A Bridge Too Far for San Diego?

by on September 11, 2020 · 44 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

By Joni Halpern

Residents of San Diego County have long had concerns about the quality of our physical environment.

The entire slow-growth movement that brought Pete Wilson to the mayoralty, for example, came about because San Diegans worried that unfettered development would overcrowd the landscape and turn the city into another Los Angeles.  Never mind that in his tenure, from December 1971 to January 1983, Mayor Wilson presided over unprecedented growth.

As a coastal region, San Diego has always been in a love-hate relationship with developers.

On one hand, we need more housing to shelter our growing population. On the other hand, we fear the loss of livable communities, the feeling of neighborhoods, the relief of open space and proximity to green spaces, the safety of pedestrian walkways. These necessities of livable communities are already at risk and can be completely lost with on-street parking and hundreds of new residents seeking refuge from densely packed multi-family developments.

Politics in this region is a smoldering battle between community groups and forces advocating the reduction of constraints on development. The building industry wants to build as much as the market will bear at the least possible expense with the greatest amount of profit. The building trades rely on construction for their livelihood. Real estate professionals and mortgage bankers and brokers thrive on a robust supply of housing.  Consumers who can’t find a place to rent or buy are frustrated and often homeless because the supply of affordable and low-income housing is completely inadequate.

But there are also residents of existing communities who are sick and tired of being left out of the policy discussion about how to remedy the situation without destroying the quality of life in their communities.  And these folks are not one homogeneous group.  Among them are highly affluent or wealthy residents who envision their promenades invaded by low-income mothers airing out their babies in second-hand strollers.  Some residents have grown accustomed to living with little diversity and wish their communities to remain so.

But there are also homeowners across the socio-economic spectrum who fear neighborhood streets will become virtual parking lots when high-density developments are constructed with little or no off-street parking. They also fear tensions from over-building in neighborhoods where parklands are scarce and streets are already congested.

Often, this battle has pitted the cities and the County against their own residents.  Public officials frequently are seen to side with developers who claim they can only build affordable housing if they are relieved of burdensome fees and costly requirements for off-street parking, green space, and other amenities.  Only if they are granted such relief, developers claim, can they afford to build affordable housing.  Otherwise, they will be limited to the construction of high-end housing in order to remain profitable.

Policy makers largely have accepted that position. They contend that piling up dwelling units in transit-oriented corridors and hubs will make up for the absence of parking spaces.  People can take the bus or the trolley, because the new developments will be right next to transit centers.  Never mind that the local transit systems have always been inadequate, expensive for low-wage workers, and impossible to rely on if you have more than one place to  go within time limits.

As for green space, play areas, and other amenities, policy makers have little to say. High-density housing with small dwelling units has been recognized as problematic for peaceful habitation, but a roof is a roof, and it’s nice to have one over your head, even if you share a one-bedroom place with several others.  And who needs parking spaces in affordable or low-income housing, city planners ask.  After all, low-income folks don’t have cars. But many of them do, so perhaps they can park them several blocks away, the same as people who have nothing left but their cars and are forced to inhabit downtown homeless shelters.

Historically in this region, especially in the City of San Diego, developer incentives, no matter what form they take, have never made a dent in the profound need for affordable and low-income housing.  An argument could even be made that they have worsened the shortage, because they have resulted in an abundance of high-end housing with very little to show in the way of affordable or low-income housing.

In fact, when affordable housing is included in a development, it is often for people at the moderate level of Area Median Income (AMI), say, $60,000 to $80,000.  It is wonderful that a few of these residents gain access to housing. It is unforgivable that the vast majority of people comprising the bulk of the low-paid workforce in this region are still out in the cold.

It is said that where public will exists, public policy will implement it.  Perhaps it is time to broach the issue among all of us participants in the public dialogue:  Do residents of this city and county even want affordable and low-income housing?  Or do they believe, as some few have boldly articulated, that those who cannot afford to live here should live somewhere else.

