SpeakEasy: Homelessness Run-Ins, Scooter Scenarios & Snarky Downtown News Takes

The San Diego Sun's premium newsletter for March 28, 2022

Different Day, Same Homelessness Issues

Tents are regularly part of the landscape in front of downtown’s former public library building.

The woman appeared to beam in out of nowhere. She was about 5-foot-3-inches tall with salt-and-pepper hair. She literally appeared to be oscillating–like the Tasmanian Devil character from old Bugs Bunny cartoons.

But this wasn’t remotely funny.

It was March 20, 2022. I was walking west on downtown A Street toward Little Italy. At the intersection of Fourth Avenue this whirling caricature hopped in front of me. She was spewing obscene epithets and made me the temporary object of her attention.

She appeared to be tweaking. I took my earphones off and waved a hand at her to indicate she was getting far too into my personal space.

“Oh, you want me to shut up, mother-fucker?!” she yelled. I kept walking. She sling-shotted off in another direction.

Before I had a chance to put my earphones back on, I heard another disturbance further up A Street.

A white man in a grey sweatshirt was incoherently accusing a Black woman of…something or another. He stopped on the curb and continued to rant. The woman took to the middle of the street and walked slowly away from him. Cars honked. She ignored all motorists swerving around her.

Another day in downtown San Diego.

Yes, stories much worse than this anecdote occur every day in the 92101. The situation is at a nadir.

In an article that appeared on the March 25, 2002, issue of The San Diego Union-Tribune, State Senator Toni Atkins was asked about the current state of homelessness here.

“It’s absolutely worse,” Atkins said. “If you look down the street, you see all the tents here. It’s disheartening, because when you’re someone whose been trying to work on it for so long, it just doesn’t seem like we’re getting ahead of it.”

Before entering state politics, Atkins represented the Third District (downtown) in the San Diego City Council, from 2000 to 2008.

Never fear, there’s a plan. Or, at least, the latest array of plans.

On March 3, 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom announced his CARE (Community Assistance, Recover and Empowerment) plan. The goal is to care for mentally ill Californians wandering the streets. CARE would create a new system of civil court supervision that would include treatment and housing.

The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office is offering a plan called HELP (Homeless Enhanced Legal Program). It includes diversion programs before and after an unsheltered person is charged with a low-level offense.

Recently, Mayor Todd Gloria and two city councilmembers began pushing for the San Diego Housing Commission to purchase abandoned commercial buildings to turn into housing for the homeless. Included: The former San Diego Public Library on E Street.

It doesn’t appear there’s a pithy acronym for this plan.

Incidentally, this local push to buy commercial buildings comes right after the city missed a state deadline to apply for $61 million in earmarked Project Homekey funding…which could have been used to buy and convert buildings into long-term shelters.

Can’t We All Just Scoot Along?

The Fifth Avenue Bikeway.

In the last issue of SpeakEasy, I lauded the completion of the Fifth Avenue Bikeway, which connects downtown to Hillcrest via a curb-protected bike path (see photo, above).

The San Diego Association of Governments deadline for completion of the path was protracted–and construction created perils of its own–but SANDAG did finish on time.

I regularly use the Fifth Avenue Bikeway. Usually, on scooter. I bike the city often, but there’s a steep, sweat-inducing incline from Cedar Street to Laurel Street, and I’m usually headed to meetings when I go uptown.

Scooters are not beloved in the city. Granted, there are too many knuckleheads who steer unsafely on sidewalks and drive the wrong way into one-way streets.

When used properly, I’m all in for these “last-mile” solutions. They save gas (that on anybody’s mind?) Scooters are also corralled better than when they first invaded the city and were often left sprawling everywhere.

There are currently six operators (Bird, Link, Lyft, Spin, Veo and Wheels). The city is preparing to ask for RFPs that will skim it down to four operators.

Still, there’s always some bad blood for scooter riders. I regularly get some sort of stink eye during a ride.

You’d be surprised how many people have taken to walking along, or hanging out in, the Bikeway. Those folks can save their indignance. On a scooter, that’s my right-of-way.

But, hey, it’s all cool.

I’m not even mad about the bicycler who gave me a piece of her mind while we were sharing the Bikeway on a recent Sunday.

Approaching from behind her, I announced “On the left.” She appeared not to hear me, and in fact, swerved in front of me.

“Behind you,” I yelled. but she never acknowledged me.

Until I passed her.

“Hey, you’re supposed to announce when you’re gonna pass,” she shouted at me. “Learn the rules!”

Sigh. Ain’t no love for the scooter, man.

Want to send feedback to the editor of SpeakEasy? It’s easy, just reply to the email.

In Other Attributed News…

Downtown San Diego housing units in the Marina District. (Getty Images)

We’re #1…Most Unaffordable. The median price of homes sold in San Diego ballooned to $764,000 earlier this year. We bumped San Francisco out of the top spot, according to OJO Labs. The top five least affordable metro areas in the U.S. now round out with Los Angeles; Mobile, AL; Pensacola, FL; and Boise, ID. (OJO Labs)

Can We Outsource Remote Space in San Fran? “The air quality is bad, the elevator systems are constantly out, the HVAC is a disaster, the bathrooms — the plumbing is often both inconvenient and costly to fix and maintain. It’s just a bad situation all the way around.” Municipal Employees Association GM Michael Zucchet, commenting on the condition of San Diego’s City Operations Building. San Diego! Unaffordable and Uninhabitable! (KPBS)

Seaport Village Price Tag: $3.5 Billion…ish. Last we checked the cost to revamp the city’s aged bayside retail complex was $3B. Another report says the predicted price had been $2.5B less than a year ago and now it’s $3.5B. This sliding-scale pricing could explain why two slices of pizza and a soda at Seaport Village’s Mr. Moto Pizza is now $16.70. (San Diego Business Journal)

Um, 2/3 Equals 66.6 Percent. It’s Math. With 65 percent in favor, San Diego’s 2020 hotel-tax initiative just missed getting two-thirds (66.6 percent) of the public vote. Officials are still trying to argue that was close enough. Specifically, post-vote they’re claiming–and fighting in court–that the rules changed and the initiative only needed 50 percent to pass. That’s just not how it was advertised. As the legal battle continues, let’s hope Rudy Giuliani and his Stop the Steal pals stay busy elsewhere. (Voice of San Diego)

Say Goodbye to Muscled Thighs on Pedicab Drivers. This month, the city amended its pedicab ordinance. Now legal: electric-assisted three-wheelers for hire. The ordinance complies with state law that views these pedis as electric bicycles. Four wheeled pedicabs are not approved for electric-assist. (San Diego Reader)

Barleymash’s duck empanadas. (Courtesy photo)

Translation: Appetizers and Desserts. On Wednesday, March 30, eyes and tastebuds will be tuned to Cooking Channel’s Food Paradise: Apps and Zerts. Barleymash in the Gaslamp Quarter will hold an exclusive watch party of the show, featuring its executive chef Kevin Templeton and sous chef Rose Lane. The show airs at 7 p.m.

Not On the Money. Nobody’s perfect, including SpeakEasy. But as a geographically-attuned local news source, we had to pipe up about a recent list of “The 20 Best Things to do in Downtown San Diego.” Included are five spots that, while cool, are definitely NOT located downtown: Sunset Cliffs; Cabrillo National Monument; Torrey Pine State Natural Reserve; SeaWorld; Children’s Pool Beach, which is in La Jolla and, one could argue, epitomizes the polar opposite of 92101. (Money Inc)

Rooftop Bars Getting Lofty Notice: Two downtown San Diego bars are getting national recognition on a list of “Top 10 Rooftop Bars in the U.S. and Canada.” Cited in the unranked list are Little Italy’s Kettner Exchange and upscale sushi spot Lumi in the Gaslamp Quarter. Confirmed: Both places do indeed have rooftop bars, and each is definitely located in downtown San Diego. (Yelp)


  • Yum! Slurp! Ahhh! The Comic-Con Museum and Feeding San Diego have teamed up to present a Hunger Action Hero Art Contest. A “Hunger Action Hero” rescues food and distributes it to people facing chronic hunger. Entries are aimed at K-12 students and should include original artwork and an origin story. The winner will have their hero brought to cosplay life by a designer, and get four tickets to San Diego Comic-Con 2022. Deadline to enter: April 22. Enter HERE.
  • 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: FRESH40 and get 40 percent off your order. (Expires May 31, 2022.) SDSun


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