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San Diego's Climate Crisis: Oyster Hatchery Challenged By Warming Ocean And More Local News

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Making a living from the ocean in Southern California is never easy, but the planet’s changing climate is creating additional hurdles for a 50-year-old oyster farm in Carlsbad. KPBS continues its weeklong #CoveringClimateNow series. Plus, a 2016 ballot measure that was supposed to fix potholes, sidewalks and street lights in San Diego is trending tens of millions of dollars short of city projections given to voters. What went wrong? Also on today’s podcast, San Diego Unified has launched an investigation into reports of racial taunting at a football game between Lincoln High and San Clemente High in Orange County. And, Governor Gavin Newsom has issued an executive action to spend $20 million on a public awareness campaign on the dangers of vaping.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's Tuesday, September 17th. I'm Deb Welsh and you're listening to San Diego news matters from KPBS coming up. San Diego unified launches an investigation into reports of racial taunting directed toward Lincoln high school students and climate is changing the region's oceans, forcing San Diego businesses to adapt.

Speaker 2: 00:19 We have the long view. We're here for the long term and we want to make sure that we'll be produces first of all, high quality food

Speaker 1: 00:26 that more coming up right after the break.

Speaker 3: 00:31 Um,

Speaker 4: 00:33 thank you for joining us for San Diego News Matters. I'm Deb Welsh, alleged racist slurs and Todd said a southern California high school football game has school officials in San Clemente and San Diego holding investigations. Observers say fan subjected the visiting Lincoln hide cheerleaders and fans to a barrage of racial slurs. Lincoln High School football coach Daniel Smith says the football game was hard a clean. He says he was disappointed by what happened to the visiting Lincoln students.

Speaker 5: 01:03 It's something that we teach at the program. We prepare them for the world and these are, these are the type of things that we prepared them for. It's scary to know that here in high school, a safe place, we can't, we can trust that our kids are safe with their own peers.

Speaker 4: 01:20 Officials at both schools say they're treating the issues seriously. Lincoln high officials plan to interview all of the students at the game. San Clemente officials are asking for any cell phone footage as they investigate what happened this week. We're bringing you stories about people directly impacted by a changing climate and no one will feel the impacts more than kids and teenagers. So today we'll hear from 14 year old mountain view resident, he mandery Abdullah about whether he thinks there's a more important issue than climate change.

Speaker 6: 01:53 I don't think there's really anything more important than climate change and global warming. Um, cause it could impact us today, 30 years. It could happen anytime. It doesn't scare me. Um, it feels just like so it feels like I'm learning, but also being in dialogue while talking about something that I believe shouldn't be happening.

Speaker 4: 02:18 That interview was produced by reporter Claire Traeger, sir. To see all our climate change stories. Go to kpbs.org/climate change. Making a living from the ocean in southern California is never easy, but the plan is changing. Climate is creating additional hurdles. We bring you another part of our series on San Diego's climate crisis. KPBS reporter Eric Anderson has a look at a Carlsbad shellfish business that puts a premium on resiliency.

Speaker 2: 02:47 Andrew Chang stands on a small floating pier in a San Diego Lagoon wanting to take a closer look. Chang works at the Carlsbad aqua farm. The small hatchery has selling oysters and mussels to restaurants and other businesses for 50 years. Chang is standing on a Flexi. It's a floating system that pulls water and nutrients up through silos that are full of fledgling shellfish.

Speaker 7: 03:12 No, the term would be seed oyster seed, and they're anywhere from one to three centimeters.

Speaker 2: 03:19 When these oysters get big enough, they'll be placed in square plastic trays stacked 10 high. Those stacks are underwater in the Agua heading onto a lagoon and Carlsbad production manager, Matt Stanky, pulls about next to a barrel shaped buoy above one of those underwater stacks.

Speaker 7: 03:37 Wow. These stacks of oysters

Speaker 2: 03:39 are out a hundred to 150 pounds. Sticky, says the oysters will live here filtering water until they're fully grown. The last op is a few days of renting in a nearby building and then they're packed for market. But this seed to lagoon to purification bins to market cycle was interrupted by a changing climate in 2007. The planet's oceans were absorbing larger amounts of carbon, turning the colder waters of the Pacific northwest, increasingly acidic. Unfortunately for oyster growers, that's where all of their seed stock was grown.

Speaker 7: 04:15 But when ocean acidification hit the Pacific northwest, um, they were reporting a 90 to 95% failure in their normal production. And you ended up with a lot of farmers who had open space to grow things and they were unable to buy seed.

