Former Voice of San Diego journalist Liam Dillon writes in the LA Times that California won’t meet its climate change goals without greatly increasing density in its cities:
Getting people out of their cars in favor of walking, cycling or riding mass transit will require the development of new, closely packed housing near jobs and commercial centers at a rate not seen in the United States since at least before World War II, according to a recent study by permit and contractor data analysis website BuildZoom.
“You can’t be pro-environment and anti-housing,” said Marlon Boarnet, chair of the Department of Urban Planning and Spatial Analysis at USC’s Price School of Public Policy, who has advised state climate regulators on land-use issues. “You can’t be anti-sprawl and anti-housing. This is something that has not been very well understood.”
Dillon also covered a state report that blames the housing crisis in California’s metros on local opposition to development:
Local opposition to planning and building new housing to accommodate demand from current and future residents has led to an extreme shortage of homes that is driving up prices to record levels , the report said. Developers need to roughly double the amount of new homes built every year in California — at least 100,000 more — to keep pace with demand, according to a recent report from the state housing department .
This week Los Angeles voted overwhelmingly to oppose Measure S, an anti-development proposal bankrolled by a wealthy resident who didn’t want his views blocked:
69-31 defeat of LA’s nimby-backed Measure S shows how undemocratic it is to let near-neighbors govern land use & set regional housing supply
— Benjamin Ross (@BenRossTransit) March 8, 2017
In San Diego, where the city council has declared a housing state of emergency for 15 years while not doing a whole lot about it, there are finally signs of leadership. Council member Scott Sherman proposed consolidating our NIMBY-dominated community planning groups into larger regional groups, and other changes meant to overcome the entrenched self-interests of the residents ‘planning’ our city’s future.
Predictably, the Planning Group folks weren’t too happy about it. Here’s what the chair of the Scripps Ranch Planning Group had to say about adding housing in his neighborhood:
Wally Wulfeck, chair of the Scripps Ranch Community Planning Group, said many residents in his suburban community don’t support the goals of lowering prices and increasing supply.
“I think there ought to be a public debate before we talk about accelerating growth as to whether we want growth at all,” Wulfeck said. “There’s nothing wrong with rising prices of real estate if you are a real estate owner.”
Wulfeck said people who can’t afford San Diego’s prices will just have to move elsewhere.
“Some boys can’t date some girls,” he said. “Too bad. Pick a different place.”
Got it. Surely the tolerant, progressive residents of Hillcrest are more accepting, right? Here’s what was said about the affordable housing included in the proposed 111 Hillcrest mixed-use project (shown above) at last month’s Uptown Planners meeting:
Uptown Planner Roy Dahl to Planner Tim Gahagan: “Would you support this project if the affordable housing were removed, to lower the building height?”
Hmm. The lack of affordable housing in new Uptown developments is frequently cited as a reason to oppose these projects. Yet when projects that include affordable housing are proposed, other reasons are conveniently found to oppose them (while asking the affordable housing be removed). Uptown Planners Chair Leo Wilson echoed resident Ann Garwood’s (literal) rallying cry that preserving free street parking for lower income residents should prevent new housing. Why not just stop subsidizing driving and build more public transit instead? Because these residents oppose improved public transit in their neighborhood, despite saying public transit improvements are required before new housing can be built.
On El Cajon Boulevard, an affordable/senior residential mixed-use project from Price Charities and Rob Quigley is proposed at Fairmont Ave, steps away from a Rapid Bus station. Quigley described the project components at last month’s Kensington/Talmadge Community Planning Group meeting, and they include a civic/park space fronting El Cajon Boulevard, another open lot where the current [email protected] market could continue, residential townhomes along 44th, and a series of 6-story buildings with “195 2-3 bedroom units on floors 2-6; first floor available for commercial space”.
Residents and KenTal board members responded to the presentation with a series of questions about parking and traffic. One board member posted the following on NextDoor, implying that housing for seniors’ cars is more important than actual housing for seniors:
Any interest in the housing itself was mostly an afterthought at the meeting, as board members declared that “the community” wanted El Cajon Boulevard widened (despite the street’s high rate of pedestrian injuries and fatalities), the park space moved away from El Cajon, and the building heights lowered. Well, I’m a member of the “community” and I oppose all of those things. KenTal is the perfect example of a parochial planning group that needs to be regionalized, to include residents south of El Cajon Boulevard.
Having attended my fair share of community planning group meetings over the past several years, it’s become obvious that these folks have no business deciding our city’s development future. Sherman’s proposals, and the City Council’s rejection of Uptown Planners alternative-reality Community Plan last year are some glimmers of progress in this area, even if they still don’t go far enough. And residents who feel they have the right to prevent housing so their soaring property values can soar even further (thank you for your honesty, Mr. Wulfeck!) are free to sue the City all they want – just as SOHO San Diego is doing. In the meantime, if these obstructionist groups are to remain, they need to represent the economic and demographic diversity of their communities – not just the wealthy white homeowners still paying 1980’s-era property tax rates, due to Prop 13.
- Bird Rock’s roundabouts, fiercely opposed by some residents and businesses when installed, are a huge success and their traffic-calming effects should be repeated throughout the city.
- Moving drivers quickly through city streets still remains the top priority of the City’s Traffic Engineering Department; Traffic Engineering refuses to install a safe bike lane on El Cajon Boulevard as drivers crash into bus stops there:
- Traffic Engineering also helped cover up a dangerous crosswalk in Point Loma that resulted in the death of a baby, and a traumatic brain injury
- Another item at last month’s Uptown Planners meeting was on the traffic meters proposed for the north side of University Ave in Hillcrest. Uptown Planner, Uptown Parking District member and nearby homeowner Tim Gahagan opposed new meters because residents use them for long-term parking. Yet Gahagan opposed removing any metered parking spaces on 5th Ave for a bike lane, because of the high turnover the meters create. That’s like opposing new development because it doesn’t contain any affordable housing, then asking for the affordable housing to be removed from a new development.
- The Hillcrest Business Association has come out in support of the City’s proposal to fill the Hillcrest Bike Lane Gap created by the HBA. However, Crest Cafe owner Cecelia Moreno says the 24 net new parking spaces created for the bike lane project are insufficient, and is rallying opposition to the plan until more parking spaces are created. Some members of the parking lobby will never be satisfied, but would you believe that when the HBA killed the Uptown Bikeway on University in 2015, Moreno told me that it was the *bike advocates* fault, for not compromising?
In Grantville, the first of many mixed-use projects is underway; this one is on Twain Ave: