The SOS Initiative

Trust People, Not Politicians.
Prevent Sprawl Development.

Measure A
The SOS Initiative

Prevents Sprawl Development

Stops Backroom Political Deals

Gives a Voice to the People

SOS encourages developers to follow San Diego County’s long-term growth plans instead of convincing politicians to let them skirt the rules to build sprawl housing developments in the wrong places.

The Purpose of Measure A

The purpose of Measure A, SOS Initiative, is to provide San Diego County residents with a stronger voice in how and where housing is built in the unincorporated county. This grassroots initiative simply requires voter approval of proposed changes to the County’s General Plan that would significantly increase residential density in fire-prone rural and semi-rural areas.

What Your Vote Means on March 3rd, 2020


A YES vote would put massive sprawl development to a vote of the people.


A NO vote would maintain business as usual and allow developers to re-write the County General Plan to benefit themselves.

Prevents Sprawl Development

San Diego County’s General Plan concentrates new housing in areas where roads, public safety, schools, and other services are already available. These locations are easier to defend from wildfire and have a lower taxpayer burden because they don’t require new infrastructure. The General Plan also zones for housing in areas that would limit traffic impacts. Measure A gives voters an opportunity to say “no” to dense developments in rural and semi-rural areas.

Stops Backroom Political Deals

Today, the Board of Supervisors can amend the General Plan to let developers build large sprawl housing developments on rural and semi-rural land. Many of these developers make large contributions to the supervisors’ political campaigns. Projects that require General Plan Amendments increase traffic, taxpayer burdens, and fire risks while driving up developer profits. Measure A would improve transparency by requiring developers to justify General Plan Amendments to the voters.

Gives a Voice to the People

Measure A gives people the right to vote on whether they want large sprawl housing developments in San Diego County’s backcountry, a decision now made by politicians and special interests who fund their campaigns. Measure A supports the sensible and orderly growth we have already planned for instead of allowing developers to maximize profits at the public’s expense.

Promotes Smart, Affordable Development

San Diego County’s General Plan allows for the construction of 60,000 new housing units with a broad range of affordability, including apartments and condos, townhouses, and single-family homes. These homes can be built now without any changes to the General Plan or public votes. Projects that provide genuine low income housing in accordance with state law are exempt from the initiative. New housing in areas close to roads and other infrastructure is less expensive to build and therefore more affordable. The SOS initiative does not ban any new housing that is now allowed in the General Plan.


Backers of ballot measure say supervisor worked with building industry to reword initiative

Backers of Measure A, the Save Our San Diego Countryside initiative that will be voted on in March, say a series of texts and emails obtained as part of a public records request show that Supervisor Jim Desmond was working with the building industry when he tried to change the ballot language at the last minute.

…texts and emails show that it was representatives with the Building Industry Association of San Diego County who approached Desmond, and lawyers for the No on A campaign, which is funded by the building and real estate industry, who not only asked for the item to be put on the agenda, but also crafted the wording which was very similar to what Desmond ended up proposing.

County Supervisor Abandons Effort to Make Developer-Friendly Updates to Official Description of Anti-Sprawl ‘SOS’ Ballot Measure

In a striking reversal, San Diego Supervisor Jim Desmond withdrew his last-minute proposal to change the ballot question for the Safeguard Our San Diego Countryside Initiative that will appear in the March 2020 election voter guide.

“The last-minute attempt to change the official description of this community-led ballot measure makes it clear why San Diego County needs the SOS initiative,” said Susan Baldwin, president of San Diegans for Managed Growth and a key campaign volunteer. “Once again, we see an elected member of the Board of Supervisors acting at the behest of the building industry instead of supporting a transparent and democratic process.”

Developers should have to make their case to voters, not just to supervisors

Trusting yourself and your neighbors rather than politicians and developers is a good general rule. When it comes to deciding San Diego County’s future, it’s imperative.

Why won’t developers simply follow the General Plan? The answer is simple: to maximize private profit at the public’s expense. These sprawl developers buy up land that is zoned for agriculture or open space on the cheap and then ask the Board of Supervisors to change the General Plan to allow them to build lots of expensive houses in far-flung parts of the county.

Back Country Development Ballot Measure Draws Fire In San Diego

“California, for the past four or five days, is burning down,” said Susan Baldwin, of the group Yes on SOS. “And the kinds of projects that are threatened by the fires are these kinds of projects. So why when we have plenty of land to do infill development in the cities and plenty of land to do housing in the unincorporated area. Why would we put more people in danger by building more sprawl development.”

