Residents walk by the shore at Ocean Beach during the coronavirus pandemic. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

San Diegans have spoken, cracking a hole in the dike that was a 48-year rule against building anything taller than three stories along the coast.

The Midway District, an edgy industrial zone home to the aged Pechanga Sports Arena, will be able to attract new and taller development after over 56 percent of voters approved Measure E.

But when you map out those votes by precinct, it reveals an interesting trend. Vince Vasquez, an independent election data analyst, tweeted those results after Election Day.

Votes for Measure E by Precinct
Results from Measure E show support was greatest in communities farthest from the Sports Arena area, and opposition was strongest in Point Loma and other coastal communities south of the 52. / Image by Vince Vasquez
No Votes on Measure E
Image by Vince Vasquez

The whole peninsula – Ocean Beach, Point Loma and the Midway District itself – showed the least support for the measure (though a majority still supported it in the latter two neighborhoods). Precincts farthest from the coast carried the height limit removal to victory instead.

Dike Anyiwo, a Measure E campaign leader and vice chair of Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group, said there was a lot of fear circulating among the planning groups in the areas that voted against E.

“Folks didn’t understand what the measure was doing, what our intent for the campaign and planning group really was,” he said. “When we talk about equity and what’s fair … San Diego at large knows what it wants.”

Public messaging from the Measure E campaign framed the height limit as a limit on job creation, housing and climate action.

“We saw a strong response from working class communities because they are most impacted by these three intersecting crises,” said Nicole Capretz, founder and executive director of the Climate Action Campaign. “They know firsthand the need to build more workforce housing in all neighborhoods, especially those in the urban core near jobs and transit.”

Sixty-one percent of voters in Pomerado, and neighborhoods east of I-15, voted for Measure E. So did those in the urban core like North Park, 61 percent yes, and Hillcrest, 63 percent yes.

Ocean Beach was the only precinct with less than 50 percent support, at 45 percent voting yes.

“That makes sense because people in that area know it’s going to destroy their quality of life,” said John McNab, leader of Save Our Access, a group that opposed Measure E.

McNab, who lives in Golden Hill, said erasing the height limit is like giving developers a “blank check,” making way for thousands more to crowd oceanside living.

“The reason people voted for the 30-foot height limit in the first place was public access to the coast,” McNab said.

McNab’s group is still undertaking legal action to try and undo the measure. Save Our Access’ Aug. 27 lawsuit claims the city didn’t consider the environmental impacts of removing coastal height limits under California’s Environmental Quality Act.

The case hasn’t moved forward beyond the city of San Diego filing a notice on Sept. 25 that it’d like to hold a settlement meeting.

Everett DeLano, who represents Save Our Access, said Monday that they’re waiting on the city to produce documents but made no further comment.

We’ll have to wait and see whether the courts will uphold what the majority of San Diegans want.

County Increases Beach Testing, State Holds Up New-Fangled Rapid Test

It’s that time of year again, when the winter rains come flushing months’ worth of grime from San Diego’s streets through storm drains straight into the ocean. The county’s holiday colors should really be yellow and red because that’s the theme carried by water quality warnings pockmarking the coast from Oceanside to Imperial Beach via San Diego County’s beach test results site.

Signs at Dog Beach in Ocean Beach warn of contamination in the water. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

The general rule is to avoid the ocean a full 72 hours after a big rain like Sunday’s. We’re under a “general rain advisory,” which means there’s higher bacterial levels than normal in the ocean, especially near storm drains, rivers or lagoons. Beaches near the sewage-blighted Tijuana River are, of course, fully closed – meaning touch the water at your own peril.

If you want to nerd out on what’s actually in the water, you can check out San Diego County’s beach monitoring data. But you can guarantee that data is at least three days old by the time it’s on the website, so you’ll have to trust the county’s blanket advisories first.

Starting Oct. 31, the county and city of San Diego will boost testing to seven days a week at nine South County locations near the blighted Tijuana River:

  • Two locations at Cortez Avenue and Imperial Beach Pier
  • Two locations at the border fence and Tijuana River mouth
  • Five locations at Monument Road/Boarder Field State Park, southern end of Seacrest Drive, Carnation, Silver Strand, Avenida del Sol in Coronado

State law only requires testing at the first two locations, but county supervisors expanded that program over the years. This year, county leaders dedicated $457,000 to get daily tests.

Last week I dove into why we aren’t already doing this already, especially since the Tijuana River has been spewing pollution into the ocean at the border for decades. (Part of the answer is that it’s expensive to test and nobody is raising their hand to spend the millions necessary.)

But even though we’re now testing daily, it takes 24 hours to get the results, which could delay policymaking decisions about when to close beaches or post advisories.

The county wants to use a newfangled method called ddPCR (droplet digital polymerase chain reaction), which can whip out results in just hours. That could save a lot of folks from hitting the surf when it’s really dirty out there.

“If we take a sample in the morning we could get results back by the afternoon and issue an advisory,” said Linda Turkatte, deputy director of the county’s Department of Environmental Health.

The Environmental Protection Agency already approved the county’s request to start using it. But the county is waiting on the state of California to OK it too, confirmed Donna Durckel, spokeswoman for San Diego County.

For now, I’d stay out of the water for a little while, but I’m a health kook.

In Other News

  • This San Diego-based company will be working on a nuclear fusion project in France. (Nuclear fission is the splitting of atoms and what created the atomic bomb. Fusion is the opposite, a collision of atoms that creates more energy than we currently know how to contain safely. But can you say, free energy?) (Union Tribune)
  • Del Marian ocean view proponents are arguing against a fence that’s supposed to keep people off railroad tracks atop a bluff, which can be dangerously crumbly. (Union-Tribune)
  • The California Coastal Commission is keeping closer tabs on local plans to deal with sea level rise. (KPBS)

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