San Diego County voters have an opportunity in this March primary to make our government work for the people, not just for special interests, by voting yes on Measure A.
Measure A, the Save Our San Diego Countryside Initiative, is a grassroots effort run by community volunteers. It was drafted out of concern that the Board of Supervisors has repeatedly amended our County General Plan to the financial benefit of developers, often at significant taxpayer expense. Measure A’s proponents have concluded, based on hard experience, that our elected Board of Supervisors are inclined to do the bidding of groups that support their political campaigns. Residents of Valley Center hardly need reminding about Bill Bulldozer Horn.
Evidence of this inclination has recently come to light. Last November, Supervisor Jim Desmond agreed to carry water for the Building Industry Association in attempting to change the Measure A ballot question in the voter’s information pamphlet. The information was revealed through a Public Records Act request, in which texts and emails to Supervisor Desmond’s personal account reveal a close relationship with lobbyists and representatives of developers.
The new ballot question proposed by Supervisor Desmond was convoluted and inaccurate. It was designed to confuse voters into voting “no.” If the Yes on A campaign had not pointed out to the Supervisors that the deadline for changing ballot language established by state law had passed, the building industry would once again have perverted a public process designed to serve the public good to, instead, serve the financial interests of its members.
San Diego County’s General Plan took 13 years and $18 million to develop. The General Plan reflects the values and priorities of small communities throughout the unincorporated county that have already signaled the most logical places for new housing. The areas zoned for higher-density housing (like Park Place) in the plan are close to existing villages — places like Lakeside, Spring Valley, Fallbrook, and Valley Center. The General Plan already allows 60,000 new homes in the unincorporated County to be built without any amendments, and without any vote once Measure A is adopted.
That’s right: 60,000 homes could be built without triggering a single public vote under Measure A.
Passing Measure A is one of the best ways to respect the voices of San Diego County residents. Today, the majority of the Board of Supervisors bulldozes over the zoning set out in the General Plan. Residents of the unincorporated county do not have a dedicated voice on the Board of Supervisors, so the best way to protect their needs and interests is to allow growth in the county according to the General Plan. We are supposed to be represented by the Community Planning Groups, but those votes are completely ignored by the Supervisors. This is why I finally quit serving on the San Dieguito Planning Group after nine years, since our unanimous votes to reject the General Plan Amendments in our area were consistently ignored. Think about that when the opposition tells you it is unfair for people in La Jolla to decide what happens in Valley Center: they already do, through the 5 Supervisors who represent mostly city residents, and who blow off the considered votes of our directly elected community representatives.
In addition to pressing our Supervisors to honor to the priorities of County residents instead of those of land use speculators, Measure A will push builders to actually develop affordable housing. Measure A tightens up the loopholes that allow developers to flout the General Plan by making the process of buying cheap land zoned for low-density housing, and then turning around to build luxury developments with thousands of units, less attractive. It forces developers to justify their schemes to the voters directly rather than simply relying on the Supervisors to represent our interests.
And it works: Newland Sierra, approved in 2018 without a single affordable home, all of a sudden in December 2019 introduced a “covenant” to include some of these when facing the prospect of a public vote in March: funny how the citizens can actually get something in the public interest when the speculators face a public vote.
The General Plan calls for housing in the areas that make the most sense. Even in the unincorporated county, the plan allows building of townhomes and the kind of small-lot single family homes that meet the needs of public servants like teachers, police officers and firefighters. These homes are located close to existing roads, shopping, utilities, and other services. They are more likely to be safely evacuated in the case of wildfire than the mega-developments that require changes to the General Plan, projects like Newland Sierra and Lilac Hills Ranch.
More importantly, Measure A will push private interests and our local elected officials alike to stop wasting time on planning high-end sprawl developments when they should be focusing on creative ways to build more housing close to where people work, go to school and shop. That means fostering development where communities have already planned it, rather than promoting more unsustainable mega-developments in our backcountry.
Let’s give a voice to all San Diego County residents.
Vote Yes on Measure A.
Jacqueline Arsivaud is a resident of the Unincorporated County, former Board member of the San Dieguito Planning Group, former candidate for Supervisor in District 5, and Board member of San Diegans For Managed Growth, the sponsor group for Measure A.