Developers should have to make their case to voters, not just to supervisors
by Pam Slater-Price, ex SD County Supervisor and ex Encinitas mayor
By PAM SLATER-PRICE
Trusting yourself and your neighbors rather than politicians and developers is a good general rule. When it comes to deciding San Diego County’s future, it’s imperative.
In 2011, a General Plan for the unincorporated county was approved after 13 years of hard work and hundreds of meetings with extensive community and stakeholder input.
The General Plan was — and is — the blueprint for how the county will grow into the future. It is the master plan for regional infrastructure (including roads, transit, schools, water and wastewater) that saves taxpayers billions by placing housing where these services are already available. It encourages building housing in places that are more affordable than sprawl development. It preserves farmland and open spaces for recreation and wildlife conservation.
After its approval, the General Plan immediately came under assault from big developers. These builders have spent millions to dismantle the plan by pushing for General Plan Amendments (GPAs) that allow them to build mega projects in precisely the wrong places. These GPAs allow housing to be built in places that are in high-risk fire-prone areas and remote from transit, overwhelming our entire region with traffic.
Why won’t developers simply follow the General Plan? The answer is simple: to maximize private profit at the public’s expense. These sprawl developers buy up land that is zoned for agriculture or open space on the cheap and then ask the Board of Supervisors to change the General Plan to allow them to build lots of expensive houses in far-flung parts of the county.
Since the General Plan was adopted, the Board of Supervisors has approved five sprawl housing projects through GPAs. Even with a green light from the county, developers have yet to build a single home. And the county has not required any affordable housing to be included in these plans. The idea that changing the General Plan to allow sprawl housing development will solve our housing crisis is simply untrue.
The development industry is spending millions trying to convince you that sprawl development is needed to supply affordable housing. But the county’s General Plan has been certified by the state housing agency as having more than enough room for housing for all income levels. All we need to do is build it in the right places.
The General Plan already allows for the construction of 60,000 new homes. Some of these — 632 homes — are being built today in Valley Center’s South Village. No changes to the General Plan were required to build these homes. Even with the SOS initiative in place, housing developments like these will move forward today without requiring voters to weigh in. The idea that sprawl development is the only way to build the housing San Diego County needs is meritless.
Voting yes on SOS is the way to ensure well-planned development now and into the future.
Politicians come and go. Experience has shown us that the best way to make sure the General Plan is followed is to force developers to make their case to the voters, not just to the supervisors. With developers busy planning more and more sprawl developments in fire-prone areas, the time is right to pass SOS.
The SOS initiative is simple and narrowly focused. Major land use changes that increase residential density in rural lands outside of city boundaries or county village boundaries need oversight via a vote of the people. Minor changes undertaken by small property owners would be unaffected by SOS. Future density increases in towns and villages would be unaffected. Projects meeting state standards for affordable housing would be unaffected. And the blueprint of the General Plan would be finally be safeguarded.
Development interests that oppose the SOS initiative are spending huge sums of money hiring public relations firms, campaign advisors, and advertisements trying to misrepresent the goals of this commonsense initiative. Just look at who is funding the No on SOS campaign: the Building Industry Association.
In contrast, Yes on SOS is a grassroots citizens’ movement to provide an opportunity for voters to have a say in regional land use decisions.
Yes on SOS ensures housing at a variety of affordability levels will be delivered in San Diego County better, faster, and cheaper by following the General Plan.
Trust yourself. Trust your neighbors. Regain control of our collective futures by voting Yes on SOS.
Top photo of San Diego backcountry compliments of the Nature Conservancy.