The A, B, C’s of San Diego’s Primary

by on February 14, 2020 · 2 comments

in Election, San Diego

By Doug Porter / Words&Deeds / Feb. 13, 2010

Should we vote for Measures A, B, or C? The short version: Yes, No, Maybe.

What does it mean to be a progressive in San Diego? The answer to that question can depend on how one feels about the A,B, & C measures on the primary ballot. (Measure D is a no-brainer)

No matter which side you choose, there will be somebody out there in the chattering classes who will say you’re not a true progressive.

So, with that in mind, bring on the haters. I’ve made up my mind.

Measure A

Measure A is about the approval process for future developments in the unincorporated areas of San Diego County requiring changes to the General Plan for development.

The language on the ballot reads: Shall this Initiative be adopted for the purpose of amending the San Diego County General Plan to require voter approval for General Plan amendments that increase residential density for property designated by the General Plan as Semi-Rural or Rural? The full text of the measure is available here.

The 2011 County of San Diego General Plan guides land-use development decisions within the county’s unincorporated areas. Currently, the Board of Supervisors can amend the General Plan with a simple majority of votes (3 of 5) following an established review process.

The belief that Supervisors have been too willing to cooperate with developers while ignoring residents of impacted areas and the overall environmental consequences led to frustration that created the perception of a need for a popular vote veto process.

Into this arena stepped the ownership of the Golden Door Spa, a super-elite retreat for the world’s .01 percent threatened by the prospect of the disruptions made inevitable by developments on its borders. You’ll find this billionaire-owned entity’s fingerprints on both measures A & B.

So, who are the good guys here?

More than 30 conservation, environmental, labor, and progressive activist organizations support Measure A.

The opposition includes both major political parties, chambers of commerce, law enforcement, low income housing developers and construction unions. 

There are no clear ideological divides between the pro and con sides. Liberals and conservatives can be found on both groups lists of endorsers.

There are bullshit arguments galore coming from both groups. 

Not included in the “Let the People Decide” argument is the sad local history of “ballot box planning,” which includes voters from the wealthier areas of the City of San Diego telling Barrio Logan residents they couldn’t have a community plan because polluting businesses spun a lie about the Navy leaving town.

A measure aimed at regulating residential density in rural areas somehow becomes a bad thing because it doesn’t address casinos, factories, and McMansions. And, somehow, not building in fire danger zones will cause businesses to leave the region.

Yada, yada, yada. I’ve changed my mind.

When I wrote my first take on the ballot measures related to housing and homelessness, I concluded the real solution to the issue at hand was to elect supervisors with spines. The issue of ballot box planning was foremost in my mind.

I’m not sure Measure A will stop a determined developer from dumping big bucks into a propaganda campaign playing to concerns about affordable housing to sell voters on the necessity of building in the boondocks.

But I have concluded that it’s a worthwhile effort to at least try to slow the degradation of the backcountry. I’m hoping passing Measure A will incentivize building the 60,000 units already allowed in the County General Plan.

So, yes on A.

Safeguard Our San Diego Countryside
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Planning Today for San Diego’s Future
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Measure B

Measure B is asking the public to affirm a vote by the Board of Supervisors amending the County’s General Plan for construction of the Newland Sierra housing development. A yes vote says the development can proceed; a no vote stops it–at least until the inevitable lawsuits get settled.

This is the kind of referendum envisioned by proponents of Yes on A, except that this measure had to go through court battles and use a signature gathering outfit (with a dubious reputation) to make it on the ballot. Yes on A would have the County do the heavy lifting.

The language on the ballot reads: Shall the San Diego County General Plan Amendment PDS2015-GPA-15-001 approved by the Board of Supervisorsfor the development of the Newland Sierra Project, be approved? The existing General Plan allows 99 homes and up to 2,000,000 square feet of commercial with open space. General Plan Amendment PDS2015-GPA-15-001 would authorize up to 2,199 homes and 1,777,684 square feet of commercial. The approved Newland Sierra Project includes a planned community of 2,135 homes, a school site, 81,000 square feet of retail, 36 acres of parks and 1,209 acres of open space.” The full text of the measure is available here.

The Newland Sierra development project would be located west of I-15 near Escondido, San Marcos and Vista.

Supporters of Measure B say the choice is between a beautiful, eco-conscious place for working families to live OR another Fashion Valley mall surrounded by McMansions. (Not true, but nice try)

This development would impact the serenity of the Golden Door Spa, and they’ve dumped a ton of money into opposing it. The spa folks aren’t the only ones opposing this project. In fact there’s a history of developers trying to build in this area and of community resistance.

Developers for Newland Sierra have tried to defuse arguments about the housing being unaffordable thru introduction of a “legally binding” covenant that bears no relation I can see to the actual construction plans, unless units originally priced at $600,000+ are suddenly going to be sold for half price.

So who are the good guys here?

It’s billionaires vs billionaires when it comes to this issue, so following the money doesn’t help much. Nearly $12 million has been spent on influencing the public; roughly $8 million for and $4 million against.

Assorted North County Mayors, Chambers of Commerce, law enforcement groups and a handful of nonprofits support building this development.

The League of Women Voters, Democrats of many flavors, conservation and environmental groups are opposing Measure B.

