In a year spent writing about land use in the city, I’ve learned the only people who use more jargon than the military are urban planners.
The field is filled with so many acronyms, Orwellian euphemisms and largely meaningless buzzwords, I’ve even broken into audible laughter at public meetings out of the sheer (and seemingly intentional) incomprehensibility of the discussion.
But you’ve gotta learn the language, as they say, and I’ve started to become fluent in planner.
There are far too many terms, blurbs and newspeak to list in one story, so we’re trying out an occasional installment where I provide a few terms, their meanings and links to relevant examples in San Diego. If people like it, we’ll keep it up and flesh it out going forward. (Add requests in the comments for terms you’ve heard at public meetings/always thought were ludicrous, and maybe we’ll include them in a future post.)
California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA: Passed in 1970, CEQA is maybe the state’s most influential planning law. To provide decision-makers information on the environmental effects of a project, it requires developers and planners to specify “significant” environmental effects and how they can be avoided. It also requires decision-makers to disclose to the public why they ignored those issues if they ultimately approve a project anyhow.
It’s sometimes referred to, jokingly, as the Consultants Employment Quality Act, as its presence has provided much demand for land use consultants on large projects. (See also: Environmental Impact Report, or EIR)
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Interesting take, Andrew. At least the terms are in English and they could be understood by anyone desiring to learn them and understand the process established over the years by our esteemed elected leaders and the bureaucrats they hire. Our land use terms and processes are certainly much more complicated than those found in other cities (maybe Houston, TX or Baton Rouge, LA). Unfortunately, most of these terms simply signify that a property owner who wants to develop his or her own property has to jump through more hoops that the Aztec Basketball team.
It's not the terms that people have problems with, it's the number of terms (aka regulations). They add to cost and negatively impact the quality of life (via $ spent) regarding housing for the average San Diegan.