San Diego’s building industry has gained a huge financial advantage over its two competitors in the bitter battle over four slow-growth measures to be decided by voters Nov. 8, campaign finance reports released Thursday show.
San Diegans for Regional Traffic Solutions, the building industry campaign committee pledged to defeat all four measures, has raised more than $635,000 since July 1, and has spent more than $553,000, much of it on polling.
By contrast, Citizens for Limited Growth, the community group backing strict slow-growth propositions D and J, has collected nearly $22,000 in the same period, and spent just over $8,000.
The Coalition for a Balanced Environment, a group of downtown business and civic leaders that supports alternative slow-growth propositions B and H, which were placed on the ballot by city and county governments, has raised nearly $75,000 and spent more than $57,000.
Although they are technically opposed to all four ballot measures, the builders acknowledge that virtually all the money they have raised so far has been spent to defeat citizen Propositions D and J, the Quality of Life Initiative in the city of San Diego and the Rural Preservation and Traffic Control Initiative in the county’s unincorporated areas.
That fact makes the financial discrepancy between the two campaigns even more striking. For example, the builders group has received two $25,000 donations, each of which is larger by itself than the citizen group’s entire budget.
Tom Mullaney, co-chairman of Citizens for Limited Growth, said his organization’s chances of swaying voters diminish if builders outspend it by more than 10 to 1. Builders now hold an advantage of more than 30 to 1 in campaign funds.
“It is a serious discrepancy,” Mullaney said. “Any time the odds get more than 10 to 1, it is a serious problem in terms of getting the message out.
“We had hoped to raise $100,000 to $200,000, and now we’re looking at $40,000 to $45,000,” Mullaney added.
But Mike Madigan, senior vice president of Pardee Construction Co. and spokesman for the building-industry committee, said that the huge fund-raising edge is necessary to convey a complex message to voters.
“It takes a lot of work to get people’s time and sit down and explain the issues: Here’s what J does, here are the impacts of J, here’s why it doesn’t solve the problems you’re concerned about,” Madigan said. “It can’t just be done with clever sloganeering.”
Focus on D, J
Madigan said that his campaign committee will continue to spend its money against Propositions D and J until its leaders are convinced by polls that voters will defeat the measures. That may mean that the campaign may give little or no attention to the government-sponsored initiatives right through election day, he said.
Propositions “D and J are death,” Madigan said. “They are going to mean the end of a lot of businesses in this town and the loss of jobs for a lot of people.”
That strategy appears to indicate that there will be little opposition over the next 32 days for the Coalition for a Balanced Environment, the downtown business and civic group that is backing the city and county ballot measures considered more moderate than the citizen-backed initiatives. The group hopes to raise $250,000.
Propositions D and J, sponsored by the citizens group, impose strict home-building caps in the county’s unincorporated areas and the city of San Diego, respectively. The caps are tied to the quality of air and water, the level of traffic congestion and other environmental standards.
Propositions B and H, sponsored by the county Board of Supervisors and the San Diego City Council, respectively, place less stringent residential construction caps on the same areas. All four measures contain language protecting hillsides, canyons, flood plains and wetlands from development.
The finance reports show that Citizens for Limited Growth raised $136,502, including $71,200 in loans, before July 1 and spent almost of all of it to gather the signatures needed to put Propositions D and J on the ballot.
That effort has taxed the group’s fund-raising potential and is hampering its effort to secure victory for the initiatives, Mullaney said.
“Our signature phase sort of tapped out many dedicated supporters,” Mullaney said. “It’s hard to get up to full speed quickly on the second half of the campaign.”
The reports show that the group is relying largely on small donations from individuals, money from the group’s leaders and non-monetary contributions such as donated services.
Though it has received hundreds of small contributions, the bulk of San Diegans for Regional Traffic Solutions’ funds come from large donations from development industry concerns.
The group, which hopes to raise $1 million to $2 million before election day, has received 15 contributions of $20,000 or more, including a $50,000 contribution from McMillin Development.
The Coalition for a Balanced Environment, which pledged not to accept donations from home builders, did accept a $10,000 contribution from the Chevron Corp., which owns the locally based Chevron Land and Development Co. The subsidiary is building RiverWalk, a $500-million Mission Valley development that includes 1,329 homes, most of which are scheduled to be built in the late 1990s.