Years back, there was even talk of plans for a fast train that would transport low-wage workers from somewhere in our neighboring desert to workplaces in San Diego County.  After work, they could quickly erase their presence from our pristine landscape and head home.

It is strange to think that we can have people trim our bushes, cut our lawns, care for our children, clean our houses, wait on us in restaurants, care for us when we are ill, and yet find them unworthy to live among us, for fear their habitation in our communities will damage our property values.

In fact, we do not care to know how our low-wage workers fare:  where they live, how they live, how they feed their families, pay for medical services, afford transportation, and keep their hopes and those of their children alive.  Perhaps that is why we, the housed residents of this region, have only indulged in argument against the intrusions of development in our communities.  We have never made a serious attempt to offer our own community-based solutions to affordable and low-income housing for the hundreds of thousands of our fellow residents who need it.

Such remedies might call for change in our own neighborhoods, and change, many of us fear, can only mean unrecompensed sacrifice.

These days, people who talk about our national problems are always saying “We are better than this.”  I am afraid we are not.

Our problems did not originate with national politics. They began with local politics, the politics of not caring, the politics of “what is mine is mine, and you must look out for yourself.”  So developers pursue their interests, public officials look out for theirs, and housed residents protect what they have.

We may live within urban boundaries, but we are really bound by the fear of what we do not know, or even wish to know, about community members outside our caste.  Thus, the argument about how to meet housing needs continues, the remedies are undertaken by default, and the number of persons who cannot afford to buy or rent in our county grows.

We could be better than this, but that would require a vision of community beyond ourselves.  All signs indicate this is a bridge too far.


{ 44 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris September 11, 2020 at 11:43 am

One thing I will never understand. As (I assume) most people know, there are large apartment/condo complexes that have sprung up from downtown/Little Italy through Bankers Hill to Hillcrest. Several had opened up over 4 years ago and have never been more than a quarter occupied. The cost is simply too high and they’re not attracting new residents, yet the asking prices are not only going down but still going up. I guess the owners and/or management companies would rather default.


Chris September 11, 2020 at 11:44 am

Meant to say prices are NOT going down.


Tory September 12, 2020 at 9:10 am

Not sure what you are pointing out. You think the government should come in and require the apartment complexes to lower their costs to make it more affordable?


TedHender September 12, 2020 at 7:04 pm

I don’t think he was. I think he was pointing out that supply and demand is working very oddly here. You would think if a company has 25% occupancy, there is an issue with their pricing. I find it interesting that you assume that just because someone points out something doesn’t make sense, that they must mean they want government to come in and alter it. Is that a solution? Possibly. But why don’t you entertain other ones, I wonder?


Chris September 13, 2020 at 9:35 am

I didn’t say anything to the effect of the government forcing apartment complexes to lower their rents or anything to give you that impression. If you really are not sure what I was pointing out then I don’t know what to say further. I was pretty clear.


Cami September 13, 2020 at 8:07 pm

Chris was concise and spot on about the problem and why our community is struggling. I dont think he could be any more clearer. I’m born and raised in San Diego and a bankers hill resident for over 8 years now. I couldn’t agree more with his observations. How are they allowed to continue to build and not occupy these apartments that stay vacant for months at a time. Not to mention the fact that the crime in this area is extremely high. You cant walk around little itlay without smelling urine or seeing mentally aggressive people hiding in the corners or hear them shout at all hours of the night. This area is extremely crowded now and over developed. It’s really sad to see this neighborhood follow behind San Francisco. San Diego is not at all what it used to be.


Angie September 11, 2020 at 3:30 pm

I was born in San Diego. I’ve lived in the county all of my 52 years. I became disabled in my 30s and rely on SSDI, which doesn’t take the cost of living into account. I share a rented house with one of my daughters and my grandson. Neither of us could afford to live here if we didn’t share rent. She’s a CNA.
This article speaks for so many families like ours. We deserve affordable housing.
You’re absolutely right that those who have theirs don’t give a fig about anyone else. When did people get so cold and uncaring?
Excellent article. Thank you!


