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More than 60 homeowners from several San Diego neighborhoods — College Area, El Cerrito and Pacific Beach among them — descended on the City Council chambers this afternoon to speak to nearly as many perspectives on the mini-dorm debate. Most wore red T-shirts emblazoned with “Stop Mini-dorms.” A handful of toddlers and grade-school aged kids attended with their parents; one little blond girl in a pink t-shirt carried a sign that said, “Spoil me, not my neighborhood.”

They spoke during the public comment time about the proposed amendments to the Land Development Code that the City Council was voting on today. Some supported those amendments as one “tool in the toolbox,” as Jim Waring, the mayor’s Land Use Czar, coined it. Others opposed the amendments, favoring what they saw as a panacea in a Rooming House Ordinance also presented as an information item by the City Attorney.

One speaker, Diane Milber, spoke from the perspective of a landlord with five properties for rent. The students she finds, she said, are respectable citizens working toward professional degrees. She spoke to what she fears is a growing “anti-student and anti-landlord sentiment” among the red-shirted residents represented at the meeting today.

“The innocent students must not feel unwelcome by the city of San Diego,” she said. “They are San Diegans.”

While she spoke, a significant portion of the audience heckled her and muttered. When she referred to student tenants as audience members’ fellow San Diegans, a couple behind me grunted, “No, they’re not.” And when Milber sat down, the crowd largely booed her.

Council President Scott Peters shushed the nay-sayers.

“That’s just not appropriate,” he said. “It’s just not respectful to boo people.”

By the time City Attorney Mike Aguirre presented the information on the second item, the Rooming House Ordinance, the crowd had settled down and many left. Council members Jim Madaffer and Kevin Faulconer supported the ordinance and asked the city attorney to move it through as quickly as possible, besides all of the state-mandated waiting/reviewing periods that would accompany this legislation. The ordinance would prohibit rooming houses, which Aguirre defined as three or more bedrooms leased out to different individuals. It would be complaint-driven, which would add a self-policing element among the neighborhoods.

One point of clarification: In my last post about the tools in the mini-dorm toolbox, I incompletely defined the Administrative Citation program (that six-month pilot program that can issue fines of up to $1,000 per tenant) as responding to cases of “mini-dorm related disturbances.”

I heard from San Diego Police Department spokeswoman Monica Munoz this weekend, who clarified that the ordinance “targets parties in the Mid City area (the whole command) that can be heard beyond 50 feet from the home and contain large numbers of people.”

KELLY BENNETT

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