County community choice energy plan gets green light
The Board of Supervisors, moving to end SDG&E’s decades-long monopoly over electricity rates, voted Tuesday to establish a community choice energy program in the county’s unincorporated area.
County leaders said the initiative will bolster the use of renewable energy and cited a recent study estimating it would save 179,000 residential and business ratepayers $12 million a year.
“This is a huge victory for consumers who are sick and tired of getting ripped off by SDG&E and are hungry for an alternative,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob, board chairwoman. “Ratepayers will finally have the freedom to choose where they get their energy.”
The county is looking at a 2022 launch date and is talking with officials in Carlsbad, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Santee and other local governments about a possible joint choice initiative.
The program includes a key environmental goal: By 2030, at least 90% of the energy provided is expected to come from solar and other sources of renewable power.
A recent study done by a consultant for the county predicted that utility rates for those tapping into the program would be at least 2% lower than what SDG&E is expected to charge. The study estimates the program will save ratepayers $12 million annually during the first decade of operation.
The county’s unincorporated area covers more than 3,500 square miles and includes Spring Valley, Alpine, Borrego Springs, Fallbrook, Campo, Lakeside, Julian and parts of La Mesa.
MacArthur Park Master Plan workshop
The city of La Mesa will host a community workshop for the MacArthur Park Master Plan on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 6-8 p.m. The event will provide the community an opportunity to continue the visioning process for the future of the 22-acre MacArthur Park with this master planning effort.
The plan will build upon feedback and an existing conditions analysis from a 2018 opportunities and constraints study to advance the short, intermediate, and long-term plans for the park’s redevelopment as community public space. Community and stakeholder engagement will play a major role in recommending priorities for future amenities and facilities.
The public is invited to participate in the workshop, which will be held at the La Mesa Community Center, 4975 Memorial Drive, located within MacArthur Park. Healthy snacks and refreshments will be provided. If you have any questions, please contact Sue Richardson, director of Community Services at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 619-667-1300.
Chamber of Commerce Homebound Seniors Project
The La Mesa Chamber of Commerce encourages residents to join them and make a difference in the lives of La Mesa homebound seniors. Each year, the chamber has assisted homebound seniors and this year will assist 24.
The chamber is now beginning to gather items for these seniors with a goal to collect, purchase and assemble items and place them in large gift baskets and gift bags. All of these gifts will be delivered, along with a hot turkey dinner with all of the trimmings, to the selected seniors by the La Mesa Retired Senior Volunteer Patrol.
Due to delivery schedule, the deadline to receive the gifts for seniors is Friday, Nov. 29. This will allow time to wrap all of the items, prepare all of the gift baskets and purchase the items needed. Donations may be delivered to the La Mesa Chamber office at 8080 La Mesa Blvd., Suite 212, or next door to Fran Smith in Suite 214, Monday through Friday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Mary England is also available seven days a week to meet donors and pick up those items from you. Contact Mary England on her cell 619-251-7730.
Donated items from your pantry should be double-checked for expiration. Suggested items you can purchase to donate to this year’s gift baskets include: canned soups, canned vegetables, canned fruits, packets of crackers, packets of pasta or macaroni & cheese, bars of soap, tubes of tooth paste, packs of tissues, bottles of hand soaps, bottles of hand sanitizer, pens and pads of paper. Gift cards in any denomination from the following locations are also appreciated: Walmart, Target, or any grocery store.
City manager announces retirement
City Manager Yvonne Garrett has announced her retirement effective Dec. 30, 2019. Garrett has served in several positions with the City of La Mesa, starting as the Director of Community Services in January 2000. Garrett spent six years as the Assistant City Manager and Community Services Director prior to her appointment as City Manager in 2016. Garrett was the director of the La Mesa Park and Recreation concurrently with her position in Community Services and in the City Manager’s Department. The Foundation is a private non-profit organization that raises funds for park improvements and facilitates recreational, education and cultural programs in La Mesa.
“Yvonne Garrett’s exemplary character, leadership, wisdom and vision have served the City of La Mesa for two decades. Her priority of helping create a livable community has helped elevate the La Mesa as one of the top cities in the county. Her willingness to solve problems is only surpassed by her knowledge of the city. It will be a challenge to find her successor,” said Mayor Mark Arapostathis.
Garrett, in her tenure with La Mesa, completed several major capital projects including the award winning PARKS Project, the La Mesa Teen Center, and has been instrumental in promoting walkability in the city of La Mesa. She handled special projects for the city including funding and developing a Health and Wellness Element for the General Plan, completion of the Parks Master Plan, and oversight of the implementation of the citizen initiated medical cannabis ordinance, as well an excise tax measure for cannabis facilities passed by the voters in 2016 and 2018 respectively. In 2018, La Mesa was the first East County city to approve a Climate Action Plan. She led the city’s re-branding efforts which have resulted in a new interest in La Mesa as an attractive place to dine, shop, and explore.
“I have relished working in the city of La Mesa,” she said. “Its residents have a deep attachment to their city and there is a generational appeal where folks who were born here often strive to come back home. I have grown to love La Mesa as if it was my hometown too. I will certainly miss the privilege of working for a City Council that is respectful and appreciative of the employees and who also clearly love their city. La Mesa is in good hands with an excellent executive management team and a dedicated and conscientious professional staff.”
The council unanimously directed City Manager Garrett to engage the Human Resources Manager to begin a state and nationwide recruitment to present qualified candidates for City Council consideration and appointed Assistant City Manager Greg Humora as the Interim City Manager upon Garrett’s retirement.