Chris September 11, 2020 at 4:17 pm

They’ve always been around. I’ve known my fair share of people like that. 10 years ago I remember reading in comment section of an article in the UT a guy (John Armstrong was the name of the commenter) that the less fortunate should all be rounded up and bussed out to the desert and dumped there to fend for themselves. What’e even scarier is he had a lot of supporters.


Chris September 11, 2020 at 4:40 pm

As I mentioned above, there are a significant # of units sitting mostly empty due their cost and no one moving in. I really don’t understand why it get’s so little (like close to none) attention. Every single person I know in SD is aware of it but never a mention in any articles or news pieces. Complete head scratcher.

On another note, I feel this is an issue that will not get better and is pretty much a dead horse. I have lived in San Diego since 86 (La Mesa for a few years in the late 60s then my family moved to LA) and I just can’t imagine leaving and for the time being have no intention of doing so but its always in the back of my mind (leaving the state entirely).


Pete R September 11, 2020 at 8:42 pm

I don’t know how much this is true here in SD, but in some hot housing markets like Vancouver, units that appear empty/unsold are actually owned by the wealthy (often from overseas) – more as a place to invest/stash their money than as a place to live. They don’t rent it full time because maybe they like to visit every now and then, and they’re wealthy enough to that they don’t want/need to deal with the hassle of tenants and management companies. When interest rates are low and housing is hot, global capital will flow to it. .

That’s what happens when housing is treated more as an economic commodity – a market good – than as a basic need.


Chris September 12, 2020 at 5:45 am

Keep in mind I’m referring to apartment/condo complexes, not single family units.


kh September 18, 2020 at 8:26 am

Pete nailed it.

It misses the point to blame residents for the ridiculously inflated property values and all the ills that follow. It is supply and demand, but the driving demand is investment opportunity. Policies promote and subsidize real estate speculation above all else. To hell with people who need a place to live. Imagine if we treated bread and water like we do housing, and we only produced Perrier and artisan bread so the wealthy could hoard in their pantry and sprinkle some crumbs around as they see fit.


ES PROVINS September 13, 2020 at 10:15 am

It isn’t just downtown. If you will note every subdivision being built today whether attached units or stand-alone homes are $700,000 and up. Yes it is expensive to live here but wages have never kept up. And never will. Commutes are getting longer and our infrastructures are getting severely strained. We live in a desert. Why are we building multiple homes per acre. Quality living in those new subdivisions is decreasing. I live in Escondido and I knew subdivision near me with $700+k homes, tiny greenbelts called tot Lots, homeowner association fees of approximately $300 a month and Mello-Roos of over $300 a month. Not to mention the house payment.


Joni Halpern September 11, 2020 at 8:05 pm

To Chris and Angie: Every time you take the time to point out your views and personal experience on this issue, you are entering the public dialogue. That dialogue will only get better if you remain in it. So I salute you for your participation. Thank you so much.


Don September 12, 2020 at 7:14 am

Great article Joni. How can we foster dialogue and alliances between the upstart YIMBYs who are taking on climate change and the housing crisis and progressives who have fought since the 60s to preserve the quality of life of their communities?


TedHender September 12, 2020 at 7:06 pm

People just trying to discus. Don’t load the conversation.


Bobo September 12, 2020 at 6:51 am

What are needed are solutions but just talk. If you want to make positive change, you have to be a catalyst for it. Engage. Join or participate in your local community planning group. Hold local politicians accountable by speaking to them at local town halls or at the community planning board meetings.
Is densification the answer? A cap on rent? I don’t know but not doing anything about it won’t magically make rents go down.


Chris September 12, 2020 at 12:21 pm

I don’ think anyone would dispute not doing anything will make rent’s go down. The problem is that there are lots and lots of people who ARE very active but have polar opposite ideas and views on how to make rents go down or even polar opposite views on whether or not rents should go down at all. What scares me is the huge possibility there is no solution at all.


