Housing, Water, Jobs on Economic Summit Agenda

San Diego Mayor Pushing One of State’s Most Aggressive Packages for Addressing Housing Crisis

By Justin Ewers


Mary Lydon, executive director of Housing You Matters speaks at news conference Wednesday (Photo Credit: Housing You Matters)

San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer unveiled one of the most aggressive–and comprehensive–approaches in the state for tackling his city’s growing housing affordability crisis on Wednesday, following up on a pledge earlier this year to address rising prices by accelerating housing approvals and expanding supply.

“The state’s housing shortage and the unaffordable housing market it spawned has left the dream of homeownership out of reach for the majority of San Diegans,” Mayor Faulconer said in a press conference today. “The only way to change that is to build more housing that people can actually afford. Hardworking folks who love San Diego and want to live in San Diego should not be priced out of San Diego.”

Faulconer’s housing package includes a dozen different proposals for bringing building costs down–and getting more homes built more quickly. Many of these ideas first emerged in a 2015 San Diego Housing Commission study and have been working their way through the City Council’s Smart Growth and Land Use Committee this spring.

The CA Economic Summit wrote about the effort this spring, highlighting the city’s unique focus on workforce housing needs, the breadth of the policy concepts under consideration, and the diversity of the coalition rallying behind the need for more housing:

Faulconer’s call to arms may not sound that dissimilar from the rhetoric emerging from other parts of the state, as rising prices make living in California increasingly unaffordable. But the San Diego mayor’s framing of the problem—and the solutions the city is developing with a unique coalition of business associations, labor groups, environmentalists, and builders—are fundamentally different.

The mayor’s proposals, which Faulconer said he hoped to see implemented over the next year, include specific code amendments to streamline the development review process, provide greater incentives to builders to develop denser projects with below-market units, and change municipal rules to make it easier for existing homeowners to build second dwellings on their property. The mayor has also prioritized increasing funding for low-income housing and revising parking standards to lower development costs.

Among the mayor’s most far-reaching ideas is a provision to allow projects to take advantage of existing CEQA streamlining processes in infill areas. The package also includes plans to reduce the impact of developer fees, calling for a revised methodology based on square footage, instead of the number of units in each proposed development.

Perhaps most importantly, the mayor has also asked the city to begin providing an annual report on the city’s housing inventory. “What gets measured gets managed,” as a fact sheet released by the mayor’s office puts it. “Currently, the City of San Diego does not do a comprehensive report of its housing inventory and greater housing outlook.” In his housing plan, the mayor calls for a report of existing inventory, the number of units approved, as well as vacancy rates and other metrics—all beginning this summer.

Faulconer’s actions, many of them derived from years of work by other local leaders, are drawing praise from across the broad coalition that has emerged in the last few years to push for solutions to the city’s housing crisis.

“The lack of middle-class housing is a major consideration for businesses and young talent looking to relocate to San Diego,” Kris Michell, president & CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership. “The Mayor’s proposal to slash permitting times for entry-level housing, affordable to young millennials and working families, is critical to attracting talent and building a stronger economy.”

While selling the mayor’s proposals across the sometimes growth-wary region remains a political challenge, Mary Lydon, executive director of the Housing You Matters coalition, believes the foundation has been laid locally to achieve something few other big cities in California have accomplished: Moving ahead with a major new push to increase housing supplies.

“The growing alignment and cooperation around our housing affordability crisis is a major accomplishment in and of itself,” says Lydon. “Now that so many are on the same page we can work together to find the solutions.”

Micro, tiny, granny: housing shortfall solution — The Daily Transcript

Micro, tiny, granny: housing shortfall solution

Mary Lydon is founder of Lydon Associates, a strategic communications consulting firm specializing in land use. Mike Stepner is a professor at New School of Architects.

housing-shortfallMore affordable housing is on the nation’s mind. A growing issue is, “Cities are seemly becoming the centers for opportunities for those who already have it but we need strivers to flourish,” stated Mark Gimein of the New Yorker. The upcycle we are in has brought cities great growth and urban amenities. These amenity-rich cities have become very desirable for the world’s richest citizens. Cities are increasingly pleasant places to live for those who can afford it, so much so that Bloomberg’s Justin Fox calls big-city living a “luxury good.”

