/South Bay Cities Unhappy With Housing Expectations

South Bay Cities Unhappy With Housing Expectations

Harbor View condos in National City / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

This post originally appeared in the Aug. 29 Morning Report. Get the Morning Report delivered to your inbox.

Last year, the San Diego Association of Governments did something unusual: It told the state that it was fine with the number of homes the region would be expected to build over the next decade.

Typically, regions lobby for a lower number, and SANDAG had been on pace to do the same until the region’s large and urban cities overruled the rest of the county and said they’d take the higher number.

Now, the regional planning agency is taking the next step, and dividing up how much new housing each city needs to plan for to make good on the region’s responsibility to the state.

But two cities in the South Bay – Imperial Beach and National City – are now balking at the way SANDAG has divided up that responsibility, arguing they’re shouldering more than their fair share. They think wealthy coastal cities like Del Mar and Solana Beach should be forced to take on more of the burden, according to the Union-Tribune.

National City would be responsible for planning for about 5,400 homes, and Imperial Beach another 1,300 homes, combining for about 4 percent of the 172,000 homes the entire region is expected to accommodate by 2029. But those numbers are multiples what the cities were expected to plan for during the state’s last planning cycle.

National City and Imperial Beach officials have taken exception to the formula SANDAG is using to determine the best places to put new homes, which has resulted in increases to the two South Bay cities.

“Under the proposed formula, allocation is skewed toward cities with transit,” the Union-Tribune wrote.

Many planners will see that as a feature, not a bug. Concentrating housing near transit is the central premise of every major planning document adopted in the region in recent years.

Last year, former National City Mayor Ron Morrison opposed SANDAG’s acceptance of the higher housing requirement. He’s since been replaced by Mayor Alejandra Sotelo-Solis. Imperial Beach Mayor Serge Dedina voted to accept the higher housing requirement.

But this is also in many ways just a thought exercise, anyway. The state’s “fair share” housing law is widely seen as a failure, as detailed by Liam Dillon in the Los Angeles Times two years ago, because it does not mandate the construction of homes. It requires cities to plan for new housing, and even in that case has never managed to punish cities that don’t comply. There are small changes coming to that process, with Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature increasingly looking to give teeth to the state’s so-called housing element law.