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Affordable housing debate in Encinitas

 June 28, 2024 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Katie Hyson…. it’s Friday, June 28th.


Efforts to build new affordable housing in Encinitas are inching forward. More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….


The county’s Sheriff’s Department is investigating the latest death of a person held in one of its jails.

The department says the 42-year-old man was found unresponsive Wednesday evening in a shower area at the San Diego Central Jail downtown… and could not be revived.

His name has not been released.

The Sheriff’s Department says the man experienced a medical emergency.

An official cause of death will be determined by the Medical Examiner’s Office.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, this is the 6th in-custody death this year,.


A person who drowned off the coast of Pacific Beach early yesterday (Thursday) morning has been identified as a firefighter from Oakland.

The Oakland Fire Department says 25-year-old Caeden Laffen was in the ocean with friends near Crystal Pier, when he was separated from the group.

The San Diego Fire-Rescue Department says the man was most likely caught in a riptide.His body washed ashore several hours later.


A bill dealing with how public schools disclose a students sexual orientation or gender identity is awaiting the Governor’s signature.

The state legislature gave final approval yesterday to Assembly Bill 1955 – written by San Diego assemblymember Chris Ward.

If enacted by Governor Gavin Newsom, the law would ban school districts from requiring disclosure to parents.

It’s a response to policies recently enacted by some school districts in the state, which LGBTQ+ advocates say amounted to forced outing.


From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.Stay with me for more of the local news you need.


An empty lot in Encinitas is at the heart of a contentious debate over affordable housing.

North County reporter Tania Thorne says most speakers at Wednesday’s city council meeting opposed building housing on the site.

But the council voted to continue exploring it as an option… sort of.


The controversial city owned lot off of Quail Gardens Drive in Encinitas sparked debate in Wednesday's city council meeting. 

Some residents want a park and some support the affordable housing development the city had proposed with 30 to 45 units.  

While the original motion to study the site for the development failed, the city isn’t taking affordable housing off the table. 

Here's Encinitas mayor Tony Kranz. 

“We would all benefit… by having a conversation …. seeing if there's a way to achieve 45+  affordable units in some other way than developing this site. That doesn't necessarily mean this site goes away as a potential housing site.”

The council passed an amended motion.  It includes community education on affordable housing laws and discussion groups about the site's future development. 

A new task force will also be formed to explore other locations for affordable housing. 

The taskforce will have 6 months before returning to council with their findings. 

Tania Thorne, KPBS News. 


Education officials in San Diego and Mexico are working together to support our region’s binational students.

Reporter Katie Anastas has more on the challenges they face.

When American-born students enroll in Mexican schools, language can be a big challenge.

San Diego Unified School District deputy superintendent Fabiola Bagula says it can dissuade students from going to school at all.

“When our students for some reason have to move back to Mexico, they actually don’t speak Spanish.” 

Edgar Lampkin, with the California Association of Bilingual Education, says more dual language immersion programs could help bilingual students keep their language skills strong. 

“Even though we have the largest number of English learners in California, compared to the rest of the United States, we are behind when it comes to the number of English learners that are in dual immersion programs.”

The California Department of Education aims to have 1,600 dual language immersion programs in the state by 2030.

Katie Anastas, KPBS News.


Coming up.... Chula Vista has a lot more people than it did 20 years ago.

Some of that population is in newly developed land east of the urban core.

And that kind of growth comes with a risk.

“As much as wildfire is a distinct risk to the community, there are other things that become more of a priority to the community and the public.”

We’ll have that story and more, just after the break.


Chula Vista is one of the fastest growing parts of the county.

The city has gained almost a hundred thousand people over the last two decades… and has sprawled outwards to the east.

But that kind of growth and development can come with some big wildfire risks.

South Bay reporter Kori Suzuki says the city may not be doing enough to manage them.

Juan Escorcia talks up Chula Vista every chance he gets.

“It's one of those community where you come, you park, you stay, and you grow a family. And that's just like you're forever happy.”

That’s part of the deal for Escorcia. He works as a real estate agent in Chula Vista. Working with young families and other potential buyers. His whole job is to make people feel at home in the city.

It’s more than just work, though. Escorcia and his family also live here. Escorcia likes the feel of the new homes and parks and shopping centers in East Chula Vista. He and his wife are both runners, and they love the trails and canyons.

But at the same time, Escorcia says there’s always a little worry at the back of his mind. It was there when he and his wife first moved to Chula Vista in 2016. It was there when they bought their second house here, in San Miguel. The question of how much risk there is here – of a wildfire.

