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Morning Report: Five Years in, Real Estate Fee’s Impact Is Sparse – Voice of San Diego

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When State Sen. President Toni Atkins ushered SB 2 through the Legislature, she and other legislators said the new fee on real estate transactions would be transformational. She said relief was coming soon for people struggling with the state’s high housing costs. 

Sen. Ben Hueso said it would improve the quality of people’s lives. 

With SB 2, in the five years since, California has collected more than $1.6 billion in fees to fund affordable housing and reduce homelessness. But it has distributed less than a quarter of the money. Meanwhile, San Diego’s cost of living has soared.

Voice intern Catherine Allen reports that the funds committed or released so far have gone to two major programs, including the Mixed Income Multi-Family Loan, which is meant to fill the “missing middle” of the housing industry. Those loans are committed to housing projects across the state, including four developments in San Diego County, but the money doesn’t get used until after construction is completed. 

Atkins has acknowledged the money would not solve the crisis overnight but said it remains a flexible and reliable source of permanent funding. Agencies can access the funds over a three-year period, and some, as Allen notes, may wait until there’s a larger sum available in the pot to draw from.

Read the rest of the story here. 

Housing Commission Chair Wants City to Buy California Theatre

Graffiti dotted the California Theatre, seen here from C Street, which was partially surrounded by fencing that didn’t keep people from entering the building on Aug. 10, 2022. / Photo by Jakob McWhinney

The chair of the San Diego Housing Commission made some major asks of Gov. Gavin Newsom last week.

In a letter, board chairman Mitch Mitchell shared a more than $40 million wish list of items he thinks could provide a shot in the arm to the city’s efforts to combat its homelessness and housing crises.

Among the asks: $25 million to buy the blighted California Theatre downtown as part of a broader planned Civic Center development, $5 million to move one of the city’s temporary tent shelters, $2.6 million to set up a safe camping site and $350,000 to help the city make the old Central Library into a shelter.

Mitchell told Voice’s Lisa Halverstadt he and city’s housing agency are aiming to make the most of an unprecedented state budget surplus and to put their wants list on the governor’s radar as he considers future budgets.

Remember the big downtown plan: As our Scott Lewis recently observed, the City Council didn’t just settle the lawsuit between two parties in the 101 Ash St. dispute, it also agreed to buy that building and another adjacent to City Hall. In the same vote as the settlement, the Council told the mayor’s staff to come back with a plan to redevelop the entire area with a new City Hall, new fire station, new Civic Theatre and a bunch of new housing. 

Add the California Theatre to that plan? Mayor Todd Gloria’s office said it hasn’t considered the dilapidated theatre as part of its plan to revamp the City Hall complex — at least for now.

What a Gloria spokesman says he is already committed to: Making the old downtown library a homeless shelter if the city’s effort to clear a longstanding deed restriction on the property is successful.

Read more about the Housing Commission’s ambitions here

And About That Initiative to Prohibit Camping in the City

A few weeks ago, the Politics Report revealed that former Mayor Kevin Faulconer was making calls to rally support for a ballot initiative that would make it a misdemeanor to camp in San Diego if shelter space was available.

His plan is to do something in 2024 similar to what is going on the ballot in Sacramento this year. However, Tuesday, Sacramento’s City Council amended that initiative to require that the city and county of Sacramento have a deal in place before enforcement happens. Sacramento city leaders want the county to commit to a certain level of services and housing before they’ll be willing to arrest homeless residents. 

“Without the county and their massive mental health, substance abuse, child welfare and domestic violence infrastructure and resources, this initiative as it stands will not provide the relief that we want and that the people expect,” Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg told Capitol Public Radio.

The Future Of Textbooks Is Nigh 

In Jakob McWhinney’s latest The Learning Curve, he dives into the world of textbooks. As the print industry continues to sputter, publishers are turning to digital first models that often come with a variety of strings attached that restrict how students access them. But, new alternatives have emerged like zero-textbook-cost courses and Open Educational Resources that allow educators to freely adopt and customize learning materials.

The San Diego Community College District is leaning into those alternatives and has already developed over a thousand courses courses that don’t require students to spend a dime. Nearly $1 million in congressionally directed funding will help the district continue to move in that direction. 

Read the full story in The Learning Curve.

In Other News 

  • More 101 Ash coverage coming at ya. The Union-Tribune reports that prosecutors and lawyers for ex-city landlord Cisterra Development and real estate broker Jason Hughes are working to resolve a dispute over seized documents. The district attorney had argued that the materials are not protected by attorney-client privilege. As Halverstadt reported last week, Hughes’ attorney told a Superior Court judge that they’re looking at hundreds of thousands of pages and negotiating in good faith.
  • Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina told KPBS that Baja California officials have agreed to emergency mitigation measures at the San Antonio de los Buenos sewage treatment plant in Tijuana to lessen the impact of sewage leaks.
  • San Diego officials are hoping to turn parts of the city into “urban villages” in the decades to come and Mira Mesa is one potential neighborhood. U-T columnist Michael Smolens explains how explosive growth in the 1970s, without long-term planning for schools, fire stations and parks, made Mira Mesa a national poster child for suburban development gone wrong. 
  • Times of San Diego reports that a UC San Diego wastewater monitoring program that has for more than a year tracked the virus that causes COVID is now also looking out for monkeypox.
  • The Union-Tribune reports that SeaWorld got the go-ahead Wednesday from the California Coastal Commission to proceed with its fourth roller coaster in six years.

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, Lisa Halverstadt, Jakob McWhinney 



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