The White House released a Housing Development Toolkit in September. This reiterates what states and major cities across the country have been trying to problem solve for many years to little avail. Now that we are all in alignment we see that the solutions are super complex. The way forward, to mitigate San Diego becoming a “luxury good,” is a multifaceted solution where builders, designers, planners, policy makers, nonprofit organizations and community members will need to diligently work together. There are potential housing solutions that may offer relief to certain demographics sectors like single millennials and boomers. Smaller dwelling units like micro apartment units (300-500 square feet), tiny homes, granny flats (accessory dwelling units) and container homes are trending. These smaller units can bring the price of owning or renting down by as much as 30 percent but there is not enough supply to fill the demand. This is due to barriers in development like high parking requirements and expensive water and sewer hookup fees.

Last week, the governor signed legislation from Assemblyman Richard Bloom and Sen. Bob Wieckowski that will force cities to permit “backyard homes,” or separate dwellings known as “granny flats,” eliminate cities’ ability to require additional parking spaces for such units, and limit fees for attaching the units to local water and sewer systems. This bill could help alleviate some of the housing shortage in California and how it is executed at the local level will be key.

We can look to our past and to other cities for models to help us implement Accessory Dwelling Units. In 2006, the Vancouver, Canada, implemented the EcoDensity Initiative subtitled “How density, design, and land use will contribute to environmental sustainability, affordability and livability.” The program had three key provisions relating to housing: (1) Laneway [alley] housing – smaller scale detached housing that can be located where the rear-yard garage currently is; (2) secondary suites in apartments; and (3) mid-rise building on arterial streets. The key to enabling the innovative housing types in Vancouver was community support driven by design quality and provision of amenities. These housing strategies look familiar to those that are following current micro unit discussions and to those who have some knowledge of our development history. To meet housing shortages during World War II and the Korean conflict, our region’s cities encouraged and gave priority to the construction of Accessory Units. These were built in all the neighborhoods that were in existence at the time from La Jolla to Mission Hills. Most of these are still in use providing affordability for the homeowner with rent to offset the mortgage.

We are currently engaged in discussions about higher densities and mixed use along the arterials and we are looking at better ways to allow small lot development in single family zones. Examples of this can be found in some of our more recent master planned communities. In looking at smaller lots and attempting to overcome objections to a variety of house sizes in a neighborhood and the subsequent impact on property values we can look to the models San Diego pioneered almost 100 years ago. In
neighborhoods from Mission Hills to La Mesa you can find blocks with lots of 25 x 100 feet mixed in with the standard size city of San Diego lot of 50 x 100 feet. You also find example of small lots and large lots on the same blocks. On the north south streets the lots are usually 50 x 100, but on the east-west streets the lots are 50 x 50 feet. This was done to allow for a mix of affordability due to house size. But from the curb the neighborhood houses looked the same. The city also zoned for higher density on the blocks near the major streets with streetcar lines. This resulted in small apartment buildings and the wonderful bungalow courts.

After World War II as the need for housing grew so did car ownership and the number of parking spaces became the determining design factor. In place of the bungalow court and the small apartment building came the six pack apartment building with fewer units and parking in the front. Because the design of those buildings still haunt the minds of our communities, objections to new multi-family homes remain. Fast forward to today where Jonathan Segal, FAIA is proposing to build an 8-story, 37-unit, 400-square foot/unit apartment building in Little Italy with no parking. This project is for the transit oriented, Uber riding, urban dweller. By taking parking out of the development process we are not only lowering the cost of new homes but we lower CO2 levels as well. A win-win-win solution.

When the Segal project is approved it will set a precedent across the city. We will take a quantum leap into the future of transit/pedestrian-centric communities that expands beyond a “luxury good” for only high income earners.

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From a Sleepy Town to a Global City

Creating new economic, political engines

Can building design make you healthy?

The San Diego Union Tribune

By: Roger Showly

Posted: May 14, 2016

Urban Land Institute’s San Diego-Tijuana chapter named seven recipients in its first Healthy Places awards program plus one for a college student project. The County Waterfront Park won the grand prize. — ULI/San Diego-Tijuana

After decades of building car-centric suburbs, developers now realize they may be partly responsible for a rising tide of obesity.

