San Diego city councilmember Georgette Gomez, a longtime champion of affordable housing, believes the College Area surrounding San Diego State University should be off limits for construction of granny flats.
In an August 27 memo to city attorney Mara Elliott, Gomez said San Diego's recently passed ordinance, which makes it easier for property owners to build companion units on their properties, should not apply to the College Area. Doing so, reasoned Gomez, could cause additional impacts to traffic, parking, and impose a strain on police and fire safety.
“Empirical proof that the College Area substantiates the need for extra traffic control is the fact that there is a Parking Impact Overlay Zone covering approximately a one mile radius from [San Diego State University]," reads Gomez’s August 27 memo.
"Approximately 813 'mini-dorms' currently exist in the College Area, consisting of 6 to 10 bedrooms built in what was originally planned as a 3-bedroom home. Building such dense homes in these zones has unduly created high parking demand and traffic congestions, as most students have cars, and has negatively impacted the College Area."
Gomez fears the allowance of granny flats in the College Area would make matters worse. But excluding certain neighborhoods from a citywide ordinance could come at a cost.
In June of this year, a San Diego Superior Court judge temporarily struck down the city's high-occupancy ordinance, also referred to as the mini-dorm ordinance, because it opened the door for potential discrimination on a single group of residents.
"In short," read judge Ronald Styn's June 30 ruling, "if the city wants to address problems associated with overcrowded detached homes, it should do so with a law that applies 'evenly to all households.'"
It was the second time in two decades that the city suffered a legal defeat over its attempt to fight mini-dorms. But despite the legal challenge and subsequent defeat, attorneys for the city say an amendment to exclude the College Area could be adopted.
In a September 8 opinion, deputy city attorney Corrine Neuffer wrote that the city can make such exclusions if there is substantial evidence that allowing companion units to be built would burden public safety.
"For the City Council to exempt the Parking Impact Overlay Zone area in the College Area Community from the Companion Unit Ordinance, substantial evidence must be in the record that the area does not have adequate services to provide for the addition of accessory dwelling units, that accessory dwelling units will have an impact on traffic flow and public safety in the area, or other similar criteria.
"A court will uphold the City Council’s decision if it is supported by substantial evidence in the record."
Councilmembers are expected to give the final reading of the new Companion Unit Ordinance during the September 12 city-council meeting. A proposal to exclude the College Area, however, will have to wait due to insufficient notice.
A spokesperson for Gomez was unable to respond in time for publication.