Chula Vista Needs to Give Up Its Crack-Addiction to Housing

Pipe Image

Housing permits are like crack to a city and the city of Chula Vista has a crack problem. All cities know that housing developments are not good for them, but they can’t stop saying no to the crack dealer housing developer. Why is that? It’s because building housing units is the lowest hanging fruit, in other words, the easiest thing for a City to build.

Housing developers need land and the City has had plenty of green pasture land. It’s no coincidence that the current Planning Department is basically the Planning Department that came from the City of San Diego and they know how to permit a housing development like the back of their hands. Finally, Council members depend on developer money to fund their campaigns and developers know that.

Just take a drive on the east side and what used to be rolling hills of green pastures is now row after row after row of houses. Take a look at what development is currently being planned. You got it – more housing. With all of this new housing you would think that the City would be doing great economically. Well, no, actually, it’s the opposite. Since the housing bubble burst, the City has been running in the red.

The reason for the deficit is because while housing permits generate fees that go to the City’s general fund, these are one-time fees and the cost of maintaining these new houses, condos and apartments can go for, well, forever. As the City gains more housing, it needs to fund more services like schools, parks, libraries, police, fire, sewer, roads, etc.

But what about the Bayfront? Surely, this will save us from our crack-addicted ways. There will be hotels and retail and a convention center, right? Did I mention hotels? We were also told that it will generate $11.5 million in annual tax revenues. Well, while the Bayfront will be a nice addition to the West side, you need to look at the fine print because it won’t add a single penny to the City’s coffers.1 Why? Because the plan all along has been that all of the money generated for the Bayfront, will be for infrastructure and services on the Bayfront. (You should read that line twice)

How about mixed-use housing development? That way you have the best of both worlds: the one-time fees from housing units plus the long-term tax generation from the retail at the bottom. Mixed housing is the sneaky way that the housing developer gives crack to the City. The City feels good about the retail space and the developer gets the housing which is the real money generator. The problem with mixed housing is that it only works in certain places. The first mixed housing projects built on Broadway seem to have a lot of empty retail space. The reason is not clear but parking may be an issue.

What’s the alternative? The alternative is to build a sustainable model that balances new housing with separate development that generates tax dollars on a continual basis: commercial and industrial. So, if you see an Economic Development plan from the City, ask yourself, is it more housing, more one-time fees from development that will continue to drain City resources, or is it real economic development like stores or businesses?

Here is challenge to the City: put down the crack pipe and focus your energies on replacing the abandoned retail spaces like the Kmart on Third Avenue, the Alberson’s on Proctor Valley Road, the two Haggens stores on Telegraph and Third Avenue, the Fresh and Easy on Third Avenue, or the Target on Fourth Avenue.

Until then, don’t talk about economic development plans.





  1. The exception to that fact are the condos being built by Pacifica on the only land that belongs to the City. However, what is the problem with that? You got it! One time generated housing fees and not ongoing tax revenue. You’re learning.
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5 Responses to Chula Vista Needs to Give Up Its Crack-Addiction to Housing

  1. eastlaker says:

    I did read that the western side of Chula Vista is very much below where the city plan states they should be in terms of park land/public space. Can we enforce any part of the city plan?

    What about those properties that Sweetwater Union High School District owns. As I recall, the school district was trying to get out of the lease on the newer building in the Eastlake Business District, but they still had about three (or more) other properties.

    What can be done that makes the most of those properties for the overall good of those who live here?

    And about the waterfront, did anyone read as I did that in addition to a high rise hotel, that plan now calls for eleven “towers”. The interesting thing was when the plans were presented all over the city, in meetings and at street fairs and farmers’ markets, there was no mention of those eleven towers. So–does this mean that citizens will be completely cut off from the waterfront, that it will be an underutilized convention center with a large number of towers dwarfing the west side?

    What kind of mindless and hopeless city planners do we have? Is there no one with any aesthetic sense at all?

    This is our one chance to do right by our waterfront, to make something that will bring the community together, to have recreational opportunities, healthy exercise opportunities, green space and open space so that the housing values of the west side will appreciate, not depreciate.

    What is so difficult about this?

    If something is ruined, there will be no monetary gain. Let’s make sure that we all have a stake in this planning, so that we are not left with building block towers that look like some leftover (and failed) architectural statement.

    Chula Vista has been criticized for being a backwater in many ways. While we have been lacking in leadership of any depth or quality, let’s hope people step up. Backwaters can be ok. A nicely kept backwater can be beautiful, as long as there is some refreshing waters that keep things from becoming swamp-like.

    Let us hold the leadership that we have today in Chula Vista accountable for all these decisions.

    They have taken away public space, green space, commercial space from the East Side.

    We need to stop this trend and let our self-appointed civic leaders as well as those we voted for know that we want and deserve a community that works on all levels. We do not exist merely as pawns for developers. They should listen to us. After all, we pay them.

  2. Pingback: Half-Baked: Idea of Creating Mello Roos Areas to Postpone Developer Fees | Focus on Chula Vista!

  3. maggie says:

    This is the most rediculous headline. I didn’t even want to read the arrival I was so discussed.

  4. Pingback: Chula Vista’s Half-Cent Tax: Going About the Problem the Wrong Way | Focus on Chula Vista

  5. Pingback: Poster Child for Bad Planning | Focus on Chula Vista

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