Press Release

Supervisor Dianne Jacob Endorses Yes on A Campaign

Citing the endless parade of misinformation being peddled to defeat Measure A, San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob today announced she endorses Yes on A.


Update from the front lines!

As we prepare for the Primary Election, Yes on Measure A volunteers and supporters have been hitting the streets and spreading the word about our campaign. We still need all the help we can get. From going door to door to waving signs and banners on bridges and overpasses, there are many ways to get involved.


Early voting has begun. Yes on A gaining steam!

Early voting has already started in San Diego County for the upcoming March 3rd election. It’s time to trust people, not politicians and give the voters a voice in decisions about where large housing developments are built. Vote Yes on A to stop backroom political deals!

In the News

Measure ‘A’ gets crunked with endorsements

It has drawn a kind of David versus Goliath matchup.

Escondido Mayor Paul “Mac” McNamara, former San Diego County Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, Del Mar Councilman Dwight Worden, League of Women Voters of California, Climate Action Campaign, and Grow the San Diego Way support the measure. A group called Safeguard Our San Diego Countryside is leading the effort

In the News

Measure A Doesn’t Ban Specific Plans

Measure A on the March ballot is intended to ensure that our decision-makers uphold the good planning principles of the county general plan. It targets large-scale general plan amendments in lower density rural and semi-rural zoned areas — areas in which the plan specifically limited development to avoid infrastructure deficits, fire risk, additional vehicle miles traveled and areas of high habitat value.

Press Release

Mayor Paul McNamara joins public officials around the county in endorsing Yes on Measure A, the anti-sprawl measure.

Escondido Mayor Paul McNamara has announced his endorsement of Measure A. Mayor McNamara joins a growing number of elected officials who believe that to grow smartly in the region we need to curb sprawl and build sustainable, livable cities and suburbs.

In the News

What You Need to Know About Two Contentious 2020 Housing Measures

Safeguard our San Diego Countryside is a proposal on the March 2020 ballot that would require San Diego voters countywide to approve general plan amendments.

“This measure only applies to general plan amendments. There’s no plan to provide infrastructure for these areas for general plan amendments,” Jackson said. “So Yes on SOS gives voters a voice in few critical land use decisions when the general plan is changed.”

In the News

SOS limits urban sprawl

Let’s have a choice on what we taxpayers are paying for!

The Safeguard Our San Diego countryside (Yes on SOS) March 2020 Ballot Measure allows citizens to have a voice on sprawl development.

The General Plan was – and is – the blueprint for how the county will grow into the future. It is the master plan for regional infrastructure (including roads, transit, schools, water and sewer) that saves taxpayers billions by placing housing where these services are funded. It encourages building more than 60,000 new homes in places that are more cost effective and thereby more affordable than sprawl development. That’s about 180,000 people, about 30,000 more than the City of Escondido.

In the News

Measure A Would Stop Politicians from Turning San Diego into Los Angeles

The well-funded misinformation campaign against citizen’s initiative Save our San Diego Countryside — now officially Measure A — is being driven and bankrolled by the Building Industry Association and a handful of sprawl developers who repeatedly seek special exemptions to build in the fire-prone areas that our planning regulations avoid. This should tell you all you need to know about their motivations.

In the News

Ballot language on development measure will remain unchanged following error

A last-minute attempt by Supervisor Jim Desmond to change the wording of a controversial measure that will appear on the March ballot failed Tuesday without even being considered.

Backers said the move by Desmond to change the language reeked of developer influence and was an example of why the measure should pass in March.

In the News

Your say: Ballot box planning and the Save Our San Diego Countryside measure

We asked: With the Safeguard Our San Diego Countryside initiative on the March 2020 ballot, do you think public votes should be held on all major housing developments or should elected leaders make such land-use decisions, and why?

Press Release

The grassroots “Yes on SOS” campaign has launched its website in support of the Safeguard Our San Diego Countryside ballot initiative, which will appear on the March 2020 ballot.

“Yes on SOS” would give voters power to prioritize sensible growth and affordable homes, increase transparency, reduce sprawl and stop back-room developer deals.

In the News

As We Watch California Burn Yet Again It’s Time to Say Yes to ‘Save Our San Diego Countryside’

San Diego County has seen big money defeat similar efforts in the past, but now, as we watch California turn into an inferno once again, perhaps reason will prevail. It’s time we stop our history of insane development, save our countryside, protect the local environment, and not let moneyed interests make the future of our region any more perilous than it already is.

