Mayoral candidates clash on measure that would pave way for new arena project

Presidential Election 2020

SAN DIEGO – With two Democrats, Assembly Member Todd Gloria and City Council Member Barbara Bry, neck-and-neck in the race to be San Diego’s next mayor, undecided voters may be searching for areas where the two candidates don’t see eye-to-eye.

One of the latest: Measure E.

The ballot measure looks to lift a 30-foot height restriction for the Midway District. The existing limits were put in place back in 1972 and apply to a stretch of western San Diego neighborhoods. Proponents argued the height limit would protect views for coastal communities and prevent overdevelopment.

Now supporters of Measure E, including Gloria, argue that the Midway area should not be considered a “coastal” community, and that exempting the district would allow for new building in that neighborhood while still leaving the restriction in place for beach areas.

A key project is already at stake: A proposal backed by current Mayor Kevin Faulconer that would build a new sports arena and transform the surrounding neighborhood with new shops, housing and more. You can view renderings and more details here.

“I think this is emblematic of our different approaches,” Gloria said of his support for the measure and Bry’s opposition. “Council Member Bry is endorsing the status quo and is really accepting of the existing blighted conditions in the neighborhood. I believe we could do better.”

Gloria says the Midway District needs a facelift, both economically and in its physical appearance, and that lifting the height restrictions will be key in that effort. He claims Bry doesn’t support developing options.

“That is ridiculous,” Bry responded Thursday. “We updated the (Midway District’s) community plan two years ago on a unanimous vote at city council to allow for more residential units.”

Bry said she’s not opposed to building in the area, but feels this measure was rushed to rubber-stamp the existing plans for a new arena, and that the community was left out of the decision-making.

Throughout the race, Bry has positioned herself as someone who will “clean up” City Hall. She told the San Diego Union-Tribune that Measure E was an attempt at “another backroom real estate deal” by the city.

“I would like to see a process that truly engages the community about what is good for the community,” Bry told FOX 5. “We just updated their community plan two years ago. That would have been the time to talk about raising the 30-foot height limit.”

Gloria is quick to point out that Measure E would not officially approve any particular project, just make ones that violate the existing 30-foot limit possible, but it’s true that the developers of the current arena district plan are counting on Measure E passing for their project to come to fruition.

Ultimately, the voters will decide in November — both on Measure E, and on which of the two mayoral candidates hold the City of San Diego’s highest office. Still need to make voting decisions, or wondering where to drop off your ballot? Click here for the FOX 5 Voter Guide.

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