San Diego City Committee Approves Regulations To Support Small Homes

Wednesday, March 4, 2015
By City News Service

Developers would find it easier to subdivide certain lots and build small, single-family homes under a series of measures tentatively approved Wednesday by a San Diego City Council committee.

The proposed regulations, which would have to be approved by the full City Council before taking effect, are designed to foster the creation of more "bungalow courts" - small houses connected by a single driveway - of the sort found in beach areas, North Park, Hillcrest and Barrio Logan.

Current regulations encourage developers, who buy residential property in areas zoned for multi-family housing, to build bulky apartment buildings, according to Dan Normandin of the city's Development Services Department.

Normandin said the amendments would make it easier to build the smaller one-, two- and three-bedroom homes within a neighborhood's median price and still make a profit.

He said the development concept has been popular in West Coast cities such as Portland and Los Angeles.

"It's another tool. It's not the answer to everything, but I think it's good to have options for architects and folks who are looking to develop," said Councilman David Alvarez, a member of the council's Smart Growth and Land Use Committee.

The amendments, which are expected to address mostly older residential neighborhoods, would allow developers to subdivide properties zoned for multi- family residential into individual lots for houses.

The measures would change requirements for permitting, setbacks from property lines, the ratio between the floor space of a house and the size of property it sits on, height limitations and parking. Among other things, residents who buy the houses would be required to sign agreements that make all homeowners equally responsible for the maintenance of common areas, Normandin said.

Also, houses that face city streets would be required to have their front doors face the roadways, not the common driveway. Vicki Granowitz, chairwoman of the North Park Planning Committee, said the current regulations led to the front doors of a courtyard housing development on 30th Street facing an adjacent auto body shop.

Normandin said the idea for the amendments came out of a recent effort to update the community plan for Barrio Logan. As it turned out, the proposed regulations were pulled from the community plan before being approved by the City Council — and later rejected by voters.

The amendments were fine-tuned after testing by students at the Woodbury School of Architecture, who created