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San Diego Streets Still Deadly

Cover image for podcast episode

Two pedestrians use a crosswalk on El Cajon Boulevard in the Little Saigon district, May 11, 2021.

MATTHEW BOWLER

San Diego has a goal of ending all traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2025. But progress has been slow on this “vision zero” plan, and many bike and pedestrian safety projects have yet to be built. Meanwhile, San Diego Unified announced plans to diversify its teachers and administrators. Plus, the 48 Hour Film Project and the San Diego International Film Festival have been partnering for years to highlight short films made by local filmmakers. This Friday the best of the pandemic short films will be available in a virtual Shorts Fest.

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Thursday, May 13th

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Despite lofty goals, San Diego streets remain deadly for pedestrians

More on that next, just after the headlines….

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Governor Gavin Newsom says the state-wide mask mandate will end for almost all circumstances on June 15th. That’s the date set for the state to lift all remaining stay at home orders. The Governor says the world will be - quote - “a lot like the world we entered into before the pandemic.”

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Children between the ages of 12 and 15 in San Diego County can now get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. The children will need the approval of a parent or guardian and they must show ID that proves their age. That news came as the County reached a COVID-19 milestone on Wednesday. Here’s County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher.

“Today, we’re only reporting 94 positive cases. You have to go back almost a full calendar year to have a day in which we were under 100 positive cases.”

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California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the launch of the Racial Justice Bureau this week. It will help the federal Department of Justice investigate hate crimes and white supremacist organizations in the state. Here’s Bonta.

“Throughout California's history, too many of us felt the sting of hate and discrimination. And the fact is that no part of California is immune to hate.

The bureau’s creation comes after a spike in incidents of violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the country.

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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.

In 20-15 San Diego adopted Vision Zero, a campaign to end all traffic deaths and serious injuries by 20-25. But five years in, the city has made little if any progress toward that goal. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen takes a closer look at why that is.

AB: On November 18, 2019, 66-year-old Mai Le was walking from her doctor's office to a pharmacy on El Cajon Boulevard in the Little Saigon district. As she was crossing the street, not in a crosswalk, the driver of an SUV struck and killed her.
23:53
TL: Mai Le death was a tragedy. And it reminded the city, or reminded all of us, that this El Cajon Boulevard is very dangerous.
AB: Tram Lam is president of the Little Saigon Foundation, a nonprofit that works to promote and beautify the neighborhood. She and other civic and business leaders have long been calling for more crosswalks and slower speeds on El Cajon Boulevard, which is one of the city's deadliest corridors. She sees jaywalking all the time, and she understands why.
20:44
TL: The distance between two crosswalks is very far, so that’s the reason why – it make it harder for people, pedestrian to cross the street. So they'd rather jaywalk the street. And that create a very dangerous environment for the driver and also for the pedestrian themself.
AB: Mai Le's death is even more tragic because she died in an area where the city has already planned for safety improvements. A 2017 study recommended narrowing the lanes to slow down traffic, which often exceeds 40 miles per hour. It also recommended more crosswalks and a raised median. But none of the study's recommendations have been implemented. Not even after Mai Le’s death.
24:30
TL: These are the dangerous situation that people have to live through every single day. And then our elected official is not do anything about it. They're actually going out there and talk to people, and people reflect and voice their concern. But their concern is not being heard.
AB: This despite the city launching a program in 2015 called Vision Zero. It's an ambitious goal of eliminating traffic deaths within 10 years. But we're halfway through and the numbers haven't gone down. In 2015, there were 58 traffic deaths within the city limits. In 2020, deaths went up to 61.
2:57
EH: We do see, you know, year-to-year fluctuation. Of course we want to see, you know, all serious injuries and fatalities trending toward zero.
AB: Everett Hauser is a city traffic engineer. He says his department has done what it can with the budget that the mayor and City Council have provided. That’s included new crosswalks , bike lanes and other safety measures. Still, he admits it took a while for the program to ramp up.
3:18
EH: But every year we conduct additional analysis evaluating high crash locations. And then as well as some of the latest we've done with our systemic safety analysis is looking at ways to improve safety system wide across the city.
15:25
TG: We're not meeting the mark. We need to do better. I've brought, hopefully, a new attitude, new energy to this issue.
AB: Mayor Todd Gloria blames the halting progress on his predecessor, Kevin Faulconer, and what he calls a "lack of urgency" on making streets safer.
15:47
TG: The question is how much time do we have to actually effectuate those changes. My hope is to have as much time as possible because some of this stuff is difficult, because it requires a lot of process. And we're quickly running out of time.
AB: Many cities are finding faster and cheaper ways to slow down traffic. Projects that would normally be done with concrete can also be done with paint and bollards. Beryl Forman of the El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association says city traffic engineers have been slow to adopt those more innovative measures.
59:44
BF: If someone’s standing in the way who’s a director of a department who doesn’t believe it’s okay to make our streets safer, well then they probably shouldn’t be in that position. Because we have goals set. We need to roll out and take action. Especially when it comes to the safety of our communities.
AB: Frequently, Vision Zero projects run into community opposition because of parking and traffic concerns. A protected bike lane might require removing parking. A wider sidewalk might require reducing the number of travel lanes. Tram Lam of the Little Saigon Foundation says if taking space away from cars means fewer people in her community dying, she's okay with it.
27:47
TL: We need to start redesign and rethink about our street and our city to increase the quality of life for the people and to make it as safe as it can be for everybody. Because a street or a sidewalk is not just for car, but it's also for people as well.
AB: Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.

