Neighborhood Group Dissatisfied With Lack of Support from San Diego Council on ADU Reforms, Changes Strategy

by on January 19, 2022 · 4 comments

in San Diego

Statement from Neighbors For A Better San Diego

Where the Road Leads…

First of all, our thanks to all of you who made your thoughts known to the city council’s Land Use and Housing Committee during last Thursday’s [January 13] hearing on proposed changes to Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs).

Throughout this process, we have made a rational and compelling case for aligning San Diego’s ADU policies with state law. This would have little or no impact on San Diegans’ ability to build ADUs and minimize the adverse impacts that the city’s ADU density BONUS program has on our neighborhoods.

We have also given clear and repeated testimony that using Transit Priority Areas (TPAs) to determine the number of ADUs that can be built on a property is counterproductive – the city’s current definition of a TPA “as the crow flies” will not significantly increase public transit use and will not help San Diego meet its climate action goals.

Mayor Gloria’s Housing Action Package, as adopted by Land Use & Housing, does provide marginal improvements in regulations for height and setback rules, development fees, and tree replacement, but these are insufficient and do not significantly address the main issues that we have raised — specifically, the problems with the Bonus ADU investor incentive program and reliance on highly-flawed Transit Priority Areas in land use regulations.

We have learned during this process — especially from comments made by Councilmembers Cate and LaCava at last week’s meeting — that our elected officials and their department heads are concerned only with maximizing the number of units of housing produced. Committee members clearly demonstrated that they consider affordability, climate action, infrastructure, fire safety, and quality of life expendable if those important issues conflict with the city’s end game of increasing housing, regardless of the consequences.

This reality requires us to rethink our strategy for the full Council’s consideration of the Housing Action Package. We clearly do not have support for the entirety of our proposal, so we will streamline our “asks” to focus on what’s in play in the proposed Housing Action Package. We will also emphasize that the Council and the Mayor will be accountable for the predictable negative outcomes of upzoning San Diego’s neighborhoods.

Most importantly, we assure you that this change in strategy should not be misinterpreted as an abandonment of the goals all of you so strongly support. We pledge to continue fighting on your behalf for sensible revisions to the city’s ill-conceived, destructive ADU ordinance. We followed a rational, fact-driven strategy to reach that goal, but our elected officials and their department heads rejected that approach. They have clearly and repeatedly demonstrated their willingness to disregard and disrespect San Diego’s homeowners, unless and until there’s an electoral consequence for their harmful policies. Going forward, we will engage with Mayor Gloria and Council on those terms.

Thank you again for your continued support on this issue of tremendous importance to the future of San Diego’s neighborhoods and our fellow residents.

Neighbors For A Better San Diego

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Judy Swink January 19, 2022 at 5:33 pm

“The city’s current definition of a TPA “as the crow flies” is ridiculous on its face. People don’t fly much less in a straight line to a bus or trolley stop. A TPA should be defined based on an established walking distance, perhaps using time to walk the distance as criterion. Isn’t that one of the criteria for a neighborhood park?


Chris January 20, 2022 at 12:07 pm

A question I have for everyone. What are your thoughts about property owners who actually live in/on their property and decide to put in a granny flat for a family member to live in full time? I was reading a thread where one person is going through the approval process to put one on his property. It stated intent is to move into the granny himself and have his kinds move into the house.


Bobo January 20, 2022 at 1:25 pm

I’m an OB resident/homeowner who is of the opinion that it is totally appropriate if an on-site homeowner does this. In fact, that’s the original purpose of the concept.


Geoff Page January 20, 2022 at 1:54 pm


If I had a nickel for every sad story I heard while on the planning board about needing a place for mom and dad, I’d have some money.

One applicant had a big house that maxed out the floor area ratio. The ground floor was 1,700/sf. They wanted a variation from the FAR rule for 600 more square feet to put granny on top of the house with an elevator inside. When asked why they couldn’t accommodate granny in the 1700/sf downstairs, they were almost indignant. What happens when granny passes on? They wind up with an over-sized home, great selling point.

Another guy wanted three variations so he could accommodate his old dad. These would have enhanced the value of his property a good deal. When it was commented that perhaps he had the wrong property to do what he wanted it if required three variations, he was indignant.

But, I do agree, granny flats can have a purpose. If it were up to me, I’d insist the flat be attached to the home and be counted in the FAR. That way, it would be harder to rent out later. Not impossible, but not as attractive as a separate unit.


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