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Border businesses struggling ahead of holidays

 November 25, 2022 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Friday, November 25th.

As we enter the holiday season, stores in San Ysidro are trying to make a comeback after the pandemic. More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….

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COVID vaccines are still not required for San Diego Unified students.

Earlier this week, a state appellate court upheld a San Diego Superior Court Judge ruling last year.

Although students must receive some vaccines for in-person learning, only the state can require COVID vaccines without personal exemptions.

The ruling came from a lawsuit filed against the district by the group ‘Let Them Choose’.

The group disagreed with the district’s proposed COVID vaccine mandate.

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80-thousand travelers are expected to pass through the San Diego Airport through Sunday ….traveling for the holiday.

Construction redesigning Terminal 1 has added to traffic on what’s considered to be the busiest travel days of the year.

Sabrina LoPiccolo is with the San Diego Airport Authority.

“The only parking we have is the terminal 2….public transit.”  

Airport officials also recommend the free shuttle services that run between the airport and the Old Town Transit Center.

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And just a reminder, C-H-P is increasing its enforcement this holiday weekend to crack down on D-U-I’s.

Also, there will be more San Diego County Sheriff deputies on duty through the weekend.

All available officers are patrolling county freeways and roads until late Sunday night.

County officials say if you see an impaired driver, call 9-1-1 or the Sheriff’s department.

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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.

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The holiday shopping season is make or break time for San Ysidro’s retail businesses.

But KPBS border reporter Gusatvo Solis spoke to locals who say they are still recovering from the pandemic.

Two weeks ago, Governor Gavin Newsom took a statewide victory lap. “California has now fully recovered all jobs that were lost to the pandemic-induced recession,” he said in a press release sent out to newsrooms throughout the state. But that bit of news didn’t land well in San Ysidro … where more than 200 stores closed and thousands lost their jobs during the pandemic. Jason Wells is the CEO of the San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce. “Unfortunately, that’s not the case here in San Ysidro. We lost over 2,000 jobs here during the pandemic. Those jobs have not miraculously come back.” All businesses were impacted in one way or another by the pandemic. But San Ysidro and other places that depend on cross-border commerce were crushed. This is mainly because of harsh restrictions on border crossings implemented by the Trump administration and continued by President Biden. Jimena Villasenor Martinez is the International Business Affairs Coordinator for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce. She says the entire region’s economy was badly hurt. “So this is shown from the decrease of having an estimated impact of $428 million in 2019 and barely reached $85 million by July of 2021.” Biden lifted the restrictions in late 2021 … but too much damage had already been done. “And local companies have struggled with their work force showing up late for work and delaying production and shipping times which then increases the cost and has them lose clients. Sometimes they even decide to move out of the region or just stop investing in San Diego itself.” In San Ysidro, Wells says retail sales figures are still below what they were before the pandemic. And wait times at the border remain high due to staffing shortages at Customs and Border Protection. All of this likely means another tough holiday shopping season. “Look, over a third of our businesses make their overall net profit for the year between November 20 and January 6. This is extremely crucial.” Making things even worse is the continued closure of the PedWest border crossing. This is important because people used to walk directly from PedWest to the Las Americas outlet mall in San Ysidro. Now they have to go through the PedEast crossing … which is farther away and has a longer wait.  Villasenor Martinez says the inconvenience is too much for many. “There’s no efficient transportation that takes you to Las Americas so either you have to walk or you have to take a bus.” Customs and Border Protection has previously said reopening PedWest is a top priority – but no one knows when that will actually happen. The agency did not respond to KPBS requests for comment. Elsewhere in San Ysidro, vacant stores and For Rent listings are grim signs of a slow recovery. Diana Salazar grew up in Tijuana. She still remembers going on shopping trips to San Ysidro with her mom when she was a little girl. “It’s pretty sad because to see how San Ysidro used to be pretty crowded community and now this boulevard is pretty lonely. They just come here to the bank or the PO Box businesses.” She started working at the Chamber of Commerce during the pandemic. Her role was to try to help businesses get grants or loans to avoid closing. “It’s pretty sad to see how many businesses just closed thanks to the pandemic.” The San Ysidro Chamber of Commerce created a recovery plan to help businesses. Wells asked city and county officials to help fund the plan. He says County Supervisor Nora Vargas’ office contributed $300,000. But Mayor Todd Gloria’s staff did not respond to his plea for aid. “Unfortunately, it’s something we’re used to. We often say we’re part of the city of San Diego, the forgotten part.” Gloria’s office did not respond to questions regarding Well’s concerns. Gustavo Solis, KPBS News

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The threat of a bluff collapse in San Clemente in late September stopped passenger rail service between San Diego and anywhere north of Del mar.

