Pro/Con: Senate Bill 10

Pro

Amid a housing and affordability crisis in California, Senate Bill 10 — a proposal to expand single-family housing in “transit-rich areas” and “urban infill sites” to accommodate up to 10 units — is an initiative with tangible benefits that go beyond just improving housing.

While passed in 2021 at the state level, the city of San Diego Planning Commission initially voted against SB 10 but then recommended a working group analyze the implementation of the bill before it comes back for a vote by the commission before potentially going to the San Diego City Council for a vote.

“Transit-rich” areas are those in which the majority of land is with a half mile of existing or planned public transit, including rail, ferry or bus. “Urban infill” is the process of developing vacant or under-utilized parcels within existing developed areas, according to the City of Sacramento community development plan.

SB 10 must be implemented, as its proposed changes to housing will provide quality public education, reduce local crime, expand access to public transportation and create more job opportunities for Californians.

As the cost of living continues to surpass income levels, the San Diego housing crisis has hit ground zero. Apartment List reports that the overall median rent in San Diego stands at $2,451 — over 100% higher than the national median of $1,200. According to job search website Zip Recruiter, most annual salaries in San Diego range between $39,000 and $85,617. Given California’s current scarcity of developable space, SB 10’s easing of zoning restrictions for housing will reduce cost per square foot, making a dent in soaring rent and sale prices.

Low-income families moving to newly-rezoned areas benefit from access to highly ranked public schools in affluent areas where higher property taxes fund those schools.

Those who would likely be housed in urban SB 10 buildings currently may be living in areas like Southeast San Diego, where over-policing and climbing crime rates are dramatically different from areas such as La Jolla, Poway and Rancho Santa Fe. Those areas have San Diego’s highest average household incomes, lowest diversity and virtually no deadly police encounters. SB 10 dissolves criminal and racial class lines by integrating families with diverse backgrounds into safer neighborhoods.

Opponents of SB 10 who spoke during the planning committee hearings cited a desire to protect historic sites and prevent high-density housing.

However, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that San Diego Co. built fewer homes in 2022 than in 2021, even amid initiatives to build denser housing. Therefore, California’s building integrity will not be compromised in adopting SB 10.

And concerns about preserving historic sites, remnants of California’s colonial history, are rooted in exclusivity and classism, and they come amid a 14% hike in homelessness in San Diego, according to the Pacific Research Institute.

California cannot turn down a tangible solution to the housing crisis for the sake of preserving gentrified history.

Con

With the median price of San Diego homes reaching $835,000 as of June 2023, the San Diego Planning Commission unanimously voted against the inclusion of Senate Bill 10 in Mayor Todd Gloria’s proposed housing package on Aug. 3 before deciding to have a working group study it in advance of a second vote.

SB 10 would allow for the construction of multi-family buildings with up to 10 units and three stories to replace single-family homes in “transit-rich areas” and “urban infill sites” as written in the bill. The bill has been met with both opposition and support among San Diego locals.

While SB 10 is a noteworthy attempt at tackling California’s severe housing crisis, its approach overlooks the consequences of applying a uniform solution to a multifaceted issue. Such consequences include failing to address the diverse needs of different communities, detrimental effects to quality of life and the environment and the possibility of inflated property values and rent pricing.

San Diego is a diverse city, both geographically and culturally, yet SB 10 will fall upon the city as a whole. The city contains a mixture of urban and suburban communities with varying population densities. With land being eligible for zoning regardless of size, SB 10 risks amplifying problems in densely populated areas. If not carefully implemented, SB 10 may also harm the economically disparate areas of San Diego. For example, in such areas, SB 10’s promise of affordable housing could boost demand for housing, causing property values to surge and posing the risk of gentrification. These are just some ways the blanket solution of SB 10 fails to address housing in San Diego’s unique communities, in turn exacerbating housing problems.

Additionally, SB 10 has the potential to decrease quality of life and damage the environment. SB 10’s housing details do not specifically address the complications that come with additional homes: transportation difficulties, lack of parking andinfrastructure strain. No parking spaces are required for homes built within a half mile of transportation, making both parking and commuting difficult for residents. SB 10 also says land can be covered with concrete, which could detrimentally impact the environment, as well as the health and well-being of residents. Additionally, San Diego is a coastal city with inland and seaside communities; SB 10 does not consider factors like erosion and rising sea levels. With its focus solely on increasing housing, SB 10’s lack of precautions will lead to overcrowding, worsened noise and pollution, congested traffic, the disappearance of green spaces and the possible loss of architectural diversity.

While proponents of SB 10 argue that increasing housing is a sure way of boosting supply to meet demand and achieve affordable housing, that is not a guarantee. In reality, the possibility of inflated property values under SB 10 assures quite the opposite outcome: a heightened threat of more expensive housing and gentrification, with no safeguards to mitigate these concerns.

San Diego is in desperate need of a remedy to its growing housing crisis, but it will not find one in SB 10. A more cautionary, nuanced approach is imperative to form an effective solution that resonates with the city.

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