The approval process for downtown projects has often been cited by developers as a model for other neighborhoods. That’s why it’s important for the public to read the fine print.
In Downtown San Diego, the planning and permitting functions have been delegated to a nonprofit owned by the city, called Civic San Diego. A consulting agreement between the city and CivicSD contracts out the administration of the land development laws, and the consultant is compensated based on the projects and services rendered. These laws implement the Downtown Community Plan, which was adopted in 2006.
CivicSD is a one-stop shop for downtown developers. Any development downtown needs a permit issued by CivicSD. It may need other city permits (for historical buildings, for example) or coastal permits (for buildings near the bayfront) or use permits (for uses like entertainment). But if you develop in downtown, you need to come to CivicSD.
Downtown developers do not need to analyze or mitigate environmental impacts of individual projects. The environmental impact report for downtown was approved in 2006 by the City Council. The report covers all projects planned within the district. That does not mean that the impacts of these projects are mitigated. In fact, direct impacts to land-use planning, transportation, circulation, access, parking, cultural resources, aesthetics/visual quality and noise were found to be significant, yet were not mitigated to below a level of significance. The plan was challenged due to its significant impact on transportation, with a settlement on the promise to study transit-oriented alternatives to the plan. Unfortunately, transit ridership is still in the single digits, with little progress on transportation alternatives that connect downtown commute trips.
Over a billion dollars of public taxpayer funds have been expended to support downtown projects. From subsidizing Horton Plaza, to the Convention Center, to Petco Park, public funds have been used to both create the market demand for hotels, restaurants and condos, and to build the supporting public infrastructure. During the three decades of redevelopment, increases in property taxes would be diverted to downtown, away from schools and neighborhood services. With the demise of redevelopment, however, development impact fees – money developers pay to go toward infrastructure in the areas where they’re building – are starting to ramp up downtown.
In comparison, the rest of the city is riddled with a gaping infrastructure deficit that continues to grow. Community plans are often outdated, and the resources to improve the quality of life of residents are stretched thin. Consequently, the citywide process for project approval is bifurcated between permits that need special approvals, and those that can be issued over the counter. For those projects that need special approval, the city has experts in planning, transportation, ADA compliance, fair housing, sustainability etc. that review the project. A public hearing is then conducted. For projects that can be approved over the counter, no development permit is needed. Therefore, the permit issuing time for special approvals alone does not represent the actual permit time for all projects outside of downtown.
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I don't see any particular problems cited within this article. It seems like a lot of fluff to me. General complaints without any specific listing of specific projects doesn't seem very helpful to me so forgive me if I don't start jumping up and down about civic san diego.
"To simplify the comparison, I have excluded those projects that need a variance, zoning change, conditional use or community plan amendment. I have also excluded community planning group hearings, since they are advisory."
I genuinely appreciate the attempt to simplify, but key factors like these strike me as exactly "why it’s important for the public to read the fine print." It discounts the value of having a current Community Plan.
And while I realize I'm biased on this, simply dismissing the input of the community planning groups because they're advisory suggests that no one ever actually heeds their advice (which doesn't happen to be my personal experience). And the public giving testimony at City Council or Planning Commission is just advisory too, right?
Mr. Maxamusa has cited reasons the CivicSD board can NOT reject a project. I wonder what reasons ARE available to reject. Have ANY projects been rejected or sent back for adjustments?
"In comparison, the rest of the city is riddled with a gaping infrastructure deficit that continues to grow."
Could it be because only downtown is self-sufficient in terms of tax revenue versus city spending, and all the other neighborhoods of San Diego depend on welfare from downtown? http://www.downtownsandiego.org/imaginedowntown/a-regional-asset/
@Ducraker It appears to be that way.
@Ducraker If you can find evidence to the contrary, I would be interested in seeing it. But I don't think any such evidence exists, probably because no neighborhood wants to admit that it depends on welfare from other neighborhoods. It would be embarrassing for Carmel Valley, for instance.
So we're left with what little evidence is available, such as the link I posted above, and this one: http://usa.streetsblog.org/2015/03/05/sprawl-costs-the-public-more-than-twice-as-much-as-compact-development/
Post a less biased link and I might start to believe you. The Downtown San Diego Partnership? You're joking.