Our Readers Write: ‘All-out assault on single-family neighborhoods’

Letter writer Keith Behner warns of harmful effects of weakening or eliminating single-family zoning restrictions.
Letter writer Keith Behner of Point Loma warns of harmful effects of weakening or eliminating single-family zoning restrictions.

Letter to the editor:

Monetizing San Diego communities is wrong

Regarding proposed state legislation that would effectively eliminate single-family zoning restrictions in California to encourage construction of more housing:

San Diego, welcome to Houston, where there’s no zoning and everyone gets to do pretty much what they please.

The historic concept of single-family residential neighborhoods in San Diego has been incrementally weakened and monetized by gutting the
zoning that has protected such family neighborhoods for decades. To date, this all-out assault on single-family neighborhoods has been
achieved by allowing so-called granny flats, sometimes multiple ones on individual lots, and permitting a plethora of vacation rentals previously prohibited.

But even all those encroachments, at the expense of neighborhood quality of life, aren’t enough to satisfy the greed of developers, vacation-rental interests, non-occupant property owners and some people wanting to monetize their neighborhoods at the expense of their neighbors.

The coup de grace for single-family residential neighborhoods is rapidly approaching in the form of a landslide of state legislation that will be foisted on us by Sacramento, sadly with the active help and support of most of our state and local elected representatives.

Sacramento is where the vested interests and their lobbyists, awash in dollars, control the agenda and those who set it. So much of this has been done without local input or adequate notice. Get set to see as many as four units on single-family lots in addition to vacationers in vacation rentals and granny flat renters.

What will be the result of ending single-family zoning as we know it? While initially incremental, over time the density explosion will be dramatic and irreversible. You need to know that providing new or upgrading old infrastructure to accommodate these density increases is not a provision of any of these plans. With this increased demand, how will our already overtaxed infrastructure fare?

The increased demand on water, sewer, schools, police, fire departments, parks and the like will be significant.

Parking, especially in our coastal and campus areas, is already a nightmare. At the same time density increases have been approved, many off-street parking requirements have been reduced or eliminated. In addition to streets congested with traffic and parked cars — many now on front lawns — additional units, many of them two-story, will encroach on and loom over neighboring properties, destroying privacy and blocking sunlight and breezes. More households mean more noise and more overall congestion.

While these changes will affect all of San Diego, the most dramatic impacts will be felt in the expensive coastal and campus areas with the highest demand.

I certainly don’t have the answers for the complex affordable housing or homelessness issues. But making properties more expensive as they generate more income won’t address that. The homelessness issue needs to be dealt with using a variety of approaches — one for those made homeless by losing a job, by illness or a temporary family crisis and one centering around mental health and/or substance abuse issues.

Keith Behner
Point Loma

— This letter was originally published by The San Diego Union-Tribune

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