The Plan to Fix Lengthy Plan Updates

The Plan to Fix Lengthy Plan Updates

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Bill Fulton at Politifest

A big part of former Mayor Bob Filner’s neighborhoods-first promise involved finding a way to speed up the process of updating community plans, the blueprints that different neighborhoods draw up to guide future development.

Planning Director Bill Fulton Wednesday hinted at a workaround that might achieve that same goal.

Pursuing “focused plan amendments” for specific areas within one of the city’s 50-some community planning areas would let the city draw up new standards in areas ripe for growth.

Then the city could just leave alone the parts of the community that aren’t likely to change very much.

The focused plan amendments would require a lot of the same parts of modernizing a plan — updating fees developers pay to help build infrastructure, conducting traffic studies, drawing up new lists of needed park and infrastructure investments. But they wouldn’t require studies and complex new blueprints for areas that really aren’t going to change much anyway.

The city has three focused plan amendments under way right now, at Chollas Triangle, the Morena Boulevard Station Area and in Grantville.

The Morena Boulevard Station Area amendment is meant to increase use and drive development around the planned trolley stops — at Tecolote Road and Clairemont Drive — along the Mid-Coast Trolley extension, which will connect the existing blue line from downtown to University City.

More focused plan amendments would require more money, either from the city’s general fund or other sources. But as Fulton described it, the focused plans represent an opportunity to align some of the specific areas of the city likely to experience growth with the city’s general plan — its broad outline for future growth — cheaper and quicker than the traditional route of updating community plans.

Fulton described the opportunity at Wednesday’s land use and housing committee hearing, where committee chair Lorie Zapf convened Fulton and representatives from SANDAG, MTS, the city’s housing commission and County Supervisor Ron Roberts to discuss how to get the most out of the Mid-Coast Trolley line by increasing development around the three new stops it would establish east of Interstate 5 in Clairemont Mesa and Linda Vista.

Fulton also said, with increased funding, the strategy could potentially be used at the third Mid-Coast stop, at Balboa Avenue.

“Rather than doing a comprehensive community plan update, we’re finding more and more that the community is mostly built out, so a comprehensive update might not be needed, so we can update only the areas that are likely to see lot of change,” Fulton said. “In the case of Morena, and Grantville on the green line, instead of a comprehensive community plan update, we can do a plan amendment that’ll focus on specific areas. We’ll go through a lot of the same exercises — mobility, update impact fees — but it’s a quicker and less expensive to focus on areas that’ll really change, rather than spending more time and money on a comprehensive plan area, most of which isn’t going to change.”

If that sounds similar in some ways to what Civic San Diego is proposing to do in Mid-City and along the orange line in Encanto, it’s because it is, at least from a planning perspective.

Civic San Diego is also proposing to subsidize development in specific areas through a public-private investment fund, but it begins with creating what’s called a “specific plan” in those areas that would clear the way for more development by, among other things, changing the zoning to allow more building.

Fulton said the focused plan amendments could take the shape of these so-called specific plans, if city leaders decided that’s what they want.

“For example, in theory, we could take the focused plan amendment, and call it or turn it into a specific plan,” he said.

If that happened, the city could do an environmental review for the entire area, and any potential project proposed within that area would be exempt from doing its own environmental review. That would lower the cost of development — and, therefore, the cost of housing for eventual residents — by reducing the time it takes to get a project approved.

Zapf said she had talked to Fulton in the past how to make community plan updates faster, and greeted the discussion of focused plan amendments as “good news.”

Voice of San Diego is a nonprofit that depends on you, our readers. Please donate to keep the service strong. Click here to find out more about our supporters and how we operate independently.


Andrew Keatts

Andrew Keatts

I'm Andrew Keatts, a reporter for Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at andrew.keatts@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.325.0529.

  • 185 Posts
  • 15
    Followers

Show comments
Before you comment, read these simple guidelines on what is not allowed.

6 comments
La Playa Heritage
La Playa Heritage

Yesterday the City returned $167 Million from the Non-Housing Due Diligence Report (DDR) to the County for Distribution. No one in the Media has investigated this failure by Civic San Diego and IBA staff.

Please help our City. Political Solutions are possible, if the truth of bad faith and mismanagement by Civic San Diego is confirmed. The State DOF has not been played Civic San Diego staff. However our a City Council just rubber stamps Civic San Diego's self serving plans.

http://tinyurl.com/20131121c

Most City Council members still think that Sacramento is stealing our RDA property taxes for their own use. How about a story on how many City Council members still believe that the State is to blame, instead of finding fault with Civic San Diego and IBA staff?

