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LGBTQ+ veterans sue over military discharges

 June 26, 2024 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m John Carroll. It’s Wednesday, June 26th.

A legal challenge over the discharge of LGBTQ+ veterans will move forward. More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines.

A brush fire in the Torrey Pines area forced evacuations yesterday (Tuesday).

San Diego Fire-Rescue says the fire started around 2-30 near Del Mar Scenic Parkway - north of Carmel Valley Road and west of Interstate 5.

The agency says it’s near an area where a fire was put out earlier in the day.

25-hundred people were ordered to evacuate.

San Diego Fire-Rescue says two of its firefighters were hospitalized for heat exhaustion.

For the latest on the fire, visit

San Diego County Supervisors are wading deeper into the cross-border sewage issue.

At yesterday’s meeting, the board voted unanimously to begin a process they say will expand collaboration by agencies at the local, state and federal levels.

The actions include launching a community health survey to identify problems that go beyond direct water exposure, such as the effects on air quality.

An update on implementation will be provided by county staff within 90 days.

The county also has a formal spending plan for the next fiscal year that starts July 1st.Supervisors gave final approval yesterday to the 8-and-a-half billion dollar budget.

It’s 4-point-5 percent higher than the current fiscal year budget.

All 5 members voted in favor.

The vote follows several weeks of proposals from county departments and public feedback sessions.

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

A federal lawsuit from lgbtq+ veterans against the military over so-called “bad paper” discharges, overcame a major hurdle last week when a federal judge denied the Pentagon’s request to dismiss.

Military and veterans affairs reporter Andrew Dyer has more about what comes next.

Before the ban on service was lifted in 2010, more than 35,000 lgbtq+  military veterans left the service with so-called “bad paper,” discharges.

Five veterans are named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. they want the pentagon to proactively amend their discharge statuses rather than requiring them to appeal to the va.

Melissa Johnson is an air force veteran and attorney in San Diego. She was forced out of the service in the early 1980s due to her sexual orientation. She says she never bothered to change her paperwork.

"The process is hard. It's difficult, it's painful. I mean I got involuntarily discharged. 41 years ago. and I still can't talk about it without getting emotional."

Johnson isn’t currently involved in the lawsuit but hopes it will help her and thousands of affected veterans.

The suit will continue and attorneys for the veterans say the next step will be to ask the suit be granted class action status.

Andrew Dyer, KPBS news.

San Diego's city council appointed a new executive director for the commission on police practices yesterday.

Investigative reporter Scott Rodd says this is a big step for the police oversight body that has struggled to gain its footing in recent years.

The City Council unanimously approved Paul Parker as executive director of the commission. 

He laid out his priorities during the council meeting.

HEARING [22:05] “Holding law enforcement accountable to the community, increasing the community trust in law enforcement, but also increasing the safety to both law enforcement and community members.”

Parker is well-known in San Diego as an expert in police accountability. He previously led the county’s Citizens' Law Enforcement Review Board. But he resigned in frustration earlier this year after unsuccessfully pushing for stronger safety measures in county jails.

In 2020, San Diego voters overwhelmingly approved creating the Commission on Police Practices. 

It’s tasked with reviewing complaints against police officers and launching independent investigations.

Supporters believe Parker’s appointment will help fast-track the commission’s oversight work. 

Scott Rodd, KPBS News.

The Auto Club predicts nearly five-and-a-half million Southern Californians will travel for Independence Day.

Reporter Melissa Mae tells us the roads and San Diego International Airport are expected to be packed with travelers.

For the first time ever, the Automobile Club of Southern California is including the weekends before and after July 4th as the Independence Day holiday period.

Anlleyn Venegas with the Auto Club says about 80% of the holiday travelers are driving to their destinations. 

“We do believe that it's going to be more than 4 million Southern Californians are going to be driving to their destinations. This is a 4.6% increase from last year, a 6% increase from 2019.” 

The San Diego International Airport is expecting as many as 780,000 travelers starting June 28th through July 7th.   

Whether you are flying or driving to your destinations, expect the busiest travel days to be the Sundays before and after July 4th.

Melissa Mae KPBS News.

Coming up.... San Diego County is accepting new applications for a pilot program using rent subsidies to help older adults avoid homelessness.

“The data tells us that the older adults are representing the fastest growing age group of people that are experiencing homelessness in San Diego.”

Coming up, how an extra 500 dollars a month is helping one local family.

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

San Diego's rising cost of living is making it harder for older adults to stay in their homes.

A San Diego county pilot program is trying to help them avoid homelessness using monthly rental subsidies.

