Coronado City Councilmember Mike Donovan isn’t an alarmist. Whatever the polar opposite of an alarmist is, that’s Donovan. So when he says he is concerned the City of Coronado may have to construct 1,800 housing units among the four categories of very low, low, moderate and above moderate cost over the next eight years, you get the sense there may be trouble brewing. Add in the characterization voiced by Mayor Richard Bailey near the conclusion of the May 7, 2019, City Council meeting that the program would be ‘catastrophic’ to the city, not much about this concept looks promising.

During a recent interview Donovan said, “The initial San Diego Area Governments (SANDAG) staff recommendation is between 1,100 and 1,800 additional housing units for Coronado. Every 10 years the state tells us how much new housing needs to be constructed in the four categories. They work with metropolitan planning organizations within the state and ours is SANDAG. They receive the allocation from the state and they in turn allocate the numbers to the 18 cities in San Diego County and the County. They got all of those numbers last year. What SANDAG did was create an ad hoc subcommittee, which would establish the criteria for the housing allocation. The chair of the subcommittee is Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear and Mayor Bailey is on the 12-person committee. One of the criteria in allocating the housing numbers is where are the majority of the jobs and another is public transportation. When you look at the Navy and North Island, we have a big local job pool.”

By comparison, in the last 10-year housing cycle, which ran from 2010-2020, Coronado’s new housing target was 50, broken down into 13 very low, 9 low, 9 moderate and 10 above moderate units. Donovan explained, “We got 12 of the 13 very low priced units, based on the program we have with Interfaith Housing and we had some affordable housing during redevelopment. We had zero low income and zero moderate units, but as of the end of last year, we have 317 above moderate units. That gives us a total of 329 new housing units and our allocation was 50. The other thing about Coronado, is that due to it being contained geographically, being a beach community, and affluent, land values don’t lend themselves to developers coming here to build affordable housing.”

In addition to the possible 3,600 percent increase in housing allocation from the last 10-year housing cycle, the state has taken a punitive approach with municipalities if their housing goals aren’t met. “Up until now, the city’s responsibility was not to impede the development of housing by doing things like restricting zoning,” Donovan said. “There can’t be an onerous permitting process and Coronado fully met that. We have no restrictions other than our normal process. Now with the new administration in Sacramento, you have to have these housing units built. The city is responsible for having these units built. First, they can take away your SB 1 Funding, which to Coronado would be $440,000 per year. There is the thought that you can’t punish a city for failing to meeting their housing allocation by taking away transportation money. Already the State of California sued the City of Huntington Beach over some of their housing goal. What is worrying a lot of cities is the State has become more aggressive. It used to be the housing target was a best-efforts approach and don’t stand in the way. Now it’s punitive if you don’t meet your numbers. That’s the concern.”

Another issue would be the need for the City of Coronado to hire staff to create and oversee the new housing construction. In the process, the State is issuing an unfunded mandate.

A fact sheet prepared for the SANDAG by Rich Grunow, Director of Community Development, Redevelopment Services and Housing is instructive. Among the facts he presented to the RHNA Subcommittee are:

Coronado’s primary concern with the RHNA formula is that it would disproportionately impact Coronado due to the inclusion of military jobs and a raw count of bus stops with 15-minute or better intervals.

We strongly believe Coronado is unique in the San Diego Region because no other jurisdiction is as impacted by the presence of a military base within its city limits. Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI) occupies nearly 70 percent of Coronado’s land area, approximately 25 percent of its population, and over 45 percent of its total jobs.

We believe inclusion of NASNI significantly and unreasonably escalates Coronado’s RHNA share, particularly since very few military personnel live off-base in Coronado and the City gets no credit for the Navy’s subsidized housing for active duty sailors.

We also question whether Coronado’s provision of convenient bus service to our residents and tourists has had the unintended consequence of elevating our housing allocation.

Last year, MTS approached us about eliminating several bus stops because they felt several were redundant and unnecessary. The City chose to keep all of the current stops because we want to maximize ridership on our free summer shuttle and to encourage residents to use public transportation.

Bottom line, we don’t think it would be reasonable for a 2.2-square mile City with a civilian population of approximately 19,000 to accommodate up to 1,800 new units and 4,500 residents during the next housing cycle.

SANDAG Associate Public Information Officer Jessica Gonzalez said the next SANDAG RHNA Subcommittee meeting will be held Friday, May 24. “The committee is still working on the formula for the assessment,” Gonzalez said. “There were concerns expressed at the last meeting and they will be discussing the methodology.” Item No. 2 on the meeting agenda is Public Comments/Communications/Member Comments, which would allow members of the public three minutes to present their views on the housing allocation to the subcommittee.

Specifically the agenda item reads, “Regional Housing Needs Assessment Methodology Discussion-The RHNA Subcommittee is asked to discuss the changes to the RHNA Methodology requested by the RHNA Subcommittee and Regional Planning Technical Working Group and provide input on inclusion of the RHNA Methodology in the draft RHNA Plan.”

The meeting will be held May 24 from 12 noon to 1:15 p.m. in SANDAG Conference Room No. 7, located at 401 B Street, Suite 800, San Diego, CA 92101. The next meeting of the subcommittee would be June 28, 2019.

Donovan added, “We’re trying to explain to SANDAG, we certainly support affordable housing, but Coronado with our geography and density-wise we can’t reasonably support the numbers SANDAG staff is coming up with. We have to educate SANDAG why this makes no sense. The fact is if we are required to accept that housing allocation, it would fundamentally change the community and Coronado would never be the same. It would be terrible. Richard Bailey is working to educate the subcommittee and SANDAG. To go from a mandate of 50 housing units to 1,800 is just ridiculous.”

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