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Long wait times at the border

 December 11, 2023 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Monday, December 11th.

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A local representative proposes a federal law to prosecute fentanyl overdoses as homicides. More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….

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A California appeals court will hear arguments this week on a challenge to the state’s new solar rules.

Three environmental groups argue regulators failed to meet requirements in the state’s public utility code, when they approved rules slashing the value of rooftop solar.

Attorney Aaron Stanton says it is rare for a challenge of a C-P-U-C decision to get this far.

“For a public utilities commission decision you have to go straight to the court of appeal and the court of appeal has discretion about whether they decide to hear the case.  In this case, the court of appeal exercised its discretion to hear the case.  And so, the oral argument and the hearing on the case will be December 13th.”

It is unclear when a decision will be issued.

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SANDAG's interim C-E-O has been announced.

The board unanimously approved appointing Coleen Clementson to lead the agency starting next month.

She’s currently the agency’s Deputy C-E-O.

The current C-E-O, Hasan Ikhrata, has led SANDAG since 20-18.

His last day is December 29th.

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The Santee Drive-in Movie Theatre will be closing its doors at the end of the month.

The drive-in has been around for 65 years.

According to the company’s website, the theatre is closing because of not having as many customers, the higher cost of business and competition with streaming services.

The last day the drive-in will be open is December 31st.

This week, they’ll be showing Trolls, The Marvels, Hunger Games and Dr. Seuss’s The Grinch.

There’s one other drive-in in the county – the South Bay Drive-In Theatre.

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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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Earlier, we told you Representative Darrell Issa is introducing legislation that could make it easier to prosecute fentanyl deaths as homicides.

Reporter Katie Hyson went to Temecula City Hall for the announcement.

Dozens of signs surround the podium. Cassandra Walker-Nolin. Forever 38. Matty Matich. Forever 16. Alexandra Capelouto. Forever 20. Below their photos, the words “Victim of drug induced homicide. Poisoned by Fentanyl.” Parents say their children didn’t know the pills they bought from dealers – often marketed as less potent opioids like percocet – contained fentanyl. Alexandra’s father, Matthew Capelouto has been pushing to pass Alexandra’s Law in California for several years. Issa is taking it federal. It would require the court to warn anyone federally convicted of providing fentanyl that if they continue, and it results in someone’s death, they could be charged with murder. That warning could later be used as evidence of knowledge or intent, a requirement for murder convictions. Riverside County District Attorney Mike Hestrin says right now, his office doesn’t have much power to prosecute these deaths. Over the last three years . . . we have filed 33 murder cases involving fentanyl deaths . . . But it's a drop in the bucket. Harm reductionists say incarceration won’t save lives. They are pushing instead for easier access to supplies like fentanyl test strips and Narcan. Katie Hyson, KPBS News.

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Long wait times to travel north across the Tijuana-San Diego border is an ugly fact of life we've all gotten used to.

But now, traffic is jamming up for people going south.

Border reporter Gustavo Solis examines this unsettling new phenomena.

