City Council Committee Gives Go-Ahead to ‘Tiny Houses’ on Wheels for San Diego Backyards

by on October 11, 2019 · 21 comments

in San Diego

A key San Diego City Council committee has given the go-ahead to allow property owners to have movable “tiny houses” on wheels which they hope will help alleviate the city’s affordable housing crisis and steep homelessness. The small units can be moved into backyards and have their wheels removed.

The council’s Land Use and Housing committee voted voted unanimously Wednesday, October 9, to have the City Attorney’s Office come up with language for an amendment to San Diego’s municipal code which would permit the movable tiny houses.

Councilwoman Dr. Jennifer Campbell, a member of the committee said: “I think it’s a good idea. Let’s do it.”

Here’s some of the proposed restrictions and requirements property owners would need to comply with:

  • movable tiny houses would range in size from 150 to 430 square feet.
  • They would have fire-resistant roofs
  • would need to be connected to sewer, water and electricity
  • property owners would not be required to provide an on-site parking spot for the tiny house
  • they would have to be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles,
  • they couldn’t move under their own power
  • the wheels couldn’t be removed because they’re needed to support the structure
  • they could not be rented out for fewer than 30 days at a time, so they can’t be used as short-term vacation rentals.

City bureaucrats consider the tiny homes not like a RV, or conventional trailer, but more like a traditional home, with interior space geared for daily living – just real small. If these are ultimately approved, officials would like to see them in backyards across the city, to help address the local homelessness and affordable housing crises.

Committee chair, Councilman Scott Sherman, expects his committee to take a vote on the draft municipal code change which would permit tiny houses by the end of the year. Then full City Council is expected to approve the new policy in early 2020.

Other cities that allow movable tiny houses are Denver, Fresno and San Luis Obispo. Los Angeles, Sacramento and Oakland are considering them.

According to David Garrick at the San Diego Union-Tribune,

A property owner can have a movable tiny house installed on their property within 30 to 45 days, much less time than the six to 18 months it typically takes to add a granny flat, said Barrett Tetlow, Councilman Sherman’s chief of staff.

The process takes less time because the movable tiny houses are pre-fabricated and then shipped to property owners, while granny flats are typically constructed on-site and require a lengthier approval process.

Tetlow said a tiny house will typically cost about $85,000 total, compared to somewhere between $100,000 and $150,000 for a granny flat, which is usually between 500 and 1,000 square feet in size.

With tiny houses renting for an estimated $900 per month, Tetlow said, a property owner would recover their initial investment in about eight years. After that, the rent from the tiny house could help cover their mortgage payment or other expenses.

The tiny houses would become a new rung on the housing ladder, above homelessness and potentially above subsidized low-income housing, Tetlow said. …

City officials have loosened rules for granny flats in recent years, prompting more than 450 property owners to successfully secure a permit for a granny flat since 2017.

But many property owners balk at the cost and time it takes to get approvals and to construct the granny flat. Tetlow said tiny houses could be an appealing alternative for such property owners.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

ZZ October 11, 2019 at 1:05 pm

Why the need for a plumbing hookup? Detached extra bedrooms helps with the housing stock too. Adding underground plumbing is so expensive as to make this fairly worthless as an economic proposition. People who still really want one can make it work with some commitment. But if you have an existing 2/2 house, is adding a detached tiny-house one-room bedroom something that requires a plumbing connection? No, it isn’t.


SaneVoice October 11, 2019 at 4:12 pm

Uh, yes it is. There’s something called a bathroom where you use the toilet and the shower along with a sink to wash your hands. I won’t even get into the fact that you need a sink in the kitchen to wash your dishes, etc.


Sam October 11, 2019 at 2:43 pm

I hate this idea. I chose to live in San Diego, not Tijuana. Everybody who is complaining about how expensive it is to live in California should find somewhere else to live. I was taught to live within my means. If I couldn’t afford to live by the beach I would find somewhere that is more affordable, like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Texas etc… I certainly wouldn’t stay somewhere and jeopardize my family’s well being because I like the climate better here. What has happened to common sense?


