Thursday, Feb. 15, 2007 | I note that the latest issue of “The Saldaña Sun” n the newsletter of Assemblywoman Lori Saldaña — has an article on affordable housing and an enclosure from the DMV announcing the possible construction of a high-rise on the DMV site on Normal Street.

With regard to affordable housing: I’m all for it, as long as it doesn’t cause problems like bringing high-density development to neighborhoods that cannot put in new roads and find additional space to accommodate all the newcomers.

 I chose to live in Hillcrest because it was a quiet, mostly residential neighborhood of one and two-story houses, condos and apartment buildings with generous set-backs for lawns and gardens.

 The neighborhood was walkable, quiet at night, and pretty to look at, with interesting historic architecture and unique, locally-based mom-and-pop businesses.

 There was plenty of space, light, great views of Balboa Park, downtown, the bay and the ocean, and enough private outdoor living space to allow one to take advantage of San Diego’s climate. 

 Free parking was readily available, and there was no traffic gridlock.

 In other words, I chose to live in Hillcrest, because it was not a concrete jungle like downtown.

 And I never imagined that it would become an extension of downtown with high-rises, etc., because it was surrounded by canyons and filled with dead-end streets and windy hillside roads.

 Well, I was wrong.

 The San Diego mayor, City Council, planning commission and planning department have demonstrated over the last few years that they want to put high-density, high-rise development into Hillcrest and make it a mini-version of downtown San Diego.

 Never mind that fire trucks and ambulances already have difficulty getting through blocked intersections thanks to backed up traffic. Never mind that all this high density development would reduce the quality of life of current residents.

 It turns out that our pubic officials (federal, state and local) are bowing down to a new religion called “smart growth,” which promises to provide unlimited affordable housing AND save the environment by shifting new development from the suburbs to the inner city, “densifying” neighborhoods like Hillcrest.

 Taken to its logical conclusion, this process would recreate the overcrowded nineteenth century tenement slums that most of our ancestors couldn’t wait to get out of.

 I think there is a better solution to the problem of affordable housing.

 First, put the problem in perspective.

 The oft repeated claim that housing prices in San Diego “have left the majority of middle class residents without the ability to purchase what has been the primary investment and source of capital for ordinary people” (quoted from your article) is — with all due respect — untrue. 

 Many if not most middle class San Diegans already own homes. They can stay in those homes, or purchase other homes with the equity they’ve built up in the homes they already own.

 So there is no “affordable housing crisis” for those people.

The affordability problem pertains only to those who do not own houses and want to own them.

And it should be noted that not all people want to own houses even if they can afford to own them. 

What about the young people of San Diego who want to own homes here but lack the capital and income needed to do so?

This might sound harsh (although it’s not; it’s perfectly in keeping with traditional American concepts of mobility and seeking out opportunity), but they should move to parts of the country where they can afford to buy a home on their relatively low income.

There are parts of this country where houses cost less than $100,000. Sometimes a lot less.

They are located in the midwest and the south.

 Kansas City might not be the glamour capital of the world.

 It might not have 300 days of sunshine a year.

 But it is a perfectly fine and livable city.

 The same applies to Oklahoma City, St. Louis, etc.

As for firefighters, police officers and teachers, the market place is the best way to solve the problem of affordability for them.

When enough police officers quit and leave San Diego, the city will realize that it needs to raise salaries for police officers and do so.

Aspen, Colorado, had a problem retaining waiters, bellhops, ski instructors, etc., and so had to raise their salaries (and offer them free vacations to Hawaii.)

There is no reason for the government to intervene in the workings of the marketplace in this regard.

Please, at least help me save Hillcrest and the neighborhoods around Balboa Park.You owe it to the community you represent.

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