San Diego — Aiming to help solve the scarcity of student housing near San Diego State University, the City Council on Monday unanimously approved the first “hybrid dormitory” for the campus.
The 128-room apartment complex will be privately owned and is not affiliated with the university, but it’s geared for students because it will have small single-occupancy rooms and shared kitchen areas on each of its five floors.
Council members said the project, located across Montezuma Road from campus, could be a model for similar projects that would reduce demand for “mini-dorms” – converted single-family homes known for wild parties and traffic congestion.
“We tried to regulate our way out of the mini-dorm situation and it just ended up in court and just cost us a bunch of money,” Councilman Scott Sherman of Allied Gardens said. “I think this is a market-rate solution that will alleviate some of the mini-dorm issues in the long run.”
Council President Georgette Gomez of City Heights, whose council district includes the SDSU area, praised the project as a new way to address the severe shortage of student housing near the campus.
“I definitely think that addressing this issue is extremely important,” she said.
Community leaders complained that the project includes only 57 parking spots, 21 less than the 78 that would be required under city regulations.
Gomez noted that the 40,000-square-foot project, which would be built on a 0.29-acre vacant lot, is located near multiple bus lines and the on-campus stop of the San Diego Trolley.
“This is the right project for this particular community,” she said.
The developer, The Prime Company of Kansas, said tenants with cars will be required to either pay for one of the 57 spaces in the project’s underground parking garage or pay for a university parking pass. University garage No. 4 is across the street.
Owner Chris Elsey also noted that the project includes six motorcycle parking stalls and bicycle parking racks that will accommodate up to 108 bicycles.
Elsey, who has built similar projects near the University of Oklahoma, University of Nebraska and the University of Southern California, said his goal was to provide students with smaller, cheaper rooms with more privacy than the many four-bedroom apartments near campus.
Each room will be less than 200 square feet and include a bathroom but no other significant amenities.
Every floor will have a community room with kitchen facilities. The complex will also include a rooftop terrace and courtyards in both the front and rear.
Hours on the terrace will be restricted to 8 a.m. through 8 p.m., and no amplified music will be allowed there.
While the city can’t legally require the tenants to be SDSU students, they must be students at an institute of higher education.
SDSU declined to recognize the project as a campus dormitory or to forge a shared parking agreement with Elsey Partners.
Elsey must pay the city more than $1 million in “development impact fees” to cover amenities such as parks, libraries and infrastructure in the area.
The project was not required to make 10 percent of its units subsidized for low-income residents because dormitories are exempt from that rule.
San Diego cracked down on mini-dorms with two ordinances in recent years, but a judge in late 2017 said those new laws were illegal because they conflict with state housing laws, invade the privacy of renters near the campus and violate the U.S. Constitution.
That ruling left city officials and residents with no legal way to regulate the mini-dorms, which began popping up in the 1980s.
A survey by residents living near the university found that more than 800 of the roughly 4,000 dwelling units in the College Area neighborhood are mini-dorms, which have many more bedrooms than the area’s single-family homes