Measure E on the November ballot would eliminate the 30-foot height limit and allow the Midway district to fulfill its great potential. The district could be a wonderful place to live and play. It could include over 10,000 housing units and help relieve our housing crisis.
Most San Diegans are painfully aware of the shortage of affordable housing in San Diego. We don’t want our children to move away from us because they can’t afford to live here. The Midway District Community Plan calls for 10,000 new homes. The district could potentially accommodate many more homes without the height restriction. Add that to the projected 8,000 housing units planned for the adjacent Navwar site, where the city is planning a new transit hub, and you have the potential to make a real impact on our region’s housing shortage. Since the area is close to the Old Town Transit Center and the future “Transportation Grand Central Station,” it offers a great opportunity to utilize quality public transportation. This is an opportunity to build a great neighborhood. The current 30-foot height limit hampers our ability to a create a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood in an area that is not serving our city to its full potential.
The recent proposals for the Sports Arena site demonstrated the exciting possibilities for the area if the height limit were removed. No, we’re not proposing an area of just high-rise expensive housing. A better use would be a mix of different types of housing mixed with other supporting uses. Some affordable, some low-income and some more expensive. We have all seen some of the blockish low-rise complexes in San Diego. By lifting the height restriction, you enable more community amenities such as water features, public walkways and parks. Planners have dreamed of a green necklace of connected parks extending from Mission Bay to the Marine Corps Depot.
Measure E rights a wrong made years ago that included it in the coastal communities’ 30-foot height limit. No, we don’t want a wall of high rises blocking the ocean front view from the rest of us. There is no issue of view protection, however, in the Midway District. Years ago, I was the project architect on what was then the Fedmart store, now the Target on Sports Arena Boulevard. We included the massive parking lot that still exists today. We are all aware that retail is changing, and those huge parking lots should be giving way to new uses.
Without lifting the height limit, we could not replace the outdated Sports Arena.
The Midway district has languished for too many years. Let’s seize this opportunity to make it the great neighborhood the community deserves. Let’s vote for real progress. Let’s vote for Measure E.
Jack Carpenter is and architect, founder of the Environment + Design Council, a fellow of the American Institute of Architects and past president of AIA San Diego.