Originally posted at the OB Rag
It appears the City of San Diego is getting set to dismantle the 30-foot height limit in order to allow massive redevelopment of the Midway District.
With the Midway area community plan update – okayed by the Midway planning committee on March 21 – about to be approved by the City Council in June, all the chips are falling into place to set the stage for some kind of political action that would get rid of the sacrosanct height limit for the some 1324 acres being considered for the redevelopment. The redevelopment would bring in dense housing – some of it affordable -, “modern commercial districts”, and a 7-fold population increase to the area.
But the 30-foot height limit stands in the way of the dreams of developers, city planners, and their sycophants within the mainly commercial zones of the district.
Here’s a San Diego Union-Tribune report, referencing statements by the chair of the Midway planning committee, Kathy Kenton:
Another hurdle facing the transformation of the area is the city’s 30-foot coastal height limit, which covers all of the Midway District. The arena, which is 75 feet tall, and the former Cabrillo Hospital exceed the limit because they were built before it was put in place in the early 1970s.
Any new construction exceeding the limit couldn’t move forward without a ballot measure seeking majority approval by residents across the city. Some have suggested the city place a measure on the ballot exempting all city-owned properties from the height limit.
Kenton, contending the Midway District probably shouldn’t have been included in the area governed by the height limit in the first place, said the ballot measure might also include exempting all property there – not just city-owned lots.
From Fox 5
When the Midway community plan update was approved by the San Diego Planning Commission in late April:
“… commissioners lamented the city’s 30-foot coastal development height limit, which limits housing density potential. Bypassing the limit requires a successful ballot measure.”
The community plan update proposal goes before the City Council’s Smart Growth and Land Use Committee on May 24, with a final version scheduled to be adopted by the full council on June 26.
Once approved, the updated community plan will be the blueprint for a massive overhaul and redevelopment of a huge section of the Midway District -1370-some acres, envisioned by the San Diego City Planning Department over the next 20 years.
The plan includes:
- a transformation of the area around the city’s sports arena, where the city owns 100 acres.
- changing commercial and industrial zoning to residential zones;
- raising the district population from 4,600 to 27,000;
- adding dense housing with an increase of housing units from just under 2,000 to more than 11,000, with some reserved for low-income families.
- breaking up the industrial mega-blocks into smaller residential “villages”;
- creating “modern commercial projects” that require heights over 30 feet;
- making a series of small parks, totaling less than 30 acres – which is less than 2.3% of the acreage being considered for redevelopment.
- installing a “bay to bay” walkway for pedestrians and bicyclists;
One of the decisive decisions the city must make is what to do with the sports arena – currently branded as the Valley View Casino Center – and the surrounding city-owned 100 acres.
By the year 2020 many of the commercial leases expire and the city is currently not talking about what they’ll do. (We discussed this in our February 13 report.) There’s a whole bunch of businesses that don’t want to leave and want the city to extend their leases, businesses like Dixieland Lumber, Pier 1 Imports, the Salvation Army, the sports arena of course and the sports teams, Kolby’s Swap Meet, numerous affordable housing apartment complexes. (See chart)
One thought among city planners is – if the city-owned acres around the arena are redeveloped quickly then that development would serve as a catalyst to other projects.
And making city planners overjoyed is a new proposed project for the 16 acres of the former Midway Post Office. A developer is proposing an upscale office complex which – wait for it – could also be a catalyst.
The project, called The Post, a 230,000-square-foot office campus for white-collar workers, would feature a linear park open to the public, sky atrium and nature walk.
Right on time, the same developers who bought the old Post office site for $40 million last year are expected to soon unwrap their own plans for dense housing – apartments or condos – next to the proposed office campus. None of these plans have been actually submitted to the city for approval yet. But the city planners are already excited.
Via David Garrick at the U-T:
Such an upscale and modern development could set the tone for redeveloping the entire area and attract other developers to nearby parcels now occupied by automotive businesses, low-level retail and fast food restaurants, said Cathy Kenton, chairman of the Midway Community Planning Group.
“It absolutely is a catalyst for a revitalization of Midway and it’s the first step to help us get on that road,” Kenton said by phone. “It will ultimately impact how the sports arena property gets redeveloped.”
Doubtlessly, it’s inevitable for the Midway District to remain in its under-developed state.
Home to much military-style housing during World War II, the area never consolidated into anything other than a maze for commuters to navigate, with a blitz of ditzy low-level businesses lining the busy streets. Yet, the area is close to mass transit, the airport, the freeways, the beaches, Mission Bay Park, the bay, downtown – it’s perfect for massive development but … that very development may not alleviate the traffic congestion or sense of malaise in the foreseeable future.
It’s probably way past time to push the building of affordable housing for the Midway District. Is it too late to allow this moment to be one of creating habitat for the low-income humanity – without losing the 30-foot height limit? It would be a crime if 6,400 new housing units were built and only a few as affordable.
It may be that the Midway District is just too delicious, too ripe to be anything other than a massive redevelopment – a redevelopment that will over the next 2 decades line the pockets of developers without abating the housing crisis, and which will pave the road that will undermine the 30 foot height limit everywhere.