College Area excluded from granny-flat permitting?

Ordinance would make parking situation worse, says councilmember

Parking area behind a College Area mini-dorm
  • Parking area behind a College Area mini-dorm
  • photo by Marty Graham

San Diego city councilmember Georgette Gomez, a longtime champion of affordable housing, believes the College Area surrounding San Diego State University should be off limits for construction of granny flats.

In an August 27 memo to city attorney Mara Elliott, Gomez said San Diego's recently passed ordinance, which makes it easier for property owners to build companion units on their properties, should not apply to the College Area. Doing so, reasoned Gomez, could cause additional impacts to traffic, parking, and impose a strain on police and fire safety.

“Empirical proof that the College Area substantiates the need for extra traffic control is the fact that there is a Parking Impact Overlay Zone covering approximately a one mile radius from [San Diego State University]," reads Gomez’s August 27 memo.

"Approximately 813 'mini-dorms' currently exist in the College Area, consisting of 6 to 10 bedrooms built in what was originally planned as a 3-bedroom home. Building such dense homes in these zones has unduly created high parking demand and traffic congestions, as most students have cars, and has negatively impacted the College Area."

Gomez fears the allowance of granny flats in the College Area would make matters worse. But excluding certain neighborhoods from a citywide ordinance could come at a cost.

In June of this year, a San Diego Superior Court judge temporarily struck down the city's high-occupancy ordinance, also referred to as the mini-dorm ordinance, because it opened the door for potential discrimination on a single group of residents.

"In short," read judge Ronald Styn's June 30 ruling, "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.'"

It was the second time in two decades that the city suffered a legal defeat over its attempt to fight mini-dorms. But despite the legal challenge and subsequent defeat, attorneys for the city say an amendment to exclude the College Area could be adopted.

In a September 8 opinion, deputy city attorney Corrine Neuffer wrote that the city can make such exclusions if there is substantial evidence that allowing companion units to be built would burden public safety.

"For the City Council to exempt the Parking Impact Overlay Zone area in the College Area Community from the Companion Unit Ordinance, substantial evidence must be in the record that the area does not have adequate services to provide for the addition of accessory dwelling units, that accessory dwelling units will have an impact on traffic flow and public safety in the area, or other similar criteria.

"A court will uphold the City Council’s decision if it is supported by substantial evidence in the record."

Councilmembers are expected to give the final reading of the new Companion Unit Ordinance during the September 12 city-council meeting. A proposal to exclude the College Area, however, will have to wait due to insufficient notice.

A spokesperson for Gomez was unable to respond in time for publication.

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Ahhhh....so the City Attorney is getting Councilmember(s) to establish a false record by writing memorandum about the issue, rather than presenting substantial evidence such as calls for police service, citations issued or medical calls.

I suspect if different areas of the city are compared with the area surrounding SDSU the calls for public safety services are about the same.

If I'm wrong, first let's see the evidence and then let's get the Council to pass along impact fees to SDSU to compensate the taxpayers. It's SDSU who keeps on increasing enrollmentnnt quotas impacting their neighborhooding communities. And, it's SDSU that wants to grow even larger by expanding to the San Diego Stadium redevelopment area.

I am just wondering, if the urban planners are correct, aren't students supposed to be giving up their cars for the urban mass transit lifestyle? Aren't the planners looking at higher density with less parking along the northern extension of the Trolley line along Morena Blvd? Aren't we supposed to be living in self contained neighborhoods (Work, Live, Play)? Which I suppose the College district is an example. To the city council and others beware of unintended circumstances and tread with caution on your predictions. BBQ

Live, work, play all in the same neighborhood....sounds like segregation?

Just Wondering, there is no intended segregation just the urban conceptualist concept of the self-contained living area, also known in the past as "Towns" (or North Park). They keep telling us the younger folks are shunning the automobile. BBQ

This judge has an interesting interpretation of zoning. The ruling mentions that any ordinance it should ". . . appl[y] 'evenly to all households.'" Isn't zoning a process that sets certain areas aside for uneven uses? Municipalities don't allow heavy industry to operate in areas that are occupied with homes. Commercial activity is likewise separated from residential areas. In this instance, the existing use of homes is already dense, and granny flats would make the area more dense. It was never intended to host mini-dorms, and yet there are hundreds of them--that the city knows about--and usual family-occupied homes in the area are heavily impacted.

There's another point here. SDSU has, like most other university campuses, relied on the surrounding urban area to accommodate most of its students. It has grown willy-nilly over the decades, far exceeding the maximum number of students originally contemplated. For much of its existence the usual students there were commuters who drove to campus from all corners of the city and county. But in more recent times, with another round of expansion, the pressure to find a place to live has increased, and it began to pay big for landlords to convert typical houses into student ghettos. SDSU had an obligation to create housing (on its dime) to handle to growth, but it did little or nothing in that area. The city loves the university, and anything it wants to do, it ends up doing, and the neighbors be damned.

Check your property for ADU potential in San Diego at https://www.hausable.com/city/san-diego-ca. Verify zoning, calculate permits, rental income and max size to get started planning your ADU project.

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