Preservation Action Alert: San Diego Moves to Implement SB 10

by on March 3, 2023 · 7 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

By Bruce Coons / Save Our Heritage Organization / March-April 2023

San Diego has begun the process to implement SB 10 with its new plan, read “Housing Action Package 2.0.”

California Senate Bill 10, (SB 10), also known as the Housing Opportunity and Mobility Expansion (HOME) Act, was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on September 16, 2021. The act claims that it is designed to address California’s ongoing housing crisis by streamlining the process for the development of new housing projects.

Unlike SB 9, which clearly holds out historic resources as an exception, the same does not apply for SB 10. It has no specific exceptions or protections for historic districts or individual historic sites, thereby diminishing the protection for such resources. The City could retain some discretion when it comes to the rezoning of such sites if decision makers would implement requirements to protect historic sites in the rezoning process. So far, we have not seen any evidence that they intend to do so.

Under the act, local governments can bypass some of the existing zoning and environmental review processes to allow for the creation of denser housing projects, including multi-unit buildings and apartment complexes, in areas that were previously restricted to single-family homes.

The act allows for the creation of “by-right” development, which means that developers are allowed to build without undergoing a public review process.

SB 10 would allow construction of a 10-unit apartment building on a 7,500 square foot residential lot located in a “transit-rich, jobs-rich, or urban infill” area. As defined, these terms apply to almost all San Diego neighborhoods. This means that a 10-unit apartment building can be built on virtually any residential lot.

By allowing developers to bypass the existing review processes, important cultural and historical resources will be lost, as well as community character and our sense of place. SB 10 will pave the way for the destruction of historic buildings and neighborhoods, even those that have been designated as local, state, and federal historic landmarks or are of documented cultural significance.

While it is crucial that we address California’s housing crisis, it should not come at the expense of San Diego’s irreplaceable historic neighborhoods and resources.

There are other solutions to the housing crisis, such as providing incentives for developers to build affordable housing by rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of existing buildings, increasing funding for affordable housing programs, and preserving historic neighborhoods and resources where so much of our affordable housing already exists and while still allowing for appropriate new development. Furthermore, SB 10 will inevitably lead to gentrification and displacement of lower-income communities.

SB 10 seems to be a trojan horse with serious failings that, ironically, will remove affordable housing in San Diego by demolishing already existing, naturally occurring affordable housing.

San Diego should prioritize utilizing our outdated buildings like shopping malls and office buildings as affordable housing options, especially along our main transit corridors, which currently are underutilized.

By taking a thoughtful and balanced approach, the city can ensure that it maintains its cultural heritage while also addressing the housing crisis. SB 10 will have significant negative effects on historic resources in San Diego and it will have significant negative effects for all San Diegans’ quality of life.

No other California city has adopted SB 10. San Diego should not be the one to do so.

How you can help:

Urgent: Attend the Planning Department’s public workshop tomorrow, March 2 at 6:30pm! It takes place at the Mission Valley Library, 2123 Fenton Pkwy, San Diego, CA 92108 (next to IKEA). Register now for the workshop This meeting was held Thursday night.

Write your City Councilperson urging them to OPPOSE SB 10 in the current form without adding protections for San Diego’s historic sites. (Sample letter)

SOHO is looking at feasible avenues to protect San Diego’s historic places for all San Diegans. We urge you to donate to our legal fund today as we discuss and strategize our plans to stop this irrevocably harmful act from being put to use.

Neighbors for a Better San Diego, a local non-profit group of San Diego neighbors, community leaders, and advocates formed to protect and preserve single-family neighborhoods from overdevelopment, have been organizing for months. While much of their focus is not in SOHO’s purview they have a cohesive plan for you to consider/review at Neighbors for a Better San Diego.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

John March 3, 2023 at 7:55 pm

What political party authored this bill? Geese!


FrankF March 4, 2023 at 8:12 am

Elections have consequences. Who did you vote for in the last election??

We only have ourselves to blame.


Gail Friedt March 4, 2023 at 10:17 pm

This you? ??????. And didn’t you buy a retirement home in Mississippi? Why not retire in one of the “affordable Historic neighborhoods” mentioned in this article?


Geoff Page March 7, 2023 at 12:28 pm

What was the point of that comment? What did it have to do with the subject of this piece?


kh March 6, 2023 at 1:13 pm

What do you mean by “san diego should not adopt SB10”?

That’s not usually a choice. Does SB10 have some sort of opt-in provisions? Previous state housing bills usually have some sort of protections for historic districts. I would be surprised if there wasn’t a code section that still provided protections.

Certainly, depending on the bill language, San Diego may have some leeway on how it’s adopted. In previous bills, planning staff has gone beyond the minimum requirements of the state. I think sometimes intentionally, but other times by accident or in haste. This is why we need to keep a watchful eye on how these are implemented.

Last year, planning staff erroneously almost increased our max Floor Area Ratio across the board, and I got them to correct this and keep to the minimum change required by the state, and exclude OB from it entirely. This was buried within hundreds of pages of code update lingo that is easy to miss.


kh March 6, 2023 at 1:16 pm

And for the record I’m not saying density or FAR increases are off the table, but it should be done in a transparent fashion, not slipped through in the night amongst a massive code update and false claims that the state is requiring it.


nostalgic March 7, 2023 at 1:01 pm

The City of San Diego now has an over-the-counter historic designation that I do not quite understand. Can some of you answer why and what that is?


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