Republicans have spent decades branding themselves as the party of free markets – and especially as the pro-growth alternative to liberals who oppose new development.

In coastal California, however, traditional thought lines between development, Republicans and Democrats aren’t so clear.

Republican political consultant Jason Roe, during a VOSD podcast after November’s election, said Measure B – the countywide initiative to approve the sprawling 1,700-home Lilac Hills Ranch – failed because of increasing opposition to new development.

But that sentiment wasn’t limited to that Lilac Hills, which had a litany of its own problems that were cause for real concern. Voters opposed residential development in general – especially Republican voters.

“One of the things that I found shocking in our polling in this election cycle in San Diego is that the NIMBYs are now Republicans,” Roe said.

Roe’s conclusion came from polling conducted by Competitive Edge Research for the county supervisor race in District 3, which spans from Encinitas to Torrey Pines along the coast and inland to Mira Mesa and Escondido.

polling development

The poll found that roughly twice as many conservatives in the district explicitly identified as anti-growth than liberals. Seventeen percent of liberals said slowing down residential development was very or extremely important to them, versus 38 percent of conservatives.

“I think it was surprising,” said John Neinstedt, president of Competitive Edge Research & Communication, which conducted the polls. “It kind of piqued our interest. It tells you that if you’re going to take a pro-development stance, your problem is going to be on your right, but not on your left.”

There are, of course, some caveats to the poll.

For one, District 3 is typically seen as development-wary district to begin with. During the election, both candidates for county supervisor steered clear of being seen as overly pro-development.

Plus, development opposition often takes the form of people who oppose the effects of development – like traffic or parking – but who wouldn’t self-identify as opponents of residential development.

Roe had another theory to explain the trend. Maybe, he argued, it isn’t a matter of ideology at all, but simply a question of who already owns a home.

“I’m trying to rationalize where did that change happen because every time you hear “developers,” it’s always something thrown all over the Republicans to paint them as bad guys: Republicans and the developers that fund them,” Roe said. “But it’s the Republican voters that are anti-growth. The only thing I can come up with is: They got their house, they don’t want their neighborhoods crowded up, they don’t want all these people coming in and choking up their roads and their schools.”

Maya was Voice of San Diego’s Associate Editor of Civic Education. She reported on marginalized communities in San Diego and oversees Voice’s explanatory...

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