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Rolling Blackouts Hit San Diego And Rest Of State

 August 18, 2020 at 4:43 AM PDT

California's Governor declared a heat emergency on Monday in order to free up energy generation capacity. Gavin Newsom also wants an investigation into what led to rolling blackouts around the state over the weekend. Newsom says the power grid operator's failure to anticipate the spike in demand and to meet that spike with additional resources is unacceptable. Meanwhile, on Monday afternoon the California Independent System Operator ordered SDG&E and other utilities across the state to begin rotating outages. However ... demand was lower than forecasted and the Stage 2 Emergency was canceled at 7:30pm last night. Still, Governor Gavin Newsom is warning Californians to be prepared for the possibility of more rolling blackouts over the next 72 hours as the state struggles to meet demand for electricity during this record-breaking heat wave, that’s according to city news service. Stay with us, further along in the show we have more on this story from KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson. Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday the first California county came off the state's watch list -- but it wasn't San Diego. Turns out it was Santa Cruz. But, Governor Newsom said there’s potential it could still happen soon for San Diego. :09 "We anticipate San Diego to come off tomorrow. I imagine that's good news from the perspective of the county. In fact I think it's extraordinarily good news." Last week, for three days in a row, the county reported its rate of new coronavirus cases was below the state's threshold of 100 per 100,000.. But, a state review found more backlogged cases that upped the rate and delayed our removal from the list. Supervisor Nathan Fletcher says officials are expecting confirmation today… but he warned San Diegans not to celebrate too much. "it is a moment to remind ourselves that the goal is not to just get below the list the goal is to stay below the list...we have to have the same vigilance and focus to continue to keep our case count low" Schools could open for in-person instruction if the county stays off the watch list for two weeks. But the state still hasn't released guidance on reopening businesses. A pair of earthquakes in Baja California Monday morning could be felt in San Diego and as far north as Fallbrook. The first quake was a magnitude 5.1 temblor and it was felt at 8:30am, the second, a 4.3 temblor was felt about a minute later. Both quakes were recorded about 37 miles east, northeast of San Vicente, Mexico. US-Geological Survey maps showed light shaking was felt from Alpine to Oceanside. There were no reports of injuries or major damage. The Democractic National Convention kicked off virtually last night with speeches from Bernie Sanders, Michelle Obama and a host of Republicans for Biden and the convention continues tonight. Be sure to tune in to KPBS Radio starting at 6pm or catch it this evening on KPBS Television. If you miss it, you can always go online at KPBS dot org to get the latest recap. I’m Anica Colbert. It’s Tuesday. August 18th. You’re listening to San Diego News Matters from KPBS News. Stay with me for more of the local news you need to start your day. San Diego city officials last week stepped up patrols in Ocean Beach to enforce mask wearing and social distancing. But, across the county, enforcement remains inconsistent. KPBS Metro Reporter Andrew Bowen has more on this story. AB: San Diego County is five months into the COVID-19 crisis, and at many beaches things look mostly like they did before the pandemic. San Diego police are going out more often to encourage mask wearing and social distancing, but they're not handing out tickets anymore. Joel Day is coordinating the city's public health enforcement strategy. JD: So our strategy is to do as much as we can to get people to come into voluntary compliance. We believe in personal responsibility. I think we all do, I think we understand that wearing a mask is someone's personal responsibility. AB: Then there's the case of Boulevard Fitness, a gym in University Heights that for more than a month has defied several orders to shut down its indoor operations. SDPD cited the owner last week — but the gym was still open for business Monday. SDSU public health professor Lauren Brown says when emphasizing personal responsibility fails, and there's no enforcement to back it up, public health can suffer. And she says the failure starts at the national level. LB: Because we're starting at the top with really poor high-level decision making and infrastructure around how we're going to nationally handle this virus, we're not creating good policy at a local level. AB: The county's COVID-19 case rate recently fell below the threshold that put it on the state's watchlist. So a crackdown on businesses or individuals flouting the public health order doesn't appear to be likely anytime soon. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news. That was KPBS ReporterAndrew Bowen Most Californians support more police reform measures, according to a new U-C Berkeley poll….and that could help push a handful of policing bills over the finish line this legislative session. CapRadio's Nicole Nixon reports. The Berkeley poll shows big majorities of California voters support reforms that vary from making it easier for civilians to sue over excessive force to limiting collective bargaining powers of police unions. That's despite the fact that seven in ten respondents reported being satisfied with their local police. Lawmakers are hungry for reform too. Sacramento Democratic Assemblyman Kevin McCarty made the argument last week in advocating for one of his bills to create new state oversight of police shootings. McCARTY: In this era of George Floyd and what we saw in my community last year with Stephon Clark, there's been a great cry for common sense police reform and sometimes aggressive police reform. <<:11>> His bill got a thumbs-up from a Senate committee last week. It's one of several police reform bills that could make it to the floor for a final vote before the session ends