Economy

Thumbnail image for Happy Tax Day! The Rich and Poor Are Now Equally Free to Purchase Political Influence with Their Income Tax Refunds

Happy Tax Day! The Rich and Poor Are Now Equally Free to Purchase Political Influence with Their Income Tax Refunds

by Doug Porter 04.15.2014 Columns

By Doug Porter

It seems appropriate on tax day, given the annual media binge of gratuitous coverage of Tea Party protests at Post Offices and editorial cartoons demonizing the Internal Revenue Service, to survey the political landscape and make some comments about where we find ourselves in 2014.

The vast majority of stories you’ll see repeated by tax protesters on the evening news today are simply bullshit–not that any of these so-called “reporters” will actually fact check them. If some guy carrying a sign about the Muslim socialist in the White House screams ignorant slogans about the gubment, it must be news. Because “everybody knows” all these things they say must be true.

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Thumbnail image for Build Us a Stadium or We’ll Shoot This Puppy – Here Comes the Chargers ‘Deal’

Build Us a Stadium or We’ll Shoot This Puppy – Here Comes the Chargers ‘Deal’

by Doug Porter 04.14.2014 Columns

By Doug Porter

He doesn’t speak for anyone, UT-San Diego sports columnist Kevin Acee says, and he won’t be heard by anyone. Thus, his page-one-worthy column about the likely scenario for a new football stadium ended up on page D-4 in Sunday’s paper.

The story was actually posted on Friday afternoon online, and its significance becomes apparent when you realize that nearly 150 people had posted comments before the dead tree edition hit the streets.

The Chargers stadium scenario story is supposed to be nothing more than informed speculation, of course. Except that (I’d bet) it’s not. Call it a trial balloon, floated in the wake of a ‘preliminary’ meeting between team representatives and the mayor’s minions last Wednesday.

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Thumbnail image for “Taxifornia” Dreaming: Who Really Pays in California?

“Taxifornia” Dreaming: Who Really Pays in California?

by Jim Miller 04.14.2014 Columns

By Jim Miller

Tomorrow is tax day, and we are likely to hear the usual histrionics from the pity the millionaire crowd about how the draconian taxes on the affluent and businesses in “Taxifornia” are killing growth and jobs and driving folks out of the state. There is only one problem with this—it’s not true. Indeed, far from the socialist hamlet that the anti-tax zealots like to portray us as, California’s tax system is still more regressive than progressive.

This is documented in the California Budget Project’s (CBP) Annual report “Who Pays Taxes in California?” that shows that, “Contrary to the oft-repeated claim that high-income Californians pay an unfair amount of taxes, it is actually California’s low-income households who pay the largest share of their incomes in state and local taxes.”

Consequently, the CBP argues that “Given widening income inequality over the last generation, and the ongoing economic challenges facing Californians in the aftermath of the Great Recession, policymakers could take specific steps to reduce the regressive nature of California’s system of state and local taxes and to promote economic security for low-income families.”

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Thumbnail image for The Shopping Mall’s Socialist Pre-History

The Shopping Mall’s Socialist Pre-History

by Source 04.11.2014 Economy

The inventor of the American suburban shopping mall was a socialist. Could his creation have been saved?

By  / Jacobin Magazine

The American landscape is littered with hundreds of dead shopping malls. In places like the vast Buckingham Square Mall in Aurora, Colo., which has stood empty since 2007, the indoor fountains have stopped running, but the prosthetic plants inside remain eerily green. More will join them. It’s said that 15% of American malls will close in the next ten years.

The biggest shopping mall in the world, the New South China Mall in Dongguan, is also a dead mall. Opening in 2005, it boasted seven zones, each based on major international cities and featuring including a replica Arc de Triumph and a Venetian canal complete with gondolas. However, the mall has remained 99% vacant since its opening. Aside from a cluster of fast food restaurants near its entrance, the mall is a network of vast, empty atria and mothballed cinemas and roller coasters.

Unable to compete with online shopping, declining consumer affluence, rising oil prices, and a volatile property market, shopping malls are dropping like flies.

