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KPBS Midday Edition

San Diegans Sound Off On The Future Of Our Region

Lori Holt Pfeiler
Some 30,000 San Diegans sounded off about what they want for our future, we get an update from Our Greater San Diego Vision.
GUESTLori Holt Pfeiler, Associate Vice President, Our Greater San Diego Vision

CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. It's Tuesday, March 13th. Our top story on Midday Edition, preliminary results are in on what San Diegans see as their top priorities for the region in the 50-100 years. The survey called our greater San Diego vision was conducted by the San Diego foundation, and as organizers continue to pour through the answers they received from the public, they say they're amazed at how many normally laid back San Diegans actually took part in the survey. My guest, Lori Holt Pfeiler is former Escondido mayor, and associate vice president of our greater San Diego vision. Welcome to the show. PFEILER: Thank you for having me, good day. CAVANAUGH: Many San Diegans probably became aware of this campaign through your TV commercials. I remember one that asked San Diegans what they thought parking was going to be like at the beaches in years to come. Did you get a lot of response from those commercials? PFEILER: That was a great stimulant. It caused people to think, okay, we have a great quality of life here, but we are going to have 1.3 million more people. Go we have enough beach for our future population? CAVANAUGH: And how else did you generate interest in this campaign? PFEILER: Well, we did a lot on Facebook and social media, lots of commercials, then we also had an iPad team from San Diego state that went out and physically took iPad and went to various community centers, veteran centers, homeless places where people don't usually have access to computer, and they generated about 8,400 of those responses. CAVANAUGH: And how many responses overall? PFEILER: Over 30,000. CAVANAUGH: That is kind of a lot considering how San Diegans maybe don't jump in first to participate in surveys like this. PFEILER: No, but when you ask -- most of the responses were from one-on-one, asking sharing about the information, and saying will you please go fill out this survey? Talking in front of a group, talking about all of the issues we're going to face as a region, and compelling them that we're talking about our children and grandchildren as well. CAVANAUGH: What kinds of questions did you want partants to answer in PFEILER: We asked what do you see as the most important issues that we're confronting as a region? And we asked those questions a year ago, and they talked about education, housing are the top two issues. When we participated in the survey this time, transportation was an issue, housing, affordable housing, and education are still top priorities as well as conserving water. CAVANAUGH: I want to talk more about that. But I want to step back for just a moment and ask you to remind us what our greater San Diego vision campaign is all about. Why are you doing this? PFEILER: Well, we want to make sure that we in San Diego have a great quality of life. We're pretty happy, if you ask people today, they're pretty happy with what's happening in San Diego. But as I said, we are going to grow by 1.3 million more people. That means we need to have 400,000 homes, and 500,000 jobs. And the growth is going to come from our children and grandchildren. Up to 70% of the growth will come from us having children, and we don't want to send them away. We want to be able to have a great quality of life for the people that are going to be here. And so if we're going to grow that much, where do we want to grow? What kind of housing do we want to have? Then we also asked about education. We are going to be competing, we know that we're competing in a global economy. How are you we going to prepare our students to be competitive? We asked about enjoy, how do we enjoy this region? What are the arts and cultural experiences that we have? What are the open spaces that we enjoy? And where are we going to work? What kind of jobs are we going to have? And we know that there are -- that San Diego economy is very lucky to have three clusters. We have military, tourism, and then innovation economy. That leaves about 62% of us that have jobs based on the strength of those three clusters. What are we going to do in this region to make sury woo have a strong economy that those clusters can stay strong? Do we want to have another cluster or what do we want? CAVANAUGH: My guest is Lori Holt Pfeiler, and she's associate vice president of our greater San Diego vision. We're talking about the preliminary results that have been released about the show your love San Diego campaign that you may have seen commercials for over the past few months. And you say that these are preliminary results that you have released. How many of the respondents' ideas were included in this preliminary finding? How many of the 30,000? PFEILER: Oh, we have all 30,000. CAVANAUGH: I see. PFEILER: So we have 30,000 respondents, then we did a scientific poll of a thousand, and it's surprising to us that you have 30,000 in one group and a thousand in another group, and they almost mirror each other. CAVANAUGH: And yet you still have layers of information that you need to go through, right? PFEILER: Yeah, well, we have all of the results from