Coastal commission facing reforms and one woman’s mental health care struggles

S1: This week on Kpbs roundtable , state lawmakers from San Diego are proposing changes to the California Coastal Commission that would make it easier to build housing and transportation infrastructure.

S2: The Coastal Commission , almost by design , is working against urgency. They want review. They want time. They want to make sure that every T is crossed and every eye is dotted. And these two , you know , interests are coming to a head right now.

S1: And we hear about the story of a woman who slipped through the cracks of San Diego’s overwhelmed mental health care system.

S3: It just does raise the question of how many ashleys are out there.

S1: That , and our weekly roundup coming up next on roundtable. Welcome to Kpbs roundtable. I’m Scott Rod. For decades , the California Coastal Commission has had the power to approve or reject new projects in the coastal areas. But some lawmakers want to chip away at its power. Then we hear the story of one woman’s tragic experience cycling in and out of San Diego’s broken mental health care system. The Kpbs roundtable starts now. Since the 1970s , the California Coastal Commission has had the power to approve , delay , or even block housing and transportation projects in the coastal areas in the state. But multiple efforts are now underway in Sacramento to reform how the commission operates and the power it holds. Here’s how State Senator Catherine Blake Spear from Encinitas put it.

S4: There’s really a perception right now that that the Coastal Commission is stopping us from being able to handle and address urgent problems.

S1: Here to talk more about the proposed changes to the Coastal Commission is Kpbs Metro reporter Andrew Bowen. Hey , Andrew.

S2: Hey , Scott.

S1: So the California Coastal Commission’s routes go all the way back half a century. Why was the Coastal Commission set up in the first place ? What problems was it designed to solve ? Yeah.

S2: So if you think back to the 1970s , there was definitely an emerging interest in environmentalism in humans living in harmony with the natural world. After , you know , decades of us trying to sort of build , build , build and tame nature , there was kind of a recognition that we also need to respect nature and preserve it. And there is there is value to that as well. At the same time , folks in California were watching the development of a coastal areas and other parts of the country. Probably the most. The clearest example is Miami Beach , where they saw skyscrapers going up on , you know , right next to beaches. And and there was a real negative reaction to that here in California. So the Coastal Commission was set up to basically be the defender and the protector of the California coastline , to preserve these pockets of untouched nature for all of us to enjoy and to make sure that the California coastline is accessible to everyone , regardless of , you know , your income , regardless of where you even live in the country , making sure that people are able to get to the coast and to enjoy it.

S1:

S2: Um , lots of staff who work underneath the executive director , the official governing body is the Coastal Commission. So there are 12 commissioners who have a vote. And , you know , the staff will present them with recommendations , and they’re the ones who determine yes or no to this particular action. Half of those commissioners who are voting members are local elected officials , and half are just members of the public , and they’re all appointed by the governor , the Senate Rules Committee , and the speaker of the Assembly. So there’s some sort of effort to infuse democracy into this organization , even though the commissioners themselves are not elected.

S1: Got it.

S2: If your house falls in the coastal zone , you need a coastal development permit from the Coastal Commission. I can also be just as something as complicated as as a mega development , you know , an apartment building or a new commercial building in the coastal zone. As far as the authority that the Coastal Commission has , it’s pretty extensive. So , you know , needing a permit from the Coastal Commission means that you cannot build or do something with your property unless you have their permission. This also applies to cities. So cities can adopt what’s called a local coastal program. And that basically lays it’s sort of an umbrella document that lays out everything that can be done in that jurisdiction. And any time that the city wants to change or update their local coastal program , they need permission from the Coastal Commission. So it’s a it’s a very powerful agency. And I think for a while , one that has operated pretty much outside the public view.

S1: So we’re talking about a lot of hoops to jump through potentially if you want to get stuff done close to the coast. But , you know , as you said , for good reason , you know , protecting access , protecting the land close to the coast. You you’ve been reporting on two bills coming from San Diego , lawmakers looking into changes to the Coastal Commission. You know , first , let’s start with SB 689. You spoke with State Senator Catherine Breakspear from Encinitas who authored the bill.

