Mayoral candidate Nathan Fletcher says San Diego should raise the fee it charges commercial developers to help subsidize low-income housing projects. It’s called a linkage fee.

Fletcher appeared as a guest on this week’s episode of Voice of San Diego Radio—which you should subscribe to on iTunes!—Fletcher made clear the fee as currently set is too low. (The show airs on Saturdays, and we’ll have it for you Sunday.)

Fletcher wasn’t so clear just a few days earlier, at a mayoral debate. His opponents — Democratic Councilman David Alvarez and Republican Councilman Kevin Faulconer — came out for and against a proposed increase, respectively.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on a proposal Nov. 4 to increase the fee.

The proposal would raise the fee to 1.5 percent of current construction costs. That’s where the fee was set in 1990, when it was first implemented. In 1996 it was cut in half, and it’s stayed there ever since.

Two years ago, the Council voted against a proposal to double the fee, which would have brought it to 1.5 percent of 1990’s construction costs. The current proposal would bring the fee to 1.5 percent of current costs, or what works out to a roughly 500 percent increase.

In this exchange on the podcast, Fletcher seems to come out in support of a middle proposal, returning the fee to what it was before it was cut in half in 1996.

But there’s no question: He supports increasing the fee.

Scott Lewis: Do you have a position on what you would do if you were leading the city and this was coming forward?

Fletcher: Well, clearly it needs to be adjusted back up. Sixteen years ago it was cut in half, and it needs to be adjusted back up. But this is not significantly different from the Barrio Logan issue. You have one group of people that says, ‘I take a pledge to toe the industry line no matter what,’ and then you have another group of folks who say, ‘We’ll do the immediate 500 or 800 whatever percentage it is overnight,’ and I’ve just got to, here again, I don’t know, call me crazy, I’ve got to think that there has to be some way to look at what other cities do to figure out a better way to do it. But I want to make — clearly it has to go back up, it’s a question of how you get there and how you do it in a smooth way, and you do it in a way that meets the needs.

But the linkage fee only addresses subsidized housing projects. For everyone who isn’t eligible for those programs — or who’s eligible but can’t access the program — housing costs need to be addressed through broad mechanisms, like increasing density to increase the supply of homes.

So, is Fletcher in favor of increasing density in the city?

We asked him, and here was his response:

Fletcher: Well, we’re going to have to increase density. I mean the reality as I see it  —minus some of the areas in Otay that are prime zoned industrial land where I think we can do manufacturing — we’re pretty much built out, and what we have in open space we need to preserve and protect, because you can never get that back.

And so the question is, SANDAG says there are a million more people coming by 2050, those aren’t all new people, some of those will be our kids and grandkids of those who stay, and we’re going to have to increase densities. But I have to tell you, neighborhoods are right to say ‘Look, we’re not going to accept density’ until we show them a real investment in things like transit. I think we can make some increase in density by focusing on live, work, play in the same community.

Andrew Keatts

I'm Andrew Keatts, a managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at

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