Homeless Solutions Versus Lip Service, Checkmate for Manny Machado & Secret Concert Discounts

SpeakEasy: the San Diego Sun's premium newsletter for May 15, 2022

Google News’ omnipresent algorithm recently fed me a story about homelessness in Spokane, Washington.

It was firewalled, but intriguing. It teased the news of former San Diego pubic officials participating in a symposium aimed at dealing with issues surrounding the unsheltered residents of Spokane.

I coughed up 99 cents to subscribe to The Spokesman-Review’s online content. The story was posted on May 11, 2022. I haven’t stopped shaking my head since reading it that day.

The headline: ‘Don’t study the problem to death’: San Diego shares lessons on homelessness as Woodward administration pushes for East Trent shelter.

Here, at length, is the opening to the spokesman.com story:

Public and private partnerships should be forged quickly, even if they’re imperfect, to address rising homelessness in Spokane, leaders from the city of San Diego said Tuesday.

“Inaction is no solution,” said Kevin Faulconer, the former mayor of the city of 1.4 million people who described success in reducing San Diego’s unsheltered population through a combination of services and enforcement of camping and loitering laws. “Don’t study the problem to death.”

Faulconer, along with the former head of San Diego’s Housing Commission, spoke to a Spokane crowd of about 200 people as part of a symposium organized by Hello for Good. The Washington Trust Bank-backed business organization was formed to address homelessness in Spokane, to include housing, education, job training and more.

The panel said the approach that worked in San Diego included immediate bridge shelters, which prohibited drug use and other illicit activity, free storage areas to allow people to place their things without fear of them being confiscated by law enforcement and safe parking lots, allowing those staying in campers and recreational vehicles to stay but also be paired with housing and counseling services on-site.

Faulconer acknowledged all those things cost money.

“All things we’re going to talk about today require investment, requires political belief,” he said.

It would take two Downton Abbey butlers a full day to unpack all the trumped-up references here to former mayor Faulconer’s administration exhibiting proactive and viable steps toward thwarting homelessness in San Diego.

“Inaction is No Solution”

Kevin Faulconer addresses the homeless crisis during his unsuccessful run for governor in 2021. (Getty Images)

After serving slightly less than two terms as mayor of San Diego (2014-20), Faulconer ran for Governor of California in the 2021 recall election.

A major plank in his campaign was that he effectively handled homelessness here at home. That claim did not resonate with state voters. Gov. Gavin Newson survived the recall. Faulconer finished fourth, receiving 8 percent of the vote.

One influential San Diegan with deep ties in the business community–and who is highly active in homelessness initiatives–disagrees that Faulconer is tethered to the motto “inaction is no solution.”

Dan Shea helms a restaurant management company and is CEO of Feeding San Diego. Along with San Diego Padres owner Peter Seidler, Shea co-founded The Tuesday Group, a collective of influential businesspeople who meet weekly to strategize about homelessness.

In a San Diego Sun story, Shea expressed frustration in getting Faulconer to take action on several homelessness issues and proposals.

Here’s a clip [another long one] from a December 21, 2021, story:

Shea says they also concluded it would be a good idea to utilize unused government buildings as homeless shelters. One suggestion was the former central library building (downtown at Eighth Avenue and E Street).

A litany of excuses was offered, Shea says. “They didn’t have insurance,” he says. “Then it was asbestos in the walls. Then it was a lack of sprinklers. Finally, they said the old library—which has three-foot-thick floors and used to hold tons of books—didn’t have load-bearing floors.”

Today, the building is still vacant. Street tents usually line the sidewalk in front of the former entrance to the decommissioned library.

Tuesday Group next focused on Golden Hall, a mid-sized, multi-use assembly space adjacent to City Hall, where the mayoral and city council offices are housed.

Shea says for roughly two years, Tuesday Group and the city went back and forth and round and round on opening that site.

By the first quarter of 2019, Shea had waited long enough.

“Finally, I said to Peter, ‘Kevin is spinning his wheels, which is making us spin our wheels,’” Shea says. “So, I think it’s time to go public.”

Shea and Seidler met with the mayor on a Thursday. They invited Faulconer to a Monday press conference at the University of San Diego.

“We invited him and said we would congratulate him on opening Golden Hall—or he could explain why he wasn’t going to do it,” Shea says.

Faulconer’s office put out a release announcing the opening of Golden Hall the Friday before the press conference.

Faulconer replied to The Sun via email for that story:

“It takes a lot of partners to reduce homelessness, and Peter and Dan were two people who made a big difference. We need more shelter to get folks off the street, and they came to the table with private philanthropy that helped my administration make the case to the public and other elected officials that we should embrace this new approach. It was no simple task to repurpose Golden Hall and set up the bridge shelters, because it required a complete change to how City Hall dealt with homelessness.”

Learning from Experience

Kevin Faulconer speaks at a 2021 press conference in downtown Los Angeles. (Getty Images)

An optimist might surmise Faulconer was speaking from his own experiences when he told the Spokane symposium crowd: “Don’t study the problem to death.”

He could easily look back on his own record of inaction in 2017. At the time, San Diego’s homeless count was spiking. An outbreak of hepatitis A–transmitted by contact with human feces–killed dozens and hospitalized nearly 500 others.

Only then–when the national press was giving San Diego a black eye–was Faulconer moved to act.

In 2017, I wrote this for the website IVN.us:

If Mayor Faulconer did look over his shoulder, he might glimpse how his administration: restricted availability of public bathrooms; built a jagged rock garden so people couldn’t sleep under a certain bridge; had police dissuade religious groups from distributing food (especially leading up to the MLB All-Star Game held in downtown San Diego); and criminalized homelessness by having cops ticket and arrest homeless individuals.

