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Housing in city buildings

 August 17, 2022 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Wednesday, August 17th.

Coming up, an update on a proposal to add housing to new city buildings

More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….

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A federal judge denied a request to make immediate changes to San Diego County's jail policies.

The request came from attorneys representing people incarcerated in the region’s jails

A state audit released in February found that San Diego County's jail deaths ranked among the highest in California.

The judge said that the changes requested were far reaching and overly broad.

The county says changes and improvements have already been made in its jails.

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As the new school year approaches for the San Diego Unified School District, masks will not be required anymore.

School Board Trustee Richard Barrera said the district-wide indoor mandate that started with summer school last month has been lifted.

But, a mask requirement could return to individual school sites if an outbreak is reported.

The district’s new school year starts August 29th.

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A statewide Flex Alert will be in place today from 4 to 9 p-m, because of above-normal temperatures expected in San Diego and across the state.

Residents are urged to cut back on power-use to avoid a strain on the state’s electrical grid.

Things you can do to help include, setting your thermostat to 78 degrees or higher and avoiding using major appliances.

The National Weather Service says temperatures will gradually cool down towards the end of the week.

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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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A year and a half ago, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria announced a goal of building housing on top of new or renovated public facilities like libraries and fire stations.

Earlier this year, the City Council passed an ordinance to make those kinds of projects easier.

But as KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen explains, the city is still far away from putting its new policy into practice.

TG: And the reason why we are here today is the construction of a new Oak Park branch library. (applause) AB: Last month, Mayor Gloria gathered with several colleagues to make an exciting announcement: The state of California was giving San Diego 20 million dollars to help design and construct a new library for Oak Park. When I heard the news, my mind immediately went back to the mayor's 2021 state of the city address. Among a slew of new housing policies, Gloria said this: TG: "We know that real estate is at a premium in San Diego, which is why I will implement plans to incorporate housing when we redevelop or build new City facilities. This could mean building apartments on top of new libraries and fire stations. I will take a thoughtful approach to make sure our transit system and infrastructure can support these new units." AB: So I had to ask: Will Oak Park's new library be the first in San Diego to include housing? The answer is no. The mayor's office says the project is too far along to change. But there have been conversations in other neighborhoods about mixing libraries with housing. AP: It really started out as a conversation about how to get a new library, how to get a larger library. AB: I meet Aria Pounaki outside the North Park Library. It has a lot in common with the old  library in Oak Park that's due to be replaced. It's more than 50 years old. It's small. And it doesn't have the kinds of things people need from their libraries nowadays like community meeting rooms. Pounaki helped lead a discussion at the North Park Planning Committee earlier this year about building a new library with housing on top. AP: We do have a nice sized lot here. And as the community has been growing over time, there's a common criticism that there isn't enough infrastructure being invested at the same time that we have all this new growth. And so how can we incorporate a way to tackle the housing crisis and create this infrastructure for our new, larger population here in North Park. AB: The response Pounaki got from city officials wasn't encouraging. North Park isn't anywhere near the top of the list when it comes to getting new libraries. Other neighborhoods like Oak Park have even greater needs. And absent a large charitable donation to kick start the process, the city isn't likely to redevelop this land anytime soon. Still, Pounaki hasn't given up on the idea.  This library is surrounded by new apartment buildings. And it's in one of the city's most walkable, transit-rich neighborhoods. AP: This is a really ideal place to incorporate not only the public good of a library but the public good of maybe affordable housing as well. SR: As I say, the walls are separating from the foundation, which is never good. AB: Less than a mile away sits another deteriorating city building: The North Park Community Adult Center. That's where I meet Stephen Russell, head of the nonprofit San Diego Housing Federation. He says when public assets like these reach the end of their useful life, it's incumbent on city officials to reimagine them. SR: If we have a single-story building, what are we putting above it? It is a wasted opportunity if we aren't in some manner making use of that space. Single-story buildings in a built environment like this is always a wasted opportunity. AB: But there's an extra complication with this building: It's part of the North Park Community Park. When the City Council passed an ordinance last February to streamline housing built on top of public facilities, it excluded facilities located on parkland. Russell says he's not sure that makes sense, especially when building something taller wouldn't require sacrificing any actual parkland. Adding housing to the park might even make it safer. SR: I think in North Park in particular, you have a park that is unobserved. There's lots of illicit activities that have gone on in the past. Maybe having more apartments, more eyes on the street, eyes on the green would actually help the situation. AB: City officials were not able to name a single library, fire station, rec center or other public facility where there are concrete plans in motion to incorporate housing. But they did get a grant to study the concept's feasibility more closely. A report is due out sometime next year. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news. 

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The county board of supervisors unanimously approved an emergency measure aimed at decreasing overdose deaths in San Diego County jails.

It was proposed by board Chair Nathan Fletcher … and includes funding for new body scanners to check visitors for contraband.

Activists say drugs are getting into the jails through employees *not* visitors.

San Diego interim Sheriff Anthony Ray disputes that claim.

“We've had those allegations, but over the last five years, we've had absolutely no proof, no concrete evidence, no cases sustained of anybody bringing narcotics in. So we're focusing the resources we have right now on where we know that drugs are coming in.”

