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San Diego’s Severe Housing Shortage

Cover image for podcast episode

ANDREW BOWEN

A construction site for new housing in North Park is seen here, April 15, 2021.

The Building Industry Association of San Diego County announced last week it was hiring Lori Holt Pfeiler, an affordable housing developer, as its next chief executive, making her the first woman to lead the main lobbying organization for local developers. Meanwhile, San Diego County Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Nora Vargas outlined the details of their proposed Office of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs. Plus, a look inside the California Reparations task force.

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Tuesday, June 8th.

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Squaring San Diego’s Housing Circle

More on that next, but first... let’s do the headlines….

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Local leaders gathered at San Diego city hall on Monday to raise the rainbow flag there for the first time in our history. It’s in honor of National LGBTQ Pride Month. The flag hanging at city hall is known as the ``Progress Pride Flag,'' which adds five arrow shaped lines to the classic Rainbow Pride Flag. The additional stripes represent marginalized communities of color and the transgender community.

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San Diego County health officials reported 65 new COVID-19 infections and no new
Deaths on Monday. Public health officials are awaiting an update from the state today on coronavirus data to see whether or not we meet the criteria for moving into the less restrictive yellow tier before June 15, when almost all remaining COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted statewide.

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For the first time since 2003, the FDA has approved a new Alzheimer's drug. The drug’s brand name is Aduhelm and it is meant as a treatment for early stages of the disease. Here’s Alzheimer’s San Diego president and CEO, Eugenia Welch.

“very often people are reluctant to go and seek a diagnosis because there isn’t anything that can be done, so we’re hoping that because the window is so short on this and you have to start the treatment very early in your disease process, it might trigger some people to go get diagnosed sooner.”

Approval of the drug has been controversial as there is an on-going debate whether the drug helps patients at all. The estimated cost for the drug for patient’s is between 30 and 50 thousand dollars a year.

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From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.

Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

San Diego County's building industry is in a moment of transition. Large developments of single-family homes are increasingly rare, as vacant land becomes scarce and as the government seeks to concentrate growth in more urban areas. The county's Building Industry Association, which represents developers, is also in a transition — with a new CEO.
Lori Holt-Pfeiler will be taking over that job come July 6. She joined KPBS’ Andrew Bowen on Midday Edition. Here’s that interview.

