District 2 Candidates on the High Cost of San Diego Housing

by on April 13, 2022 · 6 comments

in Election, Ocean Beach

The San Diego Union Tribune Editorial Board sent a 10-question survey to the five viable candidates in the San Diego City Council District 2 race. Here, staff of the OB Rag have separated out their responses based on the subject matter or issue, and placed the responses side by side.

Q: How will you combat the high cost of housing in San Diego? What will you do to boost housing affordability and construction?

Linda Lukas:

San Diego is a great place to live. It’s beautiful, and it has a very favorable climate, myriad natural resources and wonderful people. It’s also full of multi-cultural and academic opportunities and exposure, with impressive modern high-tech institutions and a military presence. It truly is an extremely desirable place to live on so many levels. Certainly, we have the ability to attract residents from all over the world who would love to call San Diego home.

Our housing market should be affordable. Young individuals and families who constitute so much of our future are struggling with the reality of an unaffordable and unsustainable economic environment. Mature residents who have dedicated their lives, work and taxable support to our community find themselves similarly failing to meet ever-increasing costs of living here. Businesses struggle to find workers who can afford to move and live here, and there are so many other such examples. It really is tragic and unsustainable.

The impact of increased population density on our infrastructure has remained ill considered or attended to. Restoring and improving infrastructure must be addressed if we are to sincerely consider ambitious and necessary construction projects. The cost of construction, overregulation and the ever challenging and increasing taxation structure often disproportionately affects those who one hopes to protect and support.

I will work towards restructuring current regulatory measures in a judicious and responsible manner, and reasonable and proportional fees would be a start to lowering costs.

Lori Saldana:

Increase energy and water efficiency. Affordability is not just related to the initial purchase price or monthly rent. It includes ongoing operational costs and monthly expenses. These impact mortgage calculations for buyers and lenders. Since San Diegans pay the nation’s highest energy bills, they have less money to invest in a home. We need to apply the state’s highest levels of building codes related to energy efficiency measures to older buildings. Reducing ongoing monthly costs with higher energy and water efficiency standards will also help keep people in their homes as rents increase.

Construction: Rezone and convert commercial/light industrial buildings into live/work housing to create communities in areas that are now under-utilized after work hours, and follow state low to increase the proportion of affordable housing on all public lands.

Mandy Havlik:

Ocean coastlines and public lands are precious. We need to ensure that any development in the coastal region does not impede every San Diegan’s right to access the coastal region.

As a city, we need to look at the housing affordability issue holistically. This is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted solution. We cannot build our way out of the problem. The city is using old solutions to combat a complex issue, and it is not working.

The current emergency affordable housing initiatives such as putting high-rise residential dwellings with no requirements for parking in backyards could drastically devalue single family neighborhoods.

Do we want to preserve the quality of life while adding population or do we want to cash in our public coastal lands and neighborhoods for temporary gain? San Diego’s low-density coast is our great treasure — do we really want to hand it over to developers for their maximum monetary gain or do we instead preserve it for future generations?

Today we are using old ways of thinking towards city development while the challenges of the future will demand a completely different approach. We should be exploring what that future holds instead of implementing current policies which are driving San Diegans to other states.

We do need to increase our housing stock to accommodate San Diego’s projected population growth. However, what housing we build and where we build matter. Every developer and architect I talk to about this issue tells me the same thing — the Development Services Department rules cause incredible delays and inefficiencies. The city needs to keep standards high but department reform is long overdue.

We need to modernize the Development Services Department to allow for more support and a streamlined process for permit applicants. It should not take years to acquire a permit for a basic home addition or renovation. We need to create more efficient practices throughout all city departments.

I am a proponent of letting people choose where they live. I would advocate for an expansion of the San Diego Housing Commission’s voucher program. By expanding this program, we could help average San Diegans pay skyrocketing rents while giving them the freedom to choose what neighborhood they want to live in.

Finally, there is something that we can do today. We can do what most major metropolitan cities already do. We can make short-term vacation rentals that do not have a host on site illegal. This would have the immediate impact of opening up tens of thousands of housing units overnight increasing our housing stock and driving prices down.

