According to the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), the region's population will increase by 1.25 million people by the year 2050. Between now and then, close to 500,000 new jobs will be created.
A June 27 workshop called "San Diego Forward: The Regional Plan,” registered the public's perspective on issues including what type of employment should be fostered as the county population grows. The plan is scheduled for adoption in 2015, and SANDAG is conducting workshops throughout the region.
The East County workshop at the La Mesa Community Center drew 87 people. Participants divided into groups to discuss issues such as economic prosperity and what jobs they wanted in the region during the years leading up to 2050. That prompted Ann Pierce's proposal for "clean, nonpolluting industry,” such as eco-tourism in the Mountain Empire.
A member of the Mountain Health & Community Services advisory board, Pierce referred to the "beautiful vistas" in the 650-square-mile subregion that includes the communities of Potrero, Boulevard, Campo, and Jacumba, among others. The land in the southeast county and north of Tecate is known as the "backcountry"; think of it instead as "the gateway" to the county, said Pierce.
Bill Chopyk, La Mesa Community Services director, spoke about the various sides of an issue, such as the construction of a casino. It would "bring in a lot of money," but there may be concerns about issues such as traffic.
In regards to job creation, Carole Robasciotti of La Mesa noted that people — especially the aged — might not be able to leave their homes; she suggested that these people hire others to help them take care of small tasks. "Right now, we rely on volunteers," she said. SANDAG planner Carolina Gregor noted that the population of residents age 65 and older is tripling.
La Mesan Joe Glidden suggested that his city look into bringing a microbrewery to town. "La Mesa is a nine-mile island," he said. "I hope that economic prosperity is not looking at another big-box store. I like to walk through the Village and buy locally. I don’t mind paying a little more to make sure [employees] have health care."
In a related matter, Robert Germann of Lakeside criticized a proposal to convert Gillespie Field airport into an “aerotropolis,” a modification that would transform the county-owned facility into an industrial hub.
The 852-acre airport "is in the heart of El Cajon," Germann said during a session on healthy communities. "The little planes all burn leaded fuel." (The council website described 55 acres of aviation use at Cajon Air Center and 37 acres of industrial use land available for development.)
Germann cited other concerns about the plan announced last April. The East County Economic Development Council is using a $50,000 grant to create a "strategic road map" to study development around the airport that borders Santee. According to a council news release, the group's regional partners include the cities of El Cajon and Santee.
After the session, Germann gave me a flyer from an aerotropolis opposition group. The flyer proposed other land uses that ranged from a stadium for the Chargers to an entertainment complex.