The College Area Community Council and Planning Board (CACC+PB) is fighting back against the City of San Diego’s ordinances that governs accessory dwelling units (ADUs).
At its June 9 meeting, the CACC+PB voted to send a letter of opposition to San Diego’s current ADU/JADU ordinances to Mayor Gloria’s office, the District 9 City Council office, as well as to State Assembly and Senate offices.
Resident Newell Booth said he has verified with the city’s Development Services Department that under the current ordinance, up to 17 units could be built on a single lot within transit priority areas, which is most of College Area. He said the group Neighbors for a Better San Diego is asking the City Council to return the city to California ADU/JADU standards. He pointed out that California’s ADU handbook states no local agency need adopt its own ordinance — the state regulation will apply in that case.
CACC+PBmembers discussed the issue and agreed that the city should return to state standards, before moving to drafting the letter of opposition to the city’s ADU ordinances, which they pointed out were enacted in 2020.
CACC member Julie Hamilton commented that although the current ordinance is in effect, existing ordinances can be undone.
“We want a moratorium on the ordinance,” she said, and added that the letter should ask the City Council to revisit the issue and revert to state standards.
The June 9 decision to formally ask the city to undo its ADU ordinance follows a more extensive discussion on the issue at the CACC+PB meeting on May 12. At that meeting, Booth and Bob Jaynes presented to the board a briefing and request from Neighbors for a Better San Diego to consider a moratorium on ADUs.
Booth and Jaynes said the city passed its ADU ordinance without debate, even though the Community Planners Committee had had recommended the vote be postponed pending further review by community groups. This was not done, they said.
The Neighbors for a Better San Diego reps listed other issues with the new ordinance, especially within transit priority areas (TPAs), which include:
• Multiple ADUs per single-family lot are encouraged through incentives.
• Bonus of one additional unit for every affordable unit on property. Jaynes, a builder, showed how using this incentive 16 units could be built on single lot.
• No setback requirements.
• A 30-foot height limit.
• Minimal infrastructure improvements as developer fees are greatly reduced.
• No onsite parking required. Jaynes commented that “a front yard can be turned into parking lot.”
The board also raised its own concerns about the effects the new ordinances will have on the College Area. Hamilton as well as planning board members Bob Higdon and Ellen Bevier pointed out that if each lot has two-story units with no setbacks and no yards and with SDSU students packing rooms to mitigate high rents, the already poor infrastructure and parking in College Area will get much worse. The board members also raised concerns about compromised fire and health safety, as well as environmental issues caused by reduced greenscape and open space once ADUs swallow up lawns in the neighborhoods.
Jaynes and board member Saul Amerling said ADUs in the College Area are not “granny flats” where homeowners build a place for a family member to live in, but rather extensions of homes owned by corporations capitalizing on the need for student housing. The added incentive of being able to build out more rentable units also drives up the cost of single-family homes in the area, making ownership out of reach for most families, they added.
The board asserted that the old ADU code reflected and protected neighborhood character; promoted neighborhood quality and livability; and minimized impact on adjacent properties by promoting the building of town homes as a “transition” into single-family neighborhoods. Townhome developments, they pointed out, bring in fees for infrastructure and ADUs do not.
The board also said its new master plan update that is currently being developed has areas zoned for high density that can include affordable housing. The board members said they want apartments and density in College Area, but in a planned way, in appropriate areas, especially along transit corridors.
District 9 City Council member Sean Elo-Rivera, who was in attendance at the May 12 meeting, said he would not support a moratorium on ADUs and that a roll back of the new ordinances is unlikely to happen considering they were passed with a 9-0 vote in October of 2020.
“I am deeply committed to affordable housing,” he said, later adding, “I am unwilling to support anything with no political viability or in violation of state law.”
Elo-Rivera did agree there are problems with the ADU ordinance, but said his approach would be to mitigate the impact of changes and would prioritize infrastructure investment to impacted neighborhoods, such as adding parks. He also agreed that corporate speculation in the area affects individuals looking to buy a home.
“I don’t want hand-outs to developers,” he said. “A homeowner adding ADU is different from a speculative developer purchasing land who has no consideration for neighborhoods.”
CACC+PB president Jim Jennings concluded the discussion by encouraging residents to write letters and make phone calls to representatives and promised a draft letter by the board — which is the one that was adopted at the June 9 meeting.
—Reach editor Jeff Clemetson at [email protected]