Over 50 residents of Hillcrest, Mission Hills, and Banker's Hill attended the July 8 San Diego City Council meeting. They waved five-inch, fluorescent green signs that on one side read "IHO," the other, "YES." Their purpose: to support an interim height ordinance on all newly proposed buildings for the neighborhood. The temporary height restriction of 50 to 65 feet (depending on the area of Mission Hills or Hillcrest) has been a defining issue for both residents of the Uptown district and those in the real estate industry.
Both sides faced off. First the opposition pleaded their case to the city council. They included the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, San Diego Apartment Owners Association, La Jolla Pacific Development (of 301 University fame), and a former city planner and designer of the current 20-year-old community plan.
Those opposed to the interim height restriction say that the ordinance puts unnecesssary restrictions on building and costs the area thousands of construction-related jobs. Instead of what they called a "moratorium on building," they preferred a plan that sends all high-rise construction proposals straight to a discretionary committee.
Next, Uptown residents in favor of the ordinance. There were 28 speaker slips submitted to the council and, nearly an hour and a half later, after several speeches about the community character of Hillcrest and Mission Hills as well as a PowerPoint presentation debunking the opposition's objections, the debate was turned over to the council.
The city's planning department as well as nearly every councilmember (with the exception of council president pro tem Jim Madaffer) were in favor of adopting the interim height ordinance. Madaffer felt -- despite reassurances from the planning department -- that adopting the ordinance potentially sets a precedent for other communities to want something similar, which could hurt the construction industry.
Despite his objections, the final vote was 6 to 1 in favor, and the residents of the Uptown area prevailed in placing a restriction on all buildings over 50 to 65 feet until a new, permanent plan is in place; such a plan could take as long as two years to prepare.
For footage from the meeting go to sandiego.gov/citycouncil/ or visit the Hillcrest Town Council's website.