Speaker 2: 04:29 The industry adapted. And here in Carlsbad they now grow some of their own seed. But Stinky says the real threat isn't going away,

Speaker 7: 04:37 but it's possible that in 10 or 15 years, um, we start seeing more severe failures of, of crop possibly in our waters or in the rest of the industry.

Speaker 2: 04:47 And the change is already happening. The ocean is warming as it absorbs carbon dioxide. Scripps Institution of Oceanography Researcher Dan K and says the warm ocean waters are less likely to mix with nutrient rich water at deeper levels. In essence, the warming water is choking off the food supply. Okay. It says that's not all the warmer the oceans get. Uh, the less oxygen it can, uh, accommodate and, uh, low oxygen is, is not good in general for ecosystems as the ocean draws in more carbon from the atmosphere k and says it's also changing the chemistry of the water. Over the last several decades, the acidity in the ocean has increased by about 30%. And um, that makes it more difficult for cal carious shelled and skeletal parts of the, the kind of baseline for the food chain to develop. Though the changes and their impacts will be gradual. Carlsbad aquafarms CEO Thomas Grim is already working to prepare.

Speaker 2: 05:57 The alarm for me is that it's changing faster than some aspects of nature could keep up room, wants to keep his business from being overwhelmed by changes in the ocean ecosystem. Part of that solution is under the buoys that are just over his shoulder in the southern edge of the lagoon. Those are our research floats. There is both ball floats and barrel floats, but underneath them are families of oysters in different configurations. Some are very small groupings in specialized cages from Australia and they used to grow out, selectively bred oysters from a research project at USC. Grim says oysters have survived other ecological upheavals and he says finding and breeding those resilient species is important. He says that changing ocean will change the business so you have to be ahead of what's going on and then have enough resilience stock that is adapted to these, to the changing chemistry. And while this business is fine now, there is concerned about the future and that future is dealing with climate change. Eric Anderson, KPBS news [inaudible]

Speaker 4: 07:05 you can find all our San Diego climate crisis stories at kpbs.org/climate change. You'll soon see new ads on the dangers of vaping, nicotine and THC KPV as health reporter Taryn Mento says, Governor Gavin Newsome announced Monday. The upcoming media campaign is part of his plan to stop kids from picking up the habit. The governor also wants to increase taxes on liquid nicotine, developed warnings on ads and packaging and stop the sale of illegal vaping products. Hundreds of people have become sick in the u s with a vaping related lung illness, including 12 in San Diego. At least one patient here was 17 Dakota Collins mixes flavored liquids at the San Diego based California vaping company. He says the company support steps to stop youth vaping in recently updated its labels to be less appealing.

Speaker 8: 07:56 Hey, snow cartoons, they have no pictures of food. [inaudible] I've finished products. We're really trying to uh, go towards that 30 year old market.

Speaker 4: 08:06 The governor's $20 million digital and social media campaign against vaping will roll out next month. That's when he's also asking staff for recommendations to meet his other goals. Taryn Mento, KPBS news, Democratic presidential hopeful and Senator Kamala Harris recently claimed she took on big oil as California attorney general capital public radio is politifact reporter Chris Nichols examined Harris's record

Speaker 9: 08:30 on the campaign trail. Harris touts her work as California's top law enforcement officer. Like when she made this claim at last week, CNN climate town hall as Attorney General California in a state of 40 million people. I was proud to be a fighter and took on the big oil companies. Experts told us the environment wasn't necessarily Harris's top priority is ag still. Mary Chrisman of the California League of conservation voters says she did reach a $24 million. Settlement was Chevron over allegations it mishandled hazardous waste and she investigated Exxon overlying about climate change.

Speaker 10: 09:11 She actually has been really strong against the oil companies.

Speaker 9: 09:15 Cassie Siegel of the center for Biological Diversity Action Fund says Harris didn't go far enough. She failed, for example, to actually bring a lawsuit against Exxon and Harris falsely claimed at the town hall that she had sued the company.

Speaker 10: 09:29 We'd feel more confidence if a in her promises, if her record as attorney general wasn't so mixed.

Speaker 9: 09:36 We did not place a formal rating on Harris's statement about taking on the oil industry. She did go after some companies but was less aggressive with others in Sacramento. I'm Chris Nichols.

Speaker 4: 09:50 Fail Mount San Diego will screen steam rooms. Stories the movie tomorrow night as part of its monthly film series. KPBS film critic Beth Luck Amando talks with the director about showing the film in cinema scent

Speaker 11: 10:03 in 1981. John Waters Invented Odor Rama for his film polyester. Each time a number came up on the screen. Audiences with scratch and sniff such smells as roses, flatulence and model airplane glue. That gimmick inspired JC Kelsey Yano to enhance his new film steam room stories. The movie with cinema scent. All you need to do is follow the instructions. A number will inevitably appear on this screen that matches a digit on your card. Just scratch the number and a fragrance will be released. Hold the card up to your olfactory receptor or gnomes and whip sharply like so.

