Morning Report: The Morena Plan Is Finally Up for a Decision - Voice of San Diego

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Morning Report: The Morena Plan Is Finally Up for a Decision

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 is ready to decide on a set of development regulations that have become a proxy for how the city will handle growth writ large.

The plan before the City Council Thursday is meant to make way for more homes and taller buildings near new stations on the $2.1 billion Mid-Coast Trolley line. It would allow up to 6,000 new homes at one station, near Tecolote Drive, and 3,500 homes on the western side of another station at Balboa Drive, as Andrew Keatts reports in a new story.

The plan has undergone significant changes since it was first rolled out five years ago, when it became a flashpoint for how the city would build homes and lower its carbon footprint by embracing dense, urban communities.

In 2014, the city proposed lifting building heights at a third station, at Clairemont Drive. But the city abandoned that idea after intense community opposition.

Now, the city’s proposal would allow for up to 10-story buildings and 6,000 homes near a new station at Tecolote Drive. Amid a heated City Council race last year, the city nearly backed down from those height changes. The Council will also decide whether to upzone property in Pacific Beach, near the Balboa Drive trolley stop.

Councilwoman Jen Campbell said she wants to make developers build more low-income units in the area and will try to get the city to abandon plans to narrow Morena Boulevard from four lanes to three to make room for bikes and pedestrians. And she hopes the Council can do something about the idea of letting developers build up to 110-foot buildings.

“We’ll try to get rid of the 110, because I think that’s just not feasible in that area in terms of maintaining the nature of San Diego as San Diego,” she said. “That part of San Diego is so close to Mission Bay and so close to the ocean that I think we need to try to retain San Diego as itself and not put skyscrapers right along the water like Los Angeles.”

Lincoln High Becomes Focal Point in Superintendent’s Contract Extension

Serious problems at Lincoln High School have dogged Superintendent Cindy Marten, ever since she took over San Diego Unified School District in 2013. On Tuesday night, they were still at her heels. 

Board members voted to extend Marten’s contract through 2023, but one member offered a rare dissenting vote and an even rarer public rebuke of the darling superintendent. Board president Sharon Whitehurst-Payne made clear that Marten’s repeated, but largely unsuccessful, attempts to help Lincoln succeed did not warrant a multi-year contract extension, reports VOSD’s Megan Wood. 

Voice of San Diego has chronicled the problems at Lincoln for years, ranging from violence and dwindling enrollment to leadership turmoil. The school’s dropout rate is three times higher than the district average. And its chronic absentee rate is twice as high as other schools. 

Marten has acknowledged that helping Lincoln succeed is a fundamental necessity. “What’s happening at Lincoln is at the heart of the struggle in America,” she told VOSD in 2013. “When we get Lincoln right, we get America right.”

San Diego Unified’s board members rarely air strong discontent at public meetings, but Whitehurst-Payne made clear that the district is failing Lincoln. “We have to keep it at the forefront that it’s not acceptable to have those students there and their needs not being met like that,” she said.

These Ballot Measures Got an Initial Nod for 2020

The City Council’s Rules Committee forwarded several potential 2020 ballot measures to the city attorney’s office for legal review Wednesday. It was the first of several hoops that the backers of various reform efforts will have to jump through.

Two of those proposals deal with the governing structure of San Diego Unified School District.

One would make it easier to remove a trustee who’d been convicted of a crime or just plain bad at their job, and it has the support of a majority of the school district’s leadership. 

The other would allow for district-based elections, so that trustees would only need to seek the approval of voters who live in their subdistrict. The current system requires candidates to run within their district in the primary and compete citywide in a runoff.

“I’m sorry, I just don’t see how we as Democrats can be against district-only school board elections in San Diego,” tweeted Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. “It’s time. It’s actually past time.”

Officials also gave the nod Wednesday to:

  • A pair of measures that would make changes to the city board that oversees the San Diego Police Department
  • An affordable housing bond that would raise $900 million bond to build roughly 7,500 homes reserved for low-income residents. It’s getting a warmer reception todaynow than it did two years ago. Still, City Councilman Mark Kersey said he couldn’t support it because he’s backing a separate hotel-tax measure to expand the convention center that would also allocate money to alleviating homelessness. 
  • Councilman Scott Sherman’s recommendation that the city auditor be appointed by the City Council rather than the mayor. 

Several proposals failed to win support, including an attempt to make community planning groups an official part of the city charter. 

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Will Huntsberry and Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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