Donna Frye: Measure C — With a Ballot Measure Like That, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

by on October 18, 2022 · 44 comments

in Ocean Beach

By Donna Frye / Special to the OB Rag

When I read the campaign mailer for Measure C that proposes to eliminate the 30-foot height limit in the Midway-Pacific Highway area of the Coastal Zone, I kept hearing the words from Ben Sidran’s “Brand New Music, Same Old Song.”

Even though the ballot measure may be new, the smoke being blown is from the same old smelly pipe.

Proponents claim it will create affordable housing, help the homeless and veterans, add 20 acres of public parkland and millions in funding for San Diego schools to name but a few of the alleged benefits. Unfortunately,  Measure C is height exemption measure and delivers none of the things listed above.

It feels a lot like another ballot measure from many years ago that also proposed eliminating the voter-approved height limit in a portion of the Coastal Zone.

In 1998, Anheuser-Busch, who owned SeaWorld at that time was looking to build amusement rides and roller coasters on public parkland in Mission Bay Park to increase their profits. To do this, they would need to get rid of the 30-foot height limit for their approximately 166-acre leasehold.

Of course this is not what they told the public when they got the signatures to place their proposal on the ballot. Instead, they told people they needed to get the height limit increased to help save the manatees and other such nonsense.

They got their signatures and Measure D was put on the ballot.

Anheuser-Busch would not tell the public what they wanted to build and instead provided a list of things they might build. Included in that list was “an aviary, an amphitheater, a restaurant/ catering operation, office and maintenance space, a new secondary entrance, polar exhibits and snack kiosks.” Roller coasters and amusement rides were not on the list. In fact, the general manager insisted that roller coasters were not among SeaWorld’s plans for its San Diego park. And he said it over and over and over again.

Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to prevent it, the measure narrowly passed 154,043 “yes” votes to 149,636 “no” votes.

One of the first things SeaWorld built after the ballot measure was approved was the Journey to Atlantis … a roller coaster ride that they claimed was never going to be built.

But the public never got to vote on that or any other project in the SeaWorld leasehold because Measure D, like Measure C, was a blanket exemption to the height limit for a specific area of the Coastal Zone. And because no projects were identified in the actual ballot measure text it was impossible for the public to have a real voice, let alone the ability to hold anyone accountable for not being truthful.

I  believe that the public has a right to know in advance, not after the fact, what is going to be built before approving any height limit exemption in the Coastal Zone. Once that is known, put that development plan on the ballot with details and costs so that voters can make an informed decision.

That’s why when I saw the campaign mailer and read  the ballot argument in favor of Measure C I knew we had been here before. Below are some of my observations about this “new” variation on a theme.

The proponents of Measure C claim that it, “creates more than 2,000 affordable homes legally required to be rented to working families making less than the average income with 500 reserved for veterans and the homeless.”

No, it doesn’t.

There is not one word in the full text of Measure C that requires any affordable housing to be built.

Proponents also claim that Measure C, “adds at least 20 acres of parks and public open space on what is now a parking lot.”

No, it doesn’t. There is not one word in the full text of Measure C that requires any public parks to be built, let alone 20 acres.

The proponents make lots of other claims about how Measure C will create good paying jobs, make overdue infrastructure repairs, and help the Climate Action Plan goals by reducing emissions. And they promise to make  all of this happen without raising taxes!

The problem is that not one word of it is true because none of it is part of the full text of Measure C.

What Measure C does is remove the 30-foot, voter-approved height limit to allow for high-rise development in the Midway-Pacific Highway area of the Coastal Zone. That area is approximately 1,324 acres which includes 88 acres of city-owned public land with approximately 48 of those acres located at the Sports Arena site.

Measure C is not about helping the public get more parkland or creating housing for the homeless or the veterans or fixing the infrastructure or reducing the gas emissions to help the air quality in San Diego.

Below is what the Full Text of Measure C says. It is Section 132.0505 (b) (5).

