Mar 15, 2024 - News

San Diego issues most housing permits in decades, mayor says

a North Park condo in San Diego

A North Park condominium in 2020. Photo: Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

San Diego issued more permits for homes last year than it has in decades, nearly doubling its total from a year earlier, per figures that Mayor Todd Gloria is set to release today.

Why it matters: The surge may indicate that years of city attempts to reform housing policy are showing results — but even 2023's big total falls far short of the city's annual need, according to its state-mandated housing blueprint.

By the numbers: The city issued permits for 9,691 homes last year, per the mayor's office.

  • That's more than any year since at least 2005, according to San Diego's official tally, and nearly double the 5,189 housing permits it averaged over the previous five years.
  • When compared to historic federal data from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, it's more than any year since 1988 and a greater total than in 36 of the past 43 years.

Yes, but: According to the state, San Diego needs roughly 13,500 new homes per year — or 108,036 between 2021 and 2029.

Zoom in: About 18% of the city's 2023 permits were for "granny flats," or accessory dwelling units, where city officials have tried to lead on policy reforms, spurring backlash from some residents.

  • Slightly more than 10% came from the city's "complete communities" program, which lets developers build more homes if they reserve some for residents with low and moderate income.

Zoom out: The San Diego region bucked California's downward permitting trend. The entire metro area issued 11,468 permits in 2023, 20% more than in 2022, according to Census data compiled by Point2.

  • California, meanwhile, issued 111,221 permits in 2023, down about 5% from a year earlier.
  • Point2 found permitting dropped 32% and 5% in the San Francisco and Los Angeles metro areas, respectively, from 2022 to 2023.

Fine print: HUD's preliminary 2023 data for San Diego is much lower than the city's total, coming in roughly in line with recent years — not above them.

  • "We have a raised eyebrow, but we would be glad if it's true," Lori Holt Pfeiler, president and CEO of the San Diego Building Industry Association, told Axios.

What we're watching: Pfeiler harshly criticized San Diego County officials this week for their record on housing production, but said the city has been more receptive.

  • "Basically, the county is dead to us," she said.
  • But, she added, "There has been an opportunity presented in the city of San Diego."
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