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Morning Report: City Again Backs Down on Height Limit

More than 300 Bay Park and Clairemont residents packed Bay Park Elementary in 2014 to oppose a city proposal to increase development in their neighborhood. / Photo by Andrew Keatts

San Diego has once again made a big concession to development opponents along the $2 billion Mid-Coast Trolley line, and it once again comes as Councilwoman Lorie Zapf seeks re-election.

The head of the city’s planning department released a memo earlier this week telling Zapf the city is no longer proposing a change to building height limits near the new Tecolote Drive trolley station. The area has a 45-foot height limit, and the city was pursuing a change to 100 feet.

The plan has been fiercely opposed by local residents. Zapf took up the cause in an August letter.

The capitulation could come at the expense of the city’s Climate Action Plan, in which the city pledged to slash its carbon footprint in part by getting more residents to live in dense housing near transit.

Four years ago, when Zapf was last facing re-election, the city abandoned a plan to increase the height limit at the new Clairemont Drive station, too. It was the same deal: Residents rallied against the plan and again Zapf asked city planners to drop it.

But the city’s head planner told our Andrew Keatts the city is confident developers can build the same number of homes they had envisioned with a 100-foot height limit – they’ll just have to compromise on design and open space.

The city also now supports a resident request for a pedestrian bridge over I-5, and to maintain the current four lanes on Morena Boulevard. The plan had previously envisioned cutting it to three lanes, making way for a protected, two-way cycle track.

Maya Rosas, a local transit and housing advocate, said it’s time for the City Council to demonstrate leadership by over-ruling the planning department and voting for the original proposal, so the city can reach goals it’s set on housing, street safety and transit usage.

• The city’s Climate Action Plan envisions half of all city residents who live near transit stations to walk, bike or take transit to work by 2035.

But new Census data shows the city’s making virtually no progress toward those goals.

Yonah Freemark, a writer on transit and urbanism, analyzed the change in commuting behavior between 2010 and 2017 among the country’s biggest cities.

San Diego was one of five major cities that saw the percent of people who drive to work alone increase. It also saw the share of people who bike, walk or take transit decrease during that period.

One (very dim) bright spot: None of San Diego’s commuting behavior changes by much more than 1 percent in any direction. Given the margin of error in the data, it’s reasonable to say nothing has really changed at all. That’s better, right?

SDSU West Is Winning the Endorsement Game

SDSU West
San Diego officials gather in support of Measure G. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

A group of San Diego Democrats including Rep. Scott Peters, state Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins and City Council President Myrtle Cole lined up in support of the SDSU West plan and against the opposing SoccerCity measure at a Wednesday press conference.

Measure G, which aims plan to sell the former Qualcomm Stadium property to SDSU for a campus expansion, is winning the endorsement game. Backers include the Chamber of Commerce, Sierra Club, the county Democratic Party and Republican City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Republican City Councilman Scott Sherman are among the handful of high-profile endorsers of the opposing SoccerCity plan, otherwise known as Measure E.

Del Mar vs. the Coastal Commission

After a brief break, VOSD’s Jesse Marx is reviving our North County Report.

In this week’s dispatch, Marx explains why Del Mar’s battle with the Coastal Commission over city-approved restrictive vacation rental rules the commission’s dubbed too restrictive could make waves elsewhere.

Del Mar is challenging the commission’s jurisdiction. Erik Bruvold, CEO of the San Diego North Economic Development Council, said it’s likely, if the city is successful, that other neighboring coastal cities would push for more restrictive short-term vacation rental policies.

Also in the North County Report: An update on a stalled Encinitas marijuana measure and a judge’s blockbuster ruling that a county plan to offset increased carbon emissions associated with new developments by buying carbon credits elsewhere doesn’t pass legal muster.

Coronado Coach Sues the School District, Again

A water polo coach has filed a third lawsuit against the Coronado Unified School District related to allegations that he sexually abused a student. Randy Burgess, who remains a district employee, has accused the district of libel, the Union-Tribune reports.

A previous case claimed the district’s decision to place him on paid leave for several months violated his due process rights, and a separate 2018 suit sought to prevent the district from disclosing records to Voice of San Diego. VOSD has for months sought sexual misconduct records countywide and is continuing to push for district records documenting the complaint and investigation into Burgess’ conduct. The next court hearing in the VOSD case is in October.

Issa Just Can’t Quit the Government

Rep. Darrell Issa’s got a new gig.

In January, the congressman announced he wouldn’t be seeking re-election in California’s 49th District, which includes cities like Oceanside, Vista and other northern coastal areas of San Diego County.

The news led to speculation about the millionaire’s next move. Some folks thought he might try for indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter’s seat in the 50th District.

On Wednesday, though. Issa’s next move became clear: President Donald Trump is nominating Issa to direct the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, reports the Wall Street Journal. The agency works on policies to advance economic development and U.S. commercial interests in developing and middle-income countries.

News Roundup

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and Kinsee Morlan, and edited by Sara Libby.

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