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Better benefits for construction workers

 January 9, 2024 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Tuesday, January 9th.


More pay for construction workers in the South Bay. More on that, next. But first... let’s do the headlines….


The city of San Diego is holding a series of public forums this month to learn what San Diegans want in their next chief of police.

The current chief, David Nisleit, is stepping down in June.

Community activist Tasha Williamson has been a longtime critic of the department, and says she will attend all nine community meetings.

She told us what she’d like to see in the next chief.

“I think we want a chief who is going to represent transparency, equity and justice, not just in our community, but inside their own department.”

The first forum was held last night.

The next forum is at 6 P-M on Thursday, at the Mary, Star of the Sea church in La Jolla.


It’s going to be freezing in parts of the county this morning!

The National Weather Service put out a Frost Advisory for the valley and desert areas through 9 A-M.

Temperatures could drop into the low to mid-30s.

But the extra cold weather won’t last past the morning.

Temps in the inland valleys and deserts will be in the low 60s, by the coast, temps will be in the high 50s, and in the mountains, it’ll be in the high 40s.

Forecasters say there’s a chance of rain and fast winds starting tomorrow night.


The Old Point Loma Lighthouse at Cabrillo National Monument will be closed through next Thursday for restoration work.

The lighthouse was originally constructed in 18-55.

The repair work includes painting the interior and other minor repairs, to protect the walls from the damp coastal environment.

Workers at the Cabrillo National Monument say the project is a way to preserve the national treasure.


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


Construction workers’ unions made big gains in the South Bay last year.

Reporter Kori Suzuki says the shift came during a year of labor victories nationwide.

Some called it the “year of the union.” In 2023, more than half a million workers went on strike across the country. Airline pilots, auto workers, nurses and delivery drivers all won stronger contracts. In the South Bay, it was construction workers who made some of the most significant gains. National City and Chula Vista both passed new laws supporting project labor agreements. Deals that will require more union workers on big construction projects that get public funding. Organizers say the South Bay has some of the highest rates of union membership in San Diego County. Ricardo Sanchez represents the local carpenters union and spoke to the National City City Council in November. “It's just having a better job, wages and benefits for anybody that they deserve everything. Everybody deserves to live good and to be able to retire with dignity and at the end of the day, enjoy their retirement.” The new laws faced some opposition in Chula Vista.  Mayor John McCann voted against the city’s ordinance. He worried it could make it harder to build affordable housing. “We are in a housing crisis, and we need to make sure that we’re decreasing as possible to make sure that people can realistically afford to live in the city of Chula Vista.” Chula Vista is still negotiating the final terms of its agreement with the county’s construction unions. Kori Suzuki, KPBS News.


A new state law aims to increase safety at intersections by using a method called "daylighting."

But metro reporter Andrew Bowen says, it's unclear whether the city of San Diego will enforce the law.

AB: It's early morning outside Garfield Elementary School in North Park. Parents are walking their kids to school… and many of them look nervous as they cross the street. Cars are parked right up next to the crosswalk… and that can make it hard for drivers to see what's coming. JASON VANCE NORTH PARK RESIDENT JV: So if we're going to keep everyone safe, we're going to need to daylight the intersection to create that clear visibility for all people at that intersection. AB: Jason Vance lives in the neighborhood and is eager for San Diego to implement AB 413. The law took effect on January 1, prohibiting parking within 20 feet of a crosswalk. That gives drivers a much wider view as they approach intersections. Research has shown daylighting can reduce collisions and injuries. That's probably why it's already the law in 43 other states. Still, any law is only as good as its enforcement. And Vance says the police seem uninterested in enforcing existing laws that prohibit unsafe parking within crosswalks or bike lanes. JV: So this daylighting bill, I'm a bit nervous that the city isn't going to take it seriously. Not to mention most of these curbs haven't actually been painted red yet. They actually need to be painted red, which would complete the daylighting. But we'll actually have to push the city to make these changes. AB: A city spokesman said the Transportation Department is assessing what resources it will need to implement the law. SDPD did not respond to questions about whether it has a plan for enforcing the law or educating drivers on the new rules. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.


Millions of bees held in a San Diego sanctuary died suddenly last fall in the county… and at first, no one was sure why.

Reporter Jacob Aere says now, there are some answers.

