housing-by ll

Until very recently, the City of San Diego enforced several ordinances that threatened rental property in the City – primarily in the area surrounding San Diego State University.
Beginning in 2008, for any house that was occupied by six or more adults, a Residential High Occupancy Permit (RHOP) was required at a cost of $1,000 per year. In order to obtain the permit, parking plans were required to be submitted to the City that demonstrated enough off-street parking to accommodate all but one adult.

In 2017, another ordinance was passed to limit the number of bedrooms in the College Area and city-wide, change the definition of a bedroom, and place further limits on property owners to deter them from creating student housing. The need for these ordinances to address noise, parking, trash, and other nuisances in the College Area surrounding San Diego State, was frequently cited by college area neighbors. However, with minor exceptions, the ordinances address ALL houses in the City of San Diego – whether occupied by renters or by homeowners. With a quick phone call of complaint from an unhappy neighbor, the City would investigate the number of people residing in a house – by inspecting the interior of the home and counting beds and making other observations to attempt to determine if more than five adults were residing in the residence.

If the City deemed the house to be housing more than five adults, a fine of $1,000 was levied with threats of additional penalty if the number was not reduced to five adults only for extended non-compliance.

SDCAA and rental property owners frequently shared concerns with the ordinances with City Council. In addition to taking away the rights of property owners, this ordinance also threatened to create Fair Housing Violations in the rental of houses. With no “law” or “code” governing the number of people who can reside in a dwelling in the State of California, Landlords have typically adopted a guideline used by the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) which indicates a use of two people per bedroom plus one person. To limit the number of people in a four- bedroom house to five people would be a matter of consternation and could put the owner of the rental property in jeopardy. Moreover, the enforcement of the ordinance was heavily weighted on rental properties despite be applicable to all single-family homes.

The good news is that in July of this year, a temporary restraining order was placed preventing enforcement of the RHOP and the ordinance passed in 2017 – this after the College Area Renters and Landlords Association filed suit asking the City to rescind this unfair legislation. The judge in the case essentially stated that if the city wants to address problems associated with overcrowded detached homes, it should do so with a law that applies “evenly to all households.” A hearing is now scheduled for December of this year…and it is hoped that the injunction be made permanent.

In a time of scarce housing and rising costs, we are grateful to Judge Styn for placing the injunction and hope that the hearing in December permanently stops the City’s ability to force low occupancy in any rental. Controlling parking can be done with limited parking permits and appropriate patrol – other ordinances exist to help control trash and noise – whether renter or homeowner occupied. Whether multi-generational living or roommates, let’s provide property owners some dignity and support.


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