Long-Term Outdoor Dining (San Diego News Now) – KPBS

San Diego City has approved hundreds of outdoor dining permits since the pandemic began. Despite a big loss in parking across the city, the program appears to have widespread support. Meanwhile, the Chula Vista city council voted Tuesday to permanently remove a controversial statue at Discovery Park. Plus, an update on the situation with the cyber attack at Scripps Health.

Good Morning, I’m Annica Colbert….it’s Thursday, May 27th


Outdoor dining has a future in San Diego

More on that next, but first… let’s do the headlines….


A gunman opened fire at a San Jose Rail yard on wednesday, killing at least nine people before taking his own life. It comes amid a sharp increase in mass killings as the nation emerges from coronavirus restrictions. The attacker was identified as an employee of the rail yard. A motive is still unknown.


A new report regarding the recall election for Governor Gavin Newsom shows voter support for the governor is unchanged. The Public Policy Institute of California released the report on tuesday. 57 % oppose removing Newsom, 40% of voters favor removal, with 3% unsure. A PPIC survey from march had the same percentage supporting removal PPIC President Mark Baldassare says the results are clearly driven by a large partisan divide in the state that favors Newsom.


A passenger attacked a flight attendant on a San Diego-bound flight earlier this week, causing the attendant to lose two teeth in the assault. Now unruly passengers on aircraft, can expect to face fines up to $35,000 dollars and jail time. Here’s Sara Nelson, president of the flight attendants association.


Nelson says flight attendants have been quitting their jobs because of the rise in threats and assaults from the public.


From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.

Stay with me for more of the local news you need.

It looks like outdoor dining is here to stay in San Diego. What started as a lifeline for restaurants during the pandemic has simply become a popular dining option. However, these hot new dining areas used to be parking spots. KPBS metro reporter Andrew Bowen has this look at how COVID-19 has added another layer to the long-running argument over how parking should be prioritized in city planning.

TP: So this was a parking space prior to the pandemic.

AB: Tammy Piehl walks me through the patio dining space at her North Park restaurant One Door North.

TP: Once we closed indoor dining, we decided to make this an outdoor space for people to enjoy and you know we could continue to be open.

AB: This lot used to provide 12 parking spaces for employees’ cars. Now it can accommodate up to 80 paying customers. Piehl also put tables and chairs on four street parking spaces. She says without converting parking to dining space, she likely would have gone out of business.

TP: We really wanted to do everything that we could to keep our employees employed. (59:42)

And this allowed us to limp along so that we could continue our business as things began to open up even more.

AB: Parking is a sensitive subject in North Park. In 2019 the city proposed removing street parking to create protected bike lanes. A group called Save 30th Street Parking sued the city to stop the project. The lawsuit was dismissed. But the controversy underscores how passionate some San Diegans are about parking. Before the pandemic, Piehl says employees would complain about trouble finding a parking spot. But now, even with less parking available…

TP: I don’t think I’ve heard about a parking complaint since we’ve reopened and everybody has been back to working consistently. They’ve really found ways to accommodate. And that can include biking to work.

AB: Over the years, businesses and residents have fought hard for parking in virtually every San Diego neighborhood. But when the City Council voted to extend outdoor dining permits last week, no one called into the meeting to ask for their parking spaces back.

MT: There is this kind of misconception that if parking in front of my store — if I don’t have that space, that I’m going to be losing business.

AB: Michael Trimble is executive director of the Gaslamp Quarter Association. For the past year, the city has been closing 5th Avenue to cars in the afternoons and evenings. Trimble says rather than creating problems, the change has solved them. It’s more walkable, there’s no double parking, and the police and fire departments can get to emergencies faster.

MT: The loss of parking really has not been a real issue, because there is almost — you know, thousands of spots. Like close to 3,000 spots within walking distance of the Gaslamp Quarter.

AB: The Gaslamp Quarter Association has been planning for a fully pedestrianized 5th Avenue promenade for years. Originally city officials thought it would cost $40 million and take up to 8 years to get done. But once again, COVID-19 forced them to think differently.

MT: Everyone got the outdoor dining, they got the exposure to eat on the street, we got to close the street and show them that it really does work and the public wants it. And really it sped up the project by I would say at least five years.

AB: But while the city works to reclaim the Gaslamp Quarter for pedestrians, some fear other neighborhoods will be left behind.

