NewsTeam 10 Investigates


Residents in San Diego's College Area fight back against more 'granny flats,' cite noise, safety concerns

Posted at 1:36 PM, Jan 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-13 22:19:59-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Homeowners in San Diego’s College Area are outraged after learning that developers are planning to put up several more Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) in their neighborhood.

While developers are calling it a solution to the housing crisis, neighbors call it a greedy move that'll destroy the community.

On a morning this past December, homeowners came together for an emergency meeting to figure out how to fight all the ADUs, or "granny flats," that are expected to be built nearby.

"It shows me that this is affecting people," said homeowner Eric Rosenzweig, who organized the community meeting.

Neighbor Nicki Vedenoja added, "My street is very small. My kids play basketball in the street. We've lived there since I was pregnant with my daughter and I'm nervous [about] the increased density, traffic, parking, etcetera."

"There's got to be a better way," said Rosenzweig.

The meeting was organized after Rosenzweig learned that applications had been submitted for two nearby properties to be cut up and turned into ADUs. The lot behind him on Manchester Road could be turned into seven ADUs. Another lot across the street could be turned into six ADUs.

"We are not meant to accommodate that many more people," said Vedenoja.

Their fears are real, saying that increased density could backfire and cause parking, noise, safety, and security problems.

Under a controversial new California law that took effect this year, owners can splice up their single-family home lot into to two duplexes with two units each for a total of four ADUs.

In San Diego, the city adopted an ordinance in 2020 that was meant to incentivize more affordable housing in high-transit hubs like the College Area, near the trolley, by allowing an owner to build an unlimited number of regular ADUs so long as that owner also builds an equal number of affordable ADUs. They're reportedly not required to provide parking or have setbacks from the property lines.

The two addresses that Rosenzweig's most concerned with will have some affordable housing ADUs, but he and others argue these are really just apartment complexes.

"Obviously, we're aware of the community's concerns," said Caitlin Bigelow, CEO and co-founder of Maxable Space. Her company is developing the ADUs that Rosenzweig is concerned with.

Bigelow said that she was not authorized to give ABC 10News the property owners' contact information.

According to the city, the owners are Housing Solutions, LLC and Housing Solutions III LLC, but it's hard to track down a real person. There are no listed phone numbers; there's only the same P.O. Box in Del Mar.

State documents were linked to another company which told ABC 10News that it has no involvement with ownership.

ABC 10News tracked down an attorney who's linked to the owners, who wrote in part, "If you do not hear back from me or my client in the next 24 hours, you may assume they have ‘no comment.’”

ABC 10News never heard back.

Bigelow views ADUs as an added solution to the housing crisis that doesn't rely on taxpayer dollars and opens the market to renters.

"What is going to happen to our communities [and] to our economy when teachers and dental assistants and restaurant employees and speech pathologists can't afford to live in the city that they call home? To me, that's the real pressing question that we need to be asking," she told ABC 10News.

"San Diego State [University] students need a place to live, and they want to live close and that is understandable and important from an educational opportunity perspective and [from] a climate action perspective," said San Diego City Council President and District 9 Councilmember Sean Elo-Rivera.

He said that he sees ADUs as a tool to alleviate the housing shortage, so long as it's done responsibly.

"I don't think the accessory dwelling unit policy is perfect. We've made recommendations that I think would strengthen it. Some of those, I think, will be adopted in the near future," Elo-Rivera added.

Last fall, he sought some aggressive revisions to the city's policy, like increasing ADU affordability.

The city's Planning Commission is endorsing more modest revisions, like adding development fees, property line setbacks and ensuring tree preservation.

"I just don't think [that] this is the spot for increased density," said Vedenoja.

The College Area homeowners say that they agree that there needs to be affordable housing, but they question developers' motives, believing that they're profit-driven.

Bigelow responded, "I think that developers tend to get a bad rap of, 'Oh, it's profit-driven' but I think [that] most of us work for a living.”

Neighbors for a Better San Diego is a group that's circulating a petition with thousands of signatures, calling for an immediate one-year moratorium on the city code that allows for unlimited bonus ADUs.

The petition can be viewed at