Joel Day:

For San Diego to solve the problem of housing affordability, we will need to leverage serious public resources. Our peer cities around the world have shown the way, building publicly owned and financed housing for the middle class, creating public land trusts. Instead of auctioning off public lands and asking for table scraps of 10 percent affordable homes in return, we need a new model that creates a public option for housing. Quality, affordable, city government subsidized housing is supported by voters across the political spectrum. Unlike conventional sprawl developments, we need transit, work, park and school-centered properties to prioritize working families and green living.

The city should also aggressively add to its land portfolio in every neighborhood by preserving affordable housing with a first right-of-refusal mechanism. Paired with predictable and accessible developer impact fees, a new vacancy tax for empty homes, inclusive infill around “transit priority areas” and ending segregation-era exclusionary zoning, San Diego can lead the country in an “all hands on deck” approach to housing access and affordability. We can build urban village centers that meet the needs of a young city, secure affordability, and grow in a climate resilient manner.

I have put forward a comprehensive plan for tackling our housing challenge. Taken together, these initiatives offer a blueprint for making San Diego affordable for all workers as well as competitive for all businesses to thrive.

Jen Campbell:

Housing costs way too much in San Diego — and we need to do more so working families don’t fear losing the roofs over their heads and our city doesn’t lose the next generation of San Diegans to other regions with more affordable home costs.

I took a lot of heat for authoring Measure E to pave the way for thousands of new affordable homes in the Midway/Sports Arena District, but I never backed down and we won. On the campaign trail, I hear others offer a whole lot of big talk and bravado on housing, but I actually got things done and did so even in the face of real opposition.

Now, we see exciting proposals from the private sector to revitalize a long-neglected community, all of which include thousands of new homes that offer the promise of actual affordability for both low-income families and San Diego’s middle-class — with no new burden on the taxpayers. That’s real progress and I’m focused on finishing the job so we build a better Midway and build the affordable housing we need along the way.

Q: Specifically, how are you going to ensure first-time homebuyers and residents in general have a chance to afford a home they can live in without being outbid by investors?


Homeownership is a dream for many. It certainly was for us. And yet it has become very difficult of late for anyone other than an investor to purchase here in San Diego. Investors, whether mom-and-pop flippers or large corporations, do substantially contribute to our economy, and we need to maintain a healthy relationship with them. But it must complement and not come at the expense of the general community.

Assembly Bill 1771, authored by Chris Ward, D-San Diego, is currently in its developmental stage. While a start, it needs much more development. I would propose legislation to favor occupancy ownership though incentivizing as opposed to disincentivizing pure investment buyers without artificially destroying the market.


How many investors making cash offers above asking price are representing corporations? We need data about who these “investors” are, and how pervasive this problem is in all of our communities.

If they are pooling their investments, capitalizing on short-term vacation rental income opportunities, and living out of state, they aren’t paying their fair share of local taxes. They aren’t buying a home. They are investing in a business for profit. They aren’t carrying a mortgage because they know they will get quickly recover their investment through high short-term vacation rental charges.

The San Diego City-County Reinvestment Task Force should examine the impacts of these purchases on communities, and determine how often these short-term vacation rentals lead to school closures, and create bidding wars and higher housing prices throughout San Diego.

If the owners are out of state corporations, the city should require them to pay into a housing stabilization fund and support people in communities hardest hit by the loss of affordable housing.


I am in favor of a market-based approach to this issue. I would advocate for a down payment and closing cost assistance program for first-time buyers purchasing property as their primary residence that they will be living in.

I would also look for ways to encourage the conversion of apartments into condos that would increase our available housing stock while giving average San Diegans the opportunity to buy homes in their preferred neighborhoods.

Additionally, short-term vacation rentals have turned neighborhoods into hotels. Each short-term vacation rental is one less house for a San Diego family to live in. We need to break up the concentration of short-term vacation rentals on the coast.

A majority of these short-term vacation rental platforms have no host on site which means that we are displacing San Diegans with families who could buy homes in our district.

Let’s help first-time home buyers amass a down payment. A vested employment benefit over time is one way. Programs that help cover the upfront loan costs, closing costs and down payment would help increase the number of San Diegans who could afford to buy a home in our community and compete with buyers looking for investment properties.


