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MTS Updates Real Estate Policy To Spur More Housing Near Transit

An MTS trolley car passes by a mostly empty parking lot at the Palm Avenue st...

Photo by Andrew Bowen

Above: An MTS trolley car passes by a mostly empty parking lot at the Palm Avenue station, Oct. 11, 2018.

The Metropolitan Transit System board of directors Thursday approved an update to the agency's real estate policy, intended to speed up the development of more housing near bus and trolley stops.

MTS owns more than 57 acres of developable land, according to a report released earlier this year by the nonprofit Circulate San Diego. Much of the land is currently used as surface parking lots — and many of those lots sit mostly empty most of the time.

The new policy puts a greater emphasis on MTS initiating a competitive bid process to ensure the agency's land is developed to its highest potential. Advocates for the policy change held a press conference in advance of the board meeting, saying it was a positive step toward alleviating the region's housing shortage.

RELATED: MTS Parking Lots Could Be Key To San Diego Housing Crisis

"We see those empty parking lots and it's like, 'There is a great opportunity,'" said Mary Lydon, executive director of Housing You Matters, which advocates for more housing in San Diego. "What better way for a government to use its excess land and test some new things out, see if it works, see if they can help catalyze a product that people are interested in."

San Diego's Climate Action Plan mandates that most of the city's development of new housing and jobs take place in "transit priority areas," within a half-mile of a major transit stop. That is expected to enable more people to commute without cars, which are the city's biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

The updated policy makes new mention of the state's efforts to address climate change. It also states MTS should seek the highest allowable housing density on its properties, and it sets a goal that 20 percent of new homes developed on MTS land be affordable to low-income households.

"We have a housing crisis which is crushing families and individuals across the region," said Stephen Russell, executive director of the San Diego Housing Federation. "We see this as a really positive, proactive step by a public agency to help address the crisis."

Video by Andrew Bowen

The Metropolitan Transit System has updated its policy guiding development on properties the agency owns. The move is intended to encourage more transit ridership and alleviate the region's housing shortage.

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