Brent Beltran has one problem with Los Patios, a four-story development planned for Barrio Logan that will have 20 living units — 2 of which will rent to people who earn 30 percent to 50 percent of the region's median income.
"It should all be affordable housing, not just two units," Beltran said. "This is a working-class neighborhood that is dealing with gentrification. The only way people can keep living here is if there is more affordable housing."
Beltran was the single "no" vote when the project came to the Barrio Logan Planning Group in December — with one recusal and one abstention. The remaining eight members approved the project designed for 1776 National Avenue with the polite and still positive "no" vote.
"It's a good project and it's going onto a lot that's used for parking party buses and limos now, so it doesn't displace anyone," he said. "But more expensive housing is going to drive poor people out of the barrio."
The plan is for a mixed-use building with 2100 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor and 20 living units above it. Because the plan includes two low-priced units, it wins the affordable-housing bonus; and the density bonus allows the developer to build 46 percent bigger — 6 more units on an additional floor than the 14 units allowed without bonuses. The project's architect, Hector Perez, is also a member of the planning group (he recused himself from voting).
Planning-group chairman Mark Steele, also an architect, said he favored the project because he believes it will provide moderately priced housing while the average San Diego rent stands at more than $1700 for a two-bedroom apartment. But, he said he agrees with Beltran's concerns over how quickly the Barrio is gentrifying. Steele believes that Los Patios will provide more housing without compounding gentrification.
"I can't tell you how often I hear people say, 'I make too much money to get subsidies and not enough to make rent,'" Steele said. "This project has relatively small apartments, not luxury condos, and I think they will be apartments that working people can afford."
It isn't the first time that someone wanted to build housing on the site. Right now, it has a couple of sheds and a lot of parked cars and mini-buses, partly visible from the street. In 2008, the lot's previous owner applied for a permit to build a 14-unit project called Factory Row Homes. But the application came in as the real estate market tumbled from record highs to astounding lows, taking the rest of the economy with it. The project was abandoned and the permit expired, according to city records.
But real estate is red hot again, rents are screaming upward, and multi-family building-permit applications have grown dramatically, according to city development statistics.
In Barrio Logan, the number of residences — houses, condos, and apartments — has increased from about 12,000 in 2001 to an estimated 13,700 in 2015, according to census figures. Beltran says he's watching his neighborhood change.
"Gentrification has really taken off in the last two or three years, and property prices in the community have gone up exponentially," he said. "The grassroots groups who created value here — our artists and our markets and our cleanup efforts paying off now — are starting to be forced out of what we've created because we're still working class."
The federally established numbers for people who earn 30 percent to 50 percent of the San Diego area median income of $73,500 results in rents between $576 and $976 for a family of three in a two-bedroom unit, according to this San Diego Housing Commission chart.
Realtor.com shows single-family residences selling for between $318,000 and more than $600,000, while the U.S. Census Bureau says median household income is a little more than $28,000 and mean family income is a bit less than $40,000.
More than 60 percent of the adult residents (total population around 51,000) saw their educations end at high school, according to census data, and the typical household has four people in it. The census counts about 13,700 residences in the 92113 zip code, a number that began changing with the construction of the Mercado, an all-subsidized housing project, finished in 2012.
Beltran wants to make it clear that he doesn't oppose growth.
"I want more density in my community, but I want it to be affordable so my community can stay in the community," Beltran said.