Rush hour at the border is a symphony of car horns. Gloria was stuck in the middle of it last Thursday afternoon as she headed south to her home in Tijuana. It took her a half hour to drive just two blocks. Gloria, cross-border commuter “It’s crazy. Two o clock on if you’re not in line you’re going to be hours to get across.” Cross-border traffic isn’t new. For decades, people have waited as long as three hours to cross from Tijuana to San Diego. But now we’re seeing traffic jams … in both directions. Joaquin Luken, Executive Director Smart Border Coalition “Everyone started seeing and noticing two maybe three hour wait times heading southbound into Mexico, which was completely uncommon.” Joaquin Luken is the executive director of the Smart Border Coalition. He says the organization started noticing the problem about six months ago. Southbound border traffic has increased slowly but steadily in the last couple of years as the housing crunch has forced more people to live in Tijuana but work in San Diego. “The binational workforce keeps growing and more with the news of San Diego being the most expensive city in the U.S. that just creates more stress on Tijuana, that creates more stress on the border crosser and on the borders and on our infrastructure.” It used to be that this kind of traffic was only bad on Fridays. But now, it happens every day of the work week. StreetLight Data is a mobility platform that analyzes thousands of data sources to study traffic patterns. They compared southbound border traffic from January through March 2022 to the same period in 2023. StreetLight Data engineer Jim Hubbell says the data show a steady increase. Jim Hubbell, StreetLight Data “I would say the rush hour has become rush hours. So it’s starting earlier and it’s ending later.” Part of it has to do with psychology. “It’s kind of human behavior. If people know that it’s really congested at 5 p.m., they might try to leave at 3 p.m. thinking they can beat the rush. But enough people had that same idea that it’s really just causing the peak to start earlier and end later.” This kind of traffic can ruin someone’s day. Imagine waiting three hours to cross into San Diego, working an 8-hour shift, and then waiting another two hours to cross back into Tijuana. Margaret Yova, co-owner Border Traffic “I mean, so much of your life is lost waiting in the border line.” Margaret Yova is the co-owner of San Diego-based  Border Traffic, which developed an app that gives users a real-time view of traffic along the border. The company launched with one camera in 2010. They now have more than 40 cameras and tens of thousands of users – all of them planning their entire day around the rush hour. “People really depend on our service. Because it does offer something that you can’t get anywhere else. Nobody else has these live video updates.” The northbound border traffic has impacts that go beyond inconvenience. It costs the San Diego-Tijuana border region billions in lost productivity each year. The increase in southbound traffic is nowhere near that point … but it’s bad enough that the president of Mexico had to get involved. During a visit to Baja California in November, local reporters asked President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to fix the situation. Yolanda Morales, Tijuana journalist “Es muy tardado, la gente se enjoa, biene cansada.” Reporter Yolanda Morales told Lopez Obrador people are angry and tired. The president said he’d take care of it. Give me until the end of the year, he said. Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mexico President “Vamos a poner fin de año. And the situation has improved. Before Lopez Obrador’s visit, there would only be six southbound lanes open at the border crossing. Now, all 20 are open. Luken says these changes come at the perfect time – right before the holiday shopping period. “We’ve already been seeing some of the benefits of having most of the lanes open heading into Tijuana.” Still, it’s not enough. KPBS talked to several commuters on their way to Tijuana in the middle of Thursday’s rush hour. Victoria, Cross-border commuter “Esta feo el trafico. No se porque no se hace algo.” Victoria says she waited 4 hours to cross into San Diego in the morning. Then waited another hour to get back into Tijuana. “No. Se pone de mal humor el bebe. Y ahorita quiere ir al bano.” To make matters worse, her son had to go to the bathroom. Gustavo Solis, KPBS News.

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Coming up.... Queen Bee’s is celebrating its 15th anniversary.

“My vision for the location was basically to be the hub of art and culture and provide people with a unique space to create new events and promote art and music and dance and everything that makes people happy.”

We’ll have more on Queen Bee’s history and how they plan to celebrate the anniversary, just after the break.

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Queen Bee's Art and Cultural Center is a lively community space and a beacon for artists in North Park.

This month, it celebrates its 15th anniversary with a party tomorrow (December 12th) that will look at the history and legacy of the venue.

My colleague Beth Accomando spoke with Queen Bee's founder, Alma Rodriguez about the history of the center and what to expect at tomorrow’s celebration.

Here’s that conversation.

TAG: That was Alma Rodriguez, the founder of Queen Bee's Art and Cultural Center, speaking with KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando.

The venue will celebrate its 15th anniversary tomorrow, starting at noon.

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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. Join us again tomorrow to stay in the know on your community’s top stories. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great Monday.

Long wait times to travel north across the Tijuana-San Diego border is an ugly fact of life we've all gotten used to, but now, traffic is jamming up for people going south. In other news, U.S. Representative Darrell Issa is introducing legislation that could make it easier to prosecute fentanyl deaths as homicides. Plus, Queen Bee's Art and Cultural Center is a lively community space and a beacon for artists in North Park, and this month it celebrates its 15th anniversary with a party Tuesday.