It’s become one of the enduring myths – and there are many – in the great debate over the affordable housing fee hike: Business groups opposed to the hike didn’t offer any alternatives.

San Diego’s City Council this fall increased the fee it charges commercial developers so it can build subsidized housing. Opponents are trying to overturn the fee increase. But those who support the fee hike have consistently said the opponents never offered any alternative plans.

The latest person to repeat this charge is mayoral candidate David Alvarez.

“The opponents of the linkage fee, which you would hope would become proponents of something, never proposed anything,” Alvarez told U-T San Diego a little over a week ago. “I’m glad we’re all acknowledging there’s a problem. The solution is not the linkage fee. It’s not the only solution.”

Interim mayor Todd Gloria made a similar statement in December – one we found was flat-out wrong.

There are two reasons for that.

For one, a task force created to find alternatives in 2011 produced a list of policy options to help the city build more low-income housing. Some of the current opponents of the fee increase were on that task force.

Some of the items on that list, though, have been rendered impossible, some are just unrealistic and some don’t actually increase funding to build low-income housing. And it’s not clear how much support any of those options actually have. With the list alone, Gloria and Alvarez could argue they hadn’t been given a viable choice.

But opponents of the fee increase also said just before the Council decision that they’d agree to a smaller increase.

That’s the most important point. If Council Democrats had said yes, the smaller increase would have happened. The Council majority has every right to pursue the larger increase, but that doesn’t mean the compromise offer didn’t exist.

Alvarez also discussed alternatives to the fee increase in an interview with Mike Slater on Jan. 30.

“Unfortunately, we haven’t seen other ideas,” he said. “They say there’s a list of things they support, except if you ask them which ones they support, they can’t tell you. So, is this the solution? No, it’s not the solution. But is it part of the solution? I believe it is.”

That’s a more accurate description of the situation. He says there haven’t been other ideas — not  true — but then correctly says there have been other ideas, it just isn’t clear whether those ideas have much support.

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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