San Diego Coastal Housing Plan Gets OK

SAN DIEGO (CN) — The California Coastal Commission on Wednesday approved three coastal San Diego County cities’ plans to amend their development codes, to retain incentives for developers to build affordable housing to low-income residents for decades.
     San Diego, Encinitas and Imperial Beach all gained approval to amend their Land Development Code to incorporate affordable housing density bonuses consistent with state law.
     The incentives are offered to developers who guarantee that a portion of their project will be available to very low to moderate income earners or seniors, in developments with five or more units.
     Efforts to include density or affordable housing units have been difficult to reconcile with efforts to maintain coastal resource protection, according to a staff report. Commission staff said coastal resources such as sensitive habitats, shoreline bluffs, public view corridors and public access all have “the potential to be adversely affected” by density bonus programs, if incentives or modifications to encourage affordable housing conflict with coastal protection measures.
     But the staff found that in its most recent iteration, San Diego worked with multiple stakeholders, including the commission, to ensure it could encourage affordable housing and protect coastal resources. San Diego has a rigorous process for approving development on environmentally sensitive lands, which requires developers to acquire multiple permits.
     The regulations will not allow applicants to build higher than the coastal height limit, and include safeguards so that incentives will not conflict with coastal protection.
     The amendment modified two definitions already in the Land Development Code and altered the provisions for calculating maximum permitted density so that density for a multi-unit development can be rounded up.
     This update comes after AB 2222 passed the Assembly in 2014 and increased the length for designated affordable units from 30 to 55 years, expanded housing options for low and very low income households and required replacement of existing low and very low income units displaced by a proposed development.
     For San Diego in particular, the boost goes hand in hand with the city’s climate action plan which it adopted in December. T
     The legally binding climate action plan is one of the most ambitious in the country, requiring San Diego to reduce greenhouse gas emissions generated by the city by 15 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2035.
     One of the major ways the city plans to reduce emissions is through density and transit-oriented development and housing, to reduce the number of cars on the road by encouraging people to take public transit for work and recreation.
     San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer announced last week the city is allocating $127.3 million for phase 1 of the plan.
     Commission Chairman Steve Kinsey praised the city’s plan for balancing housing needs with environmental protection.
     “Affordable housing is critically important but it has to be done within the boundary of our Coastal Act,” Kinsey said.
     Deborah Lee, San Diego’s Coastal Commission staff member, did not return a phone request for comment. Craig Gustafson, press secretary for Faulconer, did not return an email request for comment.

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