Now, led by the Urban Land Institute think tank in Washington, D.C., they’re pivoting to “healthy places” where walkability, parks, community gardens and public transit can reverse the trends.

San Diego inaugurated this new era Wednesday with its first Healthy Places Awards program, sponsored by the local chapter of the Urban Land Institute.

The County Waterfront Park, the $50 million makeover of the parking lots at the County Administration Center, received the Healthy Place Crown Jewel Award because it celebrates recreation, urban living and a new use for an asphalt wasteland.

ULI local chairman Greg Shannon, whose Sedona Development is currently working on a 6,500-acre master-plan community in Tijuana, said the healthy places movement hit home to him when his wife gave him a Fitbit.

He racked up an admirable 10,000 daily steps on a Sunday. But at work the next day, activity dropped by two-thirds because he was glued to his desk.

“Probably over the last 60 years we’ve done a great job making things as convenient and efficient as we can, and we’ve fallen a little too much in love with technology,” he said. “But those things have unintended consequences. One is health has suffered with all the driving we do. We have greenhouse gases, car emissions, diabetes, asthma.”

Outgoing local ULI executive director Mary Lydon said the awards program revived an annual event that honored smart growth projects until 2010. The recession brought a historic drop in growth and no more awards.

“Moving from smart growth to healthy places is definitely a step in the right direction,” she said.

Hilltop gARTen — ULI/San Diego-Tijuana

ULI is an 80-year-old membership organization based in Washington, D.C., and is made up of about 38,000 developers, financiers, architects and other real estate industry leaders.

ULI senior fellow Ed McMahon said selling other members on making health a priority was tough at first.

“Developers are interested in something that they can do to make money,” he said.

But as case studies piled up, doubters came to realize that well-designed and located projects with walking paths, fitness centers, public transit and access to parks and healthy food stores paid off.

“Every single person in the world is interested in their health,” McMahon said. “What we found is health-promoting features in development are probably one of the best sells there is.”

He cited a CEOs for Cities report that found that every one point increase in the Walk Score index raises a property’s value anywhere from $500 to $3,000.

UCLA public health professor Dr. Richard Jackson, former director of the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Environmental Health and keynote speaker at the Wednesday awards event, offered another metric.

After one year of operation, riders on Charlotte, N.C.’s light-rail transit system lost an average of 6 pounds over those who drove to work.

“My students have a very different vision of the America they want to live in,” Jackson said, and it’s not the big, isolated suburban house surrounded by a picket fence. “They don’t want to be like their parents who drive an hour and a half to work each way, come home and stretch out and buy fast food because they have no time to cook dinner.”

Today’s obesity problem is the result of 70 years of suburbanization, the healthy places advocates say, and it can be reversed by better planning, more community gardens, less reliance on cars and revitalization of inner city neighborhoods where mixed incomes can live comfortably side by side.

Gregor Connors, 35, chairman of the ULI healthy places initiative, said he grew up in Poway and lives on the North County coast. He isn’t sold, at least not yet, on downtown living, especially for families with school-age children. But the graduate of the University of San Diego’s real estate master’s program does believe the merger of financial feasibility with good design will result in healthier living.

“It’s about great opportunity and better choices,” he said.

‘Connection’ Urged for Mission Valley

The San Diego Union Tribune

By: Roger Showly

Posted: April 30, 2016

SDSU annex, gondolas, river park discussed in preparation for area’s 2018 plan update

San Diego State University’s possible redevelopment of the Qualcomm Stadium property might result in worse problems for Mission Valley if not done right.

That was one of the warnings that came out of a Thursday breakfast forum on the valley’s future, sponsored by the Citizens Coordinate for Century 3 planning group.

An update, due in 2018, is in the works for the MissionValley community plan and various groups and experts are toying with a variety of new directions, such as creation of a San Diego River Park at the stadium and managing the valley’s traffic congestion through a new approach to land use.

Asked if the valley has one or more “hearts,” downtown architect and urban planner Frank Wolden, who has studied the valley extensively, focused on the 166-acre stadium property.


An aerial gondola in Portland, Ore., could be a model for similar transporation in Mission Valley.

