Monday, Sept. 17, 2007 | The volume button often sticks on LOUD whenever the city of San Diego announces innovations or new campaigns, especially when those ideas garner awards and pats on the back for the city.
And one of the loudest shouted in recent years: the concept of San Diego as the City of Villages.
Several years ago, the city announced this new understanding of urban renewal. The framework promised to inspire older neighborhoods to revitalize their community main streets, welcome more residential density closer to mass transportation, and unite residents and business owners within the smaller communities in San Diego. The city accepted proposals and designated five communities as pilot villages, the symbols of 21st century development, the catalysts for smart growth.
In addition to the “honor and prestige of being selected” as a pilot village, according to the city’s website, each of the designated neighborhoods would be eligible for certain incentives to speed up the facelift process. Needed infrastructure upgrades and replacements would be given priority. Some fees would be deferred. Businesses seeking to improve their facilities or surrounding spaces would be eligible for expedited permits. And the city would help the planners understand and work through policies on affordable housing and undergrounding utility lines.
All of that would build a network of unique, modern and smart developments throughout San Diego.
But five years after the city adopted the framework, and three-and-a-half years after the pilot villages were designated, the once-touted City of Villages campaign has lost some of its luster. With just a fraction of the support that was promised for needs like sidewalks and sewers actually coming in, some community planners wonder if the framework was ever rooted in reality.