We Know About Newland Sierra’s Promise to Provide Affordable
Kayla Jimenez, February 24, 2020
March 3, voters will decide on Measure B the referendum
on the Newland Sierra development and the primary argument
supporters of the 2,135 homes the measure would greenlight
is that it will provide housing at an affordable cost.
San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a general plan
amendment allowing the project in 2018. More than 117,000
county residents signed a petition to force that decision
to a countywide vote.
they work to sell county voters on the project, supporters
of the development have touted that it will not just provide
badly needed housing, but that those homes will actually be
Better Choice Measure brings 2,135 new homes, 62 percent of
which will be affordably-priced for local working families,
including an exceptional commitment to designate 10 percent
of the community for families making less than half of the
countys area median income, the mayors of Oceanside,
Escondido, Vista, San Marcos and Carlsbad wrote in a December
letter. This is a significant advancement in providing
accessible housing for all San Diegans, including firefighters,
police officers, veterans and teachers, helping those who
work in San Diego County live in San Diego County.
backers of the measure wrote in a Union-Tribune op-ed that
it would deliver desperately needed, affordably priced
proponents have made similar claims.
addition to the 2,135 homes, the project includes a school
site, retail and parks north of Escondido in the Merriam Mountains.
Newland representatives are promising voters that more than
60 percent of the homes in the development will be affordably
priced for working people like firefighters, police officers
and teachers and their families.
as the election nears, attorneys for Golden Door, an exclusive
spa near the project and one of Measure Bs main opponents,
are challenging that claim, arguing it is an unenforceable
promise by the projects backers.
promise comes down to a commitment Newlands developers
have made to themselves and the unnamed firefighters, police
officers, nurses, and teachers they plan to house.
still not clear whether that promise is truly enforceable
by law, and if it is, it would require that citizens sue to
The Enforceability Question
countys general plan calls for developers to provide
an affordable housing component when requesting a general
plan amendment for a large-scale residential project when
legally feasible but does not actually require them
to do so. Thus, Newland did not include affordable housing
in its project.
county cannot require projects to provide affordable housing
units unless the county has a generally applicable program
such as an inclusionary housing ordinance or the county has
documentation showing a nexus between a particular project
and the need for affordable housing, Michael Workman,
a spokesman for the county, wrote in an email. Neither
was available at the time Newland Sierra was approved.
have criticized Newland for not including any homes legally
reserved for residents meeting certain income qualifications
in the project. A county report on the project argues that
it includes market-rate homes at a range of price levels,
but acknowledges it does not include any legally mandated
homes for low income people.
report, from the county Planning Commission, says the
project does not include an affordable housing component as
the County of San Diego does not have an inclusionary housing
ordinance or other legal mechanism to require affordable units.
This project consists of seven neighborhoods with a variety
of housing types (townhomes, single-family clusters, small
lots, family lots, large lots, age-targeted and age-qualified
lots), with lot sizes (ranging from 3,000 to 7,500-square
feet) for a broad range of age groups and income levels. Additionally,
325 of the projects dwelling units are age-qualified
and located in the Mesa neighborhood.
description of the project was approved by the Board of Supervisors.
Williams, an attorney for the Golden Door, argued that the
only thing that matters is the project approved by the board
does not include mandatory housing for low-income residents.
Developers will only need to build what is explicitly described
in the plan.
is absolutely no affordable housing voted on in Measure B,
and that is not in dispute, Williams said.
Newland Communities, the developer of the project, insists
its going to build affordable homes anyway.
so committed to ensuring trust from voters, the companys
officials say, that it has signed a legally binding agreement
recorded with the county that says it will keep their word
and build affordable housing. The agreement reads ten
percent of the total residential units built for the Project
set aside for households with incomes at or below 60 percent
of the Area Median Income as published by the County at the
time of sale or lease. (Very Affordable Homes)
shall not be amended or modified
also says full-time first responders, veterans, EMTs, military
personnel and teachers will have preference on 40 percent
of the affordable homes. The contract is valid for 10 years.
Kenneth Moore, a spokesman for Newland, said Newland chose
10 years because it follows the timeline for build-out of
said Newlands efforts to include affordable housing
are a PR stunt.
Sierra has entered into a covenant with itself, Williams
said. The county cant enforce it and the public
cant enforce it. So this is trust. We cant trust
them since during public approval, despite requests of affordable
housing from the community, they refused to put affordable
housing in the project.
attorney Mark Dillon rejected Golden Doors characterization
of the agreement.
is a legally binding commitment recorded as a deed restriction
on the Newland Sierra property through the county of San Diego
to deliver affordably priced homes for San Diegos working
families, he said. It requires any owner of that
property to comply with the affordability terms in the covenant
and amendment, which are enforceable, binding and cannot be
said the agreement is enforceable and names working class
residents law enforcement officers, firefighters, public
safety officers, emergency medical technicians, military personnel,
veterans and teachers as stakeholders who can hold
Newland accountable. He said other groups such as affordable
housing advocates can also hold Newland accountable.
at any time we dont provide housing, we say they can
enforce that in court, Dillion said. Its
a public document. Its enforceable by those groups,
their union representatives and other stakeholder groups that
support them, Dillon said.
asked the county for its opinion on the enforceability of
the document. Workman, the county spokesman, responded in
an email that the county wasnt even aware of the declaration
and therefore cant comment on whether its enforceable.
