Aug 4, 2023 - Development

San Diego pauses plan to nix single-family zoning near transit

A South Park home with an anti-SB 10 sign.

A South Park home with an anti-SB 10 sign. Photo: Andrew Keatts/Axios

San Diego is pulling back on its recent attempt to revoke single-family zoning across a swath of the city.

Driving the news: The city's planning commission on Thursday rejected Mayor Todd Gloria's bid to make San Diego California's first city to implement SB 10, a 2021 law that lets cities strike single-family zoning near transit stations to instead allow up to 10 homes per lot.

  • SB 10 was included in a package of housing policies. The board on Thursday voted unanimously to recommend approval of the rest of the city's housing package, which generated almost no discussion during the five-hour meeting.

Why it matters: Gloria pushed this measure as a key fix for the city to combat its housing shortage, but the stark change to single-family neighborhoods generated significant opposition that materialized as hours of public commenters railing against the proposal.

Between the lines: Cities across the state are free to ignore SB 10, and so far all have.

  • SB 10's allowance for up to 10 homes on single-family lots basically permits townhouse density.

Zoom in: San Diego coined its SB 10 implementation its "Missing Middle" package, borrowing from urban planning jargon that refers to housing between single-family homes and large apartments.

By the numbers: San Diego's state-mandated Housing Element, which outlines its housing needs and plan to satisfy them, says the metro area needs about 108,000 new homes by 2029.

  • That's more than 13,000 new homes built per year. For now, the city averages closer to 5,000 new homes annually, according to the city staff presentation Thursday.

What they're saying: "There's a reason that no other city has adopted SB 10," said Bill Hofman, chair of the planning commission, before making a motion not to approve it.

  • Multiple commission members invoked the board's reputation for supporting policies intended to drive homebuilding, but said they had apprehensions about SB 10.
  • In response, Heidi Vonblum, the city's planning director, said San Diego would commit to starting a working group to take a second look at SB 10, or alternatives.

What we're watching: With city staff's agreement to bounce SB 10 to a working group, and it's unlikely the City Council is asked to weigh in any time soon.

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