After decades of suburban sprawl, San Diego eyes big shift to dense development

In San Diego, resistance to Faulconer’s plans — which are in various stages of approval — is bubbling. Three trolley stops are under construction in neighborhoods surrounding Mission Bay and residents have fought for years against relaxing nearby height restrictions.

On one side of the trolley is Interstate 5 and the bay. On the other, car dealerships and one- and two-story businesses line a commercial corridor. An abandoned department store sits next to one of the new trolley stations, and a developer has discussed using the site to build 1,700 new homes in buildings up to 90 feet tall. A few blocks inland, single-family homes rise along a broad hillside.

In front of some of those homes are lawn signs that read “Raise the Balloon,” referring to a slow-growth group founded in 2014 by Bay Park resident and Realtor James LaMattery. LaMattery said he was astounded that the city was considering allowing taller buildings in his neighborhood and convened protesters to lift a 10-foot-in-diameter red helium balloonover five stories high to show how residents’ views would be affected.

“It was like raising the American flag,” said LaMattery, 66.