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    “Live somewhere else!” “Come back when you have a mortgage!” “That’s not reality!”

    Those were some of the things people shouted at 23-year-old Clairemont resident Gina Schumacher during a Wednesday town hall meeting after she said she liked the city’s plan to allow more homes and taller buildings around a planned trolley station in the neighborhood.

    There were probably other insults, but it was hard to hear over the chorus of boos.

    It was clear before Schumacher even grabbed the mic that the 300-plus crowd wasn’t on her side. Residents who couldn’t fit in the packed Bay Park Elementary auditorium peered in through windows. Signs saying “Bay Park isn’t Manahattan” and “No to Towers of Terror” dotted the seating area.


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    “Right now, I feel like this room doesn’t want me to live here,” said Schumacher, who said she lives with her parents and rides a bike because she can’t otherwise afford to live in the neighborhood.

    By the time she said that the plan was meant to get people to drive less, to ride bikes and transit and pass one another on the streets, “instead of getting in our cars and going to go to work and be very anti-social people,” the crowd had heard enough.

    It erupted in laughter, followed by the cascading boos that chased her from the stage and followed her out of the room.

    Over two hours of public comment, Schumacher’s was one of two voices in favor of letting developers build projects up to 60-feet tall, instead of the 30-feet currently allowed, at one property next to a planned trolley stop at Clairemont Drive and Morena Boulevard.

    The plan is meant to increase usage of the Mid-Coast trolley extension, a $1.7 billion project expected to be finished by 2018 that would connect Old Town to the jobs center in UTC.

    Besides those two voices, the crowd’s position was clear: Don’t change our community. Don’t hurt our bay views. Don’t increase traffic. Don’t decrease parking. You’ll hurt our property values. You’ll increase crime. You’ll hurt our businesses.

    “Leave us in peace,” one resident said, underlining the neighborhood’s basic request. The setting was anything but peaceful.

    Councilman Ed Harris organized the meeting so residents could sound off on the city’s plan, which had spurred snowballing neighborhood concern in the two weeks since the city presented it to the local planning group.

    But the response is telling – and not just for Clairemont or for this one plan.

    The community outrage makes it clear: It’s one thing for politicians to talk about encouraging development near public transit, and another thing for neighborhoods to accept it.

    That the central notion of the city’s general plan is to foster precisely that sort of development doesn’t mean residents will support it when it approaches their backyards.

    In fact, Harris said demonstrating that opposition is what his meeting accomplished.

    “You heard it from them,” he said. “They’re very concerned.”

    “We’ll see this plan again. So people need to be vigilant … this is a strong neighborhood, and it’s going to stick together,” Harris said.

    The city last week backed off its initial proposal, which included raising the height limit.

    In a memo, Planning Director Bill Fulton said his department would scrap its suggestion to raise the height limit, and “re-evaluate” the recommendation to increase the number of homes that could be built per acre in the area.

    Fulton tried to emphasize those points at the meeting – as well as the fact that the plan in question wouldn’t even reach into most of the nearby residential neighborhoods, but was dismissed by laughter and heckling.

    One concrete suggestion that came from the meeting came from former City Councilwoman Donna Frye, whose surf shop along Morena Boulevard is in a property that would be re-zoned to allow for new, bigger commercial development.

    When the city does its required environmental review for the project, Frye said it should not include the 60-foot option as a possible alternative.

    That way, the Council wouldn’t be able to vote for that option, even if it wanted to.

    “The question is: Will the Planning Department include as part of the (environmental review), an alternatives analysis that includes exceeding the Clairemont 30-foot height limit, and if yes, then what does (Fulton’s) April 23 memo actually mean?” she wrote in a follow-up email.

    Fulton said the environmental review is far off, and that the city hasn’t thought about whether it will include a height limit change as an alternative.

    Harris said city planners should take this proposal to a blighted neighborhood instead.

    “There’s other communities. (Councilwoman) Myrtle Cole’s begging for this kind of attention, begging for this kind of infrastructure and building,” he said, referring to the southeastern Council district served by the trolley’s Orange Line.

    “This isn’t blighted. This is a very vibrant, healthy, family-oriented community.”

      This article relates to: City Council, Growth and Housing, Height Limit, Land Use, Neighborhood Growth, News, Public Transportation, Share, Transit

      Written by Andrew Keatts

      I'm Andrew Keatts, a reporter for Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0529.

      181 comments
      Richard Ross
      Richard Ross subscribermember

      Thank you Cindy Conger for revealing that Ian Epley is an architect as one might have guessed. Obviously he is one that wants more growth so as to sustain his business and let the people of the future deal with the mess that those like him have created. It's the take the money and run gang that will destroy the future sustainability of San Diego.

