Support divided on proposal to require votes for major housing projects

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SAN DIEGO — Escondido Mayor Paul McNamara and Vista City Councilwoman Corinna Contreras urged San Diego County voters Wednesday to approve Measure A on their ballots, while the North San Diego Business Chamber urged voters to reject the measure.

Measure A would require a countywide vote on any major housing project that would require a change to the county’s general plan. Business leaders, the building industry and many housing advocates are opposed to the measure. Conservancy groups, rural voters and those opposed to urban and suburban sprawl are in favor.

McNamara spoke at a news conference Wednesday supporting the measure, saying he had seen what a similar — albeit smaller in scope — proposition had done for Escondido. Proposition S is a land rule which requires a vote to approve zoning changes in residential areas of the city.

“In Escondido, the passage of Proposition S encouraged development where it was needed most,” McNamara said. “Prop S has not impeded economic development or housing development in Escondido, and there is every reason to believe that Measure A will similarly guide developers to build housing closer to jobs and infrastructure.”

The North San Diego Business Chamber’s Economic Development and Advocacy Advisory Council voted to oppose Measure A.

“If approved, this measure will make creation of housing projects much more costly and difficult, causing developers to forgo developing within San Diego County,” according to a chamber statement. “Without the creation of more housing outside of the general plan, San Diego will not be able to meet current and future population projections, the region will not be able to maintain its economic competitiveness and preserve the quality of life for our workforce and families.”

The advisory council is chaired by Linda Bailey, president of Community Strategies Group, and Mike Nagy, public affairs manager for the Southern California Rental Housing Association. The council has 34 members, with a majority vote deciding which measures the chamber endorses.

According to the Yes on A campaign, the current general plan focuses new housing in areas with infrastructure to support it.

“Measure A encourages following the county’s smart growth general plan, which is the key to meeting our greenhouse gas emissions targets and creating a more sustainable region,” said Contreras. “When the county does not follow its smart growth general plan, it destroys habitat while creating more congestion in our region and making housing less affordable. Sprawl is bad for the cities and bad for the countryside.”

The chamber, while opposing Measure A, does support Measure B, which would amend the county’s general plan to authorize the development of the Newland Sierra Project just north of Escondido and San Marcos, and east of Vista. That project plans for 2,135 new homes.

“Building homes near employment centers allows employees to live locally, keeping their tax base in the region and reducing emissions from commutes,” according to the advisory council. “The project also follows Chamber requirements for housing projects in affordability, with over 60% of homes priced for working families.”

McNamara has endorsed Measure B. Most of that measure’s opposition comes from people worried about fire risk and the environmental impact of the development.

In a ballot argument, John Thomson, retired deputy fire chief, said, “This project is located in a high fire danger zone and no affordable housing for firefighters is required by the project approvals — two good reasons to vote `no.”‘

The ballot measures will be decided in the March 3 election. Mail-in ballots have been sent to more than 1.3 million San Diego County voters.

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Key Dates and Deadlines

Sept. 24: Sample ballots mailed

Oct. 5: Early voting begins

Oct. 6: Mail drop-off locations open

Oct. 19: Voter registration deadline

Nov 3: Election Day

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