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Thumbnail image for It’s Equal Pay Day!  Republican Incoherence, Executive Orders and How to Get a Raise

It’s Equal Pay Day! Republican Incoherence, Executive Orders and How to Get a Raise

by Anna Daniels 04.08.2014 Activism

By Anna Daniels

Republicans have been having a hard time stringing words together when it comes to explaining why they don’t support pay equity for women. It’s a straightforward concept–equal pay for equal work. Yet it takes women until April 8 to catch up with men’s earnings from the previous year. The median earnings for a woman working a full time job is about 77% of a man’s. That figure drops for women of color and it hasn’t budged in more than a decade.

President Obama’s first action upon assuming office in 2009 was to sign the Lily Ledbetter Fair Wage Act. This act restored protection against wage discrimination that was stripped away by the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. The act extended the period of time for employees to file claims for wages lost because of discrimination. Yet wage discrimination on the basis of gender continues to exist.

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Thumbnail image for McCutcheon, the Majority, and the Challenge of Our Time

McCutcheon, the Majority, and the Challenge of Our Time

by Source 04.08.2014 Courts, Justice

The McCutcheon ruling points us to the defining struggle of today’s generation.

Richard Eskow / AlterNet

The Supreme Court’s McCutcheon ruling will be remembered as a decisive battle in a determined and wealthy minority’s war against the popular will. It is not the first such battle, nor will it be the last. And the people will continue to lose — unless and until the rules of engagement are changed.

One compelling way to look at this ruling is by contrasting its immediate and long-term effects with the American people’s aspirations for their government. They are at cross purposes. Even before this ruling, 64 percent of those polled believed that our country’s economic rules unfairly favor the rich. This ruling will rig the game even further.

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Thumbnail image for At the Behest of the Dirty Food Lobby, Congressman Peters Joins GOP in 55th Attempt to Sink Obamacare

At the Behest of the Dirty Food Lobby, Congressman Peters Joins GOP in 55th Attempt to Sink Obamacare

by Doug Porter 04.07.2014 Books & Poetry

By Doug Porter

Congressman Scott Peters and seventeen other Democrats responded to the clarion call of the dirty food lobby last week by joining with House Republicans in their 55th attempt to to scale back or repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Following intensive lobbying and publicity events by the American Hotel and Lodging Association (hotels won’t be able to provide 24 hour service any more) and the National Restaurant Association (we’ll simply cut employee hours) the House of Representatives voted last week 248 to 179 to change the law’s definition of full-time work from 30 hours a week to 40 hours.

A report by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says about one million people would lose employer-backed coverage and the number of uninsured would climb by nearly 500,000 if the law’s work definitions were changed.

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Thumbnail image for We Are the 89%: San Diego Fast-Food Employees and Religious Leaders Take Action Against Wage Theft

We Are the 89%: San Diego Fast-Food Employees and Religious Leaders Take Action Against Wage Theft

by Source 04.04.2014 Activism

Outrage grows as new poll shows stealing from employees is rampant industry wide

By Crystal Page/CPI

San Diego – Fast-food employees and community and faith leaders took action Thursday against systemic and illegal wage theft in the industry—just days after the first-ever national poll of fast-food employees showed companies like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s are stealing money from 89 percent of their employees.

The action comes as two former McDonald’s managers spoke out for the first time about how they were forced to steal from employees’ checks. In a video made public Tuesday, the managers talk about how they shaved time off of employees’ schedules, among other practices, so they wouldn’t “blow labor,” or spend more than they were supposed to, on employees.

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Thumbnail image for Extreme Weather Watch: March 2014

Extreme Weather Watch: March 2014

by John Lawrence 04.03.2014 Business

Winter Weather Made a $55 Billion Hit to US Economy

By John Lawrence

The winter of 2014 broke records and budgets. NBC News reported that the economy took a $55 billion hit because of the extreme winter weather. There was $5.5 billion in damage to homes, businesses, agriculture and infrastructure. Cities had additional costs for salt for roads and asphalt for potholes. There were more than 30,000 potholes in Toledo, OH alone. The companies that supply salt and asphalt are making a fortune. This winter also saw 79.3 inches of snow falling in Chicago where there were 23 days below zero.

