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    Marco Gonzalez is calling out his friends again.

    One of the most high-profile environmental attorneys and activists in town — whose name broke out of his field last year when he was one of three major figures to call for Mayor Bob Filner’s resignation — fired a salvo against community opposition to new development projects.

    Neighborhoods that line up against dense development projects are motivated by selfishness and closet racism, he said, at a panel discussion I hosted last week on dense housing as part of the San Diego Housing Federation’s annual conference.

    “It’s an interesting backdrop to practice law after 17 years being the community activist guy,” he said, “when I have to turn to my former clients and activists and call bullshit. And yeah, we use those terms because, frankly, when you get out of the public sphere, and you listen to what these people are saying, what they’re saying is, ‘I got mine, I have no responsibility to provide for them.’ And when the lights are really low, and the groups are really small, it’s, ‘Don’t bring the brown people here, don’t let the poor people in, let’s build a big gate around our little castle, because it’s really nice and pretty and we don’t want them to mess it up.’ And that’s what I’m fighting.”


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    Gonzalez, a principal of Coast Law Group, is no one’s idea of a conservative, or a pro-developer shill. He’s spent years fighting sprawl into San Diego’s backcountry, and played a role in a big court victory over the county’s planning agency, SANDAG, for its long-term transportation plan, which a judge agreed violates state law by favoring highway construction over public-transit projects.

    Gonzalez didn’t refer to any projects or activists in particular, but two recent instances were mentioned in panel materials: Encinitas voters recently approved a Proposition A, giving themselves the right to vote down future development projects. And in San Diego, a proposal to build dense housing near a new planned trolley stop along Morena Boulevard, in Bay Park, ran into vocal community opposition this spring.

    Here are other portions of Gonzalez’s comments, which underscore an emerging fissure in the liberal coalition between those who favor the creation of environmentally friendly, middle-class housing along transportation corridors, and those who oppose wealthy developers imposing themselves on existing communities.

    What I want to talk about today is what I’ve seen in the communities that have fought these projects. Because, you know, there is the perception that we have become more enlightened, in terms of our citizenry, in terms of our views of social justice. But I’ll tell you what has been astounding to me. It is that, the “community character” argument is the most powerful sword being thrown up by communities who really don’t want brown people, who really don’t want poor people, who really don’t want to see a development come into their neighborhood because they’ve got theirs, and they don’t care if someone else can’t get the same thing. They don’t want old people to have a place to retire, they don’t want young people to have a place to live near the coast, and they simply say, ‘Wait, I can argue this nebulous concept of community character, and in certain circumstances our elected officials… become weathervanes and not compasses.

    And that’s frustrating, and I’ll tell you what, as an environmentalist who came into this profession to stop the loss of the backcountry that I grew up in in North County San Diego, it was relatively easy to go out and fight sprawl development. Not easy in the cases with the county and the judges that we had to fight, it was never easy, but from a personal integrity standpoint, it was easy to be a naysayer, it was easy to go out there and say, ‘Hey, acres and acres of red tile roofs, long distances from transit, long vehicle miles to get to urban city centers, and the bleeding of our urban tax dollars out to the suburbs, all of that is bad.’

    But at some point, we had to develop a set of presumptions that applied to our already developed areas. From within the environmental community I thought it was important for us to say, ‘If we’re going to fight sprawl, we have to incentivize infill’ (dense projects within already-developed areas). So we had to ask ourselves some tough questions, and what I’m doing now at this point in my career is asking those people who used to be my clients, those activists, those community-character-spouting residents, to really address these presumptions.

    The first presumption is growth. Will growth occur? I think it will. Whether you believe SANDAG’s projections, whether you think it’ll come from across the border, from babies being born, from Michigan and Wyoming and the places where people love to come from, growth will occur, especially along our coastline, and the question is, what obligation do you have in a city like Encinitas, Solana Beach, Del Mar, Carlsbad, even La Jolla, to accommodate some portion of that growth? And what I oppose is the notion that my former clients and my former base say ‘We have none, because we’ve got ours and we don’t have to provide anything for anyone else.’

    My presumption is infill is better than sprawl. It seems like a no-brainer, but when you talk to environmentalists who live on the coast about how we’re going to infill that community, they say, ‘Screw it, we’d rather have sprawl because frankly we’ll hang out on the beach, and we don’t go to the backcountry anymore anyways.’ They won’t actually say that, but that’s what they say when I’m not around.

    And then, as I mentioned earlier, the presumption is, if you’re an elected official, part of your job is to turn to that loud minority that will stand before you every month or every week and call you a crook and call you bought off, and turn to them and say, ‘hey, there is a bigger community, there are social issues and there are economic issues that I must balance against your loud voice, and pick a direction.’ Take a direction that is going to give you responsibility, whether it’s a legal responsibility… or whether it’s a moral responsibility to provide a place for the people who came up in your community, to come back to after school, or when their kids leave for school and they want to leave their mansion on the hill and find a nice townhome or condo, and have a vibrant downtown to work and play in.

