August Advocacy Update
Friday, August 11, 2017
by: Julianna Tetlow, California Strategies

Section: Government Affairs

City of San Diego Housing Action Day
At the beginning of this year, members of the Government Affairs Committee were joined by Councilmembers Scott Sherman and David Alvarez to discuss two of the city’s most pressing issues – affordable housing and housing affordability. They presented to us their ideas for policy changes which included a series of reforms to streamline processes and ease the burden of development and in less than six months, these members, in conjunction with the Mayor’s office delivered on the first few items.
On Monday, June 24th at a special meeting of the City Council dubbed “Housing Action Day” members of the Council considered three items to encourage the creation of housing units throughout the city by lowering thresholds for companion unit development, incentivizing in-fill projects, and amending the requirements for environmental appeals - affirming their commitment to addressing San Diego’s housing crisis.
As employers, building owners, and managers, it is vitally important that our employees, tenants, and their employees have options to live near their workplace. With housing availability at an all-time low and affordability at an all-time high, we enthusiastically supported the proposals put forth by Mayoral and Council staff to begin easing the burden of development, large and small. We are pleased to share that all three items were approved by the Council. For more information on the reforms, please see the guest post below.
In Case You Missed It: City Reforms Designed to Cut Housing Costs
By Scott Sherman and David Alvarez
Nearly six months ago, we penned a joint op-ed in this publication promising bipartisan action to address the serious housing crisis our city currently faces. This Monday, in an event we are labeling “Housing Action Day,” the San Diego City Council has the opportunity to follow through on this promise by supporting three specific reforms that will help build more housing, offering an opportunity for San Diegans struggling to pay rent or to buy a home. While we come from opposite ends of the political spectrum and may disagree on some issues, we do agree that immediate action is needed. By now, the staggering housing statistics are commonly known. The cost of average rent has reached nearly $2,000 a month. The median cost of a home has surpassed a half-million dollars. On average, San Diegans spend more of their annual income on housing than San Franciscans!
These sobering numbers have motivated us to bring together stakeholders from both sides of the aisle to brainstorm and bring forward several measures to streamline the housing approval process. The three measures being considered this Monday focus on allowing construction of housing to move faster, therefore reducing the cost to build, and ultimately the cost to rent or buy.
Streamline companion unit construction: This proposal allows homeowners to easily build companion units commonly referred to as granny flats on their property. Also, the fee charged for building these units will be reduced.
Last year, only ten companion units were built in the entire city. This reform will help increase the level of construction on these types of homes. The proposal will also provide increased income for struggling homeowners choosing to rent companion units and gives families more options to better care for aging parents.
Process-level reductions of qualifying housing projects: In a new expedited program, eligible projects that include housing plans that provide at least 10 percent affordable units, projects that meet green sustainability standards, and projects near transit priority areas would be approved faster.
High process levels correlate with additional delays. This expedited program will help reduce these delays and increase the development we need. The proposal moves qualified projects to Process Level 2, reducing the time and cost it takes to navigate through red tape while still providing ample levels of review.
Reforming the appeals process: Currently, if people want to abuse the process, they can file an appeal for $100 to cause delays to an approved project. Appeals clog the housing construction pipeline resulting in project delays, increased costs and wasted staff time. The current average length for an appeal hearing is 104 days. These changes will help reduce that number.
Our solution is to increase appeal fees to $1,000 and require the appeal hearing to occur within 60 days. This will still give someone the opportunity to appeal a project, and, if there is widespread community support for an appeal, the Community Planning Group in the neighborhood can still appeal for free. Also, the City Council is required to hear these appeals even if an appellant rescinds his or her appeal! Our reform will change this unnecessary requirement, saving staff time and dollars.
We are committed to showing the rest of the state that government can take action to solve the housing crisis. After all, a significant percentage of housing costs come from government regulation. This is the first of many Housing Action Days with specific proposals we hope to have before the City Council. The Smart Growth and Land Use Committee, comprised of ourselves and council members Chris Cate and Georgette Gomez, are working diligently on additional reforms that could reach the full City Council this fall. Some of those measures include park equivalencies, deferring fees, setting housing target goals, options for self-certification and restructuring development fees. Additionally, we will review opportunities to support funding affordable housing programs.
During this process, we have been inspired with the vast level of support our efforts have received from organizations and individuals from all areas of the political spectrum. To continue our momentum, we urge those still on the sidelines to consider joining us in our efforts to fix this crisis. It is our moral imperative to do all we can to ensure future generations of San Diegans have the same opportunities we had growing up in this beautiful region.
Though we may have our differences, if we focus instead on what can bring us together, we will solve this housing crisis.
Sherman represents District 7 on the San Diego City Council and is chairman of the council’s Smart Growth and Land Use Committee. Twitter: @ShermanSD7. Alvarez represents District 8 on the City Council and is vice chair of the committee. Twitter: @AlvarezSD.
We are committed to showing the rest of the state that government can take action to solve the housing crisis. After all, a significant percentage of housing costs come from government regulation.
Government Affairs Committee Meeting News
With summer in full swing, the Government Affairs Committee will be dark in the month of August. We hope you all have an opportunity to take a break and enjoy time with family and friends this month.
We will be back in September with a special guest from Sacramento, our very own BOMA CAL representative Matthew Hargrove. He will be providing an update on the significant legislation BOMA has been engaged in over the course of the past Legislative year and let us know what to expect in the coming months. This is a meeting you will not want to miss, so mark your calendars now.
As a reminder, the Government Affairs Committee meets on the third Monday of each month at noon, and lunch is provided. If you are interested in joining, please contact Committee Chair, Tom Magnussen at Tom Magnussen

<<<Back to August News Articles