City’s first ‘Smart Meters’ installed Downtown
On Oct. 29, Council President Todd Gloria presided over the launch of the city’s first installation of Smart Meters, which replaced 200 traditional coin-operated machines throughout Downtown streets.The new meters will accept credit or debit cards and will also allow the city to gather better utilization data to assist with overall parking management, policy and strategy.
The new technology will use existing meter poles and replace approximately 97 percent of San Diego’s existing coin-operated meters, with initial installs taking place in the Gaslamp Quarter first, then other neighborhoods, to include East Village, Cortez Hill, Marina District and Core Columbia. Uptown and Mid-City locations will follow in 2015. “Bringing smart parking meters to San Diego was on the short list of things I wanted to accomplish during my tenure as mayor, and I know San Diegans and visitors will notice the improvement this week upon their installation,” said Council President Gloria at the unveiling. “San Diego is a city of innovation and people here should not resort to the antiquated practice of searching for coins for parking meters. With more user-friendly parking meters, customers will be able to more easily patronize the small businesses throughout Downtown, Uptown, and Mid-City, contributing to the economic development of our City.” Signing off on the project was Gloria’s last act as interim mayor last February. Also in the works is a pilot program allowing customers with the ability to pay with their pay phones.
Midterm election results bring changes to San Diego
On Tuesday, Nov. 4, San Diego voters had the opportunity to head to the polls to decide state, local and national races, as well as several propositions, during the final midterm election of Barack Obama’s presidency. Only one-third of San Diego County’s registered voters participated in the election, and the state’s voter turnout was the lowest in decades. San Diego’s lone City Council race went to Republican newcomer Chris Cate, who bested Democratic opponent Carol Kim by a margin of nearly 10 points. Council Democrats will now hold a 5–4 majority on the Council, a downgrade from the veto-proof supermajority of 6-4 held for a brief period following Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s inauguration this spring. The state-backed Proposition 1, which will authorize a $7.5 billion bond for various water infrastructure projects, passed by an overwhelming margin. San Diego County Water Authority chair Mark Weston told KPBS that the bond contains $70 million directly available to San Diego, with another $3 billion that San Diego County plans to compete for. California voters also approved Proposition 47, which will soften penalties for lower-level drug and property crimes, among other violations. Authored by former Police Chief Bill Lansdowne but opposed by other local law officials, including Lansdowne’s successor, Shelley Zimmerman, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said the measure will save state and local criminal justice systems hundreds of millions annually. The Los Angeles Times reported that the measure will cut penalties for one in five of the state’s lawbreakers. Nationally, Republicans won the necessary number of seats to gain a majority in the U.S. Senate and increased their majority in the House of Representatives. Conservatives now hold a majority in both chambers of Congress.
Peters and DeMaio await vote count
Rep. Scott Peters (D–52) who represents a portion of the coverage area of Downtown News, was still in a hotly contested race against former City Councilmember Carl DeMaio at press time and too close to call, with less than 1,000 votes separating the two. Peters was first elected as the representative for district 52 in 2012, during the same election cycle that DeMaio lost his bid for mayor of San Diego. The most high profile contest in the region, the D52 race received a great deal of national attention as well, due in part because if elected, DeMaio would be the first openly gay Republican to hold a congressional seat. Various other rumors and scandals came to light on both sides during the campaign, with both candidates spending millions of dollars on attack ads. The winner is expected to be named once all mail-in and provisional votes are counted, later this week.
Atkin’s Snoopy Plate program still needs sales to debut
In February, the Department of Motor Vehicles in conjunction with the State of California’s launched “the Snoopy plate,” a California license plate that depicts a happy and dancing Snoopy and the phrase “museums are for everyone,” after a bill sponsored by Speaker Toni G. Atkins was passed. The wife of Snoopy’s creator, the late Charles M. Schultz, opened a museum in Santa Rosa in his honor and became aware of the need for additional funding. The family and other copyright holders of both Schultz and Peanuts are donating the royalties to benefit museums. Revenues from the plate, which would be managed by California Cultural and Historical Endowment (CCHE), would help finance museums throughout California through a grant program. However, in order for a special interest plate to go into production, a designated minimum of 7,500 pre-paid orders must be collected. “The outpouring of interest and support has been fantastic,” said Celeste DeWald, executive director of the California Association of Museums in a press release. “We have already sold 4,600 license plates, and Californians are buying them every day. The sooner we sell another 2,900, the sooner DMV will start producing Snoopy plates and California museums will have a new funding source.” Special interest plates such as this cost $50 and are $40 per year to renew and a portion are considered tax deductible. These fees are attached to DMV vehicle registration. Should a purchaser wish to personalize the plate, the plate costs $98 with a $78 renewal. Proceeds from the plates will benefit California museums devoted to history, art, science, and natural history, as well as zoos, botanical gardens, and aquariums. If 7,500 orders are not received by February 2015, pending orders will either be refunded or the CCHE will request to extend the campaign for another year. For more information or to order your Snoopy Plate, visit Snoopyplate.com
Balboa Park receives grant to enhance its technology
On Oct. 29, it was announced that funds from a $1 million grant issued by the James Irvine Foundation would go toward several technology upgrades in Balboa Park. Money will be used by the Balboa Park Online Collaborative (BPOC) to double the size of the park’s Wi-Fi network, enlarging it to roughly 250 acres. The increase will make the network “one of the largest and fastest free public Wi-Fi spots on the West Coast” according to a press release from Mayor Kevin Faulconer. The BPOC and the Balboa Park Cultural Partnership will also use the funds to create a smartphone app offering self-guided tours around the park, its museums and cultural institutions. Several other tech-related upgrades are also slated to utilize the grant money.
Unique public restrooms set for Downtown installation
Thanks to Councilmember Marti Emerald, two new unique public restroom facilities — nicknamed “Portland Loos” — are now set to hit the streets of Downtown San Diego. Emerald and advocacy group Girls Think Tank joined forces four years ago to recommend the restrooms, which are prefabricated, self-contained, stand-alone units and big enough for a bicycle or a motorized wheelchair to fit inside. The kiosks, which contain sturdy, environmentally friendly, gender-neutral, flush-style toilets, will be available to the public around the clock and free to use. The public restrooms are named after the city where they are a successful mainstay, Portland, Oregon. “Loo” is a British term for restroom. Emerald and her staff traveled to Portland to learn more about the loos prior to recommending them to the San Diego City Council, who approved the project in February. One loo will be installed at the corner of 14th and L streets and the other at the northwest corner of Market Street and Park Boulevard. “They will serve visitors, residents, and the homeless,” Emerald said in a press release. “Thank you to our Portland colleagues for creating this great urban solution for the public’s need ‘to go’ and to our city engineers and Civic San Diego for pushing this project along. And, special heartfelt thanks to the Girls Think Tank and David ‘Waterman’ Ross for their advocacy.” The two Portland Loos will be installed in January of 2015.