Shaky Foundation for City’s Aggressive Growth Plans for University Heights

By Kristin Harms

Growth is inevitable in University Heights—the question is how much will UH grow and where will new housing be built?

If the City’s proposed Community Plan Updates for North Park and Uptown are approved, the number of housing units in University Heights could increase by up to 100% by 2050. SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governments), on the other hand, projects only a 38% increase in housing units in UH by 2050. In fact, SANDAG reduced their population and housing projections for all of San Diego in 2013 “due to increased domestic migration out of the region.”


Since the City relies on SANDAG for housing and population projections for the General Plan and Community Plan updates, what explains the difference between SANDAG’s projections and the City’s aggressive growth plans for UH? The Bonus Density Plan or Incentive Zoning Program introduced by the City in the June 2015 draft of the Community Plan Update provides an explanation. This program would allow developers to “provide public infrastructure and amenities such as parks, plazas, additional public parking within business districts (in exchange) for increased residential density or additional building height.”

While this may sound good in theory, it would undoubtedly be entirely different in practice. As shown in the map below, the City has proposed “density bonuses” for six areas in UH, comprising approximately 167 acres. If the Density Bonus Plan is approved, housing units could increase by up to 8,700 units in these areas from 2010 to 2050. And, if a developer provides affordable housing in these areas, they could receive an additional density bonus of 35%.


In a mature, built-out neighborhood like UH, it is difficult to imagine what “amenities” could possibly compensate for such a significant increase in density and all the resulting traffic, parking, and public safety problems. And the City has not provided any rational basis for allowing such inflated growth through the Density Bonus Plan.

The community has until December 1, 2015 to provide comments to the City on the proposed Community Plan updates for North Park and Uptown, which include University Heights. For a sample letter, please click here.

If you missed the detailed presentation provided by community advocates Kristin Harms and Bill Ellig, you may watch it below or download the slides here: