High-density housing under construction. Photo by Wingchi Poon via Wikimedia Commons

Measure A, if passed on the March 3 ballot, will create a de facto ban on any newly proposed affordable housing and apartments in unincorporated parts of San Diego County.

Such a ban would create further hardships for low-income people who seek housing options in the county that are reasonably affordable.

Currently by law in San Diego, half of the city does not permit the construction of affordable housing and apartment buildings because property is zoned single-family only. In the county of San Diego, there is no state-mandated affordable housing in the General Plan, and Measure A aims to eliminate General Plan Amendments — the best tool the county has to add affordable homes and apartments.

Measure A would lock in the General Plan for 20 years. This flawed plan has barely produced any homes or apartments since it was adopted eight years ago in part because it requires only one home for every 21,780 square feet to 3,484,800 square feet of land. It’s important to note that these lot sizes are enormous — up to 80 acres — compared to the typical suburban density of 7,200-square-foot lots. The cost of the homes built on these sprawling lots is ridiculously out of reach for most San Diegans.

Another problem with the General Plan is how it zones land. Far-away rural places like Borrego Springs are zoned as “villages” while land most people would consider urban — along the Interstate 15 growth and transit corridor, close to jobs and services — is designated “rural” or “semi-rural” by the county. Measure A applies to land designated rural and semi-rural, meaning it would promote sprawl growth in our villages. It also exempts all commercial and industrial developments, because the goal is to block the development of homes and apartments.

Thus, with Measure A proponents trying to ban multifamily housing in the county, the question becomes: Where will poor people live?

Sadly, our nation’s history is rife with similar measures by local governments to intentionally segregate black, brown and poor white families from upper-middle-class and wealthy white neighborhoods.

Such efforts started in earnest in the early 1900s and today virtually every major city in the United States has laws that mandate minimum-lot requirements. These tacitly unfair laws continue to contribute to the segregation of our neighborhoods, both economically and racially.

One only has to look at the red-lining maps of San Diego from the 1930s to see how these laws effectively — and we believe, immorally — segregated neighborhoods throughout our region.

As a community, we must stop criminalizing poverty by making it impossible for low-income people to live in our county. We must also re-evaluate laws that require minimum-lot sizes that are, in effect, outright bans on affordable housing and apartments.

The last great unfulfilled promise of the Civil Rights Movement was to strive toward integration — not just in where we eat, play and learn, but also where we live.

Measure A is an unacceptable roadblock to those ongoing efforts.

Ricardo Flores is executive director of the Local Initiatives Support Coalition San Diego, which finances affordable housing and related economic development projects in low-income communities.

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