What’s Wrong With Measure C in the Midway Area Is What’s Wrong With San Diego

by on October 17, 2022 · 11 comments

in Election, Ocean Beach, San Diego

By Mat Wahlstrom / Times of San Diego / October 15, 2022

It’s depressing because predictable that the attempted repeal of the 1972 citizens’ initiative in 2020, which was invalidated by the courts last year, was once again put on the ballot this November as Measure C.

Measure C is a verbatim repeat of the same ballot wording used in 2020, justified by the same flawed environmental review process, even as that decision is still being appealed by the city.

Much like the Convention Center tax that was sold as a homelessness fix in 2020, and also ruled invalid by the courts but approved by the City Council anyway, it’s the result of those in power refusing to accept “no” as an answer to getting what they want.

For those who aren’t aware: Measure C again proposes removing the Midway-Pacific Highway planning area from the 30-foot Coastal Height Limit Overlay Zone, allowing otherwise unlimited heights for all new buildings in this area. We are being told that it is necessary in order to build the affordable housing called for to redevelop the Sports Arena site.

Yet the Sports Arena site is 48 acres; and as city property any redevelopment is required to contain no less than 25% affordable units. But once this is pointed out, proponents pivot to saying it’s necessary in order to build a new Sports Arena. So why doesn’t Measure C focus on that particular site exception, rather than remove protection for the entire 1,324 acres in the Midway planning area?

Because San Diegans are repeatedly being sold the sizzle while developers get the steak.

Over the past several years, we have seen the consequences of deregulating development to rely on the market alone to solve our affordable housing crisis.

Beginning in 2019, the City Council removed all parking requirements from new projects without restriction, in the belief the “$30,000 to $90,000” savings per stall would simply be passed along as lower costs to residents. We can all see how well that isn’t working out.

We’re told that the only way to get affordable housing is by allowing unlimited heights and density. But all we have to show for it are ever more expensive high-rises, with token amounts of small units sandwiched between luxury second homes and corporate and vacation rentals.

Buildings exceeding the 30-foot Coastal Height Limit are already allowed under the State Density Bonus Law, so long as they include affordable housing. (Proponents claim even that process is too onerous, ignoring that every development undergoes a project-by-project review.) Giving up the Coastal Height Limit without conditions removes the only actual requirement that new construction is affordable.

Make no mistake: The repeal of the Coastal Height Limit in “just” the Midway planning area is the camel’s nose under the tent. If they can get away with saying Midway isn’t the coast, when it’s literally reclaimed, liquefiable saltmarsh regularly subject to tidal flooding, what’s left to say about Point Loma, eastern Pacific Beach or the heights of La Jolla?

And it’s difficult not to hear the ugly undertones of racism and classism from Measure C proponents. The most recent demographic data for the Midway area is 12 years old, yet whites were already a minority-majority 47% of the population.

We’re being repeatedly told Midway is “blighted,” which by now should long have been discredited as the dog whistle it is to justify displacement of BIPOC and Latinos for “urban renewal.”

Yes, this area does need attention, as it has been perennially neglected by the city. But what does it say when the only solutions being offered are to remove the constraints for affordability that have made this one of the last affordable neighborhoods left in San Diego?

We need serious solutions from serious leaders, not shiny renderings in place of actual people. Please vote ‘no’ on Measure C.

Mat Wahlstrom is a longtime resident of Hillcrest and community activist and columnist for the OB Rag. He is a member of KeepTheCoast30.

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Tom Bailey October 17, 2022 at 10:01 am

Well written, Mat, thank you. I agree wholeheartedly with the points you made. I’m voting: No on C.


Mat Wahlstrom October 17, 2022 at 11:08 am

Thank you, Tom. I’m hoping there are more like you on November 8!


Frank Gormlie October 17, 2022 at 10:22 am

Mat has been able to encapsulate all the issues flooding around Measure C and why we ought not to vote for it come November. This is worth a read — and check out the links too.


Tanner October 17, 2022 at 11:36 am

Is the author arguing that the entire 48-acre site should be directly developed by the City as some sort of Soviet-style public housing complex? There seems to be a critique of certain, select policy efforts to relax over-regulation that limits the production of housing, framing them as developer giveaways. But, besides opposition to Measure C, I’m not exactly clear on the author’s vision for this site and how we provide housing for current and future San Diegans.


Frank Gormlie October 17, 2022 at 12:46 pm

Talk about throwing out hot-button phrases! “Soviet-style public housing complex”? Really Tanner? So, what I hear you saying is ‘unless you have a solution, shut the f up!’


Tanner October 17, 2022 at 1:13 pm

People use that phrase a lot to talk about giant public housing complexes like the U.S. stopped building in the mid-20th century. Didn’t mean to trigger you, Frank. Feel free to re-read substituting “English-style Council Housing.” Still, I don’t hear much in the way of solutions from the No on C folks. It’s sooo much easier to say no than to offer any workable solutions.


Tanner October 17, 2022 at 1:18 pm
Mat Wahlstrom October 17, 2022 at 4:00 pm

If you’re “not exactly clear,” it’s because either you didn’t read what I wrote or (as is more likely) you’re deliberately pretending not to understand.

And please spare us the McCarthyite red scare tactics: the United States has never been socialist — the failures we see all belong to capitalism.


Sam October 17, 2022 at 6:54 pm

What are you, some sort of paid Fox news troll? Are you sure your name isn’t Tucker?


Chris October 17, 2022 at 7:10 pm

“Is the author arguing that the entire 48-acre site should be directly developed by the City as some sort of Soviet-style public housing complex?”
HTF did you come to that? Whether or not you agree with keeping the 30 ft limit is one thing, but how in the world would you think people who want to keep it as being “pro Soviet style public housing”? Considering Communist Soviet style housing projects were WELL over 30, your question just doesn’t make sense. I’m guessing your just trolling for arguments for the sake of arguing but if what you’re asking is a serious question on your part, all I can say is I’ve seen sharper edges on a bowling ball.


Mat Wahlstrom October 18, 2022 at 3:28 pm

Typical YIMBY, moving the goal posts when called out on your B.S.

You wrote, “developed by the City as some sort of Soviet-style public housing complex.” That’s not making a criticism about ‘architecture,’ that’s making “a critique of certain, select policy efforts to relax over-regulation that limits the production of housing.”

In other words, we just need to follow your directions and let developers do whatever they want. It might come across as more convincing — and less ‘Soviet-style’ — if you weren’t so obviously ridiculous.


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