At Wednesday’s community planning group subcommittee meeting, the city planning department attempted to force-feed an additional 5000 housing units to an unrelenting crowd of Clairemont residents. The community’s pushback deserves attention. The question in most attendees’ minds was not where to build, but why?
California is, and has been, the most populated state in America since 1962. With the passage of AB32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, the State of California mandated new housing quotas through RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Assessment).
But where to build this new housing stock?
The theory that our cities should densify around our transit hubs to reduce our carbon footprint, house our residents, and reduce our use of automobiles was born. The acronym for this type of development is TOD (Transit Oriented Development).
The locations of the planning department’s request to UP-zone for the additional 5,000 units in Clairemont, are approximately the same that our current community plan has already adopted for a remaining un-built stock of 6048 units. The idea is to build UP and not Out.
If the subcommittee recommends adding the additional units, the total housing units that Clairemont will be allocated to build is 11,048! If sb330 is enacted, that number will be set in stone as the lowest density possible, and not the maximum. No wonder the city’s rush to add the 5000 units to our Community Plan.
If subcommittee member Glen Schmitt’s recommendation that the Protea site (Clairemont Dr and Morena Blvd) be UP-zoned to 54 dwelling units per acre, then the project will bust the 30ft height limit.
The city has recommended that the Protea site be zoned to 102 units per acre because it is TOD adjacent to the new Clairemont trolley station.
But why would we allow that?
If we had a safe, convenient and connected transit system, building clusters of dense housing around its hubs would seem to be a pragmatic choice for where to build housing in Clairemont and our cities throughout the county. But it begs the question of why should we build more housing?
Since California already is the most populated state in America, is the production of more market-rate homes and apartments appropriate? Should the UP- zoning be allowed? Will what’s built really house our current house-less residents?
The production of more market-rate housing in Clairemont, and California, will only exacerbate our problems. It could trigger an increase of population migration. Should we consider a “cap and trade” program for population distribution across other states that have lower carbon emissions and no “housing crisis”?
When, we might ask, is our cup “full”?
Sacramento lawmakers claim that massive up-zoning across the state, will house our current residents and reduce our carbon footprint . San Diego City Planners’ request for UP-zoning Clairemont will increase our population by approximately 22-30,000 residents. Clairemont doesn’t have 30,000 un-housed current residents. Where will the increased population come from?
Massive up-zoning opens the door to an unsustainable migration from people outside the state. More people mean more cars and energy consumption. More cars and energy consumption mean more carbon emissions. Up-zoning around transit hubs, particularly for- rent apartments, draws out of state investors that can build rental housing stock, retain the equity, and capitalize on the lack of housing for our current residents.
As long as California continues to be the “location, location, location” of choice among American’s home buying public and entrepreneurial investors, a popularity demonstrated by its rank as the most populated state, no matter how many more homes, apartments, or mini-dorms we build, “they will come.”
To date, height limits and market forces (rising housing prices) have been California’s organic mechanism to prevent the tidal wave of unsustainable population increases and out of state investment that would’ve occurred had those forces not been impenetrable.
As long as California’s real estate market is the golden apple, from which many want a piece of the pie, those market forces will continue to be impenetrable no matter how many the slices.
Simply building more market-rate housing will not solve the crisis that sectors of our communities who need affordable housing are facing: the middle and lower-income wage earners. Builders are dependent upon investors who want the highest returns. Housing the poor is not on their menu.
State lawmakers want to take away local control of housing decisions. They blame the pushback of local communities like ours, who ask the hard questions about over-population, crumbling infrastructure and lack of additional city services, such as schools, police, and fire protection that over-population brings with it.
We ask the questions of why and how!
If the State of California wants us to continue to build housing for unsustainable population growth, then it should pay for the upgrading of our infrastructure and necessary additional city services to sustain any new housing quotas it imposes on our communities.
We need new leadership in San Diego. A mayor and city council members willing to pushback on state legislators who want to impose quotas of new housing stock but are unwilling to write the check necessary to sustain it.
Clairemont residents need to continue their pushback of un-sustainable growth whether it is fostered by city planners, city councilmembers, our mayor or our state legislators.
There will be another meeting to finalize the addition of the 5000 units, which once the date and location is confirmed, we will publish. We encourage all residents of the Clairemont Plan Area to attend and help us pushback the city’s request.