S2: So a city document that it has permission or has it been approved by the Coastal Commission that it. Defines how many lanes of travel on each road in the coastal zone are. You know that the city should allow for. And so one of the challenges that cities have is when they’re trying to build out a network of bike lanes in their city to increase safety and also just increase the the ability of residents to enjoy life on a bike in their in their community. If creating that bike lane requires any change to the configuration of the road or any reduction in parking , they need permission from the Coastal Commission. The Coastal Commission will often require a traffic study , which costs a lot of money. You have to hire , you know , consultants probably have a bunch of meetings. It’s a very long and arduous process to get something through the Coastal Commission. And so Senator Blake Spears bill is basically saying when it’s a bike lane and if that bike lane is is in line with all the city’s own plans and documents , the Coastal Commission should be by default , approving these with a rubber stamp. We don’t need these traffic studies. We don’t need all of these extensive reviews that the city may have already done on its own. So it’s an attempt to basically streamline the process for creating a bike lane. When that creation of that bike lane requires some kind of change or reduction in in lanes on a road , it’s a pretty narrow bill , I’ll say that. And and , you know , the senator actually crafted this bill incredibly narrowly by design because she wanted to win the Coastal Commission support for it. A lot of bills , when they don’t have the commission support , face really a really high hurdle to cross , you know , to the finish line in the legislature and with the governor. And so , you know , this bill does not apply to replacing parking with the bike lane. It doesn’t apply to any type of change to accommodate public transit. So converting a vehicular lane to a transit lane , it doesn’t apply to trying to widen a sidewalk or trying to widen a parkway so you can plant trees on a street. All of those things are not covered by this bill. It’s only replacing a traveling on a road with a bike lane.

S1: And you did earlier reporting on a Point Loma bike lane project that was derailed by the Coastal Commission , and how a biker , sadly , tragically , was hit by an SUV and injured on that same stretch of road with a project was to be built.

S2: It’s a very high speed road. And so this stretch of of road , you know , you’ve got cyclists sharing a facility with SUVs driving 45 or 50mph. And it’s a really dangerous environment. So the city wanted to increase the safety by creating a protected bike lane , the design that it wanted to use in order to do that required reducing the number of travel lanes. And so the city approached , the Coastal Commission said , you know , we really need a bike lane on this road and we’d like to do a road diet. That’s what it’s called when you shrink the number of lanes. The Coastal Commission said , okay , well , we’re going to need a traffic study from you. And the city said , well , we’ve got a resurfacing schedule , you know , that we need to follow , and a traffic study is going to push this project further , you know , past the time when this road is supposed to be resurfaced. And so can you cut us some slack here ? And the Coastal Commission said , no , you got to do a traffic study. And so ultimately , the city decided it couldn’t sustain that level of focus for that , you know , just a relatively small project , however necessary it was. So they resurfaced the road and striped it exactly how it was. And right around that time , there was this tragic collision where a woman survived , frankly , with a fractured bone. But , you know , that collision could have been prevented had there been a protected bike lane there. I’ll also note that there have been deaths on this road. It’s there are not a lot of crosswalks. So pedestrians are , you know , jaywalking , trying to dodge the cars and , and , you know , in a very unsafe environment. And so , you know , the need for safety improvements on this road is crystal clear. And yet the city was really struggling to navigate this bureaucracy and try and get something done quickly.

S1: There is another bill making its way through the Assembly. This one comes from State Assembly member David Alvarez , who represents the South Bay , and this one focuses on making housing easier to build. Tell us about how that bill would change the authority of the Coastal Commission.

S2: So there is a law in California called the Affordable Housing Density Bonus Law. And what it says is when a property is zoned for apartments , the a , the property owner who wants to develop it can build a little bit more density than what would otherwise be allowed if they set aside a portion of the homes in that project as affordable housing. So it’s basically an incentive program to get developers to subsidize some of their the homes in their projects. And , you know , give them a financial incentive to actually take a take a haircut or , you know , like reduce the returns that they’re getting on some of the units. But getting back , you know , more money in totality because they have relief from some of the regulations on that land. So right now , in order to access this incentive program in state law , the density bonus program , you have to prove , I mean , basically they come what it comes down to is the the language in the law is pretty unclear. The the density bonus law is supposed to work in harmony with the Coastal Commission’s authority. And yet that word isn’t clearly defined. And there’s it. Basically , the end effect is that if somebody wants to use the density bonus law in the coastal zone , they still need approval from the Coastal Commission , and they need to go through this whole process. And so what this bill would do from Assembly Member Alvarez is basically say the density bonus law applies to all of California , not just the inland areas , but also the coastal areas. And , you know , it would basically streamline any type of project that wants to include affordable housing and , you know , get relief from some of those limits on on density , on height , on parking , things like that.

