Fight Intensifies for San Diego’s Future and Against Gloria’s Housing Policies

by on June 1, 2023 · 13 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

There is a fight going on for the future of San Diego and against the housing policies of Mayor Gloria. And right now, it is intensifying.

You can see it in the almost daily letters to the editor at the U-T where angry residents complain about how their neighborhoods are under attack. We saw it in early May when 600 to 800 people rallied against Senate Bill 10 and Gloria’s accessory dwelling unit (ADU) plans — from University City to the College area, from Clairemont to Hillcrest and from North Park to Normal Heights.

We saw it at a contentious City Council subcommittee meeting where only one vote sent Gloria’s plans to the full council. We saw it when the Committee of Community Planners came out against the policies. And today, we are witnessing the fight move to the San Diego Planning Commission where community groups are raising the alert as the Commission considers Gloria’s Housing Action Plan 2.0.

One group, for instance, Save Our Heritage Organization, fears that San Diego’s implementation of Senate Bill 10 will bring negative changes to the exemption of historic sites and historic districts.

What’s this all about?

Gloria has proposed a swath of housing policies that ostensibly aim to boost housing construction. One of them would have San Diego become the only city to implement Senate Bill 10 (SB 10), a controversial bill that became state law last year. SB 10 is not mandatory for cities in the state but is entirely optional. The law allows as many as 10 housing units on a single property if it’s near a public transit line. In the San Diego package, it would allow a single-family home to be replaced with a structure up to three stories tall. Yet, once San Diego takes SB 10 on and implements it, the city cannot go back and remove its provisions — as the law is written.

There are other proposals which include loosing rules for housing developments on public land and underutilized commercial sites, incentives for building new single-room-occupancy hotels and accelerating conversion to housing of sites in southeastern San Diego that host businesses like scrapyards.

But the proposal getting the most push-back is Gloria’s embrace of SB 10. Again, it allows property owners to replace a single-family home with up to 10 units, depending on the square footage of the lot, with one unit allowed for every 1,000 square feet. If enacted, the city will allow SB 10 developments in San Diego’s designated sustainable development area — which is almost one third of the city, characterized by “proximity to transit,” and other factors, like educational or employment resources.

Gloria’s proposed reforms did get a boost when a 5-4 City Council vote “softened” existing rules for taller residential buildings and backyard units when a property is near mass transit. The council, however, voted to change the distance to mass transit from a half-mile to the incredible distance of one mile, which defied all logic. This controversial vote set off alert bells and red flags across the city. It galvanized new community groups to action and caused a law suit against the city.

Grassroot activists — including many community leaders — have been outraged by Gloria’s proposals, and call them reckless, that they ignore the need for supportive infrastructure and that they would damage the quality of life for many residents. They fear for the future of their areas and for the city itself.

Plus, critics maintain that SB 10 would apply to a much larger portion of city acreage that can actually be developed. The city’s numbers include thousands of acres that can’t be developed — such as Mission Trails Regional Park — in its total calculation.

The Community Planners Committee is made up of community planning group chairs from the city’s 42 groups. They recommended that SB 10 be removed from the package because of its potential negative effects on single-family neighborhoods. If it remains in the package, the planners said city officials should require more subsidized housing units from property owners who build more than four units on a site.

Andrea Schlageter, chairperson of the Community Planners Committee, said members of the network mainly objected to SB 10 but thought the whole package was too much. Schlageter, who also chairs the Ocean Beach Planning Board, stated:

“The general thought seems to be that this is overkill. There’s already so many density incentives in place and we’ve already upzoned enough to meet our state housing goals.”

Residents have been very upset over the proposals. Bonnie Kutch of University City — one of the neighborhoods the city has targeted — had this to say:

“Our city officials have been rolling out one high-density housing initiative after another, without regard to the supporting infrastructure that would be needed, the negative impacts on the environment, delayed fire and safety response times, lack of police protection, impaired traffic circulation and decreased quality of life for existing residents.”

“Our city government will be unraveling the very fabric of San Diego that everyone here knows and loves, while destroying it for the next generation.”

Kutch was one of the organizers in that series of rallies in early May.

Danna Givot of Clairemont and a member of Neighbors for a Better San Diego, said, “SB 10 would randomly drop 10-unit apartment complexes in single-family residential zones.” Givot was also one of the rally organizers.

Neighbors for a Better San Diego – which claim a mailing list membership of 3,000 that has grown mainly over these last few months — has also filed a lawsuit against the city. It and another group, Livable San Diego, filed a lawsuit against the city in mid-April over its new sustainable development areas. It argued city officials failed to properly analyze potential impacts on air quality, noise, traffic, aesthetics and wildfire risk, as required under the California Environmental Quality Act.

The Neighbors group has been leading the fight against these new proposals. Geoff Hueter, chairperson of the group, argues “upzoning” existing single-family neighborhoods won’t help housing woes and should instead be done along higher transit corridors, such as converting underutilized strip malls into housing or focusing on areas along El Cajon Boulevard that could handle more growth. He said:

“We should be deliberately planning density to provide walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods. The random infill sprawl promoted by SB 10 is the worst possible solution to our housing needs.”

