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San Diego sues SeaWorld over back rent

 September 8, 2023 at 5:00 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Friday, September 8th.

A dispute between the city of San Diego and one of its biggest tourist attractions is heading to court.More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….

For the second time in recent weeks, SDSU is alerting the campus community to a reported sexual assault in the College Area.

The latest report involves an incident that San Diego Police say happened in the early morning hours of August 19th.

Police say the alleged assault happened during a rideshare.Last month, SDSU made public another incident involving a rideshare on August 27th.

Police have not linked the two alleged crimes despite the similarities, and no arrests have been made.

A former advisor to President Donald Trump who has ties to San Diego is facing possible jail time.

Peter Navarro was convicted of two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate with the January 6th committee.

He now faces up to a year in prison on each charge.

Sentencing is scheduled for January.

Navarro’s political career in San Diego included a failed run for mayor and other local offices in the 1990s and 2000s.

A reminder that a major closure affecting freeway drivers takes effect this morning in the downtown area.

Southbound Interstate-5 will be closed starting 9 a-m Friday through 5 a-m Monday.

Caltrans will be working on the bridge deck over State Route 163.

A similar closure for Northbound lanes of I-5 is planned for the end of September.

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

The city of San Diego is suing SeaWorld for more than 12-million dollars – the amount the theme park owes in back rent.Reporter Alexander Nguyen has the details.

Millions of people visited seaworld in san diego last year and the company earned more than $1.7 billion dollars according to its annual report. So it’s a little surprising that seaworld hasn’t paid its rent in full says City Attorney Mara Elliott. “It's disappointing because really the question comes down to, is SeaWorld going to pay the debts that they owe to San Diego taxpayers? They're on prime real estate, beachfront real estate, or are they asking taxpayers to absorb those costs on their behalf?” SeaWorld is in the middle of a 50-year lease with the city to operate its park on a nearly 200-acre, city-owned land in Mission Bay. In a statement, SeaWorld says it does not comment on litigation but that it has partnered with the city for more than 60 years on animal rescues. Lawsuit notwithstanding, city officials are hoping for an amicable resolution to the matter. Alexander Nguyen, KPBS News.

Sunday marks the beginning of suicide prevention week.Yesterday, county officials and those who work to prevent suicide talked about local efforts.

And as reporter John Carroll tells us, they included some deeply personal stories.

“I knew my kids needed me. I needed to regain my mental health. I didn't know how or what that looked like.” That’s Lisa Garcia. She got the help she needed and is now the San Diego project manager for recovery international.  She, and everyone else who spoke at a news conference Thursday at the county admin. building emphasized the same message.  Help is available and more accessible than ever.  But the head of county behavioral health services. Dr. Luke Bergmann says people must talk about it… and move past the stigma. “It's a health issue and we don’t yet talk about it in ways that we talk about other health issues.” If you or someone you know needs help, the national suicide and crisis line is 988.  it will route you directly to someone locally who can help.  John Carroll,  kpbs news.

People distributed thousands of anti-semitic flyers around San Diego this summer, including Wednesday in La Jolla.

Reporter Katie Hyson looked into a proposed city law that could change that.

A rabbi was assaulted near San Diego State in July. Days later, neighbors in Allied Gardens found antisemitic flyers on their windshields. One of eight such incidents in San Diego this summer. But the most police can do about the flyers, they say, is issue a ticket for littering. “We cannot continue to treat littering and hate littering like it's running a stop sign or like jaywalking.“ That’s Raul Campillo, councilmember for district seven, where much of the flyering was done. He’s proposing a city law that would elevate the act to “hate littering,” prosecutable as a misdemeanor with up to a year in jail. Liora Rez, director of Stop Antisemitism, says she’s been tracking half a dozen hate groups behind such acts. “It's not if violence will occur, it's when.” She flew from New York to San Diego to support the proposed law. She immigrated with her family from the former Soviet Union to escape antisemitism there. “To have to deal with the same hatred that my family uprooted, again, their lives for, is so heartbreaking.” Police say if you find a flyer, don’t move it. Take a picture, check security cameras, and submit any evidence to law enforcement. Campillo aims for a vote on the proposed law by the year’s end. Katie Hyson, KPBS News.

San Diego police are still enforcing a curfew for juveniles, arresting mostly black and latino youth.

But research shows it’s not effective in reducing crime.

"Curfews function as devices to waste police time taking law-abiding youth off the street and creating antagonistic relationships between police and youth."

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

San Diego police still enforce a curfew for juveniles, despite research showing it’s not effective in reducing crime.

KPBS spoke with someone who says it might do more harm than good.

Once again, here’s race and equity reporter Katie Hyson.

