SAN DIEGO – A local organization is fighting back against a housing plan passed by the San Diego City Council last month. That ordinance would add more housing within a mile of transit stations.

“It spreads density around, it’s not a responsible approach to urban planning,” said Tom Mullaney with Livable San Diego, who is spearheading the newly filed lawsuit against the City of San Diego.

He claims the city is pursuing high density housing without proper planning.

When I say it’s adding density everywhere, it’s really adding density everywhere,” Mullaney shared.

The challenge comes after council’s five to four vote of an ordinance back in February of “Sustainable Development Areas,” otherwise known as “SDA’s.” It allows for multi-unit construction up to one mile from transits, instead of half a mile. Mullaney worries the move could have adverse consequences.

“This is going to result in fewer people using mass transit because the developers would build farther away. They will build where land is cheaper, so this is the anti-transit project that the city is approving,” Mullaney explained.

Meanwhile, Jesse O’Sullivan with Circulate San Diego, a transportation-based nonprofit says otherwise.

It’s true that not everybody who lives in a sustainable development area is going to take transit, but those programs apply in more compact neighborhoods that are closer to jobs and other amenities. Even people who drive will be driving shorter distances which is good for our greenhouse gas emissions and good for traffic,” O’Sullivan said.

FOX 5 spoke to Council President Sean Elo-Rivera after the February vote who said the move could add an additional tens of thousands of new housing units over the next 10 years and could be a step forward in solving the city’s housing crisis.

“It has the potential to be a big change but we need to make it easier to build housing in San Diego. We are where we are with sky high rent with folks falling at a rate far faster than we can get folks back into housing,” Elo-Rivera said. 

The lawsuit is aimed at putting a hold on any future projects under the SDA program. FOX 5 reached out to city officials for comment who say they are unable to speak to any pending litigation at this time, but they did issue FOX 5 this statement:

“The new definition of Sustainable Development Area aligns development with the City’s Climate Action Plan goals to expand housing near transit so more people can bike, walk, roll or take transit to their work, home, shopping and other places of enjoyment within their community. At the same time, it furthers fair and affordable housing opportunities in our city that desperately needs it.”

Heidi Vonblum, City of San Diego, Planning Director