Fear of plane crash could increase your rent

Posted at 6:30 AM, Mar 30, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-30 14:56:59-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Rent increases are continuing to hammer San Diegans,  and an obscure law may be pushing them even higher.

The average rent price in San Diego County is now nearly $1,750 a month. One key reason -- there aren't enough apartments to meet the high demand. Additionally, one law could be keeping developers from building some of that much-needed housing.

Lori Fritzer said she'd like to see more of those units. Her rent just rose $100 a month.

"It's a concern of mine that it will keep going up unless we get more apartments in the area," she said. 

Enter local developer Bob Burkett. He'd like to build eight more apartments in the heart of Fritzer's Point Loma neighborhood. City zoning code says he should be able to build that many more on his land, but he's only allowed to add six because of the planes flying over.

"They usually start at about 6:30 in the morning and you just get used to it," Fritzer said. "It's called the Point Loma Pause."

But noise has nothing to do with limiting Burkett's project to six apartments instead of eight. It's all about the unthinkable -- minimizing casualties in the event of a plane crash. 

"More probable driving down the road, you're distracted by your TV screen, or somebody with DUI," Burkett said.

The chances may be small, but last month, three people died after a small plane crashed into a Riverside County home shortly takeoff. 

The state wants to minimize harm in the event that happens again. California law requires the city to follow what's called an Airport Land Use Compatibility Plan, instead of its own zoning. 

The document restricts development in neighborhoods near 16 airports in the county, so while two fewer units on Burkett's land may not sound like much, it adds up - to lower supply, and ultimately higher rent. 

"I have to listen to the city officials complain about the cost of housing, and they just don't realize the arbitrary bureaucratic decisions impact the cost of housing greatly," Burkett said. 

Burkett could appeal the airport zoning rules to the San Diego City Council, but it requires a two-thirds vote, said Ed Gowens, a senior planner at the San Diego Airport Authority.

Burkett says he's not sure he's willing to take the fight that far. 

Fritzer, a lifelong Point Loma resident, says she's more worried about the rent going up, than a plane coming down.

"You grow up with it and you just get used to it," she said. "I never think about it."