San Diego Housing Commission Releases RFP for Famosa Canyon – Here It Is

by on September 11, 2019 · 5 comments

in Ocean Beach

The San Diego Housing Commission released the RFP (Request for Proposals) for development at Famosa Canyon at the end of August. The Housing Commission calls the 5 plus acres “Site 428.”

Here below are pertinent sections of the RFP for the layperson (potential developers can go to the Commission themselves, as there is no contact info here or “how-to” info). Included is the Intro, “Background”,”Goals and Objectives”, “Site Information” and the minimum requirements for the site. (All graphics from the RFP.)

Site 428: RFP Executive Summary


Development teams experienced in high-quality, affordable rental housing are invited to submit proposals for potential development of approximately 5.61 acres, designated Site 428, on the southeast corner of Famosa Boulevard and Nimitz Boulevard in zones RM-2-5 and RM-3-7 (Site). The Site is located within the Peninsula Community Planning Area.

The Project must comply with the standards of architecture, materials and construction established by City of San Diego (City) code, the Peninsula Community Plan, the Local Coastal Program Land Use Plan and in compliance with the Coastal Height Limit Overlay Zone and the Airport Approach Overlay Zone.

Through this Request for Proposals (RFP), the San Diego Housing Commission (SDHC) solicits proposals from developers that have demonstrable experience and capacity to undertake the development of Site 428 as determined by SDHC, in its sole discretion.


The City of San Diego first acquired a portion of the Site in June 1874 as part of a larger land acquisition for park purposes. In June 1956, via resolution #6906, the park dedication was rescinded. On July 6, 1981, the San Diego City Council sold Site 428 to the Housing Authority of the City of San Diego (Housing Authority) via resolution #254594, which specified the property shall be used for approximately 78 low-income rental apartments.

The property is made up of 12 parcels, separated by “paper streets,” (i.e., unimproved, recorded public streets).
In 2017 through 2019, SDHC retained consultant services to determine the Site’s development feasibility. These evaluations included a traffic study, seismic and soils condition analyses, a biological conditions analysis and a letter from the San Diego Unified School District.

The results of the above-noted studies determined the Site’s development is feasible. While these studies are believed to be accurate, no warranty implied or express is given by SDHC to the prospective respondents, and each respondent should take whatever actions it deems necessary to verify the condition of the Site and other variables affecting the proposed Project.


The objective of this SDHC RFP is to solicit proposals from qualified real estate development entities. The goal is the development of quality, well-designed multifamily affordable rental housing. Successful proposals will include a description of targeted San Diego Area Median Income (AMI) levels and the population to be served.

In addition to a high-quality development, SDHC expects the Project will achieve sustainability and energy efficiency goals that exceed the minimum requirements of the California State Building Code. The Project is further expected to adhere to Green Building fundamentals, integrated into the Project’s design and construction.

The proposer shall include a detailed narrative of the development concept with a description of the proposer’s approach to design and architecture. The Project should be attractive and compatible with the character of the neighborhood and community, both aesthetically and functionally, and consistent with land use and zoning requirements.

SDHC expects the selected development team to pursue predevelopment and development timelines expeditiously. The successful development team will have a proven history of completing projects within reasonable time periods.


The Site is located near the southeast corner of Famosa Boulevard and Nimitz Boulevard in the Point Loma/Ocean Beach neighborhood, approximately 1.5 miles from the ocean. The shapes of the individual parcels and the overall property are irregular. The topography contains level portions, sloping portions, and more steeply sloping portions. The western portions of the overall property are below grade with Nimitz Boulevard and Famosa Boulevard, while the eastern portion of the overall property is above grade with Famosa Boulevard.

The Site is generally undeveloped with some disturbed areas that may have been rough graded. There are no on-site drainage facilities, other than a pipe outlet at the southwest corner of the Site. The Site is bisected by power polls supporting electrical and telephone lines. All utilities appear to be easily available to the Site.

Bill Cleator Community Park is located directly across Famosa Boulevard from the Site. This is a 15.3-acre park, which includes ball fields and the nonprofit, privately run Peninsula YMCA. Other playfields, playgrounds and a tennis center are located within a mile of the Site. Ocean Beach Elementary School, Dana Middle School and an organic food market are each located slightly more than a mile (separately, in different directions) from the Site. The San Diego Sports Arena is also located about one mile from the Site, as is SeaWorld and Mission Bay. The Site is also approximately two miles from Point Loma Nazarene University. A number of naval facilities are located on the Point Loma peninsula, within proximity of the Site. Selected developer shall take such steps as are necessary and appropriate to secure the site before and during the term of the project.