In California drought covers 99.8% of the state. The Sierra Nevada snowpack, which typically holds at least half of all the water that will flow to the state’s farms and cities each year, is at just one-fourth of its normal level.

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Thumbnail image for If César Chávez Were Alive Today, He Would Join the Resistance Against Walmart

If César Chávez Were Alive Today, He Would Join the Resistance Against Walmart

by Source 03.31.2014 Activism

By Sarita Gupta / Alternet

This month, a new film documenting César Chávez’s historic campaign to organize farmworkers in America was released in time with what would have been his 87th birthday. Chávez rose to prominence as a founder of the United Farm Workers (UFW), where he organized thousands of poor Latino workers laboring in fields throughout central California.

Through nonviolent but aggressive tactics — many of which we’ve seen revived today — Chávez and the UFW successfully won higher wages, safer working conditions, and collective bargaining rights for generations of farmworkers, culminating in the passage of the Agricultural Labor Relations Act in 1975.

So as we celebrate the legacy of this historic leader, we must also pause to consider that today farmworkers — and others laboring for low wages along the food supply chain — are still struggling. Back then, Chávez and his supporters famously camped outside grocery stores to encourage shoppers to boycott grapes until conditions and wages improved. But today, instead of a grocery store, he may indeed have been standing outside of a Walmart.

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Thumbnail image for The Small Business Owner’s Case for a Higher Minimum Wage

The Small Business Owner’s Case for a Higher Minimum Wage

by Source 03.27.2014 Business

By Jay Porter / jayporter.com

I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but around these parts there’s a strong movement forming to raise the minimum wage. Most of the municipal proposals are in the $10-13/hour range, but the zeitgeist seems to be heralding a $15/hour minimum wage.

People getting paid more for their work is a heartwarming notion, so it can be pretty easy to get behind these proposals on an emotional level. Economically, one sees macroeconomic cases made both for and against a higher minimum wage. I haven’t found the arguments in either direction particularly compelling. At the small business owners’ level, I hear from people both in favor and against raising the minimum wage.

But who are we kidding – most people are going to give or withhold their support for this initiative based largely on their perceived self-interest. So here’s my self-interest — as a small business owner, I selfishly think a higher minimum wage is great for me. Make it $15 an hour. Make it $20. The higher, the better, at least until dishwashers get paid as well as office workers.

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Thumbnail image for Outgoing CEO Paul Jacobs to Shareholders: Tell Your Congressman to Give Qualcomm a Tax Break!

Outgoing CEO Paul Jacobs to Shareholders: Tell Your Congressman to Give Qualcomm a Tax Break!

by John Lawrence 03.25.2014 Business

By John Lawrence

In his final message after more than eight years as chief executive officer of Qualcomm Inc. (QCOM), Paul Jacobs on March 4 gave shareholders what he called a “homework assignment.” “Send your Congress people your opinion that you’d like American companies to be able to bring offshore money back to the United States to either reinvest or return to shareholders”, said Jacobs, now executive chairman of the San Diego based chipmaker, which has $21.6 billion in overseas profits.

Paul could have said, “Go home and hug your wife and children” or “It’s been a pleasure being your CEO for 8 years and thank you for your work.” Or “tell your Congressman to raise the minimum wage” or “tell your Congressman to end homelessness now”, but, no, his solipsistic exhortation was all about making Qualcomm executives and shareholders (not employees mind you!) even richer than they already are.

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Thumbnail image for Notes from the Class War: Killing “The Year of the Populist” in the Crib?

Notes from the Class War: Killing “The Year of the Populist” in the Crib?

by Jim Miller 03.24.2014 Columns

By Jim Miller

Recently, in “Neoliberalism and Its Discontents: What’s Left Beyond More Impoverished Choices?”, I continued my analysis of the national debate that followed the publication of Adolph Reed’s sharp criticism of what qualifies as the “left” in the contemporary American political landscape.