It says that the height limitation in the Coastal Zone shall not apply to:

(5) that land area of the Coastal Zone within the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area approximately bounded by the San Diego River on the north; San Diego International Airport and Laurel Street on the south; Interstate 5 on the east; and Sports Arena Boulevard, Midway Drive, Kemper Street, Rosecrans Street, and Lytton District, on the west; as more particularly described in Document No. OO-    , a copy of which is on files with the City Clerk.

Nothing else. Just the height exemption. The Measure C proponents can make all the false claims they want because the public will have no way of holding them accountable if Measure C passes.

And for your information, Measure C  is being funded in large part by an October 8, 2022 contribution of $300,00 from Midway Rising, LLC. If that name is not familiar, Midway Rising is the corporation currently having private negotiations with the City of San Diego to obtain the exclusive rights to develop the public land at the current Sports Arena site which is part of the Measure C height exemption. Of course, the public is not invited to attend those meetings.

Is any of this starting to sound familiar to you?

It would be too easy to bring up Ash Street to further make my point about why Measure C deserves your “no” vote so I won’t do that … But to paraphrase Ben Sidran, “With a ballot measure like that, what could possibly go wrong? Brand New Music, Same Old Song.”

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Gravitas October 18, 2022 at 11:10 am

God Bless You, Donna! What a great piece and thanks for telling the truth. I pray it gets widespread coverage!!! I call these untrue ballot items the produce of an unholy and unhealthy alliance. One party rule is not helping.


GML October 18, 2022 at 1:29 pm

This should be required reading before someone is allowed to vote on this measure. Thanks so much Donna.


nostalgic October 18, 2022 at 1:32 pm

I was mostly happy to see Donna Frye again! Oh, Donna, how we miss you!


retired botanist October 18, 2022 at 2:45 pm

Ms. Frye nails it again! Thank you for removing all the dross and boiling down the issue, the ballot, to its verbatim! In reality, it promises, and is held accountable, to nothing but the height limit removal. I also appreciate the comparison to exactly what happened with the Seaworld site (yes, I’m still bitter)…such blatant bait and switch and most of us KNEW it at the time. Someone remind me how the roller coaster remediates sick marine wildlife?
The downtown stadium was yet another example of the same carney showboat- help the homeless, affordable housing, job creation, no burden on taxpayer…honestly, its like a formulaic Hollywood script…I could write this BS in my sleep! San Diegans, OBceans, please insist on better performance and vote NO on Measure C. Thanks!


retired botanist October 18, 2022 at 3:25 pm

Editor dude- I was trying to drill down on the fact that ENAs, by definition, are ‘exclusive’ and don’t embrace the ‘ordinary’ population. :-)


lyle October 18, 2022 at 8:32 pm

retired, I agree with the wonderful article by Donna Frye, but your comment lost me. Please explain (or at least just spell out) “ENA”. I suppose I should know what an “ENA” is, but I don’t. Google did not help.


Chris October 19, 2022 at 3:22 am

European Numchuks Association


retired botanist October 19, 2022 at 8:12 am

Sorry Lyle- that comment sort of lost its connector, a previous comment from someone else that Editor dude removed for other reasons. An ENA is an Exclusive Negotiating Agreement and, if I understand them correctly, means that the nature and details of the ‘proposal’ aren’t shared with the public, and are kept confidential except from the committee (City) that is reviewing the various proposals/bids. So the comment had suggested that “folks” need to become “familiar” with the ENAs, which, unless one is part of whatever group is reviewing them, isn’t possible :-)


Deborah Allen October 18, 2022 at 7:08 pm

Thank you Donna! I hope your message is making it way to other areas around San Diego…


Mat Wahlstrom October 18, 2022 at 8:00 pm

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Donna Frye! As the lawyers always rightly say: get it in writing. Otherwise, all you’re agreeing to is hot air.


William Ladd October 19, 2022 at 11:26 am

Donna Frye is one of the few politicians and former politicians that is unfailingly truthful and trustworthy. She calls it like it is, and she knows the facts.
This should be in every newspaper, TV and radio station, and online news outlet in San Diego.


Judy Swink October 20, 2022 at 8:13 pm

Thank you, Donna. I’ve voted NO on C already.

