Reining in Sprawl Is Critical for San Diego's Climate Goals

Opinion

Reining in Sprawl Is Critical for San Diego's Climate Goals

As San Diego grows, we can either strive to be a model for the nation with healthy, affordable, sustainable neighborhoods for all our families. Or we can become yet another megaregion where tough problems like housing, air quality and traffic never get solved.

A sign urges voters to choose yes on Measures A and no on Measure B along Deer Springs Road near the Newland Sierra property. / Photo by Megan Wood

As San Diego’s City Council president, two of my top priorities have been fighting for climate action and tackling our region’s affordable housing crisis. I’m supporting Measure A because it helps address both of these critical challenges for San Diego.

At its heart, Measure A is quite simple. It reins in sprawl development in the backcountry by requiring a public vote on projects in rural areas that are inconsistent with the county’s smart-growth General Plan. That’s critical for meeting San Diego’s climate goals, reducing carbon emissions and expanding affordable housing for tens of thousands of struggling families.

But Measure A’s positive impact will be felt regionwide, not just in the backcountry. That’s because Measure A will help direct resources to areas where affordable housing is already planned, is most sensible and desperately needed. On the City Council, we’ve taken dramatic action to expand affordable housing near trolley stops, closer to existing transportation corridors and near job centers. That’s where we should be expanding affordable housing, not way out in rural San Diego.

Currently, our region has nearly 400,000 units of housing capacity just waiting to be developed with over 250,000 appropriate for more affordable, multifamily projects. Measure A will help put the focus on delivering those affordable units now, instead of subsidizing exurban development, much of which won’t ever be within reach for working-class, or even middle-class families and may not be developed for years.

Measure A also helps San Diego continue its landmark progress on climate action. At the city of San Diego, we’re well on our way to achieving 100 percent renewable energy and cutting greenhouse gas emission in half by 2035. Measure A will help us get there. Sprawl development on the fringes of San Diego increases carbon emissions, adds cars to the road and worsens traffic congestion. And the more we develop outside San Diego’s urban core, the harder it is to invest in a comprehensive public transit system and reduce pollution countywide.

These issues – affordable housing, climate action, clean air – are deeply personal to me. Growing up in Barrio Logan, I learned early on that my community didn’t have the same clean air other parts of San Diego enjoyed. And my immigrant parents struggled to put a roof over our heads – more than once we couldn’t afford rent and moved in with friends and family.

That’s why I’ve spent my life as a community organizer, and now as City Council president, fighting for environmental justice, leading on climate and working to expand affordable housing in underserved community. And that’s why I’m supporting Measure A.

But in the end it really just comes down to this. As San Diego grows, we can either strive to be a model for the nation with healthy, affordable, sustainable neighborhoods for all our families. Or we can become yet another megaregion where tough problems like housing, air quality and traffic never get solved.

I choose to keep fighting for a brighter, greener, more affordable future for San Diego. I choose yes on A.

Georgette Gómez is president of the San Diego City Council and a candidate for the 53rd Congressional District.

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