Oasis hosts technology event for older adults
In October, leaders at San Diego Oasis, an organization serving people age 50 and better throughout the county, hosted an immersive technology event designed to help ease frustration when it comes to smartphones, computers, tablets, apps, telemedicine, and much more.
The “Get Connected: Technology Fair for 50+” attracted more than 1,000 San Diego County residents at the Reading Cinemas at Grossmont Center, just steps away from the San Diego Oasis Lifelong Learning Center. Get Connected is the region’s largest tech event for older adults, and is designed to be upbeat, inviting, and stimulating. Organizers took great care to curate the best presenters and satisfy attendee needs.
“There was so much positive energy among our attendees and the response to learn about technology, from the basics to advanced topics was incredible,” said Simona Valanciute, president and CEO, San Diego Oasis.
Get Connected featured 24 free workshops and consultations with tech experts in a one-on-one environment to answer just about any kind of tech question. The workshops were led by industry experts from local companies, who presented a range of topics for beginners to experienced tech users, such as “10 Apps You Should Have On Your Smartphone,” “Conquering Your Passwords,” and “Money and Tech: Is Your Digital Wallet Ready?” Presenters were multi-generational, diverse, and have varying perspectives.
“Peer-to-peer learning creates a comfortable, non-threatening environment,” Valanciute. said “Students leave our event feeling motivated and empowered to further use the smart technology they have at their fingertips.”
Attendees also had an up-close look at a Tesla Model 3 and Model 5 vehicles, learning about charging options, federal tax credits, and state rebates on electric vehicles. Opportunity drawings for some exciting tech-related gifts were held throughout the day.
San Diego Oasis hosts technology classes and workshops throughout the year at their locations in Grossmont Center, Escondido, and across the county. Visit SanDiegoOasis.org for more information.
County proposes crackdown on vape products
Alarmed by a spike in vaping-related illnesses and deaths, on Sept. 30 County Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Nathan Fletcher called for a crackdown on products associated with vaping.
They proposed a ban on the sale and distribution of flavored tobacco products, along with a moratorium on the sale and distribution of the e-devices.
“Vaping-related illnesses are a grave concern and we must take local action to address this fast-growing public health crisis,” said Jacob, chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors. “Teenagers and young adults have been the hardest hit, and we must stand up to vaping manufacturers that are preying on them for profit.”
The recommendations will initially come to the board on Oct. 15. If the board follows up with a final approval, it would take effect in the county’s unincorporated area.
“E-cigarettes, and in particular the flavored products, are erasing years of progress in reducing teens’ use of tobacco and nicotine,” said Supervisor Fletcher. “Big tobacco is again preying on our kids, and we have an obligation to protect our children and public health. While I respect people’s right to personal choices, there are simply too many unknowns about the danger of these products and too much concerning data about illness and deaths linked to these products.”
State and local public health officials are advising people to refrain from vaping, no matter the substance or source, as investigations continue into the cause of the crisis.
“Until more is known about what is causing these cases of severe illness, it is important for people to stop using these products,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County Public Health Officer. “Help is available for those who want to quit smoking in all forms, and I encourage people to take this important step for their health. If you do not vape, do not start.”
According to federal officials, since Aug. 23, there have been at least 12 confirmed deaths nationwide associated with e-cigarette use, along with more than 800 related lung injury illnesses, most of them since late August as well. As of Sept. 26, there have been 22 confirmed and probable vaping-associated pulmonary injury (VAPI) cases reported among San Diego County residents.
Nearly 2 out of 3 of those affected are 18 to 24 years old. Sixteen percent are under 18.
According to the state Department of Public Health, teenagers and young adults make up about half of the people hospitalized in California as a result of e-cigarette use. In 2018, 1 in 5 high school seniors reported vaping in the past month – almost double the number reported in 2017.
SDG&E proposes plan to end bill spikes
San Diego Gas & Electric’s (SDG&E) residential customers could see lower electric bills next summer under a proposal the company filed today with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to eliminate seasonal pricing changes, which often creates bill spikes during hot summer months.
If approved by the CPUC, a typical residential customer would see their summer bills reduced by about $7 per month. Under the existing seasonal pricing structure, the pricing per kilowatt hour is adjusted twice a year. During the summer months, June-October, rates are adjusted higher to encourage conservation because energy demand tends to be higher during hot months. Winter rates are lower and in effect from November to May.
By eliminating seasonal changes in pricing, SDG&E’s proposal is intended to reduce bill volatility in the summer and provide customers with more consistent bill amounts throughout the year, so it’s easier for them to budget for household energy expenses.
The company’s request builds upon previous efforts to stabilize bills and create pricing structures that minimize burden on customers. After extreme bill volatility in the summer of 2018, SDG&E heard the concerns of its customers and filed a request to eliminate the state-mandated High Usage Charge, which led to higher bills for customers who used more than 400% of their baseline allowance. Prior to this summer, the CPUC denied SDG&E’s request to eliminate the High Usage Charge.
“We remain committed to helping our customers and will make every attempt possible to create fair, transparent and reasonable energy rates,” said Scott Crider, SDG&E’s vice president of customer services, in a press release. “While we were disappointed in the commission’s position on the High Usage Charge, we respect their decision and look forward to working with them to eliminate seasonal pricing changes to benefit our customers.”
SDG&E’s proposal to eliminate seasonal pricing changes would apply to all residential customers, including those on time-of-use, non-time-of-use, and electric vehicle pricing plans. Today’s filing is the first step in a months-long process for the CPUC to issue a decision on SDG&E’s request. Pending approval, the company hopes to eliminate seasonal pricing changes prior to the start of next summer.