Guest commentary: Quality-of-life issues present a quandary

A short-term vacation rental sign is posted in a yard in 2017.
A short-term vacation rental sign is posted in a yard in 2017.

It might not be obvious at first glance, but quality of life is on the ballot in the upcoming election. It doesn’t have its own proposition number, but it’s a key component in several measures and is a factor in the choice of every candidate.

From the perspectives of both supporters and opponents, a vote on Measure E is a quality-of-life decision.

In 1972, San Diegans voted in a 30-foot height limit for the coastal areas. Quality of life, they concluded, meant shorter buildings, ocean views and walking on public beaches.

Now, Measure E asks voters to remove the height limit in the Midway District, an area that stretches from the San Diego River on the north to San Diego Bay on the south and includes the MCRD [Marine Corps Recruit Depot] and the Pechanga Sports Arena.

While the measure does not propose any specific development, proponents see it as an opportunity to increase housing density, modernize the 54-year-old sports arena and save the Midway District.

No one who has driven through the area recently would deny that the district and the sports arena are sorely in need of rehabilitation. But there’s a pitched battle between the Yes on E side that says that, for economic reasons, rejuvenation isn’t possible with the height limit in place and the No on E side that wants low-rise housing and the proposed River Trail Park for walking and biking.

And the measure’s opponents fear the possibility that once the height limit has been removed from the Midway District, other coastal communities including La Jolla, Pacific Beach, Mission Beach, Ocean Beach and Point Loma could be next.

Thus the quality-of-life quandary — the benefits of housing density near public transit vs. the benefits of low-rise lodging and a park.

Voting yes on Measure E will pave the way for a new sports arena and transform the surrounding Midway District into a modern, attractive and enjoyable community — at no cost to taxpayers.

By voting no on Measure E, we can preserve the coastal height limit, avoid luxury high-rises that are not needed and maintain access to coastal areas for the enjoyment of all San Diegans.

There’s no doubt there’s a shortage of shelter in San Diego. This problem wouldn’t be as severe if the existing laws for short-term vacation rentals were being enforced.

The 16,000 units now being rented illegally to visitors at inflated prices would make good homes for people who want to live and work here. As it is now, the lack of affordable housing makes it difficult to recruit teachers, police, firefighters and the other essential employees San Diego needs.

Enforcing the existing regulations also would be an economic benefit for local hotels and restaurants and would have a positive impact on our growing homeless population. I know we need more affordable housing, and I wish our city would do more to help the homeless.

Moreover, without STVRs, the quality of life in our neighborhoods could be restored. I would not be happy if one of our neighbors sold their home to someone who turned it into a vacation rental party house.

Elizabeth Hansen is a La Jolla resident.