The Midway District Is Now Ready for Massive Redevelopment, 9,000 New Units and 23,000 New Residents

by on September 20, 2018 · 3 comments

in Ocean Beach

It really was inevitable that the San Diego City Council would approve – as they did – the Community Plan for the Midway District earlier this week on Monday, Sept. 17.

Being touted as the next best thing to sliced bread, as my old man used to say, its proponents claim it will bring thousands of jobs, needed development of the old red light district, thousands of new homes to help alleviate San Diego’s housing crisis – and heaven on earth.

The plan – over the next couple of decades – will enable the population of the area to increase from between 3000 and 4600 to 27,000. It will increase housing from the current less than 2,000 to more than 11,000 – a seven-fold rise. And it is supposed to break up the large, industrial blocks that characterize the Midway into more residential-friendly living neighborhoods. The plan will also set the stage for a redevelopment of the Sports Arena.

And, don’t forget this – proponents of the plan view the overturning of the 30 foot height limit as a crucial step toward their goals.

Having been stymied to raise the height limits along the new Mid-Coast Trolley line in the Morena and Tecolote Drive areas because of community opposition, the City Planning Department and developers have been searching around for other areas to develop with dense, high-rise buildings. And they have found it. The Midway District.

The Midway, for short, doesn’t have much of a community to form any opposition, as the local planning community is gung-ho on the new plans, and the councilwoman and mayor are all on board.

Long ignored by the city and developers, the Midway District is now choice property. We’re told by City officials who say the area is ripe for development because of its central location between downtown, the airport, Mission Bay Park and the city’s beach communities. But, hey, the Midway District hasn’t moved – it’s always been a “central location” between all these other destinations – which is one of the reasons it is so traffic congested.

Yet, any massive redevelopment of the Midway will have a substantial impact on neighboring communities like Ocean Beach and Point Loma. Already considered by some locals as a traffic nightmare, the Midway’s new plan will not really alleviate the congestion and will most likely increase traffic. Even the city staff concedes under the plan almost all Midway residents will keep driving to work (89%) and transit use will only increase by 2% over the next 17 years. All this despite the city’s Climate Action Plan – which envisions cutting greenhouse emissions in half by 2035, by getting half of residents living near transit to bike, walk or take transit to work.

Of course, there’s a rebuttal – some of which makes sense. With many current commercial projects being replaced by housing, city folk say, the area really won’t get more traffic congested because all those businesses that will be leaving bring more traffic into the Midway today than the new housing will bring in the future.

Plus, they say there will be ‘dozens of road upgrades, new freeway onramps, and greater use of the Trolley’. Not only that the city is promising to build “a bay-to-bay trail for bicyclists and pedestrians, connecting Diego Bay and Mission Bay. Now this is over the next 20 years. They also promise 30 acres of “parks” – sounds like a lot, yes? But out of a total of 1324 acres up for redevelopment, that’s a little more than 2% of the total.

Then there’s the issue of affordable housing. We’re told there are plans for some affordable housing – but how much? Some critics of the plan say it should include more subsidized housing for low-income residents. They say the plan’s zoning should require developers to make a significant portion of the housing units, perhaps 20 percent, subsidized for residents who meet income restrictions.

Here’s Mike Hansen, the city’s planning director, response. He said the city would rather see such requirements placed on a citywide-basis instead of neighborhood by neighborhood.

“We feel that the best way to address that issue is through citywide policy. Although we share your goal, we feel that adding it to one community planning area is not the right solution.”

Critics also say the new pan should emphasis more commuting by mass transit, biking and walking.

Mayor Faulconer:

This will set the stage for the type of development we want to see in the Midway area, like more housing and jobs for residents and a revitalized entertainment district that all San Diegans can enjoy. We’re doubling down on our strategy of focusing new development around transit and job centers as we rebuild our city for the future.”

A “revitalized entertainment district”? I thought we were getting rid of the red-light district. Anybody who knows San Diego knows the red-lights of the Midway District were there for all the sailors and Marines in barracks nearby.

What “jobs”? All the jobs created for all the new construction of all the new housing? And “job centers”? I thought the plan was to replace all the “job centers” currently there with all that housing.

Lorie Zapf said:

“With this new plan, we can say goodbye to the red light district of yesteryear and welcome in a new era of better transportation, more housing options, park and recreation facilities and a fantastic balance of mixed-use properties.”

Vigorously applauding the Council’s approval on Monday Cathy Kenton, chair of the planning group, exclaimed:

“This is an exciting day for our community. Your action today signals the start of a new beginning for Midway.”

As noted, all these new changes won’t happen right away, but over maybe the next two decades.

Unless … the city refuses to renew all the leases of those commercial enterprises who sit on the more than 100 acres the city owns around the Sports Arena (aka the Valley View Casino Center). Most of the leases expire in 2020. Booting out those businesses would then accelerate the pace of redevelopment.

What will also accelerate the redevelopment is the destruction of the 30 foot height limit. Enacted after a grassroots campaign successfully placed in on the ballot in 1972, Prop D, which limits all buildings west of I-5 in the area to 30 feet, was overwhelmingly passed by the voters of San Diego – voters from all over the city and not just at the coast.

Kenton, the Midway community planning board chair, is all ready to extinguish the limit. As 10News reported:

In 1972, San Diegans voted on Prop D, which limits all buildings west of I-5 in the area (Coastal Height Limit Overlay Zone), to 30 feet. The [Midway planning committee] believes this outdated law is stifling its potential growth, literally.

