Statement: “Building a facility in Rancho Bernardo and downtown requires the same parking,” Nathan Fletcher said at a mayoral candidate forum about land use issues Jan. 18.
Analysis: Three of San Diego’s high-profile candidates for mayor attended a forum last month to talk about land issues. The city has stopped updating its community plans, leaving some neighborhoods with long outdated blueprints for development.
The candidates — City Councilman Carl DeMaio, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher — were asked how they would each address the situation as mayor. Congressman Bob Filner, the election’s fourth high-profile candidate, did not attend.
Part of Fletcher’s response caught our attention. He called the city’s land use policies out of sync with future demand and advocated for greater public transit. Citing an unnamed source, he described one problem needing repair.
“It’s just having government catch up to the market. I was told the other day that building a facility in Rancho Bernardo and downtown requires the same parking,” Fletcher said. “That’s silly because those are completely different.”
Fletcher argued that the city’s policies don’t encourage enough public transit. He essentially said the city requires developers to build as much off-street parking downtown, a public transit hub, as a suburban neighborhood like Rancho Bernardo, where less public transit is available.
However, that’s not true. Parking rules in Rancho Bernardo and downtown are not the same.
Kelly Broughton is director of the city’s Development Services Department, which oversees all city planning laws. If a developer proposed building the same office facility in the two neighborhoods, Broughton said the company would likely be required to build less parking downtown.
An office downtown must normally have at least 1.5 parking spots per thousand square feet of office space while one in Rancho Bernardo must have at least 3.3 spaces, Broughton said. The number of spaces can vary depending on the type of building, but in each case, downtown almost always has less.
“Downtown’s got its own parking requirements that’s different and distinct from the (rest of the) city,” Broughton said.
San Diego’s public transportation network is designed to reduce traffic and off-street parking downtown. Trolley lines, bus lines and railways all lead to the city’s core, unloading thousands of commuters each day from across the region.
Because those public transit options exist downtown, the city requires developers to build less off-street parking there than most neighborhoods. Planners figure more people who live or work at the building will take a train or bus instead of driving their car.
Compared to more suburban neighborhoods like Rancho Bernardo, downtown developers also benefit from more mixed use opportunities. If the parking lot may be used during the day by a business and used at night by residents, the developer may be allowed to build fewer spaces and cut its costs.
Because Fletcher’s comparison inaccurately describes the city’s parking rules — developers must follow different rules in the two neighborhoods, not the same — we’ve rated the statement False.
Fletcher’s campaign did not dispute our rating. It argued Fletcher’s point is still sound, writing in a statement:
The point Nathan made is valid — the vast majority of the City is subject to the exact same parking regulations despite differences in needs due to access to mass transit or other considerations. The fact is that the City ought to look at the needs of individual communities when determining development standards like parking ratios. For example, a mostly industrial area like East Otay Mesa is subject to similar ratios as people in Point Loma.
Now that neighborhood comparison, according to city planners we asked, is accurate.
In the past, we’ve received criticism for fact checking statements like this one because Fletcher attributed the claim to another person. He introduced it by saying, “I was told the other day.”
Readers have argued we Fact Check whoever made the original claim and argued that we should examine whether Fletcher actually heard the claim from another person.
Simply determining the accuracy of a claim is more important than its origin. Regardless of who first made the inaccurate parking comparison, Fletcher chose to redistribute it to the public. He tied himself to the claim’s merits and by doing so, assumed the responsibility of its accuracy.
Only for the sake of thoroughness, I did ask Fletcher’s campaign where he got the information. However, the campaign did not respond by our story deadline.
If you disagree with our determination or analysis, please express your thoughts in the comments section of this blog post. Explain your reasoning.
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