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Monday, April 22, 2024



An ADU complex in the Golden Hill neighborhood of San Diego. In the distance is the Coronado Bay bridge over San Diego Harbor. Photo by Adriana Heldiz for CalMatters

GUEST BLOG / By Chris Jennewein, Times of San Diego--San Diego’s innovative accessory dwelling unit program is drawing national recognition for housing affordability — and the wrath of a neighborhood group seeking “responsible development.” 

Last week the city was named a top 10 finalist for the annual Ivory Prize for Housing Affordability, which seeks to recognize “ambitious, feasible and scalable solutions” to housing affordability throughout the nation. But Neighbors For A Better San Diego has appealed to the University of Utah, which administers the prize, complaining that the program is “written by developers for developers” and should not receive an award. 

The city’s Accessory Dwelling Unit Bonus Program allows additional ADUs to be built on a property when those ADUs are designated and guaranteed as affordable housing. “The city has taken ADUs to the next level by allowing homeowners to build additional ADUs on their property, an unprecedented move that allows the city to rapidly increase supply and density of affordable housing,” said Hannah Gable of Ivory Innovations, a nonprofit organization based at the University of Utah. “This innovative model is why the city of San Diego has advanced as a top finalist for this year’s Ivory Prize award. We believe that the city will stand as a model for cities across the country that are trying to tackle rising costs of housing for all Americans.” 

But Neighbors For a Better San Diego argues that bonus ADUs are being build too far from transit, undermining the city’s climate plan, while encouraging “scattered density” in residential neighborhoods and driving up prices for single-family homes. 

 In addition, the group said, increased development via ADUs is “leading to clear-cutting of San Diego’s urban forest in both back and front yards,” creating conditions for future flooding. The group told Ivory Innovations it “strongly recommends that you not award the Ivory Prize to the city of San Diego for its Bonus Accessory Dwelling Unit program.” 

The 2024 Ivory Prize winners will be announced on May 16, and $300,000 in prize money will be distributed between at least three winners selected across the three award categories — construction and design, public policy and regulatory reform, and finance. 

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