Housing under construction in Hillcrest
Housing under construction in Hillcrest. Photo courtesy Circulate San Diego

The San Diego City Council tentatively approved two plans Thursday to let developers build more than 9,000 housing units near city transit.

The council unanimously approved both the Balboa Avenue Station Area Specific Plan and the Morena Corridor Specific Plan. Both would rezone areas along Morena Boulevard to allow for more development near multiple trolley stations.

The Balboa and Morena Corridor plans will require another council vote for ratification.

The plans are an effort to take advantage of the $2.17 billion Mid-Coast Trolley Blue Line Extension, the planned 11-mile extension of transit service from Santa Fe Depot in downtown to University City.

The city’s current Pacific Beach Community Plan only allows for the development of roughly 1,200 housing units.

The Balboa Avenue plan would allow for the development of 3,508 housing units within a half-mile of a planned trolley station. It will be located at the corner of Morena and Balboa.

Supporters include the Climate Action Campaign, the San Diego County Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Building Industry Association of San Diego. They argued that the Balboa plan is one way the city can tackle its long-time housing crisis.

“Updating your community plans is one area that we all agree upon,” said BIA Vice President Matthew Adams.

Opponents argued the additional housing is being foisted on unwilling residents. They also want the adjacent Rose Creek area to be designated as a city park to protect native habitats, which the council declined to do.

Councilman Chris Ward instead included an amendment to support “conservation of Rose Creek’s ecological health” through capital projects.

The Morena Corridor plan would allow for the development of 5,630 housing units over the 1,386 allowed in the Linda Vista Community Plan. The housing would be constructed within a half-mile of future trolley stations at Tecolote Road, Clairemont Drive and Morena.

The plan would redesign streets near the new developments into an urban grid and add a bike lane and pedestrian access.

“This plan is vital in the effort to help the city meet its climate, housing and transportation goals as outlined in the (climate action plan) and the `city of villages’ strategy,” said Maya Rosas, director of policy for the transit advocacy group Circulate San Diego.

Councilwoman Jennifer Campbell amended the plan to require developers to cap the rent for least 15 percent of a building’s units along the corridor. The cap would sit at or below the county median income for a family of four, $86,300.

Developers can circumvent that by building units off-site, at only 80 percent of the median.

The Morena Corridor plan has drawn significant push-back from Linda Vista residents who argue their views  will be obstructed by high-rise buildings and that developers will only build luxury apartments.

“What we are going to become is San Francisco 2.0, where the uber wealthy live in the city and all of the poor neighborhoods are being developed by big developments that begin pushing them out,” said James LaMattery, spokesman for the opposition group Raise the Balloon.

Both plans are part of a blitz by the council this week to increase affordable housing development throughout the city. The council approved proposals to hasten development of mixed-use projects and to increase the amount of housing units leased or sold at or below the median income.

The council’s Rules Committee also voted Wednesday to draft a proposed ballot measure for a $900 million bond to build housing for veterans, homeless families, seniors and disabled people. The measure is scheduled to go on the November 2020 ballot.

– City News Service