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On Tuesday night, San Diego Unified School District announced plans to diversify the ranks of teachers and administrators in the county. KPBS Education Reporter Joe Hong has more.

Currently about 76% of San Diego Unified students identify as people of color, while just 35% of teachers are people of color. During the school board’s regular meeting Tuesday, district officials detailed plans to narrow that gap. School Board President Richard Barrera says the change is needed.
RICHARD BARRERA /// SD UNIFIED SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT
Leadership in the district, our principals, our top level administrators that come from the experience of our students, we think leads to better teaching practices. But also is more inspiring and motivating to a student to see someone who reflects their experiences.
The plan includes an incentive program for current San Diego Unified students to enter the teaching profession. Students will be able to start their teacher training during high school and be guaranteed employment with the district if they complete the program.
San Diego Unified’s chief human resources officer Acacia Thede said that while state law prohibits the district from setting quotas for employee demographics, these efforts will allow it to organically grow a more diverse workforce.
ACACIA THEDE /// SD UNIFIED CHIEF HUMAN RESOURCES OFFICERWe’re paying attention to what we’re doing, what we’re saying, who we’re working with. And we’re ensuring that our actions.. our practices don’t reflect systemic systems of racism and bias.
Student Board Member Zachary Patterson applauded the effort to retain students within the community as teachers.
ZACHARY PATTERSON /// SD UNIFIED STUDENT BOARD MEMBERI think it’s a unique approach that ensures we have this community advocacy and we have this community support which is critical. Who better to teach a student than a student who actually went to that school?
With these plans, the district hopes to add 3% more teachers and administrators of color each year for the next five years. Joe Hong KPBS News.

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the number of unaccompanied children crossing the border decreased in April, bucking a months-long upward trend. That’s according to an announcement on Tuesday from Customs and Border Protection.

KPBS’ Max Rivlin-Nadler has this update from the San Diego Convention center where many of those unaccompanied migrant children are being sheltered.

The amount of unaccompanied children crossing the border fell 9% in April, from a record high in March.
During the months-long uptick in children crossing the border alone, California’s own border sectors saw just a modest rise in the number of apprehensions of unaccompanied minors. Those numbers held steady for April.
But even without the rise along its own border, San Diego has played a vital role in sheltering thousands of these unaccompanied children.
Since late March, the San Diego convention center has sheltered 2,629 unaccompanied children in total, according to numbers obtained by KPBS.
989 children have been reunited with family members or sponsors, with those numbers increasing in recent days as the process has been streamlined by the federal government.
The average stay is 30 days, while the average population of children has hovered around 1100 — 400 fewer than the convention center’s capacity.
Currently, 71 children are in isolation after testing positive for COVID-10.
Emergency intake sites like the convention center have allowed the federal government to quickly move children out of ill-equipped Border Patrol facilities along the border. Currently, only a few hundred children are in those facilities — and none for more than 72 hours.
Now, the job becomes getting these children out of facilities like the convention center and other temporary spaces before they revert back to their original uses.
In San Diego, that will be in mid-July — meaning that case managers there have eight weeks to reunite children with families or sponsors before they lose the space to hold them. Something they’ll accomplish if current trends hold.
It might be grim to reduce an issue like this to numbers, but that's essentially what it comes down to right now for the federal government and its local partners.
And right now, the math is adding up in the Biden administration’s favor, with cities like San Diego playing a huge part in sheltering children during a turbulent time on the border.
Max Rivlin-Nadler, KPBS NEWS

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Coming up.... The 48 Hour Film Project and the San Diego International Film Festival have collaborated to put together a shorts fest highlighting the works of local filmmakers. We’ll have more from KPBS Beth Accomando on that next, just after the break.

The 48 Hour Film Project and the San Diego International Film Festival have been partnering for years to highlight short films made by local filmmakers. This Friday at noon the best of the pandemic short films will be available in a virtual Shorts Fest. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando speaks with 48 Hour Film Project organizer Duane Trammell and filmmaker Christina Rheuby (pronounced Ruby).

Speaker 2: 00:29 Dwayne, the 48 hour film project is going to be having a special screening showcase at the San Diego international film festival this year. So for people who may not be familiar, explain what a 48 hour film project is all about.
Speaker 3: 00:45 Well, a 48 hour film project is in its 20th year. It's a worldwide filmmaking competition where teams of filmmakers in and certain cities around the world. There's about 130 or so cities on a competition weekend teams of filmmakers meet. And they're given a, a line of dialogue and character in a prop and they draw random film genre to different films, genres, and they have 48 hours from 7:00 PM on Friday to 7:30 PM on Sunday, which is an additional half hour. That was historically for travel time. Of course, these days we kind of do it electronically, but they still get the extra half hour. So they have 48 hours to write, shoot, edit, and turn it into complete film. And then the films are judged locally with the winning film, going on to film a Palooza, which has held in some cities around the world, somewhere from all those films, a winning film is chosen as the grand champion.
Speaker 2: 01:42 So Christina for a filmmaker, why do you want to put yourself through the ordeal of trying to crank something out in just 48 hours? What's the fun or the challenge of that? That's actually the best part of it is that, you know what I like to tell people. So when I put out the movie that we made, I like to tell them if you think it's amazing, we made this in 48 hours. And if you don't think it's great, just remember we made this in 48 hours. It's like buys you a lot of flexibility and credence from people that they're like, Oh wow, you made this in 48 hours. That's amazing. But that's part of the appeal for me is that you get basically carte blanche to do whatever you want to do, because there's really no downside to doing something awesome. In that timeframe, like with my film specifically, we've made it a one-shot, which is where the bulk of it.
Speaker 2: 02:29 There's no edits because I wanted a thing that I was like, we're going to get it. Like we rehearsed all day. We five of our seven minutes as a one-shot because I just wanted to see it and have it all come together. But yeah, I'm not in it for the long haul. I want the instant gratification. And in running this program, what is it that you see in filmmakers that comes out when you force them to kind of work with these restrictions of time and character and a dialogue line and you know, a prop, uh, the,
Speaker 3: 03:00 The single biggest thing is the creativity. A side note to the creativity is just the teamwork and how everyone just loves doing this competition. I know as a, as a film student, I did it right after I graduated San Diego state. And I feel like I learned as much doing a 48 hour film project as I did in any of the film projects that I did in school, the compression of time forces you to be creative and to make decisions very quickly.
Speaker 2: 03:33 And Christina, your film that is going to screen is called soundbites. So what were the parameters you had to work with in terms of character and prop and line? I think we'd use a musical instrument as our prop, which lucky for me, one of my cast members played the violin and not very well. So it actually worked out perfectly for what I needed it for. And then we had to use a character, which was, um, I know we used Rocky, but I think you could also use Raquel. And then the line was, did you wash your hands? Cause I think we were in mid COVID at the time and everybody was mindful of that thing. So in the beginning I bemoaned the fact that I had to use all of those things because I'm like, ah, it's holding me back creatively, but it ended up, I actually really like that they're in there, there's little sort of Easter eggs, except when you put it out for people who are outside of the 48, you have to sort of give them context of why this person is playing a violin in the middle of whatever it is that you're talking about, because it really doesn't make sense outside of the 48.
Speaker 2: 04:36 And one of the things that you're also restricted by is you draw a genre.
Speaker 2: 04:42 Yes. So, um, and they give you two. And so, uh, ours this year where the, it was horror and film noir. So I took the horror route. I actually, I took liberties with the horror because it, for me, it was more of a, mine was a movie within a movie. So they were filming a zombie movie, which was a horror. And then in addition to that, it was supposed to be the main characters, like worst nightmare, worst day, sort of like his life falling apart. So it wasn't traditional horror and that you've see like ghosts and zombies and all that stuff. So I sort of took liberties with that are all the films that are showing at the San Diego international film festival where these shot during pandemic, or also outside of pandemic,
Speaker 3: 05:26 Everything that's shot was shot during the pandemic. For sure. Yeah. I want to make a comment about the prop because this is something that we struggle with every year is having a fun prop that can not be used as a weapon, not easily used as a weapon because so many teams want to use their prop as a weapon. So every year, like one year we have marshmallows and of course someone died by marshmallow, if you can imagine that even happening. So, Oh yeah. All the films were shot during the pandemic. They were all shot last year at the height of the pandemic actually. And, uh, we actually, uh, you know, speaking about the pandemic, we do have guidelines in place and actually an online certification that the filmmakers can get the, say that they are doing safe set practices,
Speaker 2: 06:12 Going to be having your next event in terms of people actually making the films.
Speaker 3: 06:15 We're looking at September this year and the same with last year, because we were hoping that we would get to a point where theaters would open up last year and we would be able to have at least some form of in-person screening. And, you know, if we can't get a theater then will be online, like it was last year. And I guess mid case scenario is that we do a limited in-person screening with an also a online presence as well.
Speaker 2: 06:45 And Dwayne, if people want to find out about participating in the 48 hour film project, where can they get that information?
Speaker 3: 06:51 So if they go to www.fortyeighthourfilm.com/san Diego, that's where they can find out information about the competition right now. It says that no dates have been chosen yet. That will be updated as soon as, uh, we, we know exactly what we're going to be doing this year. I'm also want to mention for beginning filmmakers, we encourage beginning filmmakers. And we, if you email us and tell us that your beginning filmmaker will work to get you hooked up with a mentor, somebody who's done it before to help you through that process. So it's a great, we have a high school teams that do it. And even our youngest filmmaker who formed his own team was nine years old and was very close to winning best film. The, he did a great film his first time. Of course, yeah. He was working with his family and everything, but he was the team leader at nine years old. It was amazing.

That was Beth Accomando speaking with Duane Trammell and Christina Rheuby. The 48 Hour Film Project Shorts block is available online this Friday at noon through the San Diego International Film Festival.

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.