An apartment building under construction in San Diego. Courtesy San Diego Housing Commission

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors Wednesday directed the chief administrative officer to find ways to streamline the building permitting process.

County Administrative Officer Helen Robbins-Meyer will return to the board within 180 days with recommendations on:

  • Implementing a self-certification process for engineers, along with permit and California Environmental Quality Act evaluation requirements.
  • Increasing final engineering flexibility and opportunities to expand checklist exemptions for certain permit processes.
  • Implementing a project issue resolution process.
  • And increasing coordination and accountability between departments.

Recommendations will also involve input from a working group featuring industry professionals.

Supervisor Jim Desmond, who made the original proposal, said affordable housing is a major problem in the county, due to numerous federal and state regulations.

“By speeding up some of the county permitting processes, we can do our part by making housing more affordable,” Desmond said.

Supervisor Kristin Gaspar said another reason for the lack of housing is that numerous projects are tied up in environmental litigation.

“Environmental attorneys are laughing their whole way to the bank,” she said.

Gaspar requested added a working group to Desmond’s proposal, which also received support from building industry representatives during the supervisors’ meeting.

Matt Adams, vice president of the Building Industry of Association of San Diego County, said housing production in the county is down, and his organization stands ready to help the county in the streamlining process.

“Talk doesn’t get you housing — production gets you housing,” Adams said.

Board Chairwoman Dianne Jacob said the board has approved thousands of maps for building projects which haven’t been built, and asked Adams what the impediments were. “We’ve done our job here,” Jacob added.

Adams said when it comes to land use and production, developers have to consider if a project is economically viable and if not, “the project is going to sit.”

“We can only do so much,” Jacob replied.

John Seymour, an executive with the National Community Renaissance building company, said the city of San Diego has an expedited building permit process, and “they save a ton of money.”

Seymour said affordable housing developers are risk-averse because of capped rents, and a less discretionary process is better.

He also suggested that the county review and update its community plans for zoning.

— City News Service

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