A vacant storefront on University Avenue in Hillcrest. Image from Google Maps

A change in the city code that would let landlords convert ground-floor retail space into housing was approved by a City Council committee on Wednesday.

The change, championed by Councilmember Scott Sherman and his former colleague David Alvarez, was approved by the Land Use & Housing Committee.

If approved by the full council, building owners would have the option to convert unused ground floor storefronts into residential dwellings. The goal is to eliminate blight caused by empty storefronts and quickly produce additional housing units.

“Commercial flexibility provides building owners more options to better utilize their space by converting blighted empty space with much needed housing units,” said Sherman.

Sherman noted that shrinking demand for retail space due to online shopping has left many vacant commercial spaces throughout the city.

“This important update will provide a mechanism to allow the market to dictate need in San Diego’s many diverse communities,” he said.

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