Here are the gists of the group’s problems with Gloria’s Housing Action Plan 2.0:

There is no turning back! If SB 10 is implemented on a parcel in San Diego, it can never be undone, ever. This is written into the State bill itself. Based on San Diego’s existing land use maps, it is calculated that San Diego has the allowed capacity to build over 2 million new homes, 19 times our projected housing need. San Diego shouldn’t be first in line to try this unproven, unnecessary, and irreversible elimination of all single-family zoning.

San Diego’s SB 10 implementation ignores accepted design practices for “Missing Middle” housing. It allows buildings up to 10 units, 30,000 square feet, and three stories high in single-family zoned residential neighborhoods. This exceeds the density of most of San Diego’s apartment zones. Development is allowed to fill almost the entire lot.

All parcels a mile or more away from existing or future transit stops are eligible (over half of all San Diego properties)  How did we get this distance?  San Diego has some flexibility in how it implements SB 10 because it’s an “opt-in” and not a state mandate. Because of that, the Mayor’s Planning Department is choosing to use the SDA (one-mile walk to transit) as the area in which to implement it.

“Or more” refers to areas in San Diego that have been defined as having “Specific Plans” The Planning Department has made it so that even if a tiny corner of a Specific Plan touches the SDA, then the ENTIRE area of the Specific Plan is included in the SDA.

SB 10 violates San Diego’s Climate Action Plan (CAP), including its Mobility Mode Shift goals, by encouraging dense development far away from transit. The legally binding CAP targets require that San Diego prove analytically that SB 10 will increase walkability of neighborhoods and decrease the dependency of residents on automobiles.

• Although Historic Districts are protected in the current draft of the Housing Action, a Planning Commissioner is already advocating for SB 10 to be allowed in Historic Districts.

No onsite parking requirements for the majority of eligible lots under the pretense that residents who live a mile away from ineffective transit won’t need cars.

Disregards public safety by allowing, if not encouraging, dense development in high-risk fire areas.

Drives up home prices up by creating increased revenue potential for developers and investors, leading to higher rents and home prices.

No requirements for homeownership (units can remain apartments forever).

• San Diego already has the allowed capacity to meet the required state housing goals (RHNA).

SOHO, the preservationist group, says the agenda for today’s (June 1) Planning Commission meeting includes a proposed change to the exemption of historic sites and historic districts from San Diego’s SB 10 implementation. Specifically, the draft code was changed to only exempt historic resources and districts in effect on or before January 1, 2023, which could be devastating to future efforts to preserve the city’s historical buildings.

Clearly, this fight over Gloria’s housing proposals has heated up. It will go on until this summer when the city council takes them up.

But, despite our May Gray and the June Gloom, temperatures are rising among activist and neighborhood circles. Not only are Gloria’s housing policies under attack, but other measures he and the council have taken recently have raised the ire of the citizenry, such as the illogical loss of up to a 1,000 parking spaces, the building of bike paths that are rarely used, the gutting of community planning groups, the general unresponsiveness of his government and his neglect of communities (which arguably has led to La Jolla’s recent secession movement), not to mention his inability to handle the doubling of the unhoused community under his watch.

Another facet that is rarely raised (except in these pages of the Rag) is the completely undemocratic nature of how these proposals and policies will be and are implemented. If a city council vote for a state law can trump decades of community involvement and neighborhood democracy, then a key fabric of our modern society gets thrown into the circular file. The top-down method used by our current city to force what it considers the correct path on its residents could be the most churning element of enragement.

Todd Gloria is in trouble, politically, and his future is in doubt. But he has brought it on himself. He, his staff and his colleagues on the council have threatened the future of San Diego with these proposals (and policies) — and now the residents from many of his targeted communities have targeted him — and anybody who stands with him.

So, tighten your seat belt, folks. These next few months will be a rocky ride.




{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

LBruce June 1, 2023 at 2:15 pm

You nailed it, Frank: “the completely undemocratic nature of how these proposals and policies will be and are implemented. If a city council vote for a state law can trump decades of community involvement and neighborhood democracy, then a key fabric of our modern society gets thrown into the circular file. The top-down method used by our current city to force what it considers the correct path on its residents could be the most churning element of enragement.” This ramming whatever they dream up down our throats is primary to my outrage.


Larry OB June 1, 2023 at 7:08 pm

Parking spaces are as essential at toilets, showers, and sinks. Each housing unit should have at least one parking space. If someone builds an apartment building with zero parking spaces, then they are discriminating against tradespeople that need to have a work vehicle, nurses and other workers that need to be close to a vehicle, parents that have to drive their children to school, and of course all of the disabled people that can’t actually walk a mile.


Paul Coogan June 2, 2023 at 3:50 pm

Thanks Larry, I had considered the impact to the disabled but not to trades people and frontline on-call folks. Not everyone works in a home office!


kh June 6, 2023 at 8:08 pm

We could solve the housing crisis by building units with 6’ ceiling heights. Could fit 50% more units in the existing zoning. Nevermind that it won’t accommodate 1/2 of our households.