      This article relates to: Community Plans, Growth and Housing, Land Use, Neighborhood Growth, News, Share

      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.

      142 comments
      Walt Brewer
      Walt Brewer subscribermember

      Belated:

      Mr. Gonzales’ Backyard Characterization:

      Give me a home where Bull Cattle roam

      And clean air so kids all day can play

      I want to roam, whatever dense city folk suffer mass transit all day.

      But let’s get rational to overcome damage by flawed Senate Bill 375, and one size fits all management of public participation.

      Sb375 correctly calls for professional; WHAT air quality values by 2035. But breaks management rules also to dictate HOW to achieve them. Compounded by inadequate public participation, and early stage “sale” of an ideological Regional Plan not supported by analysis.

      Good management would iterate HOW-to options for communities’ all factors plan consistent with the Region’s growth.

      As plan specifics emerge, communities would feel a meaningful part of the process, including Regional needs, instead of a dictated activist Plan.

      “Those people issues? Wouldn’t there be in back country?

      Cindy Conger
      Cindy Conger subscriber

      The real discussion should be Transportation systems for San Diego County, Transit and our 'missing' long term Revenue source that is about to be given, by its 'politicians' and 'hidden investors' (albeit from other cities, Billionaires & local LLCs)- $500,000,000. ANNUALLY of San Diego's lost revenues - to a Foreign Country.

      Cindy Conger
      Cindy Conger subscriber

      Where do the folks 'live' who are pushing for 'density' in areas that are already dense? Why?  Isn't it less expensive for developers to 'build in already developed areas', where there already is 'infrastructure' (albeit, insufficient-for increased density!)?  Why are those developers not charged for missing infrastructure costs and strains?  Where are the increased schools, recreation facilities, parking, parks for such 'increased density?' Who really 'benefits?'  Those who live in outlying areas and developers at the deficit of quality of living, property values, noise, traffic and 'crowding' to those existing in the already 'more dense' areas? Coastal areas will Always be more 'in demand' and thereby Expensive to live in.  This appears to be another socialist attempt at 'equalizing income.'  To look at who Doesn't the discussion of Who is really 'pushing density,' one must look at where the money goes when Density is Increased, at it's development?' 

      Art Lewellan
      Art Lewellan subscriber

      A rule of thumb to follow regarding density: Density without (economic) diversity backfires. Infill TODs solely dedicated to housing, increases travel demand beyond transit (and roadway) capacity. Infill development that complements housing with occupations, services, amenities, etc, reduces travel distance from home, thus improves access via transit, walking, bicycling,... and driving.

      Regional transit via light rail is fundamental transport. Bus technology hasn't advanced since low-floor models became the standard 20 years ago. We're long overdue for low-floor paratransit van models, ideally with plug-in hybrid drivetrains to serve seniors and disabled. This type of bus is also ideal for many local routes that connect to LRT stations. The 40' standard bus is not designed for stop-n-go operation.

      Art Lewellan
      Art Lewellan subscriber

      Transit centers at LRT stations need at least one short line circulator bus route running at ~5 minute frequency to affect convenient LRT/Bus transfers. Development potential increases along such circulator bus routes. Parking along their routes increases their use for activities other than transit access. Options for LRT routes increase: When a proposed LRT route cannot be built without high cost and impact, simpler LRT routes become possible when circulator bus routes affect convenient transfers to serve existing and potential development.

      The EV technology with the most potential to fit this development paradigm is, wait for it, the Plug-in Hybrid, not the all-electric Nissan Leaf or Tesla coupe. Counter-intuitively, plug-in hybrids have far more potential to reduce fuel/energy consumption.

      Manny Chen
      Manny Chen subscriber

       yeah, NIMBYs know no political affiliation.


      while it is certainly annoying to live next to a construction site for a few years, i still don't understand people's opposition to development on certain occasions.  I have to imagine that in some instances, the NIMBYs' property values will go UP, but they still fight development.


      On the flip side, most development is done poorly (wood of all materials, lol) with no concern for the environment.  I get that.  There is always blatant corruption that precedes and follows.


      San Diego is a terribly designed town.  We need more density and more public transit.  We will probably get neither.

      Manny Chen
      Manny Chen subscriber

      also, "affordable housing" and Southern California don't belong in the same sentence.  who can afford buy a home here anyways?  where are the jobs?

      Richard Ross
      Richard Ross subscribermember

      Manny you got it half right....we do need more public transit like they have in Philadelphia, New York city and Chicago for rour existing population, however we don't need to encourage unsustainable population density increase.

      James LaMattery
      James LaMattery subscriber

      Call us ‘racists,’ or take the time to understand us…


      Too Busy Paying the Mortgage


      Control and power over city affairs has been in the hands of those who aren’t so busy paying their mortgages that they have time to be participants in the planning process or by those whose income is fueled by it. Private interests will always be at the forefront of pushing growth because a city is built by private interests. I don’t bemoan this fact as much as I do the fact that residents of each community must participate in order to achieve goals that are good for all. The process of getting all interested parties to participate takes time. This process is underway in our Community Plan Area, so those that have watched closely have been unable to sideline our intents as “NIMBYISM,” “Racism,” or “No-Growthers.”


