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Deregulating San Diego

The Sustainable Develpment Area

In San Diego, "Sustainable Development" really means "sustaining the development industry"
SDA map with caption.png

Above: Close-up of Sustainable Development Area (in orange).

To view the City's full interactive SDA map, click HERE.

The un-Sustainable Development Area


Mayor Gloria has opened up over half of San Diego's residential parcels to developers, permitting high-density development on these lots regardless of the underlying zoning. This includes high-risk fire and environmentally sensitive areas.


The mayor's Planning Department has dubbed this area the Sustainable Development Area (SDA). As detailed in previous installments, the SDA is used to permit Bonus ADUs and Complete Communities projects, with the justification that these projects are creating housing near jobs and transit.


The actual definition of the SDA undermines these objectives because it uses a walking distance of one mile away from transit to define its borders — including future transit stops that may never exist.


This one-mile distance contradicts federal, state, local, and academic studies showing that almost all transit users who walk to transit live within a half-mile walking distance. Within the county of San Diego, 92% of transit users live less than a half-mile from transit.


As a result of the SDA’s unjustified expansion of the (already overly-expansive) Transit Priority Area, approximately 5,224 more acres as far away as possible from transit can now be developed with unlimited accessory dwelling units, Complete Communities towers, and other high-density programs.

The Lawsuit

To fight this absurdity, Neighbors For A Better San Diego is supporting a lawsuit that challenges the City's failure to provide a proper environmental analysis of the Sustainable Development Area. Click HERE to read the lawsuit filing. To help us fund this effort, please consider donating by clicking HERE.


The preliminary discovery work (administrative record) has been completed, and the next step is for the attorneys to submit a brief arguing why the City’s adoption of the SDA is invalid. The opening brief will be submitted on or before August 5, with the expectation of a hearing in late November. A win could force the city to suspend the permitting of projects under the SDA. This would provide a significant first step toward promoting responsible, data-driven, transit-oriented planning and development for San Diego.


Coincidentally, the SDA was contrived by City Planners shortly after the City mistakenly approved a Complete Communities tower outside the TPA boundaries where it should not have been permitted. The project was conveniently deemed legal once the SDA kicked in because it landed within the new one-mile boundary.


The Planning Department relies on residents thinking they won’t be affected by these regulations, even though they target single-family neighborhoods. The Sustainable Development Area is another ploy to bypass purposeful zoning limitations and open up more single-family neighborhoods and low-density, multi-family transition zones to investors for random, excessive density.

The Map

If you're unsure whether yours is among the >50% of San Diego residential properties included in the SDA, click HERE to view the City's interactive map.

Read our other installments of "Deregulationg San Diego":

Deregulating San Diego: Complete Communities

Deregulating San Diego: SB 10 and Missing Middle Housing

Deregulating San Diego: The Bonus ADU Program

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Neighbors For A Better San Diego is a grassroots organization formed to bring homeowners back into the discussion of urban development. We seek the creation of policies that benefit homeowners, renters, small businesses, and other stakeholders.

We are all volunteers, but our efforts require funding, so please consider donating to help our cause.

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