Open Letter to Mayor Gloria: ‘I’m Not a Racist or Boomer. But Oppose Plans to Crowd Out Single Family Homes’

by on February 4, 2022 · 16 comments

in San Diego

This is Sara’s story. She wrote an open letter to her councilperson and to Mayor Gloria opposing the mayor’s housing proposals that would challenge single-family home neighborhoods. Neighbors For A Better San Diego recently received it and were so impressed with her forthright writing style and personal backstory, they sent it to their email list late last week. And bam. They received more responses to Sara’s essay than any other email distributed to their group. Whether people agree or disagree with Sara’s support for their proposed revisions to the city’s ADU ordinance, they’re clearly impressed with Sara’s story.

Dear Councilmember Raul Campillo and Mayor Todd Gloria,

I was born and raised here in San Diego. I grew up with a single mom, who struggled to make ends meet and was too proud to take any help. Sometimes we had only plain noodles for food. Sometimes we were cold. Sometimes we had to move out late at night.

I went to a lot of schools, some of them South of the I-8, including Garfield and Morse High School.

I walked and rode the city bus. Everywhere.

I have been working since as soon as I could get a work permit.

I went to community college on a bus ride so long my transfer would sometimes expire and I would have to explain myself to the bus driver. I transferred to SDSU and earned a BSN degree, and am forever grateful to the state for helping me with my public education.

I worked hard to get away from a place where people steal the mail. Where the homeless sleep under your stairs, and use your common area for a toilet. Where you have to lie on the floor when you hear gunshots. Where not one, but two of my neighbors died from drug overdoses, and another one by violent suicide.

I moved to Allied Gardens in 2008, with a new career and two small children. I remember the first day I woke up to the sound of birds instead of traffic, instead of the hiss of the city bus stopping in front of my apartment. Birds, instead of the wail of ambulance sirens. It was at first a disorienting, anxiety producing silence, followed by a grounding calm. We had arrived in a quiet neighborhood, and were finally safe.

I remember the immediate sense of relief of less density. The quiet vibration of space between houses. Not having to hear my neighbors’ every move. The ease of carrying a baby and the groceries home from my driveway. I could hang my laundry to dry outside without accumulating soot on the clean clothes. We rented here for seven years until we saved enough for a down payment on a house just a block away from our rental.

I worked hard to be here. I am not a racist. I am not a classist. I am a working mom paying a mortgage, bills, and college tuition. I am fair and persistent, I put my family above all else.

We bought a house in a middle-class neighborhood zoned for single family dwellings to get away from the dirty, overcrowded, impacted living conditions that cost way too much money in Normal Heights and so many other gentrified neighborhoods.Now, you are telling me to take more people into my life, my neighborhood roads, schools, sports teams, after-school programs. You are telling me and other homeowners that we just don’t matter, that we have no say in the future of our environment, due to a flawed application of “supply and demand.”

Show me the vacancy rate in the thousands of relatively new apartments and condos filling in Mission Valley, Grantville, Mission Gorge through Allied gardens and San Carlos. Show me the quality metrics of the neighborhoods that have built on maximum infill. What is the opinion of homeowners who actually live there?  How are you representing us?

When you mute our microphones, dismiss our legitimate concerns, and vote amongst yourselves, you are not treating us with the respect we are owed, as tax paying residents and voters. The proposed housing plan does not treat all residents fairly. I would even say allowing the proliferation of new luxury apartments and condos with their high rents is more exclusive and classist and far less equitable than me defending my space. The process for changing policy and the outcome are both unacceptable.


Sara Madonia, RN, BSN
Allied Gardens

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Webb February 4, 2022 at 1:07 pm

Amen, Sister Sara.


Vern February 4, 2022 at 1:54 pm

Sara is not wrong.


SusanHopps February 4, 2022 at 3:18 pm

Perfectly said! I agree 100%. I also have worked hard since I could. And bought my home as a single mother. Thank you for stating what a majority of us feel! Our District 9 council person spews his own truths and constant rhetoric when he’s not giving accolades to his inexperienced and incompetent staff. We need to start now to look for potential candidates for the future!


Carl M Zanolli February 5, 2022 at 5:36 am

The uncomfortable reality is that single family homes are not a sustainable model for the future. It is the obligation of our elected officials and city planners to move us to higher density living with the least amount of disruption to people like Sara.


Vern February 5, 2022 at 6:36 pm

First, let’s vote to ensure that all “elected officials”, their appointees and city planners are required to move to high density living as their primary residence within one month of taking office and must take public transit, every day, to and from work, as well as any and all work/city-related functions.