      The “Local Level” is Changing


      The City of San Diego’s Planning Process Manual makes much about public participation and input. The job of getting the public to participate has been, and always will be, the job of that very same “public.” This is what is underway in the Morena District—even though we have been labeled by media and others who either haven’t listened to us, or had an interest is portraying us as one-sided. With the advent of social media and technologies that can gather input from residents, the landscape of who has had control in the planning process is changing from the powerful few to a closer “majority.”  When I created Raise The Balloon, this was the primary function—to raise the local resident’ awareness of the City’s proposals—to engage more participants. What has come out of that effort is a large body of residents now involved with creating our own Community Initiated Amendments.


      The Current “Players”


      The planning process has been controlled by powerful private land-based growth interests because they are the ones that make application for development projects.  It has been controlled by powerful political agendas to increase density in the name of diversifying our neighborhoods, reducing carbon emissions, and providing affordable housing. Both have made for strange bedfellows—in fact, I can’t think of an issue (density) where more Republicans and Democrats have slept so well together. But note, our residents, made up of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents have also been easily banded together to look closely at what the City is proposing for our neighborhoods and taking proactive steps to insure that when density is applied, it has all of the other elements (besides buildings) come along with it, for example, a Green Area Ratio that will implement the other goals proffered by the Mayor’s Climate Action Plan, and the 2008 General and Regional Comprehensive Plans. Density (building more buildings) is the only portion of those visions and goals from the above that are being pushed by, well you guessed it, builders! Can you blame them? They are profit-making entities that answer to shareholders.


      No More of the Same Old Thing


      What we are discovering from the input coming from our residents is that they are more opposed to the ‘same old thing’ mentality of builders than they are to density itself. Maybe an illustration might help:

      Recently, Ryan Green of Ryland Homes, and Dan Rehm of Hunsaker Associates (both big state and countrywide developers) presented a preliminary proposal to our local Community Planning Group meeting for 54 new single family homes to be built on the previous Stevenson Elementary School site.

      What was presented was the ‘same old thing.’ Large 2200-3200 square foot homes will be built on an average of 5000 square foot lots. The builders are trying to ‘figure out’ a way to include 3-car garages. When asked about walkability, the answer was, “well we are installing sidewalks.”

      Nothing except density (buildings) was taken from the goals and visions of the General and Regional Plans or the Mayor’s Climate Action Plan. Nothing about bioretention, green roofs, permeable paving, enhanced tree growth systems, harvested stormwater, vegetated walls, or sustainable native plants were discussed. Like all of the other builders in town, no provision for including low voltage and low water usage landscaping systems will be provided. This is because San Diego has no Green Area Ratio—even though much is spoken about the above in the Plans and the CAP. Residents want ‘teeth’ in the CAP that means more than mandating transit oriented development (buildings). Who likes looking at a poor soul with only one tooth in their head? The other ‘teeth’ in the CAP relate to sustainability, controlling the ‘heat island’ effect, green areas, walkability, bikeability, etc. We want any new development to be a broad, fully toothed “smile.” When landscaping is left to the homebuyers to install, sub-standard water wasting systems prevail or front and backyards are left barren and underutilized. Builders should be required to build in complete landscaping systems scored appropriately with a green area ratio scorecard, just as is the case of Washington, DC.


      America’s Finest City


      Any new development in our community, transit oriented or not, should be built ‘better,’ not ‘bigger.’ I’m a full-time real estate broker and from my experience, what sells one home over the other is not necessarily size. If only the density (buildings) portion of our Plans and CAP are to be realized today, hoping for tomorrow to complete the other goals and visions is like waiting for the buyer, who could barely afford the purchase of the new single family home in the first place, to be expected to immediately install some decent landscaping. Density must come along with the other amenities of sustainability—such as a Green Area Ratio, or it must wait.  This is what we are hearing from our residents; build it right, or don’t build it at all.


      James LaMattery/ Spokesperson Raise The Balloon

      Janet O'Dea
      Janet O'Dea subscriber

      I served on the Uptown Planners Community planning group for eight years but never saw Mr. Gonzales at any our meetings while we struggled with city policies and our community plan to retain our community character.  I was offended by his generalizations and accusations.


      Mr. Gonzales  is using  a race card to get lots of attention yet is  completely wrong on this topic and it is alarming to asy the least in our older communities.   Perhaps he does not  clearly understand the nuances of the issues.   Historic sites being demolished, not enough parks per capita, not enough parking,  bike and pedestrian conflicts, shadows over buildings, when the high-rise goes up next store...etc.


      What he may find at the community planning meetings are real efforts for established communities to be what they are and who they are; to retain the cultural identity that sometimes is hard to put into words but resonates with San Diegans as that place that they call home. 