SDSU’s president recently endorsed the idea of locating a campus annex at the site. Ideas include student housing, a new Aztec football stadium and researchfacilities. “I worry about the SDSU proposal,” Wolden said, “not because it’s not a good idea.” Rather, he said the site shouldn’t be used for a single purpose or isolate itself from surrounding developments.

“It needs to have a river park,” he said. “It needs to have an urban village with streets running through it.”

The same approach should be taken with specific plans in place throughoutthe valley, he said. “They can’t be ‘projects,’” he said. “There’ve got to bemultipurpose venues that are pieces of a ‘new city’ that is forming, that is connected and creating experiences.”

One new experience that drew some attention was installing aerial gondolas that could ferry between the valley floor and the north and south rims.

“I’m a very large promoter of aerial trams,” said Nancy Graham, the city planner leading the team to rewrite the community plan.

She said the gondolas could help feed into mass transit lines serving the valley and help reduce car traffic. Part of the reworking of the existing plan that dates back to the 1980s is to use a different way to measure traffic instead of counting average daily trips generated by each land use.

“If you squint, you can believe it’s Mission Valley,” Graham said, as images flashed on a screen of gondolas in Portland, Ore., and inBarcelona, Spain. Rob Hutsel, executive director of the San Diego River Park Foundation, and landscape architect Glen Schmidt shared concepts for a 60-acre park at the Qualcomm Stadium site.

“It’s an incredible opportunity how we rethink Mission Valley,” Hutsel said.

Marco Sessa, senior vice presdient at Sudberry Properties, spoke of the latest phases at the company’s Civita residential project. He said he is concerned that numerous requirements are pushing prices above the$500,000 mark for condos and townhomes.

“The higher density it is, the more expensive it is,” he said. “The more sustainability features there are, the more expensive it is. That is a transformative issue, unfortunately, that we need to figure out how to address.”

Forum moderator Mary Lydon, outgoing executive director of the Urban Land Institute local chapter, urged the breakfast audience of about 60 to focus on reality rather than ideas that may prove impossible to implement.

“There are many constraints to Mission Valley and that’s always a part of the conversation,” she said.

Andrew Michajlenko, a Gensler architects designmanager and Civita resident, said the valley’s common theme for the future should be built around a “string of pearls” along the river that could be accessed on foot. He also said one of the most challenging goals will be to bridge the river at several spots to provide more north-south connections.

Tracey Scott, a senior urban planner at architect Wolden’s Skyport Studio, said the new valley plan also should envision how the area will fit into San Diego’sgreater urban vision. “I think we really need to think about the next 100 years— what is Mission Valley going to become and why do people want to go there and what are they going toget of going there, what kind of benefit,” she said.

Hutsel said as chairman of one of the community planning group’s subcommittees, he sees great potential in a number of specific property owner proposals. They include the construction of thousands of apartments or condos at the Riverwalk golf course; the redevelopment of the Town & Country hotel property; and the reuse of the Union-Tribune building and its site once the newspaper staff moves downtown next month.

“I think there’s incredible potential in Mission Valley today and I’m looking forward to it,” Hutsel said.

Stadium task force: Plan ‘fair’ to Chargers, taxpayers

ABC 10 News

By: James R. Riffel, City News Service , Steve Fiorina

Posted: May 18, 2015

Construction of a 65,000-seat football stadium for San Diego should be financed with a mix of financial contributions from the city and county of San Diego, the Chargers and the NFL, plus bond and land sales, an advisory group appointed by Mayor Kevin Faulconer recommended Monday.

A report released by the nine-member group two days before its deadline said no new taxes would be included, so that a two-thirds vote of the public would not be required. Funding sources would exceed $1.4 billion for a facility estimated to cost around $1.1 billion, according to the report.

Read the Full Report courtesy of 10 News

We have overstated costs just a bit, and understated revenue just a bit, making for a very prudent, fiscally conservative recommendation,” said Adam Day, chairman of the Chargers Stadium Advisory Group. “It overcomes all the hurdles that were thrown in our path — both real and imagined — and it is a good deal for the taxpayers.”

