Success Stories

Pacific Southwest Association Contributes to Award-Winning Handbook for City of San Diego

July 2021

In the City of San Diego, bounded by the Pacific Ocean, a large military base, and Mexico, solutions to a dire housing shortage have nowhere to go but “up and in-fill,” observes Rafael Perez, the Pacific Southwest Association of REALTORS® member who is championing Accessory Dwelling Units as the solution to so many of the region’s housing problems.  Through his initiative, PSAR supported the development of a new San Diego Companion Unit Handbook that has earned kudos from the mayor and the Urban Design Award from the San Diego Section of the American Planning Association.  It was made possible by a Smart Growth Grant from the REALTOR® Party.

PSAR Chief Executive Officer Richard D’Ascoli explains that this achievement grew from the association’s mission to empower its REALTOR® members: “We want to give them all the support they need to take the lead in improving communities and enhancing property rights as they encounter challenges and opportunities.  This grant, in particular, enabled one of our local REALTOR® leaders to do important work that lifted the REALTOR® brand and highlighted the fact that our members are local experts.”  He notes that Perez has been a great asset to PSAR from the get-go: as a board member of the Casita Coalition, he is an energetic state-wide advocate for ADUs; he chairs one of PSAR’s Government Affairs Committees; and he serves on NAR’s Fair Housing Policy Committee.

Perez reveals that the concept for a handbook started in 2018 when state laws made it easier for homeowners to build ADUs.  In conversation with PSAR leadership, he started to formulate some ideas that would help advocates “get out ahead of the movement,” including seeking several designs to submit to the city for pre-approval as blueprints.  In this initial planning, Perez discovered that he was not alone: similar efforts were underway at the City Council and among housing organizations like the San Diego Housing Federation and LISC San Diego.  Rather than reinvent the wheel, they joined the coalition and began to develop a comprehensive ADU Handbook for the City of San Diego.

The Smart Growth Grant, says Perez, positioned the REALTORS® to join the team and contribute in a way that only REALTORS® can.  “What REALTORS® brought to the table was deep expertise.  For example, we know all about renovation lending, so we were able to make the case that homeowners don’t have to wait ‘til they have a ton of equity in their homes to take on a project like this, that’s going to add considerable value and provide an income stream. We also know what kinds of information aspiring buyers and existing homeowners need in order to get started, and to see a project through to completion.  We have real stories from local residents who have struggled to get ADUs approved, and we put all that knowledge into the handbook.”  The closer the coalition could put the goal-line to homeowners’ resources, he says, the more ADUs will get built, instead of just talked-about.

The new handbook is a free resource, available in digital form on the city’s website.  It is an easy tool, Perez notes, and he and his fellow REALTOR®-members are proud to have it to share with clients.  “We’ve been getting great feedback from agents, and have heard reports of a hard copy being displayed on a countertop at showings, to promote the potential added-value an ADU can bring to a property.  It’s clearly branded, which shows that the REALTORS® are active participants in creating opportunity in our communities – in this case, the opportunity to solve housing issues and help create intergenerational wealth.”

Adds D’Ascoli, “Projects like this one also strengthen our three-way mission with our state and national associations.  We are very proud to have accomplished this in partnership with NAR.”

To learn more about how the Pacific Southwest Association of REALTORS® is addressing the region’s housing shortage by making it easier to understand the ins-and-outs of creating Accessory Dwelling Units, contact Chief Executive Officer Richard D’Ascoli at or 619.251.7443; or PSAR member Rafael Perez at

To see the award-winning handbook, visit:

Post a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.