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Bird Rock Community Council hears concerns about housing bills

A slide shows development that could occur under state Senate Bills 9 and 10.
La Jollan Stephanie Steinberg shares a slide with the Bird Rock Community Council showing development that could occur under state Senate Bills 9 and 10.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

The Bird Rock Community Council heard warnings about the possible repercussions of two state Senate housing bills during its July 6 meeting, with those opposed possibly more concerned with what is not in the bills than what is.

Senate Bill 9, authored by Sen. Toni Atkins (a Democrat who represents the 39th District, which includes La Jolla), would streamline the process for a homeowner to create a duplex or subdivide an existing lot in a residential area.

Atkins co-authored Senate Bill 10 with Sen. Scott Weiner (a Democrat who represents the 11th District, which includes San Francisco). That measure would enable cities to upzone areas close to job centers, transit and existing urbanized areas to allow up to 10 units on a property without having to go through the California Environmental Quality Act review process.

La Jollan Stephanie Steinberg, showing slides from the Sherman Oaks-based United Neighbors group, said she and others have worries about the bills, specifically when it comes to what is allowed or not allowed.

Specifically, she said there is concern as to whether accessory dwelling units (commonly known as “granny flats”) of up to 1,200 square feet or junior units of up to 500 square feet would be allowed in addition to the increased allowances on a property; whether there is an affordable-housing requirement; and whether the allowances in the bills would be more appealing to developers than homeowners.

“There is a lack of language that makes us nervous,” Steinberg said. “Of grave concern to a lot of us is that there is no affordable-housing language in the bills. The [authors] are hoping a simple supply-and-demand setup ... will work.”

The La Jolla Community Planning Association dedicated more than an hour of its June 3 meeting to a controversial housing bill making its way up the state legislative chain and eventually decided to resist it.

Steinberg said nothing in either bill indicates that someone cannot split a lot and build a duplex in accord with SB 9 and then an ADU and/or a junior unit on each half, or build an ADU or junior unit in addition to the 10-unit development allowed under SB 10.

She said she also couldn’t find language in the bills explaining how infrastructure would be supported in light of increased usage due to higher population.

In SB 10, Steinberg said, there is no parking requirement if the location is within a half-mile of a transit line, which for Bird Rock would mean La Jolla Boulevard because of the bus line that runs on it. There is no height limit for the additional developments, though there is a 30-foot height limit in La Jolla because it is in the coastal zone.

Where it gets “scary,” she said, is that the cost to demolish a house and build a duplex would average almost $1 million. “This is what worries us, that homeowners are not going to be the ones that finance paying off a mortgage, taking on a million-dollar loan and paying for housing elsewhere [while construction is going on]. … Investors are positioned to buy properties. We’re afraid of corporate ownership on our streets,” Steinberg said.

Representing Atkins’ office, Cole Reed said the motivation for the bills is to increase housing.

“I know with SB 9, [Atkins] believes California is in an affordable-housing crisis and part of getting out of that is developing more housing,” Reed said. “With this bill, there are intergenerational wealth opportunities for people who, for example, own one piece of property and subdivide it. SB 9 also allows for local governments to impose owner-occupancy requirements and parking requirements if they choose to do so.”

But BRCC President John Newsam said “this is absolutely going to be an opportunity for developers to come in, acquire a single-family lot and build some duplexes and sell it for a substantial profit in a manner that is not going to be affordable.”

Continuing on the topic of housing legislation, the board heard a presentation about a recently enacted amendment to the city of San Diego’s ADU ordinance. It was similar to a presentation given to the La Jolla Community Planning Association during its July 1 meeting.

LJCPA votes to ask the city to rescind the legislation and precisely conform with state code.

Geoffrey Hueter, representing Neighbors for a Better San Diego, said an amendment approved in October under the former City Council (five new members were elected the following month) changed the ordinance to allow up to three ADUs on a property in certain areas and unlimited ADUs in others, increased the allowable height and removed setback requirements.

With five new members on the council, Neighbors for a Better San Diego would like the city to rescind the current ordinance and align its allowances with the state, which permits one ADU and one junior ADU on a property, establishes a 4-foot setback and limits height to 16 feet.

Other BRCC news

Recycling changes: Andrea Deleon, a recycling specialist for the city, explained changes for businesses and multifamily residential buildings, specifically the requirement of organic waste recycling that is being rolled out.

“We like to think of organic waste recycling as ‘If it grows, it goes.’ So if it’s plant-based, something that grew out of the earth, we have a new collection service for that,” she said. “For businesses, this includes food scraps, food-soiled paper and yard waste. When I say food scraps, I mean fruits and vegetables, eggs, dairy, even cooked meats, bones, shellfish, bread, baked goods, rice and beans, coffee filters, soiled napkins.”

As of April 1, organic waste recycling is required at businesses and multifamily properties such as apartment buildings, and new green bins will be used to collect such items for disposal.

With a full roll-out in 2022, food waste and yard waste will be disposed of in the same container and picked up by trash and recycling haulers.

End of Summer Run: The board lent its support to a street closure associated with the End of Summer Run & Walk, slated for 8 a.m. to around 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 19. The 4-mile event will start at Prospect Street and Girard Avenue in The Village, then proceed down La Jolla Boulevard and end in Pacific Beach. Learn more at kathyloperevents.com.

Next meeting: The Bird Rock Community Council will not meet in August, so the next meeting is at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 7. It is not yet known whether the meeting will be online, in person or a hybrid. Learn more at birdrockcc.org. ◆