lots are often needed for only a few hours a week. So this would help, um, streamline the process, um, get the red tape out of the way and allow them to, to build affordable housing in these otherwise empty surface parking lots. The proposal is expected to go before a city council committee next month. Andrew Bowen KPBS news,

Speaker 1: 04:33 the San Diego County board of supervisors Wednesday voted to move ahead with a state funded program that'll help low income residents by environmentally friendly cars. KPBS as Sally Hickson has more on the clean cars for all program, the cap and trade funded program was created by assembly bill six 30. It provides between 5,090 $500 to people who qualify to buy a low or zero emission vehicle supervisor Nathan Fletcher says qualifying residents may also use the money for public transportation options, car sharing, bike sharing, or to purchase an electric bicycle. Fletcher says an estimated $5 million is available for the San Diego air pollution control district to administer the program. He says there will be no cost to the County, the air pollution control district. However, we'll have to work out plan details including a budget and contracting for auto inspections, website development and partnerships with auto dealers. Sally Hickson KPBS news, Mexico continues to be one of the worst countries in the world when it comes to prosecuting the murder of journalists. That's according to a new list released by the committee to protect journalists. Jorge Valencia reports from KJ, ZZ Frontera, us Bureau in Mexico city.

Speaker 5: 05:49 Several of the countries in the ranking contained war zones, as is the case with Syria and South Sudan, but Mexico is right behind them, ranked at number seven Yon Albert huitson is with the committee to protect journalists. He says the long term effect of this impunity has been that large swaths of Mexico has become what is called silent zones.

Speaker 6: 06:08 These are areas where journalists are no longer engaging in, in any kind of investigative reporting into, for example, abuse of power, human rights file shifts. Journalists stick to the unwritten rules. You can write this and then you won't be detected to write that and you will be attacked.

Speaker 5: 06:23 Hudson says more journalists will censor themselves as the impunity worsens and he says, Mexico, at least on paper, has the federal and local institutions to prosecute the murder of journalists in Mexico city. I'm CORHIO Vallencia.

Speaker 1: 06:36 A new state law requires hospitals provide additional services to homeless patients before they're discharged. The California medical association says the well intentioned law to prevent patient dumping is overcrowding emergency rooms. KPBS health reporter Taryn Minto says the groups doctors recently met to discuss how the medical community can address the root problem. She spoke with the associations, former president and local doctor Ted Mazer.

Speaker 7: 07:04 Dr maser, thank you so much for joining me. How can medical professionals affect policy to address homelessness,

Speaker 8: 07:11 we have to connect people who are homeless that show up in our emergency rooms or hospitals or offices to services. That's very important, but it's also very expensive. And we got presentations showing that emergency rooms, particularly in the Bay area in Los Angeles, are now backed up with people who we can't find places for shelters for and they're not allowed to be discharged. So the emergency rooms are now sheltering, blocking other patients coming in on a broader level. The California medical association is able to work with both local, state and federal officials for that matter in dealing with healthcare issues. So we have the ABL, the ability to take our policies into either legislation or regulation or focus by leaders. What are your policies? Well, number one is recognizing that homelessness is about not just a roof over your head, but the need to find a way to get a roof over your head.

Speaker 8: 08:01 But once we do that, we can't stop looking at the needs of that population or they're gonna end up back homeless again on the street and their health and the health of the community is being affected. So we're looking at ways of tying together mental health services, general health services, food services for people who have no access to food. Mental health is a key issue here. We know that, we've known that for years, but not everybody on the street has a mental health issues. Some of them have other reasons for being on the street, simple poverty. We can look at how healthcare itself, the lack of access to health care has contributed to some of those people being on the street, be it because they couldn't afford the healthcare or they received healthcare and unfortunately they didn't have proper coverage for that healthcare.

Speaker 7: 08:46 This has been discussed before, so what new are you are doctors, medical professionals bringing to the table that it's, you know, San Diego has an already spent thousands, millions of dollars

Speaker 8: 08:56 trying to do, we're trying to focus to actually say these are the things that we believe you can focus the expenditure on. Be efficient in doing that and stop the cycle of homelessness, the cycle of sending people back on the street. As an example, if we look at the emergency room situation right now, it's improper. It's actually a real negative that we're taking up up to a third of beds in emergency rooms on people who are simply looking for placement. So physicians are going to focus on getting the services to move those patients into the proper level of help, not care. They don't need any further healthcare at that moment. How do you make that happen? You have to work with the regulators. You have to get, some of the regulations that are passed in good faith are actually harmful. So the idea that a hospital emergency room is now responsible for someone who walked in with a laceration but as homeless and they have to take valuable resources, both financial and space, the beds in the hospital and find a place to put that homeless person, putting the onus on an emergency room physician on a hospital emergency room to find homeless people, a shelter blocking other people for access to healthcare.

