CAHSD, an organization of developers and other involved in the condominium conversion business, is intervening in the lawsuit to prevent collusion between the Office of the City Attorney and the plaintiffs which would harm the City and the condominium conversion industry.
Although the lawsuit is styled as an action against the City (Affordable Housing Coalition of San Diego County, et al. v. City of San Diego, Case No. GIC 857723), it appears that the basis for it was a report recently issued by the City Attorney which asserted that the City’s Development Services Department has been violating CEQA by determining that condominium conversion projects are exempt from the CEQA. This determination was based on a state regulation acknowledging that such projects do not have any significant impact on the environment. The lawsuit seeks to prohibit the City from invoking that exemption.
By its intervention in the lawsuit, CAHSD can now vigorously defend the City’s current practices, which are in compliance with applicable CEQA regulations because CEQA is concerned with impacts to the physical environment, and condominium conversions do not impact the physical environment.
CAHSD supports the condominium conversion industry and the positive impact it has had on San Diego’s housing market. The typical conversion home in San Diego sells for approximately $300,000, making the American dream of homeownership affordable to thousands of families and individuals who would otherwise be priced out of the market. The average newly constructed condominium and single-family home in San Diego cost approximately $500,000 and $900,000, respectively. Mayor Jerry Sanders has acknowledged that condo conversions can help solve San Diego’s shortage of affordable housing.
If plaintiffs are successful, the City would be prohibited from invoking an appropriate and applicable exemption, and would be obligated to conduct extensive environmental analysis that would add a minimum of six months—and extensive additional costs—onto the condo conversion process. This would impede the production of affordable for-sale units into the regional market, and would increase the costs of such housing.
“CAHSD’s intervention in this case is essential not only to protect the interests of the developers of condo conversion projects, but also the interests of those who seek an affordable means of attaining homeownership—an increasingly unobtainable goal in San Diego,” said CAHSD representative Jeremy Cowan, who submitted a declaration to the court in support of the application to intervene.
Procopio attorney Evelyn F. Heidelberg, who represents CAHSD in this action, emphasized the importance of CAHSD’s intervention.
“The City Attorney’s stated position against the City’s current practices suggests that the City Attorney will not vigorously defend the City in this action—even if the mayor and city council oppose the relief sought by the plaintiffs in this action,” she said. “That presents the potential for a settlement which harms the City and the public. CAHSD has intervened to prevent the plaintiffs and the City Attorney from imposing their policies on the City and thereby limiting the City’s ability to support the condo conversion industry’s goal of providing affordable homes to San Diego residents.”