      Community character is not a bad word or code word.  Character is  the word used in these planning meetings to help us articulate the sensation or overall feeling you get when you are in the neighborhood. Some communities still have it and others are struggling to hold on to it.  That recognition of the place actually defines our communities and those of us who live in Uptown, North Park and Golden Hill areas are working very hard to find a balance within city policies to preserve the feelings here  (or characteristics) so they won't be obliterated.  As we are now working on our community plans.


      I never was invited to any back room covert meetings and think those comments are completely unjustified and really renounce any credibility that Mr. Gonzales has on this topic.  The meetings are open to the public and subject to the Brown Act. What he would find had he been present at the meetings is that irresponsible infill development  has been happening in our areas like Uptown and North Park. And by the way, these areas have already had significant infill development. Citizens in these communities are determined not to allow reckless removal of our cultural identity and are addressing it within the community planning process, like adults would.  


      Our areas are over 100 years old and that is part of San Diego's collective history. The citizens who live in the older parts of San Diego appreciate it and the areas  deserve preservation and conservation for ourselves and for future generations.  I hope that Mr. Gonzales will be more thoughtful in the future.

      Derek Hofmann
      Derek Hofmann subscribermember

      @Janet O'Dea It's interesting how you use the words "not enough parking" when talking about community character. Planners seem to think parking should be so abundant that it can't all be given away for free. Isn't this the definition of "trash"?

      Janet O'Dea
      Janet O'Dea subscriber

      @Derek Hofmann @Janet O'Dea There are a myriad of issues that impact the quality of life in our older communities.  Parking is a reality that impacts our local business communities.  Without thriving local business communities, the character of the community is challenged....it is a bit more nuanced and complicated when you drill down into the details.  These are details that are reviewed at community planning meetings.


      Derek Hofmann
      Derek Hofmann subscribermember

      @Janet O'Dea Believe it or not, businesses will provide the economically optimal (MR=MC) amount of parking for their customers if planners and zoning laws will get out of the way and stop forcing them to build more than the market wants. So "not enough parking" doesn't exist in San Diego any more than "not enough trash."

      Richard Ross
      Richard Ross subscribermember

      While Marco has many positive attributes he appears to suffer from "Cranial Density" when it comes to sustainability. The world cannot sustain infinite population growth. Here in California we are already suffering from draught. Desalinization will not solve the problem nor will recycled water. Taking water from the farming areas will not only raise the price of food it will reduce it's availability.

      Increasing population density will also increase criminal activity as witnessed in older cities across the country.

      Sharon Gehl
      Sharon Gehl subscribermember

      @Richard Ross 

      There are many ways of dealing with the water supply. Building multifamily housing rather than more suburban housing tracts is one of the best, because people in apartments and condos use less water per person than those in single family housing.

      Crime isn’t about density. The state with the highest rate of reported rape is low density Alaska. http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/03/opinion/sutter-alaska-rape-list/  

      Richard Ross
      Richard Ross subscribermember

      Sharon you need to look up the history of Cabrini-Green in Chicago and Pruitt-Igoe projects in St. Louis to see how flawed your statement is about density and crime. As for your comment about water it is just as flawed... if you increase the number of people consuming water it makes no difference if they live in a housing tract or an apartment building. The landscaping in a single family home does impact water consumption but a high rise condo or apartment building holds more people which would increase water consumption.

      Sharon Gehl
      Sharon Gehl subscribermember

      @Richard Ross 

      Living in apartments or condos does not turn people into criminals any more than living in single family homes makes them law abiding. The problems at Cabrini-Green in Chicago and Pruitt-Igoe projects in St. Louis were not because people lived in apartments.

      People living in a new 20 unit apartment building in the City of San Diego would use less water per person than people living in 20 new single family homes in Temecula; therefor it is better for the environment to build more multifamily housing in San Diego.

      Richard Ross
      Richard Ross subscribermember

      Sharon personally having lived in both apartments and condos I would agree that does not turn people into criminals, however you miss the point ...What did these complexes have in common that did cause the problems..you need to do your homework.

      Manny Chen
      Manny Chen subscriber

      @Richard Ross considering that a lot of food grown in California gets shipped to China, i think we would be okay cutting back on some farming here.


      Desal could do a lot for the southwest, but the environmental costs are a bit high.

      Sharon Gehl
      Sharon Gehl subscribermember

      @Richard Ross 

      I am familiar with those projects. Their problems had nothing to do with density; therefore they are immaterial to this discussion.

      Richard Ross
      Richard Ross subscribermember

      Sharon if you were correct then they never would have torn those buildings down and replaced them with row housing and inclusionary housing. You keep bypassing that those projects we're packed with low Income residents which unfortunately led to gangs, robberies and violence. Because here in San Diego the developers pay an in lieu of fee to avoid inclusionary housing and the typical condos are too expensive for those of low income. The question is, is this city going down the same path of building high rise type buildings for low incomers?

      Richard Ross
      Richard Ross subscribermember

      @Manny Chen you got your second paragraph correct.

      Derek Hofmann
      Derek Hofmann subscribermember

      @Richard Ross You're confusing public housing with high rises. This explains why you're opposed to density.