After that column was posted, Reed wrote yet another piece in American Prospect, this time responding to Harold Meyerson’s dismissal of his call for a left less tethered to a Democratic Party increasingly colonized by Wall Street and other corporate interests.

In it Reed makes a key point about both the current political landscape and the recent history that has produced it

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Thumbnail image for Special Report: Get Ready for the Anti-Minimum Wage Tsunami of Lies in San Diego

Special Report: Get Ready for the Anti-Minimum Wage Tsunami of Lies in San Diego

by Doug Porter 03.21.2014 Business

By Doug Porter

Sometime over the next couple of months the San Diego City Council will consider a ballot measure for November raising the minimum wage. Although California has already enacted legislation boosting the minimum wage from $8 an hour to $9 next July and $10 by January 2016, research by the Center on Policy Initiatives indicates those raises fall way short of the $13 per hour wage necessary to live here without government assistance.

Raising the minimum wage polls well with the public. Just last week a limited advisory referendum urging the Chicago City council to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour (for corporations with over $50 million in annual sales) passed with an overwhelming 87% approval. Nationally a variety of surveys indicate two thirds of voters favor increasing the mandated minimums.

Today we’ll take a look at how business interests both nationally and locally are working to defeat increases in pay for low wage workers. Given that  a significant number of San Diegans were naive enough to believe that the US Navy was preparing to leave town (the Barrio Logan referendum), the downtown clowns who perpetrated that falsehood can be expected to roll out the mother of all shock and awe campaigns as fall approaches.

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Thumbnail image for Putting Our Financial Well Being Above Our Children’s Ability to Survive a Warming Planet

Putting Our Financial Well Being Above Our Children’s Ability to Survive a Warming Planet

by John Lawrence 03.18.2014 Economy

By John Lawrence and Frank Thomas

Each year there are more extreme weather events not only in the US but all over the world. Most scientists agree that, as more carbon dioxide is pumped into the air and the gaseous composition of the atmosphere is changed, extreme weather events are more likely to happen.

As the earth warms due to greenhouse gasses (GHGs), polar and glacier ice melts and more moisture is held in the atmosphere which is deposited in torrents of precipitation. The Arctic permafrost and subsea waters contain over 1.7 trillion tons of methane which will be released as the earth warms further. This could lead to deadly injections of highly toxic methane reserves into the atmosphere in the relatively near future.

Just a 3% release over a short time, or 50 billion tons of methane, is the equivalent of 1 trillion tons of CO2 emissions … sufficient to ecologically destroy Mother Earth.

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Thumbnail image for The Audacity of Common Sense: Progressive Caucus’ ‘Better Off Budget’

The Audacity of Common Sense: Progressive Caucus’ ‘Better Off Budget’

by Source 03.14.2014 Economy

By Robert Borosage / Campaign for America’s Future Blog

Budgets are numbing – grist for geeks, not citizens. The Congressional Progressive Caucus annual budget proposal – the Better Off Budget – is no exception, detailing row after row of numeric projections. Produced in conjunction with the Economic Policy Institute, it is an analyst’s document, based on a sound economic model.

But amid the numbers, budgets display our values, what we consider important, what we consider fair, how we address our future. Taken together, the blizzard of numbers provides a pointillist portrait of the society we would build.

And here, the CPC budget offers a vivid contrast both to the course plotted by the Republican House budgets put together by Rep. Paul Ryan and the cautious course followed by the White House. It is a testament to the vision of CPC co-chairs Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) and Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and the work of many members, including Democratic Reps. Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Jim McGovern (Mass.) and Jim McDermott (Wash.).

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Thumbnail image for Spinning the San Diego Convention Center’s Future Business

Spinning the San Diego Convention Center’s Future Business

by Doug Porter 03.13.2014 Business

By Doug Porter

San Diego’s tourism moguls have been playing with numbers again and that’s always a scary prospect.

