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Three years later, Coronado could be back in compliance with state affordable housing law

The San Diego-Coronado Bridge viewed from Coronado shoreline, June 8, 2018.
Matt Hoffman
The San Diego-Coronado Bridge viewed from Coronado shoreline, June 8, 2018.

The Coronado City Council has signed off an updated housing plan that could bring the city back into compliance with state affordable housing laws.

That updated plan, which the council approved last month along with a package of matching code and zoning changes, could open the door for housing developers to add more than 900 new homes to the city by the end of the decade.

“This item is almost certainly the most consequential land use item that will be considered by the city over the last couple decades,” Community Development Director Richard Grunow told the Coronado planning commission in March.


Some of those planned new homes will come from development projects already underway. The city will also loosen its rules on backyard cottages and will take credit for nearly 400 units that the Navy is building for entry-level sailors.

Nine sites will also be rezoned including a church, a grocery store strip mall, a police station and an old elementary school. That won’t change what they are right now but will allow more homes to be built on that land in the future.

Coronado had been staring down a state deadline to get these changes done.

California requires all cities and counties to plan for a certain amount of new, affordable homes every eight years in order to address the housing shortage, support growing communities and reduce the ongoing effects of racial segregation.

In 2020, the state and the regional planning authority SANDAG directed Coronado, one of the wealthiest cities in San Diego County, to prepare a new housing plan that included 912 new homes — a third of which would be set aside for very low income residents.


Coronado’s leaders defied those mandates. Instead, they sued the regional planning agency and put forward a scaled-back housing plan that included just 344 new homes.

Last year, California Attorney General Rob Bonta took the city to court for failing to meet the state’s requirements. A judge set a deadline for Coronado to update its housing plan and update its zoning to match by April 16.

If the city didn’t meet that deadline, it could face a range of penalties including losing state funding, monthly fines of more than $100,000 and losing authority over local land use and permitting. It would also give developers free reign to override city officials and build whatever they wanted, as long as a fifth of the units were set aside for lower income residents.

In October, Coronado agreed to add new homes to its plan. But state housing officials sent the plan back, saying city staff needed to make major changes. They went back and forth over the plan for several months.

Last month, the city squeezed in a plan before that deadline. They approved the latest version of the housing plan on April 9 and the necessary zoning and code changes with less than a day to spare.

California housing officials said the latest version, combined with the zoning and code updates, would likely be enough to meet the state’s requirements. Approval from the state would finally bring the city in line with California housing law for the first time in three years.

The state Department of Housing and Community Development is currently reviewing the city’s latest housing plan and rezoning and will make a final decision within two weeks.

A number of city officials shared their strong disapproval of the state’s requirements. In March, the city planning commission voted to reject the updated plan in protest, the Coronado Times reported.

“We no longer have local control,” said Coronado Mayor Richard Bailey at a City Council meeting on April 9. “We have the appearance of local control that's subject to the whims of Sacramento and to SANDAG.”

Still, he urged the City Council to approve the updated housing plan and rezoning, arguing it was the best way to ensure the city was following the law.