Over the last 20 years, Sacramento legislators have focused on greatly increasing the population density of the state. More people in the state translates into more state income tax revenue and more sales tax revenue as well as greater gas taxes, property taxes, etc.
As many of you know, the state government in Sacramento rules over the local cities and towns. Each year, new laws come out of Sacramento that push their agenda of increased population density. For example, over the last few years, Sacramento forced local jurisdictions to ease rules on granny flats construction (ADUs) by greatly reducing or eliminating permit fees, reducing set-back requirements, and reducing or eliminating the requirements for additional parking spaces.
New pending legislation for 2020 is SB 50. This is state Senator Scott Wiener’s (San Francisco region, District 11) bill which eliminates single-family zoning in most of California to allow developers to buy out single-family homes, and replace them with up to 10-unit apartments, four-plexes, or apartment towers up to eight-stories high! And remember, local cities would have little to no recourse to refuse the mandates of this law. Sacramento rules the state and has final say.
College Area would be greatly affected for two primary reasons: the close proximity to both a transit station and to SDSU. The law (if passed and signed into law) gives greater weight to neighborhoods near universities and transit stops to build high-density housing.
Neighborhoods near rail stops or major bus stops, as well as neighborhoods near major shopping and business districts, and universities, is where developers can ignore city zoning, buy out homeowners and build up to four- to eight-story housing structures. Most of the state (and thus most of San Diego) would have R1, R2, and R3 zoning eliminated entirely meaning nearly all neighborhoods in the state would be up-zoned for four-plexes on virtually every residential street in California!
So nearly any lot, in any neighborhood could have a single-family home bulldozed (one wall would need to remain) and a four-unit structure built on the lot. Even coastal zones would qualify for an R4 zoning override. In fact, there is some talk to redo coastal zone regulations in the near future with new laws to start again allowing large housing towers (think Miami Beach) but no legislation is currently pending on that issue.
Some in Sacramento have expressed their opinion that single-family home zoning (R1) is “immoral” and want to do away with it. Another issue of SB 50 is the elimination of set-back requirements, allowing structures to be built right up to the sidewalk or street, eliminating the requirement for a small space of trees, bushes, and grass between the structure and sidewalk.
SB 50 calls for the waiver of existing local height limits and density levels to allow developers to build up to a minimum of 55 feet within a quarter mile of a transit hub, and 45 feet within a 1/2-mile radius as well. So very close to SDSU, it is my understanding that any neighborhood street could have a couple of homes bulldozed and have a large building constructed.
SB 50 is complicated and the above is my understanding of the law and not to be relied upon, please conduct your own research. I will keep an eye on the progress of SB 50 and keep you informed. If you are thinking of buying or selling real estate in San Diego, give me a call to discuss your options.
—Sarah Ward is a Realtor with College Area Realty. Reach her at email@example.com or at 858-431-6043.