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SANDAG Board OKs Formula For New Homebuilding

Construction workers set up the framing of an apartment building in North Par...

Photo by Andrew Bowen

Above: Construction workers set up the framing of an apartment building in North Park, July 23, 2019.

Elected officials from across San Diego County on Friday approved a new long-term home building plan that prioritizes areas rich with public transit and jobs.

Board members of the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) are responsible for determining where 171,000 new homes should be built in the county over the next decade. The process, known as the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, is meant to ensure cities are planning for enough new homes in places where they are needed the most.

The methodology proposed by SANDAG staff bases each city's share of the overall housing number on how many jobs and how much public transit it has. This is meant to align with state-mandated goals of reducing car travel and greenhouse gas emissions.

But officials from some small cities said the new plan calls for far more homes than they've ever had to build before. Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey said it did not account for his city's limited space and the fact that some of its jobs are overseas in the Navy.

Solana Beach Mayor David Zito and National City Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis offered counterproposals that would have given their cities lower housing numbers. Neither of those proposals generated enough support to pass.

RELATED: Housing Crisis Shifts Conversation On Where New Homes Belong

The proposal that did pass still requires an OK from the state before coming back to the SANDAG board for a final approval, which will likely happen in October. Once the final version is passed, each jurisdiction must adopt a local "housing element" that conforms to both regional and state guidelines.

Cities are not required to ensure the homes they plan for actually get built, though they can lose the ability to block projects if they do not meet their housing goals.

"It's always painful when we don't agree with each other, and we had a lot of discussion," said Catherine Blakespear, mayor of Encinitas and vice chair of the SANDAG board. "But I think we're on the right track, because we have a methodology that the state will approve."

The final motion from San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer to approve the draft methodology passed thanks only to a recent change to SANDAG's voting procedures that gives cities with larger populations more power.

Some board members and public speakers also said the methodology punishes cities that have embraced public transit by requiring them to plan for more housing. But Faulconer said it simply amounts to smart planning.

"I believe strongly that housing is an asset — that when it's planned property, can help us grow our economy, lower (greenhouse gas) emissions and support our transportation investments that we are making here at SANDAG," Faulconer said.

Listen to this story by Andrew Bowen.

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