Mayor Kevin Faulconer's Last Day
San Diego County health officials reported at least 1200 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, The county reported 26 new deaths, one of the highest daily totals since the pandemic began. Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly says there’s been a 70 percent increase in hospitalizations in California in the past 14 days. He says the modified stay-at-home orders are critical for keeping the healthcare system from being overwhelmed. “The goal of saving lives becomes threatened when that system isn’t as robust and strong as it can be to deliver care to as many Californians as needed.” As of Tuesday, only the Southern California and San Joaquin Valley regions have triggered the stay-at-home order. Five Bay Area counties voluntarily adopted the restrictions. Other regions - such as the greater Sacramento region - are on the edge of facing mandated restrictions. A lot of people are looking for COVID tests in the wake of the Thanksgiving holiday. San Diego County’s Drive-up testing sites will be by appointment-only by the end of the week. This is due to safety concerns over long lines forming at the sites. Walk-up testing sites will still be open with no appointment needed. But, to schedule a COVID-19 test you can call 211 or go to 211sandiego.org. It’s Wednesday, December 9th. 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. Cities and counties are trying to forge their own path through the California stay-at home orders… and it’s resulted in a patchwork of restrictions across the state. CapRadio’s Nicole Nixon has more…. Sheriffs in Los Angeles, Sacramento and Orange Counties have said they’re not going to punish businesses that don’t comply with restrictions. The city of Manhattan Beach is getting around a ban on outdoor dining by classifying patios as public spaces. And while five Bay Area counties voluntarily implemented a stay-at-home order, San Mateo County didn’t join — their health officer says he wants more evidence transmission happens at certain businesses. It shows just how frayed the pandemic response has become in California, which was seen as a national leader early on. THE STATE-IMPOSED “REGIONAL STAY AT HOME ORDER” AND WILL BE IN PLACE HERE IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY FOR THREE WEEKS. THE RESTRICTIONS PROHIBIT OUTDOOR DINING AND CLOSE PERSONAL CARE BUSINESSES. KPBS REPORTER MATT HOFFMAN SPOKE TO ONE OWNER WHO IS ABIDING BY THE RESTRICTIONS TO KEEP HIS STAFF AND GUESTS SAFE. Kelsey McNair, North Park Beer Co. It’s incredibly expensive to try and operate in this environment even when we were open with outside North Park Beer Company owner Kelsey mcnair just had this outdoor patio built off UNIVERSITY AVENUE that’s now just a fixture. it was literally completed at the end of last week and so we were only able to use it for a few days McNair has pivoted in other ways, expanding his wholesale beer business and says he will comply with the new restrictions. Still he’s had to make the tough decision to cut back staff again though and with restaurants seemingly bearing the brunt of restrictions he’s asking for help. I dont want to fight any orders What i would really like to see is more help from the local state and federal government as far as financial relief goes 20-million dollars in county grants are available right now. Before today that was only for businesses impacted by purple tier restrictions. But today the county board of supervisors opened it up to everyone impacted by the regional stay-at-home order. That includes personal care businesses which have to close their doors entirely. 11;16;53;27 Financially it’s awful 11;16;41;11 Adrianne Tolentino, The Lab A Salon owner We’re staying afloat like we’re staying and that’s all i can say is we’re staying afloat right now Lab A Salon owner Adrianne Tolentino was doing some admin work today, preparing for three weeks with her doors closed. 11;16;56;13 McNair If anything I just want to make sure my team is taken care of it because the salon with get through it for us I know a lot of salons won't but I just hope it’s three weeks Adapting isn’t easy, especially when cash is tight. But places like City Tacos are getting creative, adding a drive through right off UNIVERSITY AVENUE 12;02;19;26 Torres It’s covid friendly touchless it’s fast it’s efficient Owner Gerald Torres says he’s trying to bring in business while keeping the community safe. 12;01;13;07 Gerald Torres, city tacos owner In this tier in this time we don't know what to expect tomorrow we don't know what to expect next week we don't know if people are going to be comfortable to go out for the foreseeable future There’s a few City tacos locations across the county and while Torres has had to cut staff hours he’s trying to keep everyone on the payroll. 12;04;19;10 Torres There’s a lot of uncertainty they worry about their futures and as owners as managers we try to really take care of them and protect them as much as we can All of these owners say the same thing -- especially right now -- spend your money locally. 11;54;39;16 Angela Landsberg, North park Mainstreet executive director I know that I see the amazon trucks going up and down it’s tempting it’s easy I get it but every time you do that you’re taking money out of the pockets of small businesses Matt Hoffman, KPBS News. That was reporting from KPBS’ Matt Hoffman. It’s also worth noting that a judge in Los Angeles County has overturned a ban on outdoor dining on the basis that the county didn’t do a proper risk-benefit analysis before imposing the ban. That’s according to City News Service. However the California regional stay-at-home orders include a ban on outdoor dining and that overrides the countywide order, so people still can’t eat outside. The KPBS Newsroom is starting a series of profiles that focuses on San Diegans experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those who are surviving, hurting and some who are thriving. KPBS Reporter Max Rivlin Nadler brings us this story from City Heights…. 