National City is trying to make it as easy as possible to build downtown, but developers are still hesitant.
The city increased the density developers can build to and sped up the time it takes to get a building permit. But even combining those regulatory incentives with the area’s low land costs, bayfront views and proximity to downtown San Diego, the freeway and the trolley hasn’t made a difference.
Ten years ago National City adopted a blueprint for its downtown that made way for 5,500 new housing units. Only about 300 have been built so far.
The recession was part of the problem. A bigger one is that with National City’s relatively low rents, developers can make more money building in other parts of the county.
Many developers still consider building in National City a risky proposition, said David Allen of Trestle Development.
The city made it cheaper to build in National City by making it easier to get permits, but the majority of development costs still come from construction – a cost that’s pretty much fixed no matter where you build.
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Great article! I hope everyone can refer to this article whenever a developer complains again that their biggest driver of costs and lack of affordable housing is regulations. It is clear based on the facts presented in this article that there is more land to build affordable housing and friendly regulations to match. So when all the politics and theatrics are removed, the bottom line is that developers want to charge high rents. Period. Let's all remember this the next time (inevitably) a developer complains about regulations and blames everything under the sun for San Diego's lack of affordable housing.
Which begs the question: If a major impediment to building affordable housing is nimbyism, why aren't those with the funds to build affordable housing flocking to National City?
Is it crazy to suggest the city change its name? National City, really? No one wants to list that as their address. Like living at General Motors, CA.
Spanish names seem to work better in San Diego. How about Pueblo National, Puerto National or Ciudad Balboa?
It is inevitable that National City will be substantially redeveloped within the next 20 years. Downtown national City is only 5 miles from downtown San Diego.. The same dynamics have existed for the Oakland/San Francisco development market. However, the big difference is that San Francisco is substantially built out, Sa Diego is not. Developers still have property to address in East Village, where they can get those high rents. When East Village gets built out (probably in 5 to 10 years, barring a big recession), National City will see redevelopment.
The article would have benefitted if the reporter interviewed developers (e.g. Lennar) that had big projects planned for National City before the recession, but then bailed on them and did not return. It would have been interesting to get their prospective.
Part of the problem, she said, is that there are vacant lots everywhere. If a developer built something on her property, “there are two empty buildings across the street.”
This is because the low property taxes on vacant land encourages land banking.
Pro Tip: The city should acquire land for parks, attractions or common spaces and then announce the plans for them.
For example, how about a future 'plaza de national city' complete with walkable areas and fountains. Put a beer garden in the middle of it.
Once you let everyone know about these spaces the value of the land around each one will increase.
Development will follow.
Where have I seen that before? East Village and Petco Park. Obviously, national city can't do it on such a grand scale, but the same game plan on a smaller scale should work.