CS: Everything we smoke with our oak. And this is a brisket that we’re cooking.

AB: Carlos Stance is the owner of Bowlegged BBQ in the Mount Hope neighborhood. He also turned his back parking lot into a dining space, and it’s been a huge success.

CS: And it kinda goes with the barbeque flavor in the backyard. We wanted to have an experience that when you’re outside, you hear the good music and have a good atmosphere for eating your food.

AB: Still, this part of Market Street isn’t pedestrian friendly. Cars go too fast and there aren’t enough trees or crosswalks. Stance came up with his own resources to keep his business afloat during the pandemic. But he’d love to see the city invest in Mt. Hope like it has in North Park and the Gaslamp.

CS: We’re paying our sales taxes, we’re paying our payroll taxes, we’re putting young people to work. So I think it’s important for us, for the longevity, to have that kind of support. It would be welcome.

AB: Most restaurants have had their outdoor dining permits extended to July 2022. In the meantime, the city is working to make the program permanent. Andrew Bowen, KPBS news.

And that was KPBS Metro reporter Andrew Bowen.


It’s been nearly a month now since a crippling ransomware attack hit Scripps Health, one of San Diego’s largest health care providers. And even now, it’s still unclear if or when systems will be fully restored. KPBS health reporter Matt Hoffman has the latest.

Patients’ medical history can be accessed electronically again and while officials say progress is being made — there’s still a lot we don’t know and some systems aren’t fully restored..

Scripps officials don’t know if any personal patient data has been compromised.. A statement on their website says the investigation into the cyber attack is still ongoing now nearly four weeks in..

In a letter to patients this week Scripps CEO Chris Van Gorder called the attack “ransomware” — that’s where hackers could be holding data in exchange for payment.. The last few weeks have been difficult for patients with appointments. Bloodwork and other procedures being rescheduled or outsourced.. Scripps officials say they realize that openly sharing more information puts them at an increased risk.. Van Gorder is telling patients that other attackers are sending scam communications to the healthcare giant..

Scripps says they are supporting a federal law enforcement investigation.. And while hospitals and urgent care centers are open and taking appointments, teams are still working to fully restore systems. Van Gorder says they have “thorough backups” of data and hope to have electronic health records fully up by the end of this week.. the last few weeks patients have been unable to access their health care information online. Once systems go fully live again there will be a 14 day grace period to pay any outstanding bills..

Scripps officials say those who need care should not hesitate and to come in for treatments.. They say once the investigation is completed if any patient data has been compromised they will reach out directly to those affected. MH KPBS News.

That was KPBS Health reporter Matt Hoffman.


And, as the racial reckoning continues… The City of Chula Vista has voted to permanently remove the Christopher Columbus statue at Discovery Park. KPBS reporter Alexandra Rangel was at the statue site, and has more on what locals are hoping comes of the historic vote.

AR standup: “The Christopher Columbus statue that was once mounted on top of this brick pedestal has been sitting in storage for almost a year now, and after much deliberation and community input, the Chula Vista City Council has decided that the statue won’t be coming back to Discovery Park.”

Stains of red paint can still be seen on the pavement where the statue once stood, serving as a reminder of the vandalism and protest that led to the statue’s removal.

Elena Izcalli, who grew up playing softball at Discovery Park, was one of dozens of people who spoke at Tuesday’s city council meeting.

CV MEETING 1 , 0:12

Elena Izcalli, Chula Vista Resident

“I would pass the Columbus statue multiple times a week. Literally looking up to a man who had committed genocide to people just like me.”

The council voted 4-1 to get rid of the statute, and declared October 12, Indigenous Peoples day in Chula Vista.

The city’s Human Relations Commission played a big role in advocating for the removal of the statue, saying it did not represent the people or the values of Chula Vista.

commission member(?) Ricardo Medina says the statue should be replaced with a Marker.


Ricardo Medina, Human Relations Commission

“Marking the dates that the community came together in the name of justice, truth, and reconciliation to recreate and conceptualize the park.”

The Commission will be in charge of developing a taskforce to help rename and transform the park into something that unifies the community.

Councilman John McCann was the single “no” vote , adding he wasn’t in favor of changing the name of the park. But Medina finds the name problematic.


