Is Measure E a Power Grab and Threat to Coastal Neighborhoods or Is It the Only Way for San Diego to Get a World-Class Sports Arena and More ?

by on September 30, 2020 · 3 comments

in Election, Ocean Beach

Editordude: Is Measure E a power grab threatening coastal neighborhoods with mega-development or is it the only way San Diego can get a world-class sports arena and “more”? Here are the two sides, reposts from the Union-Tribune on Tuesday. Tom Mullaney argues against Measure E and Cathy Kenton and Dike Anyiwo argue for it. Both are below.

Measure E is a power grab targeting coastal communities and threatening mega-development

By Tom Mullaney / San Diego Union-Tribune / Sep. 29, 2020

San Diego’s coastal height limit of 30 feet has been in place since 1972, for 48 years. It was voted in by the citizens; why change it now?

Those who want to lift the height limit say this will “achieve the vision of the community plan.” What if instead the real purpose is this?

  • Developers getting free rein in the coastal communities.
  • Allowing mid-rise and high-rise buildings in six communities.
  • Making a few property owners rich.
  • Mayor Kevin Faulconer and his top staff rewarding key supporters before leaving office.
  • Speeding the takeover of federal land.

Measure E can be seen as part of a two-step plan: to exempt one community from the 30-foot limit, then come back later for the other five coastal communities.

I am one of many San Diegans who believe the city wants to give free rein to developers in the coastal areas. I think, based on my reading of city documents, that city officials want to remove limits on developers, and height limits are a key element.

The power grab targeting the coastal communities isn’t in the future, it’s now!

Back in 1972, citizens saw the tall buildings going up: high-density, high-rise, high-traffic. Beach access to the public was being cut off. A group of volunteers worked tirelessly to qualify Proposition D for the ballot, and voters approved the 30-foot coastal height limit! The organizers gave a lot to ensure access to the coast for all San Diegans.

Then in 2018, planners in the Midway/Sports Arena area created a new community plan — a vision for the future — all within 30 feet of height. We can continue with that plan, by voting no on Measure E, and keeping the 30-foot height limit. Development can go forward, at moderate heights.

We knew they were coming. Last month, the development corporations started pouring big money into Measure E, at a time when citizens are struggling with the coronavirus pandemic. San Diegans need to fight back. Why should we give up an important right that we won 48 years ago?

The 30-foot height limit isn’t just about the beach and preserving views. The height limit helps maintain the character of coastal communities — including lower density, sunlight and circulation of fresh air. This benefits residents and all San Diegans who go there for recreation. The height limit also serves to limit traffic congestion, which would explode if the city allows dense high-rises throughout the Midway community.

If the height limit is removed, we can foresee the city allowing half of the Midway community to be filled with high-rises, then upzoning to fill the other half. There is no guarantee of affordable housing; high-rises have high rents.

The current Midway plan will allow enough development for 28,000 residents, six times the current population, too much for the small area of 2 square miles. Lifting the height limit with Measure E would lead to even greater excess.

The city included vast pieces of federal land in the Midway community and in Measure E, the largest being the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR) and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD). If Measure E passes, the height limit would be removed from private land, city land and federal land. Measure E would set the stage for pushing out the Marines and turning over that land to high-rise developers.

There’s a better vision than filling the Midway area with high-rises. A proposal has been made for a new city recreation area, a grand greenbelt called River Trail Park. The concept is to join San Diego Bay and Mission Bay Park with a spacious park with sports fields, 200 acres, large enough for use by Midway residents and all San Diegans. This would expand the city’s park space and relieve the pressure from overloaded beach areas.

With the San Diego Association of Governments forecasting over 700,000 more residents in the region by 2050, we need to think big on parks or face unbearable overcrowding.

By voting no on Measure E, we can preserve the coastal height limit, avoid luxury high-rises that are not needed, and maintain access to coastal areas for the enjoyment of all San Diegans. By rejecting the specter of mega-development, we can refocus elected officials on citizens’ quality of life, enhanced by a spacious bay-to-bay park. No on E!

Tom Mullaney is chair of Save Coastal Access — No on E, a committee formed to preserve the 30-foot coastal height limit: He lives in San Diego.

