284 New COVID-19 Cases, 69 At San Diego State

San Diego County public health officials reported nearly 300 new COVID-19 infections and four deaths from the illness. Also, San Diego’s “smart streetlights” were originally pitched as a way to improve transportation planning, but they quickly morphed into a tool for law enforcement. An ordinance to regulate the cameras’ use is awaiting a vote from the City Council. Plus, while much else in San Diego has been allowed to gradually reopen amid the pandemic, playgrounds appear to be closed indefinitely. They’re not part of any phased reopening plans at the local or state level.

The Valley Fire is about 35 percent contained, as of Thursday night. Evacuation Orders were lifted overnight for some, not all, areas near the Valley Fire. People can now return home to Areas near the Japatul Valley, Hidden Glen and Carve-Acre. Those returning to these areas will need some proof of residency to get entry.

Evacuation orders are still in effect for Lyons Valley Road east of Barrett Lake road, Forest Park road and all roads connecting to it, and Rudnick Dr… East of Forest Park Road.

Fire officials say people who live in areas impacted by the fire can call 2-1-1 for the latest non-emergency information like evacuation orders, shelters and road closures.

For the latest on the fire, go to kpbs dot org and fire dot CA dot gov.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer ordered the city’s controversial streetlight surveillance cameras be turned off this week.
The city obtained the so-called “smart streetlights” in 2016, with the goal of monitoring traffic patterns and improving transportation planning.
But law enforcement began using the streetlights as a surveillance tool — and the police created their own policy for how to use them.

The City Council wants more oversight and regulation of the cameras. City Councilmember Monica Montgomery says she’s glad the mayor is shutting them off, for now.

We’re going to get there, everyone’s moving in the right direction. But I’m glad that there will be an ordinance in place to set these oversight parameters for how this can be used as a public safety tool.

Montgomery proposed a surveillance ordinance and the creation of a Privacy Advisory Commission in July. Those actions are waiting for a vote at the full City Council.

UC San Diego will welcome thousands of students back to campus in about two weeks. This Monday, UCSD administrators received a letter signed by 600 students, alumni and faculty urging the university to reconsider its plans to reopen.

University officials, however, say they’re confident in their rigorous testing and safety protocols. They include testing for all students and staff twice a month. Robert Schooley is an infectious diseases expert at UCSD who helped create the reopening plan.

We have to try to figure out how to operate our schools, our businesses and our society in a new environment in which we’re gonna have the coronavirus looking over our shoulders for quite a while.

The first day of school at UC San Diego is September 28th.

I’m Annica Colbert. It’s Friday, September 11th. This is San Diego News Matters from KPBS News…a daily morning news podcast powered by everyone in the KPBS Newsroom. Stay with me for more of the local news you need to start your day.

Civil rights and non profits groups staged a public art project on Thursday. The project’s goal was to remind people of the history of redlining or discriminatory housing policies in San Diego.

KPBS’ Tania Thorne reports.

Volunteers armed with red washable spray paint set out to create red lines on streets and sidewalks in La Jolla and Kensington. They did it to show where red-lining happened in the past.
Redlining was a form of discrimination used by banks and realtors to prevent home buying by minority groups some neighborhoods. Red lines were also drawn to determine where poor people were allowed to live.
In La Jolla, Marissa Borquez was marking an area, once considered “servants quarters” where the so-called “serving class” lived.
0:36 – 0:42 “If you were a person of color in La Jolla at this time, this is the only place you were allowed to live”
The red lines were being drawn in front of Bishop’s School in La Jolla. And at one point security guards arrived, called the red lines an act of vandalism and threatened to call the police. Bishop’s school later emailed KPBS. They apologized and said the action of the security guards was a misunderstanding. Tania Thorne KPBS News

The downtown convention center was turned into a homeless shelter five months ago. And since then, city officials say that 525 people have been housed. They say another 200 will find housing by September.

Lisa Jones is with the San Diego Housing Commission.