The measure also includes incentives and strategies to recruit and retain sheriff deputies and new strategies for care and safety.

The board will receive a progress report on the measure in 60 days.

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The board is also proposing a program they say will help prioritize where resources to address homelesness need to go.

KPBS Health reporter Matt Hoffman explains what it could do.

Tuesday the San Diego County board of supervisors voted unanimously to look into the idea of tracking all homeless residents by name-- Supervisors Terra Lawson-remer and Jim Desmond brought the idea forward.. Lawson-Remer says identification and other information like health and housing needs could help better prioritize resources– Lawson-Remer Who’s homeless and when and how long they stay homeless and if it’s the same people just really so much information we need to properly design programs to meet the needs in our community we don’t have any of this information Regional homeless service providers working on city and county contracts do collect this type of basic information, but there isn't necessarily a county-wide system to compare it to. The by-name-system would be through voluntary participation. MH KPBS News.

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How will the inflation reduction act help people right here in San Diego County?

And do San Diegans think it will help them?

KPBS reporter Kitty Alvarado has some answers …

The new Inflation Reduction Act is officially signed into law and Americans can now reap the benefits … but some  San Diegans we spoke with were a little skeptical … Jeremy Dukes pointed out a few problems he saw with some of the big tax credits for buying electric vehicles and solar panels Who can afford an electric car? …Solar panels  …Most people rent. So it’s not going to help the everyday American Congressman Juan Vargas says he understands the frustration and while this bill doesn’t do everything, This is a forward step, this is a positive step he says it does tackle the most pressing issue of our time… climate change. we’re in a terrible drought right now and people are going to suffer from it and they’re suffering more and more because of climate change and so all the things that this bill does to attack climate change I think that’s where they’re really going to benefit the most  Kitty Alvarado, KPBS News

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Coming up.... How will the shortage of Colorado River water affect San Diego? We’ll have that story and more, next, just after the break.

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Yesterday the Department of the Interior spoke of an unprecedented shortage of Colorado River water that will hit some Southwestern states hard.

So far, California is being spared cutbacks.

KPBS Science and Technology reporter Thomas Fudge has the story, and reaction from local water officials.

Twenty three years of drought in the Colorado River basin hasve caused historically low levels of the water in the river’s two reservoirs, Lake Mead and Lake Powell. And that’s why federal officials declared a tier 2 water shortage condition for 2023. Two state’s, Nevada and Arizona, will see major water cuts next year. Califolrnia will not see cutbacks…. for now. Kelly Rodgers heads the Colorado River program for the San Diego county water authority. RODGERS “The Secretary of Interior’s announcement through reclamation is just a reminder of how important it is the increase water conservation across San Diego County and across the arid west. This should be how we should be living life and are living life.” San Diego gets two thirds of its water from the Colorado River. Local officials like to point out that most of that is conserved water that comes as part of a water transfer deal with the Imperial Valley. But all of the state will be affected if the Colorado River basin drought does not let up, and we see a Tier 3 water shortage. RODGERS  “Then California. Some of the water they receive from the Colorado River would actually be curtailed. We wouldn’t receive the deliveries in California.” Lake Mead’s elevation will be  just 25 feet above a level that would trigger cutbacks to California. Thomas Fudge, KPBS news.

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A group of students in the Poway Unified School District have left their home campuses to finish their graduation requirements at a local college.

KPBS Education reporter M.G. Perez explains.

The Poway to Palomar Middle College opened this week…with 43 high school juniors from Poway Unified. They returned to school this fall… at the Palomar College Rancho Bernardo campus instead of their district high schools. For the next two years, the students will study in the same 4-story building with registered college students…making the transition after their graduation easier. Davion Flood will be a member of this special Class of 2024. “I’m excited because this allows me to take those college classes which transfer to college credits which will get me a degree a whole lot quicker than other people.” The Poway to Palomar Middle College opening this week begins a process that will grow to include 80 additional Poway juniors, next year. MGP KPBS News.

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Food marks the many facets of author Ma-DOO-shree Ghosh's life.

In her book, ‘KHAH-baar: an immigrant journey of food, memory and family’ she writes about the good and bad aspects of her journey from India to San Diego, of the legacy of colonization and the racism she’s encountered – all through a connection with the food that has sustained her.

Ma-DOO-shree Ghosh is one of the local authors who will be speaking at this weekend’s festival of books.

For a sneak peek, we bring you her interview with KPBS’s Maureen Cavanaugh.

Your parents were forced to leave their homeland when India was partitioned in 1947 - you have left India to live in the US. What toll do you think the refugee and immigrant experience has taken on you and your family?

What do you think food really means to our sense of place and identity?

There are very serious essays in KHAH-baar and some lighthearted ones. Do you have favorites?

That was Ma-DOO-shree Ghosh, the author of ‘KHAH-baar: an immigrant journey of food, memory and family.’

She will be speaking on a panel called Food Is Life at 1-30 p-m this Saturday, at the San Diego Union-tribune Festival of books.

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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.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria’s proposal to build housing on top of new or renovated public facilities is far away from happening. In other news, the county board of supervisors unanimously approved an emergency measure aimed at decreasing overdose deaths in San Diego County jails. Plus, a shortage of Colorado River water is expected to hit some Southwestern states hard.