      Richard Ross
      Richard Ross subscribermember

      Derek are you suggesting that all public housing is less than three stories high?

      Richard Ross
      Richard Ross subscribermember

      Kathy s are you suggesting that the "Race Card" and "class warfare" have something to do with the price of eggs in Russia as they have nothing to do with my comments.

      Richard Ross
      Richard Ross subscribermember

      Sharon yes Alaska has the highest rate of rape but you typically overlook that Tennessee has the highest combined rate of violent crimes in the United States. Economic and racial segregation as in low income housing limits the ability of people to move into the middle class.

      dworden
      dworden subscriber

      Here are some of my thoughts. I'm suggesting that Voice consider hosting a forum on these topics:


      It is job creation, not the building of houses, that drives the growth cycle. Jobs bring people (roughly 3 people per job) who then need housing. If the housing supply doesn't keep pace, prices rise and provision of affordable housing becomes more difficult. To effectively limit growth, and thereby limit the ever escalating increases in housing costs driven by these supply and demand market factors, one needs to control job creation, i.e. by controlling industrial/commercial zoning--try getting a politician to endorse that! Our elected officials, at all levels, pursue job growth for economic and other reasons. BUT this then condemns us to looking at top down regulation to COMPELL provision of affordable housing that isn't market driven, or to promoting "fake" affordable housing--housing that is called affordable but isn't. Do projects like NTC and One Paseo help meet affordability goals, or do they fall in the 'fake" category?


      Studies show folks generally won't wait more than about 5 minutes and won't walk more than a few blocks to regularly ride public transit. NY and DC are examples where there is heavy transit use because of very high, concentrated, density where these standards are met. Transit in downtown San Diego does better than in the suburbs because these standards are closer to being met. Unfortunately, San Diego is already comprised of so much sprawl development that providing this kind of functional transit is a HUGE, to impossible, challenge without a HUGE makeover of the whole region. Do we want that? Will smart growth work without it?


      A large percentage of those folks using our current (and foreseeable) transit system (bus, coaster, trolley, Amtrak) are "transit dependent", meaning public transit is their only option. The ability of transit in San Diego to lure people on board buses who have the option of driving a personal car has been limited. What is the reality of TOD and so called "smart growth" --do they help?


      SANDAG's 2050 Transit Plan expects to spend about 1 billion+ on transit improvements between now and 2050, including on rail, bus, and trolley. Lots of bucks! But, if you compare current travel times (how long it takes you to get somewhere) to projected travel times in 2050 AFTER we spend all that money, they are about the same! The reason? A million+ new people are projected to be in the region.  A billion dollars to hold even in the face of projected growth. 


      These issue are complex, as are the factors that drive the growth cycle and the cost, and availability, of housing. Maybe Marco is right that "race" is a factor, but I suspect that if it is, it is only one of many.


      David Crossley
      David Crossley subscriber

      Late to this discussion, as I was out of town this week.  Marco, you need to concern yourself with saving the public from fireworks shows, and stay the hell out of my neighborhood.

      David Crossley
      David Crossley subscriber

      @paul jamason @David Crossley  --I have no problem with anyone moving to my neighborhood (which is Allied Gardens).  However, I don't need Marco in my neighborhood.  I guess not you, either.  You wouldn't like it here, with all the single family homes.  On the other hand, Grantville would be more to your liking, I am sure.  Lots of small businesses to rip out (and the jobs that are there) and replace them with thousands of housing units, to be handled by crumbling infrastructure that can't handle what's there now, not to mention the ever-dwindling supply of water in the region.

      David Crossley
      David Crossley subscriber

      @paul jamason  --Actually, I do not have a problem with anyone moving to the neighborhood.  AG was designed as a single family home development 60 years ago, and unless you want to tear down the 2 shopping centers along Waring Rd, there is no place to put multi-family housing, with the exception of the corner of Zion and Glenroy, where the senior center was supposed to go.  It was approved, by the way.  Where is it?  I personally don't have a problem with the complex, and I live right down the street from it.  As far as Grantville is concerned, the amount of new traffic generated is a concern, as it is already too congested without the new residences that are proposed in the area.  And you don't explain where the businesses will go if/when they are displaced.  That is a concern, whether you want to admit that or not.  With the "water supply excuse"--it is also reality.  If those condos, and other developments are built to house the 1.4 million new residents by 2050, the older houses will still be here.  Many yards are decreasing in size, or going away completely, yet we still don't have enough water now.  It appears you want Allied Gardens and Grantville leveled for higher density neighborhoods.  Get over yourself, as that is not happening in either of our lifetimes.

      paul jamason
      paul jamason subscribermember

      @David Crossley I don't recall advocating 'leveling' anything.  In Allied Gardens, I'd like to see the shopping centers converted to mixed use - retail on the bottom, residences on top.  Preserve the residential streets, but allow granny flats or similar on existing lots.  It's not much, but every little bit helps. In Grantville, displacement of businesses for housing is definitely a problem, but what's left to build on when every residential neighborhood is "built out", like Allied Gardens?