      Ian Epley
      Ian Epley subscriber

      Sorry Andrew, this is therapeutic.

      barb graham
      barb graham subscriber

      It's true, there are other places that would benefit from raised density, but the low hills overlooking Mission Bay are a uniquely San Diego feature that shouldn't be buried in development and high rises.


      There are plenty of areas of San Diego that lack charm or character, as the city pushed for ridiculous development beginning in the 60s. Locations without the amenity of a view can then worry about crowds, crime and traffic, while repeating the city council mantra, "GROWTH IS GOOOOOD!"

      Ian Epley
      Ian Epley subscriber

      @barb graham Nothing unique about the lo hills of Clairemont overlooking Mission Bay. For instance Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach, Dana Point, the foothills at Malibu, etc., all share the same look and feel. Love where you live, but do not co-0pt the idea of uniqueness.

      Derek Hofmann
      Derek Hofmann subscribermember

      @Jim Jones A majority of people may already share Ian's views, but we'll never know for sure one way or the other unless it's put to a public vote. Remember, a vocal minority isn't a majority.

      Ian Epley
      Ian Epley subscriber

      @Derek Hofmann @Jim Jones  Derek, convincing someone with a 'love it or leave it' view of the world is comparable to trying to move a mountain...possible but very difficult. It's in there libertarian DNA.

      Ian Epley
      Ian Epley subscriber

      @Jim Jones @Derek Hofmann  Jim, completely not my point. My point is instead of emotionally discarding a plan based on a blanket perception of a word, why not work to make a community better by investing  in ideas that will improve infrastructure, traffic, and aesthetics. If you think Clairemont right now is as good as it gets, then we have no dialogue to pursue.

      Derek Hofmann
      Derek Hofmann subscribermember

      @Jim Jones What are you talking about? Who's putting in a slummy six story apartment? Did you make that up?

      barb graham
      barb graham subscriber

      @Ian Epley @barb graham  And what do all those places have in common? They're on the coast, on the bay, near the water. That makes them unique. They're like nowhere else in the entire country. That makes them unique.


      Get a dictionary.

      barb graham
      barb graham subscriber

      @Ian Epley @barb graham  You don't really grasp the meaning of "unique." Coastal California communities are indeed unique, they are a finite resource and no place in America is quite like them.

      You need to look up 'unique' in the dictionary.

      Richard Ross
      Richard Ross subscribermember

      This city keeps talking about increasing density and it makes one wonder are they suffering from it crainialy when they don't consider sustainability. The latest folly is the new water park and fountains next to the county building apparently the draught conditions don't apply there.

      Ian Epley
      Ian Epley subscriber

      @Richard Ross   I am not wondering about your confusion about density and sustainability and sorry you didn't hear about the water reclamation project the county pool implemented.

      Mark Giffin
      Mark Giffin subscribermember

      @Ian Epley @Richard Ross 

      I like the pool but it is going to use and lose a great deal of water regardless. Wonder it that aspect will be reported.


      Ian Epley
      Ian Epley subscriber

      My one wish is that folks quit calling their neighborhoods unique. There is nothing unique about chicken wire and stucco houses planted on a hillside with typical suburban type shops on big arterial streets. In terms of the built environment, I challenge you to give an example of one building in your area that is 'distinctive' or 'unique'. When the the word unique is used it's usually code for tribalism, or NIMBYism, or I've got mine now pull up the drawbridge. No matter how good a leader is if the community views land use with such emotion. disinformation, and hyperbole planning will suffer. We all understand the psychology of people not accepting change. With some folks, in their DNA. But don't take the rest of the community down with you. I agree with your call for being civil, but sometimes design by committee is just plain wrong. If you notice, only far extreme views show up in opposition to these meetings. We live in a society where it is way to easy to say no. It's what's holding San Diego back from becoming a wonderful place to live.

      Derek Hofmann
      Derek Hofmann subscribermember

      @Cindy Conger To a city planner, "adequate" parking means such an overabundance that there's never a shortage, even during peak hours.


      To a developer, "adequate" parking means the amount where the marginal cost (MC) of adding another space equals the marginal revenue (MR) it would bring. This is always less than what the city planner would require, especially where land is expensive like in San Diego.


      And that's only one reason why minimum parking requirements are so wasteful.

      Ducraker
      Ducraker subscriber

      @Derek Hofmann Move to Manila. Population density 111,000+ per sq. mile. No waste there Derek. Jim and I will help you pack.

