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Faulconer Pushes One Final Affordable Housing Plan

 November 6, 2020 at 4:27 AM PST

California’s Proposition 15 would have generated billions of dollars in school funding, but it is currently trailing in the vote. The money would come from raising property tax rates on commercial properties. San Diego Unified Board Member Richard Barrera says a Republican controlled US Senate could be the bigger issue though. “If people are concerned about schools and the economy, if people are concerned about helping people through this next period of time, they really need to take a responsible approach and act now.” He says San Diego Unified's reopening plans will depend on money from another large federal stimulus package. Prop 22 passed in California. That means ride-hail and delivery drivers will continue to be treated as independent contractors, not as employees. While those companies are celebrating their big win, critics of Prop 22 argue it undermines the spirit of AB-5, a bill intended to ensure workers aren't exploited by gig companies. Steve Smith is the Communications Director at California Labor Federation. "We think this is a really dangerous precedent and we are going to be continuing to look at ways to support gig workers as well as all workers in the state of California going forward." As a partial compromise, ride-hailing companies will have to offer drivers some new benefits, including stipends to buy health insurance, accident insurance and some guaranteed level of pay. It’s Friday, November 6th. Happy weekend eve. This is San Diego News Matters from KPBS News. I’m Anica Colbert. Stay with me for more of the local news you need to start your day. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer wants one last major policy win before he leaves office next month. "Complete Communities" is a set of reforms to the city's development rules around housing and transportation. It's set for a City Council vote on Monday. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen says the goal is to build more housing in walkable, urban neighborhoods. KF: "We must change from a city that shouts, 'Not in My Backyard,' to one that proclaims: 'Yes In My Backyard!' From a city of NIMBYs to a city of YIMBYs!" AB: January 15, 2019. With two years left in office, Mayor Faulconer decided to make housing affordability the main focus of his 5th State of the City address. His ideas were big: Outside the coastal zone, no more height limits in areas served by public transit. KF: And I will deliver a plan to the council to authorize unlimited density for developments that include affordable housing and housing for the homeless – the most generous incentive in the state. AB: His Complete Communities proposal does not quite match that lofty rhetoric. The program is optional, and only applies to sites close to public transit where apartments are already allowed. To participate, developers have to make 40% of a building's units affordable to low- and moderate-income households. None of the homes can be used for short-term rentals like AirBnb. In return, the developer can pack as many apartments into the building as will fit. And the size of the building will be regulated by square footage of floor space, rather than height. In other words, the taller the building, the skinnier it has to be. RM: Andrew this is the Buzz Project. It's a mixed use project at the corner of 30th and B in Golden Hill. AB: Rammy Cortez is a small-scale developer who supports the Complete Communities package. He's showing me his latest apartment building, set to open to tenants in January. RM: We have cabinets going in, countertops, and in the next 30 days you'll see all the scaffolding pulled down. AB: This project used the city's existing affordable housing density bonus program, which offers incentives if developers set aside a portion of their homes as affordable for low-income households. Complete Communities is like that program dialed up to 11. Cortez says it would be another tool to help provide more housing for San Diego. RC: If we're building housing in the right places along transit and job centers — we have to grow as a city, and we can't just take a NIMBY approach to leapfrog development like you see in Arizona or Riverside. That never works. And to meet our greenhouse gas goals, it's the only way we're going to be able to get there, is to cut down on carbon emissions and walk, bike and use alternative modes of transportation. AB: Transportation is another leg of Complete Communities. Building in the city's more car-dependent neighborhoods would come with higher fees. And those fees would pay for things like bike lanes, sidewalks and crosswalks in denser, more urban neighborhoods. Improvements in low-income communities with less access to opportunity would get priority. DK: This is completely unacceptable for the housing element. Don't like it at all. AB: Perhaps the biggest opposition to Complete Communities has come out of San Diego's volunteer neighborhood planning groups. Diane Kane represents La Jolla on the Community Planners Committee, or CPC. At a meeting on Monday she suggested Complete Communities is a Trojan horse for a massive rezoning plan. DK: If you look at the maps there's all of these disclaimers about how this isn't a rezone. But it is a rezone. And the people whose parcels are being rezoned don't even know it. AB: CPC Chair Wally Wulfeck of Scripps Ranch said he thought it was unfair that a portion of the fees developers pay to build in his neighborhood would be sent to low-income communities. And, he said, the process that began about a year ago was rushed. WW: None of these plans should go forward until there has been sufficient consultation with community planning groups and CPC. And that still hasn't really happened, it's sort of been like pulling teeth to get anyone to bother to talk to us. AB: Earlier in that same meeting, Planning Department staffers spent an hour explaining recent revisions to the program and answering questions. They point to the dozens of workshops and presentations at public meetings as evidence that they did enough outreach. The Complete Communities package has gotten mixed reviews from City Council members. They'll decide on Monday whether it should become law. