City of San Diego officials said Wednesday that they’re launching a checklist for developers in an effort to reduce project expenses and lead to lower housing costs for the public.
The checklist will be for builders who propose certain types of projects in neighborhoods where community zoning plans have been recently updated.
The 13-page checklist will allow builders to avoid having to produce costly and time-consuming environmental reports on their individual projects, by allowing them to rely on what’s called a programmatic EIR created for the neighborhood zoning updates, said Alyssa Muto of the Planning Department.
Some individual elements of their projects might need to be reviewed, but the programmatic EIR — being an overall planning document for the neighborhood — takes care of the “heavy lifting” on behalf of the developer, Muto said at a meeting of the City Council’s Smart Growth and Land Use Committee.
City officials have been looking for — and putting into effect — streamlining methods to cut developer time and costs in order to ease San Diego’s affordable housing crunch. The high cost of housing at all economic levels not only impacts the homeless and low-income residents, but young adults wanting to buy their first homes, and companies deciding whether to move here and bring high-paying jobs with them.
It was estimated that the checklists could save builders three months of planning in a business where time equals money.
“Anything that can fast-track projects makes sense, if done correctly,” Councilwoman Georgette Gomez said.
The neighborhoods where the community plans have been updated, and have programmatic EIRs in place, are Encanto, Golden Hill, Grantville, North Park, Ocean Beach, Otay Mesa, San Ysidro, Southeast San Diego and Uptown — which consists of Bankers Hill, Hillcrest, Mission Hills and University Heights.
According to Muto, developers qualify if their projects are consistent with the programmatic EIR’s density and usage intensity levels, create no unforeseen impacts and if no significant issues have arisen in the neighborhood since the community update’s adoption.
No other cities in the region offer checklists for environmental reviews, but the county does. However, Muto said the county checklists aren’t being used as much as first expected.
Examples of questions on the checklist are whether a project would:
“Conflict with the environmental goals, objectives, or guidelines of the general plan, community plan, or other applicable land use plan.”
- “Conflict with the provision of the city’s Multiple Species Conservation Program Subarea Plan or other approved local, regional, or state habitat conservation plan.”
- “Result in an increase in projected traffic which is substantial in relation to the existing traffic load and capacity of the street system.”
- “Result in the addition of a substantial amount of traffic to a congested freeway segment, interchange, or ramp.”
- “Result in the substantial alteration of air movement.”
- And “result in a significant increase in the existing ambient noise levels.”
Other questions involve biological resources, energy, greenhouse gases, water quality, historical resources, impacts on paleontology, seismic issues and hazardous materials, among other things.
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