Peter September 12, 2020 at 9:03 am

As a Manhattan born resident living in a luxury condo in a clean safe neighborhood,
I see everyday the results of government intervention in our daily lives. As city government
becomes more and more liberal, the common solution results in government-subsidized housing,
transportation, and homeless shelters. The concepts might seem reasonable, but never result in
anything other than more solutions to solve the problems caused by their previous solutions. As a retired Navy guy considering migrating to San Diego for its climate and peaceful constituents,
I recommend that whatever new ideas are considered by government, never put those who were elected to serve their constituents be in charge of anything other than planning and caring for the
city’s basic needs: police, fire, sanitation, water distribution, transportation, etc. Otherwise down the road a few years, you will discover what it’s like trying to survive in New York, and witness a complete collapse in quality of life.


Peter from South O September 12, 2020 at 1:26 pm

NYC packed too many people on a little island. What could have POSSIBLY gone wrong? San Diego will never become NYC because we have not gone completely vertical. Our downtown streets are never described as canyons and we are actually pushing back against deploying a camera surveillance system. Our public transportation system runs ABOVE ground so the nodes can actually be kept urine-free …. oh, I could go on.
Plus OUR elected officials are, for the most part, clumsy when they break the law; they get caught, usually while still in office.


Chris September 12, 2020 at 1:31 pm

Please stay in NY.


Stanley Applewhite September 13, 2020 at 6:34 am

Thank you Peter, the local politicians are in it for themselves and the rich people. They don’t care about the poor people. To be honest these local politicians support policies that render these people poor.


Tory September 12, 2020 at 9:14 am

I like some of the things the article points out but you can’t gloss over the economics of it. Is it so wrong to move low cost housing further outside the city to where land is more affordable? Seems like it makes sense. You think that it is anyones right to have housing wherever they want it? It is an easy to build low cost housing. You just build it. If the government is not getting it done than the people don’t care enough about it to elect people that will get it done.


Chris September 12, 2020 at 12:34 pm

“Is it so wrong to move low cost housing further outside the city to where land is more affordable?”
So you’re ok with making lower income people have to travel farther to their jobs? I’m not sure what the solution is but this seems kind of f****d up. Especially if they have to commute via public transportation.

“You think that it is anyones right to have housing wherever they want it?”
I don’t think anyone thinks that, but my personal opinion is people should have a right not to be priced out of wherever they already live.


Catherine September 12, 2020 at 2:37 pm

Sure you can build more houses out in the boonies, but then you have to build out roads, water, electricity. And then they get burned down in wildfires and who pays for that?


Joni Halpern September 12, 2020 at 6:27 pm

You must forgive me. I have been a lawyer for low-income individuals and families for more than 20 years. I have been in the homes of my clients, in their schools, their churches, sitting next to them in their hospital beds. I have attended their funerals. I have fought for their rights. They have not made me a living. But they have made me a life. I find the vast majority of them to be humble, good-hearted, church-going, grateful, generous and principled. I find that they love their children and would make any sacrifice for them, that they love their parents and very often care for them in their own homes with their own hands. If I had no family and was in need of the generosity of others, it is to these people I would turn, because they do not easily turn their backs on the suffering of others. That is why they make good neighbors. Just as with all populations, there are some few who have abandoned decency. But we all live among some of those folks no matter where we reside. I think there are ways we can accommodate people like my clients all across our city. I think we can find ways to build affordable housing and spread it out across all communities. But I also think that we must be conscious of tensions that can arise because of stingy planning, leading to people fighting for parking, fighting for green space, fighting for air. The answers are there; what we lack is public will to try them.


TedHender September 12, 2020 at 7:13 pm

So much this. As someone who comes from a family both of poor and very wealthy, I’ve seen both first hand. My poor family members aren’t some kind of subhumans. They grew up in areas with less opportunities, and the wealthy ones that grew up in comfy homes and wealth has a much easier time seeking better education and lifting themselves up as a result. I don’t love any of them any less or more for their backgrounds, and likewise, that’s how they feel about me too.

