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With $500,000, you could buy a house in many parts of San Diego. Or developers armed with taxpayer money could build a single affordable-housing apartment for poor people to live in, like a studio or a little one-bedroom. A half mil for one unit? Really? This reality is news to plenty of people, including current and former city leaders.

When it comes to wondering how much these apartments each cost, “people don’t even ask that question in San Diego,” acknowledged Tony Young, the president of the City Council. “It’s not even an afterthought. The dynamic’s got to change.”

For more about affordable housing, check a list of recent local affordable housing projects listed with neighborhood, cost and per-unit cost, which ranges in new homes from $81,000 to $511,000. One 65-unit project cost $33 million.


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Many of our commenters are appalled. Writes one: “Only an insane person would say that a housing unit that costs in excess of $400,000.00 is AFFORDABLE HOUSING! Can these idiots in the city ever do anything right?

By the way, we’ve made our investigation available in PDF form for printing and sharing.

Jacobs’ High-Profile (and Controversial) Causes

If a big project is afoot in San Diego these days, billionaire philanthropist (and major voiceofsandiego.org donor) Irwin Jacobs may well be behind it. He was a major player in the creation of the new downtown library, now under construction. He’s leading the efforts to give Balboa Park a major makeover. And he helped push for a dramatic reform of San Diego schools aimed at reducing the influence of unions, which he thinks have “overreached a bit” even though he’s a self-described “very liberal Democrat.” (The reform initiative failed to get enough petition signatures to push it onto the ballot.)

In this week’s Q&A, Jacob talks about his motivations, the value of libraries and the problems with public schools.

He dismissed as “a little silly” the complaints that the public has been left out of the Balboa Park planning process. There have been 80-90 meetings about it, he said, adding: “If you’re going to get something done at some point, you’re going to have to make some decisions.”

Jacobs also responded to what-if questions about funding for the library and the Balboa Park project. “We just have to look and see where things are,” he said when asked about what he’d do if the library project can’t raise millions in donations it needs by January. As for the Balboa Park makeover, he said “I’m confident that if the project moves ahead by the city and hasn’t grown in size and cost, that we’ll be able to get it funded.”

Way Down the Line, an El Cajon Blvd. Trolley

Local officials approved spending as much as $500 million on a College Area-Balboa Park/downtown trolley down El Cajon Boulevard. But don’t get too excited: work isn’t slated to begin until 2035. (NCT)

Council Ponders Medi-Pot’s Future

The City Council is slated on Monday to decide what to do about its tight restrictions on medical marijuana shops. Thanks to a successful petition drive, it either has to dump the rules or put them up to a public vote. (U-T)

Good News for SD Bookworms

The Borders bookstore in Mission Valley may have a savior: it’s on the list of 30 stores that the Books-A- Million chain would like to buy from the bankrupt company, which is now liquidating itself. The stores would stay open.

That’s great news, especially considering the dearth of local bookstores with long hours, comfy chairs and great selection. However, it will be harder to feel all super-smart and superior at a store called “Books-a-Million.” (I’ll try to muddle through.)

Unfortunately, the Borders store at South Bay’s Plaza Bonita isn’t on the might-be-saved list.

Understanding SD’s Social Security Debate

San Diego Explained, our regular TV segment, looks at how a pro-proposed pension reform initiative would affect retirement income for city workers.

A View to a Till

Don’t feel like going out to a bar tonight? Never fear: thanks to a website and app for your cell phone, the bar can come to you. Several local watering holes are now offering live video of their goings-on via the Internet at barspace.tv.

You can check to see if your friends (or enemies) are there and monitor how crowded your favorite saloon is and determine if it’s a target-rich environment for romance. You can even practice individual pick-up lines before you arrive.

Word to the wise: “You’re very well-preserved for your age” is never in order.

•••

What We Learned This Week:

Despite Fury, Balboa Park Project Moves Ahead The emotional battle over the future of Balboa Park bubbled over at a City Council this week, with foes arguing that a massive proposed makeover will hurt the park. The City Council overwhelmingly rejected the criticism and allowed the proposed project to continue through the review process. It’s a long way from final approval, however.

We’ve posted answers to 12 frequently asked questions about the park makeover. For a sampling of the wide variety of opinions on the project, check the views of our commenters here, here and (whew) here.

Law of Unintended Consequences at Work?

Almost three years ago, voters decided booze didn’t belong at the beach. Now, crime statistics show that reports of alcohol-crime have gone down in some coastal communities whose voters weren’t big ban fans. However, they’ve gone up where areas where voters liked the idea of a ban.

•••

The Coffee Collection (engaging stories to savor over a cup of joe):

What an Epidemic Wrought: Two of the four major candidates in next year’s election are openly gay, and voters will make history if they elect one of them: San Diego would become one of only a tiny number of American major cities to have ever done such a thing.

In 1981, the local gay community could only dream of this kind of power. Then AIDS appeared 30 years ago last month. While it killed gay male leaders, it also created unity, political savvy and opportunities. Lesbians in particular found themselves with newfound influence, and one — the nation’s first openly gay elected district attorney — hopes to put the word “Mayor” in front of her name.

Quote of the Week: “It’s just absurd to pay $400,000 for a studio. You could be buying every family a 5,000-square-foot house in Eastlake for that.” — Steve Huffman, a real estate broker who regularly sells local apartment buildings, on the sky-high cost of affordable housing in San Diego. Eastlake is an upscale planned community in Chula Vista.

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Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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