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Widening Streets Despite Climate Goals

 September 7, 2021 at 5:51 AM PDT

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Tuesday, September 7th. >>>> Why car-centric city planning continues in San Diego. That’s next, But first... let’s do the headlines…. ###### San Diego county public health officials reported more than 800 new covid-19 cases on monday, and 8 additional deaths. There were 11 more hospitalizations, with two people sent to the ICU. About 86% of county residents have had at least one dose of covid-19 vaccine. ######## Pandemic employment issues were at the top of mind on labor day. Some businesses are still feeling the sting of staff shortages. Angel Mendez is the manager of Taco Kings in Del Cerro. He’s hoping they will be able to fill open positions now that extra federal unemployment assistance is being discontinued. In national city we have four food trucks -- we need a lot of people right now.. Business is going good but just labor that’s the main thing that we’re struggling right now Some argue labor shortages aren’t because people don’t want to work, it’s because not everyone is offering a livable wage. While federal unemployment benefits are going away, 600-hundred dollar state stimulus checks are heading to Californians making 75-thousand dollars a year or less. ######## Evacuation orders have been lifted around the Aruba Fire southeast of Rainbow.. The blaze has burned 54 acres and is 60% contained. The fire was previously reported at 100 acres, but those numbers were revised due to better mapping. ######### The US Navy has identified the five crew members who were declared dead after their helicopter crashed off the coast of San Diego a week ago. They are: Lt. Bradley A. Foster, 29, a pilot from Oakhurst, California. Lt. Paul R. Fridley, 28, a pilot from Annandale, Virginia. Naval Air Crewman 2nd Class James P. Buriak, 31, from Salem, Virginia. Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Sarah F. Burns, 31, from Severna Park, Maryland. Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Bailey J. Tucker, 21, from St. Louis, Missouri. One sailor on board the helicopter was rescued. The helicopter had been part of the USS Abraham Lincoln which is homeported in San Diego. ######### From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now. Stay with me for more of the local news you need. San Diego’s Climate Action Plan set ambitious goals to cut back on driving. The city has also endorsed Vision Zero, a movement to eliminate traffic deaths by making streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists. But KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen says two recent street projects show the city often works against its own objectives. AB: It's a sunny afternoon and crowds of high schoolers are hanging out at Fair at 44, a brightly decorated plaza on El Cajon Boulevard between City Heights and Talmadge. In the corner sits Ana Rivera's food truck, Jibarritos de la Isla. It's Puerto Rican and Dominican cuisine is a hit with the neighbors. AR: Our specialty is a plantain sandwich. It's basically two fried plantains, lettuce, tomato, mayo and then your choice of steak or pork. AB: Business has been good for Rivera in the five months she's been at this location. But sometimes she fears for her customers' safety. While they sit and enjoy their food, cars zoom by on El Cajon Boulevard, one of San Diego's deadliest streets. Drivers often speed and run red lights. Rivera has seen some horrific crashes. In one of them... AR: The car was just totally flipped upside down, my husband had to pull the passengers out of the vehicle. There was another accident where, you know, a car hit another car. It ended up in the middle, in the median, and the driver was ejected through the passenger door. AB: Given how dangerous El Cajon Boulevard is already, Rivera was shocked when she learned the city is planning on widening it further. It wants to shrink the size of the plaza and add a new right-turn lane for motorists. AR: I thought it was a little crazy, I thought it would add to the chaos that's already here. AB: City traffic engineers are forcing the developer of an affordable housing project on this block to pay for the widening. It's another example of how car-centric planning has quietly continued in San Diego. That’s despite pledges from city leaders to make streets safer and more pedestrian, bike and transit-oriented. There's another example across town in Bay Park. *nats of cars zooming by* WB: One thing that you notice when you start to kind of walk along Morena Boulevard is that the sidewalks are not actually complete. AB: Whittney Beard lives near a trolley station due to open in November. But she says there aren’t enough ways for pedestrians and bikes to safely access the station. So she's been organizing her neighbors to demand better. WB: We spent 2 billion dollars on this trolley and I mean if you just kind of walk this road, there's literally no access if you're not in a car. It's very dangerous and it's not good for the community. AB: During construction of the trolley station, Morena Boulevard was narrowed from four lanes to two. Beard says she liked it better that way. WB: Traffic got a little congested for like two weeks. And