But in society I see such mind boggling judgement against people. I could maybe even help my cousin get out of poverty if he didn’t have to live so dang far away!


Jeremiah Lodise September 12, 2020 at 9:41 pm

Do everyone a favor and stay in New York.


Veronica September 13, 2020 at 10:05 am

This is a pertinent article, and important for people to see this issue. I know that many do, and as others have said, we must act. I have lived in southern California my whole life, and for the last 17 years in San Diego. I own a business, and I am a highschool teacher. My husband is a Marine Corps Vet, and a building maintenance technician. I have always had to work two or three job, while living here, and now I work two (more than) full time positions. My husband and I were priced out of our beloved beach community years ago and moved further east. Every year our rent is raised, while no improvements to our unit have been done. I have been wanting to start a family for years, but we have held off, hoping we would earn more in time… unfortunately our jobs have never been able to keep up with the aggressively rising housing market. We aren’t looking for handouts, we just want to be able to afford to live where we work, and have a decent lively hood without unreasonable terms. I don’t think that is too much to hope for.


Joni Halpern September 13, 2020 at 8:44 pm

Thank you for sharing a very poignant example of why we must address affordable housing and low-income housing as emergency issues. People like you and your husband have been contributing to all our lives and well-being. We cannot just say “It’s all up to you.” We have to figure out what to do to help. Three jobs should be enough to make a life and house a family. If that is not enough, and if we cannot reasonably raise wages, then we have to expand the ways in which we subsidize housing. A 10-year waiting list for Section 8 vouchers is not going to cut it. And neither will the allocation of a fraction of larger developments to moderate income housing.


sealintheSelkirks September 13, 2020 at 10:25 am

Nothing comes to mind on this dilemma. I just don’t see any solution to the continuing increase in population in San Diego…excepting one that I see coming. And that solution, one involving the ongoing climate chaos we are seeing the impacts from around the world not just the West Coast, also doesn’t have a happy ending.

But, like Peter from South O’s reply to the Manhattan-born luxury apartment dweller Peter “NYC packed too many people on a little island. What could have POSSIBLY gone wrong?”, I have a rather ironic comment to make.

So San Diego (and Southern California in general) packed too many people into a blisteringly hot mostly water-less desert-the northern Sonora Desert in fact if you look at a topo map-where the water to keep it all alive has to be stolen from a thousand miles away; the Colorado River which is being used completely up and admittedly is seriously ‘over allocated.’ It doesn’t even make it to Mexico any longer and so much for that treaty the US signed with that country over water rights, right? Some of it goes to water cotton fields in the deserts of Arizona… The ironic comment… so what can possibly go wrong?

And I read that Woodland Hills in LA was 121 degrees the other day. Smashing the old record rather handily I guess. And then read that some hiking died in Joshua Tree in 121 degree heat but that, of course, is in the desert and to be expected. Yep, what can possibly go wrong?

Of course I’m sitting here looking out my window at a tiny red ball that used to be the sun under a smoke cloud from the burning of Oregon that looks like a NorCal marine layer fog eddying between the conifers on the property…and what could possibly go wrong here?

Big sigh.



Joni Halpern September 13, 2020 at 8:37 pm

You raise the issue of population, climate change, water supply — all major issues we have not addressed because we seem have been under the illusion that Americans would never have to deal with shortages after World War II. Now it turns out that all problems are more complicated because we have not engaged in long-term planning to address the continued availability of essential resources that appear to be flagging due to climate change or over-demand. Thank you for making the picture whole.


Todd September 13, 2020 at 3:05 pm

I’d like to respond to Ms. Halpern’s well-informed article on San Diego’s affordable housing situation. I received a finance degree with a real estate minor in 1972 and have been actively involved in residential development and home financing since graduation. My industry experience ranges from preparing socio-economic studies for small residential developments, to personally underwriting over 25,000 residential mortgages, to becoming an EVP and Chief Lending Officer for a local bank.

