No Trees, No Parking, No Set-Backs, and No Affordable Rental Units

| February 3, 2022 | 0 Comments

by Paul Krueger, Talmadge resident and volunteer with Neighbors For A Better San Diego

Is this $2.4 million residential “compound” a poster-child for all that’s wrong with San Diego’s housing and development policies?

The listing boasts of the “incredible income opportunity for an investor” on a “tree lined street in the historic district of Talmadge”

For $2.4 million you can buy your own four-bedroom/four-bath “mini-dorm” with adjoining two-story, four-bedroom, two-bath “accessory dwelling unit.” But this “incredible opportunity” for speculators and absentee landlords is, more importantly — the latest example of the pressing need to sensibly revise San Diego’s building and development codes.

Let us count the ways:

  1. Proponents of the current “build what you want, how you want it, wherever you want” city policies claim their laissez faire philosophy will create much needed rental housing for San Diego very low and low-income residents. In fact, this project does the opposite: the converted four-bedroom/four bath mini-dorm rents for $5000. That’s $1250 per bedroom and bath. The projected rent for the adjoining two, two-bedroom one-bath units is $3,750 for each unit. (The average rent for a two-bedroom unit in San Diego County is $2,008, according to a May, 2021 analysis by Co-Star, a real estate tracking company.)
  2. Advocates of increased density ignore the impact these multi-unit projects have on the already overcrowded, poorly maintained streets and freeway access roads, especially in our established neighbors south of I-8. They claim these additional residents won’t own cars and thus won’t need off-street parking, because these projects are located within a half-mile of a “rapid” bus or trolley stop. The city’s current ADU ordinance follows that same faulty logic, so this 8-bedroom project has no off-street parking (the original garage was converted to the first floor of the new ADU). But the four occupants in the main “mini-dorm” confirm they all own their own vehicles, and don’t take the bus or trolley because it’s “not convenient.” There’s no indication that occupants of the additional ADUs will forgo their personal vehicles, so this one project will add at least eight cars and trucks — probably more — to a neighborhood where on-street parking is already difficult to find.
  3. To make room for the new ADUs, the developer clear-cut the established trees and plants in what used to be the back and side yards on this property. They did not plant a single replacement tree anywhere on the property or parkway, which completely contradicts the city’s commitment to expanding our “urban canopy” as an integral part of its ambitious “Climate Action Plan.” The new frontage area is covered with concrete and small strips of water-wasting grass, instead of inexpensive, low-water, native plants universally endorsed by conservationists and urban planners.
  4. There are virtually no side or rear setbacks on the ADU building. Instead of requiring minimal setbacks to allow room for tree-planting and give a modicum of privacy to neighbors, the city allows the narrowest of boundaries, covered with bare, decomposed granite.
  5. This project was permitted before our San Diego City Council passed the current ADU ordinance, which includes even more giveaways for real estate developers, imposes a bigger burden on our established neighborhoods, and, to date, has not provided any rental relief for the city’s homeless, very low, and low-income residents. The absentee landlords/investors of current multi-unit ADU projects, like the one under construction now at 4681 49th Street, are exempt from paying Development Infrastructure Fees. Those fees are a crucial source of revenue to repair, replace, and upgrade our city’s aging and inadequate infrastructure. Efforts to make those improvements have lagged for decades, and the city now has a $3 billion deficit for infrastructure repair and improvement.

So, here’s the bottom line: the shrewd owner/developer of this $2.4 million Talmadge property will turn a cool $1 million profit on the sale, and the next investor will gross a projected $13,500 in monthly rents.

The only losers are the city’s homeless, very-low, and low-income residents, the city treasury, the Talmadge neighborhood — and many others like it, where similar projects are being built or planned – and the environment. 

You can learn more about the grass-roots campaign for sensible revisions to the city’s ill-conceived Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinance, and help us persuade the city council to act, at

For $2.4 million you can buy your own four-bedroom/four-bath “mini-dorm” with adjoining two-story, four-bedroom, two-bath “accessory dwelling unit.”

Category: feature, Government, Local News

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