Last year we heard all about how the local economy was headed for doom and devastation unless the anointed magnates of the trade were allowed to spend a big pile of money collected via a fee-that-was-not-a-tax facing significant legal challenges. The ex-Mayor-who-cannot-be-named thought it might be reasonable to ask some protection for taxpayers should hoteliers lose their case.

Now we’re hearing about “hotel-ageddon” because of legal challenges connected with the expansion of the San Diego Convention Center. City Council members sitting on the Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee heard the bad news yesterday. One convention booked for 2016 is reconsidering, we’re told, another “might be”, and -gasp-even though they haven’t said anything, the almighty lords of ComicCon are concerned.

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Thumbnail image for City Attorney Jan Goldsmith: The Leviathan for San Diego’s Civic Netherworld

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith: The Leviathan for San Diego’s Civic Netherworld

by Doug Porter 03.10.2014 Columns

According to demonology, the Leviathan is the gatekeeper among the seven princes of Hell. It is believed that hell is the kingdom of Satan by many Christians. – ask.com

By Doug Porter

If there’s one commonality to all the indiscretions of San Diego politics in the 20 months I’ve been writing this column, it’s City Attorney Jan Goldsmith. Now, facing increased scrutiny in light of his actions, he’s fighting a desperate rear guard action to avoid public examination of the behind the scenes machinations at City Hall.

Contrary to what many of my progressive friends might believe, he’s not an ideologue, bound to the socially conservative mantras of the far right. In looking over his actions as City Attorney, I’ve come to believe he’s merely a dedicated functionary for the (largely Republican) economic interests that have ruled the roost in San Diego for decades. It’s all about the money.

According to a story by Dorian Hargrove in the San Diego Reader, Goldsmith is now fighting a court battle seeking to have public officials declared above the law when it comes to the California’s Public Records Act.  A February 27th legal brief filed by the City Attorney in San Diego Superior Court makes the claim that the law only requires “local agencies,” a “city,” or a “municipal corporation” to turn over documents, not individuals, officials, or employees.

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Thumbnail image for Israeli Company Contracted to Build U.S.-Mexico Border Fence

Israeli Company Contracted to Build U.S.-Mexico Border Fence

by Source 03.08.2014 Economy

By Aaron Cantú / Alternet

This week, the Israeli company Elbit Systems Ltd. announced that its subsidiary won a contract from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection to produce and install surveillance systems along the U.S.-Mexico border. The company is famous for providing “intrusion detection systems” and other infastructure support for the Israeli West Bank barrier.

The subsidiary was awarded a $145 million contract for a project called the Integrated Fixed Tower (IFT), which is to be built on the Mexico-Arizona border over the next year. The contract also guarantees eight years of infrastructure support from Elbit Systems.

The project outlines the construction of an undisclosed number of observation towers at the border by Nogales, Arizona, a town about an hour south of Tuscon. Additional towers could be built at five other areas along the state’s border.

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Thumbnail image for Recognize: 58% Of Women Use Birth Control For Reasons Other Than Pregnancy Prevention

Recognize: 58% Of Women Use Birth Control For Reasons Other Than Pregnancy Prevention

by Source 03.08.2014 Activism

By Rajiv Narayan / Upworthy

I’m looking at these graphics, and I’m thinking to myself, “How did we ever put up with health care before the Affordable Care Act?” Were we really cool with paying $600 a year for birth control pills or being denied coverage for pre-existing conditions? Get the word out: The benefits of this law aren’t good, they’re common sense.

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Thumbnail image for The Jobs Picture: Not Looking So Good From the Bottom Up, Even in San Diego

The Jobs Picture: Not Looking So Good From the Bottom Up, Even in San Diego

by Doug Porter 03.07.2014 Business

By Doug Porter

An article in the UT-San Diego business section about employment opportunities caught my eye this morning. While the local picture may be slightly better than the national projections, due to the presence of defense and tech industries, the prognosis for hiring remains heavily weighted towards low paying industries.

