La Jollans join opposition to including Senate Bill 10 in planned San Diego housing package
Local preservationists urge Planning Commission to rebuff proposed limited protection for historic districts and individual historic sites.
Joining a chorus of people opposed to the inclusion of a controversial state law in a city of San Diego housing initiative, La Jolla preservationists turned out at the San Diego Planning Commission meeting June 1 to plead for the protection of historically designated properties in the face of development.
The Planning Commission, which did not make a decision at the meeting, is tasked with reviewing the city’s Housing Action Package 2.0, which includes regulations to implement Senate Bill 10, which would enable cities to zone areas close to job centers, public 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.
SB 10, co-authored by state Sens. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), went into effect last year and is optional for cities. In the San Diego package, it would allow a single-family home to be replaced with a structure up to three stories tall.
The proposal from the mayor getting the most attention is a decision to embrace SB 10, a law that essentially allows property owners to replace a single-family home with up to 10 units near public transit.
Supporters of San Diego’s proposals say they address the city’s lack of affordable housing, which they argue puts San Diego at risk of losing residents and businesses to other regions.
Critics, including many in neighborhoods dominated by single-family homes, say the proposals are reckless, ignore the need for supportive infrastructure and would damage the quality of life for many residents.
Unlike other housing bills that have passed in recent years, SB 10 “has no specific exceptions or protections for historic districts or individual historic sites, thereby diminishing the protection for such resources,” said Bruce Coons, executive director of the San Diego-based Save Our Heritage Organisation.
Coons told the La Jolla Light that early iterations of SB 10 had an exemption that would protect historically designated sites and districts from demolition should the property owner want to build a complex under the rules of the bill.
But subsequent SB 10 revisions stated that only properties designated before Jan. 1 this year would be protected, he said.
Joined by other preservationists, Coons spoke to the Planning Commission with the hope that it would “put the exemption for historic sites and properties back to the way it was, without limits,” which would protect current historic properties and those designated in the future.
La Jolla has nearly 200 houses on local historic registers, with some on state and national registers.
“We strongly object to the changes for exemption for historic sites and districts,” Coons told the Planning Commission.
SB 10 poses “a significant threat to the preservation of historic buildings by encouraging the demolition or alteration of existing affordable housing stock,” said David Goldberg, president of the Save Our Heritage Organisation and a former La Jolla Historical Society board member. “Without the full exemption [that would protect historic properties], SB 10 will result in the loss of San Diego’s historical architectural heritage, which contributes so much to our community.”
La Jolla-based architect Ione Steigler added that “as professionals, we have all been taught the lessons of successful land planning and the rationale behind creating layered and concentric density. The Housing Action Package 2.0 … is to be commended because discretionary processes have added costs to creating new housing. Fixing this is a goal, but the process before you today is throwing the baby out with the bath water.”
Others also argued against including SB 10 in the city’s housing package.
Geoff Hueter, a leader of Neighbors for a Better San Diego, and other speakers asked that SB 10 implementation be removed from the housing package entirely, arguing it would not help reach the city’s goals and is inappropriate for San Diego.
Planning Commission Chairman William Hofman said he has looked at the text of SB 10 closely and questioned whether there are “other things we can do besides implementing SB 10 that would accomplish really what the lawmakers wanted to accomplish without tying our hands forever.”
Unsure of whether and how to proceed, he recommended that the item be continued to August so commissioners and city staff can look at alternatives, whether the scope of SB 10 can be reduced and/or “implement the good features of it” to create more housing without the perceived negative effects.
“I don’t think this is the best vehicle to go,” Hofman said. “I’m not prepared to send this forward.”
About SB 10
Gov. Gavin Newsom approved two measures in September 2021 intended to slice through local zoning ordinances as California struggles with soaring home prices, an affordable-housing shortage and stubborn homelessness: Senate Bills 9 and 10.
He signed SB 9, the most prominent legislation, despite more than 240 cities and many people in La Jolla objecting that it will undermine local planning and control, ruin the character of single-family neighborhoods, worsen traffic and strain infrastructure.
Newsom also signed SB 10. In arguing for its implementation, Wiener said, “It shouldn’t take five or 10 years for cities to rezone, and SB 10 gives cities a powerful new tool to get the job done quickly.”
Newsom said in a signing message that “certain provisions may have unintended impacts,” so he ordered housing officials to monitor the law’s progress. ◆
Get the La Jolla Light weekly in your inbox
News, features and sports about La Jolla, every Thursday for free
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the La Jolla Light.