/Morning Report: Big Decisions Ahead for New Public Power Agency

Morning Report: Big Decisions Ahead for New Public Power Agency

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San Diego Community Power is a new public utility, but already the organization is making interesting moves.

MacKenzie Elmer reports that the agency’s board of directors, made up of local elected leaders, is trying to stamp out fossil fuel investments even from its first bank loan.

A Sacramento bank agreed to a $35 million credit line to get the utility up and running. But rather than ask local cities for collateral during the pandemic, the bank accepted a $5 million security deposit from Scott Borden, a local cleaner energy investor. That money will gain interest until the agency pays him back.

As soon as San Diego Community Power picks a CEO, that person will lead negotiations with SDG&E, the private company that has long maintained a monopoly over the local energy market. SDG&E will still own the power lines, but the city — which has even more ambitious energy goals than the state’s — can decide what kind of power runs along them.

The agency is hoping to provide greener energy at a lower cost. In addition to the city of San Diego, the agency will serve La Mesa, Chula Vista, Encinitas and Imperial Beach. 

(Disclosure: Mitch Mitchell, SDG&E’s vice president of state governmental affairs and external affairs, sits on Voice of San Diego’s board of directors.)

What’s Behind the South Bay Surge in COVID-19 Cases

Not all communities are getting hit equally by the novel coronavirus.

The South Bay has seen the most cases in San Diego County and a far greater share of the tests administered to patients there are coming back positive.

Why? Maya Srikrishnan considers a number of factors, including the region’s comparatively lower socioeconomic status and its proximity to Baja California, where some hospitals have been overwhelmed. The death rate for COVID-19 patients in Tijuana is 15 percent, and in San Diego it’s less than 4 percent.

Otay Mesa is also home to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement facility, where the coronavirus is spreading among the detainees.

For help along the border, local officials have reached out to the federal government. County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence noting that hotel rooms could be used to quarantine more people. Hospitals are also requesting temperature checks and other border screenings.

Meanwhile, the Union-Tribune reports that the U.S. government and American CEOs have mounted a campaign to persuade Mexico to reopen many factories. Bulldozers have been clearing land in graveyards to make more room for the dead. 

The Curtain Closed, and the Virus Rose

Even “mild” cases of the coronavirus can lay people out for weeks.

A local actor and his husband, a trauma surgeon, who were among the first people to become sick with COVID-19 in San Diego, shared their experiences with VOSD contributor Randy Dotinga. The couple wasn’t hospitalized but experienced a loss of smell and taste.

Phil Johnson, the actor, said he suffered from night sweats and morning chills, dizziness and an extraordinary level of weakness. His new play — a dark comedy about a seemingly healthy society that’s struck by unseen turmoil — opened and closed on the same night in March due to a ban on public events.

Stadium Sale Isn’t a Done Deal

The negotiations over the sale of the Mission Valley Stadium site to SDSU have always been acrimonious and they’re not getting any better. A pair of memos to the City Council have made that clear, and in one of them, a member with the California State University board of trustees essentially told the city to take what they’re offering or leave it

“It’s never a good time for a major real estate deal approved by voters to go sideways,” Andrew Keatts writes in the Politics Report. “But right now is especially bad.” 

The city is facing a roughly $300 million shortfall for the current fiscal year and Mayor Kevin Faulconer has proposed using $21 million from the sale of the old stadium property. His balanced budget also relies on offloading the cost of operating the stadium.

Mo’ Politics

This Business Was Already Struggling Before a Devastating Fire Hit

The San Diego Fire Department says there’s no reason to believe a Chinese restaurant in Kearny Mesa was burned down intentionally, despite wild speculation online.

In any case, if you’ve got a bottle of Tsingtao handy, now’s the time to pour some out.

Scott Lewis was a big fan of the China Max, so he paid it tribune. He interviewed one of the owners about the restaurant’s history and what the last few months have been like.

It is a sobering reminder that many of the places we’ve loved but took for granted are probably not coming back. We can only hope that the people who’ve built wonderful things are willing to do it again. 

In Other News 

  • Tomas Herrera-Mishler, CEO of the Balboa Park Conservancy, has resigned. It’s not clear who will take his place indefinitely. The nonprofit was founded eight years ago to act as a leader for Balboa Park — focused on parkwide needs and fundraising — but struggled to earn the trust of both philanthropists and advocates. 

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.