San Diego

MTS Should Turn Empty Parking Lots into Affordable Housing: Circulate SD

Circulate SD estimated that underutilized MTS property could support about 8,000 new homes

The Metropolitan Transit Service (MTS) should turn their underutilized parking lots into affordable housing development sites, a group that supports transportation and growth in San Diego said in a report released Wednesday. 

The detailed report called "Real Opportunity," by the group Circulate SD, said MTS has at least 57 acres of property, many of which are underutilized parking lots, that could be turned into developments.

Circulate SD estimated that the property could support about 8,000 new homes and suggests reserving 3,000 of those homes for affordable housing, according to the report. 

"It's all in an effort to get the best and highest use of our property and we're supportive of that," MTS spokesperson Rob Schupp said. 

To come up with these results, the group said they dispatched volunteers throughout the county to count the number of parking spaces that were being used out of the total number available. 

"The data shows that many parking lots have very low utilization rates," the report said. 

Photos sent to NBC 7 from Colin Parent of Circulate SD showed large parking lots in the middle of the day with dozens of empty spots. Most of the properties targeted by Circulate SD are trolley stations in Chula Vista, San Diego and El Cajon. 

Schupp said MTS has been doing their part to aid the affordable housing crisis.

"While the report is encouraging us to do more, I don’t want to leave the viewers with the impression that we haven’t been doing this," "We have been pursuing a development on our property forever."

Property near their Morena/Linda Vista and Grossmont trolley stations have been transformed into housing developments, Schupp said. The transportation service is currently developing a four-story apartment complex in Encanto to support 67 additional affordable housing units.

Schupp said the report is a good opportunity for MTS to look into what property could be good for developments in the future.

"They’re used, they’re just not fully utilized," Schupp said. "They are bigger than what we need right now, so they are good opportunities to put buildings on them."

The report includes a plan for how to ensure parking is not lost at MTS trolley and bus stops because of the new developments. 

While MTS is trying to do their part, Schupp said the maximum potential for development on their property would barely make a dent in the county's affordable housing crisis. 

"Housing is a big issue for all of the San Diego region," Schupp said. "I think the need is like 200,000 units over the next 10 years so MTS can have a role, but it's a very small portion."

Circulate San Diego is a think tank that works with the city to create community planning programs. The group encourages sustainable growth and public and active transportation enhancements, according to their website.

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