KPBS Reporter Thomas Fudge says service is still not restored.

In September planning officials said San Diegans should expect passenger train service on AMTRAK’s coastal line to stop for at least 60 days, as the problem is fixed. Hasan Ikhrata is the executive director of the San Diego Association of Governments. He now says his hope and expectation is that rail service will, indeed, resume next month. “This holiday season is really the time when people enjoy that rain ride. And people write me and text me and email me and say ‘What are you doing? Why can’t I take the train to Los Angeles?’” Unstable coastal bluffs are a problem for rail service in Orange and San Diego counties. Ikhrata says the ultimate solution will be moving the tracks inland, which will require federal funding. Last Friday US Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg visited San Diego. local officials tried to impress upon him the importance of maintaining service on the nation’s second busiest rail corridor. TF KPBS NEWS. 

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Several months after the San Diego County’s Emergency Rental Assistance program ended, thousands of people are facing eviction.

This week residents staged a protest in a county building.

inewsource reporter Danielle Dawson has more.

DAWSON: Last month, inewsource reported that San Diego County approved thousands of applications for emergency rental assistance, without knowing if funding would be available. DAWSON: On Tuesday, activists with the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment staged a sit-in protest at the county’s Housing and Community Development Services building, calling on officials to address problems like this with the ERA program that left thousands of renters in the region facing eviction. DAWSON: Those there blamed the state and county for not effectively carrying out the ERA program while it lasted, as issues like lack of funding to meet demand, inconsistent communication from caseworkers, and vague denials for applications made relief difficult to access for those that needed it. DAWSON: County officials said in an email that they understand the message from the sit-in action and are ready to fund more applications should money come available, however, it is not clear if any will. DAWSON: With almost all eviction protections having ended, advocates warn that a housing instability crisis is beginning — something which could impede county efforts to address homelessness. For KPBS, I’m inewsource reporter Danielle Dawson.

inewsource is an independently funded, nonprofit partner of KPBS.

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Coming up.... Some local events to ring in the winter holidays. We’ll have that story and more just after the break.

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A local photographer is making it his duty to take the portraits of World War two veterans.

KPBS reporter Melissa Mae tells us how you can get a look at his collection.

MM: Inside Nelson Photo and Video in Point Loma, you’ll find the portraits of local World War II veterans. MM: For retired Navy Chief Photographer Mickey Strand… taking these pictures is a calling… just like the one answered by the men and women in his Veterans Portrait Series. MS “They’re going to see 25 people who answered the call when our country needed them the most. When our country called upon them to sign a check, including a bottom line that might include their life. These are 25 heroes who signed that check and went off to war and kept our country from falling.” MM: Strand’s exhibit will be on display at Nelson Photo and Video until the end of the month. Melissa Mae KPBS News.

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You may be aware of December Nights and The Grinch, but there are countless events and performances in the region to help us ring in the winter holidays.

KPBS arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans joined KPBS’s Maureen Cavanaugh with other event recommendations happening in San Diego next month.

That was KPBS arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans, speaking with KPBS Midday Edition host, Maureen Cavanaugh.

You can find details on all of the winter holiday events on our special calendar, at kpbs-dot-org-slash-winterholidays.

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That’s it for the podcast today. This podcast is produced by KPBS Senior Producer Brooke Ruth and Producer Emilyn Mohebbi. We’d like to also thank KPBS web producer Lara McCaffrey and and editor Nic McVicker for helping out. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great weekend.

The holiday shopping season is a make or break time for San Ysidro’s retail businesses. In other news, following the end of San Diego County’s Emergency Rental Assistance program, residents staged a protest in a county building. Plus, we have some holiday events worth checking out.