Today we’ll take a look at this story and other recent economic reports, along with what they portend for the growing national movement in support of increasing the minimum wage.  

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Thumbnail image for Must Progress Come to a Screeching Halt To Save the Planet From Global Warming?

Must Progress Come to a Screeching Halt To Save the Planet From Global Warming?

by John Lawrence 03.07.2014 Activism

By John Lawrence

Ever since the Enlightenment, progress has been essential to civilization. Defined as steady improvement toward a goal, the progress of society or civilization has been synonymous with growth, inventions, growing gross domestic product.

The very US Constitution was a testament to the Enlightenment era notion of progress. Science and technology would create the conditions for the “pursuit of happiness.” Every day in every way human society would get better and better. Only now we’re at a crossroads where the very idea of progress and in particular continued progress is contributing to the destruction of the planet.

The more progress we have, the more growth of GDP, the more greenhouse gases (GHGs) are spewed into the atmosphere and the more our planetary ecology is corrupted. Progress as we’ve known it must come to a screeching halt or the planet is in jeopardy of becoming uninhabitable by the human species.

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Thumbnail image for NAFTA Birthday Bash Draws UCSD Protesters

NAFTA Birthday Bash Draws UCSD Protesters

by Source 03.07.2014 Activism

By Daniel Gutiérrez

On Thursday, March 6th, the Sanford Consortium hosted an event  in celebration of NAFTA’s 20th anniversary. The event, entitled, Mexico Moving Forward: 20 Years of NAFTA and Beyond, was put together by the Center for US-Mexico Studies, a policy research institute at UC San Diego’s School of International Relations and Pacific Studies.

However, outside of the Sanford Consortium, dozens of students and activists assembled to protest the event.

Protesters conducted a silent march from UCSD to the Sanford Consortium. All wore black and dawned masks or bandannas to reveal only the eyes. Anarchists flags were plenty. Banners read “EZLN” (Ejército Zapatista Liberación Nacional — Zapatista National Liberation Army) and “Ya basta! Para todos, todo” (Enough! Everything for everyone). Marching silently and two-by-two, the protestors lined up along North Torrey Pines Road and stood along the entrance. Protestors remained completely silent.

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Thumbnail image for Nobody Who Works Full Time in San Diego Should Live in Poverty

Nobody Who Works Full Time in San Diego Should Live in Poverty

by Doug Porter 03.06.2014 Business

By Doug Porter

If you believe the San Diego’s Chamber of Commerce latest outlook, as reported on KPBS,  on the region’s economic health you’d better wear sunglasses because the future’s that bright. Business looks great, especially for the minimum and sub-minimum wage tourism, entertainment and hospitality sector.

On the other hand if you delve into the study entitled “Making Ends Meet 2014,” released this morning by the Center on Policy Initiatives and United Way of San Diego County, keep a box of tissues handy.

Their research quantitatively demonstrates that the cost of a basic, no-frills lifestyle without public or private assistance is beyond the reach of 38% of all working age households in San Diego County. That’s 300,000 households. Even with someone working full-time year-round, or with multiple part-time earners, about 1 in 4 households in the region have incomes too low to cover the basic costs of living.

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Thumbnail image for New Regulations Prohibit Food Trucks From 2 to 3 Blocks of Beach … and More

New Regulations Prohibit Food Trucks From 2 to 3 Blocks of Beach … and More

by Frank Gormlie 03.06.2014 Business

By Frank Gormlie/OB Rag

New food truck regulations just passed by the City will prohibit them near the beach in Ocean Beach. In fact, the new law will not allow any food truck – unless on private property – from operating within 2 to 3 blocks of the beach.  This will certainly bring smiles to restaurant owners in OB, but it is also bringing frowns to the mobile meal managers.

However, the new restrictions will not apply near the coastal communities until the California Coastal Commission weighs in and grants its approval

Yes, the City of San Diego finally took action to provide guidelines and new rules for the exploding gourmet food truck industry, on Monday, March 3rd, when the City Council approved an ordinance restricting their hours of operations, location prohibitions and permit requirements.

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