The San Diego Housing Commission’s board voted Nov. 13 to enter into exclusive negotiations with Bridge Housing Corporation to further study the proposed development of affordable housing on a five-acre parcel at Famosa and Nimitz boulevards.
SDHC Board’s vote followed the reading of nearly 200 opposition letters from Point Lomans and a group named The Point Loma Recreation Advisory Group. Some residents for months have been contesting the proposed affordable housing project, arguing there is overwhelming support to preserve the long-vacant site as open space in the community.
“We ask the City to reconsider the San Diego Housing Commission's sale of the Famosa Canyon parcel to an out-of-town organization for $800,000 and explore other options for the site,” wrote the PLRAG in a Nov. 12 letter to the City. “We voted unanimously to request that the City negotiate the sale of the Famosa Canyon to Park and Recreation, so that Famosa Canyon remains a passive park and open space.”
Housing project detractors presented a litany of reasons why Famosa Canyon should not be developed. Their arguments ranged from concerns about the physical difficulty of developing the canyon site, to environmental damage that could be caused to wetlands and wildlife, to overdensification of housing in the area and worsening of existing traffic congestion. Opponents also claim the proposed sale of the property for $800,000 is so far under market value that it practically constitutes a “giveaway.”
Following lengthy public written testimony, SDHC board vice chair Ryan Clumpner said: “We have some fundamental disagreements with the bulk of the people who wrote in in opposition. The minority of people who wrote in are acknowledging the reason why we are in the housing crisis we are in. Fortunately, we have seen other communities that had a very different attitude to this.”
Clumpner noted Nov. 13 that there is a public park (Cleator) directly across the street adding there are other parks – Robb Field, Dusty Rhodes and Collier Park – relatively nearby.
Following the Nov. 13 SDHC Commissioner meeting, Point Loma residents Cameron Havlik and Angela Vedder responded to the commission’s decision and comments.
“City government is trying to take away our backyard, which is Famosa Canyon,” said Havlik.” This is not a NIMBY issue. This is the City taking away our ability to just go out and enjoy nature. And the wetlands there is a natural filter for Famosa Slough.”
Havlik noted commissioners were also misinformed because the three parks they mentioned in the area are all used almost exclusively by organized sports groups. Therefore, they are not available to families and children.
“The YMCA is leasing Cleator Park to nonprofits for generating revenue, Robb Field is a regional park dominated by Albion soccer, softball leagues and lacrosse and Dusty Rhodes is used by rugby leagues,” Havlik noted.
“Collier Park is across the busy street from Nimitz Boulevard and is not readily accessible to people and families who live on the other side,” pointed out Vedder. “It just would make more sense for them to figure out a way to put affordable or workforce housing somewhere where it would be more beneficial to the public, closer to transit and shopping. They shouldn’t be putting all this money into a canyon and taking away green space.”
“They (City) haven’t reached out to the community,” claimed Havlik, noting most of the community was unaware of the proposed Famosa land sale. He pointed out those 200 letters of opposition were written in only two days once word got out.
On Nov. 13 at the SDHC commission meeting, Richard Gentry, SDHC president/CEO said of the Famosa project, “We’re not building anything. What we’re coming up with is a plan to build. We’ll bring this back (to SDHC) before anything is done to use this property.”
SDHC commissioner Eugene “Mitch” Mitchell noted the sheer volume of opposition to this project demonstrated that people weren’t grasping that affordable housing is so direly needed.
Discussing the low asking price of $800,000 for the five-acre Famosa site, Commission vice chair Clumpner said, “This is the best deal that we’re going to get as a public agency in the context of wanting this to be affordable housing, and not just market-rate housing.”
“What we’re doing is not a typical price and sell approach here,” concurred Gentry. “We’re developing a relationship with a developer to deliver a product for the City for folks who need affordable housing.”
Board chair Stefanie Benvenuto agreed.
“Affordable housing does not get developed by traditional funding mechanisms,” she said. “Keeping cost of land reasonable is really critical to make sure that we can build housing that is affordable.”
Concluded Havlik: “Our long-term goal is to stop this particular development, and get the property rezoned as dedicated parkland. Then we can work to get it put in with the inventory of the Park and Rec Department. That’s a win-win.”