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Considering new solar rules

 December 15, 2022 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Thursday, December 15th.

California regulators are considering new solar power rules. More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….

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The Federal Reserve raised interest rates by half a point yesterday.

Cal Coast Credit Union CEO Matt Ficco, says that even before the latest increase, consumers were faced with huge increases in payments for new homes and cars.

“We see consumers trying to extend their car loans out to  beyond 72  months 84 months in some cases 96 months or even 100 months those are significant terms to pay an auto loan.”

Yesterday’s rate hike was the seventh since March, but was a smaller increase than previous rate hikes.

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California's task force studying reparations for black residents is meeting again today, to discuss potential eligibility requirements and what form reparations could take.

The group will also talk about how the state could address its impact on black families whose ancestors had their property seized.

Kamilah Moore is the chair of the Task Force.

She said this week’s meetings are at a pivotal point.

“This is the beginning of the development stage where now the task force will begin to determine what those final recommendations might look like.”

The task force has until July first to release the final report to the legislature.

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This week, the city of San Diego banned wood bonfires on city beaches, unless the fires are inside designated city rings.

City officials said the new policy will help reduce injuries from burning wood underneath the sand.

The ban will take effect 30 days after the San Diego City Council approves it a second time next month.

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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 uncertainty clouding California’s solar marketplace could be settled this week as regulators consider a proposal that changes the rules for electricity generated by rooftop solar.

KPBS Environment reporter Erik Anderson says The California Public Utilities Commission is considering a plan that slashes the solar subsidy.

 When KPBS talked to Ricardo Castillo a year ago he was just as excited about showing off his garden as his solar system. Ricardo Castillo, City Heights “My City Heights courtyard cottage.  Got my tangerines, My avocados go here….” His rooftop solar panels and a new efficient heating and cooling unit have slashed his utility bills. But new solar customers are facing a different reality if regulators approve proposed changes to California’s solar rules. Matt Baker, CPUC Public Advocates Office “We think rooftop solar is very important.  Our concern was how you fund it.” Matt Baker is the director of the Public Advocates office at the California Public Utilities Commission. He says the proposed net energy metering rules, NEM is the shorthand, don’t include the investor-owned utility’s call for mandatory steep grid connection fees for solar owners. But the plan does slash the value of electricity produced on rooftops and that means it will take longer to recover the thousands of dollars homeowners spent to install the panels. “California’s eye watering rates are the other part of the equation that deals with payback.  And if you live in San Diego you have the highest rates in California.  You, I believe have second first third depending on the measurement, highest rates in the country.  And 10-to-20 percent of that high rate is just the NEM subsidy to customers.” The Public Advocate Office’s rate specialist says existing solar owners get a rate benefit that can earn them up to six times the value of their initial investment.  Mike Campbell says that’s too much and the proposed rules are much more sustainable. Matt Campbell Public Advocates office. “If the question is, is it less generous than what there is.  Yes. Is the amount of generosity we have currently reasonable. No.” A move to steeper peak electricity rates between 4 p-m and nine p-m is designed to create an incentive to install batteries. That would give residents the ability to store electricity during the day and use it during peak pricing hours.  Campbell and Baker say they would rather see solar subsidies that give credits for installation, like the federal government does, but they are stuck with paying for those subsidies inside of already high electricity rates. Yeah that’s right you can give me some….cheering  The proposed changes don’t sit well with solar backers.  Advocates have worked hard for over a year to keep existing incentives so the state can double the number of solar households to three million by 2030.  Advocates are optimistic the California Public Utilities Commission can still make changes. Karina Gonzalez of Hammond Climate Solutions Foundation “We’ve managed to build a statewide and local coalition of cities, elected officials, nonprofits, churches, schools, climate justice organizations and we’ve been able to successfully advocate for changes in previous proposals.” The new plan doesn’t include a $600 million dollar equity fund that was in last year’s rejected proposal.  That was a subsidy designed to bring solar to low-income households and communities of color.  Solar and community advocates reject utility backed arguments that the current solar subsidy falls unfairly on the bills of residents without solar.  Price says solar takes power out of the hands of the few and puts it into the hands of many. Eddie Price Grid Alternatives. “In order to address equity, you have to intentionally address inequity.  And rooftop solar is a way to do that.  You allow us to participate in our own life here, right? As well as helping the planet and helping the grid, but they’re trying to take all that away.” The California Air Resources Board says the state needs to quadruple the amount of solar generated electricity by 2045, to hit the state’s carbon neutrality goals. The state’s move to cut the solar subsidy by 75 percent is widely expected to slow solar installations. that’ll hurt an industry that employs more than 68-thousand workers.“This is very inconsistent with what they’re trying to do.  Because by putting in this new mandate they are basically trying to cut the number of residential solar installs.  And that is not good for the industry at all.  It’s not good for the industry, it’s not good for homeowners.” Regulators will discuss the second proposal to revise net energy metering on Thursday (Dec 15th).  They can adopt, reject, or tweak the measure or a commissioner could introduce a different option. Any action requires a majority vote from the five-member panel. Erik Anderson KPBS News

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Baja California prosecutors this week sentenced two cartel hit men to 25 years for the murder of journalist Margarito Martinez.

Martinez was one of two Tijuana journalists gunned down in January.

KPBS reporter Gustavo Solis has details.

