Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta and Department of Housing and Community Development Director Gustavo Velasquez on Oct. 20 said Coronado’s recent approval for 912 new housing units was part of a settlement with the state for violating California’s Housing Element Law.

The agreement is in the form of a proposed stipulated judgment and must be approved by a court, according to the attorney general’s office.

“Every single city and county in the state will be held accountable for building their fair share of housing. The state is doing more than ever to streamline construction, and we will continue working with communities to build more housing, faster in order to support Californians.”  Newsom said in a statement.

The Coronado City Council, under state pressure to fulfill a California mandate to construct new homes because of the state’s housing crisis, voted unanimously to add 912 housing units on Oct. 17. The city faced steep fines had it not complied.

That meeting attracted an overflow crowd of residents with many opposed to the deal.

But Bonta said Coronado has “wisely chosen to collaborate” with the state after fighting the mandate for several years.

The housing crisis we are facing in California is enormous, and the only way we can tackle it is if every local government follows the law and builds its fair share of housing.”

-Attorney General Rob Bonta.

“There’s no question that this moment is long overdue — I want to thank the current Coronado City Council for finally doing the right thing,” Bonta said. “The housing crisis we are facing in California is enormous, and the only way we can tackle it is if every local government follows the law and builds its fair share of housing.”

The attorney general added: “If we could get it done in Coronado, an island city where a military base and a port sits on more than half of it, we can get it done elsewhere, too.”

What’s in the settlement

  • The city will adopt a compliant housing element by no later than April 16, 2024. 
  • Coronado must modernize its zoning code and local coastal plan by May 7, 2024 in order to meet the housing targets set forth in its compliant housing element.
  • The state agrees that the 374 planned housing units on the Naval Amphibious Base Coronado can be credited towards the City of Coronado’s 912 units, based on the Navy’s current plans.
  • The city agrees to comply with the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing statute, which requires local governments to take meaningful actions that overcome patterns of segregation and foster inclusive communities, free from barriers that restrict access to opportunity based on protected characteristics.
  • The city acknowledges that, until the time it adopts a substantially compliant housing element, it will not deny housing projects on the basis of zoning or general plan inconsistencies.
  • If the city fails to abide by the settlement, it may lose its authority to approve or deny certain types of development. Additionally, monetary penalties will be imposed if Coronado remains noncompliant 12 months after the effective date of the stipulated judgment.

Community members not happy

Many community members at the recent city council meeting said they were upset at the lack of notice from an Oct. 12 special meeting where city staff first outlined where the new homes could be built in Coronado, while others said the new homes would increase traffic and hurt the city.

And one area – owned by the Coronado Unified School District at 201 Sixth St. – has become a key hotspot.

The district on Oct. 19 issued a statement saying its governing board has not discussed or considered selling the property, and the city council’s action has “no influence on the current or future plans for CUSD and carries no authority.”

Here are the new housing locations

Coronado for more than two years had fought the state to have additional low-income homes in the island community.

However, after numerous political and legal losses including the settlement, City Manager Tina Friend and other staff have laid out 10 sites for new homes that now need state approval.

They are:

*Christ Church.

*A city owned property on 517 Orange Ave.

*El Dorado Square.

*Crown Shops.

*The Smart & Final center.

*The 2nd Street parking lot.

*Bayside Apartments.

*The Coronado Police Department.

*A former elementary school on 6th Street.

*Navy Housing on 3682 Tulagi Road. 

Coronado under state mandate

The state is requiring Coronado and other California municipalities to add low-to moderate-income homes as housing prices have skyrocketed in recent years and higher interest rates have made it more challenging to purchase a house.

The city is not required under the state mandate to build the housing units.

Under the state’s Housing Element Law, every city and county in California must periodically update its housing plan to meet its Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) – the municipality’s fair share of regional and statewide housing needs, according to Newsom’s office.

State officials say RHNA is a crucial tool for building housing for moderate-, low-, and very low-income Californians.

However, the city must ensure sufficient land is available to accommodate the assigned units so that developers can come in to build on the designated areas, city officials have said.

Residents came with disagreements on where the housing would be built at the Coronado City Council meeting on Oct. 18. Staff photo by Madeline Yang.

Proponents in Coronado say the plan is a good idea as teachers, police officers, firefighters, military personnel and public employees may be able to live where they work.

However, opponents say the new homes will increase traffic, already a major problem in town, and create safety problems.

CUSD: Plan has no influence on district

Of the sites slated for new homes, the proposed Site 9 at 201 Sixth Street brought most of the public debate at the city council meeting.

Site 9 is owned by the Coronado School District and currently zoned for civic use and houses a childcare and Pre-K center.

