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November 3, 2020 — California General Election
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Local

City of San Diego
Measure E Ordinance - Majority Approval Required

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Election Results

Passing

350,855 votes yes (56.6%)

269,435 votes no (43.4%)

REMOVING 30-FOOT HEIGHT LIMIT IN MIDWAY-PACIFIC HIGHWAY COMMUNITY PLAN AREA. Shall People's Ordinance O-10960 be amended to exclude the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area, which includes the Sports Arena, from the 30-foot height limit on buildings in the Coastal Zone, with any future development still required to comply with other governing laws?

What is this proposal?

Pros & Cons — Unbiased explanation with arguments for and against

Information provided by Source: League of Women Voters San Diego

The Question

Should the construction of buildings over 30 feet tall be allowed in the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area?

The Situation

Prop D in 1972 applied a 30-foot “Coastal Zone” height limit to buildings located in the coastal area between the Pacific Ocean and Interstate 5, except that area bounded by National City on the south, San Diego Bay on the west and Laurel Street on the southwesterly projection of Laurel Street on the north.
https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/legacy/development-services/pdf/industry/techbulletin/bldg-5-4.pdf

Additional Context:

The Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group approved its Community Plan update April 26, 2018; City approved Sept 17, 2018 and CA Coastal Commission March 7, 2019.  
https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/midway_-_pacific_highway_community_plan_sept_2018_0.pdf
Figure 2-1 Land use map clearing shows Residential Land Use Categories of Residential - Low Medium with 10 -14 dwelling units per acre (du/ac) to Very High with 74-109 du/ac.  
Chart 2-1 then describes the types of development offered.  Projected household population will increase from 4,600 in 2015 to 28,260 after development.

The Proposal

Within the updated 2018 community plan there are other specific height requirements, defined as “base heights” within the municipal code. This proposal would simply exclude the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area from the 30-foot coastal height limit overlay zone.

Fiscal effect

No fiscal impact.

Supporters say

  • The 30-foot height limit was approved with Prop. D back in the ’70s, and it was intended to prevent Miami Beach-type high-rises erected along the waterfront. The Midway area is not an (ocean) view corridor. Measure E is basically correcting a mistake.

  • The recent community plan, updated in 2018, is filled with opportunities for green space, parks, new transit, housing, mixed-use developments, even the possibility for a new sports arena complex. The removal of the height limit would help us achieve all this.

  • Measure E will revitalize the dilapidated Midway area, help struggling San Diegans get back to work, and create a vibrant neighborhood San Diego families can enjoy.

 These arguments have not been checked for factual accuracy by any official entity.

Opponents say

  • This could be the first step toward San Diego lifting the height limit in the rest of the coastal zone — La Jolla, Pacific Beach, Ocean Beach, Mission Beach and Point Loma.

  • Measure E would take away the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to convert a 200+ acres into a park. The Community Plan for this project area describes 1,324 acres total, of which only 344 acres are private property. The remaining 980 acres are public land and public rights-of-way.

  • Rather than tall buildings, we could have a vast greenbelt park of sports fields, recreation areas, and a restored stretch of San Diego River for kayak and paddleboard journeys to San Diego Bay.

 These arguments have not been checked for factual accuracy by any official entity.

Measure Details — Official information about this measure

Summary

San Diego City Attorney's Office / San Diego City Clerk

BALLOT TITLE

Amending the San Diego Municipal Code to Exclude the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan Area from the 30-Foot Height Limit on Buildings in the Coastal Zone.

BALLOT SUMMARY

This measure would amend the San Diego Municipal Code (Municipal Code) to exclude the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area (Community Plan area) from the existing 30-foot height limit on buildings.

This measure does not approve any specific development. Any proposed future development must comply with all governing laws at the time a development project application is submitted to the City. Building height would still be regulated by zoning laws in the Municipal Code.

