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Homeless Encampment in Spring Valley Shows Spread of San Diego's Homeless Crisis And More Local News

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A homeless encampment in Spring Valley’s Lamar County Park is growing as people in East County lose their homes and San Diego’s homeless crisis expands. Also, Congressman Duncan Hunter officially resigns after pleading guilty to charges he used campaign funds to fund an expensive lifestyle. And a UCSD study shows when coal plants shut down, human mortality is reduced and crop yields are increased.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 It's Wednesday, January 8th I'm Deb Welsh and you're listening to San Diego news matters from KPBS coming up. Congressman Duncan Hunter officially resigned after pleading guilty to misusing campaign funds and San Diego's homeless crisis expands this time to a homeless encampment in spring Valley.

Speaker 2: 00:19 Every day there's a new tent that comes every day, new 10 new 10 new people, new people. Sometimes it's families, sometimes it's just single people, but it's just out of control

Speaker 3: 00:28 that more coming up right after the break.

Speaker 1: 00:38 Tensions between the United States and Iran seemed to have reached a tipping point following the assassination of a top Iranian general cause. Seems to LaMonte was killed last week in a drone attack ordered by president Trump, Zo Reich. Yermani is one of the 60,000 Iranian Americans living in San Diego. She told KPBS mid day edition that despite so money being relatively unknown in the community, the aftermath of the attack is already being felt. The primary reaction is fear and concern. Until now, there hasn't been any division, but now traveling is going to be difficult. People are being questioned that the border people holding American passports are being harassed and all of a sudden we become the scary people. Local U S basis remain under heightened alert. Congressman Duncan Hunter has officially submitted his letter of resignation to governor Gavin Newsom and house speaker Nancy Pelosi KPBS reporter Prius or either has more on his exit from the office of San Diego's 50th

Speaker 3: 01:44 district Congressman Duncan Hunter said that he will officially be resigning his office. Effective January 13th last month, Hunter pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy for misusing campaign funds for personal use. He has represented the 50th congressional district for 11 years. He faces a possible five year sentence and a $250,000 fine. His sentencing hearing is March 17th it will be up to governor Newsome as to whether a special election will be held for Hunter's seat. If not the 50th district would have no member of Congress until January, 2021 Republicans, Carl DeMaio, Daryl Eissa and Brian Jones and Democrat Amar Campo czar are all running for the seat in the general election. The primary is March 3rd Prius are either K PBS news.

Speaker 1: 02:37 Poway officials are now giving a new explanation as to what caused the city to be without water for a week. A rope KPBS has Matt Hoffman explains, city officials say a rope got stuck in a flat and instead of closing tight, the flap was left open about an inch, which allowed storm water to flow into already treated. Water officials don't know how that rope got there.

Speaker 2: 02:57 It looks like somebody just left the rope that

Speaker 4: 02:59 shouldn't have been there and there was some negligence on the part of the city.

Speaker 5: 03:02 Mike [inaudible] is the owner of player sports grill. After storm water contaminated the system last month, the entire town was without water. Pacifica and nearly 200 other businesses had to shut their doors for a week. Some have already filed claims with the city asking for thousands and damages, but SACA says he plans on doing that as he isn't getting anything from his insurance.

Speaker 4: 03:20 I do have some loss of business interruption insurance and I filed a claim with them. Uh, they've denied it as something that's not covered under that policy.

Speaker 5: 03:28 That's because his policy, like many other business owners didn't have a boil water clause. Matt Hoffman, KPBS news

Speaker 1: 03:34 shutting down coal fired power plants, reduces greenhouse gas emissions. KPBS science and technology reporter Shalina Celani says, new research from UC San Diego shows it may also save lives and boost crop yields. UC San Diego environmental scientist Jennifer Bernie looked at satellite images, government health and agricultural data and mortality rates. Bernie says she saw the same impacts from coal plant emissions everywhere she looked, pollutants and in particular aerosols cause a lot of damage. They hurt people. They changed the way the sunlight is reaching the surface of the earth and that matters for crops. She investigated hundreds of locations where American coal fired power plants shut down. Between 2005 and 2016 were plants shut down. The mortality rate decreased and the crop yield increased. She estimates the shutdowns over a decade saved about 26,000 lives and 570 million bushels of crops actually now chat Lani key. PBS news, people who live near a park in spring Valley are complaining about a growing homeless encampment. KPB has reporter max will. Adler looks at how San Diego's ended up living on the streets of a suburban community.

