The Pacific Beach Town Council functioned as a state assembly legislative session during its May meeting as local Assembly member Todd Gloria (D-78) and other legislative sponsors sought support for their bills from a full house of 80 PB residents.
While some of the proposed legislation has fallen to the wayside since the May 15 meeting, still active bills to limit the use of deadly force by police and address the state’s housing affordability crisis, among others, were given a hearing and questioned by the audience.
Though referring to two specific housing bills, Gloria encouraged the audience to actively participate in the process by providing input so he could get local concerns addressed in any and all pending legislation. “I will ask you to keep my office apprised of what you’re interested in so we can advocate to the bills’ authors to make sure that if it is ever to become law, it reflects our priorities,” he said. He can be reached at (619) 645-3090, a78.asmdc.org
Gloria used much of his time to tackle concerns over two housing bills, SB 50 (which has since been deferred until next year) and AB 330, called the Housing Crisis Act, which streamlines regulations on new housing projects and checks the use of various measures by local jurisdictions to kill projects or delay them indefinitely.
Gloria repeatedly assured the audience that AB 330 would not repeal the existing 30-foot height limits on new construction along the coast, but vacillated on whether the bill could open the door to future action on that ceiling.
“If it is true that there is a way for the City Council to potentially vote to do something different in the future, the good news is that they still have to vote and you get to tell them what’s on your mind,” Gloria told the audience. “That will get clarified with time.”
However, PB’s man in Sacramento was adamant that the housing issue had come to a boil and a successful resolution would require both local and state efforts in conjunction.
“I think all of us agree there’s a housing affordability crisis here in the state; certainly here in San Diego,” said Gloria. “Every community must do its part, but we can’t hold one-size-fits-all solutions. We have to have solutions that reflect the character of the communities we love and embrace.”
Gloria highlighted his own bill (AB 423) to reform the Air Pollution Control District by adding a rep from the City of San Diego , noting that the City has the sixth worst ozone pollution in the entire United States. He said his bill could pass by year’s end.
To garner public support for AB 392, a presentation was made by Amanda Lee of the American Civil Liberties Union and Denise Green from the office of Assembly member Shirley Weber, the bill’s author. The bill would allow police to use deadly force only when there is no alternative, require de-escalation whenever possible, and hold officers accountable when they kill someone unnecessarily.
With statistics compiled by the state’s Department of Justice showing that of the 172 killed by police in the state in 2017, three out of four people who were unarmed were people of color and California police used deadly force at a rate 37 percent higher than the rest of the country per capita, Lee noted that the state law governing police use of deadly force was written in 1872 and has never been updated.
“Under current law, police can use deadly force whenever ‘objectively reasonable,’ meaning if a reasonable officer would have used deadly force under the same circumstances then deadly force is lawful, even if the officer’s negligence led to those circumstances,” she said. “The current law is vague. It is not only dangerous for the public, but also for the police.”
Resident Rachel Allen grilled Green and Lee about the amount of input from law enforcement in drafting the bill and if any studies had been done to determine whether the bill’s requirements would have changed previous outcomes.
“A lot of these scenarios get escalated due to non-compliance (of a police officer’s commands); a suspect running, pointing something at an officer, fighting an officer, lunging at an officer,” Allen said. “Is there any way to start educating the public on compliance?”
Green, an African-American, replied that the bill is designed to stem the rising use of deadly force by police in neighborhoods populated mostly by people of color, implying that PB wouldn’t notice much difference if enacted.
“When a police officer goes into these neighborhoods, there’s an automatic assumption because of the color of our skin that we’re more of a threat,” said Green. “Because of the color of our skin, we know this, so sometimes people react a little differently than maybe you would react. But does that mean because someone is fleeing because they’re scared that they should be shot in the back?”
Noting that in many cases, people are holding cell phones or have mental illnesses that impair their judgment on the seriousness of the situation, Green added: “We’re not saying that everybody the police officer meets is a good person. We’re saying that if over half of those people (killed) have no weapons and the majority of those people are people of color, there may be a problem and somebody needs to address that.”
Council member Campbell
District 2 City Council member Jennifer Campbell also made an appearance to highlight the passage of an emergency ordinance on vehicle habitation in the City Council the previous day by a 6-3 vote, making it illegal to live in a vehicle on a residential street or near a school at any time.
Long an advocate for tackling chronic homelessness, Campbell touted the provisions for opening new safe parking zones and providing services that help place families living in their cars, through no fault of their own, back into permanent housing.
“This is not criminalization; this is compassion to help the homeless,” Campbell said. “And also to help our neighborhoods, too, because we’re having so much trouble with ‘van-lifers’ and the RV-ers who think they can just move into our neighborhood. It doesn’t work that way.”
Rewild Mission Bay
Next up, the audience heard a presentation by the San Diego Audubon Society and non-profit urban planning outfit C3 (Citizens Coordinate for Century Three) about wetlands restoration on 40 acres of land in the northeast corner of Mission Bay.
Speaking for the Audubon Society, Andrew Meyer explained: “Rewild Mission Bay,” begun in 2014, was undertaken merely to determine the viability of restoring wetlands to improve habitat and water quality in the Bay without taking into account the recreational infrastructure that has built up.
“Rewild information is what will stay with sea level rise; what will stay as Rose Creek floods and ebbs and flows,” Meyer said. “We have that kind of information, but we’re missing the connection to the community — all the kinds of recreation that we expect and that we want from the northeast corner of Mission Bay. That’s the process that a community group like C3 is taking on and adding those pieces to it.”
A member of the C3 board, resident Kristen Victor, said her group had held six open meetings on the topic, with more planned, to gather community input, particularly from stakeholders, on how to mitigate impacts from wetlands restoration so recreational activities could remain viable.
When audience members made vociferous denunciations during the Q&A period that the Rewild project would eliminate the current City golf course and Campland, Victor responded: “When people come and make a lot of assumptions, I don’t think that’s fair to the efforts we’re doing, especially when they’re not participating in it.
“I would just like to ask for people to have open minds and to participate, and to at least be hopeful that we can create something fabulous because that’s what we’re going to do.”
— The next PB Town Council meeting is 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 19 at Crown Point Junior Music Academy, 4033 Ingraham St. pbtowncouncil.org