Looking Underneath the Support Experts Give Gloria’s High-Density Plan for Hillcrest

by on November 15, 2023 · 7 comments

in San Diego

By Paul Kruger

At first glance, the results of the Union-Tribune’s “Econometer” published Nov. 10 indicate a 5-3 win among local experts for Mayor Todd Gloria’s proposal to greatly increase housing density in Hillcrest in “Is San Diego on the right course with its Hillcrest density plan?”

Three of the UT’s eight land using/housing/economic experts did reject the Mayor’’s plan, commenting that “20-30 story structures (in Hillcrest) “don’t make sense,” that there’s “no (legitimate) reason why Hillcrest is being singled out for a major increase in density,” and questioning the lack of “sufficient infrastructure, including schools, parking, traffic, public safety, water (and) sewer… to support increased population.”

But what about the five experts who voted “Yes”?

A closer look at their comments confirms they also have serious concerns about encouraging developers to build 20 to 30-story high-rises in a neighborhood dominated by historic homes, courtyard apartments, and newer three-to-seven story buildings.

SDSU economics professor David Ely said “increased housing density in Hillcrest is a positive development,” but offered a strongly-worded caveat. “…an additional 50,000 residents in the area seems overly aggressive,” Ely warned. “Housing construction and population growth cannot outpace the building of transportation and other needed infrastructure.”

USD professor Alan Gin — a go-to expert on the the local economy — qualified his “Yes” vote by stressing that “The plan is a good start, but needs more work in terms of providing the infrastructure (including amenities such as parks and libraries) that is necessary to sustain such a large development.”

Gin’s USD colleague Norm Miller focused on the need for sufficient parking for new development. “Our transit system options do not run frequently enough to simply delete parking requirements and force residents to consider ride-shares or waiting for infrequent public transit.”

MIT-educated business consultant Austin Neudecker said “we need additional development (in Hillcrest), but tempered his “Yes” vote with an acknowledgment that “The current plan feels aggressive and overly dependent on this specific area to burden substantial growth…We should endeavor to increase density responsibly and ensure we build the necessary infrastructure. I would prefer a broader plan spread across more areas.”

Lastly, Scripps Health CEO Chris Van Gorder urged the Mayor and City Council to “…proceed with caution and community input.” Van Gorder embraced high-rise construction as one strategy for providing affordable housing, but added this strongly-worded advice: “Let’s do so with adequate parking and infrastructure to improve, not just congest, the community.”

We must insist that the Mayor, his planning department, and our city council heed that sensible advice of experts who support — in concept — increased density and high-rise construction in Hillcrest.

Our elected and appointed officials must really listen to Hillcrest residents, not just stage phony “public input” sessions that limit discussion and ignore well-researched critiques of initial proposal. Our elected officials must insist that any increase in density include guaranteed funding for additional parks, libraries, water, sewer, and critical infrastructure, an expanded urban tree canopy, and adequate parking that reflects our city’s glaring lack of a functional public transit system.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

chris schultz November 15, 2023 at 2:51 pm

Our elected officials must insist that any increase in density include guaranteed funding for additional parks, libraries, water, sewer, and critical infrastructure, an expanded urban tree canopy, and adequate parking that reflects our city’s glaring lack of a functional public transit system.

Heck, put all that in a 30 story high rise too. Don’t forget police, fire, ambulance, and hospital infrastructure with it. One or two high rises should cover that. Trees can stick out the windows since more will be eradicated by the city’s move to push sidewalk costs onto owners. One building for homeless, one for low rent, and another for short term rentals. Oh, and tanning booths since sunlight will cease to exist.


Paul Webb November 16, 2023 at 9:54 am

It struck me when I read the econometer that those votes in favor of the Hillcrest plan were actually “Yes, but…” responses. Even the mostly pro-development “economists” recognize that the City in general and Hillcrest in particular are woefully lacking in the infrastructure to support the plan – and no real proposals to remedy the deficit.


Ron May November 16, 2023 at 11:04 am

The top priority of the City Council is to develop a longterm City-wide infrastructure program that provides all the services under their umbrella BEFORE insanely approving real estate developer’s dreams that will not well serve those of us who own property and pay taxes into the system. Coercion programs deleting parking facilities outrageously deny tax payers choice in owning cars, be they electric, hybrid or fuel-burners. The reason the City Council is dodging infrastructure planning is they want instant gratification knowing they will term-out on the Council before infrastructure can be developed. This abject failure will never provide affordable housing for those of us who already own our homes. For this reason, we need a new City Council and perhaps a new mayor.


chris schultz November 16, 2023 at 11:10 am

Affordability is stymied by taxes and higher utility rates. Things like trash and insurance will be pass thrus as well. Remember the trash was changed by a vote a year ago. When you sit back and look at the larger picture, I can’t help but shake my head as to what the vision is supposed to be.


Paul Krueger November 16, 2023 at 11:27 am

Thanks very much Frank for posting my article. I hope it spurs some constructive conversation and that people will share it with her friends and neighbors to keep this issue alive. You’re doing great work with the Ocean Beach Rag!


LBruce November 16, 2023 at 1:57 pm

When the planning commission recently recommended removal of SB 10 from the Mayor’s Housing Action Package, chairman Bill Hofman said what San Diego needs first and foremost is an infrastructure strategic plan. He’s right and so is commenter Ron May (above). Urban planning experts Michael Stepner and Cary Lowe also concur, recently writing in the SD Union-Tribune (10/23/23), “Upgraded neighborhood infrastructure must precede any appreciable increase in residents” and “San Diego needs more housing, but city’s ‘shotgun approach’ is doing more harm than good.” Yet discussion of infrastructure improvements are nowhere to be found in any of the city’s pushes for densification. Apparently it doesn’t bring in campaign cash.


a November 19, 2023 at 8:42 am

All men giving their take on the proposed high density project in hillcrest proposed by no other Gloria. why not ask some womyn experts I guarantee their opinions will be more inclined towards community outreach solutions and opinions and not the size of?


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