S1: You had mentioned that opposition from the Coastal Commission can be a serious hurdle for legislation to get through.

S2: And that , I think , is due in part to the fact that it’s such a narrow bill. It makes it pretty minor change to the Coastal Commission’s authority. The other bill from Assembly Member Alvarez , uh , does not have the Coastal Commission support. Officially. They have no position on this bill. But having a no having no position can sometimes de facto mean that they’re opposed to it. And it can be really difficult to win over lawmakers. And the governor in order to to get it across the finish line. Um , I’ll also mention that there are several other bills in the legislature right now. You know , these are just two from two San Diego lawmakers. But both of these lawmakers have other bills related to the Coastal Commission , also related to housing , um , related to , you know , trying to establish more objective standards that the Coastal Commission has to refer to when they’re saying yes or no to a project or establishing clearer timelines. You know that right now it can it can be endless cycles of review and back and forth with the Coastal Commission when you’re trying to get a permit. And , uh , the senator wants to basically start a clock. So , you know , you have X number of days to review this project. And after that point you have to make a decision. So yeah , I mean , it’s it’s it’s a difficult thing. And I’ll say also that the Coastal Commission , it can take a position on a bill once that position has been approved by those 12 commissioners that are officially the policymaking body. And yet some bills never really get that far. And there could be behind the scenes discussions that are happening outside of the public view. You know , the Coastal Commission staff having negotiations with a lawmaker over the scope of the bill over limitations or , you know , what have you. All of that is happening without public oversight , really. And I think that’s one of the fundamental flaws in the way that that the system operates right now. I think we , the public , deserve to know exactly what the Coastal Commission staff are asking of the lawmakers. And you know , how they want the bill to be changed before they even take a position on it. So , you know , there’s there’s definitely a transparency issue here that I’m concerned about as a journalist who wants to to see these things happen out in the open , and for us to have an , you know , an honest process that that really allows everyone to participate in.

S1: Well , so do these two bills fit into a broader trend or attitude towards the Coastal Commission and its authority ? I mean , are there criticisms that the Commission has faced in recent years along the lines of what you’re talking about ? Absolutely.

S2: So , you know , starting , uh , I would say not quite ten years ago , um , housing became really the central issue that the state legislature decided it needs to tackle. Um , so there have been a lot of new laws that have been passed , uh , you know , aiming at increasing the housing supply in the state , um , making sure that cities are planning for enough housing to accommodate population growth and job growth , um , making sure that cities are not , you know , creating unfair rules or inconsistent rules that property owners have to follow when they’re trying to build housing. And all of these bills have had a pretty significant impact on development , or they’re starting to have an impact on development in the state. And yet the coastal zone is still this special carve out area. And a lot of these bills don’t even apply in the coastal zone. And so I absolutely think there is a trend in the legislature to say , you know , we’ve tackled these issues inland , but the coastal zone is , is is an important area that we also need to recognize needs more housing. There’s a great many people in California actually live in the coastal zone. And if we’re thinking , you know , 50 years into the future , in , in , in a warming climate when we , you know , extreme heat waves are more frequent and deadlier even , it makes a lot of sense for to have more people living in the coastal areas where there’s sort of a natural cooling effect from the ocean. And so , you know , if you if you think really galaxy brain about this , we absolutely I think everyone agrees , even the critics of the Coastal Commission agree that the natural resources on the coast absolutely need to be protected. But we have a lot of urbanized areas in the coast as well. And , you know , requiring extensive review and bureaucracy for things to happen in those very urbanized areas that are already developed , you know , is really working against the goals and the and the the ideas that the legislature has to to help make housing more affordable in California. And as you know , is the case with this bike lane issue also reducing our dependence on cars. The Coastal Commission , you know , has historically taken a very strict view about access to the coast being by car , because most people drive in California. And , you know , we want to make sure that if you want to drive to the coast , you can get there in a good amount of time and you’ll have a parking space when you get there. Sometimes that works in opposition to trying to accommodate other ways for people to access the coast. So there’s that angle to it as well. I think housing and transportation and climate change are all issues that the legislature sees as really urgent problems. And the Coastal Commission , almost by design , is working against urgency. They want review , they want time. They want to make sure that every T is crossed and every eye is dotted. And these two , you know , interests are coming to a head right now.

