The coast of San Diego / Photo by Megan Wood

This post originally appeared in the Feb. 28 Morning Report. Get the Morning Report delivered to your inbox.

Come November, voters could be asked to get rid of a sacrosanct development restriction for a portion of the coastal area.

Council members Jen Campbell and Chris Cate have asked a San Diego City Council committee to consider putting a measure on the November ballot to rescind the 30-foot coastal height limit—approved by voters in 1972 for the area north of downtown, west of I-5— for the Midway, Pacific Highway and Sports Arena communities.

That area has been eyed for increased development for years. In 2018, the city adopted a new outline for growth in the area that made way for 11,000 new homes, twice as many as are there today. The city is also asking developers for proposals to revamp the city-owned property underneath and surrounding the Pechanga Arena, after it strategically timed many of the private leases there to expire simultaneously.

In a memo, Campbell and Cate argue removing the height limit is essential to getting the most out of the area, arguing “any development plans or this city-owned parcel are constrained by the 30-foot height limit.”

“To take full advantage of the vision of the current community plan and with the potential for a mix of entertainment, retail, residential, recreational, public, and park use on this site, the public should have the opportunity to vote to remove the height limit for the entirety of the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area,” they wrote.

When the coastal height limit turned 40, we examined the legacy of one of the city’s most impactful land use regulations. Doing so elicited an … uh, impassioned … response, such that then-Councilman Kevin Faulconer felt it necessary to release a statement assuring everyone that there were no plans, of any kind, to change the height limit and that he would never support anything of the sort.

“I would never support changing it,” he said then. “My sense is it’s working, and it’s working well. It doesn’t need any tweaks… I have not heard of any concerted effort to change it. That would not make any sense at all.”

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

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