Sonia de Anda attended every single court hearing in Tijuana for Margarito Martinez’s murder trial. Prosecutors recounted some of the most gruesome details during the five-hour sentencing hearing on December 12. She says the cartel hitmen hunted the 49-year-old Martinez as if he were their prey. “Realmente fue casado por estos sujetos.” Two hitmen stalkedMartinez for two days before killing him the morning of January 19. An assassin identified as “El Uber” fired the gun while another man known as “El Huesos” filmed the whole thing. Prosecutors say they were paid $1,000 each. Prosecutors also identified the alleged mastermind of the murder  … a man known  as Cabo 20. He is currently in jail for another murder and has not been formally charged in Martinez’ death. Gustavo Solis KPBS News

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A group of S-D-S-U students gathered for a march on campus yesterday.

KPBS Reporter Melissa Mae spoke with the organizer.

MM: The San Diego district attorney announced last week that no charges were going to be filed for the alleged sexual assault that took place in the college area over a year ago.  MM: We talked to Jade Smith, a second year SDSU student and organizer of the survivors march on campus. JS “It’s only me doing this and whether it’s five people or if it’s 20 plus people, our message is still the same. We want something to change. We want something to happen. We want consequences to be given because if they are not it enables this behavior.”  MM: SDSU’s investigation remains active regardless of the DA’s decision. MM: The university continues to urge anyone with information to come forward and share it with the Title IX office. Melissa Mae KPBS News. 

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Coming up.... A place to lounge around… with cats. We’ll have that story and more, next, just after the break.

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A local nonprofit is hoping to bring holiday cheer to a group of seniors.

KPBS North County reporter Tania Thorne tells us more.

This week, the Encinitas Community Resource Center is giving residents at the Cantebria Senior Homes a holiday gift. Rebecca Nussbaum is with the Community Resource Center.  “What we really find is that the holidays bring a lot of stress to families and individuals living in low income. They have the pressure of the holidays and want to be able to provide for their families but often times are not able to so we really want to alleviate that stress while also offering them a brighter holiday experience.” She says the senior holiday gifts are just a portion of the annual traditions the center does. They also fill holiday backpacks for people experiencing homelessness and take families in need shopping. Into the new year, their headquarters will be expanding into the building they purchased next door.

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You're probably familiar with traditional animal shelters, where pets wait for a forever home.

But KPBS reporter John Carroll found a cat rescue in La Jolla that's nothing like the usual.

On Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla - close to the end where it meets Girard - you find a lounge - for people… and cats. A place where felines destined for euthanasia are rescued… a lounge where love between people and cats blossoms.Renee Shamloo Cat Lounge & Rescue Founder Executive Director “I worked with other shelters, rescues, veterinary hospitals and wanted to just do things differently.” That’s the founder and executive director of The Cat Lounge and Rescue, Renee Shamloo.  She’s a practicing attorney - that’s her 9 to 5 job.  But as much as Shamloo loves the law - her passion for cats compelled her to get involved in rescuing them - and matching them up with people.  She started in her apartment… “And it was successful but that’s such a small scale, so I knew I needed something So that’s where the Cat Lounge came from and yeah, this is it now (laughs).”The building that is now the Cat Lounge and Rescue had been vacant for some time, so it was affordable.  It opened in 2019. About a year ago, Shamloo obtained the space next door.  A wall was knocked down and a nursery was born.  It is light and airy… kittens are kept with their sisters and brothers in separate compartments… “You don’t want to swap or intermingle litters because one might have diseases and the other one doesn’t.” The compartments have clear walls.  Shamloo, along with her staff and volunteers aren’t fans of cages…  Anyone who works at a shelter will tell you - the kittens get adopted out much faster than their older counterparts. “I’ve never had cats before, so it’ll be new…” While we were recording this story, Rebecca Powell and her husband Cain came in to browse… but after a few minutes, love was in the air… and a new chapter of human - feline relations was about to begin. Rebecca Powell New Kitten Parent “Suddenly I met those two kittens and I was like, oh my gosh, this is great and they like me, I think and so I guess they’re gonna come home with me.” Over on the lounge side, the adult cats spend their days welcoming visitors… no doubt hoping for that right one.  But it’s not a bad place to wait… there are lots of toys and cat trees, even a catwalk hangs from the ceiling… there is plenty to do. The Cat Lounge Rescue and Adoption Center is non-profit.  They survive on donations and on admission.  There is a fee of 20-dollars for adults, 10 for kids and seniors.  Shamloo says most visitors don’t end up adopting… she says a lot of people just like spending time here. “We have wifi so if you want to bring your laptop and do work, I don’t know how much work you’ll get done…” But for those who adopt, the cost of admission is subtracted from the adoption fee - which ranges between 95 and 300-dollars depending on the cat’s age.  But, once you’re a cat parent, the Cat Lounge doesn’t abandon you! “Once they do go home, we call after a few days to see how things are going.  We are always a resource for our adopters.  //CUT TO 21:30:13// And I think that’s one of the best things about adopting from a rescue is you have our knowledge and our care behind it.” That knowledge and care has had a pretty remarkable outcome…  a chalkboard in the corner of the lounge spells it out…  Once the pandemic hit, they shot from 223 adoptions in 2019 to nearly 17-hundred the following year.  The total to date is four-thousand-573-cats…  connections made, homes found, lives saved. JC, KPBS News.

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That’s it for the podcast today. 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 day.

The uncertainty clouding California’s solar marketplace could be settled this week as regulators consider a proposal that changes the rules for electricity generated by rooftop solar. In other news, Baja California prosecutors this week sentenced two cartel hit men to 25 years for the murder of journalist Margarito Martinez. Plus, we take you to San Diego's only nonprofit cat lounge.