By KENDRA SITTON Uptown News
In 2019, some proposed changes to Uptown were met with fierce neighborhood opposition. In particular, the 30th Street protected bikeway and turning the old Mission Hills Library into permanent supportive housing for homeless individuals both stand out as controversial items that were much discussed during this election cycle. However, the public outcry appears not to have negatively impacted candidates that championed those plans.
Based on public outcry, City Council member Chris Ward should have suffered in his bid for Assembly in North Park and Mission Hills if those projects mattered come election day. His staff helped create the plans for the 30th Street protected bike lanes and Ward initially proposed the library to Mayor Kevin Faulconer as a site for permanent supportive housing. While he has since tried to distance himself from both proposals, neither issue appears to have tarnished his ability to win voters in those neighborhoods. Based on the numbers from the San Diego County Registrar on Wednesday, March 4, in Mission Hills, Ward carried 77% of the vote – far better than 56.82% he tallied across the entire Assembly district. In the three precincts in South Park and seven in North Park that contain the proposed bikeway, he was supported by 56.01% of voters – nearly equal to his district-wide support.
When it comes to Ward’s replacement on the City Council, Chris Olsen has been the most vocal supporter of the 30th Street bikeway. While it is still too close to tell if Olsen will make it through the primary, his voter support remained steady in those 10 precincts on 30th Street compared to the rest of the district – 20.18% compared to 20.73%.
Another way to tell if those controversies were reflected by vote totals is by examining if candidates who opposed the plans received higher support in those effected neighborhoods than they did elsewhere. Here, the data shows little if no impact on opponents to the plan. Michelle Nguyen and Adrian Kwiatkowski, with the most conservative views on protected bike lanes, actually received slightly less support in the 10 precincts touching 30th Street than they did overall (Nguyen had 16.29% compared to 18.23% overall; Kwiatkwoski had 7.28% compared to 8.35% overall).
Kwiatkowski did not outright oppose the permanent supportive housing at the old Mission Hills Library but did sign a letter asking for other locations to at least be considered. He received 11.25% of the votes in Mission Hills, where he is a resident. Since most candidates are expected to receive a boost in their neighborhood, it’s unclear if Kwiatkowski’s support there came from his stance on the library or knowing more people.
The controversies around the proposals were not aberrations – anyone who witnessed the hours of angry testimony at community meetings can attest to that. There are a number of possible explanations for the election results. The proposals could have had enough nascent community support to cancel out opponents, the opponents were just louder. Or the people with time to attend community meetings, strike, and organize against the plans were not representative of the entire community. Ward’s name recognition as an elected official may also be helpful with low-information voters, although the same cannot be said in the City Council race. The proposals were talked about enough that they could have had a district-wide impact, so looking at the individual neighborhoods may be useless. Perhaps most of all, no candidate is perfect and voters pick a candidate on a range of factors, even if they disagree with the candidate’s stance on a proposal that will impact their everyday lives.
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.