San Diego Group Calls for Moratorium on Zoning Changes in Transit Priority Areas

by on September 15, 2021 · 3 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

The local group, Neighbors for a Better San Diego, are calling for an immediate one-year moratorium on zoning changes in “transit priority areas.” And they’ve started a Petition towards that goal.

Here is their statement:

Moratorium on San Diego Zoning Changes in Transit Priority Areas

In October 2020 the Mayor and City Council revised the municipal code in a way that will degrade our city neighborhoods. They now allow the construction of multi-unit rentals in backyards, instead of focusing on the housing and infrastructure needs of long-neglected transit corridors. Substantial rezoning should not masquerade as a minor modification. When changes are large, they should follow the same legal procedures as actual rezoning.

We demand from the San Diego Mayor and City Council an immediate one-year moratorium on the municipal code that allows unlimited bonus Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in our neighborhoods.

This moratorium will allow time for the City of San Diego to revise its ADU development regulations in a more thoughtful and comprehensive way.

More Information:

1.  The San Diego Municipal Code states that the purpose of the single-family residential zones is to provide appropriate regulations for the development of single-family dwelling units that accommodate a variety of lot sizes and residential dwelling types and which promote neighborhood quality, character, and livability. It is intended that these zones provide reasonable use of property while minimizing adverse impacts to adjacent properties. The code changes enacted in October 2020 are in OPPOSITION to these goals, and the requested one-year moratorium on further ADU development will allow time for the City of San Diego to revise the ADU regulations in a more thoughtful and comprehensive way.

2.  The City of San Diego is seeking to address affordable housing, climate change, and traffic congestion through the designation of Transit Priority Areas (TPAs) along the City’s main thoroughfares. While these are aims that we all can agree on, the actual implementation of TPAs is in contradiction of these goals. Specifically, the City is promoting the building of ADUs in the backyards of existing single-family dwellings up to 1/2 mile away from any transit routes. These units can be built without limits on their number, without parking, without setbacks from the adjoining properties, and without any architectural review to conform to the existing character of the neighborhood. In some cases these allowances are more generous than those on the transit corridors, so the outcome is to push housing development away from the very transit corridors that the City is claiming to support.

3.  By discouraging housing development directly on our transit corridors, the City is acting against the specific intent of the adopted 2008 General Plan and 1998 Community Plan.

4.  As investors and developers outbid potential homeowners so they can overbuild and create rentals, first time home buyers will be priced out of the market. Therefore, the City is actually making urban housing MORE expensive, not more affordable, with the current policies turning potential homeowners into life-long renters.

5.  A key component of current City policies is the waiver of the Development Impact Fees on ADUs, which are used to create public amenities and infrastructure needed to support additional density. At the same time, the City imposes these fees on non-ADU development on the transit corridors themselves. As with the removal of parking requirements on neighborhood ADUs,the City is INCENTIVIZING development AWAY from the designated transit corridors and into the surrounding single-family neighborhoods, which do not have the amenities for car-free living and are not designed to support the increased traffic and other demands on infrastructure. Therefore, we seek removal of the Development Impact Fee exemption provided by §142.0640 (b) (1) “Accessory Dwelling Units… are exempt from DIFs.” This fee is critical for older communities with large infrastructure deficits.

6.  When the City created TPAs, they did not change the zoning of neighborhoods, which requires following the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to account for the impacts of the changes in land use. Instead, the City simply redefined what the zone is, thereby avoiding the normal and legal community review process.

Transit Priority Area Map of San Diego

A Transit Priority Area (TPA) is defined as any area that is within one-half mile of an existing or planned transit stop, regardless of whether there is a safely navigable walking or biking path to that stop.

The map shows that a substantial portion of San Diego’s neighborhoods lie within TPAs, and hence will be fully impacted by the October 2020 ADU zoning changes.

Sign the Petition

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Mat Wahlstrom September 15, 2021 at 3:45 pm

Thank you, Neighbors for a Better San Diego!

Both SANDAG and MTS admit they don’t have the money to complete the projects they had already planned. Yet the city is still pushing for density based on bus routes, stops, and other infrastructure that *may be proposed* by 2035 — and has the audacity to call this “data-driven.”

Call it what it is: bovine excrement.


Greg September 16, 2021 at 8:39 am

TPAs are a great idea in theory allowing density in transit-rich environments. I know this isn’t popular here, but a good example would be the area surrounding the Old Town Transit Center. In practice, they are direct giveaways to developers based on the outrageous definition of “high frequency transit stop” and the .5 mile radius. Anyone looking at the map and their coverage can see that.


Paul Webb September 16, 2021 at 10:10 am

Just a reminder that 60% of San Diegans live in a TPA. There’s just one problem – the lack of meaningful transit in these TPAs.

There’s actually also another problem. If transit is not a rail transit mode, the transit route can be changed or deleted from the system by a vote. I remember vividly sitting in SANDAG board meetings listening to the cries of people, some wheelchair bound, whose bus rout was being eliminated.


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