After years of fighting, the City of Coronado has reached a legal settlement promising to adopt a compliant housing element by April 2024.

“At this point, we don’t have much choice,” Councilmember Carrie Donovan said at the October 17 City Council meeting where the latest draft housing element was approved. The settlement came about after lengthy negotiations with the Attorney General’s Office following several unsuccessful rounds of review by the Department of Housing and Community Development.

Coronado is a peninsula in San Diego Bay that is eight square miles and home to two Naval bases. Under the current Regional Housing Needs Assessment, Coronado must plan for 912 additional units of housing in the 2020s. The city currently has 9,600 housing units, a number that is essentially unchanged since the 2010 Census. Median home price exceeds $3 million.

Key to the settlement is the inclusion a planned Navy project that will provide 374 units of low- and moderate-income housing. This appears to be the first time the state has allowed Navy housing to be included in the housing element. The Navy project is specifically called out in the proposed legal settlement.

The draft housing element also contains three other unusual housing categories that are not mentioned in the legal settlement with the state. These are:

  • 146 units already in the pipeline, including units already approved.
  • 195 accessory dwelling units.
  • 103 carriage houses, located above garages facing alleys. Coronado assumes that 80% of existing carriage houses will be outfitted with kitchens and converted to full housing units during the 2020s.

The city’s staff report on the latest draft housing element can be found here.

None of these three categories are called out in the legal settlement and significant additional back-and-forth is expected between the city and HCD.

Significant local controversy remains around additional sites required to achieve the 912-unit figure, including a former school site that is now used as a day-care center.

Coronado has been among the most resistant cities in the state on housing issues. After HCD rejected the city’s proposed housing element twice, Coronado adopted a housing element anyway and HCD filed a so-called “Notice of Violation,” opening the door for a possible lawsuit from the Attorney General’s Office. Coronado was also one of several San Diego area cities that sued the San Diego Association of Governments over the RHNA process, though that lawsuit was unsuccessful. (CP&DR coverage of the RHNA lawsuit can be found here.)

The state had not yet sued Coronado but the legal settlement was unexpected. Attorney General Rob Bonta gave the first public hint of the settlement at a political conference in San Diego on October 7, where he promoted the value of aggressive state action against “flagrant violators”. (CP&DR’s coverage of Bonta’s remarks can be found here.)

Mayor Richard Bailey, who has been an outspoken critic of the state’s actions, voted for the draft housing element but appeared unrepentant. “Your voices were not heard during this process, and often times, frankly, were outright ignored,” he said at the meeting. ”And they were not heard because this process has really never been about what works best for Coronado.” (Bailey’s comments, as well as the comments of other councilmembers, can be found in the Coronado Times account of the meeting here.)

And at the same event that Bonta appeared at on October 7, Bailey acknowledged that a deal was imminent but did not hold back his criticism of the state’s whole process. “The city can try our best to set zoning, even high-density zoning,” he said, “but the market effects probably won’t achieve the desired result, despite our best efforts.”