February 17 – Weekly Update - SD Regional Chamber

February 17 – Weekly Update

We’re looking good for 151! (It’s the eye cream) Join us next Thursday for our 151st Anniversary Celebration at the Hilton Bayfront to discuss other beauty tips and see your friends. This annual event brings together our region’s business executives, community leaders and elected officials who share the same interest: making the San Diego region the best place to live and work. Register here.

Chamber Trivia of the Week:

Congratulations to our winner of last week’s trivia, Marshall Anderson, with our awesome sponsor California Strategies. Since you all said last week was too easy…

On to this week’s question!

What business operated in the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Area from approximately 1912-1918 ceased operations due to the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution’s impending ratification? Extra point if you know which Chamber staff member came up with this question.

This week’s winner will be announced on Twitter @SDChamber!

Business News: 

$$$ Last week, the Board of Supervisors approved a grant program for microbusinesses in San Diego. The $2,500 grants will be awarded to up to 1,550 microbusinesses in the region. Applications are now open and available here.

The indoor mask mandate is lifted, but CalOSHA still requires employers to provide PPE to unvaccinated employees. Come down to the Chamber office Friday’s from 9 am – 4 pm to get your one month supply (first come first serve).

Legislative Updates


Federal:
 

Suppose we have to start with the whole government running out of money, AGAIN thing. This week was… weird. First, the Senate got the three week stopgap measure and was probably gonna pass it but then there was some confusion about the President giving away crack pipes, which upset a lot of people, but particularly Senator Marsha Blackburn. Once it was clarified that the federal government would not subsidize crack pipes, everyone got back to work hammering out a deal and the Senate voted to pass it overwhelmingly. Of note: Senator Leahy reminded everyone that the US government just running out of cash would look very, very badly to Russia at the moment. So expect us to meet the goal of a short-term funding plan by tomorrow.

Also important to remember on funding: we cannot rely entirely on Continuing Resolutions (like the aforementioned stop-gap measure) for a lot longer because all the money we’re banking on getting from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Act is tied up in getting those numbers formally adopted via the spending plan.

The Food and Drug Administration finally has a Commissioner, which is probably a good thing given that we’re all very, very interested in what they’re approving (or not approving!) these days. Dr. Robert Califf was confirmed on Monday on a 50-46 bipartisan vote.

Speaking of… Even though Valentine’s Day was this week, hearts broke ‘round the country when the FDA delayed their decision on vaccines for kids, citing new Pfizer vaccine data. Data on effectiveness of a three dose regimen is expected to be available in early April, and parents-of-the-under-five consider whether tantrums are effective.

In the “This is Fine” file, a report out this week says that sea level rise could be “as much as a foot” in the next 30 years, and possibly even more. It’s a bleak read – so proceed with caution.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has upgraded their virtual suggestion box. The public can now make rule suggestions direct to the bureau. Go forth and brainstorm!

The CFPB would also like your feedback on fees, arguing that they are “creeping” into bank accounts and impacting Americans negatively. Undoubtedly, you are also not a fan. But the regulatory body is asking the public to weigh in on possible forthcoming rules about “junk fees.” Comments are due by March 31, 2022.

It would seem that telehealth is here to stay. Latest numbers show that 8% of all outpatient visits in the country occurred via telehealth between March and August of last year.

The rumblings of congressional staffers potentially unionizing has upgraded to an official letter from Rep. Zoe Lofgren to the Office of Congressional Workplace Rights asking how that might happen.

International:

Southern border security checklist: CBP personnel… check (sort of). Cameras… check. Robot dogs… check (say what?). The Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) is supplementing CBP’s human personnel with quadruped mechanical reinforcements to help the agency better allocate resources. Who would’ve thought that even “man’s best friend” was also replaceable in these innovative times!

Vice President Kamala Harris will travel to Munich, Germany to attend the Munich Security Conference to enforce the U.S.’s commitment to our NATO Allies, reaffirm our shared interest in upholding the principles that have sustained European peace and security since World War II, and emphasize our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

More than 50 local, state, and federal representatives from the U.S. and Mexico joined private sector leaders from both countries for a binational summit to reiterate their commitment to working together to advance the construction of the Otay Mesa East Land Port of Entry. The summit, led by the U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar and moderated by California Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, was held at the site where the new port is being built.