then after that it was pretty smooth sailing. But the traffic was much slower. So you wouldn't go above 35 miles an hour on this road when it was one lane each way. AB: But when construction ended, the road was widened again. Now drivers treat it like a freeway. CP: Adding an extra lane, expanding the road capacity, is oftentimes the first instinct of a traffic engineer. AB: Colin Parent is executive director for the nonprofit think tank Circulate San Diego. He says new goals set out in the city's Climate Action Plan should have changed this driving-first mindset. But just making a plan isn’t enough. CP: They're not self-executing policies. The city has to have — or any city has to have implementing policies that are representative of the values that are in those larger documents. And a lot of cities, including San Diego, haven't caught up to the value statements that their elected officials have signed onto. AB: Back where Ana Rivera’s food truck sits, the construction to further widen El Cajon Boulevard hasn’t started yet. It’s scheduled to begin as soon as next month. But Rivera hasn't given up hope that Mayor Todd Gloria will intervene. AR: It's something that we're not going to be able to reverse in the future. And I think the traffic is so bad right now, we need to be thinking more how we can reduce the traffic and reduce the speed of the cars. I think adding a lane isn't gonna do that. I think adding a lane is just going to add more traffic, more cars, more accidents. AB: The mayor has not yet said whether he'll stop the widening. But his press secretary sent KPBS the following statement: "Like other issues we’ve inherited from the prior administration, the City needs to look back at this project and make sure it is consistent with Mayor Gloria’s goals." Andrew Bowen, KPBS news. And that reporting from KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen. ########## The summer racing season at the del mar racetrack ended Monday. KPBS north county reporter Tania Thorne explains how the season unfolded . Del Mar Thoroughbred club president Joe Harper says this racing season was different. But he says it didn't disappoint. “This will be the best year ever in Del Mar’s history for a total betting handle. We’re gonna be up to half a billion dollars for 31 day” Harper says the daily average for this season was around $18 million dollars. 4 horse fatalities were reported in Del Mar this season. Three of them happened while training. Harper says he thinks Del Mar will be named the safest track for the 4th year in a row. But Ellen Ericksen, an animal activist, says it's not a title they deserve. “Horses are being abused, and they are being over drugged, they are pushed to race fast and in pain on massive amounts of medication to mass their pain and its animal abuse.” The fall meet kicks off on November 3rd with the Breeders Cup returning to Del Mar for the second time. TT KPBS News. The racetrack confirmed a 5th horse was euthanized after getting hurt during one of the final races on closing day. ########## Mexican leaders have been slammed by critics for their harsh crackdown on migrants at its southern border. From the Fronteras Desk in Hermosillo, KJZZ’s Kendal Blust reports the Mexican president now says he will pressure the United States to address the poverty and violence that spur people to flee Central America. BLUST: Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrado says the U.S. should do more to address the root causes of migration from Central AmericaAMLO: Porque no podemos sólo estar deteniendo, reteniendo (FADE)hay que atender las causas. La gente no sale por gusto de sus pueblos, no abandona a su familia por gusto, lo hacen por necesidad.BLUST: He says detaining migrants who are trying to reach the United States isn’t a good strategy. Instead he wants the U.S. to put greater effort into projects like tree planting, youth education and temporary visa programs.His comments come in the wake of outcry over recent images of Mexican immigration agents and national guard using force to confront Central American and Haitian migrants headed north.Lopez Obrador says his government is trying to stop them from taking a risky journey. But many say they are tired of waiting in southern Mexico for long-delayed asylum hearings. ########## Coming up....After you’ve lost your home to wildfire in California – red tape makes rebuilding no easy task. :10 "We're exhausted. I'm personally exhausted. I just wish they would find ways to alleviate some of the stressors that are being put on us." That’s next, just after the break. One year after wildfires devastated communities in the Santa Cruz Mountains, residents are still struggling. One of the problems? Strict county building codes. As KAZU’s Jerimiah Oetting reports, new rules could soon cut through the red tape. That was KAZU’s Jerimiah Oetting reporting. That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

San Diego has plans to widen El Cajon Boulevard with a new right-turn lane for motorists. That's despite years of commitments from elected officials to cut back on driving and make streets more pedestrian friendly. Meanwhile, the summer racing season at the del mar racetrack ended on Monday. Plus, red tape is making it hard for people to rebuild their homes after wildfires.