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Urban golf courses provide the perfect opportunity for San Diego to make progress toward reaching our housing goals in a responsible, transit- and environmentally friendly way.
While some very positive steps have been taken over the past year in addressing the severe housing crisis that has plagued the San Diego region, the reality is we still have a long way to go.
Today, due largely to a decades-long backlog of new housing being built (our regional housing deficit is more than 50,000 homes) the median home price in San Diego County just set a new record: $650,000. Needless to say, it’s a number that moves steadily further and further away from the reach of working families. And for those who can’t buy, renting continues to be a financial struggle, with rents rising to an average of $1,850 a month.
That’s the (very) bad news.
The good news is we’re finally, with policy changes and increased attention from residents, starting to address this shortage in meaningful ways.
On the table are many new housing projects throughout the region, as well as community plan updates that embrace more housing units, ensuring that development will happen where it makes the most sense and creating a viable opportunity for young families to stay in San Diego. Included among some proposed projects are three that would repurpose golf courses. All three are in the city’s urbanized areas, close to public transit, meet the goals laid out in the city of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan, and include attainably priced and low-income housing options.
In Mission Valley, the Riverwalk Golf course is slated to be transformed into a vibrant live-work-play village and features 97 acres of parks, open space and trails as well as a restored stretch of the San Diego River and expansion of the San Diego River Trail. Riverwalk San Diego, which was unanimously approved by the San Diego City Council in November, reimagines 200 acres of private land that has been planned for development since the 1980s. The village, which will be phased in over the next 15 to 20 years, will include up to 4,300 homes (approximately 430 of which will be set aside for low-income qualified residents), neighborhood-serving shops and restaurants, and 1 million square feet of office space. The village will also include a new light-rail station along the San Diego Trolley’s green line to connect residents to job centers in downtown San Diego and other parts of Mission Valley, as well as UTC/Torrey Pines on the soon-to-be-completed Mid-Coast Trolley line.
On the former Carmel Mountain Ranch Golf Course, another 1,200 homes are being proposed, with nearly 70 percent of the property, over 100 acres, to remain as protected open space. Based on significant public input, the Trails, as the project is being called, will adaptively reuse the former golf cart path to create over six miles of public pedestrian walkways winding through the entire community. Nine acres of new neighborhood parks are proposed, preserving the greenery that was represented by the previous golf course. The project, which will include 120 deed-restricted affordable homes, is within walking distance to an area transit center where residents can catch the Rapid bus that goes along the I-15 connecting to downtown San Diego and other employment centers. There are also over 40,000 jobs within a three-mile radius of the Trails, which allows employees to live close to work and supports the Climate Action Plan. The Trails is expected to go before the San Diego City Council sometime next year.
In Rancho Peñasquitos, on what was the Carmel Highland Golf Course, about 500 homes are being proposed exclusively for seniors – 15 percent of which will be priced for those with low incomes. The Junipers, as it is known, will also feature a new public park, basketball and pickleball courts, a dog park and a “mobility zone” for improved pedestrian and bicycle circulation. The San Diego City Council is expected to consider the project early next year.
Repurposing out-of-use golf courses into desperately needed housing is a smart, appropriate move. Land and water are difficult to identify in areas that have close proximity to jobs and transit, and golf courses are generally located within communities that can readily accept more housing. Further, as we continue to recognize the impact of scarce resources, namely water, on our future community planning it only make sense that resource-heavy golf courses find a reimagined role in addressing our housing crisis.
As we are seeing in Mission Valley, Carmel Mountain Ranch, and Rancho Peñasquitos, urban golf courses provide the perfect opportunity for San Diego to make progress toward reaching our housing goals in a responsible, transit- and environmentally friendly way.
Marissa Tucker-Borquez is president of YIMBY Democrats of San Diego County and is studying for a master’s degree in urban planning at SDSU. Stefanie Benvenuto is vice president of public affairs for the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.