Speaker 8: 10:08 That's an improper, it's expensive. It's injurious to the rest of the population. So now we have to go back and look at those regulations and say, how do we modify the regulations and say, here's another agency that's in existence that needs to be the front line. Once the patient is ready for discharge from the hospital or the emergency room, it shouldn't be the ER doctors problem for placement. We understand placement's important, but they have other things to do. Policies, great, but it needs to actually be implemented. Absolutely. We know that we have the governor's task force. We had two co-sponsors presenting to us, taking our questions, helping us develop that policy that we now have definitive ways to back the governor, the legislature, the people who are trying to do this in their local communities and say, okay, the physicians of California are behind this. We will put our resources, we will go to the legislature and push next year's bills that are starting to come out already for the next session, the next session, starting in January and put our lobbying efforts into the bills, put our time, our experience, our resources into the governor's task force to help move this forward. Instead of just talking about it. Well, thank you very much for your time, dr Mazer. Sure. Thank you.

Speaker 1: 11:18 That was KPV as health reporter Taryn Minto, speaking with local doctor and former California medical association president Ted Mazer. California isn't the only region dealing with devastating wildfires in Baja. California. Mexican firefighters have squared off against quick moving fires that have destroyed homes and left local residents with little time to get to safety. KPBS reporter max. We have Lynn Adler traveled to Rosarito to tour a neighborhood now scarred by fire. Sally Brown is the mayor of Rosarito once a resort town that has

Speaker 3: 11:54 in the past 20 years exploded into a city of over 70,000 people. We're driving up to colonial motor ELOs and neighborhood that's perched on a Hill overlooking the city. On Friday night, Brown had raced to the neighborhood to help residents escape a fast moving wildfire that had swept through in nearby Valley, fueled by Santa Ana winds.

Speaker 9: 12:13 No, never before in the history of [inaudible] have there been fires like this. Never.

Speaker 3: 12:19 Brown says the fires destroyed more than 60 houses in Rosarito and at least three people died. Brown says that following strong rains over the winter, there was far more vegetation in the valleys that was able to burn.

Speaker 9: 12:33 The fire leapt in other times, stuff I ran no more, but this time the fire jumped and he fell on the roof of the houses and burned down the houses quickly.

Speaker 3: 12:44 The communities hardest hit by the fires last weekend. We're the ones highest up in the Hills where the residents were least eager to leave their properties. Many residents don't have official paperwork to show that their homes belonged to them and were worried that if they left they wouldn't be allowed to return up in Morelos. The city has set up a station where people whose houses have burned down can register for assistance, get a medical checkup and get replacement documents like birth certificates that might have been destroyed in the fire. Brown's administration is handing out large tents for people to stay in on their properties while they rebuild. It was said via Silkroad, Aveda Vega lived in our home with seven other family members. She's lived there for 17 years. Their entire house burned down.

Speaker 9: 13:25 Yeah, me. The point was better. There have been fires, but they never came here.

Speaker 3: 13:29 Her family only had a few minutes to escape the flames. They didn't have time to take anything with them, so all of their possessions were destroyed, but they aren't wasting any time rebuilding their home. Volunteers have offered food, their labor, and even an oven as they try to recreate what they've lost. Oh, salvia says she knows that with more wins in the forecast and extremely dry conditions that they're still at risk. She says they only plan to rebuild just this one.

Speaker 9: 13:55 No, no, no, no. Nothing more. Only one time.

Speaker 3: 13:59 Seasonal fires have long been a part of the ecosystem in Baja, California. This isn't the first time that the area around Modelos has burned. In fact, before the neighborhood was called Morelos, it was known as low scale mottoes or the burned. The previous settlement there was destroyed by wildfire decades ago. Omar Ortiz is the head of the firefighters in Rosarito. It was up to his small department of under 100 firefighters both full time and volunteer to put out rapidly advancing flames in Morelos, which has no running water

Speaker 10: 14:27 and as if he's, he likes [inaudible]. The topography is very complicated. The mountains are very steep. It's very difficult for the equipment to get there. It's tough to bring the water up from below and then it gets muddy and it's even harder to get the trucks pass

Speaker 3: 14:41 or T says the risk of fire has only increased as people have moved up into the mountains trying to find cheaper places to live in the prospering city

Speaker 10: 14:49 say yeah. When situations like this will become

Speaker 3: 14:52 more common and we're going to need more firefighters, more trucks, more hoses, more firefighters. In this area. The rebuilding of Morelos has begun. Local businesses have donated their workers and resources and students have begun clearing out toxic Ash from hollowed out houses with cities, expanding their footprints further into areas that have a long history of seasonal burning. The question for these neighborhoods is not if the next fire will hit, but when and if they'll be ready or evil to get out of the danger in time. In Rosarito max with Linda Adler, K PBS news,

Speaker 1: 15:28 that's it for San Diego news matters today. Consider supporting this podcast by becoming a KPBS member today. Just go to kpbs.org/membership.

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San Diego News Matters

KPBS' daily news podcast covering local politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings so you can listen on your morning commute.