My analysis on this ballot item remains unchanged. Sprawl is sprawl, no matter how you dress it up. Build up not out.

Vote No on Measure B.

Yes on B for a Better Choice
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No on Newland Sierra
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Measure C

Measure C authorizes the City of San Diego to sell bonds, paid for via an increase in the hotel taxes paid by visitors, for an expansion of the convention center. These bonds would also be used for homeless services and street repairs.

The increase in the hotel visitor tax would raise funds for expansion of the downtown convention center (59% of funds), as-yet undefined homeless programs and services ( 41% of funds first year and then drops to 31% thereafter) and street repairs (10% after year one). The bond limits for the projects of $850 Million towards the convention center, $750 million for homeless programs and projects and $400 million for road repair. The full text of the initiative is available here.

San Diego’s hoteliers have been angling for an expansion of the Convention Center for two decades. This, of course, gets regurgitated by political leaders who say such a move would be good for the local economy. And when challenged on that logic, the word “ComicCon” is invoked, suggesting opposition equals blasphemy against a scared cow.

The latest version of this measure includes bells and whistles needed to put together an unprecedented coalition of business and labor groups; “lock boxes” for dedicated funding, a promise to stop collecting the tax if the convention center expansion doesn’t pan out, and a mandate for the mayor to come up with a five year plan addressing homelessness.

The latest polling shows a healthy majority of voters favoring the plan; unfortunately that majority doesn’t meet the two-thirds threshold needed to secure passage of the measure.

The supermajority threshold on most tax increases mandated by law means there can be no organized opposition to such proposals. 

There’s a taint to the general subject of hotel tax increases and convention center expansion plans. Voters have said no to higher hotel taxes four times. Not good publicity about convention center expansion involving a maybe-available lot and a failed past effort to tie a parallel idea to a stadium for the Chargers are part of the problems facing advocates.

While there is no organized opposition for Measure C, there is one homeless advocate with the resources to possibly sink this measure.

Michael McConnell has the money and the on-the-street experience as an advocate to say with authority that the city government doesn’t have a plan other than temporary shelter and jails for dealing with homeless humans.

He’s funded at least three slick mailers to city voters urging a No vote on Measure C, and this could create the uncertainty needed to stop it.

And just in time for the primary election, the City Auditor has released a report critical of the whack-a-mole approach that passes for action on this issue. The short version of what they found is that ‘enforcement’ is prioritized over assistance, the city’s current plan is dependent on non-existent (temporary and long term) housing, and services are uncoordinated.

San Diego’s Independent Budget Analyst has warned about the current method of funding for key homeless initiatives is “unsustainable,” making it increasingly likely that monies generated by such a tax increase will be used to infill a void, rather than stepping up services.

What bothers me the most is what’s not being said by too many supporters of Measure C, namely that they’ll endorse a future move providing funding for actually building housing. Mayoral candidate Barbara Bry’s recent statement comes to mind here, suggesting that there’s a quid pro quo in place to tamp down opposition by homeless advocates.

In my final analysis, I’m sick of hearing about the Convention Center, aka socialism for hotel owners. We’re being told not supporting this plan means we don’t care for the homeless and I certainly don’t want to seem like a heartless Republican.

I just want it to go away and since tourists are footing the bill, fine. The silver lining here could be the opportunity to say “I told you so” when this scheme falls flat.

So, yeah, it’s a big Maybe on voting for Measure C. [OB Rag recommends “NO” on C.]

Yes on C! For a Better San Diego
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(Homeless advocate & philanthropist Michael McConnell. )
Webpage | Facebook | Twitter


Measure D changes the way the city auditor is selected. 

Currently the mayor appoints the city auditor for a 10-year term following approval of the audit committee and confirmation by the City Council.

Measure D would remove the mayor from the process, have the audit committee select at least three qualified candidates, and let the City Council decide.

The term for the new auditor would be reduced to five years with one possible additional five-year term. This also creates the new position of interim auditor to act in that capacity when the office is otherwise vacant.

This measure had the support of all City Council members and there is no opposition.

Vote for it.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Glenn February 14, 2020 at 2:35 pm

A big NO on C. The last time this “only visitors will pay” (dare I call it a “scam”) was on the ballot the U-T sports reporters were pushing it. It has been a few years but I remember emailing at least Canepa saying that many “almost homeless” San Diego residents would be paying more for the motel rooms they were occupying. (FYI: some low income people can scrape up daily or weekly motel rent but cannot pay for/qualify for an apartment. They get stuck with this increase.)

Never got a response from any U-T person. I think it was when the Chargers were still here and they were hoping to keep them here.

So, I’ll repeat my point below:
The San Diego City Treasurer should have information about how many long term motel residents have been paying to TOT/whatever it’s called tax. Someone should request the information so we know how many long-term motel residents might be affected

It’s almost laughable that the “help the homeless” plan won’t kick in anytime soon but there may be an unknown number of just-above-homeless people looking for a room at Father Joe’s or back out on the street because they cannot afford the increased tax.



Lori Saldaña February 17, 2020 at 11:31 pm

Not sure how to break it to you but… “Supervisors with a spine” were extirpated from San Diego county a long time ago.


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