The Ambassador also met with the city of Tijuana and the State government to discuss joint efforts to address transboundary pollution impacting the Tijuana river valley in our region.

Our border region continues to be a red carpet this week… Mexican President, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, visited Tijuana today to supervise infrastructure projects like the 6.8-mile elevated highway just south of the U.S. border financed through federal funds and a new customs office at the Otay port of entry.

Mayor Tod Gloria met with the Director of Field Operations, Sidney Aki, to discuss reducing border wait times and reopening PedWest at San Ysidro. The Chamber’s international agenda to the 2022 Mission to Washington D.C. will include meeting with CBP and DHS to advocate for more funds to staff our land ports of entry to address long border wait times and the reopening of PedWest.

Starting February 15th, Vietnam will remove its COVID restrictions on international passenger flights. The country originally imposed strict border controls at the beginning of the pandemic, giving a tough blow on its tourism sector. However, this hasn’t managed to changed China’s mind on restoring commercial flights with the country.

The state of Sinaloa and a coalition of Mexican agricultural stakeholders extended an invitation to join this year’s “Expo Agro Sinaloa”. This is the largest agricultural trade show in northwest Mexico. The hybrid event will take place from March 16 – 18, and focus on innovation, sustainability, and alternative crop fields.

The Institute of the Americas will be hosting a special virtual keynote address on February 25th at 11:00am featuring an insightful analysis of autocrats, the shift of power, and what we can do to preserve democracy and our freedom. Click here to register.

State:

Get your floss, it’s go time. On Wednesday February 16th the indoor mask mandate was lifted in most California’s counties for vaccinated people. However, they’re still required in healthcare facilities, congregate settings, public transport and K-12 schools.

Specifically for K-12 schools it appears that the mask mandate will be kept in effect until at the very least February 28th, where it is currently projected to be lifted following a reassessment of current pandemic trends and barring any new spikes in COVID cases. So make sure you maintain COVID safety protocols until then so we can all see their adorable faces in schools again!

Governor Newsom will also unveil his “endemic” strategy this afternoon. Sadly, after this email hits your inbox. But we understand it will include flexibility, testing, and quarantine protocols. This won’t be the only set of new rules to follow though, we’re still waiting on Cal/OSHA to release a draft of the permanent standard for COVID protocols at the workplace, which will go into effect in April.

California is a great place, that’s why we live here, but let’s be real it’s not so often that there’s a tax break coming our way. So when the Governor said he planned on a “gas tax holiday” in his budget, we were interested. It’s looking now though like he might have an uphill battle in the legislature getting it passed, citing that the $500 million that will NOT go to the state as a result of the holiday could impact critical programs.

Last Friday, Assemblymember Wicks introduced a statewide vaccine mandate: AB 1993. The bill would require all workplaces regardless of size to have a vaccine mandate, allowing medical or religious exemptions as defined by CalOSHA. This will undoubtedly receive a strong response, but as mandates that come from regulatory agencies are facing tough legal battles, the legislative vehicle at hand will likely force a tense conversation at the Capitol.

Governor Newsom’s budget bill for K-12 includes a proposal to expand the state’s preschool program to eligible 2 and 3 year olds. There are 3 million children under age 5 in the state, and we have failed to grow programming at all income levels to ensure that these children have access to preschool.

Governor Newsom also announced $923 million to shovel-ready housing projects up and down the state as part of the Housing Accelerator Tier 1 program. San Diego had two awarded projects, totaling about $34 million that will go toward over 100 affordable housing units getting built.

Vroom, vroom: Once upon a time, California set emissions standards that were stricter than the federal government. President Trump said, “oh no you don’t” and basically halted that. Now, President Biden has given California the green light (get it?) to move forward with those rules. Read the story here, and enjoy the very quotable-quotes from California Environmental Protection Secretary, Jared Blumenfeld.

Governor Newsom has nominated San Diego Judge Patricia Guerrero to serve on the California Supreme Court. The Imperial Valley native has served as an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of California and is currently serving in the Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Diego. If confirmed by the Commision of Judicial Appointments she would be the first Latina Justice to serve in the California Supreme Court.