Chris October 12, 2019 at 6:04 am

Broken record. You give the same uninformed examples like a bot. It this is going to cause grief for you then boo hoo.


Sam October 12, 2019 at 9:09 pm

Let me guess, you’re a millenial who thinks that it is your God given right to live in your own place, right by the beach and everybody else should bend over backwards to make your dreams come true? Tell me I’m wrong…


Chris October 12, 2019 at 9:32 pm

You are wrong. I’m a 58 year old baby boomer. And nowhere did I say anything to the effect that living by the beach is a God given right or that society needs to “bend over backwards” to make it happen. I said nothing to even give you impression.


A.A.Ron October 11, 2019 at 3:12 pm

This type of innovation is happening… California Governor just signed into law that every single family residence in California can now be a tri-plex.

Get ready for the golden age of ADU’s. We are about to get a lot more housing with less required parking to help solve the housing crisis.


Sam October 11, 2019 at 4:12 pm

Ugh!!! This is exactly what we don’t need. Whatever happened to a property owner’s rights anyway. I bought a house in a single family neighborhood because I didn’t want to live next to an apartment building. I wonder if this will hold up in court…


Chris October 12, 2019 at 6:01 am

With the housing shortage and cost of available housing being what it is, there are issues that far more important than your “property owners rights”.


Sam October 12, 2019 at 9:14 pm

By all means lets ruin the notion of a single family neighborhood because your generation’s parents didn’t teach you any common sense. If you can’t afford something don’t buy it. Pretty simple concept don’t you think?


Chris October 12, 2019 at 9:34 pm

Give it up.


Hopper Moss October 13, 2019 at 4:35 pm

Great points Sam.


Chris October 13, 2019 at 5:19 pm

Interesting how you say my generation. I’m probably older than you.


ZZ October 14, 2019 at 3:30 pm

There won’t be an apartment building. There will be, at most, the main house, one ADU, and one JADU. Here’s what a JADU is:

“no more than 500 square feet and are typically bedrooms in a single-family home that have an entrance into the unit from the main home and an entrance to the outside from the JADU. The JADU must have cooking facilities, including a sink, but is not required to have a private bathroom.”

All of OB west of Sunset Cliffs is zoned multifamily and allows for at least 2 units. Yet there are still plenty of single family houses in that area.


Peter Wilson November 19, 2019 at 9:50 am

What does “Property Rights” mean to you? The right to control your own property, I would think. How is giving YOU control of what someone does with their own property respecting property rights?


triggerfinger October 13, 2019 at 7:47 pm

Yes let’s turn all our neighborhoods into trailer parks. It’ll be great. Maybe we can bury some nuclear waste as well, that will make San Diego even more affordable.


Sam October 13, 2019 at 9:31 pm

I like the cut of your jib triggerfinger!


KLS February 8, 2020 at 6:52 pm

Tack around Sam and realize that the community of San Diego needs to adapt to the needs of the present moment. When you bought your house there were certain conditions in place, but things have changed. My grandparents built their own home here in the 40s…and things have changed over the years. If you don’t like the adaptation then please choose to move rather than yelling at everyone else to adapt to your static viewpoint. Many of the problems in SD are because 1% of the population (loud) killed off progressive projects (transportation, housing, solar) 20years ago.


Sam February 10, 2020 at 10:03 am

KLS, you’re the one that is yelling at everybody, not me. I don’t expect people to adapt to a false emergency. It’s a really simple concept, if you can’t afford it, don’t buy it.


Lyle October 12, 2019 at 9:44 am

Will use of these require a building permit and/or planning board review ? Will their square footage be used in calculation of the FAR ?

It seems to me that the state legislature is flippantly superceding the community plans that the local people have worked so hard to develop, and the state (via CC) has approved. The OBRag does a wonderful job of reporting on planing board and town council meetings, but I haven’t read anything about Toni Atkins or Lorena Gonzales reps discussing the granny flat liberalization, nor this measure at these community meetings.


lyle October 12, 2019 at 10:03 am

oops. I just re-read the article and noticed this is a city government action. So it’s not just the state government, it is state and city.


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