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Freeway expansion could cost San Diego millions

 October 24, 2022 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Monday, October 24th.

The City of San Diego seeks to spend millions on a freeway expansion despite climate goals. More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….


Today is your last day to register to receive a ballot in the mail for the November 8th general election.

If you don’t register for a mail-in ballot, you will need to head to the Registrar’s office in Kearny Mesa or visit a vote center starting Saturday to register and vote through Election Day.

For information on how to register to vote and for a list of vote centers, log on to KPBS-DOT-ORG-SLASH-VOTER-HUB.


The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency has introduced a combined Respiratory Virus Surveillance Report.

It will track both COVID-19 and the flu in the region.

The report will provide San Diegans with a detailed breakdown of common respiratory illness activity, including cases, outbreak information and deaths.

It will be released every Thursday.


There was a slight decrease in the unemployment rate in San Diego County, between August and September.

The September rate was three-point-one-percent, compared to three-point-four percent in August.

Last month's unemployment rate was considerably less than September last year.


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


Less than three months ago, San Diego officials pledged to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions in the next 13 years.

That means the city's entire carbon footprint will have to be offset by removing the same amount of carbon from the atmosphere.

But now, the city wants to spend more than 20-million-dollars to expand a freeway.

KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen says it would represent a major setback for the city's climate goals.

AB: State Route 56 is a major thoroughfare connecting the employment hubs of Sorrento Valley and University City with bedroom communities like Carmel Valley and Rancho Penasquitos. Traffic is pretty light most of the day… but during rush hour, it gets congested. That's why the city of San Diego wants to pay for 2.2 miles of new carpool lanes. PT: You know it is commonly misunderstood with, you know, the difference between general purpose lanes and managed lanes. So — AB: Phil Trom is a program manager in the city's Sustainability and Mobility Department. He says the new lanes will encourage carpooling, and for that reason, they're good for the city's climate goals of cutting back on car dependence. AL: The research is not on their side with that claim. AB: Amy Lee is a PhD candidate at UC Davis. She says decades of research and data collection have made it crystal clear: Expanding freeways puts more cars on the road. Congestion might ease up for a few years. But those faster speeds entice more drivers onto the freeway, and congestion quickly returns. A study from UC Berkeley last year found this phenomenon, called "induced demand," is just as true for carpool lanes as it is for general purpose lanes. That's because the new lanes fill up with people who are already carpooling. AL: We call that filtering. You and your carpool move over to the new carpool lane, that spot is backfilled and we all kind of know the rest from there. New traffic and new trips are made. AB: So I had to ask city staffers: What impact will the new carpool lanes have on traffic? Phil Trom had to pause before answering. AB: Will they see less congestion once those new lanes are added? long pause PT: Hard to say. AB: So just how much more driving will the new lanes induce? UC Davis researchers developed an online calculator to answer those questions. Put in the data for the SR-56 widening and boom: 12.8 million miles of new vehicle travel per year. Remember, the city says it wants to reduce driving. And by 2035, it'll be legally required to offset all the emissions from the cars and trucks that are still on the road. MVW: And with that, we'll take the vote. So Vice Chair LaCava. JL: I vote yes. AB: On October 12, a city council committee voted unanimously to advance the widening project to the full council. It'll cost the city $22.5 million dollars. And city staffers suggested any cost overruns would be absorbed by the state transportation department. Here's councilmember Joe LaCava. JL: And the 22-5, is that the full cost of the project or is Caltrans kicking in some money on this? DH: Caltrans is also contributing. The city's contribution is capped at the 22.5. JL: Okay, I like the word capped. That's always a good thing. AB: But this is not necessarily true. The state would oversee construction. But Caltrans North County director Allan Kosup told KPBS the state won't be contributing any money. And during high inflation, the risk of cost overruns is very real. AK: We do have contingency built into the 22 million dollars to cover some increase. If we went above and beyond that, we would go back to the city and ask the city if they were willing to contribute more. If they were unable to contribute more, we would reduce the scope of the project. CC: Is this going to relieve congestion by 17 seconds? Is it gonna be two minutes AB: Corinna Contreras is a policy advocate for the nonprofit Climate Action Campaign. We meet at a gas station overlooking the freeway. She says the city is not being honest with the public about what these new HOV lanes will actually do for traffic or the environment. CC: Because I think when we start asking those questions and we don't get answers to them, it really is telling about how we're deciding to use this money, this public money. AB: The full city council could vote on the widening of SR-56 as soon as November 1st. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.

