San Diego’s Historic Neighborhoods

by on October 30, 2023 · 0 comments

in History, San Diego


San Diego’s historic neighborhoods represent an essential part of our city’s cultural heritage. They embody a valuable, authentic legacy, providing a tangible connection to the past, ongoing pride and bonds, and a sense of continuity for the future.

Our neighborhoods are now threatened by one gratuitous developer’s bill after another, all seeking to overbuild your community, your street, and putting aside/devaluing a general quality of life that all Americans seek. These bills have a significant negative impact on the historic character and integrity of our neighborhoods and threaten to change the face of San Diego forever.

To be alarmed, if not downright scared, we need only look at California SB 10—the fatally flawed, outrageously punitive to homeowners, and, if adopted, irreversible legislation that was sold as a means to create more affordable housing.

If adopted by the City of San Diego, SB 10 would force increased density where it is not needed on all San Diegans and lead to dramatically increased demolition of historic buildings, loss of green spaces, and increased traffic congestion. Crucial, lasting failings for historic neighborhoods would include displacement of long-time residents and changes in the social fabric. This would seriously undermine the sense of community and cultural heritage associated with these areas. A city needs these qualities to thrive.

SOHO urges San Diegans to be proactive, to take action to preserve these historic neighborhoods and protect them from SB 10’s inherent significant harm and loss, that is in fact happening already. By listing San Diego’s historic neighborhoods as one of the most endangered sites for 2023, SOHO seeks to instill widespread awareness, and mobilize support for their protection.

Recently, the community rose up by the thousands, and stopped SB 10, at least for now. But no one should forget what was attempted. SB 10 would have paved the way for the wholesale destruction of San Diego’s historic neighborhoods, even those that have been designated as local, state, and federal historic landmarks, or are of documented cultural significance.

Of course, we must address San Diego’s housing crisis, but detractors’ accusations that preservation is an obstacle was dismissed by the city’s recent Independent Budget Audit (IBA) report. Attacking preservation has always been a red herring, an untruth told to divide people.

SOHO has provided many feasible solutions for successfully transforming historic resources into affordable housing. Developers and others salivating over potential profits at the expense of your neighborhood, and sometimes not even for actual affordable housing, have ignored our options. Attractive, marketable affordable units do not need to come at the expense of San Diego’s irreplaceable historic neighborhoods and resources. In fact, historic neighborhoods are where much of the city’s most affordable housing already is!

We know from experience, however, that historically significant areas in underserved communities are already the most vulnerable to displacement and destruction from redevelopment. There are many other solutions to the housing crisis that also safeguard our collective heritage and allow for appropriate new development. Providing incentives for developers to build affordable housing by rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of existing buildings, increasing funding for affordable housing programs, and preserving existing affordable housing in historic neighborhoods and resources, are among the successful approaches SOHO advocates.

We all need to pay close attention when governments are permitted to bypass existing zoning and environmental review processes to allow for denser housing projects, including multi-unit buildings and apartment complexes, in areas that were previously designated for single-family homes.

Most new city laws originate from the mayor’s office, which oversees nearly all city departments. But the City Council also has its own lawmaking powers. Four councilmembers—or the council president alone—must support a proposal for it to be brought forward for a vote.

Call to Action Write and call the mayor and your other elected officials to implore them to reject SB 10 and to strengthen the city historic preservation ordinance. And ask every candidate in any election and for every position what their views are on historic neighborhoods, express yours to them, then vote for those who support preservation and cultural heritage.

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