Northern News

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A publication of the American Planning Association, California Chapter, Northern Section

Making great communities happen

San Diego looks to scrap residential density limits, use FAR instead

By Antonio Pacheco, Archinect, December 9, 2019

“San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is opening another salvo in his administration’s efforts to address the city’s housing affordability crisis by proposing the ‘Complete Communities Housing Solutions Initiative,’ a scheme that looks beyond simply building new housing to embrace holistic urban development.

“The proposal [would] refocus certain elements of the zoning code to incentivize the development of smaller units, including one-bedroom and studio homes, and by allowing housing developers to offer community amenities that are decoupled from auto-oriented uses.

“Under current metrics, for example, housing projects are measured according to ‘dwelling-units-per-acre’ that dictates an upper limit on the number of homes that can be built on a given parcel relative to a prescribed density level that sometimes conflicts with the size, height, and bulk that might be otherwise allowed by-right on a given site. This approach, according to the city’s staff, generally pushes developers to build larger (and fewer) units.

“Under the new rules, developers would be allowed to switch to ‘floor area ratio,’ a metric that instead places a limit on the amount of area built by a project overall, scrapping the residential density limits [units per acre] in their entirely in specific areas. This means that instead of seeing parcels maxed out at 20 or 100 units per acre, for example, a site will instead be limited by being built to a certain maximum size, say 50,000 or 200,000 square feet. The arrangement will allow developers to be more inventive with the number and types of units within their projects.”

Read the full article here.