It was only after the bad national PR that Faulconer’s administration moved to act (also from IVN.us):

Expediency is the bedfellow of tragedy, though. Now that hepatitis A has leapt out of the homeless community and sickened other sectors of the citizenry, new hand-washing stations and Porta Potties have appeared; crews are power-washing city streets with bleach; vaccines are being distributed; and a downtown safe area for camping tents has sprung up while the city works to procure much larger group tents to be erected at three locations.

Yes, when action finally couldn’t be avoided, steps were taken and San Diego’s homeless population did decline after neglect led it to spike.

Not exactly the game plan that should land someone on the problem-solver speaker’s circuit.

In Other Attributed News…

Hail the king: Manny Machado. (Getty Images)

Checkmate for Manny Machado. The San Diego Padres’ All-Star third baseman is on fire at the plate this year. His batting average has been flirting with the mythical .400 (yes, it’s still early in the season). And he remains one of the best fielding third baggers in the league. Who knew he had another gambit up his sleeve: the game of chess. He travels with a chess set and and is frequently seen contemplating his next knightly move in the Padres locker room. If only the oft-injured Fernando Tatis Jr. had hobbies this safe. (The New York Times)

Padres Trend: Swag Chains Are Out; Polaroids are In.

Last season, the Padres celebrated home runs by donning a gaudy, oversized, Flavor Flav-style chain necklace. Gone. the post-dinger celebration has been replaced by…a Polaroid camera. Pitcher and San Diego native Joe Musgrove is getting credit for the new fad. He’s mulling an idea to have players sign the Polaroids and then sell them at auction for a charity. Say cheese! (mlb.com)

An Angel in the Infield. The late local legend Tony Gwynn would have been 62 on May 9. To commemorate the eternal Mr. Padre, the team recently announced the Tony Gwynn Community All-Star Program. It’s a scholarship program for college applicants who work with local nonprofits to help underserved youth in town. (Fox5 San Diego)

Junior Bermudez (pictured) wanted world champion boxer Canelo Alvarez to beat Dmitry Bivol–so the shop owner could beat him in a taco challenge.

Taking a Stand for San Diego Tacos. The upset loss on May 7 by boxing superstar Saul “Canelo” Alvarez to Russian Dmitry Bivol was bittersweet for at least one San Diego taco shop owner. Prior to the fight, Roxy’s Tacos owner Roberto “Junior” Bermudez took umbrage at Alvarez’ claim that you can’t find good, authentic Mexican tacos in San Diego. Expecting Alvarez to win, Bermudez publicly challenged Alvarez–whose brother is opening a taqueria in Chula Vista–to a taste-test challenge. In the wake of Alvarez’ surprise loss, pursuing a taco throwdown may have to temporarily sit on the back burner. (San Diego Sun)

Reluctantly, This Just In. It took a lawsuit and nearly two years for San Diego-based conservative media outlet One America News to admit that widespread voter fraud did not occur in Georgia during the 2020 primary election. OAN had been sued by Georgia election workers for reporting the opposite. That suit was settled and finally reported on by OAN on May 11, 2022. (Times of San Diego)

Hub, Hub Hooray! Billed as a cultural hub for the region, the University of California San Diego finally has a presence in downtown San Diego. The $65-million project is a four-story building at the corner of Park Boulevard and Market Street in East Village. Among the highlights: a re-opening of the indie-friendly Digital Gym Cinema, formerly housed in North Park. (SD Union-Tribune)

Masks will once again be required at Comic-Con 2022.

Where Masked Men Are Still the Norm. Comic-Con is coming back to the San Diego Convention Center on July 21-24. COVID-19 protocols will require superheroes and villains–as well as non-cosplayers–to wear masks. The Con was cancelled in 2020. It returned in November 2021 as a scaled-back Comic-Con Special Edition, during which masks were also required. (NBC San Diego)

Reelin’ In The Years. After years of standing vacant, the former Roma Urban Market (555 W. Beech Street) in Little Italy will be replaced by Fisher’s San Diego. The restaurant will bring an “avant garde” Mexican seafood style of cuisine. This will be the first eatery in the United States for the Mexican chain. A grand opening is expected in August. (Facebook)

Jackpot in the Gaslamp. Shuttered for months, the prime Gaslamp Quarter location once reigned over by Brian Malarkey as Searsucker has been taken over by Tao Group Hospitality. Management is rolling the dice and bringing a LAVO eatery to the corner of Fifth Avenue and Market Street. LAVO is an Italian restaurant concept first spawned in Las Vegas in 2008. (Fox5 San Diego)

Deals & Contests

Artemis Orion performs at a recent Sofar Sounds secret concert in San Diego. (Photo by Sarthal Duggal: Sartographer.com)

  • MUSIC MAGIC: Sofar Sounds is an international community of music fans, artists and hosts that put on semi-secret concerts every month. In San Diego, events are ramping up, with dozens of offerings in communities all over the region. Adventuresome? Want to try it out? Go to the Sofar Sounds website, select a city and pick out a show. Use the promo code: SDSUN10 and get 10 percent off the ticket price. (Note: Offer applies to one-time use per person.)
  • WALK THIS WAY. Out of the Ordinary Group Adventures has a Get Fit Walking program that’s both fun and a physical fitness boon. (Check out the story about the company’s downtown San Diego scavenger hunts.) Groups that want to participate in Out of the Ordinary’s “Hidden Gems” or “Secret Beaches” walks can go HERE for details. Use the promo code: SDSun11 and get an 11-percent discount on tickets.
  • OH SAY, CAN YOU SEE? Have trouble seeing the online print when reading insightful, hyperlocal newsletters? Check out Readers.com for its vast and affordable supply of reading glasses. Use the Code: SPRING40 and get 40 percent off your order. (Expires July 31, 2022.) SDSun


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