Faulconer’s Reversal on YIMBYism and More Debate on ‘Granny Flats’

by on August 11, 2021 · 4 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

Editordude: Former Mayor Kevin Faulconer has reversed himself on YIMBYism, or his so-call YIMBY platform while mayor, as he campaigns in the recall,. Here’s Voice of San Diego’s recent article about this reversal by Andrew Keats, followed by a response to Keats on the issue of “granny flats” by long-time San Diego reporter Paul Krueger. Krueger is also a member of Neighbors For A Better San Diego.

By Andrew Keatts / Voice of San Diego / August 9, 2021

With two years left in office, former Mayor Kevin Faulconer used his 2019 State of the City speech to dive into the city’s housing debate, referring to himself as a YIMBY and pledging to roll back regulations that inhibit housing production, even if that meant upsetting existing residents.

Now, as he seeks to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom in a recall election, Faulconer took aim at the top legislative priority of state YIMBY groups when he pledged to veto any law that undermined single-family zoning. “When we see some of these pieces of legislation that want to eliminate single-family zoning in California, that’s wrong,” Faulconer said at a recall debate last week. “I will veto that.”

He was referring to SB 9, which would allow for two homes on every single-family zoned lot and let property owners easily split their lots in half, allowing up to four homes on an area previously reserved for one. It’s a top legislative priority of groups like California YIMBY and the YIMBY Dems of San Diego County. But beyond putting him at odds with groups to whom he had recently cozied up, Faulconer’s pledge to protect single-family zoning is also at odds with his own administration’s take on his approach to single-family zoning.

In his last year in office, Faulconer proposed a policy dubbed Complete Communities, an incentive program that allowed developers to sidestep certain development limits if they built near transit and jobs, and agreed to provide certain community benefits. It passed just before he left office, adding tenant and anti-displacement protections to win support of progressive Council members.

For the balance of this article, please go here.

Response to Voice of San Diego on ADU’s and “Granny Flats”

By Paul Krueger

Here’s my response to Andy’s reporting on the ADU regulations:

1) The term “granny flats” should not be conflated with “accessory dwelling units”. The city regulations don’t focus on “granny flats”, which evoke a false picture of a single, back-yard living unit occupied by a family member or renter.

As you know, Neighbors For A Better San Diego (the grass-roots organization that I’m involved with, but am not speaking for in this email), does not, and never has, opposed the construction of a “granny flat” (single ADU), and what I’ll call a “junior granny flat” (or “Junior ADU”) on a single-family property, even with a net loss of parking.

NFABSD does oppose what everyone agrees is the heart-and-soul of the new regulations, which allow the construction of essentially unlimited ADUs without parking, rear- and side-yard set-backs, and landscaping, and which waive the imposition of much-needed infrastructure development fees. That is the gist of NFBSD’s effort to sensibly revise the current regulations, and it has nothing what-so-ever to do with “granny flats.”

2) The city did not just “lower” the fees on the construction of multiple ADUs. Most importantly, it stopped collecting any development infrastructure fees on those ADUs, even while it continues to charge that same fee for new housing on transit corridors. That decision created the perverse incentive of discouraging low- and moderate-income housing where it should most sensibly be built: on thoroughfares such as El Cajon Blvd, portions of which are in dire need of redevelopment.

3) It is misleading, and, as borne out by NFABSD’s research, inaccurate to say the current ADU regulations “let single-family homeowners” build multiple-unit housing in single-family zoned neighborhoods. NFABSD volunteers, including myself, routinely review the permit applications filed for multi-unit ADUs.

These projects, especially in the College Area, but throughout the city, appear to be filed only by real estate developers who do not — and will not — live on those properties. Specifically, the two projects I think are poster-children for what’s wrong with the ADU regs involve the purchase under false pretenses of single family homes on 49th Street in Talmadge and Budd Street in Clairemont, in which the same developer/investor/absentee landlord (Brad Fisher, aka “Stoly 5385, LLC)  is using the same building plan to convert single-family homes into six-unit rental complexes. My concern — and my motivation for seeking common-sense revisions to the current regulations — is not, and never has been, the ability of any property owner to build what’s currently allowed by state law: the addition of a “granny flat” and “junior granny flat”, even without parking and with a reduction or even elimination development fees.

I want to stop what I can only hope are the unintended consequences of the current regulations: the purchase of single-family homes by investors, real estate speculators, and corporate trusts, and the conversion of those homes into multi-unit rentals managed by absentee landlords. These projects are made feasible by taxpayer subsidies, and they’re happening in neighborhoods that already lack adequate parks, libraries, and high-performing schools, and are saddled with the city’s oldest, poorly-maintained, and inadequate streets, sidewalks, and transit corridors.

4) I don’t think there’s a “reasonable debate” about whether the city’s ADU “reform is a de facto reform to single-family housing.” As outlined above, the facts as we know them confirm that the “financial onus for turning (these) new opportunities for people to live” clearly does not “fall on individual property owners.”

The so-called “onus” is, in fact, a financial incentive for investors/speculators/absentee landlords. Buying up single-family homes and converting them to multi-unit ADUs may, in fact, be “time-consuming” for absentee landlords and developers, but that’s their job. It’s not “expensive”; it’s a very profitable business, and they would not invest their time and money without the assurance of a handsome return on investment (ROI).

NFABSD’s conclusion is that the city council’s approval of the current ADU regulations was, without doubt, a stealth and de-facto abolishment of single-family zoning in San Diego, accomplished without public debate, much less a “lengthy environment review.”

No one could say it better, or with more authority, than Mike Hansen, who told you last year that San Diego “…had functionally already (ended single-family zoning) through ADU reform, to the extent that ADU reform allows multiple units on a property that had been zoned for one.” I need only remind you, yet again, that Hansen’s boss at the time was then-Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

I hope my personal perspective on these very important issues will contribute to the continuing discussion about the city’s ADU regulations, and the need for sensible revisions that will encourage the construction of more housing, while preserving — and even enhancing — our established single-family neighborhoods.


{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Paul Webb August 11, 2021 at 3:34 pm

Well said, Paul kruger


Geoff Page August 11, 2021 at 3:35 pm

Another excellent piece. Many of us have been saying this same thing for years, the city is de facto rezoning single family neighborhoods. And, the impetus is not the altruistic goal of providing needed housing, it is simply to make money.


Dike Anyiwo August 11, 2021 at 6:05 pm

Andrew spells his last name *Keatts* not Keats…


kh August 11, 2021 at 10:55 pm

San Diego has historically exceeded state law minimums on ADUs but not by a lot. The fact is these changes are state driven, and SB9 is a doozy. Yes it will mean 4 plexes on single family lots.

State mandates already force us to allow 2 detached ADUs on a lot, and ADUs in zones that previously prohibited them (like 3+ unit multifamily lots). They also allow you to exceed maximum floor area ratios and in some cases even remove parking serving the existing dwelling unit.

Also these changes are not yet legal in the coastal zone, but our city planners are often approving them anyways.

And no laws prevent a developer from listing the non-ADU units as short term vacation rentals. These new ADUs are often indistinguishable from the “standard dwelling units” they share a lot with. So: buy a lot with 2 units, build 2 more, get subsidies on 2, and list 2 on Airbnb.

There are currently no brakes on this runaway train at the city or state level. Existing residents wanting to maintain a low density neighborhood are being painted as racists and the cause of the homeless crisis. I’ll be tempted to choose an alternate, even an empty suit like Falconer, that claims they’d veto it.


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