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New Senate Bill could ‘suspend’ coastal height limit: Meeting April 18 in La Jolla to learn more

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A map, provided by James LaMattery, shows the areas that would be impacted if Senate Bill 330 passes.
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A groundswell of advocacy is forming in La Jolla to respond to a proposed Senate Bill that could remove the height restrictions on new development planned for land that La Jollans hold dear. The bill, SB 330, dubbed the “Housing Crisis Act of 2019,” will be discussed at a special meeting 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 18 at La Jolla REBA, 908 Kline St.

In the meantime, realtor and community volunteer James LaMattery attended the March 28 La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) meeting to explain the latest. He also attended the April 10 La Jolla Shores Association meeting, the details of which will be reported in a future issue.

“I have been working with people in Bay Park in trying to protect their 30-foot height limit and what has come to pass is a set of bills at the State Senate, the most egregious of which is SB 330, which would remove all of the (30-foot) height restrictions,” he told the LJCPA congregation. “The bill would take power out of local planning groups as to height limits, as the State wants to build density.”

He said he would be holding meetings in the coming weeks and months to discuss the bills more and to get La Jollans involved.

SB 330

The bill itself was introduced by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and released in February.

“It was born out of San Francisco’s need to get rid of their height limit because of their housing crisis,” LaMattery said. “It would suspend the 30-foot height limit, effective immediately, until 2030.”

A statement from Skinner’s office reads: “The (Housing Crisis Act of 2019) would suspend … specific local rules and regulations that are recognized as obstacles to housing production, and it would establish reasonable time periods for processing housing permits. ... It’s no secret that housing in California has become too expensive for many middle- and low-income residents. Of the 50 U.S. cities with the highest rent prices, 33 are in California. The state needs an estimated 180,000 additional units of housing each year — just to keep up with current population growth. And Gov. Gavin Newsom has called for the creation of 3.5 million units of housing in the next seven years.”

A spokesperson for Skinner confirmed to The Los Angeles Times, that should the bill pass, it would mean San Diego’s coastal height limit would be suspended for new development.

SB 330 would also cap the number of public hearings related to a new housing development to three and shortening the timeline for approval to no more than 12 months, and ban the demolition of rent-controlled or Section 8 housing.

The bill has thus far only been heard by the Senate Governance & Finance Committee, but could soon go before House and Senate committees for edits before a vote at the House and the Senate. If passed, it then proceeds to Gov. Newsom’s desk for a signature.

Getting to this point

In the 1970s, San Diego voters implemented a 30-foot height limit for construction along the coastline — and required a public vote to build taller — through Proposition D.

However, a recent bill also from the Bay Area would override the regulations within Prop D for development near public transit, and LaMattery argues could pave the way for SB 330.

Senate Bill 50, dubbed the More HOMES (Housing, Opportunity, Mobility, Equity and Stability) Act, was introduced by Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) on Dec. 3, 2018. “SB 50 eliminates hyper-low-density zoning near public transit and job centers, thus legalizing apartment buildings and affordable housing in these locations so that more people can live near transit,” a statement from Wiener’s office reads.

“SB 50 creates new zoning standards for the construction of housing near job centers and public transportation.”

On April 2, SB 50 passed the Senate Housing Committee, with a vote of 9-1. It will proceed to the Senate Governance & Finance Committee in the coming weeks.

“Under this bill, developers would be allowed to go in and densify all along the transit priority areas (where there is public transportation) without anyone stopping them.

“SB 50 deals with everything east of I-5 … SB 330 would do the same for everything west of the I-5. That’s why SB 330 is coming in right behind it,” LaMattery told La Jolla Light. “These bills are created to rip our protective regulations away. It’s tough and is going to change the face of San Diego.”

LaMattery noted should SB 50 and SB 330 be signed into law, areas within a half a mile of major public transit, like a trolley line, or a quarter mile of a bus line, would be impacted.

La Jolla would be affected by this bill given its proximity to the MTS 30 bus line, which proceeds along La Jolla Boulevard, Silverado Street, Herschel Avenue, North Torrey Pines Road and La Jolla Shores Drive.

Want to know more?

  • To track the status of these bills, visit leginfo.legislature.ca.gov and search for SB 330 and/or SB 50;
  • LaMattery created a website dedicated to the cause on which electronic petitions can be found raisetheballoon.org
  • The meeting to discuss SB 330 is 5:30 p.m. Thursday, April 18 at La Jolla REBA, 908 Kline St.