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Policy is decided by the people who show up. In 2015, as a twenty-something idealist urban planner and YIMBY — “Yes In my Back Yard” — I started to show up at perhaps the most hyper-local level of government in San Diego: the Uptown Planners, my community planning group.
I started showing up at the Uptown Planners meetings to say a fundamental truth, which defines me as a YIMBY: more homes are good.
California is in the midst of a dire housing crisis. San Diego County needs to build many more homes, both deed-restricted affordable and market rate, especially near transit and employment centers. Other regions in the United States have done this and have benefited from the results. More affordable and market rate homes built mean a more affordable and equitable region.
In Uptown, the community planning group board members were attempting to down-zone the community I lived in. Reducing the zoned development capacity would effectively build a fence around the community and not welcome more fellow San Diegans to become their neighbors. In the end, the City Council agreed with me and did not down-zone Uptown — even though I represented the minority of those who showed up — because they understood the fundamental truth that more homes are good.
Supporting more homes is an undoubtedly progressive value, which many of our elected Democrats understand. The consequences of the well-documented history of redlining in San Diego, resulting in racial segregation and the cycle of poverty, have still not been reversed. The people most hurt by the shortage of homes are those with the least means. More new homes of all income types, especially in high-income neighborhoods, are necessary to improve affordability, to desegregate communities, and to make San Diego more equitable.
In San Diego, the majority of population growth comes from San Diegans having babies, not people moving here from somewhere else. Resistance to new homes is a recipe for running younger generations out of San Diego. Opposition to new homes results in people’s grandchildren moving to Riverside and other places, and millennials like me, trying to establish themselves in the post-recession world, not being able to move out from their parents’ home. This especially impacts young people from poor families.
Infill development near transit and employment centers is especially needed. If progressives do not support infill transit-oriented development, more development will happen in less environmentally-friendly places, resulting in more greenhouse gas emissions from car trips and threatening sensitive habitats in our back country.
Alongside a group of forward-thinking progressive urbanists who understand the need to build more homes, I am forming the YIMBY Democrats of San Diego County. While land use issues don’t always fall cleanly down partisan lines, the progressive movement needs to embrace this truth.
We welcome Democrats and progressives to join us in finding long-term solutions for San Diego’s housing crisis. YIMBYism is a growing movement and leadership from the local to the state level demonstrates that there is momentum for YIMBY solutions. There is much work to be done, including developing much needed tenant protections to go hand in hand with more homes.
The YIMBY Democrats stand for a more equitable, affordable San Diego region through solutions-oriented policy. We believe that government must dramatically expand the amount of subsidy available to create permanently affordable homes, but it also must make building market rate homes easier, too. We believe that building more homes, not fewer, will help get San Diego out of this unbearable housing crisis.
Maya Rosas is the president of the YIMBY Democrats of San Diego County, advocacy manager for Circulate San Diego, and former board member of the Uptown Planners, her community planning group. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.