For my entire career, affordable housing has been an issue. As a note, in 1972 Redlining had been formally removed as an approval consideration; and in reality was no longer an issue by 1975. Although a factor before the late 60’s, a common misconception of Redlining during the 70’s was that racial or economic demographics were determinants. It was my experience (in Southern California) that there was no industry Redlining and this has remained true for the remainder of my career.

The purpose of this response is not to render a solution, but to provide a 45 year personal observation of what was tried and what were the results. Hopefully, these can further discussions in more practical and productive ways.

One basic observation is that real estate value truly is based on loacation. That will not change, regardless of rules or regulations.

I’m aware of a situation in 1975, in which New Port Beach required a developer to sell 10% of all phases in a new subdivision to low-income families at a significant discount. Most of the homes were subsequently sold by the low-income families within a year at the increased market value for significant profits.

I saw this scenario repeated numerous times throughout Southern California.

During the late 70’s, a large developer in Orange County built 440 s.f. studio condominiums for a very affordable market price. The homes sold out immediately and have remained marketable to this day. City, county, state, building permits and fees, plus new federal rules and regulations increased the cost of construction by twofold; thus, no further affordable homes were built.

Recently, San Diego city waived its significant fees and processes to encourage ADU construction. This has historically worked to substantially increase available rental inventory.

In the San Fernando Valley, after a major earthquake devastated so many older homes, the city fast-tracked permits and waived fees, resulting in a large increase of remodeled homes in existing affordable areas.

I have seen this scenario repeat itself around the country, and one of the common factors was fast-tracked permits and fee waivers or reductions. I’m sure there are existing close-in areas in San Diego that would benefit from expedited permits and fee waivers and provide significant affordable housing while increasing the quality of housing and city tax base.

In the early 80’s, Los Angeles permitted lower parking requirements for a condominium conversion so the developer could convert three bedroom units into studios. The project failed because; a) no one wanted to purchase a home in Los Angeles without parking; and b) institutional lenders would not make loans on homes without parking. This is still the case.

I am not aware of a successful affordable housing solution in Southern California driven by the elimination of parking requirements. It has been my experience that the lack of parking is very detrimental to home values.

In San Francisco, the absence of a garage in a city home deducts between $150,000 and $300,000 depending upon location.

Having studied and been involved with housing my whole career, it has been my experience and observation that any affordable housing solution must be market based and driven. Location remains the number one influence in areas such as San Diego.

Employment, education, and job training programs, to name a few, are essential to the housing issue. These can be successfully promoted through government programs and agencies, but rules and regulations have never altered the demand for real estate created by that property’s location.

San Diego’s geographic location offers myriad choices, including amenities, microclimates, and access to transportation and employment. Each of these will influence values tremendously and significantly complicates any broad-stroke attempt at providing an affordable housing solution.

These are my observations over the years and intended to promote productive conversations. There is a solution and one will be developed if we keep discussing and listening.


Joni Halpern September 13, 2020 at 8:31 pm

Wow! You really have contributed to the quality and depth of this discussion. I am reminded after reading your comment that we have made this problem more complicated by delaying our response. What I get from your analysis is that we have to identify not one, but a few solutions we can draw upon, depending upon the circumstances in the locale in which we hope to place affordable housing and also, on those we hope to serve by making it available. It is nice to know there are experienced folks like you willing to engage in the discussion. It elevates all our knowledge.


danny September 13, 2020 at 5:00 pm

Like healthcare, housing is becoming a market failure. So far the free market system has not been able to solve its endemic problems of racism and environmental degradation. With the existential threat of ecological collapse staring us in the face it does no good to nibble at the margins of the system. What’s necessary is systemic change and to advocate and yes, struggle for anything less is just whistling into the Little Pend Oreille


Peter September 13, 2020 at 5:27 pm

And how does a “free” market cause racism. Anyone can invest in the ownership of
private property, regardless of race or ethnicity.