In the News

Voters could have final say over massive (and not so massive) backcountry developments

“When you put cities where there are no roads, where there isn’t fire service, there aren’t schools, the cost of the infrastructure is going to be borne by the general taxpayer,” said Mark Jackson, with the Yes on S.O.S. campaign.

Our Supporters


League of Women Voters

Environmental Health Coalition

The AFT Guild Local 1931 – American Federation of Teachers

Citizens Coordinate For Century 3

Local 30 – San Diego County Hotel and Food Service Workers’ Union

Sierra Club

San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action

Endangered Habitats League

Elected Officials & Individuals

I have no problem with campaigning hard, but some folks against Measure A have gone too far. I can’t sit back while outrageous and offensive claims are being made.  I’m supporting measure A because it simply ensures that voters, not five elected officials, will have the final say on County General Plan busting projects in the rural and semi-rural areas.

Dianne Jacob

San Diego County Supervisor, District 2

I support Measure A because, like Escondido’s Proposition S, it will help preserve the integrity of the consensus-based plan that maps out smart land use planning for a growing region and it will encourage more entry-level, workforce housing in the County.

Paul McNamara

Mayor of Escondido

A well-planned county that protects the integrity of an integrated, smart growth vision is truly the best, and may be the only, way to deliver real progress on the economic, housing, and health needs of all San Diegans. The public accountability provided in Measure A is our best path forward to ensure equity and sustainability in our region, address the climate crisis, and improve everyone’s quality of life. Vote Yes on A!

Georgette Gomez

San Diego City Council President

I support Yes on Measure A because following the County’s smart growth general plan is the key to meeting our greenhouse gas emissions targets and creating a more sustainable region. When the County does not adhere to its general plan, it creates inefficient, unfunded infrastructure needs that the residents of cities like Vista end up subsidizing. And it creates more congestion in our region. Sprawl is bad for the cities and worse for the countryside. Vote Yes on Measure A to limit sprawl.

Corinna Contreras

Vista City Councilmember

As a 20 year member of the Board of Supervisors, I was intimately involved in the creation of our award-winning general plan which was designed to save taxpayer money, limit housing in very high fire severity zones and to protect some habitat while encouraging smart planning and land use principles. To see that plan repeatedly being undermined by sprawl developers and speculators who do not have the public’s best interests at heart, is very concerning for the future of our region.  This is why I support SOS. It encourages smarter development decisions without allowing special interests to change the plan that the public and other stakeholders spent over a decade and $18 million developing. Vote Yes on SOS.

Pam Slater-Price

Former San Diego County Board of Supervisor, Councilmember and Mayor

The Safeguard our San Diego Countryside initiative does a good job of preventing sprawl development, preserving our open spaces, and encouraging county leaders to stick to the general plan they spent millions to develop – a plan that was designed to encourage smart growth and housing affordability. If the SOS initiative is passed, the voters will get to decide whether large housing projects in the San Diego backcountry should be approved. Considering the growing risks of fire, the additional traffic, and the burdens on neighboring cities and schools, it’s not unreasonable to let the voters have a say.

Randy Walton

San Marcos City Councilmember

Frequently Asked Questions

How will Measure A address the housing crisis in San Diego County?

Measure A encourages developers to build the housing called for in San Diego County’s General Plan. The General Plan has enough land zoned to accommodate 60,000 new housing units, including apartments, townhomes and houses, in areas that are close to existing jobs and services.

Did San Diego County cut its projections for how much new housing can be accommodated in the unincorporated parts of the county?

No. In a recent press release, San Diego County staff confirmed that the unincorporated county still has enough land zoned to accommodate 60,748 new residences under the County’s General Plan. Here’s a link to the capacity portal.

Why doesn’t Measure A deal with commercial and non-residential developments?

There have been no General Plan Amendments proposed for commercial or non-residential developments in semi-rural or rural-zoned areas since San Diego County’s General plan was passed nine years ago. There is no market for backcountry commercial projects. As such, Measure A does not include these types of projects.

How will Measure A prevent sprawl?

Measure A encourages development in existing towns and villages and discourages developers from converting open space and agricultural land into suburban-density housing far from existing jobs and services.

Who wrote Measure A?

Measure A was written by a small group of longtime activists who were fed up with the Board of Supervisors’ regular practice of rubber-stamping large luxury developments in fire-prone rural and semi-rural areas. The conservation group Endangered Habitats League provided significant support in the process of writing the measure.

Who’s behind Measure A?