S1: Well , we’ll be keeping an eye on these two bills and your reporting on it as well. Andrew Bowen is Kpbs Metro reporter and creator of the podcast Freeway Exit. If you haven’t listened , you absolutely should. Andrew. Thanks for joining us on roundtable.

S2: Thank you. Scott.

S1: When we come back , we hear about the life and tragic death of Ashley Goldfarb and her experiences in a mental health care system in need of fixing.

S3: From the outside looking in , I think to it’s often really difficult to understand why people like Ashley seem to be languishing on the street.

S1: That’s just ahead on Round Table. Welcome back to Kpbs roundtable. I’m Scott Rod. We’ve heard a lot about efforts in recent years to improve mental health care and addiction treatment in San Diego and across the state. A recent story from Voice of San Diego’s Lisa Halberstadt this week tells the story of Ashley Goldfarb and her journey in and out of mental health care treatment. It also reveals a mental health care system still in need of fixing. Lisa Halberstadt is a senior investigative reporter with Voice of San Diego. Lisa , welcome back to roundtable.

S3: Thanks for having me.

S1:

S3: But Ashley’s story really stuck out because her mom , Lynn , had lots of records about her experience that really documented what happened. And of course , Lynn was passionate about telling her daughter’s story , too. But all of this really helped me tell a story that offered a more of a window into not only Ashley’s life , but also what doctors and others who were trying to help her saw and did.

S1: So tell us more about Ashley.

S3: She liked to be the center of attention. She was very social , but from a young age , Ashley really struggled to follow the rules. And she was also , especially as she got older , more moody and impulsive. So by the time she was 13 , she’d been diagnosed with ADHD and bipolar disorder. But her family did feel like there were some other issues that they just couldn’t quite pin down. Um , and she she struggled more and more as she got older. Um , so by the time she was in her junior year of high school , they sent her to a boarding school in Utah , hoping that that kind of might help her out. But when she got there , she ended up hallucinating for the first time and just behaving really oddly. And she ended up being hospitalized for three weeks after that. And I think that moment was kind of a turning point , um , in Ashley’s journey.

S1: And she began experiencing homelessness after leaving home at a fairly young age. What did life look like for Ashley during those years ? Yeah.

S3: So Ashley left home when she was about 17 years old , and from then on she really bounced all over the place she lived on the street. Sometimes she was an independent living facility. Sometimes she was in crisis homes for a while. She even had a downtown studio and she was hospitalized many times. I do think it’s important to also say that around this time , because this ends up being key to why I have some of the information that I do about Ashley is that around the time that she left home , she started working with a county funded program called catalyst. It’s a pretty intense voluntary treatment program where they essentially have teams working with young adults like Ashley , who have serious mental illnesses , who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. And notes from this team really helped me learn a lot about Ashley’s experience. But I think it also really underscored the limits of voluntary treatment programs for patients like Ashley , who are really struggling.

S1: Your story paints a picture of Ashley being in and out of hospitals and treatment centers. Tell us about that cycle that she fell into.

S3: There’s this with some described as a churn through various programs , through hospitals and treatment programs and , uh , you know , different facilities. And what happens is they just continuously cycle through these different systems without getting the care that they really need to stabilize. And meanwhile , you have their families and peoples who love people , who love them , um , watching and just seeing their challenges get more and more significant. Um , and it’s really heartbreaking.

S1: There was a poignant moment in your story where one of Ashley’s cousins recalled a memory where Ashley had run out into the street , was dancing in the street. And , you know , this reflected kind of her spunky personality , her spontaneous personality. I think in the story you said , you know , the song that kind of resonated with her most was Cyndi Lauper’s Girls Just Want to Have Fun.