Roughly 3 million honey bees died at the San Diego Bee Sanctuary over a few days last September. Now, the San Diego County Department of Agriculture says the bees tested positive for a toxic dosage of Fipronil …  a chemical usually used to control insects like ants and termites. But the source of the chemical is unknown. Paul Gunn is co-owner of the sanctuary. “Its kind of nice to know what it was. It's nice to not think that it was a neighboring farm I guess.” While the investigation is closed, Gunn says they plan on growing their bee population back over the coming year…. and expanding to new sites across the county. Jacob Aere, KPBS News.


If you drive east to the end of the 125, you’ll probably see the mushroom-shaped water tower painted with silvery clouds.

This site-specific sculpture was commissioned in the mid-1990s.

Arts reporter Beth Accomando revisits the public art piece and its controversy.

Public art can cause controversy. Especially when it’s 150 feet tall and overlooks a suburban neighborhood. For some people it is the most unwelcome of neighbors. It’s inherently ugly, it’s a monstrosity, it’s a rust bucket, it’s a blight on our community. Back in the 1990s, That was some of the community reaction to the Helix and Padre Dam Municipal Water Districts’ mushroom-shaped water tower and its shiny clouds. News stations were quick to highlight the negative comments but failed to provide any context. It's big and you see those clouds that are along the rim, that was an art project by Grossmont college art students. Well not really. JIM WILSTERMAN …I think that that was meant to be dismissive. Artist Jim Wilsterman designed the site-specific sculpture for the water tower. JIM WILSTERMAN I did put my students out front because they're the ones that were doing the hard work and labor. But to not even talk about what the project was and what it meant and why it was being built just sort of seems like it was a fluff piece to put on the news. But the stainless steel cumulus clouds encircling the brown water tower were not merely decorative. Water has always been an important issue to Wilsterman and he wanted to remind people where our water comes from, whether it’s clouds bringing rain or a water tower. JIM WILSTERMAN People here, they see green, they see lawns, they see trees, they think, this is the way things are. A decade or two later, here we are with a water shortage. That's what this was about, to try to make people think about where our water comes from. Helix Water District agreed, says director of engineering Timothy Ross.TIMOTHY ROSS We knew this tank was going to be seen for miles and miles around, and so we wanted to make it a feature and not a distraction from the environment. One of the reasons we decided to engage an artist on this project and make a public art piece is because this really is a unique tank for our system. I personally really think it's very creative, and I think this tank is unique. It was meant to be unique. Unique in that it is two tanks in one, using hydraulics to serve two water districts. and it was designed to never need exterior maintenance. TIMOTHY ROSS What it's doing is it's oxidizing the exterior, and this tank will never need to be recoated or maintained over the next two centuries that it will actually be in service. So it's a very practical application. But we also thought there's an opportunity to make it a feature and break up all that big, brown metal with something that stands out. Wilsterman suggested a trio of designs that were pitched to the community. Residents overwhelmingly chose the clouds. Wilsterman explains that the clouds – some as big as 14 by 35 feet -- were then constructed out of stainless steel. JIM WILSTERMAN To do the finish we took the stainless steel and we brushed it to get the optical illusion that there's three dimension in billows. Then overlaid that with perforated stainless steel, which creates kind of a shadow effect. The intent is that the closer you get, the more three-dimensional and beautifully detailed they become. Wilsterman weathered a lot of criticism for his art but feels vindicated by the kids who grew up in the neighborhood and ended up at nearby Grossmont College where he taught. JIM WILSTERMAN And when they found out that I was the artist that did that, they were like, that was the coolest thing that ever happened to my neighborhood when I was growing up, because it stimulated my imagination. I wanted to know why it was there. It reminded me of the clouds over the mountains, which is basically the story we wanted   to tell, and sometimes we go up there just to look at them. The next time you see that huge brown mushroom-shaped water tower, think about both what a marvel of engineering it is and what the art is trying to convey about who we are and where we live. Beth Accomando, KPBS News.


That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. Tomorrow, I’ll be speaking with our KPBS education reporter about the changes to the FAFSA application process, and some new laws when it comes to college tuition. Plus, as always, we’ll have the day’s top stories. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great Tuesday.

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Construction workers’ unions made big gains in the South Bay last year. In other news, a new state law aims to increase safety at intersections by using a method called "daylighting." Plus, we learn about the meaning and context of the art on the mushroom-shaped water tower in East County.

Editor's note: The tease line and headline of this podcast episode said that some construction workers in the South Bay would be getting more pay. It's more accurate to say that those workers will be getting better benefits.