Voters in the City of San Diego (City) approved a citizens’ initiative measure in 1972 that limited the height of buildings in the City to 30 feet in the Coastal Zone. Voters adopted the original language and are thus asked in this measure to consider an amendment to the law.

As defined in the 1972 ballot measure, and now as part of the Municipal Code, the geographic boundaries of the Coastal Zone include the City’s land and water area from the northern City limits, south to the border of Mexico, extending seaward to the outer limit of the City’s jurisdiction and inland to Interstate 5.

The Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area contains approximately 1,324 acres of land. The approximate boundaries of the Community Plan area are Interstate 8 on the north, the San Diego International Airport on the south, Interstate 5 on the east, and Lytton Drive on the west. The Community Plan area includes the land surrounding Midway Drive and Sports Arena Boulevard, including the Pechanga Sports Arena. A map is included in the voter pamphlet and as part of this ballot measure.

[NOTE BY VOTER'S EDGE STAFF: The map appears on page 106 of the 108-page PDF at this link:
https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/ordinanceexaminationperiod.pdf ]

If approved by a majority vote of those qualified voters who vote on the measure, the measure would amend the law in the Municipal Code to change the height limit in the area defined as the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area. The amendments would take effect after the results of the election are certified in a resolution of the City Council.

https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/impartialtitlesummaryfiscalcombined-november2020.pdf#page=24

Background

Source: Text of San Diego City Ordinance No. O-21220 / San Diego City Clerk

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

NOTE BY VOTER’S EDGE STAFF: The preamble to the ordinance that placed Measure E on the ballot (Ordinance No. O-21220) is transcribed here, because it contains official context that voters might find helpful.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

WHEREAS, People’s Ordinance No. 10960 (New Series) (the Height Limit Ordinance) was enacted by the voters of the City of San Diego (City) as Proposition D on November 7, 1972, to limit the height of buildings in the City to 30 feet or less in the Coastal Zone, as defined in the Ordinance; and

WHEREAS, San Diego Municipal Code (Municipal Code) section 27.1049 requires that any initiated legislative act adopted by a majority vote of the voters may be amended or repealed only by a majority vote of the voters or by San Diego Charter (Charter) amendment; and

WHEREAS, the Height Limit Ordinance was amended by a majority vote of the City’s voters on November 8, 1988, as Proposition L, to allow the restoration of the chimney and rooftop cupola as part of the historic restoration of the 1915 Agar/Mission Brewery building located at Washington and Hancock Streets; and

WHEREAS, the Height Limit Ordinance was amended by a majority vote of the City’s voters on November 3, 1998, as Proposition D, to allow Sea World to plan and construct exhibits and educational facilities upon certain conditions; and

WHEREAS, the Height Limit Ordinance was amended by a majority vote of the City’s voters on November 7, 2000, as Proposition C, for the International Gateway of the Americas project in San Ysidro; and

WHEREAS, the City Council (Council) now proposes to submit a measure to City voters that would amend the Height Limit Ordinance codified in Municipal Code section 132.0505 to exclude the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area, as shown on Exhibit A to this Ordinance, from the 30-foot height limit in the Coastal Zone; and

WHEREAS, Councilmember Jennifer Campbell and Councilmember Chris Cate initially submitted the proposal to the Council’s Rules Committee for consideration in accordance with the Council Policy 000-21 process, in which proposals are considered for the November 2020 ballot; and

WHEREAS, the Midway-Pacific Highway Plan area encompasses approximately 1,324 acres, of which 88 acres is owned by the City, including the current Pechanga Sports Arena site; and

WHEREAS, the Council adopted an update to the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan in September 2018, after a multi-year process of obtaining planning group and public input; and

WHEREAS, some of the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan land use goals include creating a vibrant, balanced, and pedestrian-oriented community that provides residential, commercial, office, industrial, institutional, military, and civic uses; special districts and villages to highlight and foster the diverse character areas within the community; a compatible mix of land uses that support active transportation and a healthy environment; and a variety of housing types for all age, income, and social groups; and

