San Diego's Housing Action Package 2.0: A Controversial Revival
Amidst the backdrop of San Diego's ongoing housing crisis, a set of housing measures that faced rejection by the San Diego City Council is set to make a comeback. Mayor Todd Gloria and Council President Sean Elo-Rivera have jointly announced their intention to revise and resubmit the Housing Action Package next month.
Their decision is rooted in the recognition of the city's pressing housing crisis and its interconnectedness with various other challenges. They believe that increasing the housing supply is imperative to address the rising cost of housing, with Housing Action Package 2.0 as a pivotal component of the solution.
At the heart of this housing package lies a contentious proposal - to allow developers participating in the city's Complete Communities program to construct low-income and market-rate housing at separate locations. Currently, the program permits developers to build larger market-rate projects than zoning typically allows, provided they include low-income units at the same site.
However, critics, including Councilwoman Monica Montgomery Steppe, have raised concerns about this change, arguing that it might exacerbate the concentration of poverty in already disadvantaged areas.
Efforts were made to amend this aspect of the proposal, with Elo-Rivera attempting to limit the locations for low-income housing. Despite his efforts, the council reached a deadlock on his amendment with a 4-4 vote. Subsequently, a version of the proposal without his amendment was rejected by a vote of 5-3.
The forthcoming revisions to the housing package, scheduled for release next month, are expected to primarily address this contentious issue. Gloria and Elo-Rivera have emphasized that these amendments will aim to expand housing opportunities for individuals of all income levels across San Diego.
While the specific council meeting date remains unspecified, there are upcoming sessions in December before a month-long legislative recess. Additionally, a special meeting might be convened to address the housing package.
Apart from the divisive element, the package includes incentives for the development of new single-room-occupancy hotels, a policy streamlining the conversion of businesses such as scrapyards into housing, and relaxed regulations for housing on public land and underutilized commercial sites.
Critics, particularly community leaders in neighborhoods characterized by single-family homes, argue that some of these proposals lack consideration for the necessary supportive infrastructure and could potentially harm residents' quality of life.
In contrast, supporters, including local developers, perceive these proposals as measured and sensible steps to alleviate San Diego's affordable housing shortage. They express concerns that the housing shortage places the city at risk of losing both residents and businesses to other regions. Supporters also highlight a provision in the package that prioritizes displaced low-income San Diegans for subsidized units in new developments within their neighborhoods.
Regarding the conversion of scrapyards and potentially environmentally hazardous businesses into housing, this policy would exclusively apply within the "promise zone" in southeastern San Diego, limited to land zoned for residential use. Affected businesses would have 15 years to relocate, facilitating land conversion.
Furthermore, the incentives aimed at the construction of new single-room-occupancy hotels, representing a crucial step above homelessness on the housing ladder, aim to reverse a significant decline in their numbers. Downtown development over recent decades has reduced San Diego's SRO units from roughly 14,000 in the late 1980s to fewer than 3,000 today.