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Tweet City Heights: Criminal Charges Unlikely for Drivers Who Hit Cyclists

By Megan Burks

Drivers Who Hit Cyclists Unlikely to Face Criminal Charges
City Heights resident and bike blogger Sam Ollinger has been tracking the cases of cyclists who were killed or injured by cars in recent months. She wants to know whether the drivers face criminal charges.

In San Diego, it seems they rarely do, especially if the victim survives.

According to Ollinger, police told her there has to be a death in order for the department to forward the case on to the City Attorney’s Office to be tried as a felony or misdemeanor. For those who only sustain injuries, even if they fall into comas, the only recourse is to file for damages in civil court. This goes for pedestrians, too, according to Ollinger.

Depending on investigation findings, cases in which the cyclist dies can be forwarded to the City Attorney’s Office for charges. Police recommended the driver that “doored” Justin Newman on University Avenue in September be tried for manslaughter. Police told Ollinger the case of David Ortiz, who died after three cars struck him on Balboa Avenue in March, will likely go on to the City Attorney’s Office.

But will they be tried? The city attorney has the discretion to proceed with or throw out a case based on evidence, and it could take months for him to make that decision.

According to public records obtained by Ollinger, the office has not proceeded with Newman’s case, more than six months after the accident occurred.

The San Diego biking community is calling foul, saying the city’s sloppy application of the law exemplifies a disregard for cyclists and pedestrians.

BikingInLA blogger Ted Rogers called the way police handle nonfatal accidents “the single most egregious misapplication and misunderstanding of state traffic law that I have ever encountered.”

“I am absolutely horrified by the comments from Lt. O’Hanlon that a crime can’t be charged unless the victim dies,” he said in a comment on Ollinger’s blog.

According to the California Vehicle Code, anyone driving with “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving” and can be jailed or fined.

Follow Sam Ollinger @BikeSD.

Community Marches for Justice in Killing of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas
KPBS covered a Thursday march that called for justice in the May 2010 death of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas.

Rojas died after border patrol agents used a stun gun on him. In a recently released video, the agents appear to continuously tase him as he lay motionless on the ground.

Despite the San Diego County coroner ruling his death a homicide, the Justice Department has yet to make a ruling or comment on its investigation.

Immigrant rights advocates throughout the nation, including the May 1st Coalition in City Heights, have taken up the cause. They’re calling for the President to investigate the U.S. Border Patrol. At least eight others have been killed in incidents involving border agents since 2010.

Follow the Immigrant Rights Consortium @SDIRC.

For Many, a ‘Greater San Diego’ Is a More Compact San Diego
Many in City Heights participated in the San Diego Foundation’s “Our Greater San Diego Vision” survey. The results are in and it seems residents want a more compact San Diego, KPBS reported.

A majority of the 30,000 respondents said they’d like to see future development favor townhomes, multistory buildings and smaller detached houses. Younger respondents were more likely to choose this option.

But some Speak City Heights readers pointed out on Twitter that San Diego might still be a long way from realizing their urban vision. William Hamilton, a development and planning consultant from Bankers Hill, said the market still shows families are choosing suburbia over the city. He and real estate consultant Joe LaCava said the biggest determinant for where a family plants roots is schools. Inner city schools will need a boost for infill development to work.

The survey results are available now at www.ourgreatersandiegovision.org. The data will inform a report due out this summer that is meant to guide future efforts by the San Diego Foundation and other agencies.

Follow Our Greater San Diego Vision @OurSDVision, William Hamilton @williaminsd and Joe LaCava @joe_lacava.

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Follow me on Twitter @spkcityheights.


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