Planning Commission votes against putting SB 10’s major single-family zoning changes in S.D. housing plan
The mayor’s office says it will not push for provisions of Senate Bill 10 to be part of the sweeping Housing Action Package 2.0 moving forward.
San Diego’s Planning Commission voted Aug. 3 against a key part of Mayor Todd Gloria’s housing plan that would eliminate single-family zoning in much of the city.
The commission voted 6-0 to recommend the sweeping Housing Action Package 2.0 but without its biggest and most controversial element: Senate Bill 10. Provisions of the state law that were planned for the package now likely will not go before the City Council for a vote.
Though it’s possible the council could ignore the commission’s recommendations, the mayor’s office said it will not push for Senate Bill 10 to be part of the housing package going forward.
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SB 10, which went into effect last year and is optional for cities, would allow a single-family home to be torn down and replaced with up to 10 units in areas close to job centers, public transit and existing urbanized areas. In the San Diego package, it would allow a single-family home to be replaced with a structure up to three stories tall.
The Planning Commission did include a provision in its vote that would allow for a working group on Senate Bill 10 sometime in the future, but several of the commissioners expressed that they would rather discuss a proposal other than SB 10. No date was set for the working group to meet.
Other elements of the overall plan backed by the commissioners include converting unused land for housing, extending building permit times, eliminating parking requirements for many projects and making it easier to build off-campus housing.
However, SB 10 was the main focus of the package and had been championed by Gloria and other local officials for much of this year.
“In my opinion, SB 10 is not the right way to go,” said Planning Commission Chairman William Hofman. “I think we are going down a wrong path that we won’t be able to retreat from.”
In a statement following the vote, Gloria celebrated the passage of the rest of the plan, noting that Senate Bill 10 could be taken up later in a workshop.
“This is a huge win for those who struggle with the high cost of living and all San Diegans who benefit from a healthy and balanced housing economy,” according to Gloria. “I look forward to presenting these policies to the City Council for its consideration.”
The Planning Commission meeting lasted nearly six hours, with hundreds of speakers on both sides of the issue. Housing advocates and many local lawmakers said San Diego needs to increase density to accommodate new and current residents. Opponents from wide swaths of the city argued that the plan would alter the character of neighborhoods that have existed for decades.
“In my opinion, SB 10 is not the right way to go. I think we are going down a wrong path that we won’t be able to retreat from.”
— Planning Commission Chairman William Hofman
Many speakers said Senate Bill 10 should be removed from the overall housing package, including former Planning Commissioner Jim Whalen.
“I struggle with having 10 units on one lot, regardless of lot size. I can’t make that work in my head,” he said. “Perhaps it might make sense to reduce the scope of SB 10 and retool it. Maybe drop to four units a parcel.”
Supporters of the law also made their voices heard, with many saying that having the majority of the city zoned for single-family housing — roughly 80 percent of San Diego’s residential land — has cut off opportunities for people of color and is discriminatory.
“This would integrate high-wealth, high-resource neighborhoods,” said Ricardo Flores, executive director of the Local Initiatives Support Corp., a nonprofit that works to create subsidized housing, economic development and education programs for underserved areas.
Highest- or high-resource areas are defined as wealthier parts of the city, including Ocean Beach, La Jolla, Pacific Beach, North Park, Hillcrest and much of South Park.
Pro-housing group YIMBY Democrats of San Diego also said single-family zoning limits diverse housing options, such as apartments or townhouses. It said greater flexibility in zoning would create more affordable housing.
The Housing Action Package next will to the Land Use and Housing Committee in September for recommendations and then to the City Council in October or November.
Parts of the package approved by the Planning Commission include:
• Target potentially environmentally hazardous businesses, like scrap yards, for conversion to housing in parts of southeastern San Diego
• Incentives for off-campus housing developments near colleges, such as eliminating the need for agreements with nearby schools
• Incentives for construction of new single-room-occupancy hotels, mainly through an easier approval process
• Encourage development on public or commercial land that is not considered well-used, such as parking lots
• Eliminate parking requirements in projects within a half-mile of a public transit line
• Extend time for building permits for projects that face unforeseen delay