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Measure C, which would lift the height limit in the Midway District, still in limbo

The initiative that seeks to lift the 30-foot building height limit in San Diego’s Midway District still hangs in the balance.

As of Thursday evening, 50.24 percent of votes are in favor of Measure C and 49.76 percent are against it, with a substantial number of ballots still left to be counted, according to the latest update from the San Diego County Registrar of Voters.

The Registrar of Voters has so far tallied ballots from 33.7 percent of registered voters in the county. Officials project voter turnout of 60 percent.

“As more votes come in, we’re happy to see that Measure C appears to be holding strong,” said San Diego City Councilmember Chris Cate, who championed the effort to get the measure on the ballot.

Measure C proposes to strike the entirety of the Midway-Pacific Highway Community Plan area from San Diego’s Coastal Height Limit Overlay Zone, which was originally established by Proposition D in 1972. The change would alter building-height limits for the district, allowing towers up to 100 feet on some parcels, based on city zoning restrictions.

An identical measure, Measure E, was approved by 57 percent of voters in 2020 but deemed illegal by the court last year.

North of the San Diego International Airport and south of Mission Bay, the Midway District is subject to a referendum on buildings over 30 feet in the city’s coastal zone, or what’s now protected territory extending from the water to Interstate 5 in city limits. The 1,324-acre region, home to around 4,600 people, is largely defined by its supersized streets, suburban-style shopping centers and older warehouses.

The measure, proponents argue, is key to revitalizing the neighborhood — starting with the city’s 48-acre property at 3220, 3240, 3250 and 3500 Sports Arena Blvd. Earlier this year, San Diego City Council members selected the Midway Rising development team to redo the sports arena site with 4,250 apartment homes, a new 16,000-seat arena, a 200-room hotel, and 20 acres of plaza and park space.

With Measure C, voters were asked to take a second stab at defining the city’s coastal zone. Proponents maintain that the neighborhood lacks the hallmarks of San Diego’s beach towns, whereas opponents argue that the district is closer to beaches and bays than parts of La Jolla and deserves protection.

“The coast is hanging by a thread,” said John McNab, who runs the Save Our Access nonprofit and helped organize the opposition campaign. “If (Measure C) goes through, the people are going to lose the coast.”

The repeat ballot proposal may ultimately be decided in court.

In August, Save Our Access filed a civil action against the city contesting the legality of the measure. The petition for writ of mandate argues that the city’s environmental review of visual impacts associated with taller buildings is insufficient — lacking analysis of all environmental factors — under the California Environmental Quality Act.

Save Our Access successfully sued to invalidate the 2020 ballot proposal that also sought to lift the height limit in the Midway District.

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