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Roundtable: Filner Speaks; Local Gun Control; Building Heights; Chargers Hires

Evening Edition

Andrew Keatts, a land use reporter for Voice of San Diego, talks to KPBS about a San Diego initiative limiting the height of buildings west of I-5 to 30 feet.

Aired 1/18/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.


Katie Orr, Metro Reporter, KPBS News

Tony Perry, San Diego Bureau chief, Los Angeles Times

Andrew Keatts, Land Use Reporter, Voice of San Diego

Bernie Wilson, Reporter, Associated Press


Low Buildings = Coastal Views: In 1972, San Diegans passed an initiative limiting the height of buildings west of I-5 to 30 feet, with exceptions, including downtown and Little Italy.

The limit has successfully preserved ocean views, for the most part. In spite of near-constant nibbling around the edges by both politicians and developers, it has survived for 40 years.

But opinions on the limits vary widely. Many believe that the height limit and the resulting coastal views and access are what makes San Diego so unique and liveable.

But others believe that the removal of the height limit would mean more housing units and therefore more density, lower prices and less sprawl. Still others say the limit is arbitrary, leads to uniformity and stifles architectural creativity.

Because the law was passed by initiative, voters would have to weigh in on any exemptions or changes to the limit.

Mayor Filner's Busy Week: On Tuesday, Mayor Bob Filner gave the State of the City address -- introduced, by the way, by his former rival Nathan Fletcher.

The mayor stressed fiscal responsibility, asking for a five-year freeze of pensionable pay for all city workers to help offset the expected $40 million in costs associated with switching employees from a pension plan to a 401K-type plan.

He also wants an urban forestry program, trolley access to the airport, and a new department of neighborhoods, in addition to the city office in Tijuana scheduled to open February 1.

The mayor announced that he will be accessible once a month in the lobby of city hall to anyone who wants to talk to him.

Also this week, reports surfaced that Filner told the Port Tenants Association that he will veto the City Council’s days-old appointments to the Port Commission.

Just before 5 p.m. Friday, Filner vetoed the Port appointments.

Going Off Guns: This week President Obama released several proposals for dealing with the vast number of firearms in private hands in the U.S. They included both executive actions, which he implemented immediately, and longer-term initiatives, which he will need Congress for.

Not so fast, said the National Rifle Association, whose leaders vowed many times during the week to defeat any attempt at any change.

Meantime, the City Council of Del Mar voted to ask the Fair Board not to renew contracts with Crossroads of the West, which holds four gun shows a year at the fairgrounds. So far, the Fair Board has been unmoved. And the City Council of Chula Vista this week passed a resolution supporting gun control legislation at the national level.

(Story continues below.)

Evening Edition

Bernie Wilson, a reporter with the Associated Press, talks to KPBS about the San Diego Chargers' new hires, coach Mike McCoy and GM Tom Telesco.

Chargers Hire McCoy and Telesco: Adding weight to the truism that timing is everything, Mike McCoy, the much-praised offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos, was hired on Tuesday to coach the San Diego Chargers.

McCoy had been interviewed for coaching jobs by three other teams. But fact that the Broncos lost on Monday to the Baltimore Ravens by three points due, many think, to an ultra-conservative offense, may have enabled San Diego to get him. McCoy is 40.

Another 40-year-old, Tom Telesco, director of player personnel for the Indianapolis Colts for six years, has been hired as the Chargers general manager, to general approval.

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Avatar for user 'sdmom619'

sdmom619 | January 18, 2013 at 12:53 p.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

Coastal height limits did not go far enough. The new building almost finished at the 94 and Lemon Grove ave, is about 5 stories high. It blocks the ocean view of all those east of it. Take a drive up Kenwood to the top and have a look west... RUINED!!

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | January 19, 2013 at 8:50 a.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

Any discussion about height limits in San Diego should also include the 500 ft. Height limit downtown that is making our skyline look like a plateau.

Your guest erroneously implied that buildings can go as high as they want downtown, that is false.

If you go to other large cities, you see a greater variety of heights in the downtown areas giving more interest to the skyline, whereas in San Diego's downtown everything looks the same height.

Since most people agree that downtown is where height and density SHOULD be, why not evaluate the downtown 500 ft. Limit??

Downtown has expanded quite a bit since this limit went into effect, and while it makes sense for the Little Italy area, I would think the ballpark area could accommodate 600-800 ft buildings.

The city needs to work withe the FAA to reasonably update this height limit before SD's nickname becomes the "Great Plateau".

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Avatar for user 'Mmikey'

Mmikey | January 19, 2013 at 8:55 a.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

So far he is all talk and no action.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | January 19, 2013 at 4:38 p.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

@Mmikey, give Mike McCoy time. I just got hire. He can't weed out the roster right away.

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Avatar for user 'Pat Finn'

Pat Finn, KPBS Staff | January 21, 2013 at 11:12 a.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

Peking, I checked the transcript. Andy said downtown and Little Italy were exempted from the 30-foot height limit, which is true. I found no other implications about building heights there.

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Avatar for user 'laplayaheritage'

laplayaheritage | January 21, 2013 at 1:35 p.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

San Diego is governed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Part 77 Guidelines were by default any structure over 499 feet is an obstruction to air navigation.

"§ 77.17 Obstruction standards.

(a) An existing object, including a mobile object, is, and a future object would be an obstruction to air navigation if it is of greater height than any of the following heights or surfaces:

(1) A height of 499 feet AGL at the site of the object."

As part of the San Diego International Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan, the San Diego Airport Authority consultant create draft surface contour maps in July 2011. See Page 21.

Using the same SANGIS data, if they wanted the AA could make general contours lines were building heights can exceed the 500 foot limit.

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Avatar for user 'jelula'

jelula | January 22, 2013 at 7:14 p.m. ― 4 years, 1 month ago

@ sdmom619 : Rte. 94 at Lemon Grove Ave. is in La Mesa and not governed by the 30' height limitation. The height limitation applies only to City of San Diego and only west of I-5 (within the City of San Diego) except for Little Italy and Downtown San Diego.

As La Playa Heritage states, the 500' height limit downtown is due to airport landing & takeoff constraints and not City-imposed limits.

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