As for Sea World, despite their ‘misdirection’ to signers of their initiative, they still barely squeaked by, by 0.7%. One thing that we did get out of it, the city subsequently required an actual Sea World Master Plan, indexed to the Mission Bay Park Master Plan so SW must present new projects to the Mission Bay Park Committee well in advance to going for Coastal Commission approval.

Still didn’t get more than a generalized description of their possible future above-30′ attractions planned but at least the Coastal Commission, when it reviewed the new SW Master Plan, required SW to specify what t projects would be, only 1 of which was actually built – the first roller coaster. [The other 2 were to be a parking garage in the sw sector of the parking lot and a new entryway with a tall lighthouse). As we now know, Sea World has continued its transformation into an amusement park.

The original lease of the public parkland was for an “aquatic museum” (Thomas Bros. map 1956). Donna and I fought to get a limitation on that transformation fearing the loss of the educational purpose intended with an “aquatic museum”. This resulted in a Council decision designating 75% for educational attractions and 25% for entertainment (like a roller coaster). The reality has been, however, that every new major attraction has some form of “educational” element, perhaps a series of aquariums to view while standing in line so that 75%/25% ratio is moot.

I’ve kind of gone off topic which is No on C but hope readers will appreciate a bit of SW history. And, as Donna wrote, an initiative that lacks crucial specifics that are promised in a campaign can become anything the powers that be want if the ballot measure passes.


William Ladd October 22, 2022 at 11:25 am

Please note that at a presentation to the public by the 3 remaining companies vying to do a redevelopment project on the Sports Arena site, Jen Campbell did not attend. I believe strongly that this was because she is part of the private back room dealing that has been going on regarding this project, and did not want to be there to answer questions. Linda Lukacs was there. She cares about the people of Point Loma and surrounding areas. Jen Campbell does not. She cares about her political career. Make no mistake, regardless of the extent to which she practiced medicine in the past, she is now first and foremost a career politician, not a doctor. She is not responsive whatsoever to to the interests of people who can’t advance her political career. Naturally, Jen Campbell supports measure C. Please vote against measure C and against Jen Campbell.


Carol Richter October 23, 2022 at 10:21 am

Thank you Donna for verifying what I feared about Measure C. Unfortunately I believe the measure will pass as it only needs 51% and the previous similar measure received over 60%, if my memory serves. Besides D2 some in D1, Hillcrest and the handful of others who actually are willing to investigate, the rest of the city will buy into Gloria’s lies and those of Jen, Chris Cate and the rest of the council who have bought into this scam. How do we educate enough people? (My comments are strictly my opinions.)


Chris October 23, 2022 at 10:51 am

Nearly everyone I know who considers themselves “progressive” and who are under the age of 50 support C. Perhaps a combination of they really and truly belive it will make housing more affordable and but also a “stick it to the Boomers” mentality. They scoff and laugh at the very notion “preserving neighborhood character”, so it’s safe to say they have very different philosophies and values. I hear this all the time in my area. So yes you are probably right that it will end up passing.


Geoff Page October 23, 2022 at 9:30 pm

That’s what I see on Twitter, Chris. It reminds me of when Nixon ran for re-election in 1972. I was a resident assistant in large Michigan State dormitory and the floor I had was full of freshman. They all voted for Nixon because he said he would finally end the Viet Nam war, the same promise he made four years earlier. Now it was, you need to re-elect me to finish ending the war. As soon as he was re-elected he initiated a major bombing attack on the north and all those 18-year-olds were bemoaning having voted for him. They were young and got fooled and I see the same thing with the group you described.


Chris October 24, 2022 at 6:29 am

Very possible.


Jake October 27, 2022 at 12:02 pm

from the responses I’ve seen on San Diego Reddit it sure looks like it will pass – probably because of the belief it will help solve the affordable housing problem as well as a little bit of that “stick it to the boomers” thing.


Gay Burns October 23, 2022 at 10:44 am

Oh Donna how we miss you!


