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Proposed ordinances could mean hefty fines and less housing for SDSU students

Kelly Smiley, Photo Editor

Kelly Smiley, Photo Editor

by Caitlynne Leary and Chandler Atkins

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The San Diego District 9 office, led by City Council President Pro Tem Marti Emerald, is proposing two ordinances to the City Council that will affect the community near San Diego State.

These two ordinances will be voted on at the city council meeting on Nov. 14 at the City Administration Building, in downtown San Diego.

The College Area Community Character Preservation Ordinance

The College Area Community Character Preservation Ordinance deals with high occupancy single family dwelling units. It would limit the maximum amount of bedrooms and allowable off-street parking spaces.

Citywide, houses with less than 10,000-square-feet will be limited to six bedrooms and four off-street parking spots. Houses over that square-footage will be limited to six off-street parking spaces.

Within the college area, houses less than 10,000-square-feet will be limited to five bedrooms and six bedrooms for houses over that square footage. Also, the bedrooms can only account for 60 percent of total floor space.

This ordinance specifically targets the increase of “mini-dorms” around the area which have been seen since 2007.

According to the college area website, a “mini-dorm” refers to houses in the area with added bedrooms that are individually rented to students. The site also refers to these types of houses as “nuisance residential property.”

The SDSU website reports there are over 33,000 enrolled students with more than 85 percent of them living off-campus. NBC San Diego reported that there are approximately 700 “mini-dorms” surrounding SDSU.

Marti Emerald, the San Diego city council president, who is for the Community Character Preservation Ordinance, addressed the “mini-dorm” situation at the city council meeting on Jan. 12, 2016.

“At my office I know the council president’s office and development services are working on what we’re calling an overlay zone to help put an end to future remodels of these ‘mini-dorms,’” Emerald said.

On Oct. 13, the planning commission reviewed the high occupancy dwelling ordinance.

Dylan Colliflower, the Associated Students vice president of external relations, said he urged the commission to withhold their recommendation for approval due to the impact it will have on SDSU students and community members.

Basically this ordinance would only go to making housing less affordable for students.”

— Dylan Colliflower, VP of External Relations

“The mission of the CSU and SDSU is to provide an affordable and accessible education,” he said. “However, the cost of living in the college area has increased exponentially in the past three years since I have been here and over the past 10 years with the rise of our school switching from a commuter school to a more residential school.”

Colliflower said the practice of students living in “mini-dorms” is born out of necessity because they cannot afford the high rent for the limited amount of apartments in the SDSU area.

“Basically this ordinance would only go to making housing less affordable for students,” he said.

The commission voted 4 to 1 to recommend the city council approves the ordinance.

Increased Code Enforcement Administrative Civil Penalties Ordinance

The second focus in the proposal is the Increased Code Enforcement Administrative Civil Penalties Ordinance, which would raise the maximum fine per person from $2,500 to $10,000 per violation. For a structure, the maximum allowable charge would increase from $250,000 to $400,000 per day.

If you don’t want to pay a big, fat fine then be a better neighbor.”

— City Council District 9 Pro Tem President Marti Emerald

This means that a single person can be charged up to $10,000 for a violation such as a second noise complaint within 30 days, and a single house can be charged up to $400,000 collectively.

“If you don’t want to pay a big, fat fine then be a better neighbor,” Emerald said at the Rules Committee meeting on Sept. 28 when discussing the fine increase.

Previous drafts of the proposal included a minimum fine of $10,000 for properties deemed a “public nuisance” for repeated complaints.

In a statement made via email, Emerald said the ordinances are to preserve community character across the city.

“I would like to make it abundantly clear that I consider students a welcome and valued part of the community,” she said in an email. “I believe the city needs to do a better job of ensuring adequate housing for all San Diego residents, and the California State University system needs to do its part.”

Those who wish to voice their opinion about the proposal can attend the city council in November.

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3 Comments

3 Responses to “Proposed ordinances could mean hefty fines and less housing for SDSU students”

  1. Andrew on October 19th, 2016 12:37 pm

    SDSU wants to expand out but doesn’t care about the impact. They need to wait until there is an adequate number of on-campus living options and consider the impact that expanding has on other factors (traffic, utility capacity, zoning, etc). Instead of planning correctly, SDSU expects students to double up to rooms in single-family residential dwellings. This spreads the problem out rather than addressing it through smart long-term growth planning. I think this is the intent of Marti Emerald’s initiative.

  2. Susan on October 24th, 2016 3:08 pm

    Thanks for the article which gets most of the facts right. As a resident of the College Area for ovet 40 years, I’d like SDSU students to know more.

    Home owner residents are not against rental houses for students in our community, if the students can reciprocate good neighborly behavior. We aren’t even against investors buying houses to rent to students, if they maintain the property and encourage students to be good community members. I live close to many college students who are great neighbors.

    What the College Area community IS opposed to is investors degradating a single-family home by adding on 5, 6, 7 or more bedrooms, eliminating common living space and paving the backyard for parking and renting to 10+ students. Our neighborhoods and the corresponding infrastructure were not designed to accommodate such high numbers of residents on a single property.

    We’re not upset with the students but rather the unscrupulous investors who have been taking advantage of them as much as the community members.
    The investors have built mini-apartments/”Mini-dorms ” with total lack of concern for the community or its residents, whomever they may be.

    As far as available housing goes there are other factors to consider.
    SDSU may soon require sophomores to live on campus, opening up a vast supply of available living options in the area.

    Also, the apartments that are within our area are extremely over-priced! None of the projected new apartment projects being pushed for this area will be “affordable housing. ” This is key.
    While there may he available housing, very little of it, if any, is affordable. I suggest a student housing union to address an over-priced market in the College Area.

    There is also the trolley, which was stationed at SDSU to be able to provide students many options of living in Mission Valley, La Mesa and many other expanded communities along its tracks.

    I also know many students want to live in other areas of our diverse and beautiful city. The beaches, Little Italy, Hillcrest, East Village just to name a few, offer varied living experiences for students of all types and ages.

    College Area long-term residents are trying to help maintain the qualityof life in our neighborhoods through these new ordinances. I know my college student neighbors enjoy the quiet street we live on, being able to sleep undisturbed, have pets, and enjoy a nice backyard. All the neighbors do. We simply hope to keep the existing homes intact so that they are available for all. Mini-apartments/mega-dorms don’t belong in our single-family neighborhoods.

  3. Linda Smith on October 30th, 2016 5:17 pm

    Just want to point out an inaccuracy in your article. This isn’t about houses of 10,000 square feet, but, 10,000 square foot lots. Also, I don’t think there are any houses of that size in our neighborhood. I agree, I’ve had good luck with students who live near me (now), but I empathize with my neighbor who lives next to a former two bedroom house that had four bedrooms added with two students in each room. He said that he’s lived in his house for over twenty years, and now he goes to sleep with twelve strangers sleeping ten feet from his bedroom window. And, I might add, the students change often: every term, or every year, or, at best 4 years.

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