The Measure A campaign is led by San Diegans for Managed Growth, a pro-smart growth organization. San Diegans for Managed Growth was responsible for the passage of the City of San Diego’s Proposition A, The Managed Growth Initiative, in November 1985.

What is San Diego County’s General Plan?

The General Plan sets zoning for properties through the unincorporated county. It designates allowed uses, including housing density and what kind of development – agricultural, residential, industrial and commercial – can take place on any specific piece of property. The General Plan does not mandate development, it simply specifies what kind of building is allowed where.

How was San Diego County’s General Plan developed?

The General Plan was developed through an extensive public process that took 13 years and cost $18 million. Building, farming, environmental, and community groups were all active participants in the plan’s development. Over 700 public meetings were held across 29 different communities. San Diego County’s General Plan won multiple awards from the California Association of Environmental Professionals for its focus on preventing sprawl and shifting housing away from areas at elevated risk of fire and/or outside the County water authority.

Will Measure A lead to the development of more affordable housing in San Diego County?

The Impact Report prepared by San Diego County staff about Measure A concludes that the measure is likely to encourage more housing development consistent with the zoning laid out in the General Plan. Most (60%) of that housing is higher density village zoning, which allows up to 30 dwelling units per acre. These homes are more likely to include a variety of housing types (townhomes, apartments and single-family homes). These homes are naturally more affordable because more units per acre are allowed.

How do General Plan Amendments (GPAs) work?

Today, developers who wish to build developments that do not conform with the zoning laid out in the General Plan request a zoning change (or General Plan Amendment) for their proposal from the County Board of Supervisors. If a majority of the Supervisors (3 of 5) vote to support the amendment, the planned development can move forward.

Why are housing projects built through the General Plan Amendment process more expensive?

Large planned developments that require General Plan Amendments include pricey Homeowners Association and Mello-Roos fees to cover required services like new roads, schools and fire stations. Homes that are built in the places that make the most sense are served by existing infrastructure, which is already paid for.

How would Measure A affect the General Plan Amendment process?

Only housing development proposals that require a zoning change in rural and semi-rural areas would be affected by Measure A. (Changes in villages would not require voter approval.) Measure A would not prevent these types of housing developments. Rather, developers would need to make their case to the voters about why their proposed development is beneficial for county residents – not just for their pocketbooks.

Will all General Plan Amendments (GPAs) require voter approval?

No. Only General Plan Amendments that seek to increase residential densities on lands designated for rural and semi-rural uses in the unincorporated County (outside of cities) would require voter approval if approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Is it true that a development with as few as 6 homes would require a vote of the people under Measure A?

No developer has undertaken the General Plan Amendment (GPA) process for projects that contained fewer than 100 homes. The smallest housing-related GPA that has gone before the Board of Supervisors was for 122 homes, with the average being over 900 homes. Because the cost of processing a GPA according to the County Impact Report is between $350,000 and $1,500,000, it would make no sense to pursue a General Plan Amendment for as few as 6 homes. Measure A allows small property owners to add as many as five units to their properties without triggering a vote. Projects that do not require a General Plan Amendment are not subject to a vote under Measure A, no matter how many homes are included.

How will Measure A help fight climate change?

By encouraging development in existing towns and villages, Measure A will limit commute times and the climate change emissions that go along with long commutes. Building these homes will lead to lower greenhouse gas emissions because they are located closer to jobs and transit than are large, planned developments in the county’s fire-prone rural areas like Lilac Hills Ranch and Newland Sierra.

Who is funding the campaign against Measure A?

The No on Measure A campaign is financed by real estate and development interests. These groups prefer the status quo because they can influence politicians to approve zoning changes that maximize their profits at taxpayer expense.

Why have the entire County vote on projects that are located far away from where most San Diego County residents live?

Residents from cities subsidize sprawl through their taxes. Sprawl projects cost $1.42 for every dollar collected in taxes. Taxes from city residents make up the difference. That money could be better spent on transit, roads, and other priorities that must be covered by limited taxpayer dollars.

Doesn’t Measure A reduce the rights of residents in the unincorporated county to decide what gets built near them?

The entire county already decides on land use in the unincorporated county. All five supervisors primarily represent city dwellers (there are 520,000 residents in the unincorporated County out of 3.2 million San Diegans). Communities in unincorporated San Diego County weighed in on what type of housing should go where through the process of developing the General Plan. Residents of unincorporated communities had their say through that process. By protecting the General Plan, Measure A protects the interests of residents who live in unincorporated areas.

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