Reporter Katie Anastas says they’re expanding the program to include a second round of households.

When Fidel Sanchez retired six years ago after decades as a machinist, he felt ready to live within his means.

“Cuando yo me retiré, mi ingreso con el retiro era suficiente para vivir – pues, no como rico, pero si, bien, más o menos. Pero empieza la pandemia, entonces todo empezó a subir.”

[When I retired, my retirement income was enough to live – not rich, but well, more or less. But the pandemic started, and everything started to go up.]

Sanchez lives in a one-bedroom apartment in University City. He says his rent has gone up by $1,000 over the last five years. He’s paying a few hundred dollars more than the median one-bedroom rental, which has also gone up. He’s considered moving, but says there aren’t many better options.

“Me gusta este lugar porque es muy tranquilo. Ya he ido a otros lugares, Chula Vista, y realmente la renta es muy igual a esta zona. Entonces para que me muevo.”

[I like this place because it’s very peaceful. I’ve gone to other places, like Chula Vista, and the rent is actually the same as this area. So why would I move?]

Sanchez is one of more than 200 participants in San Diego County’s rental subsidy pilot program, meant to help older adults stay in their homes and connect to county services.

Before getting the subsidy, he says he had to ask his daughter for help paying rent. This spring, the county’s program started sending $500 directly to his landlord each month.

“No es tanta la presión que tengo ya de los $500. Porque tenía que buscarlos.”

[There’s not as much pressure now that I have the $500. Because before I would have to go look for the money.] 

The county launched the rental subsidy pilot program in early 2023. It’s now accepting applications for 160 more households. Participants must be at least 55 years old…pay more than half of their income on rent, and meet an income threshold.

Barbara Jimenez is the Community Operations Officer for the county’s Department of Homeless Solutions and Equitable Communities.

“The cost of housing continues to soar, and many of our seniors, older adults, are really living on low and fixed incomes. So we found they’re really being forced to choose between paying rent, eating, buying medication, and the data tells us that older adults are the fastest growing age group of people that are experiencing homelessness in San Diego.”

Nearly half of unhoused older adults surveyed for This year’s Point-in-Time Count were homeless for the first time.

Jiménez says homelessness can happen for lots of reasons. Losing a spouse might mean a sudden loss of income. An unexpected medical event might bring a hefty bill with it.

“They were with partners or with spouses, they were working, and then there’s just some kind of an event or something that occurs.”

Researchers surveyed thousands of homeless adults in the state in 2021 and 2022. Over and over, they heard that a little bit of financial help could have kept them in their homes.

Dr. Margot Kushell [ku-SHELL] is a professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco.

“Had they gotten three to five hundred dollars a month, had they gotten like a one-time payment of five to 10 thousand dollars, or had they gotten something like a housing choice voucher, which paid the difference between 30% of their income and what their rent cost, it would have stabilized things and then allowed them to not have the downward spiral.”

Kushel [coo-SHELL] says that intervention helps both people … and local governments that pay for social services.

“If they can get into shelter, that’s really costly. A lot of them don’t get to shelter, but they’re cycling in and out of our emergency departments, in our hospitals, they might need to go to a nursing home when they otherwise could have avoided it. So the truth of the matter is that if we don't spend these small amounts of money we’re spending it on the backend but for really bad outcomes.”

In San Diego County, more than one third of renters over 65 spend the majority of their income on rent.

Sanchez is getting other types of assistance that help pay for food and cell phone bills. He and his wife have been on the waiting list for housing choice vouchers – also known as Section 8 – for four years. 

“Pero no la han llamado. Dicen que mas o menos el tiempo es 8 a 10 anos para que el Seccion 8 abre.”

[But they haven’t called. They say the wait time for Section 8 to open is 8 to 10 years.]

In the meantime, the subsidy program is helping him stay in his apartment.

County staff will connect him and other participants with services they qualify for during the 18-month program.

But he says when it ends, he’s not sure what he’ll do next.

If you think you qualify for the county’s pilot program, you can fill out an application online. More information is available on our website,

Katie Anastas, KPBS News.

KPBS is hosting a panel discussion on the cost of living crisis in San Diego tonight from 6 to 7 p.m.

Go to the KPBS events calendar for a link to join.

You can watch the discussion on our YouTube, Facebook and Instagram pages.

That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m John Carroll. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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A legal challenge over the discharge of LGBTQ+ veterans will move forward. Also, the San Diego City Council appointed a new executive director for the city’s commission on police practices. Plus, applications open for a rent subsidy program for older adults.