Why Are There No Basements In San Diego Homes?

Experts Say Local Homes Could Have Basements If There Was Demand

There are many theories as to why San Diego homes do not have what many other houses in the U.S. have -- basements.

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While some believe earthquakes, the water table, or the type of soil in San Diego are reasons local houses don't have basements, 10News has learned the San Diego area's warm, mild weather is the actual reason.

"You get a saturated soil, then have it expand 9 percent under your house, you're house is shifting, it starts cracking, so the way you solve that problem is to dig a big basement," explains geologist Dr. Pat Abbott.

In a warm climate like San Diego, frost -- if any -- only goes up to about a foot deep.

However, in places like the Northeast part of the country, it can go more than 9 feet down. A basement with retaining walls and drainage protects the house from the freezing and thawing soil.

"Coming from the East, we relied on our basements," said La Jolla resident Rochelle Treger.

In fact, basements are used for much more than storage in states like Maryland, Pennsylvania and Colorado; they are comfortable living spaces.

"Around here, I think it's kind of hard to find a house with a basement," said San Diego resident Bob Webster.

Coldwell Banker realtor Shea Ealey said in 16 years of combined experience with his business partner, they've never seen a home with a basement.

10News found something like a basement on Kew Terrace in South Park. It's a dirt floor storage cellar with outdoor access, more common in older homes like this one, which was built in 1945.

Basements can be built in San Diego, but Abbott told 10News, "Economics pretty well dictates to not dig a basement."

10News learned a no-frills, storage-only basement under a 2,000-square-foot house could cost an extra $50,000 to $80,000. That extra cost is why many homeowners end up storing items in the garage.

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