You've been in your current position, which is leading this San Diego chapter of habitat for humanity for nine years. Now, what interested you in this new job?
Speaker 2: 25:41 Well, and the nine years that I've been at habitat for humanity, it we've become increasingly aware of how long it takes to build housing and even, uh, trying to build 10 units in an urban core area could take up to two years to get permits. And so, um, we know that we're not building enough main habitat. We have 500 people that will show up for an orientation for 10 homes, which shows you how desperate people are and how like the shortage, there's a severe supply problem.
Speaker 4: 26:18 You will be the first woman to lead the building industry association. You're also, you're also one of the relatively few affordable housing developers to take on a leadership role. Most of the past leaders have been market rate developers. How significant do you think those two things are?
Speaker 2: 26:34 I, well, it's pretty exciting to be the first, first, uh, female CEO. Um, there's a lot of, there's not many CEOs in many industries at all. So for the building industry association to lean in and put their faith in a female CEO is really pretty exciting. And then on the affordable side, um, I passionately, I learned that, uh, as, as the mayor for the city of Escondido, that, um, you may want to vote for libraries and, and building out the city and having recreation programs, but it so that people can make better decisions for their lives, but it's not until a family has a home that they can call their own that they're really able to thrive. So I became passionate about housing, uh, while I was the mayor for the city of Escondido and, and it's low income housing, but it's also that huge missing middle, uh, you know, somebody just earning a firefighter, teachers, nurses, earning a really, really good wage and to find that they cannot buy a home or, or live in an affordable, um, whether it's rental or home ownership to be able to have affordable housing is really, really not good for our community fabric.
Speaker 2: 27:49 For all of our cities.
Speaker 4: 27:51 The current CEO bore of incl led the BIA for 13 years and he was never shy about sharing his unfiltered opinions. Shall we say he frequently criticizes organized labor, uh, environmental groups sometimes. Do you think you'll do the same?
Speaker 2: 28:07 Oh, that's not my style. I don't, I don't think they, uh, that's not my style. So, um, I'll have to lead and, and push and I'm persistent. I listen, uh, it is just be a little, it'll be different.
Speaker 4: 28:21 Berkeley and Sacramento both recently moved to legalize fourplexes or four unit apartment buildings on lots where currently you can only build a detached house and they're doing this as a means of both increasing the housing supply, but also to combat racial segregation. Do you think San Diego should do the same?
Speaker 2: 28:40 I think that that's one solution that should be considered it, you know, there's lots and lots of, uh, solutions and opportunities. I think that we have to try all of them. I think more. So we have to look at an attitude of San Diego. We want to house our own. Uh, and you know, most of the folks that are here in San Diego are our children and our grandchildren. And I think, uh, we'd like to see them be able to thrive in our, in our own communities. In our cities.
Speaker 4: 29:07 There's been a battle as of late between the state government and local governments over who decides how much housing should be built and where, and I want to read you a comment from Liza, Hepner the mayor of Solana beach. She said recently that cities should be allowed to preserve their uniqueness through local zoning authority and that she would like to zone for more housing near public transit, but it's not always possible. What are your thoughts on, on those comments and this push and pull between state and local control.
Speaker 2: 29:37 It is a push in a pool. And I really think that, um, it, cities can solve the housing problem themselves, but they need to step up and start doing it. If they, if they solve the problem, then the state would not have to mess in local politics.
Speaker 4: 29:56 What needs to change in order to make housing more affordable for working and middle-class San Diego,
Speaker 2: 30:02 We need to increase the supply of housing. Yeah, we're only building, uh, less than half of what we should be building every year. And so there's a cumulative deficit. And so how do we build more housing? You have, um, councils that, uh, that empower their, or their counters to approve, approve permits. You have the city councils themselves voting to approve housing. And, uh, and then there's all, there's all kinds of other challenges, uh, trying to build the house, uh, with an increase in materials costs. Um, there's lots and lots of challenges, but we have to take these one step at a time and figure out how, how did as a society, we have to figure out how to improve the supply of housing.
Speaker 4: 30:47 What do you think about this big idea of shifting our growth from the old and more traditional, uh, sprawling development in, in the back country or in undeveloped areas and, and funneling it, or focusing it more in, in more urban areas is this feasible. And can we get enough people on board to actually make sure that when those fights over density in, in, you know, down the street happen, that, uh, folks are willing to say yes,
Speaker 2: 31:16 That will be an interesting conversation as we move forward. Do we need housing of all types? Uh, there's lots of choices. Uh, there could be a lot of housing available if, uh, if that, um, family or seniors that are living in large loans were able to sell their home, that would make it a different type of home available for them. So we need housing of all types in, uh, for lots of different folks.

That was Lori Holt-Pfeiler, the incoming CEO at San County’s Building Industry Association. She was speaking with Andrew Bowen on KPBS Midday Edition.

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County Supervisors Nathan Fletcher and Nora Vargas are proposing a new office to provide much needed services to immigrants and refugees. KPBS reporter Alexandra Rangel has more on the proposal that will be up for discussion at Tuesday’s county meeting.

