Faced with the prospect that two of its big recent decisions could be overturned by voters, the City Council split the difference: It reversed one of the measures itself, and decided to take its chances at the ballot box with the other.

San Diego’s City Council voted unanimously this week to reverse its November decision to raise a development fee it uses to subsidize housing.

Business groups forced the measure onto the ballot, so the Council’s five Democrats decided to save the time and money that comes with such a vote and simply undo the fee hike themselves.

That’s not what they decided facing a similar decision over Barrio Logan’s new community plan.

The shipbuilding industry collected enough signatures to qualify Barrio Logan’s plan for the ballot, too. But when the five Council Democrats who passed it had to decide whether to undo their call or send it to voters, they stood firm.

Here’s why Councilman David Alvarez, who represents the area, told me the Council handled the issues differently:

The electoral concerns in general, those are legitimate concerns. But they’re also two different issues. From my standpoint at least — I can’t speak for the others — there was a compromise that was achieved in (Barrio Logan). It wasn’t just one way or the other. Sometimes there will remain some opposition, but that was a legitimate compromise, there was some give and take.

In this case (with the affordable housing fee), there was a lot of frustration from the Council and that’s why we acted to move this forward, because there was nothing being offered by the other side. So in the spirit of potentially achieving a compromise, ya know, let’s give this a try. Again as I said on Tuesday, we might not even be at the point in the conversation of ‘let’s compromise,’ if we hadn’t moved at all on the City Council. We’re having a different conversation now than we were a few months ago.

Alvarez’s description of what happened with Barrio Logan is accurate.

The shipbuilding industry didn’t like what city planners envisioned for a nine-block section of the community just north of the shipyards.

They asked the city to make two changes to the city’s plan: make it so homes, daycare facilities and other sensitive uses can’t open in those blocks, and let certain types of companies that service the shipyards open or expand there without hassle.

Led by Alvarez, the Council voted for a plan that met halfway. It made it so sensitive uses couldn’t open in the “buffer zone,” but it still restricted shipbuilding-servicing companies from opening or expanding there.

Now, he’s acknowledging the Council didn’t make the same type of compromise when it approved the fee hike.

But he’s also saying he thinks the conversation has progressed to the point that it’s now possible to find middle ground, one that won’t face an effort to overturn it.

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 andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org...

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