That makes about as much sense as building zero parking apartments a mile from transit.


Paulette Williams June 1, 2023 at 7:50 pm

Let’s not forget this summer it’s City Council who will approve or reject this debacle. We’ll see firsthand if our council representatives listen to their constituents or cave under the strong arm of the mayor.


LBruce June 2, 2023 at 1:36 pm

Let us be sure our representatives hear from us, their constituents, LOUD and CLEAR.


Deb Porter June 2, 2023 at 11:26 am

The city is proposing even more drastic measures than SB10…. which are disastrous enough. Yesterday at the Mayor’s Planning Department discussion where it continues its push with the Housing Action Plan (HAP) 2.0, (which includes the SB 10 opt-in) the video for the zoom did not work. Worse, the screen was blank for 15 minutes with no announcement of what was going on (or NOT going on). So from 9am to 9:15 those who tried to witness the 9 AM meeting over zoom, had no idea of whether the meeting was happening or if it had started. At 9:15 an audio message mentioned that there were technical problems and the audio would start. How many people were disenfranchised by not announcing this information a 9am, I cannot imagine. And I wonder, whom does it benefit?? Then they started out with Item 2 (marajuana) not Item 1.. the SB10 implementation discussion.


Frank Gormlie June 2, 2023 at 12:21 pm

Thanks Deb for the update. On one of the most contentious issues before the SD Planning Com. there’s technical difficulties. The meeting told a reported 5 hours.


Geoff Page June 2, 2023 at 12:03 pm

Excellent article, editor dude. Telling it like it is.


Frank Gormlie June 2, 2023 at 12:23 pm

Maybe our 2 articles — yours on Circulate SD — will help wake people up about what’s going on at city hall and who has the most influence. Thank you.


Frank Gormlie June 2, 2023 at 1:53 pm

Editordude: Oopps! I mistakenly wrote “Housing Commission” in one of the opening paragraphs, but of course meant “Planning Commission.” Sorry for the cornfusion.


Gravitas June 3, 2023 at 10:35 am

Throw the bums out. Updated version is relevant again. Super article


Mateo June 6, 2023 at 11:42 am

Another brilliantly composed article by one of the only stalwart reporters left in what has become this politico-corporate media wasteland we call home.

Remember when KGTV, KNSD, KFMB, and KUSI the San Diego Union-Tribune had investigative reporters and reported truthfully and held truth to power? That ll but completely died with Helen Copley in 2007. Now KFMB and KGTV do nothing but push false equivalency narratives to stack the deck for the politico-corporate real estate complex that keep them afloat financially through ad buys and political advertising.

96% of the global media, newspapers, radio stations, local newsrooms, internet service providers, book publishing, movie studios, all of it, is controlled by just 5 mega media corporations thanks to the bi-partisan 1996 Telecommunications Act that facilitated corporate media monopolization. But I digress.

The fact remains that SB9 and SB10 in conjunction with the strengthened eminent domain law championed by Todd Gloria when he first got to the State Assembly paved the way for the homelessness catastrophe that has followed. Homelessness has increased 1700% since Todd Gloria started his corrupted political career.

Just follow the trail of legislation, Todd Gloria has spent his entire political career duping the system to set himself up for the big windfall, adoption of SB10 to complete the corporate monopolization of housing in California.

15 years of Build-to Rent failed policies:
We have built nothing but luxury rentals by the tens of thousands since 2008 and rents have skyrocketed because 192 publicly traded REIT’s (Real Estate Investment Trusts) on the NYSE and another 24 REIT’s corporations on the NASDAQ like Invitation Homes have bought up 81,000 single family homes in San Diego and Orange Counties with no effort by legislators to do anything but facilitate the corporate takeover of housing. Blackstone owns 292,000 single family units. This has resulted in a self fulfilling, untenable

Historically rents have been kept in check by sale-able properties. The elimination of the Glass-Steagall, the firewall between commercial and investment banking that protected Americans against unfettered market manipulation by corporate players, and the TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) headed up by the great real estate monopolist Joe Biden and the Politico-Corporate Real Estate Complex’s monopolization of Housing.

No one, and I mean no one but Todd Gloria has benefitted more from creating corrupted policies that have facilitated publicly traded corporations, many foreign owned and the vast majority are out of state, to snatch up properties unimpeded by any common sense legislation to protect California residents; all the while building market rate luxury apartment rentals dumped on the market by the tens of thousands that contiue to drive thousands of more Californians into homeless on the street on the 5th of each month. This is what is unacceptable Mr. Gloria.

The one common thread every homeless individual has in common, they could not afford the rent increases associated with greed laden policies of Mr. Gloria while serving on the City Council and then the State Assembly Housing Committee.

Absolute power corrupts and the only one more corrupted than the San Diego City Council is the Mayor himself.

One can easily make the argument that Todd Gloria should be evicted before he and his SB10 cronies evict us all.


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