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Politics

San Diego Takes Steps To Crack Down On 'Mini-Dorms'

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A proposal designed to help code enforcement officers crack down on so-called "mini-dorms" near college campuses in San Diego was passed unanimously Thursday by the City Council's Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee.

The proposal, which the full City Council needs to approve, addresses single-family residences that are rented out to large numbers of students and, in some cases, become a neighborhood nuisance.

Longtime College Area resident Ann Cottrell told the committee that nearly 700 single-family homes near San Diego State University are rented to students. While the residential neighborhoods around SDSU were developed as three-bedroom, two-bathroom houses, 40 percent of the rentals now have five to 10 bedrooms, Cottrell said.

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She said the bedrooms are shared, living rooms have been divided to add sleeping areas and garages have been converted to give students places to sleep.

"These homes were designed for two adults and their kids, and certainly were not designed for six to 10 adults with cars," Cottrell said.

Two sections of city law define rooming houses. The proposed changes would narrow it to one definition — that of a residence where three or more rooms, excluding kitchens and bathrooms, are rented to multiple tenants under separate rental agreements or leases, either written or oral.

Housing regulated by state or federal law is exempt.

Members of the College Area Community Council said mini-dorms cause problems by bringing too many cars, which are parked on lawns or paved front yards, or take up curbside parking spots. The high occupancy raises noise levels just by people coming and going, and also increases trash and hastens wear-and-tear on the homes, according to their report.

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A concentration of such residences in one neighborhood just makes the problem worse, according to the group. The College Area Community Council went on to say high turnover means tenants have no stake in maintaining the property and absentee landlords often fail to enforce rules.

No property owners spoke at the meeting to defend their rental policies.

The City Council took steps in 2007 to make it harder for property owners to turn houses into mini-dorms and placed restrictions on requiring houses with five or more bedrooms near universities to provide parking spaces for each room.