      Ian Epley
      Ian Epley subscriber

      @Cindy Conger  To answer your question and to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, because there is no there, there. When people get fired up about their communities they usually come into the argument with I know it's cr*p but it's my cr*p, dammit. I get it, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but just close your eyes and imagine a neighborhood that is walk-able, pedestrian friendly, where you live close to your job, with a beautiful built environment and plenty of open space. Yes, I'll have some more of that. Architects are striving to make it better not to push for more. We are taught to be problem solvers. The list is long of projects that people were vehemently opposed to but would now defend. I find it curious that most folks do not understand density or smart growth but sure have a strong opinion about it. Isn't it always about balance, build a little higher but provide more open space. 


      Cindy, you seem to embrace an either/or mentality about land use policy. If density is increased then there is more, fill-in-the-blank.  If communities are not part of the dialogue, neighborhoods will suffer, and so on. Every jurisdiction in San Diego has community input and involvement, save 'right to build' projects. We need to get in a frame of mind of getting what we want instead of 'stopping what we don't want'. It's a whole different attitude and mindset. We have become complacent about complaining about an auto-centric society, dare I say even embracing it. That is not sustainable, just like suburbs are proving to unsustainable. If you think of developers as a partners in a dialogue and not vilify them as the enemy wonderful things can happen. And despite your cynicism i don't think you really believe we think in terms of density at all costs, that's just absurd.

      Ian Epley
      Ian Epley subscriber

      @Ducraker  Again, the love it or leave it attitude is not productive. Not to mention the fact that the density you speak of is poorly, nay, is lacking of design. 

      Derek Hofmann
      Derek Hofmann subscribermember

      @Ducraker I think Nice, France (12,000/sq mi) or our sister city of Yokohama, Japan (44,000/sq mi) would be a better model to emulate.

      barb graham
      barb graham subscriber

      @Ian Epley  So how many low hills ringing a lovely bay do YOU know of? Are they that common that this feature is not unique? 


      Apparently you seem stuck on the concept that "unique" is a label only given to architecture? It's not. Mission Bay is unique. You're just special. See the difference?

      barb graham
      barb graham subscriber

      @Ian Epley @Jim Jones  Did you miss the whole point of preserving neighborhoods and not making San Diego into Manhattan? Or more accurately, Miami Beach, with a thin crust of commercial highrises blocking the sun and the beach views from the resident peasants who live there?


      Growth isn't good and we don't HAVE to accommodate new people migrating into our area. We don't have to, and we shouldn't.


      We're a desert. Water is about to get real important here. So, love it or leave it, but leave it alone. We like it the way it is. 

      Derek Hofmann
      Derek Hofmann subscribermember

      @barb graham "Growth isn't good..."

      So you're in favor of a one-child policy? Because like it or not, there's really no other peaceful way to prevent growth.

      "We like [the desert] the way it is."

      How can anybody know that if it isn't put to a public vote?

      Ian Epley
      Ian Epley subscriber

      @barb graham Where to start? 1. San Diego will never be Manhattan or Miami. I don't even know what you mean with that statement. 2. Smart growth IS good if done smartly. 3. Forget about migration, we HAVE to accommodate new people because they are born and raised to people already living here, (not everyone should live with their parents). 4. Water is already important here. And more should be done about reclamation, conservation, and projects like the desalination plant coming on line in Carlsbad, (with climate change and rising ocean levels, we will have plenty of salt water.


      I don't know the WE your talking about, but your misguided 'I've got mine, now pull up the drawbridge' view on Land Use is irrelevant and has no place in the dialogue. I do not know what life experience has led you to your views, but I sincerely hope you join the land of reason. I apologize for the snark.

      barb graham
      barb graham subscriber

      @Ian Epley @barb graham  And yet they are finite in number and should be available for all to enjoy, not just the condo dwellers in the towers blocking the view and sun.


      Finite in number. Seen Coronado? You know those massive apartment complexes that haven't increased in number?


      It's because someone with vision perceived that, left unchecked, our coast would be lined with a solid wall of high rises.


      Why would you support that?

      Derek Hofmann
      Derek Hofmann subscribermember

      @barb graham It's better to correct the market failure by internalizing externalities than to ban things you don't want, if you understand what externalities are and you support freedom and a free market.

      Mark Giffin
      Mark Giffin subscribermember

      @Ian Epley  

      Ian. Not everyone is pro growth in San Diego. Not everyone wants more people coming in.

      That perspective is very much part of the land use dialogue whether you think it is or not.

      Would love to see a survey that asks the question "Is the current population San Diego to big for the region?"

