Community Planning

By Michael Winn


Without the voices of pro-active Town Councils to ensure community and quality of life needs are met, priorities of City and County (SANDAG) land use planning are focused on economic development, to the near exclusion of infrastructure and quality of life considerations. Town Councils demonstrate united political will of communities they represent so that needs of families, children, local businesses and the elderly (people) aren’t likely to be forgotten, denied or ignored, and quality of life in communities and the region at large is benefited, preserved, restored and improved.

The need for this attention is cumulative.. There’s an ongoing cost of neglected needs, an ever-increasing deficit in infrastructure, the costs of which increase over time, and related costs of health and public safety as functioning communities disintegrate in flipping houses and “in-fill” development in the form of 8-plex condos sold to Chinese speculators, a result of creating a local community plan in support of a quick profit model of development pro forma, which has been the priority of our local (city) and regional (SANDAG) urban planning bodies. The worst result of this isn’t the grid-locked freeways, unsafe neighborhoods, flight path violations and so on.

For instance, the Point Loma Community Plan anticipates density increases and effectively promotes such increases, but not to meet community needs for affordable housing or any other benefit for the community or people who live here, but only to meet financial goals of developers and, of course, increasing tax revenues. The Community Plan, which was conceived in the 1960s, 70s or 80s didn’t anticipate the impact from this increased density as we can see, not even the highway infrastructure was well thought out. deteriorating conditions we now face.

The result is that any developer may demand a right to build any kind of project that fits within the antiquated zoning code described in the Community Plan, even though it creates  problems that weren’t imagined when the code was adopted by the city council 30 or 40 years ago, and without considering that our streets, waste treatment, water resources and emergency services are frequently stressed beyond what is needed to accommodate the current demands and traffic. The developer’s proposed new building construction adds impossible demands to a system that is breaking down.

This break down may take the form of a four-unit condominium  with the driveway of a subterranean garage emerging on Cañon, or a seawall instead of a beach at Kellogg Beach, or families moving away to make room for condos owned by foreign investors, some of them to be let out in short term rentals.

The city, county and region has already accumulated an enormous deficit of infrastructure that impacts all of us. New words, like, “smart growth” seem like mysterious promises of the miraculous, a word we seldom associate with the city’s contract and bid procedures or government in general.

Zoning code, created in the ’70s to make the Housing Element of the city’s General Plan appear compliant with standards set by the State Department of Housing and Community Development now allow developments to proceed bridled only by fees paid by developers. These fees, though they add substantially to development costs, are tiny relative to the infrastructure we really need. What we’re seeing on freeways and in the air above us is the result.

While 4:1 development is what we’re seeing at places within the peninsular area, development in adjacent areas (downtown) and the expanding airport operations, which is part of the strategy of the financial pro forma of downtown condominium development, is increasingly eroding quality of life, as more and more flights generate more and more noise and pollution covering a wider and wider area. Not all of this can be laid to incompetent design, for the problem is a lack of accountable governance. No one has been minding the store and no one before now was pointing that out.

Existing socio/political community organizations (Point Loma Association and/or the Point Loma Community Planning Board) and/or the Airport Noise Advisory Committee, have neither the structure, mission nor appetite for taking on these problems. If they had, we wouldn’t be talking about establishing a Point Loma Town Council. There are structural reasons why these organizations can’t address the kind of problems we face and chief among them is simply that they aren’t organized or led by a board whose mission it is to engage a majority of all residents, businesses and neighborhoods in actions that express the political will of those who live and work on the Peninsula. A Town Council can determine the political will of an informed electorate.

We can’t pretend to know the answers for all our issues. Some of those answers are to be negotiated between parts of the community that may differ on them. Point Loma Town Council is organizing with a structure that has proven effective in other parts of San Diego to bring a community together around solutions. Point Loma Town Council aims to be effective by engaging and empowering the community to express a unified political will to address problems and find and implement their solutions.

“The time has come…” but not, as Lewis Caroll wrote, “To talk of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax– Of cabbages–and kings– And why the sea is boiling hot–“


but instead, the time has come in Point Loma

  • to prevent aircraft from violating curfews and flight paths except in real emergencies;
  • to have a development services department that doesn’t permit height restriction violations;
  • to restore Kellogg Beach rather than allowing a developer to build a concrete sea wall that will permanently destroy the public beach;
  • to have Naval Base commanders take responsibility for the way their contractors drive in our town;
  • to have the airport design the roadway access to the airport and solve other vehicular associated problems;
  • to consider the eventual impact on Point Loma of 1000s of new condos being built downtown, that are now being sold to Asian, primarily Chinese and Saudi real estate investors;
  • to address needs in Point Loma created by growing numbers of homeless people as they are forced out of East Village by the aforementioned multifamily condo development.