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news. That was KPBS Metro Reporter Andrew bowen. We've been talking for months about a growing child care crisis in our region, and how the pandemic is forcing more childcare centers to close. Now there's a new investment idea that could help providers cut costs and build equity. KPBS’ Claire Trageser reports. Miren Algorri figured it would be a slam dunk—she’d easily be approved for a mortgage on a new home because it’d be the site of her daycare business, which would generate enough income to cover the monthly payment. But her livelihood turned out to be more of a hindrance than help. "The broker said even though I had an income, it was not steady income, and he said, 'you'd be better off working at McDonalds and earning minimum wage.'" Algorri has been a home-based childcare provider in Chula Vista for 23 years. Along with two assistants, she cares for up to 14 children in her home. But the bank didn't consider that steady income. "It's very hard for providers to purchase a home. That really opened my eyes to the inequality we face." A new business venture aims to solve that problem. Mission Driven Finance, a San Diego based investment company, wants to attract socially motivated investors who will put money into properties that childcare providers could rent, and in some cases, eventually own. David Lynn is the cofounder and CEO. "That is both working to build more wealth in the community and cut their costs over time. So we're shifting the model from making loans or other sorts of investment directly to the providers to providing a real estate investment structure that we can then use provide quality space." For Algorri, the project was welcome news. She says it might help her expand her business. "This is the best news I've heard since the pandemic. If there is a project out there to support childcare providers, I want to know, how do we promote this, how do we support this project?" Claire Trageser, KPBS News That was KPBS Investigative reporter Claire Trageser. Mission Driven Finance plans to begin raising money from investors for the project early next year. Their goal is to launch pilot sites in San Diego in 2021. Here’s some frightening news: The number of fentanyl deaths is on the rise in San Diego. That’s according to a new report out this week from a local drug abuse task force. KPBS’ Shalina Chatlani reports. Officials say lots of stress is coming from the coronavirus pandemic and that could be the cause of an increase in drug use. Last year there were about 150 fentanyl related deaths, but this year that number is nearly double, says the San Diego Drug Abuse Task Force's 2020 report. County Health and Human Services Director Nick Machione says before coronavirus, there was already a crisis in prescription drug overuse. And the increasing use of fentanyl-- a highly potent synthetic opioid-- is part of that crisis. Combining the pandemic's mounting stressors with the misuse of prescription and illicit street drugs, methamphetamines will have severe consequences and in fact, we're already seeing it already in our county. The task force says the county is working with healthcare providers to increase testing of fentanyl, which does not show up on routine drug tests. Shalina Chatlani, KPBS news. Coming up on the podcast….. Fracking made a come back to national conversation with the presidential debates. We’ll have a look at why and what that means for California. Also we have a fact check of some startling social media claims about election fraud dubbed involving sharpie pens. That’s in the latest episode of Can you handle the truth from our partners at CapRadio. That’s next, after this break. The term fracking has been tossed around this election cycle by presidential candidates. Fracking is a method of extracting oil and natural gas -- Governor Gavin Newsom has asked the legislature to bring the practice to an end. But why is it getting so much attention right now? CapRadio’s Ezra David Romero explains. The short answer as to why fracking is in the news so much is climate change and people’s health. California has a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2045. That’s going to take a rethinking of how we fuel our cars and in turn means less dependence on fossil fuels. So ending fracking is a step towards that goal, says David Shabazian. He’s the director of the California Department of Conservation. [SHABAZIAN] “We have an industry in decline, we want to make sure that as it's declining, we manage that decline so that we have operators continuing to operate responsibly.” Fracking is this method of pumping oil out of the earth by shooting a cocktail of water, chemicals and sand into the ground. In an executive order from September Governor Newsom asked the legislature to come up with ways to end new fracking permits by 2024. The state has approved more than three dozen permits this year. That’s an issue for Kathyrn Phillips with Sierra Club California. She says the governor could stop fracking immediately and the practice can contaminate water and pollute air. [PHILLIPS] “Common sense would suggest you would not want people to be exposed to that. In parts of Los Angeles and parts of the San Joaquin Valley, that