A battle is brewing over November ballot Measure E proposing the removal of the Proposition D 30-foot height limit from the Midway District and Pechanga Arena. Proposition D is a 48-year-old voter-approved initiative passed in 1972 to preserve ocean views. It restricts coastal development to 30 feet in height.
Measure E proponents claim the height limit should never have been applied in Midway as the district enjoys no ocean views. They also point out the existing Sports Arena, in the early stages of redevelopment, is 77 feet tall.
Detractors insist abolishing the 30-foot Midway height restriction would be a precedent-setting move that could have an unwanted domino effect elsewhere.
The City Council voted 7-2 in July to place the removal of the 30-foot Midway coastal height restriction on the Nov. 3 ballot. District 1 Councilmember Barbara Bry and Council President Georgette Gomez cast the two dissenting votes.
“I’m voting no on this item because it does not consider other development that is planned in this community, and it will have major impacts that need to be considered,” said Bry in July.
Recently, Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group chair and third-generation Midway business owner Cathy Kenton denounced Bry’s opposition to Measure E in a letter to her.
“If you had taken the time to consult with our community, you would know that Measure E has been backed by the Midway Community Planning Group,” Kenton said. “Why have you taken such a hard line against Midway, its residents, its businesses, and its property owners? We have been crying out for improvements and railing against the blight, crime, and utter decay in our community for far too long.
“Why would you want to continue the tradition of strip malls, strip clubs, trash, and homelessness that is pervasive in Midway? Because you think we need more time dealing with these problems? We don’t need more time. We need to get on with the job of making the Midway/Sports Arena arena a jewel in the crown of San Diego.”
“Measure E will allow for the construction of a new Sports Arena and transform the surrounding community into a thriving neighborhood with parks, shopping, and entertainment for the entire city to enjoy,” said District 2 Councilmember Dr. Jen Campbell. “It will also protect the coastal height limit in beach communities and help enact the Midway community plan, which calls for ‘a vibrant, balanced, and pedestrian-oriented community that provides residential, commercial, office, industrial, institutional, military, and civic uses.’”
But some Peninsulans remain unconvinced that removing Midway’s 30-foot height limit is desirable – or justifiable.
“I am against lifting the 30-foot rule in Midway,” said Point Loman Mandy Havlik. “I think that it is the start of a slippery slope that will erode the protections of the 30-foot rule that has protected the coastal region from overdevelopment.”
“The only way this measure would earn my support was if there was some protection for every other community in the Coastal Overlay Zone,” said Obecian Andrea Schlageter. “This could have looked like a number of things, a moratorium on any other votes to lift the height limit, requiring that a height limit raise originate from a plan update, or hold any future votes in just that planning area. Similarly to raising the height limit in the Midway District, all these options need to be approved by the voters of San Diego.”
“While I am in favor of improving the Midway District … I am opposed to the exemption of the 30-foot height limit in the Midway District,” said Point Loman Korla Eaquinta. “Many believe the exemption will be for the Sports Arena development only but the measure language has no limitations, so it would be (for) the entire Midway District. When this was brought up at the CPC meeting in August, Clairemont jumped right on the bandwagon and wanted to raise the height limit there. I believe this is a slippery slope.”
“I don’t object to removing the height limit in the Midway/Sports Arena area,” said Point Loma attorney David Dick. “I’m not concerned about the precedent it sets – since I don’t think it sets a precedent. I think the fact that it’s even covered by Prop. D was the result of an oversimplified description of what should be subject to the limitation – everything west of I-5. My concern is centered on making sure that significantly more intense built environment planned for that area – whether all at 30 feet or in taller buildings – is supported by the infrastructure necessary to support it.”