By 5 to 4 Vote, San Diego City Council Okays Final Approval of 1 Mile Walk to Transit Station and Other ‘Reforms’

by on February 28, 2023 · 16 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

Council President Sean Elo-Rivera

This morning, Tuesday, February 28, the San Diego City Council voted on the final approval of the so-called “Sustainable Development Areas” (Item 57).

Despite deeply informed presentations by Neighbors for a Better San Diego, they passed it with the same 5-4 vote as taken on the first vote of the measure and “reforms” back on February 14.

Councilmember Jennifer Campbell joined councilmembers Joe LaCava, Marni von Wilpert and Raul Campillo in opposing the raft of “reforms” to the building code, including the very controversial rule that allows taller apartment buildings and more backyard units when a property is near mass transit — with that transit line being up to one mile away and which may not even be built until 2035. The previous measurement was a half-mile.

Vivian Moreno

Councilmembers Vivian Moreno, Monica Montgomery Steppe, Stephen Whitburn and Council President Sean Elo-Rivera and newly-sworn in Kent Lee voted for it. All Democrats of course.

Mat Wahlstrom, an occasional OB Rag writer, was present and made the following appropriate comments:

I need to call out the cynical and degrading characterization of ‘Sustainable Development Areas’ as sustainable.

Requiring people to travel more than a half mile to transit isn’t sustainable. Planning only for those who are younger and able isn’t sustainable.

Stephen Whitburn

Increasing density that doesn’t create new units for housing more than one person to live in isn’t sustainable.

Disenfranchising people who are older or infirm or mobility challenged or have families isn’t sustainable.

Multiplying exceptions to existing development requirements and verifiable best practices isn’t sustainable. And piling on incentives for profit without requirements for affordability is absolutely not sustainable.

Monica Montgomery Steppe

The Orwellian appropriation of the name ‘sustainable’ to describe that which is its opposite is clearly the latest shameful confiscation of the terms of social justice, such as equity and inclusion, being used instead to promote the narrow and selfish interests of real estate developers and the politicians who benefit from their campaign contributions.

Kent Lee

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Mat Wahlstrom February 28, 2023 at 12:34 pm

Thanks, Editordude. That’s all I was able to pack into my one minute, but pretty much sums up everything the city is doing.


Chris February 28, 2023 at 5:32 pm

As I’ve commented on in other articles, I agree a whole mile from transit is not realistic in terms of those who would be using transit. My question tho is when you say it’s not “sustainable”, wouldn’t a less mobile person who relies on transit simply opt to live closer to a transit stop? I would assume people in that situation have been doing so all along. Those who can make the mile trek and are willing to live a whole mile will opt for that. I know I’m missing the point.


Vern February 28, 2023 at 5:54 pm

“… wouldn’t a less mobile person who relies on transit simply opt to live closer to a transit stop?…”
Is it that easy?
Do tell, or, at least, provide guidance for all “less mobile persons”.


Chris February 28, 2023 at 7:15 pm

Calm down Vern lol. I was asking a question to get clarification on what Mat meant when he said unsustainable. I would think most people who rely on and use public transit because they don’t drive (whatever the reason might be) already live closer than a mile from the nearest transit stop to them. I think that’s valid question.
As you’ve seen my other posts in other articles you already know I think expanding the half mile to a mile was a bad idea.


Mat Wahlstrom February 28, 2023 at 10:30 pm

Okay. To address your specific question about why the expansion of the acceptable metric of distance to transit from a half mile to a mile is unsustainable:

1. People who rely on transit, and have the choice of where to live in relation to it, also have the competing imperative of affordability. We know that the transit-oriented development that’s already been incentivized replaces existing naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH) with overwhelming luxury housing and the bare minimum units required affordable. And even when these people live in NOAH near transit that isn’t razed, the paper increase in density and thus land value increases rents even in the absence of physical improvements. So those with the ‘choice’ of where to live do so as close as they can they pay, which is usually already over a half mile away. By further increasing that sphere of inflation to areas that are even farther away, without providing the service to justify it, increases the misery of those affected, and so is not sustainable.

2. The point too often overlooked is that the half-mile Transity-Priority Areas (TPAs) were already not set around *existing* transit: they’re placed along *proposed* routes that are *planned* to be developed — by 2050! Replacing half-mile TPAs with full-mile SDAs is building apartments next to castles in the sky.

We’ve already seen that the YIMBY Brigade† want to eliminate ‘redundant’ staircases for fire safety, as impediments to ‘affordable’ development. How much longer before we go back to the 19th Century completely, and argue that prohibiting industrial zoning near schools deprives children of ‘equitable access’ to ’employment opportunities’?