S3: Provide for their own personal needs like food , shelter , clothing. Um , but many times a doctor will decide somebody doesn’t meet the criteria to be held after they get a chance to sober up or get past an episode , um , that they may be having. And they’re also , I think it’s important to say often , are other people waiting for the beds that this person is in , which can really increase the pressure to discharge them. So back to Ashley’s case. Um , in her case , when she got to the hospital after she had , um , been seen by a police officer , um , running out into traffic in front of two cars. She didn’t have shoes on. She was dirty. She was a mess. The. You know , she’s brought to the hospital , and the doctors decided to uphold , um , the recommendation that she be held. But once they sat down and really started to figure out what was going on , they decided that her behavior was likely the result of meth use. Um , and this was , I think , also important to say this was she was coming into the hospital on a Saturday morning during President’s Day weekend in 2021. Um , so the doctors decided , let’s give her some time to sober up. Let’s monitor her condition. But by very early Sunday morning , which happened to be Valentine’s Day , the doctor that was on at that time decided that Ashley had stabilized to the point that she could be discharged.

S1: Your description of this process during the 72 hour hold , it actually reminded me of a series of stories that the San Diego Union-Tribune did last year is a really excellent series about just how overwhelmed this system is , and how challenging it could be for authorities and officials to hold folks and ascertain , you know , truly who may or may not be a threat to themselves or to others. And in this situation with Ashley , you know , I’m curious in terms of the methamphetamine use that appear to be connected to her behavior. Um , is this something that you’ve heard medical professionals struggle with ? You know , how to treat mental illness versus substance abuse ? Because it seems like the two are often conflated.

S3: And there’s so much there on this topic. So I think that , um , I have determined and I , you know , certainly I also talked to and quoted , uh , now retired Los Angeles County mental health official in my story who said that our preexisting prior to some reforms , I think will probably talk about in a moment , um , state conservatorship laws have really led doctors to be obsessing over whether someone’s psychosis or other behaviors that they may have are related to mental health or addiction issues. Even when this the symptoms that a person has may be having the same impact on them. But when it comes to is this person eligible for a hold ? The focus is on is on mental health. And to just further complicate things , drug use can exacerbate mental illness. It can fuel psychosis. Um , and people with mental illnesses often self-medicate with drugs. And a lot of people are struggling with both serious mental health and addiction issues at the same time. But if they present with what seems to be more of an addiction issue , it’s more likely that they’re going to quickly move out of the hospital after a hold because the doctors are watching to see by sobering up. If this person is given time to to kind of come down from whatever they’re on , are they no longer gravely disabled or a danger to themselves or others because now , you know , maybe they’re , you know , able to have a more clear conversation about , you know , what their plan is for their next steps. Um , or they’re , you know , no longer behaving quite so erratically. Um , and so doctors may determine they don’t meet eligibility for that hold anymore.

S1:

S3: And her family and the team that she was working with at catalyst didn’t know where she went. Um , I think it’s worth noting here that , um , an on call therapist with catalyst , the county funded program that I mentioned , um , had actually spoken to the doctor who made the call to discharge her and requested could they hold her until Monday so that her team could be available to help with the discharge ? That didn’t happen. And sadly , she hit the streets and her family never saw her again. Because ten days after she was released from the hospital , um on February 24th , 2021 , she darted into traffic on Interstate five near the Civic Center exit downtown , and she was pronounced dead at the scene. And again , that is the same behavior that I had seen recorded , um , throughout her records that she was running into traffic. And in fact , that’s also why she ended up in the hospital for the last time before she passed away.

S1: The details of her story are so tragic and heartbreaking. Part of what’s heartbreaking about it is it’s not just ash. There are many others who experience this , you know , encounter this system and who slipped through the cracks and don’t get the care that they need. Let’s broaden this a little bit. Your story , you know , talks about some of the efforts to reform how people with mental health issues , you know , maybe held Conservatorships. Let’s talk about Senate Bill 43 , which is set to take hold next year in San Diego.

S3: They’re not able to access , um , food , clothing or shelter. While that may seem like not a very high bar. It often is in practice. Um , for a lot of families , they found that it does end up being a high bar because , you know , is somebody imminently potentially , um , going to , to , uh , try to harm themselves or , you know , do we have evidence that , you know , someone is is going to , you know , say , run into traffic again ? Um , so what SB 43 will do and how that will change the process is it’s going to essentially widen the pool of people that are eligible for those initial short term holds. And then also because of that , there could be more , uh , eligibility for longer term conservatorships as well. But I think it’s useful to kind of start by thinking about that short term hold. Um , and , and who’s eligible for that ? So SB 43 makes it so that people who have severe substance use disorders are eligible for Conservatorships , but also those initial , uh , short term holds. It also adds language to the gravely disabled definition. So someone’s inability to keep themselves safe or to access medical care could make them eligible to. Now , again , the way that this works is you have people initially coming in on a short term hold. Um , and I do think , you know , SB 43 is really going to put the focus on what happens at that point. And it’s not yet clear how many conservatorships may resolve.