WHEREAS, those who have proposed the amendment to the Height Limit Ordinance contend that the Height Limit Ordinance was designed to protect public view corridors along the coast; and

WHEREAS, those who have proposed the amendment to the Height Limit Ordinance contend that there are no public view corridors in the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area to protect, and removing the height limit would be the catalyst to attracting needed investment to bring to life the vision of the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan; and

WHEREAS, those who have proposed the amendment to the Height Limit Ordinance contend that removing the 30-foot height limit in the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area would allow for enhanced community and economic investments, including a potential new state-of-the-art entertainment complex; and

WHEREAS, if approved by a majority vote of the City’s voters, building height would still be regulated by zoning laws in the Municipal Code, and proposed development must comply with the governing laws; and

WHEREAS, if approved by a majority vote of the City’s voters, the amendments would not remove any other Community Plan areas from the Coastal Zone height limitations; and

WHEREAS, if approved by a majority vote of the City’s voters, the California Coastal Commission must approve the amendments in the portions of the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area within California Coastal Commission jurisdiction before the amendments covering those areas would become effective; and

WHEREAS, Charter section 23 and Municipal Code section 27.1001 provide that the City Council may place any legislative act on the ballot to be considered at a Municipal Special Election; and

WHEREAS, by Ordinance No. O-21214, adopted on July 7, 2020, the Council has called a Municipal Special Election in the City of San Diego, to be consolidated with the California State General Election to be held on November 3, 2020, for the purpose of submitting to the qualified voters of the City one or more ballot measures; and

WHEREAS, the Council considered this issue at Committee and Council hearings and has voted to ask San Diego voters to consider a ballot measure that would remove the Midway-Pacific Community Plan area from the 30-foot limit on building height in the Height Limit Ordinance; and

WHEREAS, the Council desires to submit, to the qualified voters of the City of San Diego, at the Municipal Special Election to be held on November 3, 2020, one measure amending People’s Ordinance No. 10960 (New Series), as amended by a majority vote of the City’s voters on November 8, 1988, and November 7, 2000, to remove the Midway-Pacific Community Plan area from the 30-foot limit on building height in the Height Limit Ordinance; NOW, THEREFORE,

BE IT ORDAINED, by the Council of the City of San Diego, as follows:

Section 1. One measure amending People’s Ordinance No. 10960 (New Series) as amended by a majority vote of the City of San Diego’s qualified voters on November 8, 1988, November 3, 1998, and November 7, 2000, pertaining to the height of buildings in the Coastal Zone in the City of San Diego, and removing the 30-foot height limit for the Coastal Zone within the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area, is hereby submitted to the qualified voters of the City at the Municipal Special Election to be held November 3, 2020, with the measure to read as follows: [END PREAMBLE]

 

https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/ordinanceexaminationperiod.pdf#page=95

Impartial analysis / Proposal

Source: San Diego City Attorney's Office / San Diego City Clerk

CITY ATTORNEY’S IMPARTIAL ANALYSIS

In 1972, City of San Diego (City) voters passed Proposition D. Proposition D was a citizens’ initiative that amended the San Diego Municipal Code (Municipal Code) to impose a 30-foot limit on the height of buildings constructed in the City’s Coastal Zone.

The Coastal Zone, as defined by Proposition D and included in the Municipal Code, includes the City’s land and water area from the northern City limits, south to the border of Mexico, extending seaward to the outer limit of the City’s jurisdiction and inland to Interstate 5. The Coastal Zone excludes the land bounded by National City on the south, San Diego Bay on the west, and Laurel Street or the southwesterly projection of Laurel Street on the north.

This measure would amend the language placed in the Municipal Code by Proposition D in one community plan area only. Since voters approved the original language, voters are now asked to consider an amendment to the language through this measure.

