The planned Newland Sierra development north of Escondido is an example of a project that would require a countywide vote under the ballot measure.

An initiative on the March 2020 ballot that seeks to limit high-density development in rural areas of San Diego County is being opposed by a growing list of business leaders and labor unions.

The Safeguard Our San Diego Countryside initiative would require a countywide referendum on any housing project that seeks an increase of more than 5 units from the number currently allowed in the county’s general plan. It would also prohibit transfers of currently allowed units from one area of the plan to another.

Among the organizations announcing opposition in recent weeks are CAL FIRE Local 2881, the Deputy Sheriff’s Association, and leaders of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce and other business organizations.

“As it would significantly prolong the process of receiving approval to build, it would add costs to businesses in those industries and increase a new element of uncertainty,” the chamber said in its analysis of the measure. “The initiative would constitute a new major impediment to building homes, further exacerbating the housing crisis.”

The measure is backed by a number of environmental groups, including the San Diego Audubon Society and the Sierra Club.

Supporters say the current general plan already permits plenty of new housing at 60,000 total additional units,  and the measure will prevent further sprawl.

“SOS encourages developers to follow San Diego County’s long-term growth plans instead of convincing politicians to let them skirt the rules to build sprawl housing developments in the wrong places,” according to the measure’s website.

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.