On Redeveloping Clairemont:

When will it be time to start to concentrate on the most overlooked communities in San Diego and begin revitalizing them? We have been on a redevelopment orgy in the downtown, which is also having an impact on the very oldest communities. But very little has been revitalized in the older suburban ring communities such as Clairemont, Linda Vista or Serra Mesa, to name a few.

For instance, the community of Clairemont appears to have a planning group that is entrenched on the doctrine of preserving Clairemont. I wonder what is it that they want to preserve? Clairemont is a community of very old homes, apartments and shopping centers, many of which were built in the middle of the 20th century. This inventory is inefficient, outmoded and, I dare say, ugly. Yet, this is a community close to our most major employment districts. Doesn’t it deserve revitalization?

On Condo Conversions:

Noting the recent settlement agreement between the city and environmental groups, which paid attorney’s fees and agreed to limit conversion to 1,000 per year, I would like to make these observations:

  • Too little too late: the best apartments have already been converted; the converters are dead and the deals are done for this cycle. If there was ever a problem with conversions — and some of the conversion concerns were legitimate — it is now over. The market took them down.
  • The problem stemmed from conversions of Class B units in Class B neighborhoods. In other words, selling homes to renters was such a strong and deep business that entrepreneurs started converting units that probably shouldn’t have been: older, not as well located product that even if fixed up probably would victimize its new owner’s years later with deferred maintenance issues (new roof, plumbing breakdowns, etc.) The city and the building industry should have gotten in front of this potential issue long before a lawsuit forced them to reckon with it, but…
  • It should be intuitively obvious that converting rentals to condos reduces demand at the same time it reduces supply. Conversions are occupied by former renters now as owners or as re-renters. That is good for a community in almost every imaginable way. What is the environmental downside of cleaning up older units, thus beautifying the neighborhood?

This issue leads to:

How do we provide low-income housing in San Diego?

I know how not to do it: force builders to reserve 10-15 percent of their inventory for those that couldn’t otherwise afford them. Go to San Francisco, which is the leading restrictor. Housing development is very limited, mostly because of their insistence in asking builders to fight society’s problems. No one wins with this upside-down solution.

If a community wants to be honest about addressing low income housing, then they need to both approve density, speed up the process, make it less arbitrary and, yes, ask builders to contribute to a fund to build the housing where they can get the most bang for the buck. For instance, if you are going to build a high-rise downtown, put the funds to work in Golden Hill, where you can build twice as many units!

Thanks for the opportunity to write these blogs, voiceofsandiego.org! This has been a lot of fun, and I hope perhaps has stimulated some new ideas. I have a lot of other opinions but, sadly, I am probably not qualified on any other topics I would like to weigh in on — like Global Warming — unless, of course, you ask my opinion.

GARY LONDON

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