Frankly, we are exercising the opportunity of a true crisis, to leverage people to change.

She says the city and its partners at the county and the state were able to speed up certain processes, and tap into new resources,…all because of the emergency presented by the pandemic.

The program is dubbed, “Operation Shelter to Home.” Almost half of the people moved through convention center housing are put into permanent, supportive housing. Others have found temporary housing through the city, or moved in with friends or family.

The convention center shelter is scheduled to close by the end of this year.

More Californians will be guaranteed sick leave if they are exposed to COVID-19…that’s according to a bill signed by Governor Gavin Newsom this week.

CapRadio’s Scott Rodd says existing laws leave out some workers.

There’s a patchwork of state and federal policies to protect workers during the pandemic. But that has left gaps for employees at large companies.

The bill guarantees 2 weeks of paid sick leave for full-time workers at companies with 500 or more employees.

The new coverage is set to expire at the end of the year. Labor groups are calling on the state and federal government to extend the protections into 2021.

Balboa Park’s South Palisades is undergoing a lot of changes, and the Comic-Con Museum hopes to be a big part of that.

KPBS Arts reporter Beth Accomando has the latest from the museum’s press conference this morning.

Comic-Con Museum took over the Hall of Champions in 2017. Yesterday it revealed a video of what the renovated building will look like and announced it was halfway to its $34 million fundraising goal. Steering committee Chair Patti Roscoe discussed the museum’s role in the Balboa Park’s South Palisades.
PATTI ROSCOE This space represents a new beginning on so many levels. It’s an opportunity for Museum to play a role in San Diego’s economic recovery and its resurging tourism industry. We see it as a partner and contributor in bringing renewed life and energy to the park and city.
The Museum plans to open next summer but in the meantime it does have virtual offerings such as the upcoming SAM or Storytelling across Media.
Beth Accomando, KPBS News.

This fall, California voters will decide on a dozen ballot measures, including Proposition 15 which would ultimately mean higher taxes for many big businesses.

As CapRadio’s Chris Nichols reports, the initiative would provide new revenue for schools and local governments.

Prop 15 is expected to raise as much as 12 billion dollars every year … for local schools, community colleges, cities and counties.
It would do this by removing a property tax protection for big businesses … one that was granted in the 1970s under Proposition 13. The protection for homeowners would remain.
Here’s Yes on 15 spokesperson Alex Stack:
Stack bite 1A: “We’re talking about Hollywood movie studios, companies in Silicon Valley, like IBM and Intel, which have been around for decades, haven’t changed ownership and are still paying property taxes based on assessments from the 1960s and 70s,” (:16)
Under Prop 15, these large corporations would have to pay property tax based on current market value. Right now, they pay a much lower rate based on the original purchase price.
But Rob Lapsley of the California Business Roundtable says the tax hike would harm not just big companies, but small ones, too.
The owners of large commercial properties will pass the increase on to smaller tenants such as restaurants, Lapsley says, in the form of higher rents and fees.
Lapsley bite 3: “Ultimately, everybody pays this tax. But most importantly, the small business owner is going to get hit exactly at the wrong time in this economic crisis.”
The tax increase would kick-in in 2022 for some properties, but not until three years later for those where half or more of the tenants are small businesses.
In Sacramento, I’m Chris Nichols.

San Diego has been allowed to gradually reopen bars, restaurants, gyms, the zoo, and even museums…but playgrounds are still closed.

KPBS investigative reporter Claire Trageser tried to find out what’s going on.