      Meanwhile, you still haven't offered any solutions to our current housing unaffordability crisis or future needs.  You didn't acknowledge that many future condo/apartment dwellers are already here, using water in their parents homes (San Diego has the highest percentage of 18-34 year olds in the country).  


      It's much easier to criticize others' suggestions than to offer viable alternatives.  After all, you've already got a home - no matter that your children can't afford to live here.  In car-dependent Allied Gardens, traffic is your biggest concern - despite the fact that younger Americans are increasingly seeking alternative transportation modes.  What happens to San Diego's economy when our younger, skilled workers leave due to the high cost of housing and transportation (http://voiceofsandiego.org/2014/08/27/san-diegos-other-affordability-problem/) that result from your approach?  Our city deserves real solutions, not me-first logic like yours.




      David Crossley
      David Crossley subscriber

      @paul jamason @David Crossley  --I can agree with what you propose for AG, and there are areas in Grantville that can support multi-family housing.  I criticize Marco Gonzalez for what he insinuates.  And yes, we need better transportation modes, including better mass transit, but the current system in place will drop a bus route due to low ridership.  It could have something to do with the fact that bus routes don't connect to a more extensive light-rail system.  I wouldn't mind using the trolley more often, say for example a Padres game, but it takes too damn long to get there, and service from the Grantville station to Waring Rd is non-existent at night--just one example.  As far as the younger, skilled worker is concerned, would they stay anyway?  Wages in San Diego are either pretty low or pretty high, and there isn't much in between.  They would probably leave San Diego--is there any guarantee that with more housing, the rates would drop to a level they could afford?  In a perfect world, they should drop.  This is anything but a perfect world.  If my concerns equate to "me-first" logic to you, there isn't anything I can do for you.

      paul jamason
      paul jamason subscribermember

      @David Crossley Actually, you do have a problem with people moving to your neighborhood - Allied Gardens has declared that it will remain single-family houses only, and therefore will accept no new housing.  It even opposed building a much-needed senior facility because it threatened parking for the community pool (http://m.scoopsandiego.com/mobile/mission_times_courier/community_news/village-at-zion-approved-by-san-diego-city-council/article_66ff53c4-8090-11e2-b696-0019bb30f31a.html).  Real classy folks there.


      Not only do Allied Gardens residents oppose any new housing in their neighborhood, they've declared nearby Grantville off-limits too, because they oppose any potential new traffic (despite its proximity to the trolley).  They've found their new rallying cry/excuse: save the businesses!  You also use the water supply excuse, despite the fact that your single family home likely uses much more water than a condo unit, or that many of the people who would live in those units are already using water in their parents homes.  Nope, you got here first.  And you even used the infrastructure excuse, despite the fact that higher density units are much less resource-intensive than your single family neighborhood, and that developers typically pay for infrastructure improvements (see: Civita's $150M in Mission Valley).  You've used all the NIMBY excuses, and done so in a completely fact-free way. Congratulations!


      Absent from your posts are any suggestions on where to put the estimated 330K housing units needed and new 1.4 million people in San Diego by 2050, or the impact of our current housing unaffordability on our economy.  Why should Allied Gardens and Grantville be exempt from this growth, especially given the proximity of the trolley for the latter?



      Zag Gahn
      Zag Gahn subscriber

      Marco Gonzal's accusations don't seem to make sense since San Diego's recent growth has been due to reproduction of existing residents which which would seem to reflect the current diversity. Seems like such heinous accusations should require a lot more factual back-up than shown here.

      Sharon Gehl
      Sharon Gehl subscribermember

      Developers aren’t the problem; it’s that more people want to live in existing neighborhoods. That’s why developers want to build housing for them; demand comes first, then supply. Trying to keep new people out is both selfish and bad for the environment.

      Look again at Mr. Gonzalez’s three presumptions; that there will be growth and that each community has a responsibility to accommodate their fair share, that infill is better than sprawl, and that politicians should favor the larger social, economic, and environmental good.

      Zag Gahn
      Zag Gahn subscriber

      @Sharon Gehl And some communities already have way more density than others. So maybe that density should go in places like Clairemont and Mission Hills.

      Richard Ross
      Richard Ross subscribermember

      Unfortunately Sharon does not take into account sustainability and affordability.

      Sharon Gehl
      Sharon Gehl subscribermember

      @Zag Gahn @Sharon Gehl  We do need more middle class housing in Mission Hills and all of Uptown, especially near the hospital complex, so that people who work here can live close enough to walk to work.

      Sharon Gehl
      Sharon Gehl subscribermember

      @Richard Ross 

      My priorities are the environment and people. Infill housing is better for the environment than sprawl; and as we learned in Economics class, increasing the supply of housing makes hosing more affordable.

      Diogenes
      Diogenes subscriber

      I do not have to answer to any of my clients about my views on development because I advise environmental groups on an entirely pro bono basis. I have done so for almost 40 years.