later this month. SOC San Diego State University broke ground Monday on a major campus expansion in Mission Valley.. The expansion -- the result of a 88-million dollar deal with the city -- will change the landscape of Mission Valley. Adela de la Torre is the President of SDSU. "In the years ahead, we will see a world-class innovation district where SDSU faculty and students, alongside industry and the public sector partners, will conduct research into cutting edge areas and critical issues of our time." The Mission Valley site will include a multi-use stadium, satellite campus, commercial and residential units and a park along the San Diego River. Completion of the entire project will take more than a decade. With Monday’s heat emergency declaration, and warnings of rolling blackouts across much of the state, California’s Governor has lost patience. KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson reports on an investigation ordered by Governor Gavin Newsom into last weekends’ power outages.. Mandated power outages roiled California residents this past weekend as state power grid managers struggled to keep the lights on in the midst of a summer heat wave. Governor Gavin Newsom is not happy. Gavin Newsom Gov Presser 17:56 - - 18:12 “We’ll get to the bottom of it. That’s why that investigation into what happens and its implications of the future will be done swiftly and immediately. And we will lay out in detailed terms what we’re going to do make sure this simply doesn’t happen again. Newsom says the power grid operator’s failure to anticipate the spike in demand and to meet that spike with additional resources is unacceptable and unbefitting of California. He says fires around California and a warming climate are not excuses. He says the state is moving to secure more emergency power. That includes allowing business to run reserve generating facilities, even if they cause more pollution. Gavin Newsom 12:36 12:59 “even with all that we are likely to fall short and we will have some episodic issues as it relates to supplying the coverage you deserve and you demand.” At a board meeting of the California Independent System Operator on Monday, the power grid operators criticized California utility regulators for not ordering them to buy more electricity. Energy analyst Bill Powers says the current power delivery system failed California. He says reserves on paper did not become reserves in real life. And Powers not optimistic the governor’s call for an investigation will be good enough. Bill Powers 00:02:51 – 00:03:05 “They peel back one or two layers of the onion but they don’t get deep enough to look at the institutional problems that expose us to these kinds of unexpected blackouts. It has nothing to do with climate change.” Powers says the entire episode could’ve been avoided by better power management. Meanwhile, San Diego Gas and Electric officials say their customers can help relieve the pressure on the power grid. SDG-and-E spokeswoman Denise Menard says Denise menard SDGE 00:00:50 – 00:01:06 “Here at SDGE we know that it’s really hot outside. And we don’t want people siting in their homes with their AC on, but we are asking people to conserve in everyway that they possibly can. So if that’s setting you AC to 78, let’s try to do it.” Menard says if local demand can be cut that will have a real impact on how the state’s power grid handles the next few days. National Weather Service officials say the dome of hot air will likely sit over the state through Thursday. The California Independent System Operator decides when a region like San Diego will have to resort to rolling blackouts and how long those power outages will last. SDG-and-E will track and report the location and duration of outages on their webpage. Erik Anderson KPBS News That was KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson Coming up on San Diego News Matters… We have part one of the “Older and Overlooked” from our partners at KQED. It’s an investigative series looking at the pandemic and wildfire struggles of long-term care homes for the eldery. That’s up next after this. Long-term care homes for the elderly have been woefully unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic. Now...wildfire season is here - and an investigation by our colleagues at KQED found these facilities are not prepared for that, either. We'll spend some time exploring emergency preparedness and the eldery in a series called “Older and Overlooked.” KQED reporters April Dembosky and Molly Peterson launch our week-long series - and we start with April looking back at the October 2017 wildfire in Santa Rosa. When the police arrived at the Verena assisted living facility, the night of the wine country fires, they saw no caregivers, no managers Speaker 1: 00:44 In one residential room. After another, they found elderly people, fast asleep police, body cam footage shows officers helping white hair. Ladies in night counts out of the building hours after employees left the grounds and your loved ones or the same thing was happening next door at the Villa Capri assisted living facility. This is all fly by the seat of your pants. Mark Allen came to get his 89 year old mother out. When he and his wife, Cathy arrived almost all of the 62 residents were still in their rooms. They found the few overnight staff left in the building. Speaker 2: 01:19 They asked him if they had an evacuation plan and they said, no, Speaker 1: 01:22 The staff didn't know where to take the residents or how to get them out. Mark asked about the big bus outside. Speaker 2: 01:29 We don't know where's the keys, the office. We don't know. Where's the key Speaker 1: 01:32 Mark and Kathy began carrying people in wheelchairs and walkers down the stairs. Many of them had dementia. They just kept Speaker 2: 01:39 Asking what's happening. Are you a first responder? And I'd say no. And then they'd ask again. In five minutes, Speaker 1: 01:45 Police arrived around 4:00 AM and helped get the rest of the residents out of Villa Capri. An hour later, it burned to the ground. Mark and Kathy filed a complaint with the state department of social services. The department accused the facilities of violating