We all have that thing we miss most from our pre-pandemic life. For four-year-old James McCann it’s the playground near the small condo he shares with his parents in University Heights. Ask him why he can’t go there anymore, and he answers with the euphemism his parents were using until he caught on.
“Because of the thing going around.”
Now, he’s left playing baseball and dancing in the grass at Trolley Barn Park. Still, he’s optimistic.
“They’ll stay closed for a while and then they’ll open up.”
When might that be?
“When the thing stops.”
Unfortunately, he might be right.
Unlike everything else, playgrounds aren’t part of any phased reopening plans at the local or state level.
“Playgrounds should also remain closed.”
The decision rests with the California Department of Public Health, which has said parks can be open with restrictions. One of them is that playgrounds stay closed.
A spokesman declined repeated interview requests, but answered questions over email.
“The possible large number of individuals touching the same surface, particularly younger children who are less likely to practice hand hygiene and wear masks.” — California Department of Public Health Spokesman
He said playgrounds haven’t opened because of “the possible large number of individuals touching the same surface, particularly younger children who are less likely to practice hand hygiene and wear masks.”
But multiple doctors and infectious disease experts tell KPBS that playgrounds are far safer than indoor activities, citing a growing body of evidence that COVID-19 is much more likely to be passed when breathing and talking, not by touching surfaces.
“If it’s safe to go to a restaurant and drink inside, it’s certainly safe for a kid to go down a slide.”
Rebecca Fielding-Miller, an epidemiologist at UC San Diego, bristled at the idea that bars and restaurants have been able to reopen indoors at limited capacity, while playgrounds, which are completely outdoor spaces, stay closed.
“This is a palpable demonstration of who is and who isn’t at the table when we talk about what to reopen…00:11:48:07 It speaks volumes about priorities and who is there to advocate for a low risk environment that benefits families, especially families with young children who are often marginalized and almost forgotten about.”
Dr. Mark Sawyer, an infectious disease specialist at Rady Children’s Hospital, says he worries more about kids not getting exercise and not socializing than the small chance they pick up the virus from a play structure that sits in the sun all day.
“We spent the last two decades trying to get kids to be physically active, and now it’s a challenge keeping kids active.”
Photos in Google Drive folders Huntington Beach, Sacramento
While the playground rules apply across the state, a few cities appear to not be enforcing them with the same vigor as San Diego. For example, photos sent to KPBS from Huntington Beach and Sacramento show no yellow caution tape or signs saying playgrounds are closed.
Photos in Google Drive folder called “San Diego”
Meanwhile in San Diego, police don’t spend any time writing mask citations but playground closures are enforced with caution tape, orange fencing, and even road block signs padlocked to the top of slides. And city park staff are under orders to rewrap a playground in caution tape if it’s torn down, says a city spokesman. That takes up to an hour. And given that the city has 279 playgrounds- a lot of time spent re-wrapping caution tape.
The epidemiologist Fielding-Miller calls it…
“Security theater of closing playgrounds as their way to demonstrate something is being done.”
Some families KPBS spoke to admit they’re beginning to ignore the caution tape.
“Kids need the park.”
Jessica Pruitt brought her two kids and nephew to Central Avenue Mini Park in City Heights one afternoon last week.
“They need to get their energy out, they need this, I need this. We tore the tape down last time, and we’ll probably end up doing it again this time.”
Early on, Pruitt says she was committed to following the rules, but her resolve has weakened.
“I told them about the tape and the coronavirus and that we’re not supposed to use it. But now, they’re not going to care about the tape, they’re just going to want to play.”
Other parents have taken a different approach, saying that while they may not agree with the rule, they don’t want to teach their kids that they can choose what rules to follow and what rules to break. Unfortunately for James McCann, that parenting group includes his mom, Liz.
“We’re trying very hard to use some of this as a learning experience to point to, we need to keep other people safe and we need to do things to stay clean. I’m not trying to raise a little scofflaw.”
Claire Trageser, KPBS News

That was KPBS Investigative Reporter Claire Traegeser. After an inquiry from KPBS, state Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who represents parts of San Diego, said she planned to write a letter to the governor’s office asking what the plan would be for reopening play structures.

Coming up on the podcast….misinformation about voting…

“And recently we saw some really questionable claims pop up on social media about this. On Instagram, posts said Californians would be turned away from the polls on Election Day.”

