By Ruben Arizmendi and Lori Saldaña
The San Diego region needs more housing for families and individuals at all income levels. The shortage is most severe for lower income households.
But that’s not the only burden facing underrepresented communities. Disadvantaged communities are also disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change. These communities have the highest mortality rates due to heat waves—rates that are projected to grow sixteen-fold for African-Americans and twelve-fold for Latinos within our children’s lifetimes. Numerous studies show that low-income communities are also disproportionately affected by wildfires as they are unable to rebuild or relocate as easily as upper income households.
The way to create an equitable future for all San Diegans is to focus on solutions that increase housing supply while reducing the impacts of climate change. Measure A will do just that.
Measure A gives residents a voice in how and where housing is built in unincorporated San Diego County, putting housing closer to jobs and lowering transportation costs. In San Diego County, transportation accounts for at least 21 percent of household budgets — and for lower income households, transportation can add up to as much as 30 percent of monthly spending.
San Diego County’s current system for deciding how and where housing is built is broken. Deep-pocketed developers can easily get around the rules to push through high end suburban housing developments in rural areas. They also are given a pass on following county policies that require affordability. Measure A will motivate developers to build the housing San Diego County residents need, where we need it and it will help to ensure developers follow the county’s policies around affordable housing. Housing will be built more quickly with Measure A in place.
In 1998, the City of Escondido passed a voter initiative that is similar to Measure A. Proposition S puts developments that require changes to existing zoning before the voters. Since Proposition S passed, construction of market-rate and affordable housing has continued apace in Escondido. In fact, Escondido outperforms the City of San Diego in building units affordable to moderate and very low-income households.
Measure A will encourage developers to build housing consistent with San Diego County’s General Plan. The plan calls for housing where schools, fire and police, roads and water services already exist. Larger projects, aimed at high income suburbanites, built far from these services are the only developments that would trigger a vote under Measure A.
All San Diego County taxpayers are subsidizing large housing developments in rural areas because the tax base of the new homes does not cover the cost of building new roads, parks and other services. As infrastructure in other parts of our region go neglected, we’re all subsidizing new neighborhoods for high income earners in rural areas.
Measure A gives voters from disadvantaged communities a chance to vote on these major land use decisions. Our current system does not generate the amount and types of housing we need where we need it most. It’s time to try something new. Vote Yes on Measure A.
Ruben Arizmendi is a lawyer, past chair of the San Diego La Raza Lawyers Association, and past chair of Sierra Club California’s Executive Committee. Lori Saldaña is an educator and a former Chair of the California State Assembly Housing & Community Development committee.