Rick Boyd October 23, 2022 at 8:18 pm

Thank you Donna Frye for continuing to look out for our best interests. This is 100% true. Removing the height restriction is not in favor of the families who live in this area. It serves corporate greed.


Alan Campbell October 24, 2022 at 1:01 pm

I remember well when Sea World made their proposal and Ms. Frye pointed out to the city council that Sea World is a large corporation that knows far ahead what it plans to do, so those vague ideas were automatically nonsense. I have often wondered since then why the council members didn’t see the obvious truth of this. It’s either stupidity or corruption.


Chris October 24, 2022 at 5:14 pm

Both, according to family members who have worded for the city and friends/acquaintances with various people who’ve rotated in and out of city council. Likely the same scenario with most other large cities.


Chris October 24, 2022 at 5:15 pm

Worked, not worded lol.


Maureen Dawson October 25, 2022 at 11:22 am

Thank you, Donna, for telling it like it is! It’s great to get this scoop from one who has participated in local government.


Holly Richardson October 25, 2022 at 12:01 pm

Honest question – how many people in this thread who are No on C are homeowners on the Peninsula?


Sorry not Sorry October 25, 2022 at 12:37 pm

Does that mean that they shouldn’t have a vote or an opinion? My apologies, but, I don’t know why that would matter.


Holly Richardson October 25, 2022 at 12:50 pm

Because this feels like a lot of folks who were lucky enough to buy homes along the coast when property was truly affordable (and now 10x times more valuable than when the purchased it in the 80’s) cheering on pulling that same potential ladder of opportunity for those behind them (their kids and grandkids). Certainly they should have a vote or an opinion, but I wonder how many of these folks have talked to a renter in San Diego in the last decade.


Geoff Page October 25, 2022 at 12:58 pm

That is a narrow minded opinion. My kids are renters. This problem exists all over the country, it is not just unique to San Diego. Lots of housing can still be built under 30 feet in the Sports Arena area. Claiming this is just a bunch of lucky long time homeowners opposing this is a straw man argument.


Mat Wahlstrom October 25, 2022 at 1:00 pm

And there it is. I’ve been criticized for writing against Measure C because I’m a renter in Hillcrest. Now you’re saying those living in the Coastal Height Limit Overlay Zone have an ulterior agenda. (Yet ‘Yes on C’ YIMBYs feel free to weigh in with hot takes from all points on the compass with only their self-importance to qualify them.)

I’d ask if you even live in the City of San Diego, “Holly.” But even if your answer was honest, the question itself is irrelevant. And as your follow-up comment shows, you not only know that, but deployed the concern troll “Honest question” tactic to be intentionally divisive.


Holly Richardson October 25, 2022 at 1:23 pm

“Mat” I do live in San Diego (in the coastal region) and know at least half the people in the Measure C rally that you did in PB (talk about intentionally divisive by the way, all of you know that a height limit raise for PB is not on the ballot, that there are NO beaches in Midway and you’re all leaning into activating the “don’t build anything ever” crowd by having that press conference in PB and not the endless asphalt of the Sports Arena parking lot) and of those that I recognize (and I won’t dox people obviously) are homeowners in the beach communities. All but one of them is under… 55? 60? I’m simply pointing out what none of you like to hear: this is clearly an older homeowner (generally) vs. everyone else situation. I know you don’t want to think of yourselves as the bad guys but get off the comment section of the OB Rag and you’ll find (as Geoff did when he compared removing the height limit to the Holocaust) that young people are furious that you’re stopping them from having the same opportunities that all of you received. Just own it!


Mat Wahlstrom October 25, 2022 at 1:59 pm

Age discrimination is hate speech. Just own it!

And claiming that it’s individual homeowners who are to blame for the lack of affordable housing — rather than the network of corporate landlords, financiers, institutional investors, and big developers — is willful misdirection.

You don’t want to change the system: you just want to take the place of those you think are benefiting.


Chris October 26, 2022 at 12:28 pm

As someone who is now 61 but once upon a time (late teens to mid 20s) could not even fathom having any kind of common ground with anyone past the age of 40, age discrimination to me was an inventible outcome. I’d go so far as to say those of us on the “boomers” years sort of invented it.