multiple health and safety regulations and the state moved to revoke their licenses. Speaker 2: 02:05 Oh good. I thought good justice gotta be served. People were going to pay the consequences. I'm going to get their dues. Speaker 1: 02:11 But the company that owns both facilities, Oakmont, senior, living appealed. Now nearly three years later, Villa Capri is rebuilt and both facilities are open for business charging seniors up to $10,000 a month to live there. I was just so angry. This is Beth Sirota. Stephie. Her mother was also left behind at Villa Capri, Mark and Kathy got her out. I can't even really put into words how angry I was and how disappointed in the state agency, whose job it is to get up every morning and protect people like my mom, living in a facility like that. And they failed them at the time. State law required facilities to have evacuation plans, but they were rudimentary. One page forms and Pam, Dick FOSS, head of licensing at the state department of social services says these fires were unprecedented. They typically had plans for a fire within their facility, a fire in the kitchen, but not plans to actually evacuate everyone out of the area. Speaker 1: 03:06 Two facilities abandoning around a hundred residents that was unprecedented too. But instead of shutting them down, the department put both facilities on probation for two years, Dick Fosse says, regulators don't want to leave residents at risk, but they don't want to leave anyone on the street either. If we felt that the residents were in danger, you know, we wouldn't have gone that way. California's population is aging. The demand for beds at assisted living facilities is expected to double over the next 20 years, while supply is expected to run out in about 10 Dick FOSS says, that's why her agency focuses on collaboration rather than punishment. We're being more consultive during our annual inspections. Now, Beth, you wrote a Stephie, says her mom, Alice is still suffering the longterm effects of what happened After the fire. Ellis was transferred to three different residential facilities before she had a stroke and ended up in a nursing home. You look happy, you need clashes. So she's paralyzed on her left side and she's depressed. And she's angry about what's happened to her life. The last couple of years, starting with that night, it felt terrible. Like you've really been abandoned. Several people died in the months, right after the fire, including Mark Allen's mom, do you feel like, Speaker 3: 04:32 Yes, yes. I do feel like she died because of the fire. She wasn't killed by the fire, but because of the fire and the trauma that happened afterwards, it took all the wheels live from Speaker 1: 04:45 These fires in Santa Rosa were not isolated. The same thing happened the next year in paradise. Speaker 1: 04:58 My colleague, Molly Peterson points out the average age of those who died during the campfire was 72. And climate change has already made wildfires more devastating and disasters more common. There is absolutely a colliding of the events of both population aging and climate change. Those two events don't bode well for older adults. Catherine higher is a professor in the school of aging studies at the university of South Florida. COVID-19 makes the already difficult situation of climate change, an aging population where there have been outbreaks of the virus and at least 72% of the state's nursing homes hire says, people in facilities now will have an even harder time deciding how and when to evacuate and where to take shelter. And the problem with COVID-19 is that we're supposed to all be separate from each other. California regulates around 10,000 longterm care homes from small assisted livings to larger nursing homes. A KQBD investigation found that 35% of these facilities are located where wildfire is a significant hazard. There's no comprehensive map of those hazards. We mapped them using first state designated fire zones and adding scientific maps showing where Wildlands meets cities. Max Morris is the statewide fire specialist for the UC cooperative extension. He says California needs to adapt to the changing risk Speaker 4: 06:27 To finally come to a coexistence with wildfire. That is a whole different way of thinking and living with a given hazard. It means that we have to be ready for them. And we have to look out for the most vulnerable people when they do Speaker 1: 06:43 During this pandemic, longterm care homes have failed to care for some of their most vulnerable residents, the same issues that left facilities unprepared for the coronavirus. Leave these residents vulnerable to wildfire. I'm Molly Peterson and I'm April Demboski KQBD news. San Diego News Matters is a daily morning news podcast powered by all of the reporters, editors and producers in the KPBS Newsroom. And on that note, we’d like to hear from you if you have a moment. Eviction courts are set to reopen September first, when the current ban on evictions expire. Two state bills are in the works to stop evictions. But,the future of those bills is uncertain. We’d like to know -- is this affecting you? Or someone else in your family? Let us know if this looming eviction crisis will be hitting close to YOUR home. Call [619-452-0228] and leave us a voicemail,. Tell us what your experience has been so far and what you are anticipating.. You can also find us on Twitter @ Kpbs news, or to find our podcast producer, Kinsee Morlan, she’s @ Kinsee. Go to kpbs dot org to keep up on the news throughout your day. And as always you can find more KPBS podcasts, like Only Here or Cinema Junkie, on our website at KPBS

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California's governor wants to know why the state power grid managers were forced to initiate rolling blackouts as a heatwave bakes the state. Also, after six straight days of a case rate of fewer than 100 positive COVID-19 tests per 100,000 people in San Diego, Gov. Gavin Newsom Monday said it was "very likely" the county would come off the state's monitoring list by Tuesday. Plus, California is ill-prepared to protect the nearly 2 million older Californians living in areas where wildfire is a formidable threat.