San Diego

Towering Residential Project in Bankers Hill Gets Unanimous OK

The San Diego City Council unanimously approved a 20-story apartment tower project casting a shadow, literally and figuratively, on some residents in Bankers Hill.

The plan calls for demolishing an old 16-unit complex right next to St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Olive Street between 5th and 6th avenues in favor of a 223-foot tower with 18 affordable housing units on site.

Residents of the neighborhood have been split over the project. Earlier this month, opponents protested the proposal using umbrellas to show how the new building would cast a shadow over Balboa Park.

“This is Godzilla. This is a rogue project,” Leo Wilson said. He’s been fighting the project alongside Bankers Hill 150, a community group that wants developers to adhere to the 150-foot height limit recommended by community planners.

“There's a novel that was called 'Darkness At Noon.' That's what going to happen here,” he said.

Wilson and others are concerned “6th and Olive” won't truly address affordable housing despite 18 of its more than 200 units being earmarked for that purpose.

“Let’s be serious. They're giving this development 70 extra feet – a massive amount more space. Even with 18 units, there should be 30 or 40 more affordable units,” he argued.

San Diegan Mark Kaupp is excited about what the building will do for the city’s skyline.

“I'd love for the whole stretch along the park to look like New York right along Central Park. That would be amazing,” he said.

The City Council’s unanimous vote comes two weeks after Mayor Kevin Faulconer's State of the City Address in which he pushed for more high-density, affordable housing projects.

Councilman Chris Ward, who represents Bankers Hill, noted that excessive shade was a concern but it wasn’t cause enough to vote against the project.

Despite the unanimous vote, the developers of 6th and Olive could find themselves in court. That’s because opponents believe there were environmental review processes that may not have been followed.

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