The precedent set in the case could have implications for builders
A court case involving a new apartment complex going up in Bankers Hill might have statewide implications for builders that include subsidized units in their projects.
A state appeals court ruled last month that the new luxury 525 Olive building overlooking Balboa Park was allowed to be 25 percent taller after it agreed to include 18 subsidized apartments for low-income residents. The ruling came as a result of community groups suing the project over its height. The court took it a step further this week by certifying the ruling as precedent for all of California, at the insistence of the statewide California Building Industry Association and its Bay Area affiliate, as first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.
For San Diego, the ruling might not be as noticeable as in the rest of the state. The city has aggressively pursued zoning changes and density bonuses for a decade during the building boom downtown. The ruling will likely now clear the way and speed up proposed projects that often face legal action, said Nathan Moeder, a San Diego housing analyst.
The California law that allows for extra height if subsidized units are included has been on the books since 1979. However, Moeder said it is frequently challenged in courts by neighborhoods that oppose taller buildings.
“It’s like saying: Can we all just save ourselves a step of a lawsuit and going through the appeal process for a year or two years,” he said. “Each time this comes up, the state can now say: This was already shot down. There’s precedent. You can’t sue for this reason.”
The dispute started when the developer of the 20-story 325 Olive was sued over its height by community groups Bankers Hill 150 and the Bankers Hill/Park West Community Association. In their lawsuit, against developer Greystar and the city, the groups argued the project would block views, cast shade on areas of Balboa Park, was too close to the street and didn’t fit well into the community.
By including the 18 subsidized units, Greystar was able to build about 189 feet taller than what was allowed under city law.
The project is a partnership between Greystar and St. Paul’s Cathedral. The church decided in late 2011 to sell part of its land to a developer to ensure its long-term financial security.
After an original deal fell through, it partnered with Greystar in 2017.
Opposition to the project formed quickly, and opponents held an “umbrella demonstration” in 2019 to illustrate shade that would fall on Balboa Park. The San Diego City Council unanimously approved the tower despite opposition in January 2019, leading the community to file a lawsuit. That was unsuccessful, leading the group to file the unsuccessful appeal.
Efforts to reach the lawyer representing the community group, Everett DeLano, were unsuccessful. However, he told The Associated Press, the group had not decided if it would take the next step to appeal to the California Supreme Court. “It seems to be saying that if you have a density-bonus project, you can do whatever you want,” he told The Associated Press.
The 204-unit tower has started pre-leasing with an eye toward opening in April. Greystar said the project cost about $100.2 million and starting rents are expected to be around $2,440 a month. Citing its proximity to Balboa Park, Greystar marketing materials call it “San Diego’s answer to New York’s Central Park living.”
The original article can be found HERE