Growth: who wants it?
by Carolyn Chase
Please see these supporting
mart growth or dumb growth: it all boils down to where's it gonna go and who's paying for what. The City of San Diego has undertaken a process of updating its General Plan, "the map for future development."
Part one of this update is to create a "Strategic Framework Element," a 20-year vision and strategy for San Diego. The city refers to it as "a blueprint for our future - a statement of goals, objectives and philosophies for future San Diegans to follow." Unfortunately, it comes nowhere near the level of detail of any "blueprint." It does however, play an important role in how the city's going to grow.
The city is posting the question thusly:
The city is promoting the following four as alternatives:
Other alternatives that the city doesn't view as either as positive or as practical as any of the above are:
The so-called "Slow Growth" alternative is being given short shrift in the process. The very way they pose the alternative is biased:
No mention is suggested that, say, by increasing education to at-risk teenage girls we could reduce the birthrate for unwanted children. Targeting programs to poor women and children always improves their opportunities to succeed, reduces birth rates, and over time reduce the tax burden on society in the future. Given that SANDAG notes that 2/3 of their forecast growth is from local births, it only makes sense to analyze the positive policies that could be effective in slowing growth in addition to the "stringent" and "deterring" ones the city notices first.
But it's heretical for any staff to suggest that slowing growth is practical or even desirable. When I raised the issue that the "slow growth" alternative should be given comparative treatment with other alternatives, staff later came to reassure me that all the alternatives would be equally evaluated in the EIR. What I'm suggesting is that is should be given equal consideration in the public process as well. Without it, they are setting themselves up for a backlash. They are not going to be able to "sneak" density in around the city.
While it's valid for them to settle upon the best alternatives for accommodating the forecast growth, I believe the city should be sure to ask all the Community Planning Groups what they want - and don't want in their area. The city, of course, is afraid of the answers they might get back. It's much easier to engage in a plan to absorb the growth than have any consideration of whether the people, or the city itself, would benefit from understanding where its real limits to growth truly are. It would be better to find that out sooner rather than later. I think we would find that there are Planning Groups that would be willing to accommodate growth. The sooner we identify those, the better, as well.
What do you think? Send your comments to: planningsdcity.sannet.gov; the comment hotline is (619) 235-5226.
As part of the process, the City has posted several worthwhile documents at their website, www.ci.san-diego.ca.us/general-plan.
The Draft Alternative Growth Strategies can be downloaded and viewed in original format from www.ci.san-diego.ca.us/general-plan/get-involved/062300.html. A companion document, "Characteristics of Alternative Growth Strategies," contains two charts that match a list of desired characteristics against the four pro-growth accommodating strategies.
City of San Diego General
We value the city's extraordinary setting, defined by its open spaces, natural habitat and unique topography.
We value walkable, tree-lined communities
We value a convenient, efficient, aesthetically pleasing, and multi-modal transportation system.
We value the physical, social and cultural diversity of our city and its neighborhoods.
We value parks, accessible by foot, transit, bicycle, and car, as areas to support neighborhood, community and regional interaction and convenient recreational facilities and programs.
We recognize that the availability of public facilities, infrastructure, including information infrastructure, and services are essential to neighborhood quality and necessary companions to density increases.
City of San Diego General
To achieve the projected SANDAG 2020 forecast, the existing policies (current City community plans applied over the 1995-2020 period), would need to increase from approximately 124,000 housing units to 177,500 housing units, representing a 43% increase. The following Draft Alternative Growth Strategies were developed to accomplish this increase of 53,500 housing units beyond current City residential designations.
Proposed Alternatives for Strategic Framework Citizen Committee Review and Discussion:
SANDAG's "Smart Growth" Alternative Growth Strategies
SANDAG's "Smart Growth" Alternative is based upon the Land Use Distribution Element and locates higher residential densities (minimum average net density of 20 units per acre) as well as mixed uses within walking distance (1000 foot radius) of the existing and planned transit stations. It assumes that all future residential development will occur at the top end of the density ranges expressed in existing plans, and it applies the County planning group limitations on residential development in the unincorporated area. The projected residential capacities identified by SANDAG are for 39,625 Single Family units and 137,875 Multiple Family units (totaling 177,500 units). Of the 177,500 housing units, 107,226 would occur on vacant land (average density of 6.5 units per acre), and 70,274 would be redevelopment or infill (average density of 20.4 units per acre). By focusing development in mixed use centers around rail transit stations and in major bus corridors, more trips can be made by transit, walking and bicycling.