Ismahan Abdullahi , Executive Director, MAS PACE
“Connecting available resources and identifying where there are gaps can save and impact lives.”
Nathan Fletcher and Nora Vargas are proposing to create a San Diego County Office Of Immigrant and Refugee Affairs.
The office would be a hub where immigrants could receive available resources including legal services.
Ismahan Abdullahi, executive director of MAS PACE and a Somali refugee herself, says this office is long overdue.
It’s a necessity she wishes her family had when they resettled in the U-S.
Ismahan Abdullahi, Executive Director, MAS PACE
“When my family faced food insecurity decades ago as newly resettled refugees,if we had an office like this and knew where to go, that one stop shop. That could give us access and being able to communicate those needs. It would have had an impact on our lives early on.”
Vice Chair Vargas, a daughter of immigrants from Mexico, shares the same sentiment and hopes this office can create opportunities for the thousands of immigrants living in the county.
Nora Vargas , Board of Supervisors Vice Chair
“Twenty percent of our population was born in a different country. 68 languages are spoken in this region.”
Board Chair Fletcher acknowledged the many contributions immigrant families bring to the community.
Nathan Fletcher , Board of Supervisors Chair
“We know our immigrant communities work exceptionally hard. We know they pay taxes into programs they can often not access.”
HRPT0837, 13;58;18;15
Nathan Fletcher, Board of Supervisors Chair
“Oftentimes our immigrant communities remain disconnected from available resources due to misguided policies.”
As the county makes moves to move forward with their framework to make San Diego a welcoming place for immigrants and refugees, immigrants with Temporary Protected Status in the U-S received a setback Monday morning.
The Supreme Court ruled unanimously that people under TPS who entered the country unlawfully are ineligible to apply to become permanent residents.
The U.S. currently provides TPS to over 400-thousand people.
Alexandra Rangel, KPBS News.

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A new study of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution finds reducing both could save millions of lives. KPBS Environment Reporter Erik Anderson has more.

The push to cut back greenhouse gas emissions may end up having an added benefit if climate friendly strategies also lead to a reduction in air pollution. Pascal Polonik is a P-H-D student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. His paper found cutting coal or diesel emissions to meet Paris Climate Accord emission targets have the added benefit of eliminating a health threat for millions of people.
As humans emit greenhouse gasses they’re also emitting other stuff like particulate matter which has negative consequences for human health.”
Polonick says black carbon particulates are bad for human health and accelerate the planet’s warming. He says reducing industrial pollution could reduce global warming and improve human health. The findings are published in the current edition of the journal Earth’s Future.
Erik Anderson KPBS News

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Coming up.... A look inside California’s new task force on reparations that met for the first time last week. That’s next, just after the break.

As the country continues to reckon with it’s harmful history of racial injustice, born out of slavery and systemic racism... California’s newly formed Reparations Task Force met for the first time last week and established their goal to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans. Reparations task force member Monica Montgomery Steppe who also represents District 4 on the San Diego City Council joined Midday Edition host Jade Hindmon to talk about her role on the task force and what she hopes to accomplish. Here's that interview.