He said the task force conducted extensive research and analysis of NFL stadiums that have been constructed in recent years. Another consideration was to make sure the Chargers and other tenants would enjoy the financial benefits of a new playing facility, rather than designating all the new revenue streams toward construction costs.

“We developed a financing plan that would actually succeed in this unique San Diego environment, ensuring that it is fair for the Chargers and other tenants, fair for the city and county, and fair for taxpayers,” Day said.

“Our plan is the first of its kind, and it should jump-star negotiations between the Chargers, the city and the county,” Day said, adding that the recommendations provide “a fair and workable path to a new stadium in San Diego.”

Mark Fabiani, the Chargers’ general counsel on stadium issues, issued a statement saying that he’s grateful for the CSAG members who volunteered their time.

“We will now ask our stadium development team — including our financing, legal and land-use experts — to thoroughly review the CSAG results,” Fabiani said.

Faulconer said the plan is “tangible” and “achievable.”

“Earlier today I communicated to Chargers owner Dean Spanos that the city/county team and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith are ready to sit down and negotiate,” Faulconer said. “I’d like to start by June 1. San Diegans deserve a good and fair deal, and I will not accept or support anything less.”

The mayor’s full statement:

“San Diego has come together since we began this path toward a new stadium. Despite so many dramatic changes and potential distractions, both here and elsewhere over the last four months, our community rallied and kept moving forward. Today, San Diego has a framework to build a new stadium that’s tangible, that’s achievable and that won’t raise taxes.

I thank each volunteer who has served on the Citizens’ Stadium Advisory Group for their diligent and careful efforts on behalf of their fellow San Diegans. They have shown the spirit of optimism and determination that makes San Diego great.

We are now ready for another first – beginning formal negotiations with the Chargers. The County and City of San Diego have, for the first time, assembled an experienced negotiating team that will review the CSAG report as it prepares for talks with the team. Earlier today I communicated to Chargers owner Dean Spanos that the City/County team and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith are ready to sit down and negotiate. I’d like to start by June 1. San Diegans deserve a good and fair deal, and I will not accept or support anything less.

My continued commitment is that if we reach a stadium agreement with the Chargers, San Diegans will have their say with a public vote. When this measure will be on the ballot will be discussed through negotiations with the team.
As we all begin to review the details of the CSAG report, one thing is clear: we’re all in this together. The Chargers are beloved by generations of San Diegans. San Diego has worked in good faith with the team and the NFL and will continue to do so. I am confident that if the team comes to the table with a willingness to work together, we will get this done for the benefit of our community, with protections for taxpayers and for the enjoyment of future generations.”

Supervisor Ron Roberts, who has served as the public face for the county on stadiums, said the report shows a path forward for the project.

“While there is much to be done in the coming months, this is a time for optimism,” Roberts said.

The task force has already recommended that the facility be built adjacent to Qualcomm Stadium, which would be razed to make way for development, including a massive parking structure, a 500-room hotel and a park alongside the San Diego River.

Day said he envisions a pedestrian-friendly, transit oriented mixed-use project, but not a high-density development that would draw opposition from Mission Valley residents.

The next step will be for a team of financial and legal experts to take the recommendations and mold them into an actual plan that can be taken to the Chargers and voters. The city and county of San Diego jointly hired Nixon Peabody, which has consulted on 25 stadium projects, and Citigroup, which has been involved in raising money to build stadiums recently in Atlanta, New York and Orlando.

The Chargers have been pushing for a new playing facility for more than a dozen years, and have recently taken steps to build a joint $1.7 billion stadium with the rival Oakland Raiders in the Los Angeles suburb of Carson. The proposed 72,000-seat facility off the San Diego (405) Freeway is considered to be a backup plan for both teams in case they aren’t able to forge agreements in their current cities.

Also, the owner of the St. Louis Rams is planning to build an 80,000-seat stadium in Inglewood, another Los Angeles suburb.