      I took environmental law in law school just after CEQA was passed. The only Supreme Court case at that time was "Friends of Mammoth." That made Environmental Law an easy class. Things have gotten more complex since then. Environmental issues will and should trump economics, or Mother Nature will solve things her way.

      My views on unlimited economic growth and the environment are that the two are really incompatible. The earth has limits of population growth and resource utilization.

      The addition of another million people in San Diego will make out 100% auto-dependent city congested with traffic. If climate change is caused by GHG emissions, then let us get public transportation financed by the developers who profit from unlimited growth. Force the developers to provide parks, low income housing, and open spaces.

      Urban planning is a form of social engineering, as Marco said. It is also a form of behavior modification. It is time to shift to affordable housing without the option of paying into a fund. No projects without low VMT or ready access to a network of public transportation. No growth until water resource problems and infrastructure problems are solved.

      Those who ignore physical limits on our environment are the dreamers. It is time to wake up about the fallacies of unlimited growth.

      Frohman
      Frohman subscriber

      @Diogenes  Are you willing to take some of that affordable housing up there in Carmel Valley? Maybe share some of those beautiful parks and open space with others?  

      Richard Ross
      Richard Ross subscribermember

      Diogenes you got it right.... Many of the commentators here are living in the past. They just don't understand that infinite population growth (densification) is unsustainable.

      Jack Shu
      Jack Shu subscriber

      I don't think I'm calling anyone any names and I apologize if I offend any individual with my comments.  That said, most people I've talked with who know modern transit systems say that we do not have an effective transit network in San Diego.  Thus, we do not have TOD and one may say developing like we did does make a lot of sense right now. That is why the Cleveland National Forest Foundation proposed the 50-10 Transit plan many years ago.  We can have an effective transit network within the urban core of SD with major feeder routes in 10 ten years if we make it a priority. Together with this infrastructure we need infill development which uses the best designs for healthy, affordable, livable and vibrant communities.  Such development will use less energy, and water as well as help our economy. 

      With regards to race, we know which communities suffer from pollution the most.  Pollution which they do not cause nor receive much economic benefit from its production.  Who has higher rates of asthma and cancer?  According to MTS, the trolly system has a 54% cost recovery and the Blue Line has a 70% cost recovery. The American Tax Foundation reports that in California, road and highways only have a 34% cost recovery even though we have one of the highest gas tax rates. So if you drive, you are on more public assistance than if you take the trolly.  Who is using the Blue Line and who is driving?  There may not be a Racist who caused these disparities.  But we should recognize that the systems we have and continue to fund with our tax dollars are causing greater harm to people of color and the poor.

      The basic question still stands.  Do we want to build a better city, region and world?  Do we want justice? If we do, we better focus on the Vision and make some major changes now.

      Toasterific
      Toasterific subscriber

      I am active in my Encinitas community, and find it insulting that Marco would accuse me of this. He is just a joker on a stage if he thinks the bonus density projects in Encinitas have anything to do with affordable housing. Bonus density is an exploit for developers to make more money-- NO POOR PEOPLE will be moving into these projects. In fact the "brown people" are being pushed out by this gentrification.


      When you're a lawyer and a semi-public figure, I suppose you have to make inflammatory remarks to get airplay, but please Marco, talk to me and my neighbors first before throwing us under the bus.

      James LaMattery
      James LaMattery subscriber


      I am the spokesperson for Raise The Balloon in Bay Park. In an attempt to help the posters and commentators on this site to know us better, I have taken up some of the issues facing our neighborhood as we attempt to grapple with and implement the coming changes that will be brought about by the 2008 General and Comprehensive Regional Plans. It is one thing to debate public policy, it is another to influence it and guide it


      TOD

      We want a voice in TOD that was literally taken away from us as early as 1995, according to Leslie Blanda, Project Development Manager for SANDAG, when the locations of the trolleys were decided upon and SANDAG considered it’s duty of due diligence to our residents was complete. Nevertheless, issues (such as station locations) don’t become truly relevant on the local level until the point of impact. In this case, the point of impact was the Morena Blvd Study with its proposals of actual TOD build-out. Our resident stakeholders need time to first understand TOD, give it thoughtful reflection, and then see what the city is proposing for us on the local level. TOD is a regional concept and was left by the mandate of sb375 to be implemented through the current planning process- one of public involvement through our Community Planning Groups- all the way up to level five of City Council vote. Getting our residents familiar with this process takes time.


      DYNAMIC PROCESS
      Please note that we are in a dynamic process of learning what our residents truly want, and that is taking time. Our marching a 10ft diameter helium balloon at a height of 60ft was only a first step toward this. People are now visiting http://www.understandtheplan.info to become familiar with the General and Comprehensive Regional Plans, and such concepts as TOD. Hence, you’ve been unable to find specifics about our position on TOD online, as this was purposeful so that as we organized, we didn’t dictate to anyone what their position on the issues should be, especially one as complex as TOD. If residents could have pigeonholed our attempts as being one-sided, it would have defeated our purpose of public involvement and awareness. We are now just gathering their input, and as we do, when we identify positions that come from the true discourse, we clarify them.