Speaker 6: 04:41 50 year old Lillian Greer who also goes by the name Renee has been homeless for about five years. She says she became homeless when the woman she was a caretaker for in spring Valley died. Since then, she's been living on and off in spring. Valley's Lamar County park. Recently. She's only seen the situation grow work

Speaker 2: 05:01 every day. There's a new tent that comes every day. New tenant, new 10 new people, new people. Sometimes it's families, sometimes it's just single people, but it's just out of control.

Speaker 6: 05:10 She says she has asked the County for help in finding a place to stay but hasn't been offered assistance.

Speaker 2: 05:16 No, never offered a shelter bed, but I've been ticketed over and over again for being here illegally. Camping

Speaker 6: 05:21 local organizations and the County have frequent at the park to offer assistance to homeless people, especially over the past few months. Leisha Chapman is one of the newer arrivals to the park. She's been at the park for four months. She became homeless after she says the County seized her motor home. She'd also been living in spring Valley before she became homeless. While housed residents of spring Valley have become worried about safety in the well maintained park. She says, no one living there wants this situation to continue

Speaker 2: 05:49 you being a mother myself. Okay. I mean I love my kids to the moon and back and around the world and I know everyone else is very protective of their children. And to me it's embarrassing to have to be here on top of apartment. So I can only imagine what parents are feeling. But as, as elderly who are homeless, it's the safest place where we feel, cause unfortunately it's on a main drag. It's next to a church. There's a restroom.

Speaker 6: 06:14 Can you show Ray was at the park Tuesday morning with her three young children. She's been living in a house across from the park for the past six months. She says that the homeless and it doesn't bother her.

Speaker 2: 06:25 The kids love it. They have a lot of exercise equipment here. They love to see the squirrels running around lots of different toys. Um, we haven't lived as close to a park anytime ever, so they enjoy it.

Speaker 6: 06:39 Ray has been homeless herself. She went back to school and was able to get a job to get herself back in a home, but says that from her own experience, it's difficult for many homeless people to navigate the assistance that the County is offering.

Speaker 2: 06:52 I mean, none of these people have children or are at the age limit, so you don't qualify for any type of benefits or like um, housing or these people might have, I don't know, like substance abuse problems and they choose to be out here. I guess

Speaker 6: 07:15 advocates admit that people simply choosing to live on the streets is an issue, but not the overwhelming reason why people end up homeless in San Diego. Terry Pumphrey is a spring Valley resident and a member of the spring Valley community church, which offers food to the homeless once or twice a week and runs a food pantry once a month. She says that there were County programs that people can take advantage of. Even if many homeless people I spoke with said they couldn't.

Speaker 7: 07:41 You know what? Some people will tell you that and they don't tell you that they don't want to move to where the programs are available, the they've grown up in this community and they're frightened to move out of where they know how to survive.

Speaker 6: 07:55 She said the biggest difference the County can make is by creating more housing options in the communities where people are becoming homeless.

Speaker 7: 08:03 Homeless encampment is absolutely not the ideal situation. However, we have to look at housing these people where they're from in situations that they can make maintain themselves and that's not always as easy as it sounds.