The city wants to rezone that property to have 34 moderate-income units and 67 lower- income units, according to city records. 

The district in a press release said it “recognizes and respects” the city’s efforts to complete its state-mandated housing proposal, but “this proposal has no influence on the current or future plans for CUSD and carries no authority or action.”

“While we acknowledge the challenges faced by the City of Coronado, we would like to reassure our community that our focus remains, as always, on the safety and success of our students,” the district said.

Community’s input on the plan

Meanwhile, a couple residents at the city council meeting stated their support for the additional units. 

Failure to build more housing right here in Coronado will result in a failure of local government.

Coronado resident Glenn Hopson

“I think that today’s citizens of Coronado can be just as welcoming to newcomers, sailors and marines, teachers and nurses, cooks and cleaners who just want a place to live close to where they work,” said resident Glenn Hopson. “Failure to build more housing right here in Coronado will result in a failure of local government.”

However, others spoke against the new housing plan, specifically Site 9, citing concern about the safety of their children with new homes.  

Kael Goldfarb said that he and his family moved to Coronado because it felt safe and his kids could walk the streets and not have to worry. 

“On our street alone, there are more children than there are adults. And all day long, kids are running across the street,” Goldfarb said.

He commented that adding the roughly 100 units to Site 9 would increase the likelihood of children potentially getting hit by the influx of new cars.

Coronado residents crowd the council chambers on the Oct. 18 City Council meeting where the housing plan was being presented. Staff photo by Madeline Yang.

Resident Bill Pate said there have been hundreds of pages of public comment on better places to have the new units.

“There’s a need for more housing, yes, but the city can also roll up its sleeves and take a look at what’s being proposed,” Pate said.

History of housing plan dates to 2018

Mayor Richard Bailey, who is currently in Africa getting ready to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and phoned in for the meeting, refreshed residents on the long process of what it took to get to this point even though many community members are still upset about certain sites being chosen. 

“Many of your suggestions are entirely sensible; your concerns about potential impacts to the surrounding community regarding available land, pedestrian safety, parking, traffic, etc, they’re all justified,” Bailey said. 

Every council member currently serving and nearly every council member that has previously served has objected to this process dating all the way back to 2018.”

Mayor Richard Bailey

“And I want to be clear to the public that from my observation…Every council member currently serving and nearly every council member that has previously served has objected to this process dating all the way back to 2018,” Bailey said. 

SANDAG overruling Coronado

Bailey continued to lay down the history of this housing expansion: 

In 2018, SANDAG had the choice to allocate approximately 120,000 new housing units or 170,000 housing units for the entire San Diego region, Bailey said.

SANDAG used a weighted vote system that favors San Diego and San Diego County among the entities that are part of the government group to approve the 170,000 units. 

In 2019, SANDAG formed a subcommittee that did not penalize cities like Coronado for having military installations within the boundaries of the city and could not accommodate additional housing.

This recommendation was approved by a majority of SANDAG board members, which are local governments in San Diego County, but again, it was overturned when a weighted vote was used. 

In 2020, Coronado appealed to SANDAG with over 2,500 Coronado residents submitting comments, and the appeal was accepted to reduce housing allocations to about 300 units.

However, SANDAG used the weighted vote again, and five board members overruled the other 14 members to raise the housing requirement.

In 2021, the city filed a lawsuit against SANDAG, but the court sided with SANDAG and the city lost.

So, the city submitted a plan to the state for housing, but it was rejected due to feasibility issues.

That plan included using City Hall for some of the units and even houseboats for the rest.

New plan sent to state

Now, the plan, called a housing element, gets sent to the California Department of Housing & Community Development to be reviewed and certified.

Our options as a city are limited, and we have exhausted all of them.

Mayor Richard Bailey

“The reality of the situation is that despite what some well-intentioned members of the community are suggesting, through the votes at SANDAG and policies by our state representatives, our options as a city are limited, and we have exhausted all of them,” Bailey said at the council meeting.

Baily in a statement on Oct. 20 with state officials said: “This agreement provides the City of Coronado the certainty and State support necessary to attain a compliant Housing Element…With a shared goal of developing a meaningful and achievable plan to reach compliance, we’ve found resolution to a years-long challenge.”

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Madeline Yang is a reporter for The Coronado News, covering the City of Coronado, the U.S Navy and investigating the Tijuana/Coronado sewage issue. She graduated from Point Loma Nazarene University with her Bachelors in Journalism with an emphasis in Visual Storytelling. She loves writing, photography and videography and one day hopes to be a filmmaker. She can be reached by phone at 916-835-5843.