Jen Campbell Gets Her ‘Demolish the 30 Foot Height Limit’ Proposal on the November Ballot

by on July 22, 2020 · 13 comments

in Ocean Beach

On Tuesday, July 21, the San Diego City Council, by a vote of 7 to 2, approved Jen Campbell’s proposal that would demolish the 30 foot height limit in the Midway area for the November ballot. Councilman Chris Cate also sponsored the initiative. Councilwoman Barbara Bry – who is of course running for mayor – and President of the Council, Georgette Gomez – who is running for Congress – both voted against the measure.

Campbell’s office yesterday released a press statement (posted in full, below) praising the move, in which Campbell called it “democracy in action.” Critics of the plan have called it just the opposite, as Campbell and Cate pushed the measure through Council during the pandemic with little or no public input.

The press statement also claimed, “The Midway community has been asking for this change for several years.” Oh, really? The residents of the Midway area have never been polled on the issue. The only people in the Midway asking for the removal of the 50-year height limit have been literally a handful of members who sit on the local planning committee, which probably has the least number of residents on a planning committee than anywhere in San Diego. Because the Midway planners voted to approve the plan, Campbell and Cate can now tout this “grassroots” support.

This reporter spoke to a member of Campbell’s staff not too long ago as to why her office was pushing the measure, and was told, now voters in San Diego can vote on this idea, as they haven’t had the opportunity to do so – with the assumption that those voters who passed the 30 foot height limit overwhelmingly in 1972 are all dead or have moved away. My response was, well, I didn’t get a chance to vote on the Bill of Rights either, but I’m sure glad it’s there.

Campbell has also been paying a stiff price for her stance – which is counter to positions she took on the height limit during her campaign for the District 2 office in 2018 – and is now facing a potential recall effort.

Here is the press statement from Campbell’s office:

San Diegans to Decide the Future of Midway in November

On Tuesday, July 21st, the San Diego City Council voted to place an initiative brought forward by Councilmember Jennifer Campbell and Councilmember Chris Cate on the November 2020 ballot. If approved by City of San Diego voters this measure would amend the 30 ft. height limit only in the Midway Community Planning Area and leave in place the existing underlying height limits. This action is unanimously supported by the Midway Community Planning Group and other regional groups.

“The Midway community has been asking for this change for several years. They need to build up – not out – to achieve the desired green space. This community is in need of revitalization – we know this.” Councilmember Campbell said. “Removing the height limits only in this Midway area, and leaving in place the existing underlying height limits, will be the catalyst, to bring to life a new vision of Midway by attracting needed investments. ”

Councilmember Cate agrees that this is a transformative vision for San Diego

“I am excited that the voters of San Diego will have the opportunity to vote on moving the Midway community forward this November. As a former small business owner and Chair of the City’s Economic Development & Intergovernmental Relations Committee, I know how much redeveloping this neighborhood will directly correlate to the success of our economy, the success of our tourism, and the success of our neighborhoods,” stated Councilmember Chris Cate.

By placing this initiative on the ballot, the San Diego City Council has listened to the voices of the community desperate to see their neighborhood upgraded. Additionally, this will provide the opportunity for San Diegans to weigh in directly on this major land use decision, ensuring that the will of the people is followed.

“This is democracy in action,” Councilmember Campbell said. “I support this change so that this unique commercial and residential community can thrive and be a benefit for our City.”

The Midway area recently went through a robust community plan update process in 2018 that was certified by the California Coastal Commission in 2019. For more information on the Midway-Pacific Highway Planning Area click the following link:


{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page July 22, 2020 at 1:22 pm

What really galls me about this is that it took a gargantuan effort to get the 30-foot height limit on the ballot years ago when the council would not put it on. Volunteers went door to door to collect the required signatures. Now, the effort to remove it is done with the stroke of a pen by a small number of people on the city council. It’s a fucking disgrace. The only fair way to do this would be to make whoever wants to change it also gather all the signatures those volunteers did years ago to get it on the ballot, and not paid signature gatherers either.


Frank Gormlie July 22, 2020 at 4:27 pm

The OB Rag rec’d this from Korla: I spent most of the day yesterday sitting in on the City Council meeting to speak on S501 to place the 30’ height exemption in the Midway Planning District on the November Ballot. I don’t have the writing skills Geoff Page has but here goes.

S501 passed.

Although many callers were in favor of exempting the 30’ heigh limit in the Midway area a public caller spoke about how Prop D- the 30’ height limit- was a voter initiative and as such should have to be changed by voter presented initiative and NOT brought forth by City Council. I have heard this from others as well.

I voiced my opposition with the following comments: Speakers were limited to one (1) minute.

“I am opposed to exempting the 30 foot height limit in the Midway area therefore I do not want to see it on the November ballot.
During this Pandemic there are better ways to spend money! Please do not place profits over the community. Developers can do a great project and stay within that 30’ parameter.
This exemption would lead to other exemptions which would completely destroy the intent of the overwhelming voter approved and sacrosanct Prop D. If you allow one exemption that will lead to more exemptions. In the wise words of Laura Numeroff, If you give a mouse a cookie…”
Gomez & Bry voted against. Gomez is not necessarily against raising the height limit but objected on a technical reason. Following is paraphrased but can be seen on the City Council Meeting recording at about 3:50. The entire presentation started at about 3:17. This is a big deal with great transformation to the area with a value aspect. This is a huge issue. If current developers respond, they must respond to the restriction of 30’. If they submit proposals above that it is on them to go to the voters to request a change. It is immoral and concerning and not transparent having this brought forth by City Council.