Delano, a land use attorney in Escondido, said the agreement
doesnt change what voters will decide on in March and
that there is nothing enforceable about it in context of the
measure thats before voters.
project was approved as the project was approved, Delano
said. They can say all kinds of things and stand up
with a Boy Scout pledge and say, I promise, but
theres no bearing.
pointed out that there arent any specifics clarifying
what preference means in the section of the covenant
pledging priority for law enforcement officers, teachers and
called it a vague commitment.
is nothing about this that gives voters any additional rights,
The Affordability Question
to the entire dispute is what Newland even means when it says
its homes will be affordable.
are two different types of affordable housing: theres
housing that is legally reserved for people who make below
a certain income threshold, and theres regular market-rate
housing that happens to be affordably priced. Newland Sierra
says 210 homes will be of the former, and argues it provides
a lot of the latter.
are some differences in Newland Sierras affordability
projections compared to state and national standards. It also
assumes a higher percentage of money down on homes than the
national average for first-time buyers and creates estimates
on additional fees.
Sierra bases its projects on the San Diego Countys area
median income for a family of four, which is $107,000.
says 1,331 homes, or 62 percent of all homes in the project,
will be affordable for working class families of four who
make an income range between 50 and 120 percent of the area
median income. On top of that, Newland designates another
706 homes in the project that will be affordable for working
class families of four who make an income range of 121-150
percent of the area median income.
claims 210 of the homes in the project, or 10 percent, will
be restricted affordable housing for seniors and families
who are very low income, which the developer defines
as a working family of four that earns less than 60 percent
of the area median income, or between $53,500 to $64,200.
Newland uses a family of four as a projection but says these
homes are for families of all sizes earning $51,780 or less
by todays area median income.
Brandin, a senior vice president of operations at Newland
Communities, said Newland Sierra is in talks with affordable
housing developer Wakeland to build the 210 affordable homes
on the site together if it is approved by voters, and that
they will be affordable for at least 55 years.
homes will be for rent. The rental price for a two-bedroom
unit would begin at $1,444 per month in todays dollars,
said Natalie Kessler, a senior account executive at Southwest
Strategies and representative for Newland Sierra.
working with them to do it and were going to make it
happen. They understand its going to cost them some
money. They understand that, said Ken Sauder, Wakelands
CEO. This is going to get done. I think theres
a real commitment on their part.
document laying out the different types of housing in the
project provided to VOSD by Newland Sierra shows an additional
346 homes will be built for low-income working
families that bring in 61 percent to 80 percent area median
income, or between $65,270 and $85,600 per year.
in this range will be between 1,100 and 1,400 square feet
and are projected to cost between $343,000 and $408,000 by
todays housing prices and current area median income,
to the document.
said price ranges of homes in the project could change when
the homes are built and sold, but the range will stay consistent
with area and remain affordable for working families.
document also shows Newland will designate another 1,481 homes
for working families ranging in three tiers between
81 and 150 percent of area median income, or household incomes
of $86,760 to $160,500. Those homes ranging from 1,200
square feet to 4,200 square feet are projected to cost
between $408,000 and $753,000 in todays dollars and
current area median income, according to the document.
wrote in an email that although typically working families
are considered those who make between 61 percent and 120 percent
of area median income, Newland classifies the group of homes
for those making between 120 percent and 150 percent of area
median income as working class.
you look at the incomes for a family of four in the 121-150%
of income ($129,470 $160,500), those incomes are still
considered middle income and achievable with a
two person working household think of a teacher and
fire-fighter; a nurse and police officer; etc., Kessler
wrote in an email.
additional 98 homes ranging from 2,500 to 4,200 square feet
will be built for families who bring in more than 151 percent
of area median income and are projected to cost between $816,000
and $927,000 by todays housing prices and current area
median income, according to the document.
does include additional costs to homeowners in its projections,
such as annual Mello Roos fees, which it estimates at $900
per year, annual fire fees required by the fire district of
$201.72 plus fire suppression fees paid through real estate
taxes at $.0156 per square foot of the home, average insurance
costs of $.04 per square foot of the home and monthly HOA
dues of $125, Kessler wrote in an email.
Newlands housing affordability component, it uses 35
percent of a households income as a threshold, Kessler
wrote. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban
Development, housing is affordable if the expense accounts
for less than 30 percent of a households income.
projects homebuyers will put down a 10 percent down payment
when buying a home in the property, Kessler wrote. The national
median down payment for first-time homebuyers is 6 percent
and the median down payment was 12 percent for all buyers,
according to a 2019 report from the National Association of