Primary Election Analysis, Housing Huffs and SANDAG Shafts: San Diego Summarized | 6-11-18
Welcome to San Diego Summarized where each week we examine headlines from around the city:
This week we take a look at the aftermath of some of the local primary election races, before flipping over to the housing conversation that is sure to dominate headlines for days, weeks, months and realistically years to come.
The good people at Voice of San Diego broke down some of the biggest surprises and ran over the expected outcomes across the region.
In round table fashion, the panel spent some time assessing the meaning of the some of the more surprising outcomes, particularly San Diego City Council President Myrtle Cole’s precarious perch going into the November general election. Granted, Cole didn’t campaign too aggressively in her district, but her lack of attention to what voters themselves are looking for can’t be a good thing. Particularly when her own former staffers is nipping at her heels.
In other news, the ever-evolving discussion regarding the housing ‘crisis’ in San Diego continued publicly in the Opinions section of VoSD.
“During a crisis, the most important thing to do is not lose your head. San Diego is very much at risk of sprawling its way into an undesirable mega city if we allow hysteria to override our better judgment,” wrote Russell A. York, a resident of Point Loma in a June 4th column that specified what he believes to be the root cause of San Diego’s housing shortage.
York’s primary argument is that San Diego is building too many high end homes and not enough affordable and entry level homes to facilitate the transition from renting to owning.
“Since 2010, San Diego has built just 8.9 percent of the targeted goal set out in the Regional Housing Progress Report for very-low, low and moderate income units. For perspective, you would need an annual income of $98,150 to afford a moderate home in the county.”
“By contrast, we have built more than 60 percent of the regional housing goal for above-moderate units. That disparity is not new. Between 2003 and 2010, we exceeded the goal for above-moderate units by a whopping 152 percent while building 50,000 fewer lower-income units than was targeted. In other words, by a wide margin, we have been building for the top 5 percent of income earners in San Diego.”
Four day later, another opinion column surfaced written by Kirk Effinger, a former columnist for the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, is a Realtor, housing advocate and Escondido resident.
Effinger’s piece articulates the difference between the statistics cited by York, and the realities of economics.
“A recent Voice of San Diego commentary by Russell York, ‘San Diego’s Housing Crisis Does Not Affect Everyone Equally’ perpetuates the specious argument of many who oppose development that the reason we lack affordable housing options is developer greed. Citing statistics that show far more homes for the well-to-do were built than ones affordable to the masses, he implies a flawed conclusion that all it would take to change this would be for builders to decide to build lower-priced homes. Simple, right?”
“What the writer — and all the others who perpetuate this fiction — apparently chooses to ignore is the fact that more affordable units cannot be built so long as the myriad causes of ever-greater costs to build include regulation (including the costly time delays that ensue while achieving approvals), fees and scarcity of buildable sites driven by government interference continue to exist. This isn’t about builders looking for ‘more’ profit. It’s about builders making ‘any’ profit.”
The remainder of Effinger’s opinion column defends the developer community and argues that the best way forward is to amend some of the burdensome regulations that make it so costly for developers to build in the first place, thus lowering the cost that is ultimate passed down to the consumer.
How best to address the housing concerns of the community of San Diego is certainly a complex conflict. On the upside, the fact that all parties seem to agree that there is a crisis in the first place is invigorating. One loses hope though once the specifics started to get picked over. The most damaging thing in the opinion of yours truly is to delay and be paralyzed by the never-ending analysis that appears to have consumed the narrative itself.
I find it interesting that Effinger’s piece was written as a response to York’s and yet fails to propose any meaningful solutions to the concerns raised. Simply de-regulating the building industry seems like a great talking point for a 30 second TV spot, but there are layers upon layers of nuance to comb through before this shortage is solved.
Typically, the moderate approach is best. Do a bit of everything. The logical course of action would be to invest in the infrastructure needed to better connect the fringe regions of San Diego to its core. Build densely wherever possible, with an eye toward increasing the convenience of public transit options and be prepared to compromise because nothing that actually happens will make everybody happy.
Lastly, recently anointed Society for Professional Journalists Journalist of the Year Andy Keatts wasted no time in reinforcing why his work merits merit. In an exclusive, Keatts detailed how the board of directors of the San Diego Regional Association of Governments, aka SANDAG, was foiled by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer led a move to block an attempt to hire a new executive director last month.
The flashpoint centered on a recent change to the way in which SANDAG, which is comprised of representatives from each of San Diego counties communities, vote. Following a change to its bylaws, cities with higher populations such as San Diego and Chula Vista have more weight to their votes, and San Diego’s Mayor Faulconer may finally be combatting his reputation (in some places around town) for being a spineless leader of none.