Judge says no to regulating SDSU mini-dorms

Tenant could "be the quiet, neat type who uses bicycle"

"The city fails to discuss the link between the number of occupants  and the number of vehicles."
  • "The city fails to discuss the link between the number of occupants and the number of vehicles."
  • Image by Mission Times Courier

On June 30, San Diego Superior Court judge Ronald Styn temporarily struck down San Diego's mini-dorm ordinance in San Diego's College Area.

A group called College Area Students, Tenants, and Landlords Association filed the lawsuit in March of this year, as first reported by the Reader. The group claimed that San Diego's 2017 mini-dorm ordinance and the permit requirements (which restrict the number of occupants in a single family dwelling and dictates the number of parking spaces allowed) unfairly target minorities, low-income students, and others.

Judge Styn agreed, setting in place a temporary restraining order preventing enforcement until a permanent injunction is heard at a hearing scheduled for August of this year.

This isn't the first defeat handed to the city over its mini-dorm ordinance. In 1996 a like-minded, and named, group College Area Renters and Landlords Association sued the city for unduly targeting minority groups. A state court, and later an appellate court, agreed, striking down the ordinance. Despite that, in response to complaints from some in the College Area, the city trudged forward in its effort to address complaints of overcrowding and a lack of off-street parking.

In his June 30 ruling Styn stated that a citywide ordinance would be more appropriate and that it was unjust to regulate renter-occupied dwellings and not do the same with owner-occupied residences.

"To illustrate, one can envision a scenario of irrational differential treatment arising between two neighboring residences — one tenant-occupied and the other owner-occupied — with the tenant-occupied house being subject to the ordinance even though its residents happen to be the quiet, neat type who use bicycles as their means of transportation, whereas the owner-occupied house is not subject to the ordinance, even though its residents happen to be of a loud, litter-prone, car-collecting sort," reads Styn's ruling.

Added the state court judge, "In short, if the city wants to address problems associated with overcrowded detached homes, it should do so with a law that applies 'evenly to all households.'"

As for the city's requirement that property owners obtain expensive, and often burdensome, Residential High Occupancy permits, which caps the number of tenants and cars on a given property, Styn said the city failed to "discuss or attempt to distinguish [the College Area Renters and Landlords Association lawsuit]. The city also fails to provide any discussion of a rational link between the number of occupants over the age of 18 associated with a single dwelling unit and the number of vehicles associated with a single dwelling unit."

Lastly, Styn found that College Area Students, Tenants, and Landlords Association has a likelihood in prevailing on the merits in the case.

"We are reviewing the ordinances in light of the court’s preliminary ruling,” says city attorney spokesperson Gerry Braun in a June 30 email. "We understand the purpose of the ordinance was to regulate the over parking problem and its effect on the College Area community."

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Comments

For those who own or occupy single-family homes in that area, and use them as single-family homes, those mini-dorms can be infuriating. Gathering a large number of college students together results in a noisy and overcrowded neighborhood. A simple explanation for this phenomenon is that SDSU has not provided adequate housing for its students, and they have to reside somewhere. And so they like the mini-dorm because it is relatively cheap and close to campus. Some universities have a situation that is much worse than in the SDSU area. (Think of UC, Santa Barbara with its huge and isolated student ghetto of Isla Vista.)

But not all students would avail themselves of university-provided housing. Many much prefer to reside in an unregulated atmosphere, and will want something like the present situation. For some of the unfortunates who are trying to live normal lives in the middle of the hubbub, the only real option may be to move elsewhere. Homes in that area are in great demand, so prices are high. Sell out and leave would be my advice.

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