We’ll have a polti-fact-checking conversation from our partners at Cap Radio in a series they’re calling “Can you Handle the Truth?”
That’s up next, after this.

There’s a lot of bad information out there on social media…. Really. So today We bring you the first of what’ll be a weekly conversation with Cap Radio’s Politi-Fact California reporter Chris Nichols.

Today we hear about his latest fact-checks and reports on misinformation. It’s called “Can You Handle the Truth?”

Chris spoke with Cap Radio’s Steve Milne [Notes:MILL-nee] .

BODY 3:38 …a role in the ratings we select.
[Notes:STEVE:] Chris, it’s after Labor Day and election season is in full-sprint … you’ve published several fact checks on voting recently. Let’s start with the one you did on in-person voting.
[Notes:CHRIS:] Even with all the plans for mail-in voting, Californians can go to the polls in-person this fall, if they choose to.
And recently we saw some really questionable claims pop up on social media about this. On Instagram, posts said Californians would be turned away from the polls on Election Day unless they made a change in their voting preference and marked “No to mail in voting.”
We spoke with Sam Mahood of the California Secretary of State’s Office, who described this as simply false.
[Notes:Sam Mahood 2way bite: “There was a lie or inaccuracy in just about every sentence of that post. Let’s be clear, you do not have to change anything with your voter registration in order to participate in-person in this election.” (:12)]
[Notes:STEVE:] Chris, what rating did you give to that claim?
[Notes:CHRIS:] Because it was so extreme and reckless, we gave it our most severe rating: Pants On Fire.
I should note that after we contacted them, the Secretary of State’s Office contacted Facebook and Instagram and many of those posts were taken down within a couple of hours.
[Notes:STEVE:] You also did some research on the laws that make voting more than once a crime in California and across the country — this was after President Trump last week encouraged people in North Carolina to vote by mail and in person.
[Notes:CHRIS:] That’s right. We found that under California law, voting twice is a felony — and it’s punishable by up to 3 years in prison. Under federal law, you can be sent to prison for up to 5 years. So, really the message on this one is: Have a plan, go out and vote in this election, but do it just once!
[Notes:STEVE:] Finally Chris, there’s been a lot of misinformation about a proposed law awaiting Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature. It’s by state Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco. Tell us about that:
[Notes:CHRIS:] For months now, there’s really been an onslaught of false and distorted claims about Senate Bill 145. One of the most outrageous ones is that the bill “legalizes pedophilia” in California. And that’s just not the case. The bill would give judges additional discretion on who gets placed on the sex offender registry for life.
Under current law, a judge decides whether to place young adults on that list after they are convicted of statutory rape, meaning non forcible intercourse, involving a heterosexual sex act.
This bill would give a judge that same discretion in cases involving certain sex acts mainly affecting LGBTQ young adults who are convicted of statutory rape.
Here’s Scott Wiener discussing the disparity in the law.
[Scott Wiener 2way bite 2: “It’s irrational, it’s discriminatory. It absolutely has to change and we’re committed to doing what it takes to pass this important civil rights legislation.” (:11)]
[Notes:STEVE:] How did you rate the claim in this case?
[Notes:CHRIS:] It also earned our worst rating, Pants On Fire.
[Notes:STEVE:] Chris … remind us … how does this new Cap Radio initiative work — how do you go about fact-checking misinformation on Facebook and Instagram?
[Notes:CHRIS:] “It’s no secret that the posts and information on Facebook, whether fact or fiction, affect how people vote. We want to hold Facebook users accountable to the truth, because this election it matters more than ever. That’s why Politifact California is focusing on Facebook to fact-check false news and misinformation on social media… this includes posts on the Facebook and Instagram platforms. Facebook does not decide what CapRadio should fact check, nor does it have a role in the ratings we select.”

That’s Cap Radio’s Politi-Fact California reporter Chris Nichols. Find more fact checks at Politi-Fact-dot-com-Slash-California. That’s it for our podcast today, thanks for listening and have a great weekend.

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