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Quality of Life

San Diego Council OKs 'YIGBY' Reforms For Housing On Church Parking Lots

Jonathan Doolittle, senior pastor at Clairemont Lutheran Church, stands in the parking lot where his congregation wants to build affordable housing, Oct. 30, 2019.
Andrew Bowen
Jonathan Doolittle, senior pastor at Clairemont Lutheran Church, stands in the parking lot where his congregation wants to build affordable housing, Oct. 30, 2019.

The San Diego City Council on Tuesday approved a set of reforms that will allow houses of worship to build affordable housing on their parking lots.

They passed unanimously and were part of a long list of updates to the city's Land Development Code. City staffers proposed the change after KPBS reported on a group of housing advocates organizing support for faith communities that want to build affordable housing on their land.

The group calls itself YIGBY, for "Yes in God's Backyard.

Jonathan Doolittle is the senior pastor at Clairemont Lutheran Church, which plans to build more than a dozen low-income homes on its parking lot. He told council members the reforms would help that project become a reality.

RELATED: ‘Yes In God’s Backyard’ Seeks Affordable Housing On Religious Land

"The whole idea of this is for churches to use their resources to make a difference for our communities," Doolittle said. "It's churches realizing that there are real issues with affordable housing, and our neighbors and the members of our congregation need something to change."

City code currently requires houses of worship and other spaces geared toward public assembly to maintain a certain number of parking spaces based on either their square feet of assembly space or square inches of pew space.

The new rules eliminate pew space as a basis for parking and significantly reduce the minimum parking requirements overall. They also streamline the approval of housing on parcels of land that are already partly developed.

"There are so many religious leaders who want to know what they can do as we face a statewide housing crisis that is putting the squeeze on working families," Mayor Kevin Faulconer said in a statement after the measure was approved. "We have people in need and people who want to help so giving churches the opportunity to build affordable housing on underutilized parking lots makes all the sense in the world."

San Diego Council OKs 'YIGBY' Reforms For Housing On Church Parking Lots
Listen to this story by Andrew Bowen.