The amendment would allow buildings, or additions to buildings, that exceed the 30-foot height limit to be built in the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area (Community Plan area). The Community Plan area contains approximately 1,324 acres of land surrounding Midway Drive and Sports Arena Boulevard, including the Pechanga Sports Arena. The Community Plan area is shown on a map in the voter pamphlet that is incorporated into this ballot measure.

[NOTE BY VOTER'S EDGE STAFF: The map is shown at this link:
https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/ordinanceexaminationperiod.pdf#page=106 ]

This measure does not approve any specific development. Any new development must comply with all governing laws at the time a development project application is submitted to the City. 

Zoning laws in the Municipal Code will continue to apply to regulate building heights. Any proposed development within the portions of the Community Plan area subject to Coastal Commission jurisdiction under the California Coastal Act would continue to require Coastal Commission approval.

This measure was proposed by members of the San Diego City Council, which voted to place it on the ballot. If approved by a majority of the qualified voters voting on the measure, the Municipal Code would be amended after the election results are certified by the City Council. 

https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/impartialtitlesummaryfiscalcombined-november2020.pdf#page=26

Financial effect

Source: City of San Diego Independent Budget Analyst (IBA) / San Diego City Clerk

FISCAL IMPACT STATEMENT FOR CITY MEASURE ON NOVEMBER 3, 2020 BALLOT

MEASURE [E]. REMOVING 30-FOOT HEIGHT LIMIT IN MIDWAY-PACIFIC HIGHWAY COMMUNITY PLAN AREA.

This measure would amend the Height Limit Ordinance codified in San Diego Municipal Code section 132.0505 to exclude the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area from the 30- foot height limit for development in the Coastal Zone. The Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area encompasses approximately 1,324 acres, of which 88 acres is owned by the City of San Diego, including the current Pechanga Sports Arena site.

Removing the 30-foot coastal height limit from the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area does not increase the maximum allowed residential and non-residential density in the Community Plan area, but may hasten the achievement of maximum allowed development density by making it more feasible. Thus, removing the 30-foot coastal height limit from the area may result in increased economic growth in the area over time including, but not limited to, residential, hotel, office, retail, defense industries, and businesses that cater to the U.S. Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command facility and the Marine Corps Recruit Depot.

This type of economic growth typically results in a greater demand for public services in the area which requires increased expenditures from the City’s General Fund. The Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan details many of these expected service needs based on the underlying zoning in the community. Partially or fully offsetting these increased public expenditures will be an increase in City tax revenues (most significantly increased sales tax and property tax tied to private development).

Although an increase in allowable building height may spur additional development and economic activity, the potential impact to the City’s General Fund cannot be determined at this time. The net fiscal impact to the General Fund will be dependent on the type and mix of land uses as well as long-term market demand for these uses. Typically, residential uses require higher municipal service expenditures than revenue-generating non-residential uses such as retail and hotel. 

https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/impartialtitlesummaryfiscalcombined-november2020.pdf#page=28

Published Arguments — Arguments for and against the ballot measure

Arguments FOR

VOTE YES ON E!

LET'S REVITALIZE MIDWAY, MODERNIZE SPORTS ARENA, CREATE JOBS

Measure E will revitalize the dilapidated Midway area, help struggling San Diegans get back to work, and create a vibrant neighborhood San Diego families can finally enjoy: a modern Sports Arena. Public parks. Affordable housing. Good paying jobs. Millions in funding for San Diego schools and overdue infrastructure repairs – without raising taxes.

The Midway Community Planning Group unanimously supports removing the 30-foot height limit in Midway because it will bring to life the community's vision for a thriving cultural and economic hub.

MAINTAIN BUILDING HEIGHT LIMITS ON THE COAST
In 1972, the Midway community was arbitrarily included in the Coastal Height Limit Zone, despite having no coastal views. Measure E applies to ONLY the Midway community and keeps the 30-foot building height limit in place for coastal communities. Let’s fix the mistake that has been suppressing our Midway neighbors and finally give them a chance to thrive.