SDHC retained a development consultant and specialty experts to conduct a feasibility study to investigate the potential development of the Site, including an evaluation of the physical and environmental factors that would impact the Site’s development. The results of the study are subject to development verification. SDHC accepts no responsibility for the accuracy of the following analyses.

While these studies are believed to be accurate, no warranty implied or express is given by SDHC to the prospective respondents, and each respondent should take whatever actions it deems necessary to verify the condition of the Site and other variables affecting the proposed Project.

  • A traffic analysis determined the prospective development’s impact on local traffic, the capacity of existing streets to accommodate any traffic added by the development, and the impact of the Project’s possible points of ingress and egress. A Project trip distribution was determined to analyze traffic conditions caused by the proposed Project.
  • A geotechnical analysis was conducted for an on-site fault study. To perform a site-specific fault hazard evaluation, a trench of approximately 220 lineal feet was excavated on-site. As a basis of comparison, the engineer reviewed topographic maps of the Site dating back to 1954 and 1902. In addition, soils were assessed via borings and test pits, followed by laboratory testing of soil samples. The report prepared by the geotechnical expert contains findings and recommendations. While this report is believed to be accurate, no warranty implied or express is given by SDHC to the prospective respondents, and each respondent should take whatever actions it deems necessary to verify the condition of the Site and other variables affecting the proposed Projects.
  • A soils study was conducted and is available for reference.
  • The study included a wetlands jurisdictional delineation and a biological technical report, which quantified the areas of on-site aquatic resources and provided a biological assessment related to the mitigation of impacts. The proposed project is mapped within the City of San Diego Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) area, but it is entirely outside of Multiple Habitat Planning Area (MHPA) boundaries. The Project area is outside of the Coastal Zone. No special-status plant or animal species were observed during the biological resources surveys.
  • The San Diego Unified School District was asked to opine on whether neighborhood public schools would likely have the capacity to accommodate the students that would be living in the proposed Project. The School District reported “…K-12 student enrollment generated by the proposed project can most likely be accommodated at the assigned district schools without changes to attendance boundaries or need for additional school facilities.” Any such finding should be verified by the proposers, however.
  • The recent Phase I environmental study found no prior uses that might have contributed to on-site contamination.

……SDHC anticipates the RFP review and approval process will take approximately three (3) to six (6) months following the receipt of proposals…..

Minimum Project Requirements

Unit count/AMI Levels: Not fewer than 78 units shall be occupied by and affordable to households earning at or below 80% of AMI as determined by HUD for the San Diego-Carlsbad Metropolitan Area. Projects providing mixed income opportunities will be considered by SDHC.

SDHC Disposition Policy: The conveyance of Site 428 to the selected development entity will follow and comply with SDHC’s “Policy for Sale and/or Disposition of Real Estate” (PO-RED-300.104 / December 15, 2016), including an appraisal to confirm the current land value. Development proposals shall include proposed offer amount and terms as a purchase of the land. Respondents should know that a reverter to SDHC will be included in any grant deed, that will state that in the event of an uncured breach in the affordability covenants, the title will revert to the SDHC.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

zz September 11, 2019 at 11:49 pm

“Not fewer than 78 units shall be occupied by and affordable to households earning at or below 80% of AMI…Projects providing mixed income opportunities will be considered by SDHC.”

So 78 is just the number of affordable units, and additional expensive units “will be considered.” Isn’t it zoned for more than 120? What a big and exciting project!


Dave September 12, 2019 at 11:24 am

IIRC the site zoning was for something like up to 82 units.

My issue is more with the definition of “affordable.” 80% of San Diego’s AMI for a family of three is $77,050. Using affordable guidelines that say rent should be 30% of your income that’s $23,115 a year, or $1926 a month.

I’m certainly not rich, but nor am I of the mind that I should qualify for housing assistance. Yet that figure is more than I pay in rent for my two-bedroom apartment occupied by three people, and it could go even higher for households with four or more people.

It seems the harshest criticism of “affordable housing” in the OB/Pt. Loma area is that it’ll allow “those people” to sully our upscale, highly segregated community. But if these units are built primarily to serve 80% AMI families, I’m highly skeptical they’ll serve people in true need of affordable housing, or the kind critics are trying to redline out of the neighborhood.

Before the “preserve open space” people come in to attack me, I’d like to note that I’ve been very supportive of that argument against the development of this parcel, and I do feel that it has merits. I just think from hearing the commentary during a handful of meetings that there are more than a few people hiding behind that argument for other reasons.


