Guidelines for Future Development

by Carolyn Chase


The city of San Diego Planning Department is all honked-up in its production of an amendment to the General Plan, something blandly called the Strategic Framework Element.

    This tome rambles on for pages, spanning a wide range of topics pertaining to the city's growth. Unfortunately, there is no summary section that "boils it down" for those without the dedication to slog through thousands of words of utopian prose.

    So I decided to make an attempt to "cut to the chase" myself. The following is based upon both the SFE and the public hearings associated with it and similar efforts from the past.


  • Provide adequate public facilities and services.
  • Identify existing public facility deficiencies and establish financing techniques to achieve service standards.
  • Encourage high-quality development in designated
    redevelopment areas.
  • Establish balanced communities by providing a range of housing for all economic levels and creating employment opportunities within each community.
  • Protect single-family neighborhoods from incompatible development.
  • Protect environmentally sensitive areas and provide for a linked and continuous open space system.
  • Promote a stable rate of economic growth, a strong and diverse economy and job opportunities.
  • Protect and conserve limited water supplies.
  • Coordinate growth management policies in San Diego with the growth policies of all jurisdictions in the region, including Mexico.

    Guidelines and Standards:

  • Phase the level of growth and development to the carrying capacity of programmed public facilities over time.
  • Establish revenue sources to pay for infrastructure.

    The following criteria should be used to evaluate all development proposals:

  • The adopted Community or Master Development Plan.
  • The ability and capacity of the water supply and distribution system to provide for the proposed development.
  • The ability of the sanitary sewer system to dispose of the wastes generated by the proposed development.
  • The ability of the on and off-site drainage-ways and facilities to dispose of increased surface-runoff.
  • The ability of the fire, police and life safety departments to provide protection according to established response standards.
  • The capacity of the appropriate schools to serve the children expected to inhabit a proposed development.
  • The capacity of parks and open spaces to provide for the recreational needs of the residents.
  • An analysis of the cost to revenue of proposed development or redevelopment based on total expenditures, both capital and operating, by all government agencies.
  • The extent to which the proposed development accomplishes the physical, social, housing and economic goals of the city.

    I hope that none of these seem extreme, because they are taken directly out of the current "Guidelines for Future Development" adopted within the General Plan in 1990 and amended in 1992. The SFE is proposing to replace these but the replacement should be at least as good. The draft still has a long way to go.

    The relevant conundrum would seem to be getting it implemented and enforced. It's apparent that a General Plan amendment -- especially one weaker than what it proposes to replace -- is not going to do the trick. The process is important, but the product must matter, too.

    A process is not a plan -- nor is 38 pages of ponderous musings containing pablum statements such as, "other sources of revenue may need to be considered to rectify capital facility needs." Hello? May need to be considered? If the key premise of smart growth, and the main promise of the SFE public process, is to achieve the holy grail of providing "adequate public facilities and services at the time of need," then somebody downtown needs to get real about what's required.

    To that end, the mayor is creating the Smart Growth Implementation Team, headed up by Councilmember Toni Atkins, to identify existing obstacles to smart growth.

    Until we can fairly answer the questions: "Smart Growth, when does it begin?" and, "Smart Growth, who pays for what?" -- the Strategic Framework Element should not be adopted. Remember, this was an initiative of Susan Golding and deserves another look.

    So far, SFE public hearings have convinced San Diegans that density may not be the dirty word it once was. But the public relations campaign must be backed up with a plan of enforcement and measurement mechanisms identified before the SFE
is adopted.

    The main outcome will be the legal increase in the city's allowed population. But there is no need to adopt higher population growth before real assurances that, this time, growth will truly be smarter. Furthermore, the city should not pursue any EIR without using the new census data.

    The SFE promises a "five-year action plan." But San Diegans deserve to see many more details of that plan prior to taking another flyer on smart growth promises -- which have been made and repeatedly broken. San Diegans have seen this movie before and we want a new script this time around.