After agreeing in principle to settle the condo-conversion lawsuits by capping condo conversions at 1,000 per year and requiring frequent study of the once-popular development projects, the San Diego City Council turned down the idea Tuesday.

The nearly two-year-old battle between activists represented by attorney Cory Briggs and the city of San Diego will continue on after the city’s decision to turn down a proposal tentatively agreed to in March.

Only Councilwomen Toni Atkins and Donna Frye supported the settlement Tuesday, with Councilmen Scott Peters, Kevin Faulconer, Tony Young, Brian Maienschein, Jim Madaffer and Ben Hueso opposing it.

The plaintiffs, the Affordable Housing Coalition and Citizens for Responsible Equitable Environmental Development, filed lawsuits against the city beginning in 2005, claiming the city is not properly measuring the cumulative impacts condo conversions are having on the local community’s traffic, parking and affordability for low-income families. The activists wanted to halt all conversions until the city studied the impacts.

The city has consistently turned down the activists’ appeals. But the council appeared ready to settle the case, which has held up hundreds of condo conversion projects, big and small. The tentative agreement included limiting the conversion of apartments into condos to 1,000 per year, issuing an annual report on the effects of condo conversions, and paying $75,000 to the activists for their legal fees.

Briggs noted that Evelyn Heidelberg, the attorney for the affected condo converters, didn’t object to the proposal despite having disagreed with many other steps throughout the dispute.

But a majority of the council didn’t like it. Critics of the settlement proposal said they believed 1,000 units was an “arbitrary figure” and that a study should have been conducted to determine the right amount of units for the cap. Briggs said 1,000 units was the result of a compromise and claimed that “at anything above 1,000, you start to see a substantial number of people displaced.”

Atkins lamented that Tuesday’s decision set back the dispute, which has spanned several council meetings and court hearings over the last two years.

“We have made a serious attempt to address issue and missed it completely,” she said. “In the simplest of terms, this is just a mess.”


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