The funding breaks down to:

  • $300 million from the Chargers
  • $200 million from the National Football League
  • $225 million from the sale of 75 acres of Qualcomm Stadium land to a developer
  • $173 million of bondable construction capital leveraged with team’s $10 million annual rent
  • $121 million from the city of San Diego, which would come from savings from retiring Qualcomm Stadium debt
  • $121 million from the county of San Diego
  • more than $100 million from fans in the form of personal seat licenses, and surcharges on parking and tickets
  • $21.6 million rent from San Diego State University and the organizers of the Holiday and Poinsettia bowls, with $1.25 million paid by both annually

SDSU released a statement that said the development of its athletic program was a critical part of its goal of becoming a Top 50 public university, and it would channel the support of its 350,000 students, faculty, staff and alumni toward the development. University officials have long eyed the Qualcomm property for potential expansion.

The report said another $50 million could be raised with naming rights, sales of bricks, and capital contributions from concessionaires and telecommunications firms.

Faulconer said that while a two-thirds public vote won’t be required, he still would like a final deal with the Chargers to go before voters. He said that San Diegans want a plan that makes sense, is fair and is fiscally responsible.

“That’s one of the things we’re going to spend most of our time on here as we move forward with negotiations with the Chargers, which is to make sure that it is a plan that’s fiscally responsible,” Faulconer told City News Service. “To have our City Attorney’s Office working together with outside experts, we have a team that is together, that is ready to go, and I’m confident that we’ll come up with a solution that makes sense.”

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the report shows that a stadium project is doable.

“These people put a lot of time and effort into this, and I’m really impressed with their volunteer work,” Goldsmith said. He said he doesn’t believe any legal issues exist that would be insurmountable.

The advisory group released renderings of what a new stadium might look like by Dan Meis, who is responsible for designing NFL facilities in Cincinnati and Philadelphia, as well as the Staples Center in Los Angeles and Safeco Field in Seattle.

A San Diego State University spokesman issued this statement regarding the stadium proposal:

“San Diego State University appreciates the opportunity to have participated with the Citizens Stadium Advisory Group in the planning process for a new stadium and we are eager to participate fully in a partnership that will retain the Chargers in San Diego and advance our region. As we continue our efforts to become one of our nation’s top 50 public universities, the development of, and investment in our athletic programs, including our football program, is a critical priority. And we are committed to channeling the support of our 350,000 students, faculty, staff and alumni to ensure the successful development of a new stadium for San Diego.”

Former Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman told 10News, “I’m more excited than at first. Now you have room to grow. Now it’s a real proposal to me and fair on both sides.”

Dan McLellan, vice president of the San Diego Stadium Coalition, added, “Sadly, there’s little to be excited about here. I think they’re asking for too big a contribution from the team.”

San Diego City Councilman Scott Sherman released this statement:

“I give my utmost thanks to the members of CSAG who have sacrificed their time to complete this report. After years of just generalized concepts, we now have an in-depth, detailed plan. As the Councilmember who represents the area, it is also very encouraging to see the inclusion of a 31 acre park to expand and enhance the San Diego River Park as well as plans to upgrade infrastructure and traffic mitigation in the surrounding community.”

San Diego Taxfighters Chairman Richard Rider issued the following statement:

“I’d like to see the actual Charger stadium proposal. But based on the task force’s official write-up which I presume is accurate, appears to be a $467 million taxpayer giveaway to keep the Chargers here — ignoring cost overruns and ‘surprises.’ And apparently that’s not counting the 60 acres of land valued at $180 million (not sure how land ownership is handled). Again, I caution that my interpretation of the proposal may not be completely accurate.

The fact that there is no actual tax INCREASE is no surprise — the proponents were desperate to avoid any taxpayer vote on the matter. I predicted this wrinkle months ago.

Is it sound policy for our city and county to provide such a huge subsidy to a business owned by a billionaire that employs millionaires? Not in my mind. That money and salable land are assets that can be used to help with our pension funding problems, and our even bigger multi-billion dollar infrastructure deficit.

I’d like for the Chargers to stay, but not at that cost — a total of about $650 million (or more). Not even close.”

Kris Michell, president of the Downtown San Diego Partnership, told 10News, “I think it’s a great day. It’s very exciting because it’s realistic and hit every mark. It didn’t overstate revenue, didn’t understate things. It should be given serious consideration.”

Chargers fan Tyler Roberson told 10News, “I think everything is awesome. I hope the Chargers go along with it.”

Quincy Cheatham echoed that thought, saying, “We love our city, love our Chargers. Need them to stay here.”

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