La Playa Heritage
La Playa Heritage subscribermember

Yesterday the City returned $167 Million from the Non-Housing Due Diligence Report (DDR) to the County for Distribution. No one in the Media has investigated this failure by Civic San Diego and IBA staff.

Please help our City. Political Solutions are possible, if the truth of bad faith and mismanagement by Civic San Diego is confirmed. The State DOF has not been played Civic San Diego staff. However our a City Council just rubber stamps Civic San Diego's self serving plans.

http://tinyurl.com/20131121c

Most City Council members still think that Sacramento is stealing our RDA property taxes for their own use. How about a story on how many City Council members still believe that the State is to blame, instead of finding fault with Civic San Diego and IBA staff?

Brian Peterson
Brian Peterson

To correct some redevelopment misconceptions in the linked article "How Civic San Diego Plans to Respond to Its Identity Crisis": When the state terminated redevelopment, the Tax Increment (the new property tax revenues generated in a redevelopment project area) did not go back to the state or leave the community. These funds went back to the proper taxing entities—primarily local schools, but also city and county general funds. For example, when there still was redevelopment, the Redevelopment Agency was diverting about $50 million per year away from the City’s general fund. Once all redevelopment obligations are paid, this money will fully return to the general fund to help rehab crumbling streets and sidewalks. Also, in a redevelopment area it was not just new development that generated the TI, but also the natural occurrence of typical real estate transactions. Take Grantville, for example. In 2005 the City designated Grantville a redevelopment project area. The County quickly filed suit to stop it. The RDA could not promote any new development until the lawsuit was settled, which it was in 2008. Yet, the RDA still collected TI, through ongoing real estate transactions and a remodel of one car dealership. This points out one of the common redevelopment scams: Municipalities targeting economically viable areas for redevelopment just to capture the additional property tax.

Regarding Grantville planning: They are completing the Grantville Master Plan. The plan they arrived at is one to add over 8,000 residential units to sub-area A of the former Grantville redevelopment project area. Concurrently, sub-area B is moving forward—separate from the master plan—in developing 3,000 residential units. The draft EIR is going to correctly identify the roads and traffic as a current deficiency in Grantville. It will also identify roads and traffic as exponentially worse after adding 11,000 residential units. So far, the only plan to rectify this is a neighborhood shuttle.

Regarding “public-private investment fund: That certainly sounds vague. The linked article suggests where the private money would come from, but what about the public? Watch the Legislature next year for “infrastructure financing districts,” or “sustainable community investment authorities.” Either of these things are bad news. (Granted, maybe not for Civic San Diego.) These resurrected forms of redevelopment would use some variation of TI financing, likely diverting money again away from city and county general funds, while exempting the schools. This year’s attempt at the sustainable community investment authority included the use of eminent domain—for any reason, anytime, just to force properties to conform to the plan. And when I hear “public-private investment fund,” I also think that Civic San Diego and City officials are determined to maintain some sort of slush fund for continuing redevelopment-style corporate welfare.
PS: Sorry to any readers who may get this far for the extremely long comment.
How Civic San Diego Plans to Respond to Its Identity Crisishttp://voiceofsandiego.org/2013/10/31/how-civic-san-diego-plans-to-respond-to-its-identity-crisis/Civic San Diego needs to find a long-term role for itself. Without one, it dies. So that's basically what the former redevelopment agency has spent 2013 working out.

Brian Peterson
Brian Peterson subscriber

To correct some redevelopment misconceptions in the linked article "How Civic San Diego Plans to Respond to Its Identity Crisis": When the state terminated redevelopment, the Tax Increment (the new property tax revenues generated in a redevelopment project area) did not go back to the state or leave the community. These funds went back to the proper taxing entities—primarily local schools, but also city and county general funds. For example, when there still was redevelopment, the Redevelopment Agency was diverting about $50 million per year away from the City’s general fund. Once all redevelopment obligations are paid, this money will fully return to the general fund to help rehab crumbling streets and sidewalks. Also, in a redevelopment area it was not just new development that generated the TI, but also the natural occurrence of typical real estate transactions. Take Grantville, for example. In 2005 the City designated Grantville a redevelopment project area. The County quickly filed suit to stop it. The RDA could not promote any new development until the lawsuit was settled, which it was in 2008. Yet, the RDA still collected TI, through ongoing real estate transactions and a remodel of one car dealership. This points out one of the common redevelopment scams: Municipalities targeting economically viable areas for redevelopment just to capture the additional property tax.

Regarding Grantville planning: They are completing the Grantville Master Plan. The plan they arrived at is one to add over 8,000 residential units to sub-area A of the former Grantville redevelopment project area. Concurrently, sub-area B is moving forward—separate from the master plan—in developing 3,000 residential units. The draft EIR is going to correctly identify the roads and traffic as a current deficiency in Grantville. It will also identify roads and traffic as exponentially worse after adding 11,000 residential units. So far, the only plan to rectify this is a neighborhood shuttle.

Regarding “public-private investment fund: That certainly sounds vague. The linked article suggests where the private money would come from, but what about the public? Watch the Legislature next year for “infrastructure financing districts,” or “sustainable community investment authorities.” Either of these things are bad news. (Granted, maybe not for Civic San Diego.) These resurrected forms of redevelopment would use some variation of TI financing, likely diverting money again away from city and county general funds, while exempting the schools. This year’s attempt at the sustainable community investment authority included the use of eminent domain—for any reason, anytime, just to force properties to conform to the plan. And when I hear “public-private investment fund,” I also think that Civic San Diego and City officials are determined to maintain some sort of slush fund for continuing redevelopment-style corporate welfare.
PS: Sorry to any readers who may get this far for the extremely long comment.
How Civic San Diego Plans to Respond to Its Identity Crisishttp://voiceofsandiego.org/2013/10/31/how-civic-san-diego-plans-to-respond-to-its-identity-crisis/Civic San Diego needs to find a long-term role for itself. Without one, it dies. So that's basically what the former redevelopment agency has spent 2013 working out.

Andrew Keatts
Andrew Keatts

Hi Brian, Civic San Diego's proposal for a public-private investment fund, as presently described by Civic San Diego, wouldn't take the form of an infrastructure financing district or sustainable community investment authority. (Fulton did describe IFDs at Wednesday's meeting as "redevelopment areas without blight.") Rather, the public component of Civic's proposal-- again, as presently described-- would come from some combination of sources like public-owned land within a given area, federal or state grants, or local seed money approved by the city. But the primary public role, I think, would be the role Civic San Diego would play in upzoning the properties and selling them to developers. Civic San Diego president Jeff Graham told me "we're kind of playing the role of master developers." It would acquire properties at a low value, upzone that land and put in place a master environmental report and design guidelines within the plan area, and sell the property to developers for more than it acquired the property. Civic San Diego would then need to provide the private players with a return on their investment, and the rest would go back into the revolving loan fund. "We're having to get very creative without tax increment," Graham said. Graham said similar efforts are underway in San Francisco, Denver, Minneapolis, Portland and Dallas, but Civic San Diego's tweak is the need to take over planning and permitting "so neighborhoods are developed with the proper mix of development we want to see." On whether the end of redevelopment sent local money back to Sacramento, rather than keeping it under local control, the short answer is that you're right. That's a misleading old simplification that I shouldn't have used. Property taxes are collected by the county-tax collector and distributed to local agencies. At no point does that money go to the state general fund. All I meant is that the state controls property tax distribution. But, yes, you are right that former redevelopment funds from tax increment are allocated to San Diego as much now as they used to be when redevelopment was still alive. In the future I'll make a point not to simplify the end of redevelopment as "money went back to Sacramento."

Andrew Keatts
Andrew Keatts author

Hi Brian, Civic San Diego's proposal for a public-private investment fund, as presently described by Civic San Diego, wouldn't take the form of an infrastructure financing district or sustainable community investment authority. (Fulton did describe IFDs at Wednesday's meeting as "redevelopment areas without blight.") Rather, the public component of Civic's proposal-- again, as presently described-- would come from some combination of sources like public-owned land within a given area, federal or state grants, or local seed money approved by the city. But the primary public role, I think, would be the role Civic San Diego would play in upzoning the properties and selling them to developers. Civic San Diego president Jeff Graham told me "we're kind of playing the role of master developers." It would acquire properties at a low value, upzone that land and put in place a master environmental report and design guidelines within the plan area, and sell the property to developers for more than it acquired the property. Civic San Diego would then need to provide the private players with a return on their investment, and the rest would go back into the revolving loan fund. "We're having to get very creative without tax increment," Graham said. Graham said similar efforts are underway in San Francisco, Denver, Minneapolis, Portland and Dallas, but Civic San Diego's tweak is the need to take over planning and permitting "so neighborhoods are developed with the proper mix of development we want to see." On whether the end of redevelopment sent local money back to Sacramento, rather than keeping it under local control, the short answer is that you're right. That's a misleading old simplification that I shouldn't have used. Property taxes are collected by the county-tax collector and distributed to local agencies. At no point does that money go to the state general fund. All I meant is that the state controls property tax distribution. But, yes, you are right that former redevelopment funds from tax increment are allocated to San Diego as much now as they used to be when redevelopment was still alive. In the future I'll make a point not to simplify the end of redevelopment as "money went back to Sacramento."