ZZ September 12, 2019 at 1:29 pm

Dave, doing the 1 unit per 1750 of lot comes to 139 and change, and the rounding rule is up, so 140. But if some of that becomes city roads, then that would be reduced. 5 acres sounds very big to have it entirely one giant parcel with only private driveways.

Doing a bit more research, the 1750 is actually the zoning for my street (my mistake), and here it is a mix of 1500 and 1000. So this potentially could be well over 150 units, with the 78 minimum of them affordable.

On your other point about rent amounts, you paying less than $1900 for a 2-bedroom is a really good deal unless it is pretty small two bedrooms. The 1221 sq ft 2/2 units at Dylan apartments nearby rent for $3200 a month. That complex is fairly high end and new construction (I’ve been inside a unit) but it isn’t super high end resort style either.

I like the idea of workforce housing a lot, as private development is so focused on high end, and I don’t want to be building large public housing projects by the beach with people who barely pay anything in rent. This is a nice middle ground.

One other observation about OB rents: we are starting to become one of the more affordable communities again. While rent has gone up in OB, it has gone up even more inland.


Protester September 16, 2019 at 5:03 pm

Some thoughts here from an affordable housing developer…

This is SD Housing Commission land which requires that all units within the future community must be “restricted income” equal to or less than 120% AMI. This means that there will not be market rate component. They also specify that at least 78 units shall be at or below 80% AMI. They suggest “mixed income”, which basically means incomes restricted at 30% to 80% AMI. SDHC will not and would not accept a response to the RFP for anything above 80% AMI at this point, and certainly not market rate or “income unrestricted” units. SDHC likes to see a fair and equitable unit mix, so a winning bid here will likely be 30% at 30% AMI, 30% at 50% AMI and 40% at 80% AMI. The lower the incomes, the higher the likely-hood of winning (but financing the lower incomes is VERY difficult and highly competitive, and CA LIHTC requires the average restricted income at or below 49% AMI, so there’s going to be a very low income component). As an aside 80-120% AMI units, colloquially known as “workforce housing” are next to impossible to finance. Unless and until the various public jurisdictions and agencies address this funding gap, and the Sate and the Feds, those income levels will not be built with public funds nor low income housing tax credits (LIHTC).

The RFP specifies “Large Family”, which means all the units must be 3 & 4 bedroom. This will mean families with 4-5 in the household. For 30% AMI thats a gross rent after utility allowances of $803 to 868 (NICE). For 80% AMI thats $2140-2311. Lets see you find a four bedroom anywhere in the City of San Diego for $800-2300 with parking and amenities, in a clean neighborhood, with generally good schools and shopping and safe for your children to walk to school!

The site is bisected by a high voltage transmission line (I think its 69kV), which easements appear to take around 20% of the land area. The site has steep slopes and what looks like an enormous amount of grading to be accomplished. The RM 2-5 and 3-7 are 1500 and 1000 respectively, though not clear which parcels. So maybe after grants of rights-of-way, land reductions considering existing easements (again not clear), somewhere in the neighborhood of 600-700 linear feet of retaining walls, setback from existing roads neighbors, severe grade changes, amenities like a BB Court and tot-lots, a Community Center, interior roads, parking, etc., you maybe have 2.5 acres on which to build. You’re within the 30′ height limit and the coastal zone so that means a long entitlement with Coastal Commission, even if this is ministerial, the Commission will likely ask that this to go to PL Planning Group. Go make your voice heard.

Given all this, I think 78 units, more or less, is probably close to the maximum number of units achievable.

“Those People” are the families whose Father and Mother work full time at the Point Loma Library or Stumps, or Rite Aid or Margaritas or Perry’s or the Peninsula YMCA or are assistant managers/employees at any number of stores, restaurants, churches, clinics, veterinarians, etc. Think about it…they both make min wage or maybe up to $23/hr and have a couple of kids. You know them, they serve and help you every day, some have college degrees but love what they do for low wages (vet assistant comes to mind), some never went to college but are hard working families just trying to get their kids to succeed. Of course, some are total shits, but they’re certainly not equivalent to the drug addicted homeless sleeping and pissing in my alley on Muir, thats a different population thats also served by affordable housing (with massive wrap around services) and the SDHC, but not at this future community.

But of course the waiting list for affordable housing is not allowed to pick from local families, its as wide net, and very likely will include those of Mexican and African ancestry. Oh the horror…


Jerry Lohla September 17, 2019 at 7:11 pm

Lots of incorrect information and assumptions in this RFP. . . that no experienced affordable housing developer would ever promote. Do more homework before misleading the Point Loma community.


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