After opposition from Planning Commission, Mayor Gloria retreats on 'missing middle' housing proposal
Mayor Todd Gloria's proposal for integrating single-family home neighborhoods with more townhomes and small apartment buildings faces an uncertain future after the San Diego Planning Commission voted to oppose the measure on Thursday.
The proposal was Gloria's attempt to implement Senate Bill 10 (SB 10), a state law passed in 2021 that allows cities to streamline approval of up to 10 homes on lots that would otherwise be restricted to single-family homes.
"These types of homes are 'missing' primarily due to regulatory barriers such as zoning that only allows for the development of a single home, rather than multiple homes," city staff said in their report to the Planning Commission. "As a result, these home types have not been built for many decades."
Gloria's proposal for implementing SB 10 included several restrictions that would limit its impact. For example, only one home would be allowed for each 1,000 square feet of land. That means a lot would have to be at least 10,000 square feet for the property to be built with the maximum of 10 homes.
Buildings with five or more homes would also have to include at least one unit of low-income affordable housing. Requiring a portion of the homes to be rented or sold below market rate would reduce the financial incentive for property owners to use the law.
But, even with those limits, Gloria's version of SB 10 faced fierce opposition from homeowners who argued that it would disrupt the privacy and aesthetics of their low-density neighborhoods.
"It'll turn San Diego into a slum," said Carol Hackim, a real estate broker who spoke at the Planning Commission hearing. "The only people who are going to make money on SB 10 are developers."
The proposal won support from a coalition of affordable-housing builders, environmental groups and youth advocates who say it would allow more people to live in San Diego's most exclusive neighborhoods with the best access to good schools, parks and economic opportunities.
"We do need to desegregate San Diego," said Julie Corrales, a resident of Barrio Logan and a policy advocate for the nonprofit Environmental Health Coalition. "My friends and neighbors are living in crowded housing and underserved communities. Homeownership is out of our reach. So it is very much a race issue."
The Planning Commission had already heard Gloria's proposal on SB 10 on June 1. But they voted to delay a final vote by two months, asking city staff to present alternatives that would further limit SB 10's applicability.
After hours of public testimony, the commissioners voted unanimously on Thursday to support a host of other housing policies proposed by the mayor but oppose his implementation of SB 10.
"I am very much pro-housing, pro-affordable housing," commission chair William Hofman said. "We need it in our community. But, to me, this is not the mechanism. I think we're going down a wrong path here that we won't be able to retreat from."
SB 10 has become Gloria's most ambitious and controversial housing policy of his two and a half years in office. Mayoral spokesman Dave Rolland said after the Planning Commission's vote that the policy would not be presented to the City Council in September as previously planned. Instead, the mayor intends hold more workshops on the proposal to try to forge a compromise.