The City Council on Nov. 9 voted overwhelmingly in favor of Complete Communities, a package of initiatives and planning strategies to provide incentives for housing development near transit, while promoting and investing in active transportation as an alternative to cars.
Complete Communities prioritizes the City’s resources channeling them to where the needs are greatest, in underrepresented lower-income neighborhoods referred to in the plan as “Communities of Concern.”
The transit-oriented future housing and neighborhood parks development plan was championed by outgoing Mayor Kevin Faulconer.
“For far too long our under served and minority neighborhoods have been neglected when it comes to new infrastructure,” Faulconer said. “We will now prioritize and reinvigorate those neighborhoods through this initiative because we cannot truly prosper as a city until every community is complete. Our Complete Communities plan incorporates much of what our residents say they want – more housing near transit, more mobility options, and more public amenities like parks that strengthen neighborhoods. Now we have the ability to put those ideas into action and build a better future for all San Diegans.”
Beach planners reacted to passage of Complete Communities, which some had expressed concerns about.
Kevin Hastings, vice chair of Ocean Beach Planning Board, was relieved that the plan has been amended. “Community advocates banded together and were successful in lobbying for reduced floor-area allowances (FAR) in the coastal area and excluding low-density multifamily zones from the plan,” he said. “I appreciate staff taking our feedback seriously, although I still think the proposal is too much of a developer giveaway that will gentrify affordable neighborhoods.”
Janie Emerson, president of La Jolla Shores Association, said her planning group also had reservations about the plan.
“A 2.5 FAR is not possible in a coastal zone with a 30-foot height limit,” she said. “We asked for 1.8 FAR, which is doable. By keeping 2.5 it sets up a false expectation for people who will then be upset when told by local coastal planning groups this won’t work. The City acknowledged this and refused to change it.”
Added Emerson: “We are very concerned that our major first-responder arteries are already overcrowded and more density will make that worse. LJSA requested that the City designate crucial first-responder arteries throughout the City as exempt from high-density projects.
“In the Shores, the high density is earmarked for Avenida de la Playa and Torrey Pines from Shell Station through condos beyond The Racquet Club. This is the route from La Jolla to the ERs. It can’t take more traffic.”
James P. Rudolph, speaking for La Jolla Town Council, said: “The sentiment shared by many is that there hasn't been enough time to review all the details and implications. We'll soon have a new mayor and a newly constituted council, so the feeling is that local communities — where the changes will be most keenly felt — should be given more time to provide feedback.”
Added Rudolph: “Mayor-elect Gloria said he supports the broad goals of Complete Communities but harbors some concerns about changes to height limits and other elements. If and when problems arise, Gloria said he and the council can make adjustments.
“This wait-and-see flexible approach, which acknowledges that there are at the very least some potential concerns, seems wise. We urge all local groups to remain engaged as the process unfolds.”
Following public testimony on Nov. 9, Council President Georgette Gomez thanked the public “for participating on this critical item which hopefully will be transformative for the City.”
District 2 Councilmember Jennifer Campbell favored approving the plan’s housing element, but voiced some reservations about it.
“I am concerned about the FAR being too high especially in the coastal zones,” Campbell said. “My constituents and I will be carefully monitoring this. Hopefully, the 30-foot height limit in the coastal zone will protect us from too high a FAR.”
Campbell added she would have preferred not having so many elements lumped together into one all-encompassing housing ordinance, rather than addressing them individually.
“We’ll see how well this complex, complicated ordinance that combines everything into one works,” she said, adding, “Only because this ordinance can be reviewed and improved, I will vote yes today.”
Outgoing District 1 Councilmember Barbara Bry said of Complete Communities: “It is a very ambitious plan and I laud its goals and priorities. But I think the FAR proposed for the coastal zone is unachievable.”
“I’m happy to have worked closely with community members and the mayor on an initiative that helps shape a better way to uplift older communities that have been left behind,” said Council President Gómez. “Complete Communities is a milestone program that recognizes inequities in San Diego, addresses our climate crisis by promoting smart, transit-oriented development, and creates more affordable housing.”
COMPLETE COMMUNITIES HOUSING SOLUTIONS
An optional affordable housing incentive program that will provide new affordable and market-rate housing near transit; preserve existing affordable rents, and establish a new way to fund neighborhood amenities. The goal of the program is to add approximately 8,000 more homes per year.
Key program features include:
City’s strongest affordable housing requirements for mixed-income projects (40%).
Creates more housing for those in lower income levels (50% area median income).
Provides new incentives and fee waivers for development projects with 100% affordable units.
Provides relocation and replacement housing benefits.
New fees collected will be allocated for neighborhood investments.
75% of the funds used to preserve existing affordable housing and neighborhood amenities in Communities of Concern.
25% of the funds used for neighborhood amenities adjacent to the new affordable housing project.
Preserves the existing height limits in coastal areas.
Excludes parcels in lower density multi-family or mixed-use zones.
Includes height protections near single-family zones.
Annual monitoring required.
COMPLETE COMMUNITIES MOBILITY CHOICES
Reduces greenhouse gas emissions through increased mobility options within communities. This component is aimed at connecting every San Diegan with safe and convenient mobility alternatives that can reliably connect them to jobs, shopping, services, neighborhood parks, open spaces, and facilities.
Key program features include:
Dedicating at least 50% of all funds collected to be spent solely in Communities of Concern, where investments are most needed.
New incentives to construct additional investments in Communities of Concern.
Streamlined review process for development located closest to transit.
Tailored plan to result in greatest reductions in greenhouse gas emissions with focused investments to serve the greatest number of City residents.
Significantly streamlined environmental review.
Focused plan to reduce citywide Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) most efficiently.
New active transportation infrastructure delivered near transit stops and stations.