Ricardo Medina, Human Relations Commission

“It perpetuates this concept of discovery that no one was here, that no one was occupying these lands when Columbus got here.”

HRPT0565, 10;10;35;28

Alexandra Rangel, KPBS Reporter

“The Chula Vista City Council is still deciding what they’re going to do with the statue, but two groups, the Sons and Daughters of Italy in San Diego and the Clumbus Nights have requested the statue. Alexandra Rangel, KPBS News.


In LA county, Seniors are largely vaccinated. young adults now make up the greatest share of people in the hospital with covid-19. KPCC’s Jackie Fortier has more.


Coming up…. President Biden asked the intelligence community to report on the origins of the Coronavirus within 90 days. We have a conversation with the editor of the California Healthline next just after the break.

While the COVID pandemic has begun to stabilize, many questions on how the virus got started remain unanswered. On Wednesday, President Biden told the intelligence community to report on the origins of the virus within 90 days. It comes as experts are beginning to seriously consider whether the virus was actually a laboratory accident, rather than a product of animal to human transmission as originally assumed. The laboratory theory is controversial, originally promoted by the former Trump Administration, and it pointed at China’s Institute of Virology in Wuhan.

Arthur Allen is editor of California Healthline. He spoke to Midday Edition host Jade Hindemon.


Arthur, you spoke to Peter de shack, the only American on a 10 member team that the world health organization sent to China this winter to investigate the origins of the virus. He said that while he can’t disprove the lab leak theory, he remains unconvinced of it. Uh, de Shaq has a long history studying bat Corona viruses. How has that influenced his opinion on the origins of this virus? Well,

Speaker 2: 01:13 There are some people who feel that he has a conflict of interest and that he shouldn’t have participated in this who visit to try to that occurred during the winter, because he didn’t really disclose to the world that, you know, he helped fund this laboratory, which is the center of these suspicions, that there might’ve been a leak, but in any case, he, you know, has committed a huge amount of his career to investigating these viruses and showing just how dangerous they are and how close they were to sort of jumping over to humans and causing the kind of pandemic that the world has seen. Um, he has said that he doesn’t see any evidence that this occurred in the lab in [inaudible] that he was working with. I should clarify he doesn’t personally work in the lab, but he thinks that he’s satisfied that he has seen enough of their data to be sure that they weren’t working on a virus similar to this

Speaker 1: 02:11 Notion that COVID-19 was created in a lab, began as speculation. How did this theory emerge and why have we seen it gain traction in recent months?

Speaker 2: 02:21 It emerged initially because of some intelligence reports that, uh, people had gotten sick at the [inaudible] laboratory. And also just the fact that this virus was known to be associated with bats that are often found in caves 600 miles away from Wu Han. So the fact that this laboratory was working with them and was sort of the world’s leading laboratory for this kind of research, you know, made people wonder. And then what added to that is the fact that there hasn’t been really any evidence found of this, of missing link between bats carrying hundreds of different Corona viruses, but none that similar to the one to SARS cov two, the one that is, you know, has plagued the world. And so that, that missing link and the fact that they’ve sampled many animals since then, and nothing has been found that would indicate that this might’ve been the means for some kind of virus to go from bats, maybe to an intermediate species or, or directly to people. There’s just no evidence of that. And the fact that there’s no evidence I think has added to suspicions or to the feeling that really this other hypothesis, which isn’t the mainstream, but this hypothesis that had came from the lab sort of has grown or, or the feeling that it needed to be investigated more, has grown as the other hypothesis, sort of just isn’t paying off

Speaker 1: 03:51 U S intelligence report confirming the illness of a number of researchers at the UConn Institute of virology contracted COVID-19 like symptoms before the disease was actually reported in the general public has actually raised more questions. How has this news further polarized the debate on COVID origins?

Speaker 2: 04:11 Well, I mean, it’s another, it’s a, it’s a piece of evidence by no means definitive, but it’s another piece of suggestive evidence that maybe the virus might’ve jumped and that it was sort of covered up. I’d seen people hypothesizing that maybe there was an outbreak. Somebody at the lab got sick and then there were several cases in the community and they thought they had controlled it back in the fall and that it busted out again. And the idea is that this was very embarrassing and that it might’ve been covered up. I mean, you got to figure this, if it really is a cover up of these dimensions, there have to be a lot of people who know about it. I mean, we really are talking about a conspiracy and I think de Shaq feels that he trusts these scientists. He’s worked with him for years.

Speaker 2: 04:55 He doesn’t. And many other virologists that I’ve spoken with in the U S they say, these are some of the leading scientists in the world working on viruses. And they don’t believe that they would just hush something up like this. But on the other hand, China has a different system and you really can’t say anything without, uh, authorization at this level in China. What’s also interesting to me is that, you know, our relationship or the relationships among us scientists and Chinese scientists working in this field were really reduced by the Trump administration. And, uh, we went from having 45 public health, us public health service scientists there to 10 during his period in office. And, you know, having fewer people on the ground means you don’t pick up as much of the scuttlebutt. I mean, even if people aren’t going to directly tell you what’s happening, you don’t see that they’re looking nervous, they’re running around, you know, something’s going on. And then you ask questions. So we might have been heard. And we, you know, we might have, if indeed the lab is factual, we would have been in a much better position to have found it out. If we had, you know, continued to strengthen our presence in China, which was reduced quite a bit during the Trump administration

Speaker 1: 06:09 This month, a group of scientists asked for the [inaudible] Institute of virology to open its database for more scrutiny. They said, no, what other information do scientists need to come to a definitive conclusion to this case?

Speaker 2: 06:22 Well, it’s difficult because what we’re asking or what the people that I’ve seen are some of these investigators who are scientists sort of unofficially working in spreading information on Twitter, that they find that are saying that they’ve found things like research papers that show that some Chinese scientists in Wu Han are working with viruses that weren’t reported to these international sort of databases where it’s customary to report your findings if you’re working in genetics or in virology. And so you’re saying that the fact that these viruses or virus sequences weren’t registered is one thing that leads to suspicion that they’re hiding something. And that’s that, you know, this database that they shut down in September might have more clues as to sort of the intermediate species or the, or the work that was being done at the Wu Han lab that could have led either to the creation of this virus, but more likely just to it’s somebody being infected with it in the laboratory. And then it leaking. And by leak, we mean somebody got sick and they went out and infected. Other people,

Speaker 1: 07:33 De Shaq says he has received threats and lost scientific funding as a result of his work on bat. Coronaviruses he says attacking scientists is quote, shooting the people with the conduit to where the next Corona virus might happen. How has this debate impacted public trust in the scientific community? And in government

Speaker 2: 07:53 Trust in science has come under strain during this pandemic. And many of these questions have become so politicized because they’re used as political tools because of, you know, all the pressure that people feel under economically and so on because of these public health measures. And I think this lab leak hypothesis, unfortunately, in addition to being, you know, a really important question to answer has also become a political football,

Speaker 1: 08:19 Say a lot of scientific conflict over this question is related to a debate over the risks associated with lab experiments involving deadly infectious disease. And just today, the Senate passed amendments to the endless frontier act, which would affect funding for these kinds of experiments. Can you talk about how the roots of this debate are affecting what we’re seeing play out now?

Speaker 2: 08:42 Yeah. I mean, there’s a number of scientists. We’re worried about some of the research that’s done with viruses that involves creating sort of hybrids that always you, these are not nobody’s out trying to make monster viruses, but they might create a Hybris hybrid in order to test whether a drug will work against a certain type of virus or a certain piece of the virus. But a lot of scientists feel like there hasn’t been much that’s come out of this kind of research that’s been useful, and that it’s potentially dangerous because of the kind of nightmare scenario that we’re discussing in regard to COVID. So there are a number of scientists who were sort of suspicious of this kind of research. And, um, some of them suspect that this kind of research was going on at move-on, although not all of them, for many of them, it’s still the separate issues, but they have become sort of inmeshed one and another, because some of the same people who were questioning this kind of research are now asking questions about whether this kind of research was being done in UConn and whether it might have led to this leak.

That was Arthur Allen, editor of California Healthline. He addressed the enduring theory that COVID-19 began not in the natural environment but in a lab in Wuhan, China. You heard him speaking with KPBS Midday Edition Host Jade Hindmon.

That’s it for the podcast today. Be sure to catch KPBS Midday Edition At Noon on KPBS radio, or check out the Midday podcast. You can also watch KPBS Evening Edition at 5 O’clock on KPBS Television, and as always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Annica Colbert. Thanks for listening and have a great day.