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With Measure E’s Passage, How Soon Will Midway Get Its Makeover?

A liquor store and massage parlor are seen here in the Midway District, Oct. ...

Photo by Andrew Bowen

Above: A liquor store and massage parlor are seen here in the Midway District, Oct. 16, 2020.

More than 56% of San Diego voters said "yes" to Measure E, which ends the 30-foot height limit for new buildings in the Midway District. Supporters said the measure was critical to the neighborhood's revitalization — though that could still take many years to happen.

San Diego rezoned much of the blighted neighborhood for high-density housing and mixed-use development in 2018. Now with the ability to construct taller buildings, property owners may be enticed to seek proposals for new development on their land, or sell off their land for others to develop.

Listen to this story by Andrew Bowen.

But Cathy Kenton, who owns property in Midway and chairs the neighborhood's volunteer planning group, said the news of Measure E's success is still sinking in. She said she didn't expect property owners to jump on any redevelopment opportunities right away.

"To be honest with you I don't think they've thought about it a lot yet, because this has been kind of a pipe dream for a long time," Kenton said. "So now it's really, 'Okay, this is real.' But nobody really knows what it means yet."

That is not to say there is not interest in the Midway District. Marcela Escobar-Eck, who heads Atlantis Group Land Use Consultants, said the neighborhood's proximity to downtown, Liberty Station and Point Loma give it plenty of potential.

"We are constantly getting calls from developers looking for new deals and new parcels of land and opportunities, and with Measure E passing, it basically just opened up this whole area for opportunities to redevelop," Escobar-Eck said. "It's really now just a matter of people catching on."

RELATED: In Search Of Makeover, Midway District Says ‘Yes’ To New Housing

There is an outstanding lawsuit challenging Measure E's validity, with plaintiffs arguing the city should have studied the environmental impacts of raising the height prior to putting the issue before voters. That lawsuit could delay the measure's implementation.

Kenton said she believed the city had already studied the impacts of taller buildings when it updated the community plan in 2018. The City Attorney's Office declined to confirm that, citing the litigation.

But the lawsuit cannot stop at least one major redevelopment project in Midway from proceeding: The Navy is currently studying the possibility of building itself a new cybersecurity headquarters, along with high-density housing, commercial space and potentially a "San Diego Grand Central" transit hub on the site of its NAVWAR facility. The property is already exempt from the city's 30-foot coastal height limit because it is owned by the federal government.

That project, along with the city's plans for a new arena and entertainment district on the Pechanga Arena property, could generate even more interest in Midway as a neighborhood ripe for growth.

A big missing piece in Midway's path to revitalization, however, is the poor state of its infrastructure. The updated community plan envisions a more pedestrian- and bike-oriented community replacing the current car-centric layout, with its wide, multi-lane arterial roads that can take ages for a person to cross on foot — not to mention by wheelchair.

Kenton said updating Midway's infrastructure would have to go hand-in-hand with redevelopment, which brings with it development impact fees that pay for new amenities.

"You don't have money for the infrastructure until you start doing the redevelopment," Kenton said.

Election 2020 news coverage

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Photo of Andrew Bowen

Andrew Bowen
Metro Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI cover local government — a broad beat that includes housing, homelessness and infrastructure. I'm especially interested in the intersections of land use, transportation and climate change.

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