Housing drama in Berkeley: This week, a state appeals court ruled in favor of a neighborhood group opposing UC Berkeley’s expansion plan, citing inadequate EIR. This means 5,100 students that would have otherwise been admitted will not be offered admission for the fall class of 2022. UC Berkeley has appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court of California. CEQA: the gift that keeps on giving.

Local:

SANDAG thought that the housing crisis looked so fun that they’d jump in! Along with their recently adopted Regional Plan, SANDAG is making moves into the housing policy space via a subcommittee led by Supervisor Terra Lawson-Remer, dubbed the Regional Equitable Housing Subcommittee. They’ve also kicked off a housing policy leadership program for decision makers around the County, and are positioning to engage more deeply on housing policy and production. As huge fans of more housing, you better believe we’ll be tracking this.

And on the note about housing being, you know, impossible to afford: home prices are back up to their recent peak of $750k and the inventory is at alarming lows. Combined, this means that what was already a red-hot market has now officially burnt the roof of our mouths. Perhaps some avocado toast will soothe the burn.

Alongside the creation of SANDAG’s Regional Equitable Housing Subcommittee, MTS and Affirmed Housing have come together to start the development of new affordable housing, with the intention to be transit-oriented, located right next to the Grantville Trolley Station! The new plan for 124 units of affordable studio, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments has officially broken ground and we will make sure to keep everyone updated on the development of this wonderful project.

The County has announced its first Deputy Director of their newly formed Office of Labor Standards and Enforcement. Welcome to Brendan Butler!

Finally. Construction seems to be wrapping up on I-5 in North County as SANDAG and Caltrans announce that the northbound HOV lane between Solana Beach and Carlsbad is open with the matching southbound lane opening in the coming weeks.

Check out the latest Checking in with the Chamber update on CBS8. This week, we talk Sports San Diego, cross border infrastructure and trade, microbusinesses, and PPE.

City of San Diego City Council Hearings Recap:

  • The proposed Cannabis Business Division Operations Fee passed 7-2.
  • The proposed reduction in Cannabis Production Facilities (CPFs) tax rate from 8 percent to 2 percent passed unanimously.
  • Stormwater is before the Council’s Environment Committee today.

Planning Commission Hearings Recap:

  • Planning Commission unanimously approved the initiation of OnPoint Development Tech Center in Mira Mesa. The Chamber team was happy to speak in support of their community plan amendment.

Upcoming City Public Input Opportunities Reminders:.

  • There will be two more public meetings to hear feedback on the City’s Capital Improvements Programs prioritization. Click the following links to register:  (LaCava) and (Montgomery Steppe).

Upcoming Hearings

Capital Opportunities & Resources

  • The California Dream Fund has micro grants up to $10k available for entrepreneurs and small business creation
  • The County of San Diego has $2,500 grants for microbusinesses (five employees or less) operating within the County.
  • The CARES Act Revolving Loan Fund provides assistance for eligible expenses to businesses in the City of San Diego and City of Chula VIsta impacted by the pandemic.
  • The California Rebuilding Fund is offering small businesses with fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees loans up to $100,000. Learn more and apply here.
  • The County’s Small Business Stimulus Grant Program is accepting additional applications. Eligible

businesses must have fewer than 100 full-time employees and are following sectors (restaurant, gym fitness center, yoga studio, movie theater, museum, zoo, or aquarium) that were impacted by moving from the Red to Purple Tier OR part of the event industry. Learn more and apply here.

  • City of San Diego Temporary Outdoor Business Operations Permit – Businesses (restaurants, retail stores, gyms, hair salons, nail salons) can now expand into the public right-of-way, parking lots, and public spaces. Information on how to apply for a Temporary Outdoor Business Operations Permit can be found here.

Businesses can reach out to their nearest Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which has developed the Small Business Survival Resources Guide to help business owners navigate through the chaos COVID-19 is having on our communities. SBDC can help with applying for relief, guiding you through available resources, and assisting with cash flow concerns, supply-chain interruptions, workforce capacity, insurance coverage at no extra cost.

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