From the publishers

A Code Without a Plan

by Carolyn Chase

 he City of San Diego's 5-year ef- fort to rewrite the regulations gov- erning what can be built where hit some bumps late last month when the developer-driven "Zoning Code Update" came up for official adoption.

For one brief, shining moment at San Diego's City Council in late October, the forces of neighborhood politics prevailed. But only for about ten minutes. I had the rare opportunity to see Mayor Golding stunned when a vote requiring that developer projects be consistent with community plans passed 5-4, against her wishes. "We can't move forward with the Zoning Code!" she railed. "...this throws out what we've been doing.... this has to be the worst public policy decision we've ever made." Within ten minutes, she had whipped the Council into line and gotten a motion to reconsider.

Evidently Councilmember Chris Kehoe, who put forth the motion, and the others who initially supported it understood otherwise. Judy McCarty, Juan Vargas and George Stevens all spoke passionately about community participation in creating community plans. According to McCarty, she received "the shock of her life" when she was first elected and discovered that the plans that citizens invest hundreds of hours of volunteer time creating, and the city thousands of dollars to support, are "only guidelines."

According to one City Attorney, "Community Plans.... could interfere with the zoning we are granting by right." Huh? You mean the city has a General Plan and 40 Community Plans representing the vision of folks for their communities and the zoning has not been designed to implement those plans? Why has the city spent five years and an untold amount of money for an "update" without dealing with the Community Plans?

The majority of testimony at the council hearing summarized problem after problem. The only group supporting the complex package were developers and other related professionals and property owners. Eight local environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, Surfirder Foundation and Surfer's Tired of Pollution (S.T.O.P.), joined with other citizen groups, including the League of Women Voters, opposing aspects of the plan and the process.

Thanks to the efforts of Kehoe, the environmental coalition was successful in getting key reductions in resource protections for wetlands and hillsides either reduced or delayed. And the code still faces review by the Coastal Commission, who has already questioned the practice of allowing additional hillside encroachment. The council will be reviewing the workings of the new system quarterly and will appoint a Citizen's Review Committee. Let's hope there is more balance on this Committee than past groups where vested interests had the upper hand.

Happy 4th Anniversary to the San Diego Earth Times! Our ongoing quest for a sustainable presence in San Diego is leading to some changes. This is will be the final free, newsprint edition of SDET as we shift to a subscription basis; see all the details on the back page. While in some ways it is a disappointment to stop the free, printed edition, we are confident about the need to move in this direction.

Thanks to our long-term advertisers who understand and will continue their work of creating a sustainable economy in San Diego. Thanks especially to our most consistent advertisers: Environgentle, Harry's Surf Shop, OB People's Natural Food Coop, Chula Vista Nature Center, The Natural Gourmet, Christina's Daily Bread, Cloud 9 Shuttle, Green Beans, Science Adventures, Mobile Recycling and TCR Services.

Thanks to all the San Diego Earth Day volunteers, our amazing volunteer copy editor Susan Self and our regular columnists, many of whom will continue: Robert Nanninga, Catherine Kineavy, Michael Oshman, Minister Masada, Bob Ocegueda, the Garden Goddess, Laurie Cohen, David Bainbridge and Skip Fralick.

Onward and upward!