the 30,000. So we have the results as we see them, but we can look at that 30,000 in a lot of different ways because 12% of those respondents were younger than 18 years old. So we asked a lot of students what they think about their future. And we can look at it from a demographic, we can also look at it from a geographic perspective. What does North County think? What does south county think? What is the urban core downtown, how do they differ? CAVANAUGH: Well, let's dive into the top tree that you mentioned. Water conservation, transportation, education. Transportation. What is it that San Diegans are telling you that they want in the future? PFEILER: It's interesting out of the top five, three of them relate to transportation. And one of them is transportation choices accessible to everyone, bus, car, rail. And another know was put destinations close to people. So we want to reduce our travel time, but that doesn't mean we have to get in a car. We educational background put jobs closer to housing, and they would be just as happy with that. And then we want to reduce our daily travel time. CAVANAUGH: And one of the things that came up is the idea of a high-speed rail connecting San Diego to LA was a really good idea, according to your respondents. PFEILER: Yes, 67% or 68%, depending on the choosing or the scientific survey. So just mirror right back to back. And that question was asked while all of the press was coming out about how expensive the high-speed rail system was going to be. I think people realize as we move forward, we need to have more efficient transportation systems. And the high-speed rail is really a sustainable kind of a system. CAVANAUGH: Now, the idea of having people live closer to where they work is also part of your transportation issue. I guess it's also part of the housing issue too. What did people tell you about house something PFEILER: Well, housing, we had four different scenarios, and one scenario characterized what we've been doing for the last 40 years. And we have had more large lots, large homes. And we projected that out, this is the kind of scenario we would have. We had another scenario that had about 15 kinds of housing types, and they would be more dense, more multifamily, but there also was 1 piece of it that has small lots and small homes. More affordable. We know that 65% of the people who live in San Diego can't afford the home that they're in, and we realize if our children are going to be able to buy a home, we need to do something different. So there's more affordable housing choices. And we would use less land, less water, less agriculture land, and there were two choices that were like that. We called those B and C. And then D was a different kind of option where we realized all the scenarios you still had to accommodate the 1.3 million people, it's just how do you do? And option D went very high density, very, very tall buildings, and then a lot of large lot, single-family, kind of the bell curve, the opposite end of it. And people predominantly chose B and C. They didn't want more large lots and large home, very high density. They wanted something more in the middle that is more -- I guess we would cull it more responsible, more -- call it more responsible. Housing choices are more affordable, less land, less water, you're closer to your work. Housing option B really built jobs in housing much closer together. MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And what did people have to say about conserving water? PFEILER: That was a priority. CAVANAUGH: It was a priority. But did they say how they wanted to do it? PFEILER: Not necessarily. Conserve water actually came out to be the No. 1 issue. And then when they chose the housing choices, if water was an issue, then they chose the option that used the least amount of water. CAVANAUGH: Going into the data that you received from this survey, how do San Diegans feel about enhancing communities? Arts project, culture? Those kinds of issues. Did you ask questions long those lines? PFEILER: Ywe did. And it's surprising, people do appreciate what we have in this community, and they want to connect -- preserve and connect our natural spaces. So if we think about all of the natural spaces that we have, we have the San Diegito river, the San Diego river, Julian, the mountains, the beaches. How can we connect those so people have access to them? And even in the enjoy, we call that the enjoy piece, it was still access to those areas as well. We still want to be able to get to them. But they do mention that it could be digital access. If it's arts and culture, maybe I can't get to the symphony, but I could still enjoy it digitally on my computer or some other fashion. CAVANAUGH: Oh, that's interesting. Was there anything in this survey that area residents weren't concerned about that you thought they might be? PFEILER: We did have one question about would we like to have housing over 30 feet on the coast, because if we value the coast, we want to live close to our amenities. But clearly we want to preserve the scale that we have along the coast. We like the scale that we have, and we do not want to build over 30 feet. That was very clear. CAVANAUGH: Oh, all right. How about education? PFEILER: The survey results for that was quite interesting. Students that answer the one question about arts and culture and civics, do we need to have a focus on that, students