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“Developers always lose.”
When I first read Gary London’s assertion in a recent VOSD article claiming that the lesson of 2016 was that no one wants new housing anywhere in San Diego, I thought it was some sort of parody.
It’s an absurd assertion. Developers have the inside track both to staff and elected officials in numerous jurisdictions, often using (and sometimes abusing) their connections and their significant campaign contributions for their personal gain. I have witnessed it happen many times in the years I have been working on land use matters throughout various parts of San Diego County.
Voice of San Diego could certainly do its own investigation into the successes and failures of developers, but just a few recent projects that come to mind where developers won in 2016 include a 420-unit project in Oceanside, a 71-unit project in Chula Vista and an 88-unit project and 41-unit project in Vista.
And in November, developers were successful in convincing the San Diego City Council to ignore several years of community input to give developers exceptions to zoning and other land use restrictions, despite the fact that community residents and the community planning group made it very clear that they were not opposed to housing, they merely wanted it done in a manner that was respectful of their existing community.
Even the vote in November reveals that developers can and do win – for example, residents of the city of Del Mar rejected a measure that would have added certain limits to development in that city.
Yes, both countywide Measure B and Measure T in Encinitas lost, but it’s a stretch to draw broad conclusions from those two votes. They weren’t even slightly similar ballot measures. Measure B was rejected largely because it defied the existing county plan and proposed putting too many houses in an agricultural area that could not support them. Measure T was a complex plan proposing significant amendments to existing community standards throughout many parts of the city of Encinitas.
If the proponents of both of those measures were spinning the “any housing is good housing” line, then that goes to show the fallacies in their campaigns, not the similarities of the two measures.
Developers do not always lose. Far from it. I for one am heartened to see that voters have realized the real costs of some of these projects. But I would encourage Voice of San Diego to do some investigation into the so-called “housing crisis” allegation that underlies these sorts of claims of poor pitiful developers. I think some in-depth reporting in this area would reveal the fallacy that simply building more housing will necessarily lead to affordable housing.
Everett DeLano practices land use and environmental law throughout Southern California.