NEW SPORTS ARENA & ENTERTAINMENT HUB
Measure E is the catalyst to modernizing the 54-year old Sports Arena and is the key to creating a pedestrian-friendly, transit-oriented community with entertainment, shops, and outdoor recreation.

COMMUNITY INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITIES
Stuck with all the restrictions and none of the coastal benefits, the Midway area has suffered from blight due to lack of investment. Let’s make way for new parks, more housing, better jobs, and advance our climate goals.

AN ECONOMIC BOOST SAN DIEGO NEEDS
Measure E moves forward already approved community investments including:

  • Housing with affordable options near transit in a community that wants it

  • Walkable and bikeable streets to the San Diego River Park and the Coastal Zone

  • Additional commercial, retail and housing with good paying jobs

  • New park space with outdoor recreation and eating areas

www.midway2020.com

/signed/

CHRIS CATE
Councilmember

JENNIFER CAMPBELL, M.D.
Councilmember

CATHY KENTON
Midway Property Owner

DIKE ANYIWO
Midway Resident

NICOLE CAPRETZ
Executive Director
Climate Action Campaign

 

https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/ballotmeasureargumentsnovember2020.pdf#page=11

— Source: San Diego City Clerk's Office

Arguments AGAINST

VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION E

This scheme erodes San Diego’s longstanding coastal zone height-limit law.

Proposition E, if approved, would see an entire community within the coastal zone declared exempt from the 30-foot coastal zone height-limit law.

The Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area includes Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD), Midway, Sports Arena and NAVWAR. This area is rich in public land that would be ripe for private acquisition and exploitation to reward City Hall’s developer friends.

VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION E

This scheme sets dangerous precedent.

In 1972 citizens created the coastal zone height-limit law to establish our right to open and accessible beaches. This scheme unravels that hard-won legal right.

It allows dense construction of unaffordable expensive residential towers within the coastal zone. This is a step toward dismantling the height-limit along the entire San Diego coastline. Proposition E will incentivize the private acquisition and use of what is now public land.

VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION E

This scheme means worse highway congestion, overloaded beach access roads, and no parking.

VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION E

Public land should remain in the public domain for park.

The Community Plan for this project area describes 1,324 acres total. 980 acres are public land and public rights-of-way.

We can have a vast greenbelt park of sports fields, recreation areas, and a restored stretch of San Diego River for kayak and paddleboard journeys to San Diego Bay. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to convert 200-plus acres to park.

VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION E

Protect MCRD.

But first we must VOTE NO ON PROPOSITION E.

/signed/

JOHN MCNAB
Save Our Access

RONAN GRAY
Chair, Save San Diego Neighborhoods Inc.

ALEX LEONIDIS
Chairman 1972 Coastal Height-Limit Initiative

JAMES LAMATTERY
Raise the Balloon

 

https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/ballotmeasureargumentsnovember2020.pdf#page=12

— Source: San Diego City Clerk's Office

More information

Videos (2)

— October 4, 2020 League of Women Voters of San Diego
Ballot measures can sometimes feel like trick questions. We at the League of Women Voters are dedicated to providing non-partisan "prop talks" to help break down each measure. We will present the pros and cons of how these policies will impact your day to day life.
— October 17, 2020 ABC 10 News

Contact Info

Yes on Measure E
Councilmember Jennifer Campbell
Misc. Item:

Text of the collaborative proposal between Councilmembers Chris Cate and Jennifer Campbell (revised April 17, 2020). Includes maps of the affected area.

https://www.sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/midway-faq.pdf

Email JenniferCampbell@sandiego.gov
Phone: 619-236-6622
Councilmember Chris Cate
Email ChrisCate@sandiego.gov
Phone: 619-236-6616
No on Measure E
Not available.
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Who supports or opposes this measure?

Yes on Measure E

Organizations (4)

Elected & Appointed Officials (1)

No on Measure E
Organizations (0)
Elected & Appointed Officials (0)

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