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By Kim Murphy
Murphy and Murphy Southern California Realty 

Real Estate Round-Up: SOS – Vote wisely


Last updated 12/17/2019 at 10:20pm

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors had their monthly meeting, Dec. 17. One of the topics on the agenda was to change the wording of Measure A, also known as SOS or Safeguard Our San Diego. The 5th District supervisor, Jim Desmond, proposed language that would provide specific language to the title and summary of the measure, so that voters understood what they are voting for or against.

Unfortunately, the item was removed from the agenda, so the summary and title in the voter booklet will remain vague and possibly mislead uninformed voters.

The current language approved by the county counsel stated: “Shall this initiative be adopted for the purpose of amending the county general plan to require voter approval through 2038 of any general plan amendments which increase residential density in all areas designated rural and semi-rural, subject to very limited exceptions, permanently prohibit density transfer from higher density parcels to lower density parcels and prohibit the designation of new Specific Plan Areas through 2038?”

Say, what? I understand the initiative but the current language is so vague, I would call it almost misleading.

First, a little history lesson: In response to the high cost of housing, the board of supervisors directed the chief administrative officer March 28, 2018, to investigate the means and mode of establishing a Density Transfer Credit program, a Transfer Development Rights or an equivalent program. This density transfer credit program is specifically what Measure A would prohibit until 2038.

Measure A seeks to overturn, through voter disapproval, any proposed housing development on formerly rural or semi-rural land that is larger than five homes. It means that every time a builder wants to build six homes on a parcel that was previously zoned for less density, even if the county approved the build-out, the voters can disapprove of the development and overturn the county approval.

Voters in El Cajon will vote on projects in Ramona; voters in Oceanside will vote on projects in the East County. What builder in their right mind would spend the money to go through the entitlements required to construct six homes if the potential exists that despite the county approval, voters across the county can vote the project down?

It is not optional. If Measure A passes, every, yes, every project of more than five homes on previously less densely zoned acreage will go before all the voters in San Diego County.

The limited exceptions mentioned in the language of the measure refers to casinos, hotels, country clubs, factories and luxury homes on sprawling, multi-acre lots.

It’s hard to believe that a measure that states it exists to “Safeguard our San Diego” would rather have casinos, hotels, country clubs, factories and luxury homes than support housing for our teachers, firefighters and law enforcement.

This kind of thinking makes crystal clear, who the supporters of Measure A are fighting for, the wealthy who want everything to stay just as it is, because after all, they deserve it, right?

Measure A adversely impacts middle class Californians, first time homebuyers and renters by the simple fact that affordable workforce housing requires higher density in order to bring the cost of those homes down to an amount that those homebuyers can afford.

The affluent will not be impacted by this measure, but everyone else will. People living in urban areas will make decisions for rural communities. Measure A will force more San Diegans to live in overcrowded apartments and pay higher rent. It will drive home prices higher, making our affordability crisis even worse.

Measure A will damage our regional economy. By causing workers to live further and further away from work, in search of affordable housing, businesses may have to downsize or relocate due to the inability to find qualified workers who live in the region.

I previously reported what happened in Ventura County after they approved their very own version of SOS, called SOAR or Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources. Ventura County’s average economic growth over the past four years rounds to 0.0%. In the past two years, it has had an economic decline, with contractions of 0.9% and 0.4%, respectively.

Business leaders from the county’s three largest manufacturing firms all agreed that a growing housing affordability crisis and the inability of businesses to attract and retain talent are the single biggest constraints on economic activity in Ventura County.

Affordability is directly influenced by housing supply. Ventura County has effectively stopped building. They are looking at an economy of haves and have nots. The commuter population that enters the county each day to work is causing increased congestion and pollution. Ventura County is having negative migration.

Imagine this situation. A well-financed, highly successful company wants to locate to San Diego County. They locate the perfect location for their campus. They investigate housing options for their workforce and realize that the only way the bulk of their employees can afford to purchase a home, is if they live more than an hour hour away, and there is no hope in sight that the large amounts of vacant land along the Interstate 15 corridor will ever be developed to house those employees because of SOS.

Do you think they will still open a campus in San Diego County? No, they’ll look at Riverside County or maybe outside of the state.

So, Fallbrook and San Diego residents, do not be fooled by anyone that tries to convince you that it is a good plan for the region. It may sound attractive for all the NIMBY’s out there, but the short-term victory will have long-term effects that will paralyze San Diego County, with no cure available until 2038.

Kim Murphy can be reached at [email protected] or (760) 415-9292 or at 130 N. Main Ave., in Fallbrook. Her broker license is #01229921, and she is on the board of directors for the California Association of Realtors.


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