Saturday, June 22, 2024

Coronado Must Comply with 912-Unit Housing Plan, HCD Says

Alejandro Luengo / Unsplash

Coronado must plan for its mandated 912 additional housing units soon or risk prosecution, state officials say.

After 18 months of noncompliance with the city’s new housing allocation, the matter could be turned over to the state Attorney General, warned a Dec. 14 letter from the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD).

Potential penalties include fines of up to $100,000 per month, loss of state funding, and loss of local land use. The letter gave city officials until Jan. 14 to respond.

‚ÄúThe City will respond to HCD‚Äôs Notice of Violation letter shortly after the new year,‚ÄĚ said Richard Grunow, the city‚Äôs community development director. ‚ÄúWe will provide HCD with an update on our efforts to develop a compliant housing element, and we will invite HCD staff to meet with us in Coronado to discuss how 912 new housing units can be accommodated, given Coronado‚Äôs unique geographic and regulatory constraints.‚ÄĚ

California law mandates that jurisdictions adapt zoning to allow for more housing, an effort to address the statewide housing crisis. The number of units required in each eight-year cycle is determined by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG).

In the current housing cycle, Coronado is slated to zone for 912 new housing units ‚Äď at least half of them for moderate- and low-income earners. This number dwarves previous assessments: In 2010, Coronado was assigned just 50 new units under SANDAG’s regional housing needs assessment (RHNA).

The current cycle‚Äôs end ‚Äď and thus, Coronado‚Äôs deadline for the changes ‚Äď is in 2029.

‚ÄúGiven our small size, built-out parcels and geographic and regulatory constraints, developing the plan has been a thorough and iterative process,‚ÄĚ said Tina Friend, city manager, who reiterated that Coronado intends to work with the state to develop an acceptable plan.

Critics of the plan say that rezoning for that many units would change the character of Coronado, a city of 20,000 people spread across 32.5 square miles. After receiving its assessment in 2020, Coronado attempted to appeal, but was struck down by a population-weighted vote by other members of SANDAG. By a tally vote, the appeal would have been granted.

Coronado and three other municipalities sued, asserting that the weighted votes for the RHNA resulted in a biased plan that didn‚Äôt account for the constraints of smaller cities. SANDAG argued that only lawmakers ‚Äď not courts ‚Äď could overturn RHNA. A Superior Court dismissed the case in June 2022, saying SANDAG was immune from judicial review.

In 2021, the city submitted a plan to zone for 344 new units of housing rather than the full 912, a proposal that the HCD rejected.

‚ÄúJurisdictions without a substantially compliant housing element cannot rely on inconsistency with zoning and general plan standards as a basis for denial of a housing project for very low-, low-, or moderate income households,‚ÄĚ the HCD letter stated.

In fact, state law allows landowners to take advantage of California density bonuses for low-income housing regardless of whether their projects align with city zoning. The Coronado City Council is expected to revise its code to reflect these laws in its January meeting.

Coronado City Planning Commissioner Jon Ryan mentioned in the commission’s Dec. 13 meeting that the U.S. Navy is a potential source of help for the issue. North Island Naval Station comprises 5,000 acres, and Coronado hosts several military housing communities. However, that may not be feasible.

“While it is theoretically possible to meet a portion of Coronado‚Äôs RNHA of 912 units on Navy property, the Navy has not expressed any plans to develop new housing in Coronado in the near future,” Grunow said. “HCD would only accept housing on Navy property if it were likely to be developed during the current eight-year housing cycle.”

Low-income households are divided into low, very low, and extremely low income earners based on how much of the area median income (AMI) they earn. SANDAG slated for 108,036 units total in San Diego County, to be allocated among earners as shown below.

Income GroupPercentage of AMISharePercent of new unitsNumber of units in Coronado
Extremely low income0-3012,38011100
Very low income31-5015,16914128
Low income51-8017,31116146
Moderate income81-12019,31918164
Above moderate income>12143,83741374


In San Diego County, the AMI is $106,900, while the median home price in Coronado is $2.6 million. Households qualifying as the various income earning groups are classified as follows:

Family SizeLow incomeVery low incomeExtremely low income


Megan Kitt
Megan Kitt
Megan has worked as a reporter for more than 10 years, and her work in both print and digital journalism has been published in more than 25 publications worldwide. She is also an award-winning photographer. She holds BA degrees in journalism, English literature and creative writing and an MA degree in creative writing and literature. She believes a quality news publication's purpose is to strengthen a community through informative and connective reporting.Megan is also a mother of three and a Navy spouse. After living around the world both as a journalist and as a military spouse, she immediately fell in love with San Diego and Coronado for her family's long-term home.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: [email protected]

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