So: how can any of this be considered ‘sustainable’?


Chris March 1, 2023 at 5:11 am

Thank you Mat. That makes sense.


Vern February 28, 2023 at 6:55 pm

Vivian Moreno – SD YIMBY
Sean Elo-Rivera – SD YIMBY
Stephen Whitburn – SD YIMBY
Monica Montgomery Steppe – SD YIMBY
Kent Lee – SD YIMBY

“… The tenets of YIMBYism include: forced densification within urban areas; the eradication of single-family neighborhoods; the deregulation of land-use, including the weakening and/or elimination of environmental protections; the elimination of local, community-based decision-making; and an increase in developer and corporate profits…”
– John Mirisch 2022


Will February 28, 2023 at 9:45 pm

Well stated Mat. Democrats want to ruin good neighborhoods based on their ideological tenet of “equity” – everyone can live in a good neighborhood. This has nothing to do with the word “sustainable” – this is just a political ploy by the left to get more votes from their base, and, more contributions from developers.


Frank Gormlie March 1, 2023 at 7:29 am

This is not a “left” political ploy, Will. Obviously, if you did your count, you would see the Democrats are split.


Mat Wahlstrom March 1, 2023 at 9:03 am

If I had reason to think Republicans would do anything different, I *might* agree. But the YIMBY project was started by the Koch Brothers and Silicon Valley libertarians, and there’s no daylight between Dems and Reps on this issue — as I pointed out in this article,

And if you recall, it was Faulconer who first said, “Together we’re going to transform San Diego into a YIMBY city!”

Both major parties have been co-opted and are equally complicit in choosing money over principle.


Daniel " Fast Danny Diego" Smiechowski March 1, 2023 at 9:24 am

San Diegans are wedded to the two-party system and that is why I quit the Dems after 50 years on the nose! I ran twice for SDCC and oppose all this nonsense set forth by cookie cutter politicians.


Phil March 1, 2023 at 9:42 am

Mat, thank you again for getting to the basic point that more homes aren’t going to make a difference in housing costs. These woke YIMBY idiot kids actually believe this stuff! In fact, here’s a great article about just how wrong they are.


Chris March 1, 2023 at 11:16 am

I’m confused. I agree more homes will not result lower costs, but this WSJ article is that rents have been dropping in all cities even though that’s false. Or is that your point?


Mat Wahlstrom March 1, 2023 at 12:01 pm

I’m well aware of that WSJ article. You want to claim that “Renters with new leases in January paid a median rent that was 3.5% lower than they would have paid last August” as a flex, while ignoring that article also points out the “surge in people searching for apartments lifted rents 25% over two years.” So a 3.5% decrease still means one is paying over 20% more to rent a new unit.

And you pointedly ignore that the article also mentions that the Consumer Price Index shows “Shelter costs were up 7.9% in January compared with the same month a year earlier,” showing that (a) this momentary dip isn’t reflected in rental rates already being paid and (b) that even if it were, any supposed benefit is still being wiped out by other housing cost concerns.

None of this supports the claim that more housing = lower housing costs. It’s not only a Univariate Fallacy, it flies in the face of the lived experience of every person cost-burdened for housing and the unending increases in net homelessness.

It’s deeply unserious, and not even remotely funny.


Chris March 1, 2023 at 9:44 am

Neither YIMBY nor NIMBY follow any specific political leaning. YIMBYs run the full gamut as far as left/right and anywhere in between. Most young YIMBYs in San Diego lean very left socially and even consider themselves progressive, despite libertarian roots in the movement. They truly believe in their heart of hearts that more dense housing will result in an overall lowered cost. The harsh reality I believe and probably most others here is that it’s just not going to work out that way.


Geoff Page March 1, 2023 at 12:21 pm

I am really tired of this argument that we need more housing. If this is true, why is this a problem everywhere in the country? The problem is wildly unrealistic real estate prices all over the country. People buying apartment buildings at ridiculously inflated pricing, have to charge high rent.

I refuse to believe that, all at once, every state in the union suddenly discovered they don’t have enough housing. No, market forces controlled by big money are causing the problem. It is not about the number of housing units, that is a smoke screen for the development industry.

Anyone who pays today’s prices for land, prices that are out of control, and then develops that land has to charge high prices to cover that cost. Anyone who buys an apartment complex has to automatically raise the rents to cover the purchase costs. And everyone else follows.


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