I heard from a couple more folks who wanted to add two cents to the government/development conversation we started after my recent story on Mick Pattinson and his efforts to draw attention to bank activity in this economy.

Remember why this conversation is important. There’s a significant battle in San Diego between opponents of extensive development — in some cases NIMBYs, in other cases environmentalists, in other cases people who want to make sure development is planned more smartly — and the developers who want to build.

Reader Craig Balben’s thoughts come from at least two interesting perspectives. Professionally, Balben is the public affairs representative at the San Diego County Water Authority. He’s also the chairman of the Sabre Springs planning group. He said he didn’t mind me pointing out those contexts but emphasized his comments don’t necessarily reflect the views of either his employer or the other planning groups around the region.

Balben added a quick thought on another intersection of government in the building process — the link between housing needs and water supply:

A lot of folks complain that we shouldn’t be approving new development while we are in a drought. That is a valid argument on the surface. However, what that argument fails to realize is that our economic growth and jobs are directly related to development.

Balben quibbled with my characterization of Murtaza Baxamusa’s organization, Center on Policy Initiatives, as “left-leaning.” He considered that too tame a description for the policies the organization champions, like the local living wage ordinance. And he took issue with Baxamusa’s description of homebuilders’ “binge profiteering.”

“Binge profiteering”? He’s explaining a core capitalist tenet, private companies making a profit, in negative and disdainful terms. Although developers historically are known for helping propel “urban sprawl,” they are by no means at fault alone. The city’s past policies deserve some of the blame for their lack of restricting “sprawl” and not being more “smart.” Additionally, the city has charged such high developer fees that housing becomes unaffordable to the average person. Tack on efforts that CPI is undertaking to ensure social justice and “equality” in development, and that pushes housing prices through the roof. If CPI wants social justice and equality in wages, then they should fight to lower the developer fees the city imposes too, so housing prices stay competitive with other American cities.

Reader Lee Sterling, a Carlsbad-based Realtor and a retired Colorado real estate attorney, wants to know who would pay for the effects of relaxing the development entitlement process. He refers, too, to Baxamusa’s arguments, but also to those espoused by local real estate analyst Gary London:

What both Mr. Baxamusa and Mr. London fail to mention is that someone has to pay for the issues that Mr. Baxamusa wants addressed and someone has to pay for the items Mr. London wants deleted from the fees developers and builders have to pay. Someone is going to have to pay for the affordable housing our citizens have decided we need to provide. Someone is going to have to pay for the costs of new schools, roads, and sewers required by new development.

The reality is that taxpayers and consumers end up having to pay those costs, which are passed on to them by developers and builders. The builders and developers are not the only ones who should be actively involved in making sure that our community development and building standards are safe, efficient, effective and fair.

To that end, our first commenter, Balben, made one final caveat. It’s not enough to just relax the development permitting process for builders’ sakes:

I failed to mention that the city needs to ensure and have policy language that says any savings the developer sees in relaxing of the entitlement process need to be passed along to homebuyers. It serves no good to pad the pockets of the developers while the average Joe pays an arm and a leg just to buy a home in San Diego.

What do you think? If you want to join this conversation, send me an e-mail: kelly.bennett@voiceofsandiego.org.


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