The San Diego Movement to Preserve Older Buildings for Affordable Housing

by on May 5, 2022 · 0 comments

in San Diego

The San Diego-based  Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO), along with thousands of San Diegans, has noted and discussed how housing affordability is an increasing crisis of major concern for our county’s present and future. The loss of naturally occurring affordable housing (another name for unsubsidized) is compounding the problem.

An obvious and potentially widespread solution would be to reinvest in, preserve, and adapt older buildings for housing, yet neither the City nor County of San Diego has embraced this nationally proven solution. SOHO argues that older and/or historically designated buildings are inherently more affordable and sustainable than new construction, enable more housing to be produced faster and less expensively, and don’t contribute tons to already brimming landfills.

This is why SOHO has created a strong, logical preservation brief, Older Buildings Support Affordable Housing, which explains this complex issue, proposes recommendations, and highlights both local success stories and missed opportunities. This brief targets City and County officials and leaders as well as all San Diegans to understand how older buildings play a crucially important role in meeting affordability and housing needs. Please read, share, and post this affordable housing brief with your family, friends, and neighbors.

SOHO Leads Effort on Adaptive Reuse Ordinance

By Amie Hayes and Marlena Krcelich / May/June 2022

Alongside preservation stakeholders and community activists SOHO is spearheading substantial and growing support for the City of San Diego to develop and implement an adaptive reuse ordinance (ARO), similar to those in Los Angeles, Santa Ana, and Long Beach. The reuse of older buildings benefits the City’s climate action and housing priorities while supporting historic preservation, neighborhood revitalization, and a circular economy.*

San Diego’s older building stock is an underused asset with regulatory and zoning barriers that block its full potential. An adaptive reuse ordinance would provide welcome incentives, flexibility, regulatory relief, and technical assistance to unlock the full potential of older buildings by identifying areas with the highest reuse opportunities, creating adaptive reuse overlay zones, and establishing alternative building code regulations.

Since an ARO would help retain buildings, and their adaptive reuse would support affordable housing, sustainability, and historic preservation, SOHO recently collected support letters and submitted them to promote an ARO during the annual Land Development Code update process (ended March 31, 2022). This will be an ongoing effort until the City adopts an ARO.

For further information about the workings and benefits of AROs, go here for the links below.

*According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “A circular economy reduces material use, redesigns materials to be less resource intensive, and recaptures ‘waste’ as a resource to manufacture new materials and products.”


[Photo caption: Sisters of Mercy Hospital Annex in San Diego’s Hillcrest community, adaptively reused as Better Buzz Coffee Roasters. Photo by Sandé Lollis, 2018]

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