27-year-old Genemo Ali immigrated to City Heights from Ethiopia when he was eleven…. Since then, he’s been rooted in the community…. He began looking into opening his own restaurant last year…. Audaciously combining Ethiopian, Thai, and American menus… But the pandemic put a damper on his dreams of opening a restaurant… So Ali began experimenting on recipes at home. I started posting the food I made on Instagram and from there people really liked my food. I started selling out and stuff. That’s when I noticed I got to take this to the next level. Soon, Ali had come up with what he called the “ghost restaurant” idea. For six months, he rented a kitchen, got the necessary permits, and operated a restaurant specifically geared towards the pandemic. You put up your menu online and everything, people order through Uber eats, third-party deliveries, and they come pick it up or it gets delivered. Business was good… Ali wanted to keep growing…Now Ali’s Chicken and Waffles is open for takeout and delivery on the corner of University Avenue and Fairmount Avenue Max Rivlin-Nadler, KPBS News. Air pollution from port activities has long been an issue i n neighborhoods that border the port district. Now the San Diego port is mulling over a project that could increase Diesel pollution near the tenth avenue marine terminal. KPBS Environment reporter Erik Anderson has more... The plan to approve a major cement warehouse contract with Mitsubishi Cement Corporation, is under fire from environmentalists who worry about the impact on local air quality. The Environmental Health Coalition’s Diane Takvorian says the contract could significantly impact air quality. “That activity requires a minimum of two-thousand more trucks per month and up to 87-hundred. Which is a 200 percent increase of trucks over the number of trucks that are currently in and out of the tenth avenue terminal. Takvorian says those trucks will have to move through Barrio Logan and National City. Those neighborhoods endure more diesel particulate pollution than 95 percent of California’s communities. She called on the port to require Mitsubishi to phase-in the use of electric trucks. Erik Anderson KPBS News The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a tobacco retail license ordinance on tuesday. The measure is aimed at reducing usage by minors and holding retailers more accountable. The vote was 4 to one with outgoing Supervisor Kristin Gaspar opposed. The measure sets a minimum pack size and minimum price for sales. It also allowed the county to enforce minimum age laws and a previously adopted ban on flavored tobacco products. It also prohibits the sale of tobacco at pharmacies. The ordinance takes effect on July 1st and it only applies to unincorporated areas in the county. Today is San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer's last day in office. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen looks back at Faulconer's nearly 7 years as mayor and what he accomplished... KF: It's time for us, as a community, to come together to decide the future of the Chargers in San Diego. AB: Kevin Faulconer in his first state of the city address in January 2015. Keeping the city's football team by building them a new stadium was a top priority. Faulconer created a stadium task force and spent more than 2 million dollars on an environmental impact report to clear the stadium for construction. KF: And so I want to thank the Spanos family, the entire Chargers organization and the fans for your continued commitment to San Diego. Working together we can get this done. AB: They didn't get it done. Chargers officials repeatedly rejected the city's suggestions. In 2016 the team placed a tax measure on the ballot to fund a new stadium downtown, and Faulconer endorsed it. But voters rejected the plan overwhelmingly. GC: I was one of those folks that never thought they were going to stay. AB: Gil Cabrera is an attorney who chaired the city's Ethics Commission and the board of the Convention Center Corporation. He says the time and money Faulconer spent on the stadium issue was a waste. GC: Give them the best offer they’re going to get from us, and then, you know, give them a deadline and then move on. But we dragged it out for years. AB: Cabrera is among those who see Faulconer's tenure as marked by big plans that failed to pan out. Another example: the convention center expansion. KF: It's time to settle this once and for all and get the convention center expanded. (applause) AB: That was from Faulconer's 2016 state of the city address. The convention center expansion was always a top priority for him. But time after time, his efforts to get it done came up short. Cabrera says he doesn't lay all the blame on Faulconer, but... GC: I think there was a lot of delays that probably weren't necessary. We went through I think two or three state of the city addresses where we talked about we were going to do something and then nothing happened that year. AB: One achievement Faulconer touts most frequently is the city's 2015 Climate Action Plan, which requires the city to cut its greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2035. Nicole Capretz leads the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign and was one of the plan's main architects. NC: I think he enjoyed the accolades that came with passing the climate plan, but I don’t think his heart was ever in the implementation of the climate plan. AB: Capretz says Faulconer was too slow in starting the transition to 100% renewable energy. And she says he hasn't been the biggest champion for reducing the city's dependence on cars. NC: He’s mostly a go along, get along kind of guy. And if he can sidestep more challenging conversations then he’s likely to do that. Now, to his credit, when we sort of built the community and political will to take on some of the harder conversations around transit and around community choice energy, he eventually did. But it’s not his default. AB: Others give Faulconer more credit for his own coalition building. In his last few years as mayor, housing affordability took center stage. Mary Lydon is a land use consultant who led the coalition group Housing You Matters. She praises Faulconer for uniting business