Growth Control on March Ballot

Timothy L. Coyle
Consultant specializing in housing issues

You’d think that in the middle of a state housing crisis – brought on by a woeful and sustained low level of production – elected leaders would be doing everything in their power to reverse it.  But, if you’re a resident of San Diego County you would be wrong.  Terribly wrong.

Indeed, the southern part of California is on the precipice.  It’s where housing demand is the greatest while construction ebbs.  Now, the housing shortage is affecting the economy there while residents are packing up and leaving the state.

Despite this trend, however, in just a few days, citizens in San Diego County are poised to make things much worse.  On March 3, voters will take a stand against new housing construction.  And, several electeds there are supporting them.

Giving citizens the power to vote for or against an individual project is, in California, not new.  Dozens of communities in the state adopted such measures back in the ‘90’s and following years – when growth control was most popular.

Meanwhile, the Legislature in California was weakening an already toothless state housing law.  Seeking limits on growth, numerous lawmakers advanced various exemptions to California’s regional housing needs assessment (RHNA), exacerbating the state’s housing shortage.

Today, the law is either regularly circumvented or ignored as most California communities concoct de minimis general plans with a phony listing of cites suitable for new housing – all aimed at satisfying bureaucrats in Sacramento.

However, not satisfied that this disarray surrounding the state’s premier housing law was helping residents in the San Diego area, the County there has decided to put growth to a vote.  On March 3, County residents will likely pass a ballot initiative to make new housing projects subject to voter approval.

Specifically, the initiative, called Measure A, would put any up-zoning (increase in housing density) to the County general plan to a vote.  Measure A would mimic other local no-growth initiatives, including those later erased by the courts.

Measure A is simply bad policy – even viewed as being hostile toward housing and housing producers.  The initiative, if enacted, would hurt the economy and displace San Diego’s working families by disrupting the fragile construction industry and by making new and existing housing less affordable.

Sure, Measure A is supported by the usual growth-control suspects, including the Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, Audubon Society, League of Women Voters, Climate Action Campaign and Endangered Habitat League.  Sponsors even won the endorsement of the American Federation of Teachers and a branch of California’s Democrat Party.

But, these organizations have to back the initiative – at least to satisfy their membership.  By contrast, there is little justification for the locally elected or appointed officials who are supporting the measure.  How can the housing shortage ever recover if local leaders enact or support policies to make it worse?

What insulates Randy Walton of San Marcos from being held accountable for supporting Measure A?  Or, other elected mayors, members of city councils or the county board, like Dwight Worden, Dave Druker and Terry Gaasterland, all of Del Mar?  Or Oceanside’s Esther Sanchez?  Or Georgette Gomez and Donna Frye, both of San Diego?  Or Vista’s Corinna Contreras?  Or Kristene Alessio of La Mesa? Or Jewel Edson, Kristi Becker and Kelly Harless, all of Solana Beach?  Or Santee’s Stephan Houlahan?  Or Paul McNamara from Escondido?

What about appointees like Lael Montgomery of Valley Center or Nina Deerfield of Palomar College?  Or what about those Southern Californians holding office who have been silent on the initiative?

And, how about those locals who oppose Measure B, an initiative on San Diego’s March 3 ballot aimed at overcoming the region’s no-growth sentiment?  Many of the groups and individuals who endorsed Measure A are also reported as opposing Measure B.

Those who back these two no-growth measures have from here on out no business lamenting or complaining about California’s housing crisis and should be held accountable for their reprehensible stances.  Period.

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