By Barbara Bry
Responding to widespread criticism that the Union-Tribune’s endorsement of Todd Gloria for mayor exhibited gender stereotyping and bias, editorial page editor Matt Hall tweeted: “We recommended Gloria because of his housing policy, which aligns more closely with the [Editorial] Board’s long-standing views.”
The Editorial Board acknowledged that I might well be a tougher manager and more forceful advocate for transparency and accountability in city government but criticized me for opposing state preemption of local land use decisions.
The Editorial Board is correct that I fundamentally disagree with Gloria and the U-T on this issue. I support local decision-making. Gloria and the U-T Editorial Board do not. Gloria and the U-T support giving local land use authority to corporate speculators who want to build apartments and condos on single family lots, with no local neighborhood input, no provision for parking, schools, or traffic.
Gloria authored legislation to give speculators these development rights with no neighborhood right to object, appeal or even referend. It is a position so extreme that even many long-time developers agree that it goes too far.
The Editorial Board conceded that my positions on community development are reasonable and balanced. But they concluded that California’s housing issues cannot be solved without abolishing single-family zoning. On that, we disagree.
I support a plan for development of new housing that respects and preserves as much as possible the character of our diverse neighborhoods, something that is essential to our quality of life.
The current shortage of affordable housing is spawning some reckless proposals, many of them emanating from the so-called YIMBY movement. Rather than fostering unrestrained development, the proper role of the city under my administration will be to collaborate with residents to determine what kind of development is appropriate at which locations, and then allow that development to proceed by right, without additional discretionary approvals.
This will require extensive public discussion and education, which can be conducted through the important process of updating community plans.
Another land use issue on which Gloria and I disagree is short-term vacation rentals. Gloria’s campaign has received over $120,000 from rental companies because of his advocacy for this industry. Most of that money is being used for TV commercials and mailers attacking my candidacy.
In contrast, I will enforce our existing municipal code prohibition against short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods, thereby returning up to 16,000 single-family homes and condominiums to the market. I will advocate for the City Council to block the practice of apartment owners turning some of their units into visitor accommodations. It is more important than ever that we protect our residential neighborhoods and our legal hotel industry.
I believe new housing should be located appropriately and in a way that does not overwhelm existing neighborhoods. I have supported easing regulations on new residential development along transit lines and updated community plans in many areas near transit. But I oppose waiving parking requirements in those zones, as that will just result in burdening adjoining neighborhoods.
My administration will put greater emphasis on mid-range housing development along major streets and adjacent to existing residential areas. New units can be built far less expensively in buildings three or four stories in height than in high-rise structures. They also are more compatible in scale with existing neighborhoods of two-story homes and apartments.
At the same time, I will act to preserve existing affordable housing. A recent study showed that thousands of units affordable to average San Diegans are at risk of being demolished to make way for new, more expensive development, and that thousands more are scheduled to have affordability requirements expire.
I want to be particularly careful that new development does not displace existing residents from the limited amount of affordable housing now available. My administration will collaborate with housing agencies and with property owners to preserve these units and their affordability. This is far more cost effective than financing and building new ones in their place.
At the same time, I want to expand the supply of low-moderate income housing, through such methods as making available surplus public land, prioritizing permit processing, and reducing fees. value created from land use modifications.
Barbara Bry, a candidate for Mayor, currently serves as President Pro Tem and represents District 1 on the San Diego City Council.