groups, builders, environmentalists, labor unions and social service providers under a pro-growth agenda. ML: So he was the leader that did that. All kinds of policy has been put into place in the last couple of years, and we'll see in the next few years if those strategies actually are working. AB: Among those strategies: Ending parking requirements for new apartment buildings near public transit. Rezoning parts of the city for higher density housing. And adding new incentives for developers to include subsidized affordable homes in their projects. Lydon says none of that was easy. ML: San Diego has kind of a reputation for being a NIMBY city. It’s beautiful here, we love our communities, don’t want it messed with. But there’s other things at play, and housing became the issue our leaders needed to focus on. And Mayor Faulconer stepped up to plate on that. AB: As many have long suspected, Faulconer is considering a run for governor in 2022. As a Republican in blue California, the odds are stacked against him. And voters will look to his record as mayor for evidence he has what it takes to lead the state. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news. That was KPBS’ Andrew Bowen….coming up next on the podcast, Andrew spoke with Kevin Faulconer. That’s next just after this break….. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer officially leaves office tomorrow after the inauguration of Mayor-elect Todd Gloria. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen spoke with Faulconer about his career and his potential run for governor in 2022. Q: So let's dive right into one of the biggest issues that you dealt with in your first few years in office, and that's the Chargers. You tried very hard to keep them: You put together a task force to come up with a plan. You funded an environmental impact report on the new stadium. You endorsed their 2016 ballot measure to fund a new downtown stadium, which the voters ultimately didn't agree to. There were people saying at that time that this team does not want to stay in San Diego, they're not acting in good faith with the city and that this was all just a waste of time and money. In hindsight, do you agree at all with that criticism? A: Well, look, I think there was so much back and forth literally over more than 10 years in San Diego that culminated in a ballot measure. And then the team obviously made their decision. I think when I look at what's going on right now in San Diego in terms of our sporting community and the highlights from, you know — if you take a look at the Padres, what they've done and continue to do, the new infrastructure that's coming forward in San Diego that I think is going to be incredibly positive, and particularly the new stadium for San Diego State, the Mission Valley redevelopment, including the River Park and the opportunity to finally have a new Sports Arena. And the voters have supported that with Measure E and the height limit. And so as I look at the future of infrastructure and particularly how it relates to our sporting community, both collegiate and professional, I think it's a bright future ahead for San Diego. Q: Housing affordability has been really one of the main focuses in your recent years in office. You've won approval, often unanimous approval, for a number of reforms to stimulate more home building. Things like updating our zoning laws, lowering parking requirements. Was there something that changed to make this issue so very central to your agenda? A: It had to happen. And the tone I really tried to set was I wanted a bias towards action and not just doing things the same way. Because if we did, we were not going to change the dynamic to actually get new units constructed that San Diegans can afford. And that's why we worked so hard on updating all of our community plans — more than we've ever done in the history of San Diego — and particularly with the focus the last two years on Complete Communities. And to see that strong support at the council, which gave us our ability to really get these units constructed, remove regulatory barriers, allow for additional infrastructure, and I think most importantly allows for by-right development. It's all really a culmination of the work that we've done over the last several years with one goal: We need to increase housing supply, cut the red tape, lower costs with a particular emphasis on housing that's affordable for San Diegans. Q: You've said publicly you're considering running for governor in 2022. Of course you know there are currently no Republicans in statewide office and the party in much of the state seems to have really suffered under the brand of Donald Trump. What is the message that you think can unite the Republican Party and also win over enough Democrats and independents to win the state? A: Well, I am giving it serious consideration, and I've really tried to set the tone as mayor. It's not about Republican or Democrat. It's what's the right thing that we should be doing? That's how I've set my governing style. And since I've been mayor, obviously, I've had a majority City Council of Democrats. But when you treat people with dignity and respect, even if you disagree with them, and you focus on the issues that matter to San Diegans, you can achieve real results. And I think we've been able to do that in San Diego. And I think as we look to the future of California, I think it's important to have a competition of ideas. I think it's important to not just have one party rule. And so those are all the factors that I think are important for California moving forward. And again, with that emphasis on let's get new ideas, let's try things differently, let's have that back and forth. I think that has made our city stronger and I think it can make California stronger. Q: Mayor Faulconer, we really appreciate your time. Thank you so much for speaking with us. A: Andrew, thank you very much. That was outgoing San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer speaking with KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen. That’s it for the podcast today, thanks for listening and have a great day.