Cathy Kenton, chair of Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group, which unanimously endorsed the Nov. 3 ballot measure that needs a simple majority to pass, lobbied for the measure in a PCPB Zoom informational presentation.
But three planning board members, and one spokesperson from a community opposition group, Save Our Access, were highly critical of the proposal. Measure opponents claim it would be precedent-setting eroding coastal height-limit protections elsewhere. They also warned it could be used as a tool by developers to increase density in the already traffic-congested Peninsula.
“This measure is the culmination of 11 years of effort that went into our (Midway) community plan update, which was approved by the city council in 2018,” Kenton told PCPB. “The Midway Plan Update went through a rigorous and robust process before being approved. The land-use goals within the plan include creating districts and villages with a compatible mix of uses including commercial and residential zones, active transportation, and a healthy environment for a variety of housing types for all ages, incomes and social groups.”
Added Kenton: “An additional benefit in the Midway Community Plan includes improving the (former) sports arena as the gateway to the community providing pedestrian and bicycle access, 16 acres of new park space, improved mobility, and a much-needed new fire station. The Midway community has been asking for this change for several years. We need to build up, not out. This community desperately needs improvement. Prop. E would only remove the 30-foot height limit in the Midway District.”
But some PCPB board members saw Measure E – and its implications – differently.
“I’m against lifting the 30-foot height limit in Midway,” said Mandy Havlik. “This 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. By lifting the 30-foot height limit, you would be restricting access to the beach by allowing unchecked development west of I-5 on a crucial intersection where I-8 and I-15 intersect, adding over 20,000 residents (at planned build-out) to an area that is already having really heavy traffic problems.”
Added Havlik, “This will further keep, delay and discourage Californians from access to the coastal areas. Finally, the City has not given any guarantees that much-needed infrastructure upgrades will be required for any (new) development.”
PCPB board member Korla Eaquinta concurred.
“There is a Vote No on E Facebook page,” she said adding, “The City did no analysis whatsoever on the height limit, on traffic flow or air quality. The City hasn’t done the homework that they should do. We’re not trying to obstruct anything. We want the City to do the studies that state law requires them to do.”
“When is enough enough as far as the height limit goes?” asked PCPB board member Margaret Virissimo. “Or does the removal of the height limit give them (developers) any acceptable reason to build as high as they can?”
Tom Mullaney, speaking for Save Our Access, suggested Measure E is an end-around planning protections intended to prevent overdevelopment and over densification.
“Is this measure really about achieving the vision in the community plan?” he asked. “What if, instead, it’s about developers grabbing something they’ve wanted for 48 years (following Prop. D passage), which is free reign to develop the coastal communities as they wish. What if this truly is an opportunity to blow open the 30-foot height limit for all six beach communities?”
Added Mullaney: “What if it’s about making a few property owners rich by upzoning? What if, perhaps, Mayor Faulconer is trying to reward some of his developer friends before he leaves office? What if it’s an incentive for the City to get control of federal land, Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, by lifting their height limits also? Is this (height limit removal) the first step?”