San Diego

Residents Weigh in on Storefront-to-Housing Conversions

A new solution for San Diego’s housing crisis may lie within the change of a single floor in mixed-used development projects throughout the city.

On Tuesday, the San Diego City Council approved a change that would allow ground-level storefronts to be used as housing to meet the city’s high demand for 54,000 additional units by 2020.

Building owners now have the option to convert any unused ground-floor storefronts into residences to increase housing availability and reduce neighborhood blight.

Areas like University Heights and Normal Heights may see the biggest impact by the updated housing code, though some residents are divided on whether  the change will work.

“If you don't fill the entire area with businesses, why wouldn't you open it up for people to live there?” said resident Carlos Ardilo.

With 24,172 affordable housing units available in a city populated by 1,391,676 people, San Diego is one of the least affordable cities for housing in the nation, according to the city’s inventory report.

And while some agree there needs to be more affordable housing for low income San Diegans first, others believe there should be more affordable housing for all San Diegans.

“I think they should increase the number of apartments that are available for different (economic) brackets, yes, definitely,” said resident Ricardo Delatore.

Though in areas like the East Village, Barrio Logan, University Heights, and Normal Heights, it might be difficult to find empty storefronts to meet the high demand.

Additionally, the storefronts must be empty for at least six months, and the developer must apply for a neighborhood permit to qualify.

“It could be unfair to certain small business owners. They can make it harder for them to pursue their business,” said Justin Larue from Normal Heights’ Level 1 Hair Studio, which has been in a mixed-used space for seven years.

The update to the housing code was first introduced by former Councilmember David Alvarez and Councilmember Scott Sherman. It will remain in effect for 10 years.

Sherman’s staff told NBC 7 there were no numbers on how many housing units this update could provide.

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