Morning Report: Safety, Public Perception Key Hurdles For Military Drone Flights –

September 1, 2021

A military-grade drone demonstration, scheduled over the city of San Diego, was rerouted to the desert last year after regulators pushed back. It drew international attention because it would have helped open the skies above major U.S. cities to new, unprecedented forms of surveillance.

Although the defense contractor that builds the drone says it has no immediate plans for a re-do, developments at the federal level could make military-grade drone patrols in civilian airspace a more common occurrence in Southern California, Jesse Marx writes.

General Atomics walked through some of those developments in a report and identified the obstacles that could prevent flights over cities like San Diego going forward. Notably, the company identified public perception as the key hurdle.

For years, the FAA has been trying to accelerate the integration of drones into civil and commercial society by partnering with state, local and tribal governments, as well as drone operators and manufacturers. But there remain questions about the safety of such devices and anxiety over the prospect of repurposing vehicles that were central to U.S. counterinsurgency efforts abroad.

Last summer, federal authorities dispatched one such drone to monitor protesters and the civil unrest triggered by the murder of George Floyd — a decision that was denounced by civil liberties groups and some members of congress.

County Joins Region’s Largest Government-Run Power Purchasing Agency

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors decided to join forces Tuesday with San Diego Community Power, the region’s largest publicly-run power purchasing agency (also known as community choice aggregation or CCA), over Clean Energy Alliance, the smaller of the two that represents just three North County cities.

Both CCAs are trying to do the same thing — transition the cities they represent to use 100 percent renewable electricity (powered by solar, wind or other zero-carbon energies) faster than utilities are able or willing to do. But the county vote represents the settling of a competition over a large ratepayer base which could help the winning agency spread out its energy costs and add purchasing power to cut more deals on renewable projects, like the 600-acre solar farm announced near Jacumba Hot Springs earlier this month, according to Times of San Diego.

With the 3-2 party-line vote, customers in the county would automatically shift to San Diego Community Power’s energy rates unless they opt to stay with SDG&E come 2023. Republican Supervisors Jim Desmond and Joel Anderson, who both represent large swaths of rural unincorporated county land, opposed the decision.

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Gaspar Gets a New Gig

Former County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar is now leading fundraising efforts for the foundation supporting Palomar Health initiatives.

A spokesman for the North County health district, which runs hospitals in Escondido and Poway, told VOSD that Gaspar was last week named president and CEO of the Palomar Health Foundation after leading the organization on an interim basis for months.

Gaspar, who as a North County supervisor pushed for bolstered behavioral health services at facilities including those run by Palomar Health, had joined the health care district as its senior director of government relations in March. Soon after taking the new position, she was asked to temporarily lead the foundation.

Gaspar, a Republican, joined Palomar Health a few months after losing a re-election bid for her county seat to Democrat Terra Lawson-Remer. Gaspar’s loss followed outspoken opposition to a state law limiting cooperation between local police and federal immigration authorities, support for the border wall and White House visits with former President Donald Trump.

We’re Taking Your Questions

Have a question about local governments or schools, coronavirus rules or even a random San Diego thing you’ve been wondering about for years? VOSD is taking your questions – and we’ll take a stab at answering them in future Morning Reports.

Please share your questions here and keep reading the Morning Report. After all, we might answer one of your burning questions in a future newsletter.

In Other News

  • San Diego police arrested a man who allegedly drove a truck through a crowd protesting outside Mayor Todd Gloria’s home on Monday night and later fired at least one shot in the air, according to 10 News.
  • Nearly 100 people staying at the two shelters run by Father Joe’s Villages have contracted COVID-19, forcing the homeless services provider to erect a temporary outdoor tent to isolate patients before they can be moved into county-operated hotels meant for isolation, KPBS reports.
  • County officials announced Tuesday that they’re hoping a fund for low-income housing created in 2017 could produce up to 1,400 new homes, City News Service reports.
  • The Union-Tribune reports that City Council President Jennifer Campbell is planning to introduce a proposed street vending ordinance in response to an avalanche of complaints about pushcart vendors.
  • The Cleveland National Forest will be closed through Labor Day in response to wildfire threats, Times of San Diego reports.
  • The Los Angeles Times reviewed former mayor-turned-gubernatorial-candidate Kevin Faulconer’s track record at San Diego City Hall. Among those offering their takes is disgraced former Mayor Bob Filner. In recall candidate research mode? The VOSD team evaluated Faulconer’s work on homelessness, housing, policing and real estate.

This Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, Lisa Halverstadt and MacKenzie Elmer, and edited by Megan Wood.

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit news organization supported by our members. We reveal why things are the way they are and expose facts that people in power might not want out there and explain complex local public policy issues so you can be engaged and make good decisions. Sign up for our newsletters at

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