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Dorm-Style Apartments Near SDSU Win Support Of Planning Commission

A plant is seen in the foreground of a vacant lot near SDSU where a developer...

Photo by Andrew Bowen

Above: A plant is seen in the foreground of a vacant lot near SDSU where a developer wants to build dormitory-style apartments, Aug. 28, 2018.

The San Diego Planning Commission on Thursday voted to support a proposed dormitory near the San Diego State University campus, saying the severity of the region's housing shortage trumps any concerns over parking.

The unanimous vote went against the recommendation of city staffers, who said city code requires the project to have 21 more parking spaces than what the developer was proposing.

"We need to build more housing, period," said Commissioner Susan Peerson. "We need to be creative and look at these hybrid solutions that don't fit every checkbox in our code."

Developer Elsey Partners is seeking permission to build 128 private bedrooms with private bathrooms, but shared kitchens and communal lounges. The site on Montezuma Road is currently a vacant lot and is less than a half mile from the SDSU campus and its transit center.

Commission Dennis Otsuji said he agreed with the developer that the site's proximity to campus and a major transit center made the need for parking less important.

"I'm always against parking lots and a lot of parking spaces, more than anything else, because I think those are the areas that ... could benefit from better uses that people are looking for," he said. "With the amenities that surround this project, I have no problems with the parking situation."

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The firm's owner, Chris Elsey, told commissioners he would require tenants who have a car to either rent one of the buildings 57 on-site parking spaces or to purchase an SDSU parking pass.

"Paying for parking is a way to encourage people to not bring their car and walk to the university rather than drive," he said.

Commissioner Vicki Granowitz acknowledged the problem was with city code, but that the supposed need for parking "doesn't make any logical sense." She added that the project would help alleviate the problem of "mini-dorms" — houses renovated with extra bedrooms to fit in more tenants.

"We've been listening to College Area people complain about mini-dorms forever, and this would be the beginning of trying to solve this," Granowitz said.

San Diego's General Plan and Climate Action Plan foresee much more high-density housing on land within a half-mile of mass transit stops to allow more people to move about the city without a car. Mayor Kevin Faulconer's office is also working on revised parking standards for new housing development in so-called "transit priority areas," but has not yet presented a detailed plan.

The Planning Commission vote is only advisory. The project ultimately needs approval from the City Council.

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