I spoke recently with a successful professional with an Master of Business Administration who was losing out on house after house, with investors buying housing sometimes $200,000 over asking price. If we do nothing, our city will be hollowed out, with neighborhoods like Ocean Beach home to only tourists and millionaires.

To tackle investor outbidding, we have no choice but to revisit the “Campbell Compromise” — the faulty short term vacation rental plan, which allows for thousands of vacation rentals in the beach communities. I’d reform the law to cap short-term vacation rentals at 1 percent for every community planning area, rather than 1 percent citywide. This ensures that no one neighborhood, like Ocean Beach, bears the burden for the whole city.

Second, we need an empty homes tax for corporate speculators. Thousands of homes are bought with cash and then held by investors as vacant as our housing scarcity leads to skyrocketing prices — with return rates far outpacing the stock market. Homes are for housing people, not capital. A vacancy tax would return these units to the rental market, and I’ll actually lead the charge on this issue — an area where previous politicians have let us down.

These two initiatives can help slow the speculative market and stop the bleeding, but we need a long-term plan for affordability. I would create a public land bank to build affordable units on government owned land, rather than giving it away to investors. These units would require local residency to lease or purchase, creating a pathway for teachers, firefighters and other middle class families to have a home. Visit joeldaySD.com/roomforall to read my full housing plan.


It is absolutely critical that we use every avenue to build more homes that first time homebuyers, especially middle-class families, can afford. Supply needs to meet demand. I’ve been laser focused since joining the City Council on reforms that increase the production and reduce the cost of new homes. From the Middle Income Bonus Program, to Complete Communities, to Mayor Gloria’s new “Homes for All of Us” plan, I’ve worked to incentivize construction and add supply to our strained market every step of the way.

The landmark compromise I forged on short-term vacation rentals will also make a measurable difference to bring more long-term housing back on the market and discourage out-of-town real estate speculators from snatching up our housing stock. With a cap on the number of whole home short-term rentals at 1 percent (a 50 percent reduction in short-term vacation rentals, according to the California Coastal Commission) there will be several thousand more units for rent or purchase for San Diegans looking for homes.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Gary Wonacott April 14, 2022 at 7:12 am

Yesterday, I followed a mother and son as they made their way down our court in South Mission Beach. The boy, about 12, was walking on top of resident’s front yard walls. This is what happens when the visitors out number the residents. So, I was disappointed that there was no mention of Mission Beach by any of the candidates. The 30 percent STR density here will result in 1,875 STRs per square mile. To put this in perspective, if this same density was applied citywide, it would result in 677,000 STRs. Campbell sold out to Expedia and AirBnB, so ABC. Havlik had the only reasonable STR approach. Owner occupied STRs….PERIOD!


Geoff Page April 14, 2022 at 2:32 pm

Actually, those walls you mentioned are on city property. You can see this is the piece they widened some years ago from the rollercoaster park north. The walls that used to be there had to be removed because they were on city property.


kh April 15, 2022 at 3:28 pm

Probably an “Encroachment Maintenace and Removal Agreement”.

Basically a right to install private property on public land. I suppose it’s ok on residential blocks to the extent it doesn’t inhibit use of needed sidewalk space and park space (sometimes it does). But along the boardwalk there’s really no good reason to be annexing public land to the adjacent property owners (especially airbnbs).

That said, the walls, and any plantings or improvements in that space are still private property, even is installed on public land.


Geoff Page April 15, 2022 at 3:57 pm

Yea, I agree the block or concrete the walls are made of belong to the property owners. But those maintenance agreements really just cover the wall, the encroachers do not have rights to the land. So, I think anyone could sit or walk on the walls and the owner couldn’t do anything about it.

The city’s failure to widen the whole boardwalk really is a crime. The widened area is much more pleasant and safer because it separates bikes and pedestrians.


Gary Wonacott April 15, 2022 at 4:31 pm

The walls I am referring to are in the courts. The residents are required to maintain these walls.


Geoff Page April 17, 2022 at 2:04 pm

Well, that is a different area, assuming you mean off the boardwalk on the side courtyards running west to east. If that is private property, then it would be different. What did you mean when you wrote that residents “are required” to maintain them? Required by whom?


Leave a Comment

Older Article:

Newer Article: