A slew of cement trucks, jack hammers, and neon vests are soon to become the new norm along Carmel Mountain Road. A compromise was finally reached that would demolish the low-income PQ Village to be replaced by a new apartment complex. This contentious issue was debated back and forth by lobbying from residents, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, Lenmar construction company, and the cite owner Atlantic and Pacific Management. The city council voted 8-1 on Monday, March 5, approving the proposal.
PQ Village was reserved for low-income families, but the fate of these units was jeopardized as these contracts with the state are beginning to expire. Some critics wanted the city to purchase the property, to keep it completely subsidized low-income housing, but the high land values in this area prevented this plan from being a viable option.
The council vote mandates that before any construction begins, all residents in this area must have secured housing alternatives with the federal housing vouchers they were awarded. In addition to these vouchers, residents were given a lump sum to cover relocation costs. This covers the bulk of the needs PQ Village residents demanded, and in combination with these, Lenmar will have to include 115 subsidized low-income apartments.
While the construction company has yielded quite a bit, critics argue this still is not enough. There are currently 322 units in this subsidized low-income apartment complex, and only 115 units allocated in the proposed plan. Residents also point to San Diego’s high housing prices, that finding alternative housing can not compete with their current residence.
Council President Myrtle Cole of southeastern San Diego was the only no-vote, praising the efforts to compromise, but ultimately asserting it was not enough.
“When seniors are stressing and they’re worrying because they are being forced to relocate and restart their lives because their homes are being demolished for development, we have to revisit our housing policy,” Cole said. “We don’t want to create homelessness. We want to create housing affordability.”
This debate has further proved that this represents a large problem San Diego faces, which is a lack of affordable housing. It should also be noted San Diego has one of the highest homeless populations.
“We negotiated the best deal that is possible for these residents in a really bad situation,” Keith Maddox, trustee of the San Diego & Imperial Counties Labor Council said. “But this is just one example of what happens every single day in the city of San Diego because of inefficient housing policies.”
There is not a date set for construction to begin, as residents scramble to find a new place to live.