A City of Villages
This alternative involves creating village centers in 20-40 key neighborhood centers. These centers would range in size from 10 to 160 acres. Design would be pedestrian-friendly with elements to promote neighborhood gatherings. The land use mix would include neighborhood shopping, services and housing, as well as significant village-serving public spaces. Village centers could also include an employment component. These moderate intensity (18-45 dwelling units/acre), mixed-use village centers would be linked to each other and to the region through high quality rapid transit services designed on a network structure.
Strong Core with Subregional Centers
This alternative calls for focusing residential and employment growth in selected urban nodes, including Centre City, the northern portion of University ("the Golden Triangle"), Mission Valley, Sorrento Valley/Mesa, Kearny Mesa, and Otay Mesa. These multi-modal urban nodes will have a relatively high degree of land use balance and self-sufficiency. This would entail increasing densities in existing residential areas, and the addition of a residential component to Sorrento Valley, Kearny Mesa and Otay Mesa employment areas. The density range would be 25-75 dwelling units per acre. This alternative requires an expanded transportation system, including road, pedestrian, bicycle, and transit components. It also reinforces the importance of Centre City as the administrative, financial, cultural and institutional center of the region.
Expanded Downtown Core
This strategy calls for a substantial expansion in downtown's role as the dominant employment, shopping, entertainment, hotel and high density residential center of San Diego. The physical boundaries of downtown would expand and could ultimately include portions of the surrounding communities of Little Italy, Middletown, Golden Hill, Sherman Heights, Barrio Logan, Logan Heights and Lindbergh Field. Within downtown there would be an inner core area in the traditional center city area south and west of I-5 with very high density commercial, office and residential areas designed to be pedestrian and transit oriented. Densities in the inner core would be up to 250 du/acre [dwelling units per acre] with a minimum permitted density of 125 du/acre for new development. The peripheral portions of downtown would have varied density maximums ranging from 100 to 200 du/acre with a minimum of 25-50 du/acre. The lower densities would be in existing residential areas with significant historic resources and neighborhood character. The information infrastructure network would be expanded to permit downtown to become a major high tech hub for the San Diego region. Adjusted standards and reduced acreage requirements for schools and parks would be increasing to implement this alternative.
This strategy would provide additional land to accommodate pedestrian and/or transit oriented development in locations such as east Otay Mesa, Miramar, Lindbergh Field and elsewhere. Comprehensive planning of Otay Mesa under a single jurisdiction would facilitate efficient phased provision of utilities and roads and coordinated land use policies throughout the geographic area of Otay Mesa. Use of portions of Miramar and Lindbergh for urban development in the future is dependent on decisions of the federal government regarding the future use of Miramar as a military base. If military use is discontinued at some time in the future, a portion of the base could be converted into a commercial airport to replace Lindbergh Field. Lindbergh Field and portions of Miramar MCAS could be redeveloped with urban and recreational uses. The City could also make available existing underutilized city owned land and acquire additional underutilized parcels for desired uses.
Proposed Alternatives for Additional Staff Review and Analysis
Continuing business as usual following existing development trends and community plans with a core downtown.
Limiting residential growth to the national growth average of 1% per year compared to San Diego's current growth rate of 2% per year (through zoning, growth caps, stringent phasing, and deterring employment growth)
General Residential Intensification
This Alternative assumes an equal distribution of density on the remaining net developable residential acreage in each community plan area. Based on the March 2000 SANDAG 2020 Cities/County Forecast Land Use Inputs, an overall density of approximately 11 dwelling units per acre would result by applying the net residential acreage by community plan across the board to vacant residential acreage.