Speaker 9: 10:40 I thought it was just the most fun [inaudible]

Speaker 10: 10:42 B and I loved in the eighties and uh, it's a scratch and sniff card and you know, call it what you will. So where we came up with the name cinnamon scent, it's my little Ode to John Waters. Clever idea from the Eighties Odor Rama. I could reveal that I'm one of them is a, a dirty Martini, but uh, just how dirty that Martini gets. I'm not going to tell you

Speaker 11: 11:04 you can scratch and sniff along with steam room stories. The movie tomorrow night when it's screens in cinema sent at landmarks Hillcrest cinemas with director calcium nono and actress Tracy lords in attendance. Beth like Amando KPBS news.

Speaker 4: 11:18 Three years ago, voters approved a ballot measure to fix San Diego's roads, sidewalks and buildings, politicians backing to the measures that it would pay for up to $4 billion in improvements over 25 years. But I knew source investigative reporter Mary Plumber has found funding for the measure is falling far short of that recent weekday morning at the Rancho Penasquitos library staff are busy checking in books and loading items into cards. The library opened in 1992 and like mini structures around the city. It needs maintenance. Branch manager, Adrian Peterson says there's paint work that needs to get done. Exterior panels that need replacing and the parking lot needs to be repaved. It's one of the largest libraries in the system. It's also one of the most popular and it's been well used and well loved and it's getting time where it needs some TLC. The library falls within councilman mark, Chrissy's district Chrissy's here at the library to talk about rebuild San Diego. That's the name of the ballot measure he championed back in 2016 to help improve the city's crumbling infrastructure. Rebuild San Diego was not a tax increase. Instead it was supposed to use revenues from things like property and sales, tax growth and pension savings to fund it needed repairs. Kersey points above to the library ceiling. A tile is missing and a brown water ring surrounds a dark hole

Speaker 12: 12:40 I think from inside here. Uh, you didn't, you could see stuff like this. This is more likely a roof problem where you had a water leak

Speaker 4: 12:47 under the ballot measure. The library is set to get $250,000 to pay for improvements. Repairs like these are among a nearly $2 billion infrastructure backlog. City wide. A massive problem that's been growing in recent years. Rebuild San Diego was supposed to help, but documents I news source reviewed show projections are far short of what Kersey and other backers, including mayor Kevin Faulconer and former mayor Jerry Sanders pitch to voters. So far, just $59 million in funding has been spent or budgeted. That's tens of millions of dollars below numbers provided in the voters guide at the time. Chris, the acknowledged funding is down, but he still views the ballot measure as a success.

Speaker 12: 13:30 It's just putting a dent in the overall billion dollar plus problem. Uh, but it is real money. The

Speaker 4: 13:35 shortfalls come from the way the ballot measure was structured. So far. No money has been available from sales tax revenues or pension savings. Some. Of course these critics say the plan was troubled from the get go. We are not going to generate three to $4 billion of revenue through this measure. Even though that was the promise. That's Cura Green executive director at the center on policy initiatives in San Diego. The nonprofit opposed the ballot measure. It's just clear that that is not going to happen and that it was based on mythical. Thinking about some of these sources of revenue along with the money shortage. There are timeline problems. By summer 2022 city finance officials estimate rebuild. San Diego will run out of money. That's because the one piece of funding tied to property tax growth that's produced any money we'll sunset put simply the 25 year vision put forward by Chrissy and others may have just a five year run.

Speaker 4: 14:29 Scott Barnett is president of San Diego taxpayer's advocate. He also opposed the ballot measure. Burnett says the numbers coming out now should concern voters. In his view, a tax increase is the only real solution to San Diego's infrastructure problems. He says the money produced so far from the ballot measure is just budget dust, not enough to fully help the city. I mean ultimately it takes political leadership and there has not been as for what happens next, Kersey says it's too soon to say he hopes future mayors and city councils will be willing to find the money in the budget to fix the city's roads, sidewalks and buildings, and he says a followup ballot measure could be one approach. Kersey is considering a run for mayor in 2020 at the same time, voters will likely face yet another ballot measure to expand the convention center like rebuild San Diego. It promises new money for infrastructure improvements for KPBS. I'm a news source investigative reporter Mary Plumber. If you have a problem in your neighborhood, Mary wants to hear from you, email her at fix this, and I knew source.org I knew sources, an independently funded nonprofit partner of KPBS. Thanks for listening to San Diego News matters. If you like the show, do us a favor and tell your friends and family to subscribe to the show.

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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.