Protect San Diego’s Neighborhoods

Protect San Diego’s Neighborhoods retained Southwest Strategies to spearhead the referendum campaign against the One Paseo project.


Client: Protect San Diego’s Neighborhoods
Expertise: Government Relations and Coalition Building
Location: San Diego, CA

Our Challenge

In February 2015, the San Diego City Council paved the way for the massive One Paseo project, despite recommendations of four Community Planning Boards and thousands of local residents. One Paseo would have become the densest mixed-use project in California without mass transit, creating devastating unmitigated impacts to traffic, circulation and neighborhood character in the surrounding areas. In response to the Council’s approval, a group of concerned residents, community planners, taxpayers and small businesses formed Protect San Diego’s Neighborhoods (PSDN) in early March 2015 to launch a referendum campaign on the City Council’s decision. Southwest Strategies was retained to spearhead the referendum campaign with the intent of bringing the issue all the way to the June 2016 ballot, if necessary.

Our Solution


Prior to the February 2015 approval of the One Paseo project, Southwest Strategies developed plans to address every possible outcome of the City Council’s decision, including the possibility of the Council overlooking the overwhelming opposition and approving it as proposed. Once the project was approved, Southwest Strategies began to work on the signature gathering process and develop plans for the next two phases of the referendum effort.


Based on research collected from previous referendum efforts, and using messaging developed based on poll findings, the team developed comprehensive outreach campaigns for each of these phases, involving media relations, web development, social media engagement and a letter-writing drive to the City Council. Additionally, our team developed a roadmap for a unique campaign to engage the community planning groups.


The Protect San Diego’s Neighborhoods referendum campaign was incredibly successful throughout all three phases of the referendum process. Despite being outspent nearly four to one during the first phase, facing questionable opposition tactics and having to convince voters to care about a relatively obscure land use issue, Southwest Strategies and PSDN successfully collected more than 61,000 valid signature to overturn the City Council’s decision.
The second phase succeeded at building momentum in what could have been a lull, building support among community planning groups and generating more than 300 letters to the Council. Following certification of the referendum petition, the effort entered the third and final phase, generating an additional 700 letters to the Council in two weeks leading up to the hearing. At the hearing, the ultimate measure of success was achieved – the City Council voted unanimously to rescind approval for the project, permanently defeating the current proposal and forcing the developer to go back and work with community members and stakeholders to create a more appropriate development.

Dedicated to Strategy

Our expertise, strategic guidance and innovative approach have made Southwest Strategies California’s leading public affairs and public outreach firm. Our clients come to us because we work harder, we produce more – and we get results. We design creative strategies to solve the complex issues that our clients – large and small – face every day. Let us put our knowledge, capabilities and creativity to work for you.

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