The Genesis and Groundwork of Our SB9 San Diego Journey (Part 1)

by | Feb 14, 2024


Hey there! We’re the folks behind Builders Now, a team formed by three general contractors who believe in doing things a bit differently. We’re all about blending the latest tech with solid construction know-how to make your building dreams come true. And now, we’re taking on something pretty exciting – a journey through the new world of SB9, a game-changer for housing in San Diego, and we want you to come along for the ride.

SB9 has opened the door wide for transforming single-family lots into something more – think turning one home into a thriving mini-community of four or more units. It’s a big deal for us and for anyone looking to make the most out of their property in San Diego. So, let’s dive into how we started, what we’ve learned, and where we’re heading with our very first SB9 project.

I. Why We Jumped into SB9

Three years ago, we started Builders Now with a simple idea: to shake up the construction scene with a fresh, tech-savvy approach. When SB9 came onto the scene, we saw it as a perfect match for our mission. The law’s pretty straightforward – it lets you split a lot, build a house and an ADU on each half, and potentially double or even quadruple the living spaces on a single property.

Our first SB9 project came from a desire to maximize a spacious lot owned by a client who’d dreamt of adding more units but felt stuck by the old rules. SB9 was our golden ticket to bring that dream to life. The goal? To create a space that wasn’t just about adding homes but about crafting a community close to the heartbeat of San Diego – near freeways, colleges, and all the city has to offer.

The buzz of trying something so new and the chance to make a real dent in the housing shortage in San Diego was too good to pass up. Sure, we were among the first to navigate these waters in La Mesa, making us pioneers of sorts, but the thrill of the challenge and the potential impact made every step worth it.

II. Tackling the SB9 Learning Curve

Diving into SB9 felt like exploring uncharted territory. The rules were new, and guidance was scarce. Our early days were all about getting to grips with the law’s nuances and figuring out how to align our project with its requirements. We quickly realized that the key to success would be a combination of diligent research, collaboration with experts, and a bit of creative thinking.

We hit the books, talked to every expert we could find, and spent countless hours planning. But, the real game-changer was our partnership with an architectural team that was as excited about exploring SB9’s possibilities as we were. Together, we navigated the complexities of designing within new constraints, all while keeping our eyes on the prize: building homes that would stand as a testament to what’s possible under SB9.

The learning process was intense, but it brought our team closer together. We discovered that, despite the uncertainties, having a group of optimistic and dedicated professionals by your side makes all the difference. And let me tell you, the excitement of pioneering a project like this in La Mesa? It’s the kind of stuff that gets you up in the morning.

III. From Planning to Design Under SB9

With a solid understanding of SB9 under our belts, we moved to the drawing board. Designing homes that would fit the bill for SB9 while also making them places people would love to live in was our next big challenge. We aimed for efficiency, comfort, and a touch of Builders Now innovation in every square foot.

The design phase was a balancing act. On one side, we had SB9’s guidelines, and on the other, our commitment to delivering top-notch homes. Our architects were invaluable, bringing their A-game to ensure our designs were not only compliant but also cleverly crafted to make the most of every available space.

This phase was all about collaboration. We worked hand-in-hand with our architects, bouncing ideas back and forth, and refining our plans until we had something we were proud of. The goal was always clear: create homes that would enhance the lot, offer fantastic living spaces, and, importantly, get the green light from the city of La Mesa.

Navigating the twists and turns of local regulations and zoning laws was like stepping into a maze without a map. San Diego’s zoning laws, with their own unique quirks, were our next big hurdle. Our chats with the folks at the local authorities were eye-opening – it was clear that SB9 was as new to them as it was to us. We all had to learn on the go, making sure we stayed within the lines while also pushing the boundaries of what was possible.

IV. Navigating Local Regulations and Zoning Laws

The road through La Mesa’s local regulations was bumpy, to say the least. Being one of the first to submit an SB9 project in the area meant we were testing the waters – exciting, but a bit nerve-wracking, too. The city didn’t have SB9-specific rules yet, so we had to align our project with the existing multifamily development regulations. It was a lot of back-and-forth, making sure our plans didn’t just meet the letter of the law but also the spirit of what SB9 aimed to achieve.

We poured over La Mesa’s multifamily rules, double-checking each detail and how it applied to our project. There were moments of uncertainty, wondering if a new SB9 rule would suddenly appear and change everything we’d worked on. But we kept the faith, buoyed by the belief that the state’s guidelines would steer us right while we designed our project.

Our secret weapon? A phenomenal architectural team that had been by our side through thick and thin. They were veterans of the ADU boom and jumped at the chance to tackle SB9 with us. Their expertise was invaluable, helping us navigate the new challenges SB9 presented with the same zeal they’d brought to every project we’d tackled together.

Working with La Mesa, patience, and a hefty dose of optimism were crucial. We made sure to approach every meeting, every call, with the understanding that we were all navigating uncharted waters together. That spirit of collaboration and mutual respect made all the difference.

V. The Approval Odyssey

Then came the moment of truth: getting our SB9 project approved. It was a journey filled with anticipation, anxiety, and a lot of paperwork. We officially submitted our plans to La Mesa in July 2023, crossing our fingers for a smooth passage through the permitting process.

The wait was agonizing but worth it. In January 2024, after six months of biting our nails, our permits were issued. Considering the stories we’d heard of projects getting bogged down for much longer, we felt pretty lucky. Our diligent prep work, constant communication with the city, and maybe a little bit of luck helped us get through in what felt like record time.

Permit fees and school fees added up to a little over $12,000 – a fair price for the green light to bring our vision to life. This project wasn’t just about building homes; it was about creating a space where people could live, laugh, and grow. And now, with the city’s blessing, we were ready to turn that vision into reality.


So, here we are at the end of Part 1 of our SB9 saga. We’ve taken you from the spark of an idea through the trials of planning and design, and finally, to the thrill of getting our project approved. It’s been a journey of learning, adapting, and, above all, teamwork.

As we gear up for the next phase, we can’t help but feel excited about what’s to come. The design is done, the permits are in hand, and it’s almost time to break ground. Stay tuned for Part 2, where we’ll dive into the design details, our approach to community engagement, and how we’re preparing to bring our SB9 project to life.

We hope our story so far has shed some light on the SB9 process and maybe even inspired you to think about what’s possible for your property. Until next time, keep dreaming big and building smart!