Speaker 6: 08:21 Every few weeks Sheriff's deputies clear out the encampment. Another sweep is planned for next week, but until the underlying issues of homelessness are tackled, both the homeless and advocates alike don't see a solution in spring Valley anytime soon. Max with Linda Adler, K PBS news,

Speaker 1: 08:39 the co founder of CRISPR, a technology that can edit DNA, paid a visit to San Diego KPBS science and technology reporter Shalina Celani got a chance to speak with Jennifer Doudna in a story that first aired last year. Shaleena tells us. They talked about the future of gene editing and the ethical concerns surrounding it

Speaker 8: 09:01 at the Scripps institution of oceanography on the UC San Diego campus, biochemist, Jennifer Doudna has just arrived. She's sitting in a brightly lit room with the doors that open to the seashore. Well, it's great to be here and to have an opportunity to share the world of CRISPR and genome editing down here in San Diego. Doudna co-discovered, CRISPR CAS nine a gene editing tool with her colleague Emmanuel sharpen TA in 2012 in a nutshell, CRISPR is a protein that can go into a cell or tissue in any biological organisms. So plants, animals, humans, and like scissors, cut open a string of DNA. And when that happens, DNA coding can be altered. What type of potential does it have? What I'm excited about is the opportunity to cure genetic diseases. Things like sickle cell anemia or Huntington's disease, potentially in the future, something like cystic fibrosis. And what CRISPR technology does is to provide a strategy for correcting or at least mitigating those disease causing mutations.

Speaker 8: 10:02 And that's not a, not a fantasy. It's not, you know, 200 years in the future. It's something that I think over the next decade we will see those kinds of keywords coming to fruition. This past July, doctors for the first time in the United States officially use CRISPR to treat a patient with sickle cell anemia, a disease that creates to form blood cells and can cause a shortened lifespan as well as some painful conditions. The doctors use CRISPR to give the patient her own but modified blood cells and she's now being monitored. But while examples like these show promise, some ethicists have raised questions, especially since CRISPR is widely deployed around the world. What do you have to say about some of the potential negative side effects of this? Well, you know, I think anytime there's a powerful technology that comes along, it, it, it often comes with both the opportunities to, you know, create great value and benefit to society, but also risk for example, being able to change the DNA in developing humans in the germline that would create changes to DNA that affect not only an individual but also can be inherited by future generations.

Speaker 8: 11:08 So that's something that I've been working on for several years with my colleagues to educate people about that possibility and to really a welcome a global discussion about how to appropriately regulate this technology. A simple Google search of gene editing brings up stories on the potential, like genetically modified crops that can resist climate change. But these stories exist alongside headlines on designer babies and super soldiers for the military. A new Netflix series titled unnatural selection considers these scenarios. It also makes it seem like CRISPR technology is fairly easy to access. Doudna says, while gene editing is widely available, it still requires biochemical expertise to use. There are a lot of folks who say it lead to a Frankenstein individual, but obviously that's not the case. I think it's important to separate fact from fiction. Of course, storytellers love to, uh, you know, scare us and, and, and bring up ideas that are sort of fantastical. And, and I think that's, that's true for this Netflix series. But I think that it's important for people to understand that, you know, those of us that are actually working in the field appreciate that this technology has tremendous positive potential.

Speaker 1: 12:22 Doudna says there's a lot of next steps with this technology, but for now she's working on a genetic research nonprofit in the San Francisco Bay area. The goal she says is to take practical biomedical ideas off the ground and make sure gene editing is equitable.

Speaker 8: 12:37 I don't personally want to create a cure for genetic disease that's only affordable by the 0.001%

Speaker 1: 12:44 downness has funding for science for the sake of curiosity is a huge part of making sure the research can happen.

Speaker 8: 12:49 Why should the public support, uh, you know, curiosity driven scientific research. And the reason is that that's how science is, is that we don't know where it's going in the future. And every now and then you, you know, you turn over a proverbial rock and you find something that you couldn't have imagined was there. And that's true for CRISPR. Is

Speaker 1: 13:07 there a sippy of this year's Nierenberg prize for science in the public interest in the Scripps institution of oceanography, actually in a Chet Lani K PBS news. Thanks for listening to San Diego news matters. If you'd 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.