Creating a Range of Housing Opportunities and Choices 

Smart Growth Principle 3

By Paul Coogan, Carline McKeown, Maggie Friend

Image generated by Paul Coogan using Midjourney AI

Normal Heights thrives as a diverse community with residents from all walks of life. Here renters and homeowners, young families and retirees, entrepreneurs and engineers, artists and accountants create a vibrant and diverse atmosphere. The promise of engaging conversations awaits at numerous local coffee houses, brew-pubs, and neighborhood street fairs, ensuring surprises and entertainment for all.

This variety is also reflected in the living spaces in the community with choices ranging from studio apartments to three-bedroom condominiums, from tiny casitas to large craftsman homes. This range of options, in principle, contributes to a community that can meet the needs of anyone seeking a home, whether they are a single professional, a multigenerational family, or an aging couple looking to downsize. 

Ideally, these options  include a range of affordability based on size, location, and amenities while still  providing easy access to transportation, shops, and services. This allows people to live closer to work, shortening commutes and reducing traffic congestion. Most importantly, affordability within a neighborhood provides a mix of people that fosters creativity, empathy, and social cohesion through ordinary interactions.

Normal Heights is fortunate to have grown into most of this design organically over time but the opportunities and choices must be protected through careful planning by civic leaders. Policy decisions can quickly reduce certain types of housing and overproduce others. In San Diego, we are now experiencing an overbuild of above market rate studio and luxury units. In response to this overstock, the city is removing incentives for units under 500 square feet and refocusing on homes with three or more bedrooms. Smart Growth principles can help avoid these pendulum swings by providing a holistic approach to city planning ensuring housing choices remain diverse with ready access to schools, public transportation, shops, parks, and libraries.