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Land Development Code

Mini Dorms/Public Nuisance Rental Properties

"Mini dorms" are single dwelling units occupied by multiple adults, which through unconventional development patterns and a variety of disturbance issues are adversely affecting local single dwelling unit neighborhoods. The City is addressing mini dorms with a variety of approaches including a combination of existing and new regulatory and enforcement tools (PDF). This is a complex problem that cannot be solved by the City alone. It will also require cooperative participation by responsible landlords and tenants, local colleges and universities, and communities to protect the character of single dwelling unit neighborhoods, while still meeting the housing needs for all segments of the population.

Nuisance and behavior issues are being addressed through Code Enforcement and the San Diego Police Department (SDPD) as appropriate. SDPD is currently issuing $1000 administrative citations to responsible parties on disturbance calls for loud music and/or loud parties in violation of Municipal Code Chapter 5 Noise Regulations. The program began as a pilot program in Mid City and now applies citywide. Contact NCC at (619) 236-5500 for additional information on the administrative citation program.

On July 24, 2007, the City Council adopted amendments to address inconsistent physical development related to mini dorms Report 07-115 (PDF) and ordinance (PDF). The regulations have helped reduce the potential for mini dorm conversions. Following is a summary of the regulations:

  • RS zone (lots with less than 10,000 square feet):
    • Limited to 6 bedrooms maximum
    • Hardscape for vehicular use limited to 4 surface parking spaces maximum
  • RS zone lots limited to 60 percent maximum hardscape in the front yard
  • New single dwelling unit parking standards ensure parking spaces will be functional
  • In the campus impact area (single dwelling units with 5 or more bedrooms):
    • New development must provide one parking space for each bedroom
    • A minimum of 2 parking spaces are required in a garage
  • In the parking impact overlay zone, all lots are required to have a 12-foot driveway at the front property line.

On January 14, 2008, the City Council voted to approve the Residential High Occupancy Permit Ordinance (PDF) which requires an annual permit and fees for any single dwelling unit with 6 or more adult occupants. The permit requires additional parking per occupant and is revocable as an enforcement remedy. The ordinance includes a permit fee waiver option based on Area Median Income. The ordinance is effective citywide.

On April 15, 2008, the City Council voted to approve the Rooming House Ordinance (PDF) as an additional tool to address mini dorms. The Rooming House Ordinance generally defines "rooming houses" as dwelling units with 3 or more bedrooms that are rented separately to tenants by the individual bedroom, and then prohibits rooming houses from locating in low density residential zones. The ordinance became effective in areas outside of the coastal zone on May 23, 2008, and became effective within the coastal zone on October 16, 2008. Previously conforming rooming houses were allowed 3 years from the effective date to comply with the Rooming House Ordinance.

Additional Resources

To report a problem "party house" to the Community Assisted Party Program (CAPP) coordinator, please contact SDPD at (619) 516-3000.

To report a code violation, please contact Code Enforcement at (619) 236-5500.

To better understand how the regulations apply to a particular property, please refer to the Official Zoning Map or contact Development Permit Information staff at (619) 446-5000 for zoning information. Click one of the following geographic areas (generally ordered from north to south) to view the boundaries of the campus impact and beach impact areas within the parking impact overlay zone (Maps C-731 and C-795):

To report a rental dwelling unit with misleading advertising, please contact the Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit of the City Attorneys office at (619) 533-5600.

For information on the San Diego State University - Community Good Neighbor Program, please call (619) 594-6555.