Mat Wahlstrom July 22, 2020 at 5:15 pm

“a public caller spoke about how Prop D- the 30’ height limit- was a voter initiative and as such should have to be changed by voter presented initiative and NOT brought forth by City Council.”

I think this may have referenced my comment, which I wrote out in order to fit in the one-minute time limit imposed:

“My name is Mat Wahlstrom, and on behalf of myself and Rescue Hillcrest, I oppose placing any measure amending the People’s Ordinance on the ballot that does not originate from the people.

This proposal is the latest cynical attempt by developers to undermine the citizen initiative overwhelmingly approved by voters in 1972. As it was intended, Prop D has ensured that all San Diegans have access to our beach areas and saved us from the fate of places from Waikiki to Miami.

From the beginning, developers have challenged the People’s Ordinance in the courts; and every time the courts have shot them down. So now, developers are trying to get this Council to help them exploit a pandemic to get an amending measure on the ballot that they could never get there on their own.

So with all due respect, it’s clear that a vote by any member of this Council to approve this item is a decision to side with developer campaign donors against voters.”


Frank Gormlie July 22, 2020 at 5:38 pm

Thank you, Mat and the folks in Rescue Hillcrest.


korla eaquinta July 23, 2020 at 12:23 pm

Hi Mat, I believe it was you and I appreciated your info enough to share it. Even though I like these virtual meetings, when people turn out en masse for hot button issues like STVRs and the 30’ heigh limit, it makes a visual statement and gives power to peoples’ opinions. Numerous callers just get 1 minute! I believe state and city legislation is being pushed through during this Pandemic when people have minimum power and minimum opportunity for meaningful input.


Mat Wahlstrom July 23, 2020 at 10:55 pm

Hello Korla. I thank you as well, and agree completely. The City protests it’s following Gov. Newsom’s executive order on The Brown Act regarding conducting “essential business” during COVID — but refusing to answer objections about trying to re-do whole community plans in violation of the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act. And now we know the developers and their cronies are trying to do an end-run around CEQA?

I’d be ashamed for them if they weren’t so shameless.


retired botanist July 22, 2020 at 4:58 pm

wow, totally railroaded by Council. A travesty.
Good comment, Frank, on the Bill of Rights- exactly. :-)
What “other regional planning groups unanimously supported this”?
Cates: “I know how much redeveloping this neighborhood will directly correlate to the success of… our tourism…” THERE IT IS, sandwiched in between the ‘economy’ and the ‘neighborhoods’.
Nothing democratic about this.
Uh, yeah, give a mouse a cookie, indeed!
Get rid of Campbell- a complete hypocrite!


Frances O'Neill Zimmerman July 22, 2020 at 7:43 pm

I had to sit through a tedious telephone push-poll from competetive edge research on Sunday repeatedly describing the various ways I might approve this measure if it should appear on my November ballot. You’re not allowed to cut to the chase because the poll-taker is required to read every word of the convoluted language. Opposed, somewhat opposed, very opposed? All of the above! Councilmember Jen Campbell needs to go back to private life.


Toby July 23, 2020 at 8:43 am

Frank & Matt,
Thanks for attending the meeting and your input during it. The comments here are clear indication of Campbell’s deceit, selling out to developers and not listening to the residents this height limit revocation (no doubt will pass) will impact. Ironically, during her campaign Jen Campbell made constant reference to her profession as a physician, branding herself as Dr. Jen. Not listening isn’t a characteristic I look for when selecting a physician.

Geoff is spot on with his comment about this height limit being placed on the ballot again with a stroke of a pen.
We’re on a slippery slope now. It’s going to be difficult to gain our footing again if at all.
Campbell is a disgrace and can’t be trusted.


PB Local July 23, 2020 at 9:10 am
Roy McMakin July 23, 2020 at 10:21 pm

It seems particularly distressing that Ms Campbell chose this election get this divisive question on the ballot. I suppose the powers that be that convinced/made her do it now feel the turnout works in it favor. But given the ceaseless divisiveness at a federal level its too bad she had to add one more emotional fight to an already exhausted electorate. Consultants for one of the competing developers is already trying to spin the height limit to be a contest over race. If you oppose raising the height limit you are clearly a racist, according to the developer’s paid spokespeople. Geez.


micporte August 1, 2020 at 8:24 am

so, too bad, so pissed on myself for supporting her, makes Lorie Zapf look like paragon of virtue, which she sort of was, but , of course, tired of “doing it”… Jennifer is probably tired (hopefully) of ” doing it”, poor Darlin’,
who wouldn’t be… ? hey Frank, wanna run for f-ing public office? you would be great,


Frank Gormlie August 1, 2020 at 8:42 am

Thanks for the vote of confidence Mic Porter, Geoff Page is more likely than me. I have to disagree however about Zapf; she was a true-red Republican and voted her party-line continuously. Let’s not forget her sins. and this


Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: