Haney Hong, president and CEO of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, speaks against the measure. Courtesy of No on SOS campaign

Business and labor leaders called on San Diegans to vote “no” on a March 2020 ballot initiative that would require voter approval for county general plan amendments that increase housing density in the county’s rural areas.

Labor and business officials in opposition to the Safeguard Our San Diego Countryside initiative argue its passage would make housing construction more expensive and time-consuming than it already is and that major developers will simply build resorts, warehouses and office complexes in the county’s rural areas instead of housing.

Opponents of the initiative like Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas and San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Jerry Sanders held a news conference Tuesday to officially launch the No on SOS campaign to persuade voters that expanding housing in rural areas is an effective way to combat the region’s housing affordability issues.

“Adding more barriers in San Diego County during a housing crisis that already puts scores of homes and apartments out of reach for most employees is a bad idea,” Sanders said. “As a region, we must do more to improve the economic opportunity for all San Diegans.”

Jack Schaeffer, president of the San Diego Police Officers Association, and Haney Hong, president and CEO of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, were among those urging rejection of the ballot measure.

“Many new officers have young families, and those young families are hit the hardest by measures like the SOS initiative.

“The SOS initiative is the latest attempt at ballot-box land-use planning. We’ve seen countless examples over the years of the unintended consequences of these types of measures,” said Hong.

Supporters argue that the initiative will ensure residents have a say in the approval of sprawl development and will likely keep the county from approving the construction of thousands of homes that are not near urban amenities like public transit, thus negatively impacting the environment.

“San Diego County already has a good plan that identifies the most appropriate places to build up more housing throughout the back country. In fact, there are tens of thousands of units that could be built without making any changes to the General Plan,” said Susan Baldwin, president of San Diegans for Managed Growth, the group which is spearheading the initiative.

“We need SOS to remind developers and our local elected officials to follow the plan instead of constantly looking for self-serving opportunities to go around it,” she said.

The SOS initiative has garnered support from environmental advocacy groups and organizations like the San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action, San Diego 350 and the San Diego Audubon Society.

— From Staff and Wire Reports

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Chris Jennewein

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