TPA vs. SDA Where is the Line?

Development projects in San Diego, particularly mixed-use buildings with retail/commercial space at street level and residences above can only be built in specific land use zones. As of 2020, many projects are being built taller, denser, and with less parking. These projects are typically being done under the Complete Communities Housing Program which creates an overlay of incentives and density bonuses to developers. The overlay area when the program was started in 2020 was defined by the TPA but was updated in 2023 to use SDA. The definitions and resources below are intended to clarify the code relevant to Normal Heights.

Transportation Priority Areas (TPA) are defined as “within 1/2 mile of high quality transit” (2 bus lines or rail).

Complete Communities Housing Solutions (CCHS) program includes planning strategies that work together to create incentives to build homes near transit (source). The areas where this program is applicable changed from TPA to Sustainable Development Areas in 2023.

Sustainable Development Areas (SDA) are areas within 1 mile walking distance of high quality transit.

General Regulations for Complete Communities Housing Solutions can be found in San Diego Municipal Code Chapter 14, Article 3, Division 1.


Q: Is my house in or out of the SDA?

A: Check this map.

Q: Does this mean a big apartment building can be built next to my house?

A: Maybe. Base zoning still applies and most areas a block or more north of Adams Ave. are zoned RS 1-7 and RS 1-1 (Residential Single) which disallows apartment buildings which are commercial properties. Apartment complexes must still be built in RM (Residential-Multiple Unit), CC, or CUP (Commercial) zones. Check this map or this section of the Municipal Code.

Q: A CCHS project is going up next to me, can I stop it?

A: Probably not. If the project is following all related municipal code to qualify for CCHS, the project will be done “ministerially” or “by right” which means there is no hearing officer, public hearings, or dispute process. Only a civil court can override the decision of Development Services to green light the project.

Q: Are ADU (Accessory Dwelling Units) restricted by zoning and/or TPA/SDA?

A: No. ADU may be built almost anywhere and are restricted by a different set of rules. The ADU bonus program allowing multiple ADU are restricted to the SDA overlay. A rather long article on the matter describes this.