In other climate action-related news…

California’s groundbreaking efforts in the last two decades to reduce carbon emissions seems to have been undone by one season of raging wildfires.

A new study by climate researchers finds that the record-breaking series of wildfires in 20-20 released twice the amount of emissions than were saved by carbon-reduction efforts since 2003.

Up until now, emissions from wildfires have not been taken into account when assessing the progress of the state’s carbon reduction efforts.

But they may soon be included in California’s climate projections.

Rajinder Sahota is the deputy executive officer of the California Air Resources Board.

She spoke with KPBS Midday Edition host Maureen Cavanaugh.


One San Diego city councilman wants to give employees more parental leave.

KPBS reporter Claire Trageser looks into his proposal.

Councilman Raul Campillo has come up with a new plan to quadruple parental leave. Right now, city employees get four weeks of paid leave after the birth of their child. He wants to boost that to 12 weeks. “The last thing we want is any city of San Diego employee to think is they’ve just given birth to their baby and they have to rush back to work.” Campillo says the plan would cost between 5 and 6 million dollars a year—up from 1.5 million currently. But, he says, it would recoup some costs by decreasing staff turnover and overtime. Campillo’s plan was sent to Mayor Todd Gloria for approval. It does not require a vote from the City Council. CT KPBS News


Coming up.... We break down some of the races on your ballot this fall. We’ll have that next, just after the break.


For the first time in eight years, Chula Vista voters will elect a new mayor this November.

The two candidates – Councilman John McCann and Ammar Campa-Najjar – frame the race as a choice between experience and new ideas.

KPBS reporter Gustavo Solis has more on the race.

John McCann has been a Chula Vista City Councilman for 16 years.. If elected mayor, he would be the most experienced elected official in the city. McCann’s pitch to voters is that the city needs a proven leader to complete the Bayfront development project and bring a four-year university to Chula Vista. You need somebody who has experience and has proven results. Ammar Campa-Najjar spent four years running unsuccessful congressional campaigns in the East County. He is now running for mayor in Chula Vista because he believes the city needs new leadership. He points to the city’s handling of the homeless encampment in Harborside Park.  The city allowed an encampment to grow out of control there and had to shut down the public park. “Absolutely, there is a lot to be desired in the way that we are approaching this issue and I think a new mayor with a new perspective with a new vision can address this better.” In November, Chula Vista voters will decide if they agree. Gustavo Solis, KPBS News

In other election-related news…

California’s 49th Congressional District covers Northern cities in San Diego County, Camp Pendleton and some portions of southern Orange County.

KPBS North County reporter Tania Thorne has a look at the candidates.

Incumbent Mike Levin is a Democrat seeking reelection for a third term. Levin’s background is in environmental law and energy regulatory compliance. Here are Levin’s top issues in the 49th: “I would say, protecting our environment, serving our veterans and our military communities, and protecting our democracy as Well, this is a unique time in the history of the country where our democratic institutions really are at an inflection point.” Levin’s challenger is Republican Brian Maryott, whose background is in finances as a certified financial planner.  Maryott’s top three issues: “Inflation is a real problem and we're very focused on that conversation with people, and what we can do in Congress to help. People are looking for peace of mind around their personal security, community safety, 10:10 and also our border, and we want our border to be safe, secure and manageable.” Disposing of San Onofre’s nuclear waste is another major issue. Just recently the Department of Energy announced that sixteen million would be spent over the next eighteen months, and trying to get somewhere between six 09:37communities interested in being a host either for an interim storage site or 09:43or potentially a permanent repository.” Guess what? Since two thousand and eight until now nobody has thrown up their hand to say Yes, we'll accept it.16:05Government has to make hard decisions. TT KPBS News 


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.

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San Diego officials have pledged to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions in the next 13 years. But now the city wants to spend more than $20 million to expand a freeway. In other news, one San Diego city councilman wants to give employees more parental leave. Plus, Chula Vista voters will elect a new mayor this November. We break down that race.