Robert Vacchi, a Point Loma resident who leads the city's Development Services Department, discussed city rules governing building heights.
A case in point, cited by Vacchi, is the controversial multi-story development on Emerson and Evergreen in Roseville, which many residents believed exceeded the 30-foot height limit. Many residents have complained that the city's municipal code is now too loosely defined governing how – and where – a building's height limit is measured.
Vacchi said it was more difficult to make changes to height limits in this case, because the 30-foot height limit was passed by voters with Proposition D, rather than being an action taken by the San Diego City Council.
“It was difficult to find a solution, in part because the law is written, not like a (city) ordinance, where you can go back in and fix it through words,” Vacchi said, noting it was an act passed instead by voters, which he added is tougher to change.
“A (voter-passed) proposition takes precedent over anything the City Council does,” Vacchi said adding, “With existing projects in the pipeline, what California case law says is that, once the city has issued a building permit – you can't change the rules on them.”
An audience member called Vacchi out, alleging the city was not being entirely truthful in its stance on height limits.
“I really find a high level of audacity for you to address this crowd and present us with this convoluted logic that has allowed out-of-character structures to be approved in this community,” said the resident. “This has been a deception, and these regulations are for financial gain.”
“Nothing can be changed once the stakes are in the ground,” replied Vacchi.
“This is a hot-button issue in this community, and you're telling us the proposition gives us no wiggle room on it,” pointed out Peninsula Planning Board member Jim Hare. Hare characterized recent height-limit reform undertaken by the city as “landmark actions with regard to the protection of this community. I just want to say, 'I appreciate you being here to work through this with us.’”
“We were led to believe the city was going to have a moratorium on (questionable) projects,” said board member Julia Quinn.
“We had no direction from the City Council to have a moratorium on any building permits,” responded Vacchi. “The [city] recommended going through zoning changes and reducing the amount of collateral damage in the process, and we succeeded in that.”
PCPB meets the third Thursday of the month from 6:30 to 9 p.m. in the community room at Point Loma/Hervey Branch Library at 3701 Voltaire St.