      PBOly
      PBOly subscriber

      @Ian Epley I agree with a lot of your statement here except I think a great leader could take us through this by looking past how things are and seeing how they ought to be with a vision, communicate that vision effectively and then having the courage to make tough decisions and be accountable for those decisions.   If I see a great leader emerge in all this they will certainly have my support. 

      BTW, I live in the PB/MB area and I think our community has a unique character that makes it attractive to many but we should certainly embrace changes to make it more liveable and a better place to visit.  I also appreciate the character of the Bay Park community and I think there is a wonderful opportunity for the community with the coming of the trolley.  It is not often you have civic leaders ready to invest in your community.  Somehow the community needs to come together and take advantage of this. 

      Ian Epley
      Ian Epley subscriber

      @Jim Jones @Ian Epley  I will agree that San Diego has the best weather. I do not know how to respond to your broad-brush statement 'the things that are annoying are the people who want to change it to be more like LA.' Are you talking about the people? the built environment? LA is a big place with some fantastic neighborhoods and others not so much. Be more specific.

      So, if I get you straight, any money spent on mass transit to relieve our auto-centric society of congestion is a waste? Hmmmn. Glad you are not a policy maker. As far as developers always ending up the scapegoat, (Big corporations can make plenty of money but Oh those evil developers....that create jobs and pump money through dif fees back into the economy), I will put any one of their 'claptrap' housing units compared to the substandard post-war hosing that is Clairemont. I would understand that you do not care for the aesthetics of their buildings but codes and regs are so improved. Claptraps they are not. I am so tired of a 'love it or leave it' attitude.  My family, business, and roots are here. I do not walk away, I make it better. Judging by your TeaParty Co-opted logo I am guessing you are a libertarian with a "I've got mine now fend for yourself' philosophy. So I bet Haiti or Somali must look good to you... you know, every man for himself. 

      Ian Epley
      Ian Epley subscriber

      @PBOly @Ian Epley  I appreciate your acceptance of change and vision. My main point was that some people are so extreme in their myopic world that any change is unacceptable and no leader can turn that opinion around. And I agree that there is a lack of leadership in this town due to most elected officials are go along to get along politicians. So when a few activists bark they back down and acquiesce to minority opinion.


      PS. Please try to articulate what you mean by unique character. I do not see it. 

      Cindy Conger
      Cindy Conger subscriber

      @Ian Epley And you say this as an architect?  That likes living in cramped quarters?  Or one that can take the Zoning that IS there & develop it to take advantage of the 30 foot height limit?  We all already Have a Denser Development, at Morena Blvd./Napa St.  It's still under or at 30 feet.  Why must some architects Always Push for More?  To go Beyond what Is There? 

      Unfortunately, because there Is a problem with parking (way too Small spots), one of the 'community's' favorite places to Invest (many former city employees) their funding, was 'advised to move'  from their nearby, owned location a block away and the SDMCU is now GONE, as local residents of Clairemont, Linda Vista, Bay Park...didn't come there anymore, because of it. Many 'members' took their funds to a closer, smarter banking institution, one not so 'connected with the decisions of the Planning Dept.'  that seem to 'have their own ideas' instead of Asking the Local Communities, first!  Even as an younger, outside the area visitor, I found it far too difficult to find parking many times or to 'park' there.  That is Why, according to N.A.R., who's publication is Not Called "Smart Growth", but On Common Ground-and shows 'What Works" across the Country, does look at 'Asking the Community First" BEFORE putting in Density.  Developers and Architects across the Country have 'Abused the definition' of 'Smart Growth'...it is now just 'density, at all costs', to be able to make a bigger profit!

      peggyo
      peggyo subscriber

      @Jim Jones There really is no need to be so ugly in your responses. Why can't you allow people a civilized conversation?


      I happen to be 58 years old, not a native of SD, I moved here at six weeks old. But, I would love to see improvements made to the Morena corridor. You may think it's some kind of garden spot but I'd venture to guess most people would just laugh at that description.

      Jim Neri
      Jim Neri subscribermember

      "rats" are people who turn on each other. to have civil discourse on any subject we need to be respectful of those we disagree with. telling someone who doesn't share your views to move is not democratic (or republican).

      Clark
      Clark subscriber

      The woman who was commenting Ms. Schumacher is the daughter of Dave Schumacher the principal planner at SANDAG. Am I the only one who smells a rat? No one is saying we aren't for change but let's make it with common sense not cramming it down our throats! The study calls for up to 4,718 NEW dwelling units. If you want that kind of change then move to Miami!

      raysmith45
      raysmith45 subscriber

      @Clark  That's 4718 units at the empty lot where Keils and Jack-in-the-Box was. are they going to build similar units at the Tecolote stop where the nursery is?, another 4,700 + units.