named that as No. 1. CAVANAUGH: Arts, culture, and physics? PFEILER: Civics. CAVANAUGH: Oh, I was going to say! That was a strange one. PFEILER: That would be very interesting. CAVANAUGH: That is interesting. So these are students -- you broke down the results from students themselves. PFEILER: Yes, just that 1 piece of it. But yes, other than that, early childhood education overall is important for education. And we want to make sure that children are prepared to learn and that their parents know how to teach them so they'll be prepared to learn. CAVANAUGH: And wasn't there also a push for people wanted to see a four year college in the south bay? PFEILER: Yes. That was one of the other -- there were several questions, and there was a great deal of support for the university down in south bay. 61%. CAVANAUGH: One area that rated in the lowest priority was creating a cross-border megaregion, I think it says, dealing with Tijuana and partnering with Tijuana and Baja in a lot of areas. And that really didn't go over too well. PFEILER: No, that didn't. That did rate fairly low. So we realize that there's an education opportunity because the border provides $9 billion to our San Diego economy. But when you talk about work and how we want to work in the future, what kind of jobs we have, the border was not recognized as one of those key strengths. CAVANAUGH: So you see this as an education opportunity. What other reasons do you think there might be for that? PFEILER: Why they would choose that way? We have had some conversations, and the bad press that Mexico has had for the last few years, people might not want to touch the border issue. So there's a lot of speculation, and I don't know how to totally speculate on that issue. CAVANAUGH: Now, how did greater San Diego insure that there was diversity in the opinions they received on this survey? PFEILER: The scientific survey, it clearly reflects the demographics that we have. On the choosing tool, we have the iPAD team, and they went out to people who don't have access to computers and spoke different languages, and they had lots of languages under their own belt, so they translated on their own. And then we worked aggressively, and we ended up with 22% of the choosing tool, the 30,000 were Hispanic, and we had over-representation in the black population, and just about right in Asian. So we worked really hard to meet our demographic goals. CAVANAUGH: Do you see -- are people preparing the answers, the survey result, do they see an overall theme coming from these responses at all? PFEILER: I think what we -- the overall theme is that people know that we're going to change, they're prepare forward that, they're expecting some good decisions by the region, they want us to work together, they think that cities and county need to work together to make sure that we realize this new way of doing business. And the overall thing that consistently comes through is infrastructure. We need to build our infrastructure to meet our needs. CAVANAUGH: How is this information going to be used? PFEILER: For the next six weeks, we're going to go out and talk to our steak holders and partners that have been working with us, talk about these findings, say how do these work for you, then we'll be creating a vision. The vision will come out in July, then the center for civic engagement will be established, and it will implement this vision, convening with people, partnering with people, providing leadership depending on the issue, and what the vision says, and bringing it to San Diego. We want to continue to increase the engagement, we had 30,000 participate now, we want to continue to increase that because we believe that San Diego has a quality of life that's going to be protected when we all work together at it. CAVANAUGH: And if people want to find out more about the survey results and to keep abreast of the new information about all this, where can they go? PFEILER: CAVANAUGH: Lori is associate vice president of our greater San Diego vision. Thank you so much. PFEILER: Thank you very much for having me. We'll be glad to come back.

More than 30,000 San Diegans voiced their opinons about what they would like to see from the region's jobs, schools, transportation and other areas. Their input is part of a survey from Our Greater San Diego Vision.

Lori Holt Pfeiler, the associate vice president at Our Greater San Diego Vision and former mayor of Escondido, talked to KPBS about the survey.

She said conserving water, affordable housing and transportation issues were most important to San Diegans.


While Pfeiler said the U.S.-Mexico border contributes about $9 billion to the local economy, she said most people surveyed do not want to strengthen that area of economic development.

"We see that as an education experience," she said.

"San Diegans are saying we don't want to work on that right now," she added.

Pfeiler said TV commercials, newspaper stories, social media and an "iPad team" of San Diego State University students - who took to the streets and asked people to complete the survey - enabled its high participation rate. In fact, San Diego's survey had more participants than any "visioning process" in the country, she said.

"So 30,000 is the record now," she said.


The results will be used to create a vision that will be presented in July. The Center for Civic Engagement will then work to implement the vision.