Morning Report: Voters Sent a Message on Housing Solutions

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Morning Report: Voters Sent a Message on Housing Solutions

The Midway District / Photo by Brittany Cruz-Fejeran

San Diego voters have demanded increasingly dramatic solutions to the city’s housing and homelessness crises – and they spoke loudly this election cycle.

Lisa Halverstadt writes that election results so far show a majority of city voters backed a tax increase for affordable housing, exempting a San Diego neighborhood from the coastal height limit, and state Assemblyman Todd Gloria as mayor reflect growing calls from for a significant response to the city’s housing crunch after years of policy responses that haven’t matched the scale of the problem.

So far, election results show proposed property-tax hike Measure A has received about 57 percent of the vote, short of the two-thirds required to approve a tax for a specific purpose, while Measure E aiming to raise the height limit received a similar share of votes but can pass with a simple majority. 

Gloria, who has for years pushed for housing reforms and investments and endorsed both measures, has so far received about 56 percent of the vote. His opponent, Councilwoman Barbara Bry, on the other hand, campaigned on the need to protect neighborhoods, opposed Measure E and decided against endorsing Measure A despite earlier support. (Bry has yet to concede and said Wednesday she will “reserve judgement while the remaining ballots are counted.”)

While Measure A appears to have fallen short, Halverstadt writes that housing advocates are already eyeing the possibility of a future attempt to raise taxes for affordable housing, a move they say is necessary to fund units sorely needed to address an existing need that may only balloon in the wake of the pandemic’s economic devastation.

The push for more dramatic responses to the city’s homelessness and housing woes line up with the results of recent VOSD polling showing the vast majority of county residents consider those issues among the region’s foremost crises

  • Measure E supporters may have to wait to celebrate their expected electoral victory. The Union-Tribune on Wednesday wrote that an environmental lawsuit could force a court to decide whether Midway can indeed be exempted from the coastal height limit. Voice of San Diego’s MacKenzie Elmer explained the lawsuit here.

School Board Elections to Get a Makeover

Election Night was a good night for most of the San Diego ballot measures. There was, for example, overwhelming support for a new independent commission on police practices.

Measure C was also on track to pass. It’ll reshape the way school board candidates are elected by no longer requiring they run citywide for a district seat. Proponents have said district-only elections would bring down the cost of a school board campaign and encourage more people, including those not backed by labor, to run.

In a new story, Will Huntsberry writes that 2020 was probably the last cakewalk for union-backed school board candidates. The teacher’s union didn’t take an official position on the ballot measure but argued that citywide elections benefited the parents of students who attend schools outside the district where they live. 

San Diego Headed Into Purple

As if we weren’t all anxious enough waiting for post-election answers, the state announced Wednesday that the county’s COVID case rate has landed the county in an initial stage of the most restrictive purple tier.

City News Service reported that the increased case rate and specifically the state’s Wednesday report of an unadjusted 8.7 cases per 100,000 residents in the county could force closures of indoor operations at non-essential businesses next week if there isn’t a dramatic shift in rates and testing in the next six days. 

State Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said Wednesday that the state is working with county leaders to try to “control transmission.”

Times of San Diego reported that Dr. Wilma Wooten, the county public health officer, said at a Wednesday press briefing that the increased cases stemmed in part from a spike in young adults attending parties and in exposures at workplaces but noted the uptick in cases “really is across the board.”

“The state’s assessment that places us in one tier or another…is the result of our individual actions and collective behaviors,” Wooten said, according to Times of San Diego.

Supervisor Jim Desmond posted a video message on Wednesday arguing that businesses in the county shouldn’t be punished for what he characterized as a small uptick in positive cases.

“One additional person testing positive out of 100,000 people – going from seven to eight – puts us in the purple and unfortunately these businesses who have no correlation to all the testing that’s going on are being punished,” Desmond said. “This isn’t right. This isn’t fair. We need to change this.”

Are You There Pod? It’s Me, the Voters

Hours after the results started rolling in, the crew sat down for an Election Night podcast.

The registrar is still counting votes, so some of the tighter races are too soon to call. The uncertainty has delayed our own reader contest, but we should again thank everyone who sent us their picks. We sold ‘em to Big Data. (Jk.) 

Remember, one lucky reader usually joins Voice of San Diego’s Scott Lewis, Andrew Keatts and Sara Libby for lunch and a riveting conversation about Phish tapes and the weather. Probably not gonna meet in person this time around. 

If you all end up on Zoom instead, consider the following questions to spice things up: Why are “experts” so often wrong? Should every pollster be laughed into deep space? Should Cohagen give the people air? Is Succession Twitter the best Twitter? 

Election Roundup

  • The City Council races in Imperial Beach are still close while a sales tax increase was showing strong support. In National City, two newcomers ousted two incumbents. (Union-Tribune) 
  • Oceanside said no to the North River Farms residential project. (Union-Tribune) 
  • Cannabis got mixed reviews. Lemon Grove and Oceanside are on the verge of passing new cannabis sales taxes. Solana Beach, however, said no to a legalized system of cannabis, and Encinitas was leaning yes. 
  • Republican former Rep. Darrell Issa widened his lead over Ammar Campa-Najjar in the 50th Congressional District. (NBC 7) 
  • AP called it for Democratic Rep. Mike Levin in the 49th Congressional District. He kept his seat against Republican Brian Maryott, a San Juan Capistrano city councilman. 
  • The county Registrar of Voters on Wednesday was continuing to review about 370,000 ballots – nearly a quarter of votes cast on Tuesday. Registrar Michael Vu told the Union-Tribune that the next update on election results will come after 5 p.m. Thursday and that counting will continue through at least Friday.

Finally …

Zócalo Public Square columnist Joe Mathews pulled apart the saga surrounding 101 Ash, aka “the zombie building,” offering the debacle as Exhibit A of what cities and governments across the state should not do with all the empty buildings that have emerged during the pandemic.

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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