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Measure E Seeks Midway District's Revitalization By Raising Building Height Limit

A liquor store and massage parlor are seen here in the Midway District, Oct. 16, 2020.
Andrew Bowen
A liquor store and massage parlor are seen here in the Midway District, Oct. 16, 2020.
The measure would be the biggest change to San Diego's 30-foot coastal height limit since it was approved by voters in 1972.

Measure E on San Diego's ballot this election would exempt the Midway District from the city's 30-foot coastal height limit, paving the way for big changes to the neighborhood.

The height limit was imposed by city voters in 1972 and applies to all neighborhoods west of the Interstate 5 freeway, excluding downtown. Land owned by the state and federal governments is exempt, and in 1998 voters approved an exemption for SeaWorld San Diego.

Measure E would be a much bigger change to the height limit, which many in San Diego view as sacrosanct. Supporters of the measure, however, say Midway is not a coastal neighborhood and should never have been grouped with neighborhoods such as La Jolla or Point Loma where voters wanted to protect coastal views.

Dike Anyiwo is a Midway resident and vice-chair of the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group. He said the neighborhood has been begging for denser development as a way to combat blight, and that the height limit has made that revitalization impossible.

"What we're really looking to do with Measure E is transform the sort of pass-through nature and make it be a place where people actually want to live," Anyiwo said.

Even without the 30-foot height limit, new buildings in Midway would still be limited in size by other regulations written into the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan, which was updated in 2018.

RELATED: Mayor Faulconer Endorses Measure E To Repeal Midway Height Limit

VIDEO: Measure E Seeks Midway District’s Revitalization By Raising Building Height Limit

John McNab is a longtime San Diego activist who opposes Measure E. He says it's a giveaway to developers, and that rather than raising the height limit the city should create a giant park in the Midway District that would connect Mission Bay to San Diego Bay.

"All we have to do is understand that public land belongs to the people and it needs to be used ... in a way that benefits everybody," McNab said.

Most of the public land in the Midway District is owned by the military, which is pressing on with its own redevelopment plans that conflict with McNab's vision. McNab declined to estimate the cost or timeline for the park he’s envisioning.

The "yes" campaign has a lopsided advantage with endorsements, winning support from the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Planning Group, both the Republican and Democratic parties of San Diego County, the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, labor unions and several elected officials including Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

Opponents include: mayoral candidate and City Councilmember Barbara Bry; former Councilmember Donna Frye; James LaMattery of the anti-density group Raise the Balloon and Ronan Gray of the anti-Airbnb group Save San Diego Neighborhoods.

Measure E Seeks Midway District’s Revitalization By Raising Building Height Limit
Listen to this story by Andrew Bowen.
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