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‘Dorm’ debate comes to O’side

OCEANSIDE — As an initial step to tighten code enforcement around “mini-dorms,” single-family dwellings that house multiple adult residents, a public workshop was held Feb. 25 to present possible zoning ordinance changes and gather community input.
Proposed zoning changes presented by Richard Greenbauer, senior planner with the community development planning division, included limiting the number of occupants in a single dwelling to 20 and requiring a use permit to rent to more than 10 adults. Housing square footage and parking requirements were also presented in an effort to reduce population density, excess noise and traffic congestion in residential neighborhoods.
Specifically, it was proposed that single-family residential units that rent to more than 10 adults obtain a use permit and have the capacity to store one vehicle per adult on the site.
Proposed occupant limits ranged from renting to no more than four people per room, with a limit of two room rentals, to a requirement of 150 square feet of floor space for the first 10 occupants, and 300 square feet for each additional occupant, with a limit of 20 people per dwelling.
“There are tools out on the books right now,” David Manley, a code enforcement manager with the neighborhood services department, said. Manley added the revised zoning ordinance would put more bite in the steps code enforcement could take.
Opposition to neighborhood mini-dorms came from homeowners who complained of converted “office space” in neighbors’ garages being rented as housing, overoccupancy, and parking congestion.
“My neighborhood has changed so much,” Vickie Bartholomaus of Oceanside’s Tri-City area said. “We expected average families living in a residential neighborhood. Now, we couldn’t even know how many are living there week to week.”
Another homeowner described some neighborhood homes as “flop houses,” where strings of people flop in for a night to sleep.
In Oceanside, high-density occupancy mini-dorms house a mix of occupants, including students and low-income wage earners, Greenbauer said.
While many at the meeting opposed the noise, high density and congested parking mini-dorms bring to their neighborhood, an Oceanside homeowner, who wished to remain anonymous, defended his right to rent to young men and women in the military.
“I have a five-bedroom house,” he said. “Five active duty Marines live in that house. Two of the Marines have purple hearts and they’re going to be told by the city they can’t move into this residential home?”
For this homeowner, the proposed regulation of providing one parking space per each adult would find the rental three parking spaces short, since two of the Marines live with their wives. “How would I rectify that?” asked the homeowner. “Say to three Marines, ‘Move out.’”
“I have four houses and rent to 22 active duty Marines,” the homeowner said. “If this law passes, I would have to tell 12 of them they must move out and find houses elsewhere. I offer suitable affordable housing. Many would have to move back to the base. They’re real American heroes. The city would be forcing me to evict them.”
While the homeowner said he will obtain a permit when one is required, others in the audience said most mini-dorm owners would not voluntarily purchase a permit. The annual permit fee has not been determined. The amount San Diego charges mini-dorm owners is $1,000 a year, Greenbauer said.
Outreach efforts to gather public input on mini-dorm zoning will continue through March 30, Greenbauer said. After collecting public input, initial research and analysis will be completed and mini-dorm zoning will be brought before the Housing Commission for a public hearing in April and before City Council in June.