Residents struggle to campaign to stop construction of Grandma’s apartment in San Diego

The battle raging in San Diego over the regulation of Grandma’s apartments is heading to a conclusion this winter that looks likely to leave community leaders and resident groups frustrated.

Their goal is to preserve the character of the community and neighborhood by reversing some year-old policy changes that have made San Diego’s Grandma’s Rules among the least restrictive in California.

But the potential for grandma’s apartments to help resolve the local housing crisis has prompted city planners to reject any major setbacks.

Instead, they offer only modest adjustments to the regulations governing Grandma Apartments, which are also sometimes referred to as casitas or the town’s official name: accessory housing units.

The modest adjustments were unanimously approved last week by the city’s planning commission, which expressed support for more aggressive rollbacks before being persuaded to step down by city officials.

This the change of mind came despite the Community Planners Committee, a coordinating group of neighborhood leaders from across the city, approving a full package of cuts proposed by a group of residents Neighbors for a better San Diego.

Residents are proposing parking restrictions, increases in fees paid by developers of granny apartments, and changes to a city incentive that allows construction of “bonus” granny apartments.

They also want developers to be required to provide more trees on the properties where they are building granny apartments, and they want requirements for more space between new granny apartments and the property lines.

In addition, they want city authorities to ban granny flats in high fire risk areas and strengthen the definition of a “priority transit area”, as granny flats in these areas face much more rules. flexible.

Planning officials adopted only the fee increases, tree requirements, and the extra space between grannies’ apartments and property lines. And the city’s proposals in these areas are less aggressive than residents have requested.

But city officials are proposing to ban landlords from simultaneously taking advantage of Grandma’s apartment incentives and a new state law – SB9 – that requires cities to allow up to four dwellings on many lots. single-family.

Such a ban has been a high priority for Neighbors for a Better San Diego, a well-organized lobby group that grew out of residents’ outcry against Grandma’s apartments in Kensington and Talmadge.

The modest setbacks approved by the planning commission are to be debated in January by the town council’s land use and housing committee, and then for possible approval in February by the town council.

The proposed cuts are based in part on regulatory changes for Grandma’s apartment unveiled last summer by Council President Sean Elo-Rivera, whose district includes neighborhoods most strongly opposed to the looser rules.

Planning commissioners have said they sympathize with residents on many issues.

“I think a lot of the arguments made by Neighbors for a Better San Diego are very valid,” said Commissioner James Whalen.

But Commissioner Kelly Moden said Grandma’s apartments have too much potential to help solve the local housing shortage for the city to potentially stifle construction.

“It’s a fantastic tool for multigenerational living and for increasing our housing stock to lower long-term rental prices – and house prices,” she said.

Commissioner Matthew Boomhower said he also agreed with many of the concerns expressed by residents, but added he was wary of any proposal that appeared to be a ‘not in my backyard’ sentiment.

Geoff Heuter, president of Neighbors for a Better San Diego, said his group was not against any grandma’s apartment building.

“What we are trying to do is mitigate the extreme impacts of DSUs and strengthen the program,” he said. “We are simply asking for amendments that will limit the small percentage of projects that have a disproportionate impact on surrounding neighborhoods.”

The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce declined to endorse the more aggressive pullback proposed by residents, or the more modest changes proposed by the city.

Instead, room manager Angeli Calinog said the merchant group supports any restrictions that can be considered reasonable without significantly affecting the ability of the Grandma Apartments to serve as much-needed new housing for the area.

Heidi Vonblum, the city’s deputy director of environmental policy and public spaces, said the incentives for the city’s grandmother’s apartments had successfully spurred construction.

But she also said the city hired an economist to study if any adjustments could help.

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