By Colleen O'Connor
Why should New Mexico have all the fun with its annual Hot Air Balloon Festival?
San Diegans are set to highlight their own “hot air” spectacle. One that demonstrates the virtual hot air being dispensed in another pro-developer, high-density project, that threatens yet another old stock, San Diego neighborhood.
The usually conservative residents of Clairemont, Bay Park and Overlook Heights’ are rising to the challenge with their own “Raise the Balloon” event against a newly proposed 90-foot height limit that will both wall off the views to Mission Bay and permit a high-rise of 1,700+ apartments on the existing parking lot of Jerome’s Furniture Warehouse.
On April 29, these “save our neighborhood” activists (following the actions of Barrio Logan, Lilac Hills, the strawberry fields and Carmel Valley’s One Paseo) will launch a massive red balloon—90 feet into the air—so all can see the proposed new density’s effect for themselves.
Masquerading as “smart growth,” along a trolley-line corridor, the developers’ incursion into the fray was originally opposed by their council representative, Lorie Zapf.
Her re-election campaign flyers read:
“I am happy to report that there will be no change in the current 30 foot height limit along Morena Blvd. I made it very clear to the city’s planning director that I oppose any changes to be made. Our voices were heard. In response to my request, the city has formally stated there will be no effort to change the height limit and density in our community.”
As she told the Daily Transcript: “We need to look at a plan with more height and density and less parking than we see there today.” An example of double speak that Zapf’s then opponent, Sarah Boot, highlighted in her mailers.
Send up the balloons!
And not just for this fight. Lots of neighborhoods are angry and frustrated that no one “listens to them.” And many of those supporting these mega, in-fill projects, live nowhere near them.
In Mission Hills, a covert 8-story “high-rise” condo/retail project, across from St. Vincent’s Catholic grammar school, was given “expedited approval” (meaning little notification to residents) because it would allow for three “low-income” condos.
In Point Loma, a new condo development on La Playa’s Kellogg’s Beach (on a large single home lot) was also rushed to the approval stage. It caught the high-powered residents by surprise.
The opponents of the well-to-do enclave are fighting back. They elected a winning slate of candidates to the planning board by walking door-to-door to get their voters out; and are now raising funds for a possible lawsuit. The issues of underground parking (below the water level)—and no offsite parking in an area with almost none on a sunny day—only add to the outrage. Not to mention the real possibility of a loss of the beach altogether.
The “unresponsive” City Council is facing blowback lawsuits on multiple fronts.
The Save Our Heritage Organization and Mission Hills Heritage and Uptown Preservationists (including Bankers’ Hill and Hillcrest) hope to block another mega density plan for the Park Boulevard/El Cajon Boulevard corridors.
Their argument: “… the city failed to address environmental impacts brought on by increased traffic, the obstruction of views, and the quality of air, water, and community character; removal of the planned historic districts is also a sticking point.”
The same points made countless times to the same “leaders” still not listening.
The three most shameful incidents of deafness are actual violations of trusts. For example:
The gift of Ellen Browning Scripps for the Children’s Pool in La Jolla—now ignored, polluted, and—in court; and home to the seals that at one time birthed, pupped and pooped off the tip of Point Loma.
La Jolla Cove—now polluted and stench filled—and no longer able to host the La Jolla Rough Water Swim or other rough water swimmers—due to “contaminated water” and soil. Again, the seals.
The non-stop incursions into Balboa Park. Specifically, retention of San Diego High School on Park land past its lease date; the building of Naval Hospital complex on Park Land; and the proposed high-rise parking lot; also to be constructed on dedicated Balboa Park land.
But, perhaps the most galling of all violations of trust is the recent $20 million sale of Joan Kroc’s Hospice Center—originally purchased by Scripps Health Care, on the condition of maintaining the site as a end-of-life care facility—to a Houston Developer.
One of the greatest gifts—from the single largest charitable donor in San Diego history—will now become a mega apartment complex.
The reversal was both stunning and shameful.
Originally CEO,Chris Van Garder said, “Scripps felt strongly that this facility needed to be preserved for the community.”
And now “…it became clear that neither the inpatient hospice nor any other clinical use was sustainable at this location,” read the prepared statement from Scripps.
More hot air hypocrisy….in need of more hot air balloons!
Perhaps bigger, bolder, and high enough for NASA to see from space what San Diegans see on the ground.
Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.
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