Chris October 25, 2022 at 5:43 pm

Rage, anger and fury is what makes Twitter the entertaining (@ times) entity that it can be. All the people angry at Geoff for his usage of Niemöller’s poem and demanding he delete it seem clueless of the fact that the angrier their responses, the more they just open themselves up to mock and ridicule, right or wrong. That’s what makes Twitter Twitter.
So on to the topic. No one denies we need more housing, but even then more housing is no guarantee it will be become more affordable. Housing is not simple economics 101 like so many falsely claim. Not a single one of the Yes on C activist deep down belive it is. Nada, tho they’ll waffle on as if they really belive it. I think the real truth is, they (as in voters) hope it will but know it’s not a for sure. I’ve pointed out many many times there are a significant number of multi housing units (especially in East Village and the uptown neighborhoods) that are sitting more than half empty because they cannot attract new occupants due to the high cost. Every one knows this but again so many Yes on C folks pretend they’ve never heard of this for reason I’ll never understand. So lifting the hight limit is no guarantee that housing will become more affordable and probably will only make it worse. Hey, I actually like small dense housing and like the more small tight urban environment. Maybe it’s from years in the Navy being stationed on ships with 50 of my not so close buddies in one berthing area. Nothing appeals to me less than house maintenance chores and yard work, so I am truly not the big house with a big yard kind of person. Yet so many of these kinds of environments are beyond ridiculous in their cost. The Bay Area, NYC, etc. Developers don’t give two s***s about helping the unhoused and property management companies not going to adjust prices to attract occupants even if they are having problems attracting them. This is common knowledge stuff so why do you think Prop C is going to make any difference?


Geoff Page October 25, 2022 at 9:29 pm

Well said, Chris.


Chris October 25, 2022 at 5:45 pm

So with all that, I would absolutely support C if it would really result in reversing the affordability shortage, but I’m just not convinced it will. Sadly, keeping the hight limit wont change anything either.


Mat Wahlstrom October 25, 2022 at 9:39 pm

But at least keeping it won’t make it worse.


retired botanist October 25, 2022 at 5:55 pm

Holly, I don’t agree. I was a renter in Midway, Golden Hills, Hillcrest, and Ocean Beach over a 25 year period, and I am also in the > 60 category. My brother was also a woodworker who rented in various places around Shelter Island for 35 years. This issue, as much as it is about the “not over 30 height limit”, is also very much about affordable housing, and for those of us who KNOW, the removal of the height limit does nothing to add to the affordable housing crisis….as commented by others per Seaworld, Petco Park, and other ventures that ‘promised” solutions for the “shelter challenged”; its a development formula we’ve all seen, experienced, and been adversely impacted by for several decades. “Young people having the same opp’tys that ‘elders” had”? Are you kidding? Wow, I ask you to wake up, b/c that is not what is at stake here and, conversely, what the “elders/home owners” are actually trying to preserve is coastline and better (public) space for everyone, not just some entitled view from their homeowner living room! Removal of the 30’ height limit is NOT a panacea to a much larger, national crisis. If anything, it simply underwrites more marginalization of the unsheltered…


Geoff Page October 25, 2022 at 9:29 pm

Also well said, retired.


Torri Cable October 26, 2022 at 12:04 am

What Geoff said.


Craig D Rose October 26, 2022 at 6:28 pm

Cheers to Donna Frye, who remains a truth-teller who does her homework and is unafraid to stand up to corporate real estate corporate.

We need affordable housing – of course – and nothing in this measure guarantees that.


Chris October 26, 2022 at 7:03 pm
Paul Webb October 29, 2022 at 11:09 am

Donna Frye’s commentary really places the Prop. C argument in perspective. After the things we have been promised in the past (Seaworld, Petco, etc., etc.), voting yes on C is the very definition of doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. It’s pretty much inevitable that passage of Prop. C will result in Midway looking a lot like Mission Valley, and I don’t necessarily think that is (a) a good thing or (b) will solve the housing affordability crisis.


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