“There's a lot of valleys. There's a lot of open space as well. If not controlled, then it could be a disaster.”

It’s true  – as Chula Vista continues to grow eastward, the threat of a major wildfire here is also growing. Last year, the city updated one of its emergency planning documents. Called a multi-jurisdictional hazard plan. It says thousands of homes could ignite during the next wildfire. And blames the city for not doing enough to manage the growth of wild vegetation.

According to the plan, the biggest danger comes from the dozens of canyons that carve through the eastern side of the city.

“We have several areas of the city that we're not able to reach annually…”

Marlon King is the city’s emergency services manager and helped write the city’s hazard plan. Inside those areas, he says, grasses and shrubs have grown wild. Building up layers of dry branches.

“…With over 30 open space areas and a limited budget and a limited amount of staff within our divisions, you can't get to all of these. These areas. Some areas have grown for 30 plus years.”

Some of these canyons are also right next to older, more vulnerable homes. Plants there can grow much closer to buildings. And the structures themselves are less resistant to heat and embers. If a fire started in one of those ravines, it could race up the walls and jump from canyon to canyon.

Chula Vista Fire Chief Harry Muns says this has all happened because the city hasn’t set aside enough money to properly manage the canyons.

“As much as wildfire is a distinct risk to the community, there are other things that become more of a priority to the community and the public.”

City leaders in Chula Vista HAVE taken SOME decisive steps to get ahead of the next wildfire.

One of those is the Fire Department’s new fuels crew: a special crack team of firefighters, armed with chainsaws, weed whackers and other heavy-duty tools. Their goal is to clear out some of the most overgrown canyons. The program launched just last year. It’s managed to significantly clear out three of the most dangerous canyons so far.

The department is also trying to bring back the city’s fire safe council. A local volunteer group that focuses on spreading information about fire risk and safety. Part of a countywide network. Chula Vista used to have one, but it went dormant during the pandemic and hasn’t come back since then.

Still, officials say not much has changed since the city updated its hazard plan last October. 

Wildfire researcher Luca Carmignani says Chula Vista is far from alone. Many cities are dealing with these same issues.

“We always rely on firefighters for everything. And we just have this feeling that if something happens, the firefighters will just be there to protect all of us… …Unfortunately, the last few decades, especially the last couple of decades, I've shown how this is not the case.”

Carmingani says it’s equally important for residents to join community groups LIKE the Chula Vista fire safe council. And do what they can to reinforce their homes.

“At the end of the day, we are the city of Chula Vista. We are the ones living here.”

Escorcia, the real estate agent, has been thinking about this a lot. He talks about fire risk, not just with potential homebuyers, but at his church and with neighbors.

“You have to come out and share your voice.”

And Escorcia is proud to live in Chula Vista. He says he’s confident in the capabilities of the city and the fire department to protect them.

Still, he also says he and his family aren’t sure what the future holds.

“We don't know. We don't know where that will take us, where that will lead us. But definitely Chula Vista is what we call home now.”

In Chula Vista, Kori Suzuki, KPBS News.


This is Black Music Month… and it closes this weekend in San Diego with a festival highlighting local artists across multiple genres.

Jacob Aere has a preview.

Saturday will be filled with music, creativity and heritage at the first ever San Diego Black Arts and Culture District Music Festival.

Lyrical Groove’s Kendrick Dial will be part of the show with a sound he calls “spoken soul…” 

“... it's spoken word, its soul, its jazz, its hip hop – its all these elements of what we historically call Black music. So there's a Gospel feeling to it, there's a message base.”

The music festival will showcase live performances from local artists. Plus there will be local food vendors, visual art displays and cultural exhibits. 

It's free, and will be  at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Park this Saturday from 11 am to 8 pm. Jacob Aere, KPBS News.

That’s just one of many arts events happening this weekend.

Others include the 2024 Summer Opening Night for the San Diego Symphony… and the North Park Mini Book Fair.

Details are in the weekend arts guide curated by KPBS arts producer Julia Dixon Evans.

You can get it every Thursday as a newsletter.

Sign up at KPBS-dot-org, and look for the newsletters tab on the homescreen.

That’s it for the podcast today.

This podcast was produced by Bennett Lacy and edited by Brooke Ruth.

As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org.

I’m Katie Hyson. Thanks for listening and have a great weekend.

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The Encinitas City Council weighs options to build affordable housing units in the coastal community. Also, Chula Vista tries to close the gap on wildfire preparedness. And, a preview of the San Diego Black Arts and Culture District Music Festival.