Politicians and land-use experts predicted Wednesday that Proposition A, the slow-growth initiative approved by San Diego voters last month, will intensify pressure to develop Otay Mesa and the neighboring cities of Chula Vista, Poway, Santee and Del Mar.
And Councilman Mike Gotch told the crowd of about 300 at a Construction Industry Federation forum that the success of Proposition A may spur another initiative to restrict development of San Diego's canyons.
"There has been some talk about a 'Son of Prop. A,' involving the greater protection of the city's canyons," said Gotch, a leading proponent of the original initiative. "And I have no doubt that it would pass, no matter what the spending ratio (in the campaign) would be."
Proposition A requires voter approval of any construction in the 20,000-acre urban reserve, pockets of open space, largely in the north city area, that is designated by the city's 1979 General Plan as off limits to developers until at least 1995.
Gotch told the developers' lobbying group that Proposition A was the "awakening of a sleeping, suspicious electorate that is watching you as an industry and is prepared to strike again . . . You should not try to pick away at it. That's what got you Prop. A in the first place."
Gotch, land-use attorney John Thelan, Chula Vista Mayor Greg Cox, Councilman Bill Cleator and Keith Johnson, executive vice president of The Fieldstone Co., addressed the group, composed mainly of developers gathered to discuss the effects of Proposition A.
"There will be no impact on the pace of growth in the area," Cox said. He concurred with other panel members that restrictions on building in north city will probably spur more rapid growth in cities bordering San Diego, including Chula Vista, and on Otay Mesa, situated along the United States-Mexico border and eyed by developers and city officials alike as a prime development area in the immediate future.
Cox said Proposition A "will have an effect on (where development occurs), and that's why the adjoining government agencies are interested to see what will happen."
"Concern over excessive growth is not unique to the City of San Diego; it's a reaction to developers pursuing cheaper land outside the metropolitan area," Cox said. "I think now developers will be looking to other suburban areas, and I see an impetus for an increase in building in a few cities, notably Poway, Santee, Chula Vista and Del Mar. And I see Otay Mesa developing at a much quicker pace."
Johnson, chairman of the federation's board of directors, said, "Proposition A complicates an already complicated procedure of getting building projects approved.
"There are many questions facing our industry now. Growth is going to continue in San Diego, and we want it to go north, where there is a great demand for industrial land. But it's going to have to go someplace else."
Cleator, who opposed Proposition A, said the City Council "would take this mandate and do the best it can to carry it out." He also said channeling growth away from San Diego's northern areas was a positive trend.
"You've had an easy sale in the north parts of the city," Cleator told the builders, adding that they now have "a new set of rules to work with . . . . But we ought to be looking at Otay Mesa, where the neighboring people need the jobs growth can create. I still think we should be pushing the industrial elements to the outskirts of the city, but we should build the industrial parks where the jobs are most needed."
Thelan, who served on former Mayor Roger Hedgecock's Growth Management Task Force, predicted that Proposition A could result in a myriad of lawsuits, but he warned developers that legal precedents support the premise that "voters can restrict land-use changes."
"Any form of litigation would take three to five years to complete, so any way you look at it, Prop. A is going to be here for a number of years," he said.
Litigation challenging the idea that Proposition A creates a new set of rules for landowners in the future urbanizing area "would make for an interesting lawsuit," Thelan said. "I think there will be some anti-trust claims because the city is restricting some property owners. From the city's point of view, there could be a substantial liability."