Mayoral candidates at NAIOP forum
Todd Gloria (right) gestures during the NAIOP forum. Photo by Chris Jennewein

The top candidates for Mayor agreed Tuesday that San Diego faces a housing crisis, but differed on whether the solution is primarily more construction or better management of current inventory.

“We cannot be a great city if we’re just a place for the very wealthy,” said Assemblyman Todd Gloria. “We need to build a lot more housing.”

But City Councilwoman Barbara Bry said a major part of the solution is to update community plans to give developers certainty, while also bringing thousands of short-term rental units back into the housing market. She also proposed a statewide program to assist first-time home buyers.

City Councilman Scott Sherman said the city needs to set district-by-district housing construction goals, then “get out of the way” and let developers build. “We need to incentivize business and industry to build more housing,” he said.

The breakfast forum, sponsored by the San Diego chapter of NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, drew several hundred real estate professionals to the San Diego Marriott Del Mar.

All three vowed to make changes to the city’s Development Services Department to make it easier and quicker to obtain building permits.

Sherman described the development process as “absolutely broken” and Bry promised to create a public-private task force to recommend changes. Gloria said city employees needed to be empowered to quickly approve projects.

All three also opposed ballot initiatives to repeal Proposition 13’s limit on reassessment of commercial property. Bry noted that consumers would ultimately bear the cost if businesses paid more property tax.

Asked about SANDAG’s vision for a transit-oriented future, both Sherman and Bry questioned the “5 Big Moves” plan. Bry said the Blue Line extension will be a test for whether San Diegans will use transit on a congested corridor.

“We need to prove that the Blue Line will work,” she said, before making more investments in transit.

But Gloria said San Diego needs to abandon “small town thinking” and build major transit infrastructure for the future.

“If we’re not committing ourselves to build a world-class transit system now, we’ll never get there,” said Gloria. “I’m interested in disrupting the small town thinking that has prevailed here.”

Chris Jennewein

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