      And when Keils lease runs out up on the hill are they going to put in more units up there as I have heard? Let's say roughly 15, 000 units which translates to about 30,000 more folks. Things would get a little crowded in little Bay Park.

      PBOly
      PBOly subscriber

      Civic engagement is very important for issues like this.  The challenge for our leaders is to be just that.  Unfortunately, our leaders usually listen to the people that scream the loudest rather consider all public opinion together with a knowledge of overall public good that a great leader should possess.


      Having said that...one of the great things about our varied communities in San Diego is that each has it's unique character.  People are attracted to the communities they most closely relate to and the attributes thereby continue.  One community may welcome change such as a trolley stop and opportunities for transit oriented developments and another might want to change nothing.  Certainly, not everyone will agree and that is why we need great leaders.   

      Ian Epley
      Ian Epley subscriber

      @barb graham There is nothing wrong with me. OK, maybe a couple things but I'm working those out, :) By region do mean any coastal area in the world?

      Ian Epley
      Ian Epley subscriber

      @PBOly  My one wish is that folks quit calling their neighborhoods unique. There is nothing unique about chicken wire and stucco houses planted on a hillside with typical suburban type shops on big arterial streets. In terms of the built environment, I challenge you to give an example of one building in your area that is 'distinctive' or 'unique'. When the the word unique is used it's usually code for tribalism, or NIMBYism, or I've got mine now pull up the drawbridge. No matter how good a leader is if the community views land use with such emotion. disinformation, and hyperbole planning will suffer. We all understand the psychology of people not accepting change. With some folks, in their DNA. But don't take the rest of the community down with you. I agree with your call for being civil, but sometimes design by committee is just plain wrong. If you notice, only far extreme views show up in opposition to these meetings. We live in a society where it is way to easy to say no. It's what's holding San Diego back from becoming a wonderful place to live.

      Walt Brewer
      Walt Brewer subscribermember

      @ Landmark.

      For severa years, SANDAG's options for more mass transit in the mid-coasticorridor included bus augmentation instead of the trolley. For less than 20% cost it would require less community modification, and sevice more locations for access.

      Did your Planning Group consider this option, and wat was the reaction?

      landark
      landark subscriber

      I lived at the top of the hill on Blackfoot Ave for 18 years and served on the Clairemont Mesa Planning Group as a member and vice chair for 10 years from 1988 - 2006.  The trolley stations have been a part of MTDB (now MTS) since the mid-1980's. I read and commented on the EIR and noted many aspects of the project that I thought could be done better and / or different.  One of the important components that I thought was critical was the redevelopment of the former Vons / Action Thrift Store property since it is a 'gateway' into the community and as it sits is an eye sore and a missed opportunity to improve the neighborhood (this is where the nay sayer's want to jump in an argue about the corrupt politicians and developers screwing over the community in the name of profit).  Now that the funding is going to be earmarked and the phasing finally getting to the Mid-Coast Rail extension, the potential to re-develop and improve the neighborhood is now.  Quit screaming down people who want to participate and that attempt to voice an opinion and get involved in making a difference - not arguing that the status quo is the best option because it isn't. Bay Park is an incredible neighborhood and one of the best locations in the entire City of San Diego - but it is mostly tried and showing it's age. Work with the City and MTS to get the best design and improvements possible.  The trolley is a regional asset that will service both the Bay Park community and the regional asset of Mission Bay Park and points northward.  The entire center property on Clairemont Drive and Morena should be considered for a project similar to Del Mar Plaza as a stepped development that creates plaza spaces for the patrons and residents and create view opportunities. If you've been around long enough you would remember the Big Bear market and little storefronts that were there before the Plaza was designed and developed.  Who in the community thinks that this type of project would be a bad idea compared to the car storage that is now occurring? The hillside rises so fast after Denver Avenue, that a few properties would be impacted by the mass of the project, mainly the homes behind the Shell Station.  Get your head out of the sand and make something positive happen!

      Elyse Lowe
      Elyse Lowe subscribermember

      I could not agree with you more. I moved into this neighborhood because of the trolley extension, and am excited about the positive change that it will generate.

      Cindy Conger
      Cindy Conger subscriber

      @Elyse Lowe And you've worked for? and with members of housing development corporations?  and the City of San Diego?  How many well advertised, using all the local 'social media' as well as 'old style medias', as an 'advocate' for 'Outreach' actual 'PTA's, School Cluster meetings, Kiwaniis, Lions or community groups in Clairemont/Bay Park did you 'present' at?