The Complete Communities proposal would allow FAR up to 800%, and allow as many units that would fit based on the Building Code minimum of 150 feet² per unit.
In the late 1960s, city planners and developers devised a plan to transform Ocean Beach into high-density condos, apartments, and hotels. OBceans organized and fought back, pressuring politicians to drop the plan, and ultimately led to the formation of the Ocean Beach Planning Board and a rewrite of the community plan to preserve the small-scale development model we see to this day.
Fifty years later, history is repeating itself with Mayor Faulconer pushing a proposal called “Complete Communities” to transform housing development in multi-family areas of San Diego, and Ocean Beach in particular.
The current zoning and OB Community Plan limits housing density to four dwellings per 7,000 feet² lot west of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard and two dwellings per lot east of Sunset Cliffs Boulevard. It also limits the building’s total floor area to 70-75% of the lot area. Planners refer to this as the Floor Area Ratio, or FAR. These limitations have been critical in maintaining the development character of Ocean Beach.
The Complete Communities proposal would allow FAR up to 800% and allow as many units that would fit based on the Building Code minimum of 150 feet² per unit. The only real limitations would be setbacks and the 30-feet coastal height limit. And while the 30-feet height limit has been in place for nearly 50 years, it is no longer sacrosanct.
Councilmembers Jen Campbell and Chris Cate are putting forth a ballot measure to remove it in the Midway area. By my calculations, I could cover the entirety of my residential lot, three or four stories up, with over 100 studio units. And in fact, there is nothing in the ordinance to prevent most of it from being operated as an Airbnb hotel.
One caveat is the proposal appears to require the developer to start with a property that fits five or more units under the current zoning. In OB, this generally means a lot merger has to be done first; a simple process. The proposal would also require that affordable housing make up 15-20% of the units, or be provided within 1-mile. The proposal would also apply elsewhere in the city where multifamily zones coincide with “Transit Priority Areas.” (Transit Priority Areas are generally any area within ½ mile of a major bus stop, existing or planned.)
At their June meeting, the Ocean Beach Planning Board voiced strong opposition to the large increase in Floor Area Ratio and density and opposed the off-site exception for affordable housing. Unfortunately, the Planning Board carries less weight these days with city planners, especially amidst new state-level mandates for more density.
If you have an opinion on this Complete Communities plan, please contact your councilmember, mayor, mayoral candidates, and anyone who will listen. It may go before City Council in July for a vote.
For more information on the proposed ordinance, go to sandiego.gov/planning/programs/completecommunities/housingsolutions
For the proposed density map, go to sandiego.gov/sites/default/files/draft_cchs_floor_area_ratio_allowances.pdf
Kevin Hastings is the vice chair of the OB Planning Board. This article is his position and is not intended to represent the position of the board.