Arthur Soriano was a teenager in City Heights in the late 80s, early 90s. He says at the time, the community had a lot of trauma and few resources. “Everyone was fighting for their lives.” These were the years when politicians, including then-Senator Joe Biden, promised to be tough on crime to stop quote unquote super-predators – this myth that more and more youth were committing violence without remorse. “And Madame President we have predators on our streets . . .” Soriano says City Heights youth feared the police, who he says only came into the neighborhood for curfew sweeps and immigration raids. So they ran. “Hey, the police is coming. Let's run, let's get away.” He was a latchkey kid. “I was raised with a single mother. She worked two jobs, cleaning homes.” He says he had no father and no other family here, and sought out others who would validate him. “I needed a way out. And how I found my way out was becoming part of gangs.” At that time he says he was more of a gang wannabe. At night, his friends liked to gather in a Qwik Corner parking lot. Most times, he says, they weren’t doing anything wrong. “Hanging out and talking smack to each other and laughing and giggling.” But it didn’t matter. The City of San Diego has a curfew law. Kids under 18 can’t be out without an adult between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., with few exceptions. “They're coming with their little vans and wagons and just do raids.” Soriano’s first arrest was for curfew. “And while they were doing curfew sweeps, they got me. They grabbed me.” They discovered he had a stolen bike, too. “At that point is when I began to get wrapped up in the system.” He went to juvenile hall. Just for a few days, before being put on probation. But he says it was the start of a cycle. “For most kids, our way of solving it was just running, running until we would get caught.” The interactions fed into his identity as a gang member. He would eventually go to prison for 23 years. He’s been out for the last eleven, and now works with youth caught in the same system. “Hope, right? And I'm a beacon of that now.” San Diego police stopped punishing curfew violations with juvenile hall or diversion programs in mid-2019. But they still enforce it. There were 141 curfew arrests last year. They detain the children and call their parents, return them home or to the station for pick up. An SDPD spokesperson says they enforce curfew to keep children safe and make it less likely that they’ll commit crime. But research is almost unanimous – it’s not effective. That’s according to a senior researcher for the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, Mike Males. “Curfews function as devices to waste police time taking law-abiding youth off the street, creating antagonistic relationships between police and youth.” At one point, San Diego accounted for 40% of all curfew arrests in California. Black and Latino youth make up more than three fourths of the arrests in San Diego. Males says racial discrimination is the point. “A lot of this is just, frankly, racial in intent. It's to get black and Latino youth off the streets, out of the public where they're frightening mostly white patrons of gentrifying areas or suburbs.” He says teens actually have a lower than average crime rate, and it’s been going down in recent decades. “We found that when police apprehend youth for curfews, 99 plus percent of the time the youth that they apprehend was not doing anything wrong.” Research shows youth being in public during curfew hours actually helps reduce crime. Less empty streets, more witnesses. Soriano suggests an alternative to curfew. Youth drop-in centers that could be open late night, year-round. He helped run extended youth programs during the summer and he was surprised by the demand. “We were like, man, these kids . . . they're going to want to go back home and get into what kids get into. And no, like clockwork, from twelve to six.” Youth drop-in centers were voted down in this year’s city budget. City council members will reexamine the budget next spring. Katie Hyson, KPBS News

San Diego is developing a plan to streamline the installation of new bike, pedestrian and transit infrastructure.

Metro reporter Andrew Bowen says activists see big loopholes.

Complete Streets policies are meant to help city planners redesign streets so they work for all road users, not just people in cars. Keala Rusher is a volunteer with BikeSD. She says the streets in her neighborhood are designed to let drivers go as fast as possible. “Whereas a complete street enables people to get where they need to go safely, which might look like physical design that slows traffic down, as well as physical protection for these users who are riding bikes, who are walking around.” But San Diego's draft Complete Streets policy is getting a lukewarm reception from bike advocates, after city staff declined to tighten the rules around exceptions to the policy. A City Council committee is set to take up the policy next month. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.

Afro Future Con returns to San Diego this weekend at the Jackie Robinson Family Y-M-C-A in Mountain View.

Arts reporter Beth Accomando says it offers a platform to advance and celebrate Afro-futuristic art, film, writing and thinking.

Afro Future Con strives to connect people from multiple disciplines to use the past and present to imagine a better future. It’s a free, family friendly event with activities geared to children, says co-founder LaWana Richmond. “We're doing a cosplay parade for children. If we have youth that show up and they don't have a costume, they can create something that they can be proud of and show off in the parade.” There’ll also be panels covering familiar topics such as comics creators and Afrofuturism in Animation, but others feel uniquely specific to Afro Future Con. “Eugene Young has Afromancy, which is about superpowers in the hair, which fascinates me. And then we've also got a panel on the future of work from a refugee perspective. We've got a group of taxi drivers. And then Olivia Green is going to do an AI 101, because there are a lot of people who are afraid of the AI is coming. And that's not to say it's not cause for concern, but it's also an opportunity to create and expand and improve different industries.” Richmond’s also excited to have acclaimed graffiti artist Maxx Moses in attendance as well as hosting the CosPlayers Ball at his Graffiti Gardens studio. Beth Accomando, KPBS News.

This weekend is going to be a hot one in desert communities, like Borrego Springs.

The National Weather Service says an excessive heat warning will be in place from Saturday morning through Sunday night.

Highs from 107-to-113 are expected.

That’s it for the podcast today. The podcast was produced by KPBS Producer Ben Lacy and reporter Matt Hoffman this week. It’s edited by KPBS Senior Producer Brooke Ruth. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’ll be back in your podcast feed on Monday, to help you start your week off, knowing what’s going on in your community. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great weekend.

The city of San Diego is asking a judge to intervene in a dispute with SeaWorld over unpaid rent during the pandemic. Also, San Diego police are still enforcing juvenile curfew laws despite research that questions its effectiveness in reducing crime. And, mobility advocates question the rollout of new bike, pedestrian and transit infrastructure in San Diego.