Monday, March 3, 2008

San Diego Ready to Build Up, Not Out

For the first time since 1979, the City of San Diego is reviewing and updating its general plan for growth and development. The report is more than 300 pages long and not even *I* am nerd enough to read it all (ok, not yet), but it's kicking up quite a stir as it recommends a rather dramatic shift to infill, redevelopment and other building up instead of out priorities. Why the shift? Well, there's no more room. As the U-T points out, only 4% of San Diego remains open for new development. Which means it's time to start thinking like an actual city instead of neverending suburbia.

This notion has of course stirred up plenty of controversy. Some of it is legitimate, like Councilmember Donna Frye's concerns about infrastructure and services keeping up with increased density. Some of it is mostly just people just trying to cover their own butts without regard for the broader picture. I'm all for making sure that the projects are executed correctly, but criticisms along the lines of "if it's done wrong, it'll be bad" really don't help me much.

Calitics has, on many occasions, discussed the need to change the way California thinks about development. Robert in Monterey has led the way on the notion that building density and a non-car based transportation system is key to the next generation of planning. So while I'm cynical like many people around town who say "The plan has these wonderful platitudes but on every page," I'm also encouraged by just the notion of setting a goal of building forward-thinking urban density.

San Diego's take on it will apparently focus on these ten priorities:

The proposed new blueprint for San Diego is guided by 10 principles. They are:

An open-space network formed by parks, canyons, river valleys, habitats, beaches and ocean.

Diverse residential communities formed by the open-space network.

Compact and walkable mixed-use villages.

Employment centers for a strong economy.

A regional transportation network of walkways, bikeways, transit, roadways and freeways that link communities to each other and to employment centers.

High quality, affordable and well-maintained public facilities.

Historic districts and sites that respect San Diego's heritage.

Balanced communities that offer opportunities for all San Diegans.

A clean and sustainable environment.

A high aesthetic standard.
Mayor Jerry Sanders, in a serious battle with fellow right-winger Steve Francis (hitting from the left and the right cause there's no major Dem in the race) for November's mayoral election, is dusting off his anti-labor credentials by complaining about the promotion of living wage regulation for low-wage industries like, say, tourism. Center for Policy Initiatives has coincidentally (not at all a coincidence) reminded San Diegans this week that the local economy has not exactly been churning out the big bucks (pdf). Via email:

In San Diego County, two-thirds of all jobs created since 1990 are in the bottom third of wage levels -- with median pay of $24,500 a year. Research from the California Budget Project shows that even a person living alone needs $28,000 a year to meet basic living expenses in our county.

Nice. So San Diego is producing jobs that pay too little to live in San Diego, thus the living wage is a bad idea. Clearly. Living is bad. Affording to live in San Diego is bad for the local economy. Jerry Sanders is an economic mastermind.

But where this really will start hitting problems is when people have to pay for it. Not because people are unwilling to pay for good stuff, but because of the near-toxic combination of politicians who demonize government inefficiency (that they contribute to), the media that laps up the notion (because it's easier than being a legitimate watchdog), and the years of (to put it nicely) crap government in San Diego.

But as Planning Commission Chairman Barry Schultz puts it, "if we want to have this vision we have to be willing to contribute our part."


Cross posted from Calitics

No comments: