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Regarding the recent article about urban development and the proposed infrastructure bond:
My associates and I, as community planning activists, have grappled with these issues for many years. We have learned that there are important distinctions to keep in mind.
1. We must distinguish between two types of infrastructure/public facility needs.
• New development must pay for itself.This principle gained a footing under Mayor Pete Wilson and is still part of city policies. The mechanism for this in the older communities is the Development Impact Fee. Over the last two decades, the DIFs have been set unrealistically low. The DIFs haven’t been revised because Mayor Jerry Sanders’ staff have put on hold the revisions to the Facilities Financing Plans for some key communities.
• Current deficiencies will need to be paid for by existing residents and businesses. An infrastructure bond might be acceptable to residents if the use were restricted to curing existing deficiencies. To be blunt: Most of us residents don’t want large-scale increases in density in our communities. If such change is imposed upon us, we certainly aren’t going to pay for it.
The falsehood, which is often stated by city planners and developers, is that new projects will provide enough public facilities to accommodate the needs of the new development, and also cure part of the existing deficiencies. In practice, the new projects never provide enough facilities to cover the increased demand for transportation, parks, libraries and fire stations, so there’s no “extra” facility improvements to cure the deficiencies. Under state law, developers can’t be required to cure existing deficiencies.
2. The infrastructure bond.
As proposed by the Chamber of Commerce, it’s an attempt to shift the burden of new public facilities from developers to the public, and to erase the distinction between existing deficiencies and the new facilities required to serve the new development.
3. Community plan updates are the proper forum for providing overall direction to new development, as you have stated.
Unfortunately, the current mayor has little commitment to the updates, or to urban planning in general, so we’ll have to wait until after the coming election.
4. Development Impact Fees, when increased, don’t raise housing prices in the long run.
The reasons were explained to me by Economics Professor Ross Starr at UC San Diego. Developers merely drive a harder bargain when buying up land for projects, in order to preserve their profits.
The Voice of San Diego has provided a valuable service by raising the important topics covered in the recent articles.
Tom Mullaney is the director at Friends of San Diego.
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