Measure E is the only way for San Diego to get a world-class sports arena and more

By Cathy Keaton and Dike Anyiwo  / San Diego Union-Tribune/ Sept. 29, 2020

We have so many things to be proud of as San Diegans, but unfortunately the sports arena area is not one of them. The sports arena is outdated and underused, and the neighborhood around it has been declining for decades even as the rest of San Diego improved. Voting yes on Measure E will pave the way for a new sports arena and transform the surrounding Midway District into a modern, attractive and enjoyable community — at no cost to taxpayers.

As the leaders of the local community planning group, we have been fighting for this change for years and know how important it is for San Diego. When locals and tourists visit popular destinations like the sports arena, Liberty Station or Cabrillo National Monument, they must drive through the Midway District — a run-down labyrinth of seedy strip clubs, garish billboards, empty warehouses and shuttered businesses. If downtown is San Diego’s front porch, the Midway District is our broken screen door. It reflects poorly on residents, businesses and our entire city.

Measure E will allow San Diego to realize this area’s promise with a 21st-century sports venue, a thriving entertainment district, acres of public parks, residential units and quality jobs. It does so by correcting a 48-year-old mistake in the municipal code that has fueled the neighborhood’s ongoing deterioration.

In 1972, San Diego wisely decided to guard against coastal overdevelopment by limiting new construction near the beach to 30 feet in height. But the city drew a bright red line on Interstate 5 and called everything west of it a coastal area — lumping Midway in with the likes of La Jolla and Mission Bay. Nearly 50 years later, it is plain to see the building cap has been great for beach communities but has completely failed the Midway District.

Midway is not a coastal community, and it never made sense for the coastal height limit to be applied here. We have no coastline, no beaches and no ocean views and are completely landlocked, encircled by Interstate 5 to the east, Interstate 8 to the north, and the airport and Marine Corps Recruit Depot to the south. If you come here planning to ride the waves or sit on the sand, you will be sorely disappointed.

Measure E fully protects the coastal height limit while rectifying this oversight. The ballot measure only affects the Midway District, while leaving untouched the 30-foot safeguard in all city beach communities — La Jolla, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Mission Bay, Ocean Beach and Point Loma. Developers cannot build a high-rise on the coast now, and they still won’t be able to under Measure E.

This simple fix will stimulate creation of a vibrant, pedestrian and transit-oriented community with entertainment, office, retail, residential, recreational, public and park use.

Crucially, Measure E is the only way for San Diego to get a new, world-class sports arena. The current 77-foot-tall arena is only allowed because it was built six years before the height restriction took effect. Now that the rules prohibit building an inch over 30 feet, it is impossible to construct a new area. Without Measure E, San Diego is stuck with the existing sports and entertainment complex.

At a time when jobs and funding for public services have been gravely impacted by the pandemic, Measure E will produce hundreds of millions of dollars in annual economic activity and create thousands of jobs for San Diego — something we desperately need during the worst recession in generations. It will also spur tens of millions of dollars in yearly tax revenue to help local schools, roads and neighborhood services.

Measure E has earned rare bipartisan support from both the Democratic and Republican parties of San Diego county, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, Climate Action Campaign, the community planning group and more.

We are proud that this effort did not originate with big developers or corporate interests. Measure E was created by the community, for the community. We have roots going back generations. We see every day how our neighborhood has been held back while other communities have prospered. Measure E levels the playing field. This is one of San Diego’s last untapped areas for economic growth, and it is time to remove the artificial barriers limiting our potential.

Join us to create a modern sports arena, revitalize our community, restore pride to this area and generate thousands of jobs for San Diego. Vote yes on E.

Kenton is a Midway property owner and chair of the community planning group and lives in Torrey Pines. Anyiwo is the vice chair of the community planning group and lives in the Midway District.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

local gal September 30, 2020 at 12:48 pm

Two thoughts: What about the homeless in the Midway district now, will they be pushed out (of course!) by uber-development like they were pushed out of the downtown SROs in the oughts? Where will they go then? The other concern – Assembly D78 is about to get a rep owned by REITs, developers and their minions. He pushed for the tallest building on the edge of Balboa Park that replaced existing affordable housing with an additional 2 units – in a 20-story tower.
Chris Ward’s next target will be the Coastal Act restrictions on height and its requirements for affordable and usable public access to beaches.
Are we ready for that?


Scott F Pearce October 1, 2020 at 12:55 pm

Don’t you think it likely that the Sports Arena property is going to be underwater in two or three decades?


Paul Webb October 1, 2020 at 4:54 pm

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