By Scott Ashton, CEO, Oceanside Chamber of Commerce
The City of Oceanside has taken a positive step toward improving housing affordability in the downtown Oceanside district. In August, the Oceanside City Council adopted recommendations from City staff and the Downtown Advisory Committee to remove density caps on residential projects that are part of mixed-used developments in the Downtown District. The previous zoning ordinance allowed for a maximum of 43 dwelling units per acre. The removal of the density cap will allow for smaller, more affordable units, while maintaining all other development requirements including height, setbacks and parking.
I attended the meeting to speak in favor of the density cap removal stating that “part of the Chamber’s Housing Creation Policy platform is to support growth in transit-friendly areas. We believe the recommendations of City Staff and the Downtown Advisory Committee are aligned with our position.”
Chamber member and developer, Howard Jacobs provided important insight on this issue. “If one assumes the allowable building height and size are the same, density limits are inherently discriminatory against the less wealthy and favor the rich. Stated in the simplest way this is because a developer must amortize the land cost and other “fixed” costs over the number of square feet of building being constructed. The same size building with fewer units means they are bigger units which cost more to build and must be rented or sold at a higher price per unit. In an urban area with steep land and infrastructure costs (such as downtown Oceanside or any Southern California coastal location), low density translates to “big luxury condos” or, if the market will not support those, no housing creation at all on those properties.”
Jacobs lauded the City’s decision to move forward on the remove of the density caps. “I commend the city staff and members of the Downtown Advisory Committee, and City Council for their vision and leadership. The code changes will encourage housing creation in a way that will help the city meet state requirements while assuring quality development that is accessible to more people.”