So in this first meeting with the task force, you all spent time defining what reparations is. And when we look at places like Evanston, Illinois, and Asheville, North Carolina, they call social programs, reparations, but that's not what we're talking about here. Can you explain the differences and what this task force is trying to address
Speaker 2: 16:50 This task force is charged with doing some investigatory work, additional research, truly defining what reparations should mean for African-American Californians, and then completing a proposal by June 1st of 2023, so that the state legislature lecture could have a say in that proposal. So I believe in certain aspects of reparations around cash payments, around additional social programs, investing into failing schools with African-American students, student loan debt pay off, there are many different ways that we can go about pursuing this repair that needs to happen not only in California, but in the nation. We just have to figure out the best way to do that and educate people along the way.
Speaker 1: 17:48 How will the task figure out who qualifies for reparations AB
Speaker 2: 17:52 Three one two, one that was authored by Dr. Weber is the bill that established this task force. And the bill is somewhat specific about African-Americans who are descendants of slaves. We still have to dig deeper into that and figure out, you know, identifying who would be eligible for reparations, how we would go about doing that. So clearly, you know, we have two years to do this work, but it is a lot of work and we look to be a model for the nation. And so we're going to be very detailed in how we move forward, because I think it's going to be very important, uh, as the nation's eyes are upon us in this task force, you
Speaker 1: 18:35 Know, some people are having a tough time understanding why this effort should be a priority. One question people are asking is why should California take this on when it wasn't part of the Confederacy? Can you talk about that?
Speaker 2: 18:47 I am a descendant from folks who came from the Confederacy, uh, myself. And in addition, you know, this is a nationwide issue and, and the effects of slavery reverberated across the nation. We know that there has been since slavery state sponsored discrimination, state sponsored violence among, uh African-Americans. And so we have to look at the entire spectrum of how slavery actually built this nation to be one of the richest nations in the world without slavery, that would not have happened. And since that time, red lining black codes, Jim Crow era, and what that brought about the terrorizing of black families, we have to look at this across the board. Slavery absolutely was horrible, and it was the first layer of this, but there are many other layers of discrimination that were built on top of the foundation of slavery. And California is also a part of a lot of that type of discrimination. So we have a responsibility, I believe, to put our best foot forward with doing the investigation, doing the research on the nationwide impact of slavery, but also on events that may have occurred in California specifically. Okay.
Speaker 1: 20:13 So while the, this task force works to address those violations against humanity and the oppression that followed do reparations work without a strategy for social justice. And how important is that to all of this?
Speaker 2: 20:27 Well, I believe reparations is foundational to how we move forward in the social justice space. I really do. I think part of the social justice conversation should certainly be about repairing the nation and, and repairing, uh African-Americans who are descendants of slaves, uh, based on the laws that we have followed in this nation. So it's certainly a part of the conversation. It should not be, you know, be all the end, all, we still have quite a bit of work to do. And I think that's where the educational piece comes in as well, because there is a lot of, of confusion about where reparations fit, but it's extremely important. And as a policymaker, you know, I can draft all types of policies and introduce all types of policies, but the foundational work of, of repairing the wrong is needed. If those policies will be successful in the future,
Speaker 1: 21:29 I'm asking, you know, the reparations we'll address the wrongs, right, that have already happened. But if we still have systemic racism, that's so prevalent in healthcare and finance and banking and all of those things, housing even then do the reparations really work. I see my
Speaker 2: 21:48 Work as coinciding so much with what we are doing on the task force with regard to reparations. So I think really to have a sustainable nation, we have to have both and, you know, the education of why reparations are so relevant, why it's so important. It's important to continue to educate, because as we educate, we will understand that many of our laws stem from racist origins and that has created systemic racism in our systems. So we, as a part of reparations, I believe how to continue to educate because the education, the empowerment, the enlightenment that this will bring it will in and of itself, I believe, begin to really change the structure of our government to change those laws. We will then know where these laws have come from and what spirit in which they were passed. And we can do the work to shift that paradigm. You know, it all works together for us to be in a better state, uh, in an, in a better nation. So I think they go together,
Speaker 1: 23:04 You know, the task force is intergenerational and diverse. How do you see that playing out? And how do you think you all will work? It will
Speaker 2: 23:13 Be like many other taskforce and commissions and committees that we serve on. We all come with a different perspective and we have to continue to work together. We have to respect each other, which I believe, you know, we had a great start in doing that and we'll continue to do that. And I think we will work well together to be proud of the product that we present to the state legislature.
Speaker 1: 23:39 You know, that intergenerational divide was highlighted during the vote for chair and vice chair. Um, what was your takeaway from that?
Speaker 2: 23:47 Yeah, well, it was very important as expressed by other task force members that we honor that intergenerational component that we honor gender inclusivity in leadership, and it was displayed, it was a close vote, the first go round. But I think we made really good choices and the task force will be better for it. We have a young African-American attorney who is a woman that is chairing this task force. And we have a civil rights leader that was taught by Martin Luther king, Jr. Who is the vice chair. And both of our leaders now will be able to work together and to provide the different perspectives so that again, we can move forward with a good product, a good plan to bring before the state legislature,
Speaker 1: 24:48 Reparations task force member, Monica Montgomery step. She also represents district four on the San Diego city council,

That was reparations task force member Monica Montgomery Steppe. She also represents District 4 on the San Diego City council.

That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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San Diego News Now

San Diego news; when you want it, where you want it. Get local stories on politics, education, health, environment, the border and more. New episodes are ready weekday mornings. Hosted by Anica Colbert and produced by KPBS, San Diego and the Imperial County's NPR and PBS station.