Politics Report: The Midway Redo – Voice of San Diego

As part of their effort to interview all the candidates for local positions, the Union-Tribune’s editorial board asked Councilwoman Jen Campbell how she will combat the high cost of housing in San Diego.  

She acknowledged that costs were way too high and we needed to do more. She said her opponents in the race – Joel Day, Lori Saldaña and Mandy Havlik – have been speaking with a lot of bravado about what they would do on housing “but I actually got things done.” 

What things? She cited only the redevelopment of Midway and specifically the Sports Arena land.  

“I took a lot of heat for authoring Measure E to pave the way for thousands of new affordable homes in the Midway/Sports Arena District, but I never backed down and we won,” she told the paper.  

The problem is that they didn’t win. The city gambled that it wouldn’t need to do an environmental impact report on what Measure E would do or allow be done and opponents of the project sued and prevailed.  

They, it turns out, won.  

This week, Councilman Chris Cate who had been the joint author of Measure E formally asked the City Council to put it on the ballot, again, in November.  

It will be different: When to pick a winner: In 2020, Faulconer picked a Sports Arena developer well ahead of Election Day. 

That meant voters had a vision of what they were voting on, whether positive or negative (even though the measure applied to the entire Midway community, not just the project area). 

It also meant the winning developer could fund the campaign. 

It’s unclear if Gloria will do the same. He could, theoretically, keep the competition open until the votes are in.  

Jessica Lawrence, the mayor’s director of policy, said earlier this year the city hadn’t decided yet to put the measure up in 2022 or 2024, but had plenty of time to choose a winner before a November election if it wanted. 

“In terms of timing, if we go to Council in the spring and whittle our selection then or in the summer and make a selection in the fall, we would have plenty of time for that,” she said. “But no, we aren’t asking applicants to fund a ballot measure. We won’t be asking that, or using it as a consideration in our selection.” 

Last time around, Brookfield Properties won the bidding and then helped fund the campaign. With no winner chosen by the time of the vote, the city wouldn’t have a partner like this helping the campaign.  

“In general, it’s harder to sell a concept than a specific project. It’s why we worked so hard to have a plan for the SDSU West project. People didn’t want to vote on a pig in the poke. They wanted to know what they were getting,” said Shepard.  

The city does plan to try to eliminate two of the five bidders this month. It’s unclear whether the City Council will agree with staff to do that, though.  

A different electorate: Measure E passed comfortably, with over 56 percent of the vote. 

That’s a nice cushion, but there are a couple reasons to wonder if the question could have a tougher redo. 

Turnout is likely to be lower in 2022 than it was in 2024, and the people less likely to vote are likely to come from groups that are more likely to support the measure: younger people, people of color, renters, people with lower incomes, people who don’t live on the coast. Not too long ago, Democrats in San Diego largely accepted that the fundamentals worked against them in off-year elections. That’s become less true in a hurry, culminating in 2018 when they unseated multiple incumbent Republicans, and progressive challengers did the same to incumbent Democrats who were to their right.  

So, it’s not 2010 or 2014 anymore, but the electorate this year is still likely to be somewhat to the right of the one that approved Measure E in 2020. 

Opponents will be ready with new arguments: “The problem they’re going to be fighting in general is skepticism about whether the city is rushing this or not,” said Tom Shepard, a political consultant who helped run the campaign allies of SDSU ran the last time the city had a large, immensely valuable piece of land with an old sports facility on it that it wanted to redevelop.  

And, opponents of Measure E in 2020 hardly mustered an argument. But that’s going to be a lot easier, now that they can accurately say that a judge ruled the city broke state law in pursuit of the measure last time.  

An older and more conservative electorate, and the specter of wrongdoing by the city two years ago, still might not be enough to push the measure below 50 percent. But they are two obstacles that weren’t in place last time. Maybe it isn’t a layup anymore. 

Pastors Jurgen and Leanne Matthesius finished the evening with a prayer for Tucker Carlson. The crowd gathered at Awaken Church bowed their heads as Jurgen thanked the lord for Carlson’s vision and honesty on April 2, 2022./ Photo by Jakob McWhinney

Tucker Awakens  

Dispatch from Jakob McWhinney: Awaken Church made headlines throughout the pandemic for repeatedly refusing to abide by COVID-19 regulations, even as multiple outbreaks occurred at their locations. The evangelical church wears these transgressions like a badge of honor.  

Last Saturday, Awaken hosted Fox News pundit Tucker Carlson at its San Marcos campus, one of five countywide. Carlson is just the latest right-wing luminary to make the trip. Dennis Prager, Candace Owens and Charlie Kirk have all spoken at the church, and just three weeks ago it hosted a conference that featured Michael Flynn, Roger Stone and Eric Trump.  

There was an anxious energy in the shuttle from Palomar College’s parking lot to Awaken’s San Marcos campus. The sounds of someone listening to a Trump speech on their phone mingled with John Legend’s “All of Me” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You’ve Been Gone” on the radio.  

Across the street from the church, protestors had lined up with empty strollers and shoes signifying the children killed during the fighting in Ukraine and holding signs accusing Carlson of making excuses for Russia. As the van passed by, one occupant said she wanted to punch the protestors.   

“Not very Christian of me,” she chuckled to her husband under her breath.  

The lobby of the church was buzzing. A line for the coffee shop snaked in front of tables set up for candidates, vendors hawking “Let’s Go Brandon” shirts, and antivax and conservative organizations promising to raise “an army to effectively influence local politics.”   

Among those present was former Oceanside mayoral candidate Louis Uridel, who sports a three percenter tattoo on his hand, and Amy Reichert, who runs ReOpen San Diego, the group that has steadfastly opposed the county of San Diego’s response to COVID-19. Her political awakening was fueled by pandemic politics. She’s currently challenging Nathan Fletcher in the District 4 supervisor race.   

Carlson’s speech was loose, but pointed. It oscillated between admiration of his four dogs and jokes about organic peanut butter, to talk of demonic forces and spiritual warfare. He also touched on another of his favorite topics, the “unraveling of Western civilization,” which he said was ultimately an effort to destroy Christianity.  

Carlson, who grew up in La Jolla, heaped praise on Awaken for choosing to stay open during the pandemic, citing the need for fellowship and community, and saying Christian leaders who “chose the path of cowardice and abandonment of their own flocks” had committed a “grotesque sin.” The crowd at Awaken erupted in applause when he scoffed at the idea of getting a second booster shot, and insinuated he hadn’t been vaccinated at all.   

“I skipped the first three, I’m not getting that one either,” Carlson said.  

The night wrapped up with a Q&A between the Fox News host and Awaken lead pastor Jurgen Matthesius, known for his especially vitriolic sermons, and his wife and fellow pastor, Leanne. They bantered about the best way to keep the spark alive in a marriage, what Carlson sees as the most concerning aspects of the current generation of children, and his experience quitting drinking.  

Then Jurgen closed the night with a prayer. Jurgen praised God for putting Carlson on TV.   

“We thank you that you’ve anointed him to be a seer, to be a voice, a voice of hope and a voice of reason, a voice that calls out the wicked one with his schemes and lies and deceptions each and every night, bringing hope to millions around this nation,” he said. “We ask that you continue to bless and honor this great man, Tucker Carlson. In Jesus’ name.”  

“Amen,” the crowd responded.