S1: Some have voiced concerns about the rollout of SB 43 and whether there are adequate resources at the county level.

S3: They need to build up the system to set the stage for this expectation that SB 43 is going to mean there are probably going to be more people placed on holds and being coming into , uh , hospital emergency rooms for evaluation. Um , they’re talking about the need to bolster existing programs and to improve connections between hospital ERS and and treatment programs , and also to create lock treatment options for people with substance use disorders who could end up on longer term holds or conservatorships because those don’t exist now. I think it’s also just really important to say that , um , you know , there are a lot of people who’ve had concerns with SB 43 and the expansion of , um , these holds and conservatorships. One of the things that they’re often saying is that now people who have addiction challenges or mental health conditions who desperately want help often can’t access treatment , and those are people that voluntarily want treatment. So. The system really is not even built for just the folks that voluntarily want help. Now it can’t meet that need.

S1:

S3: Um , but my read is it likely could have given doctors more of an opening to at least hold her in the hospital for longer than they did. Um , you know , because especially , you know , records I reviewed from her catalyst team showed that this team was seeing that her substance use challenges were really increasing , and they were describing them as significant. She also stopped engaging with that treatment team. And she had those scary episodes. We talked about where she dart in front of cars , and that behavior would seem to point to , you know , not accessing medical care or providing for her own personal safety. Um , but I think it’s also just really important to say whether the SB 43 really helps Ashley or other patients like her will depend on there being places and programs that are equipped for patients like her after they leave the hospital. Um , especially patients who may have complex issues going on. Maybe , you know , they have both a substance use disorder and a mental health condition , or they have physical health conditions. Um , sometimes something as simple as , you know , which is this is extremely common. But incontinence can make it difficult for somebody to qualify for existing programs , um , because they may need some additional support.

S1: You spoke with Ashley’s family for this story , something that must have been very difficult and traumatic to recount.

S3: She she talks a lot about the other. Ashley’s out there that , you know could benefit from hearing the story and from the outside looking in. I think , too , it’s it’s often really difficult to understand why people like Ashley seem to be languishing on the street. Um , it’s often really easy for folks to blame that person who’s sick , rather than understand that we have a system that really ends up perpetuating , um , the struggles that these folks are having.

S1:

S3: She also has started a nonprofit , um , that’s focused on trying to help others to provide food and other items to people living on the street. Ashley loved clothes. Um , and so she started Ashley’s Hope to try to keep Ashley’s memory alive.

S1:

S3: How much and how many people are falling through the cracks every day because compared to some other patients , Ashley was actually privileged. She had a supportive family who loved her. She worked with this intensive treatment program , but when she was really spiraling , her family and this team weren’t able to effectively advocate for her. There was no siren that went off when she finally landed in the hospital. Um , despite the fact that her mom in particular , had just been praying that she’d land at the county hospital because she thought that the county psychiatric hospital. In fact , been told that the county psychiatric hospital would be the most likely place to advocate for her daughter to get a conservatorship. Um , and instead , her daughter ended up in the hospital , and her parents didn’t find out that she’d been there until the day after she was discharged. And she was discharged by 620 in the morning on a Sunday. And then ten days later , as we talked about , she ended up running into traffic again. And this time she didn’t survive. And so it just does raise the question of how many Ashleys are out there.

S1: Lisa Halberstadt is a senior investigative reporter with the Voice of San Diego. Thank you for joining us.

S3: Thanks for having me.

S1: If you are experiencing a mental health or behavioral health crisis , the number to call for help and resources is 988. When we come back , we talk about some other stories we’ve been following this week on the weekly Roundup. That’s next on roundtable. Welcome back to roundtable. It’s time now for our weekly roundup of stories we’ve been following. Joining me is Andrew Bracken. Hey , Andrew. Hey , Scott.