is what is going on.” Groups like hers also want rules in place that would require a 2,500-foot buffer zone between oil wells and homes and schools. The state is working on draft rules for them, but for the health of all Califonians Phillips says Newsom should do something now about the zones and end fracking. In Sacramento, I'm Ezra David Romero. False and misleading statements about the election are spreading across social media. CapRadio’s Mike Hagerty spoke with PolitiFact California reporter Chris Nichols about those claims. ANCHOR: Chris, there are a lot of unfounded claims that say votes for Joe Biden are appearing out of nowhere, especially in some of the contested Midwestern states. What has PolitiFact learned about those? CHRIS: One prominent example is in Michigan, where early results showed President Trump in the lead on Election Night. The claims on social media ‘showed a screenshot from Decision Desk HQ,’ which is an election data service, -- they showed what appeared to be a sudden influx of about 139 thousand votes all for Biden, and not a single vote for Trump. Many Trump supporters were understandably very skeptical. But when PolitiFact looked into this, they found that Decision Desk HQ acknowledged there was an error in the data that they received from the state of Michigan -- and that the state also noticed the error and produced an updated, corrected count. Some of the claims on social media said the episode was fraudulent. In the end PolitiFact rated these claims as False. ANCHOR: There was a Facebook post that went viral yesterday that called into question California’s mail-in voting system. Can you tell us about that? CHRIS: A conservative commentator Tomi Lahren claimed, without any evidence, that “mysterious mail-in ballots lying around” helped flip key states for Biden. She said this is all the result of California’s mail-in voting system spreading across the country. I think what’s important to say here is that several of those battleground states where early results favored Trump -- continued counting legally-voted mail-in ballots. That doesn’t mean those ballots were lying around somewhere or were just suddenly discovered. Instead, they may have actually arrived days or weeks before the election, but states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin were prohibited by law from starting to count them until Tuesday. That’s why the count took so long. And as far as the suggestion about California, election experts reject the idea that mail-in ballots here or in any other state lead to widespread fraud, because the evidence doesn’t back that up. We rated the claim False. ANCHOR: Chris, there’s a lot of claims on social media right now that some voters in Arizona had their ballots invalidated because they were forced to use Sharpie pens when they filled out their ballots at the polls. What has PolitiFact found on this one? CHRIS: This controversy is being called Sharpie-gate on social media. But it’s really a false controversy. Some voters in Maricopa County, which is home to Phoenix, were handed fine-tip Sharpie markers at the polls -- and some of those voters later claimed without evidence that the tabulation machines would not be able to read their ballots because of this kind of pen. But Maricopa County has repeatedly said that these Sharpies are the standard pens used at their vote centers -- and that they have the fastest-drying ink and work the best on their tabulation equipment. The county even made a video before the election informing voters about this: SharpieVideo: “Did you know you can use a black or blue pen or Sharpie to fill out your ballot in Maricopa County. The new tabulation equipment only reads the ovals. So bleed throughs are not a problem.” (:11) ANCHOR: Arizona has been one of the closest contests, so it’s understandable why there’s so much attention there. How did PolitiFact rate this one? CHRIS: PolitiFact rated this claim about Sharpies causing problems as False. One last note, I asked California election officials about the same issue in our state, because there have been some questions here, and they said that using a Sharpie on a California ballot “will NOT invalidate that ballot.” That was CapRadio’s Mike Hagerty speaking with PolitiFact California reporter Chris Nichols. Larry Watson’s novel “Let Him Go” makes it to movie theatres this week with Kevin Costner and Diane Lane in the lead roles. KPBS film critic Beth Accomando says the film serves up some tense moments. On the surface, Let Him Go has the trappings of a modern western revenge tale in terms of its setting and characters. But what makes it more interesting is that instead of focusing on male characters it focuses on women, specifically mothers and the different ways that love drives them. The film’s absolute best scenes involve the confrontations between Diane Lane’s Margaret and Leslie Manville’s Blanche. CLIP My boy don’t have to answer to you… and we don’t have to answer to you… Whoa. Lane and Manville give the film its formidable backbone and chief interest. Sadly the rest of the film isn’t quite as compelling or as fully realized. But it’s rare to see women dominate a western and this one is worth checking out even though it’s sometimes pedestrian in its execution. Beth Accomando, KPBS News. That’s it for the podcast today, thanks for listening and have a weekend.

With only a month left in office, Mayor Kevin Faulconer is hoping to win City Council approval for a plan to incentivize more housing in urban areas. Also, Mission Driven Finance, a San Diego based investment company, is piloting a program that would reduce rents or mortgages for childcare providers. Plus, a conversation about a new city pilot program that replaces police with social workers to help the homeless.