Seems entirely fair.


Paul Webb February 6, 2022 at 12:14 pm

Vern, I’ve told this story on this forum before, but I think it bears repeating.

When I was working for the airport authority and doing the planning for the Terminal 2 expansion known as the “green build,” we were proposing a parking structure (which was ultimately built, but later than we proposed) in front of Terminal 2. We had numerous meetings with the City and SANDAG, both staff and elected officials. Many times during these meetings we were told that these organizations would oppose any new parking at the airport, and would likely take legal action if we insisted on including them in our plans. Their position was that there should be no private automobile trips to the airport at all: transit and shared vehicles only. They seriously believed that we should build no additional parking facilities, even though our experience was that there was an extreme shortage of parking several days a week. Of course, they did not offer increased bus frequency or additional routes to the airport, nor did they propose any capital improvements (trolley, people mover, etc.) to actually bring travelers to the airport, just an insistence that we not provide parking. In other words, make parking so difficult that people will find transit as the least miserable alternative to arriving at at the airport.

Even though the city and SANDAG offices are located just blocks from bus stops on the Airport Flyer route that came directly to the airport and our offices, every single person at these meetings arrived in a private or city owned single occupant vehicle. It could not have been easier or more convenient for them to use transit, but none ever did. And they asked for us to validate their parking!

This is part of what’s wrong with our city. Our decision makers, both elected and employed, want to control our lives in ways that will not also impact theirs. They want us to ride transit and bicycles, but want their private automobiles and paid for parking for themselves. They want our neighborhoods filled with ADUs and but I would bet dollars to donuts that they would oppose them if they were proposed next door. They want you to feel the pain of their decision, but are less likely to experience them themselves. And if we oppose these things, we are labeled elitist, entitled NIMBY boomers.


Ted February 7, 2022 at 8:09 am

Take a look at the job postings for SANDAG Director roles and higher. They all include free paid parking in their downtown office building. These benefits are not offered to anyone under the Director level.


Frank Gormlie February 9, 2022 at 2:19 pm

Or worse, “racist.”


Frank F February 5, 2022 at 9:17 am

I agree with Sara, but the responsibility for this boondoggle doesn’t lie with our local leaders. It was our state legislature who rammed this bill through without debate, and our governor who signed it without thinking of the unintended consequences. City leaders MUST follow state law or suffer the consequences.

As I’ve said before, this is what you get when you vote in a super majority of one party….no debate, no bipartisan compromise.

We have no one to blame but ourselves. Elections have consequences, be a thinking and responsible voter. Make hard choices, not easy ones.


Paul Webb February 5, 2022 at 2:03 pm

Frank, what you are saying is true, but the City has consistently gone beyond what is required by the new state rules, particularly with respect to ADUs.

I’ve always considered myself a progressive, but “progressive” today seems to mean in order to improve the lot of those less fortunate than us, someone else has to suffer. I don’t consider myself to be a polyanna, but I have to believe that not all problems are only possible to be solved by a prisoner’s delimma, i.e., in order for you to win, I have to lose. This is a very Trumpian view of the world that our progressive friends in Sacramento and city hall seem intent on adopting.


Bonnie Westphalen February 6, 2022 at 9:04 am

Why cant we move toward reforming all the empty office spaces into residential housing? They have parking lots, electricity, bathrooms and all the necessities in place to be converted to housing. I don’t get this mentality of destroying smaller residences or using undeveloped land to increase housing units.


Vern February 8, 2022 at 9:00 am

This is a very good idea.


Linda Weir February 8, 2022 at 6:52 am

SPOT ON!!!!!!!


OB Toby February 9, 2022 at 12:47 pm

Bonnie offers an excellent proposal that will provide additional housing and
offer opportunities for developers.


Paul Webb February 9, 2022 at 2:33 pm

It’s actually already sort of happening. The “mixed-use” development Nimitz Crossing has applied for and had approved the conversion of the ground floor commercial space to residential lofts. I don’t like the idea because of the way the city has danced around it, calling it an “interim residential” use.

I was sold on the idea of these mixed use developments as a way to create a viable walking commercial corridor along Voltaire. Now we get more units than the community plan and zoning would have allowed (thank you, density bonus provisions) and no improved walking street.


Douglas Blackwood February 9, 2022 at 9:01 pm

Mandatory Ride on MTS weekly: for all decision makers; city & county, including, MTS!
Oh wait, they probably want bodyguards.
Who approved free parking for the overpaid bureaucrats?
Has Jen ever ridden a bus?


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