S5: We’ve heard so much about the runoff there and the ongoing problems. And she has a story on what’s been happening with the International Boundary and Water Commission. They’re asking for more money to make these repairs that are supposed to be pretty important repairs. But she kind of reports on some of the lack of transparency about what those repairs are like , what needs fixing. And she , um , has been asking for more information. I think she received a document which she called in her story , the most redacted document my eyes have ever beheld. And I just think it was an interesting dig into trying to find out , you know , get a little more info , a little more insight into what exactly the repairs are for this really important problem for the region that we’ve seen for years and years down in South Bay.

S1: Yeah , it’s I mean , it’s such a pervasive issue. It’s such a problem not being able to basically get in the water , you know , down in South Bay. And for the federal government to not say what fixes need to happen , it just seems like a serious problem in terms of transparency for for the folks here , when they’re just trying to understand , you know , what needs to go into resolving this problem.

S5: We’ve talked a little bit about some of the issues with the Fafsa. They changed the Department of Education had updated its financial aid forms for college students applying to college. And this this year has just been a debacle after debacle. And this reporting from The New York Times found that last week they found some 70,000 emails from students with like , you know , really important information related to their financial aid and that they had to go through all these emails and , you know , had some a couple hundred workers working all night long to get through this just to , you know , try to meet these already delayed deadlines for , you know , students are facing enrollment deadlines coming up. Some universities have delayed that. But it’s just one more issue with the education department trying to make this process easier and just problem after problem has arose this year.

S1: It is remarkable just because going through that process is so demanding , such a challenge for for students , for families , that it seems like these , you know , fumbles , these own goals just seem to be compounding what is already such a difficult process for for students and families.

S5: Right. And this Friday , the Education department , this New York Times story says they’re trying to meet a deadline to start sending all the students financial information out to schools. And then from there , the schools need to kind of put together what that financial aid package would be for students. So then students could actually decide where they can enroll , where they can afford to go to school. So , I mean , it’s like another issue. We’ve just so much of the discussion and how we look at college feels like it’s going through changes. You know , with the student debt crisis that we’ve heard a lot about , I think a lot of people are rethinking its role in our lives. Maybe it’s , you know , not for everyone , or maybe there are other solutions. We’ve also talked with talked about San Diego’s community colleges , for example , and some of the ways they’re trying to kind of provide a little bit more affordable solution to some of this. But yeah , it’s just it’s just an interesting but it is unfortunate and it’s impacting families , like you said.

S1: Turning back to San Diego , there were some other stories that caught your eye this week.

S5: Cost of living stories often catch our eye. And sadly , you know , we hear a lot about them. A study from Zillow recently came out. NBC seven covered this , and it kind of pointed to some information about how much people need to make in order to afford a home in San Diego. And this Zillow study found that 18% of households , just 18% in the county , make enough money to basically afford a home. And I think we’re used to these studies by now , just reiterating the high cost of housing , the high cost of living here , and how prohibitive it is for so many people here. And then Axios San Diego reported on another study. This was from point two , and it kind of broke down how much money people would need to save for a downpayment of 20% for a home in San Diego , and how long it would take based on , you know , income. And it found that average single person would need 55 years to save up for a down payment for a home in San Diego. Couples , you know , in about 12 years could make that. It kind of folds into. My next story , which is from the Union Tribune , that found a lot of San Diegans left over the past year or so. It found this was a story from the Union Tribune’s Lori Weisberg and Phillip molnar , and it just identified this trend of San Diegans leaving more than people are moving in. Some 31,000 more people moved out of the region , then moved in. And that was between between the summer of 2022 and 2023. And that was an increase from the previous year.

S1: Yeah , I you know , you hear about people , you know , not just leaving San Diego but leaving the state and a big criticism. They have a big concern on their minds is the cost of living , cost of housing. If you look elsewhere around the country , those two things are much cheaper elsewhere. So I wouldn’t be surprised if those two things are connected. Certainly. Yeah. Well , Andrew Bracken , thanks for joining us. Thank you Scott. Thanks for tuning in to Kpbs roundtable. We’d love to hear from you. You can email us at roundtable at pbs.org , or leave us a message at (619) 452-0228. You can also listen to our show anytime as a podcast. Kpbs roundtable airs on Kpbs FM at noon on Fridays and again Sundays at 6 a.m.. Roundtable is produced by Andrew Bracken. Brandon Trufant is our technical producer. Brooke Ruth is senior producer , and I’m Scott Rodd. Thanks for listening.

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