bobo September 13, 2020 at 7:06 pm

With all due respect Peter,
Are you being sarcastic? Either you don’t know about, or are simply ignoring generations of exclusionary housing practices against minorities – especially against blacks. Hell its no secret that La Jolla didn’t want Jews in their area:

To this day, this is still practiced. When Trump says; “They’re going to destroy our suburbs” that code for, “allow blacks in our neighborhoods”.
Now, you don’t want us to believe you’re an advocate of exclusionary housing are you? The “Market” is skewed to favor the rich and powerful. And in this country, that means whites. So as a property owner and resident of OB, I will fight with all my power to keep OB from being a place where only the right “kind” of folks can live here. And I’m not alone with that belief…


Stuart L. Smits September 14, 2020 at 6:04 am

I enjoyed your survey of the current barriers to crossing that “bridge” to more enlightened housing solutions.
A week or so, the NYT profiled the ‘Hard Hat Riots’ of May 1970, which occurred after hundreds of thousands of students protested nationwide following the murders of the Kent State students. As the article keenly observed, Nixon redefined the narrative and turned it into a cultural war, thereby pitting the silent majority against “those people” who were allegedly protesting and rejecting the values of middle class white Americans.
This cultural frame of how these issues have been defined has perpetuated the partisan divide for the past 50 years.
In approaching the apparently insurmountable obstacles to affordable housing, we need to reframe the fundamental values at stake. We need to break out of the silos that the various stakeholders and allow them to focus on common threads of shared values that are served by providing shelter to all, regardless of their ethnicity, impoverishment, or other characteristics.
It is the residue of this cultural war–“those ” people are coming to your neighborhood– that has perpetuated the chasm and resultant inability to build a bridge to span it.
Redefining the inherent issue of provoding shelter for all as a core value of our community is where it starts. It gains momentum by building networks of commonly aligned groups that share this non-demoninational vision of servant leadership.
I joined forces with another OB guy, David Helvarg, in 2004 as we founded a national coalition, Blue Frontier Campaign (www.BlueFront.org), that built an unprecedented coalition of over 1500 enviromental and conservation organizations aligned to enact an Ocean’s Bill, which we accomplished in 2008.
We sponsofred a Blue Vision Conferecne in DC and hosted over 180 activists from through out the US, who had never met or worked together on ocean related issues. Our mission was to break down the silos of these membership based environmental groups and get them to work together.
I sat next to a chap from DC who was the Executive Director of the National Evangellical Environmental Coalition. I inquired about his organization and how large its membership was, to which he replied: 8 million!
I realized that, if we could tear down the hardened structures to defend our differences and extend those olive branches woven from threads of common values, we would become a force to reckon with.
The same paradigm exists today with affordable housing and a similar solution is also readily at hand.
Stuart L. Smits


Brenda L Barton-Espino September 14, 2020 at 2:21 pm



Joni Halpern September 14, 2020 at 5:34 pm

Stuart, just to see your thoughts in print about how we might go about achieving this is a gift. Those threads of common values represent the fabric of true community. They are being torn apart at the moment, but they are still salvageable. I think your comment goes a long way toward helping us understand how that could be done. Thank you.


Stuart L. Smits September 16, 2020 at 6:45 am

I look forward to carrying on this discussion and helping you build such alliances.
Keep up the great fight.
(916) 761-6633


Stuart L. Smits September 16, 2020 at 6:16 pm

Many similar properties will be available in SD County in the next year.
This provides affordable housing on steroids.


Stuart L. Smits September 19, 2020 at 5:15 am
retired botanist September 19, 2020 at 3:48 pm

Just want to say Mr. Smits’ comments really resonated with me; thank you, Stuart. The homeless issue is close (perhaps too close) to my heart and I decided my initial drafted response was better suited to my journal. But I saw hope in your PsOV that we might be able to address this shameful, urgent problem constructively.
And I am grateful to Ms. Halpern for posting such a good piece, and one that generated some really good commentary.
Thank you both :)


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