Column: DeMaio fights to protect the height limit of the stadium area with a wild card

In November 2020, a ballot measure to lift the 30-foot height limit for the Midway neighborhood surrounding the sports arena was approved by a 13-point margin.

The “Yes” campaign, with broad bipartisan established support and financial backing from key developers, overwhelmed a community-based grassroots opposition that had virtually no resources to fight.

Opponents won a reprieve by winning a lawsuit alleging proper environmental reviews were not conducted to lift the restrictions. But a reenactment of the proposal to remove that height limit, as Bill C. He is on the ballot in November, seemed to drive the campaign toward similar political dynamics.

It may change.

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Carl DeMaio, a radio talk show host and former San Diego City Councilman, has suddenly become a major opponent of Measure C. He joined three community supporters to sign a ballot argument against removing the 50-year-old height limit.

While some leaders of the No on C effort have taken DeMaio’s involvement cautiously, others seeking to reverse the move are reeling from the alliance.

Either way, Demaio is considered a double-edged sword. He can potentially bring resources, campaign knowledge, and his mostly Republican and conservative supporters to the fight. , which could alienate some voters working to maintain height restrictions, especially Democratic activists who openly dislike DeMaio.

It remains to be seen how much DeMaio and his Reform California organization will contribute to the campaign, and whether he will materially change the “no” side. His main focus in the elections this fall has been to beat San Diego’s Measure B. If approved, this would lead to charging landlords of single-family homes a waste disposal fee. Currently, they can use the city’s services for free, but condo and apartment businesses and owners must pay for private carriers.

DeMaio said he had met with those who opposed lifting height restrictions and provided “technical assistance” and some pre-election campaign advice. He didn’t see the concern that he and other Measure C opponents might have different broad political ideologies.

“Once we find common ground … there is nothing wrong with working together on that one issue,” he said.

Lisa Mortensen, who opposes Measure C, said DeMaio brings both hope and danger to the campaign, but she emphasized her concerns about the latter.

“I’m afraid we’re going to distract voters and lose the message,” said the Mission Hills real estate agent and community advocate. is a shouter and I think he has political intentions, and that’s where I argue.”

OB Rag, a long-time progressive voice in San Diego and a strong advocate of maintaining the height limit, successfully challenged the 2020 measures in court.・I was surprised to see that you are now partnering with DeMaio, whom Gormley called. “San Diego’s trump card”.

“OB Rag draws a line here. As long as Save Our Access is affiliated with DeMaio, it will not support Save Our Access,” wrote Gormley, who first reported on the controversy surrounding DeMaio.

Despite this enthusiasm, it’s hard to imagine that DeMaio alone would turn voters against height restrictions — something they tend to be passionate about — into supporters.

On the other hand, some opponents want DeMaio to turn “yes” into “no”.

In an email to supporters of the restrictions, John McNab of Save Our Access said the strongest support for lifting restrictions in 2020 would be along Interstate 15. This is an area that greatly skews the Republican Party. “

The greatest opposition was in coastal communities, not DeMaio’s bases.

McNabb said the campaign reached out to the environmental community but received virtually no response. , along with McNab and former U.S. Assistant Attorney Philip Halpern, signed a ballot argument with a group now called Preserve the San Diego Character.

McNab pointed out that reform local government PACs are the main opponents of Measure C.

“There are concerns that this is too right-wing an organization to be its main antagonist, and that its founder, Carl DeMaio, is too polarizing,” McNab said. McNab writes.

Donations to No on C are processed through WinRed, a Republican online operation that claims to be the “greatest fundraising technology used by conservatives.” At least two of his contributors were surprised and angry when they found out that WinRed was being used.

The end result for measure C is the same as most campaigns. Who has the money to win?

This week, Mayor Todd Gloria endorsed Midway Rising proposals to develop Pechanga Arena and surrounding city-owned land from three finalists. If the city council approves in the coming weeks, the developers of Midway Rising are expected to fund the “yes” campaign heavily.

The project calls for a total of 4,250 residential units (including 2,000 deed restricted units for low and middle income households). It requires a new 16,000-seat arena, a 200-room hotel, 250,000 square feet of commercial space, and 20 acres of vacant land. space.

DeMaio did not commit to direct funding through Reform California. An open question is whether a losing developer, a developer with potentially competing projects in other areas, or someone else with a lot of money will get the money to oppose Measure C. I don’t know.

DeMaio said he opposes it primarily because of the lack of transparency and accountability in the development process, arguing that organized labor benefits unfairly.

“It’s a very isolated cast of characters,” he said. “I don’t think this is fair and open competition.”

He said San Diego needs more housing, but added that projects don’t always require or provide the necessary infrastructure.

The latter is one of the concerns of grassroots opponents. Mortensen said the dense skyscraper development that would be allowed if height restrictions were lifted would create overwhelming traffic on Interstate 5 and parts of his 8, making access to the beach easier. said to make it even more difficult.

“We are talking about access,” said Mortensen, who has been in real estate here for 46 years.

There is no ocean view from the Midway District, but planned development will likely block the view of Mission Bay, which may interfere with the view of San Diego Bay from the highway.

She further resented that the decision was being made by voters across the city, not by those living in the Midway area and surrounding areas.

“We have taken power and voice from voters in the region,” Mortensen said.

She wants people to talk about those messages, not new messengers.

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