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More than 300 Bay Park and Clairemont residents packed Bay Park Elementary in 2014 to oppose a city proposal to increase development in their neighborhood. / Photo by Andrew Keatts

I’ve been thinking about a handful of stories – some old, some new – to make sense of City Councilwoman Barbara Bry’s email this week with the foreboding subject line, “They’re coming for our homes.”

The first was a story Andy Keatts wrote in 2014 about a town hall in Bay Park, where residents gathered to offer input on a proposal to build taller, denser housing near a planned trolley stop.

A 23-year-old Clairemont woman came to the stage. She expressed a desire that was not radical: She wanted to someday afford a home in the neighborhood she’d grown up in.

The response to that idea was vicious. The crowd yelled “Live somewhere else!” and “That’s not reality!”

“There were probably other insults, but it was hard to hear over the chorus of boos,” Keatts reported. The boos continued until the woman fled the room.

Fast-forward to 2016. Maya Srikrishnan reported on Poway residents’ rejection of a low-income housing project for local veterans. Their comments at public meetings were filled with racist dog whistles and disgust for the poor.

“I think we would be foolish to think this project would enhance the value of our homes,” one resident told the City Council.

Countless similar scenes have played out across the region.

In the New York Times recently, Farhad Manjoo laid the blame for California’s housing affordability crisis on “the refusal on the part of wealthy progressives to live by the values they profess to support at the national level. … Where progressives argue for openness and inclusion as a cudgel against President Trump, they abandon it on Nob Hill and in Beverly Hills.”

Bry voted for a resolution opposing the border wall. When she voted to require contractors to disclose whether they work on the wall, she referred to Mexicans as “our neighbors to the south.”

But when it comes to those who might be her actual neighbors, thanks to policies allowing more home-building, she vows to “protect our neighborhoods through development policy and infrastructure investments that respect the unique character of every neighborhood.”

Numerous analyses have shown that California’s housing crisis disproportionately impacts Latino residents.

Bry’s email, and thinking back to the savage reaction to that poor Clairemont woman who spoke at the town hall, reminded me of one more recent piece on California’s housing mess. The money quote:

But older Americans have already enjoyed an affordable college education, a choice of affordable neighborhoods, skies full of monarch butterflies, and oceans with fish living in them. So when it comes to addressing the fact that reality has changed—that housing near good jobs is no longer affordable, that going to college now entails decades of debt, that Miami will be underwater in 30 years—their resistance to address the changing reality reads as a collective shrug of self-interest. I got mine.

So, upon reflection, I’ve come to realize that Bry is right when she says, “They’re coming for our homes.”

What she’s wrong about is who’s who in this situation.

They – older, wealthy, largely white residents who were already able to build the lives and families they wanted, where they wanted – are coming for our homes – the homes that will never be built to house a generation of young families because they wish to deny us those same opportunities.

What VOSD Learned This Week

Everyone seems to agree that when it comes to climate change and wildfires, we’re living in a “new normal.” Yet insurance companies say they’re not allowed to take this new reality into account when they set rates. Ry Rivard came on the podcast this week to talk about his great series of stories on backcountry fire risks and how insurance companies have responded.

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Hondurans weighing whether to stay in their country or flee to the United States or Mexico all have unique situations that guide their decision-making. But what unites them is that they’re being forced to do complex calculations about the dangers they’re facing at home, the dangers they might face as they migrate, money, family and past experiences.

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After a recent state report pointed out critical flaws in San Diego Unified School District’s English-learner program, the district is now trying to prove it can meet state legal requirements for some of its most vulnerable students.

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A state audit showed that parking fees went up for students at San Diego State, but parking availability actually went down.

Lawmakers are in the midst of approving new audits for the state auditor to tackle, and data privacy and college admissions practices are on their list.

What I’m Reading

Line of the Week

“We shamed them in a way we never did Counting Crows, and to this day Adam Duritz walks the earth with a hairdo that answers the question: what if a fireworks display could be brown?” – Dave Holmes’ latest brilliant take: We should be ashamed about how we treated Hootie.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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