A homeless encampment near Market Street in downtown San Diego / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Most leaders across the region agree: San Diego needs a lot more housing to move its homeless residents off the streets.

Yet governments across the region missed a Jan. 31 deadline to apply for up to $61 million in state funds initially set aside for homeless housing projects in San Diego County, Lisa Halverstadt reveals.

That means San Diego governments must try to pull together proposals to compete with others across the state before the latest round of so-called Project Homekey funds run out.

The initiative championed by Gov. Gavin Newsom is aimed at converting hotels and other buildings across the state into permanent housing for thousands of homeless Californians — and San Diego was awarded nearly $38 million in Homekey funds in 2020 to quickly purchase two hotels.

But San Diego developers and local officials tell Halverstadt that they couldn’t pull together projects ahead of last week’s deadline due to a changed hotel market and a rapid turnaround time for Homekey projects that adds more risk for developers that local governments have sought to partner with.

San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria said he is confident his city will submit a competitive application to the state in coming weeks while Nathan Fletcher, chair of the county Board of Supervisors, said the county’s work on potential Homekey projects continues.

Read more from Halverstadt here.

City Resuming Homeless Shelter Intakes

The city on Monday resumed welcoming newcomers in city shelters following weeks of paused intakes at most shelters due to a spike in COVID cases.

City spokeswoman Ashley Bailey said the decision to resume intakes follows a decline in new coronavirus cases over the past few weeks and consultation with the county public health officials.

The city reports there were only four positive results recorded during last week’s testing at city shelters.

Since the omicron variant exploded in San Diego in late December, there have been roughly 170 positive tests among shelter residents and staff, leading the city to halt intakes.

As of Sunday, just under a third of 1,342 city-funded shelter beds were empty. The city began filling them Monday.

“Intakes will be done using a scaled approach,” Bailey wrote in a statement. “The city and Housing Commission have been working closely with providers to ensure the continued health of both clients and staff as we look to serve more individuals experiencing homelessness.”

The halted intakes for weeks throttled the city’s efforts to move homeless residents off the street, including during a large-scale outreach and clean-up operation in the Midway District. The lack of shelter beds also led the city to temporarily halt enforcement of crimes associated with homelessness since a federal court ruling and a city legal settlement require that police offer open shelter beds to homeless residents before citing them for offenses such as illegal lodging. 

Bailey said enforcement didn’t immediately resume on Monday when shelters reopened. 

Former Deputy Sentenced for Fatal Shooting

A judge on Monday sentenced a former sheriff’s deputy who shot and killed an unarmed detainee in downtown San Diego to one year in jail and three years of probation, City News Service reports. Aaron Russell pleaded guilty last month to a voluntary manslaughter charge after being initially charged with second-degree murder.

The decision to prosecute an officer for a fatal shooting is rare, but it followed a change to state law that lowered the legal threshold. Russell acknowledged, according to the Union-Tribune, that he “unreasonably believed” the man posed a danger. The other officers present at the time thought otherwise as the man slipped out of the backseat of a park ranger’s car and Russell shot him in the back.

Surveillance footage used to charge the deputy came from one of the city’s controversial smart streetlight cameras and so the technology was going to factor into the trial.

A streetlight camera / Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran

In 2020, an attorney for Russell told the Union-Tribune that deadly force “must be judged from the perspective of a reasonable officer on the scene.” A camera, he said, may or may not capture the same information that the human brain does. 

New Rule Could Make Water Rates Even Higher

The San Diego Water Authority recently passed a rule guaranteeing most of its infrastructure project be built under union-friendly labor deals.

Some contractors and board members fear the new rule, which will impact nearly every contract the Water Authority touches, will add time and costs to the project as water rates continue to skyrocket in the region, writes VOSD’s Mackenzie Elmer in this week’s Environment Report.

Also in this week’s environment news roundup: Why San Diego Community Power couldn’t hire its top pick for CEO, one San Diegan is suing San Diego Gas and Electric for their recent energy rate hikes and more.

Read the Environment Report here.

What’s Your Cost of Living in San Diego?

Planetcob is working on a project about San Diego’s high cost of living. We want to connect with readers willing to share their monthly bills. If you’d be interested in helping out, please fill out this quick survey and one of our reporters may be in touch.

In Other News

  • San Diego’s new police commission is asking for emergency appointments as it loses members, but may be unable to add new commissioners to review police shootings, in-custody deaths, complaints of police misconduct and other use-of-force incidents during the Measure B transition process. (Union-Tribune)
  • An unsuccessful lawsuit against the use of the state’s density bonus law in Bankers Hill is likely to set a statewide legal precedent that cities and counties cannot arbitrarily reject density bonus projects. (KPBS)

This Morning Report was written by Maya Srikrishnan, Lisa Halverstadt and Jesse Marx. It was edited by Megan Wood.

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