“40 feet would be terrific, 70 feet would be awesome,” Kenton said. “Anything that would help us get a little more vertical would certainly open up the community, and not make it so dense.” … [Kenton] believes the only way that Midway can reach its highest potential is if Prop D is overturned by the voters. …

If residents eventually vote to overturn Prop D, the committee says they will go back to the drawing board, to include mostly middle and some low-income high-rise apartments.

The OB Rag has been following these Midway District developments closely. Here’s part of our report from May 15, 2018:

Once approved, the updated community plan will be the blueprint for a massive overhaul and redevelopment of a huge section of the Midway District -1370-some acres, envisioned by the San Diego City Planning Department over the next 20 years.

The plan includes:

  • a transformation of the area around the city’s sports arena, where the city owns 100 acres.
  • changing commercial and industrial zoning to residential zones;
  • raising the district population from 4,600 to 27,000;
  • adding dense housing with an increase of housing units from just under 2,000 to more than 11,000, with some reserved for low-income families.
  • breaking up the industrial mega-blocks into smaller residential “villages”;
  • creating “modern commercial projects” that require heights over 30 feet;
  • making a series of small parks, totaling less than 30 acres – which is less than 2.3% of the acreage being considered for redevelopment.
  • installing a “bay to bay” walkway for pedestrians and bicyclists;

One of the decisive decisions the city must make is what to do with the sports arena – currently branded as the Valley View Casino Center – and the surrounding city-owned 100 acres.

By the year 2020 many of the commercial leases expire and the city is currently not talking about what they’ll do. (We discussed this in our February 13 report.) There’s a whole bunch of businesses that don’t want to leave and want the city to extend their leases, businesses like Dixieland Lumber, Pier 1 Imports, the Salvation Army, the sports arena of course and the sports teams, Kolby’s Swap Meet, numerous affordable housing apartment complexes. (See chart)

One thought among city planners is – if the than city-owned acres around the arena are redeveloped quickly then that development would serve as a catalyst to other projects.

And making city planners over-joyed is a new proposed project for the 16 acres of the former Midway Post Office. A developer is proposing an upscale office complex which – wait for it – could also be a catalyst. The project, called The Post, a 230,000-square-foot office campus for white-collar workers, would feature a linear park open to the public, sky atrium and nature walk.

Right on time, the same developers who bought the old Post office site for $40 million last year are expected to soon unwrap their own plans for dense housing – apartments or condos – next to the proposed office campus. None of these plans have been actually submitted to the city for approval yet. But the city planners are already excited.


Aerial view of the Midway District during WWII. Those are barracks for factory workers and military families.

News Sources:

San Diego Union-Tribune


Voice of San Diego

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

ZZ September 21, 2018 at 10:49 am

Pier 1 has already vacated their building.


sealintheSelkirks September 22, 2018 at 10:49 am

This so-called ‘revitalization’ is going to make a select few much, much wealthier than they already are. That’s the entire point, making the few richer. It’s not about anything else the politicians are tooting their horns about.

As usual, what’s being hidden behind all the celebration is dark and smellie and ugly. Greed is usually like that.

So obviously there will be more gentrification in a city that has a serious ‘affordable’ housing problem for the people who do the work keeping the city running. The wealthy who are pushing this don’t want this area full of low income. They want top dollar and it doesn’t come from ‘those people.’ You know, those people who actually work for a living instead of corrupt business dealings behind the scenes with their buddies in government.

Anybody realize that this area is actually the real San Diego riverbed? False Bay/Mission Bay was not connected to the river as it is now. False Bay was fed mostly by the Rose Canyon creek on the northeast end of the bay. Nothing but a huge marsh everywhere between Pt. Loma and the cliffs of the Presidio and where downtown San Diego is now. Look up the 1851 map drawn of Pt. Loma/San Diego Bay/False Bay. It’s an eye-opener to the geography of the area.

The current group of carpetbaggers…oh excuse me ‘real estate robber barons’…oops again perhaps I should use the term ‘speculators’ (or maybe rampant grasping slumlords scumbags instead regardless of how nice a car they drive or the expensive clothing they are wearing?) that the mayor is in bed with are going to fill it to the brim. You are not going to like what is about to happen.

The height restriction needs to be fought for. If you lose that you beach area residents are about to get priced out because you will not be able to pay the new property taxes on your homes when the 30 story Miami Beach monstrosities start going in. Expect those, really really big buildings. This is what these people do. Ask the Hawai’ians who used to live in beautiful places that now live in overcrowded slums…

Sociopath behavior. Realize the wealthy elite DO NOT care about you, your kids, your quality of life, your polluted environs. Nothing matters but how much more they can shove into their bloated bank accounts. There is NO LIMIT to greed, never enough. Greed is probably the worst addiction known to our species.

Don’t believe anything the politicians are saying about this. NOTHING.

You all have one hella fight coming and if you lose you are really going to lose large. More than you can imagine right now I’m afraid.



Rev. Dr. Constance Cook-Core December 19, 2019 at 12:39 am

It is not a good idea to dispense with the 30’ height limit west of I-5. There will be major lawsuits from people who have their property devalued and no longer have what have been called a permanent view because of the height restriction.

Yes, I would like to increase the height of my home, but I can’t. It would limit the view of all my neighbors to the east of me.

The height restriction benefits the entire community. It should not be rescinded to appease developers, regardless of any promises to provide ‘affordable’ housing.

Build the affordable housing on more affordable land than our precious coastal property.

That’s my opinion and I’m sticking to it.

Merry Christmas ?


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