      ARE WE NO-GROWTHERS?
      We are absolutely not against growth. We haven’t spoken to anyone in our community that is completely against development. To the contrary, we have been punished in a way, living in a limbo of no new development along Morena Blvd for nearly nine years. When interested parties understood that the trolley was being located at all four access points along Morena, a bit of land-speculation ensued and key parcels were purchased. When those parties found out that the city would encourage TOD around those stations, and that they might be able to build to 60 ft, it made sense for them to stop construction of any kind until land use changes were pushed through the planning process and building heights were increased. This is why you see vacant lots or terribly under-utilized lots along Morena. Why would a developer build to 30 ft when he/she could quadruple their profit by building to 60ft? We doubt that any new development, as much as we want to beautify and upgrade the Morena strip, will occur until the battle of 60 ft is resolved. You can’t really blame developers for waiting as they have shareholders to answer to. 


      ARE WE OPPOSED TO LOWER INCOME RESIDENTS IN OUR COMMUNITY?
      No. What we want is diversity in our neighborhoods, and we want housing of all types. What we have been given, to date, is a bad example of what affordable housing (per TOD) is in our neighborhood.  In particular, the trolley station build-out at Morena Vista (Linda Vista Rd and Friars). The developer was given density bonuses by the city to build a 185 unit apartment complex, wherein only 18 units were allocated to those who really needed them-lower income families with children. I took an afternoon to apply for one of the Inclusionary Housing Program units and was told that there is a three-year wait. My next option, according to the representative on site, was a one-bedroom “Segovia” unit, 678 square feet at $1,650 per month. I had the option of upgrading to the 801 square foot one-bedroom unit at $1,750 per month. One of the density bonuses given to the developer was parking space for the residents that was originally to be $300,000 per year in monies (taxpayer) to MTS, but because of providing the 18 units to lower-income residents, that cost was cut to $150,000 per year. It was the developer of the project that benefited most, not the lower-income families we thought we were welcoming to our community.  Income requirements for renting the available units is three times the monthly rent-that’s $5000 for a one-bedroom 678 square foot unit. By whose standards shall we identify what affordable housing is? We want more of a voice in establishing what affordable housing means in our neighborhood.


      TOD IS OUR OPPORTUNITY
      As TOD is discussed by city planners in our area, this will be an opportunity to require any affordable housing to be built, to be truly affordable. To date, we have seen none. But we are in the process of developing our CIAs (Community Initiated Amendments) to require any new construction that is allowed a density bonus to be just that-truly affordable housing. Should affordable rents be the same in Bay Park as Spring Valley? Our answer is yes. A family’s income is static and not necessarily affected by geographical location as much as it is by a decent minimum living wage in San Diego County. 


      REGIONAL APPROACH
      As we wait for city planners to solicit our public involvement to their proposed amendments to our local Community Plans, we are taking a proactive step to help design the future of our neighborhood.  We are not leaving all of this hard work to transitory politicians and getting busy developing our own resident-based Community Plan Amendments.  We have initiated two important amendments, one of which could have significance for the entire San Diego Region.  This amendment is a GAR (Green Area Ratio) that will require any future construction in our neighborhood to comply with new standards of sustainability.  Ironically, it mirrors parts of the Mayor’s new Climate Action Plan, but with ‘teeth.’ 

      The GAR is more than a local issue and think of the wonderful possibilities that could come from our community being the first to introduce such a community plan amendment for the whole of San Diego County to follow! We need to get fast to drought-resistant landscaping and covering our concrete with oxygen-producing species that are native to our geographical location. Residents will be much less opposed to 30 ft high condominium projects that are ‘greened,’ with everything from green roofs to ‘living walls’ that improve our quality of life and speaks to the sustainability of wild-life and ourselves while beautifying our neighborhood. If any are interested in participating in the formulation of our GAR, please contact us at www.raisetheballoon.com.  We need those in the planning and architectural professions that want to help craft the first of true sustainability standards in our neighborhood to contact us. 

      Derek Hofmann
      Derek Hofmann subscribermember

      @James LaMattery Don't forget, it's the city who makes housing unaffordable in the first place by forcing developers to build more parking than the market wants: http://daily.sightline.org/2013/08/22/apartment-blockers/


      If the developer hadn't been allowed to pocket the savings on parking, the whole project may not have been economical for the developer and we would be left with zero affordable housing units instead of eighteen. So I think we should be thankful for what we got.

      Judith Swink
      Judith Swink subscriber

      @James LaMattery What an excellent & well reasoned exposition of how community planning should work and how some in Bay Park/West Clairemont are approaching planning for the future, not simply for the trolley stations to go in but for the entire West Clairemont community and beyond. I hope they are successful in drawing in increasing numbers of community residents and are able to carry their bottom-up planning efforts forward despite the usual obstacles so often encountered within the City's land use planning/zoning/decision making process. RaiseTheBalloon can become a model for other communities and for the region as a whole.