Solana Beach continues general plan update

SOLANA BEACH — Preserving private property rights, minimizing government-imposed development fees and redeveloping the train station are priorities for future housing needs, according to public input provided as Solana Beach works to update its general plan. 

But perhaps the most important goal is maintaining the existing community character. “(That) is very, very important,” Chris Morrow, a planning director with Project Design Consultants, said during a second workshop held July 18 as part of the general plan update process.

“Almost everyone believes that’s something of solid value to the community and we’ve heard that loud and clear,” he said.

Residents have also indicated they would like the city to promote green building practices, streamline the permit process, encourage mixed-use housing along Coast Highway 101, embrace diversity without creating “cookie cutter” homes and require high-quality architecture.

When it comes to mandated affordable housing, residents expressed a desire to have it integrated throughout the community.

“That was certainly a comment that more than one person had to make sure we don’t overconcentrate affordable housing in any one particular area,” Morrow said.

It should also be designed to discourage crime. Residents saw high land prices and neighborhood opposition as the biggest constraints to developing affordable housing.

Morrow said the city is considering a public outreach program about the myths and realities of affordable housing to address and mitigate those issues.

A general plan is a long-range document that guides the development of a jurisdiction. It includes a map that assigns land-use designations to each property, such as commercial, residential, parks, open space and industrial. Text outlines goals, policies and programs.

Of the seven required elements in the plan, only housing, which is the most regulated, is mandated to be updated at least once every eight years.

Solana Beach developed its general plan in 1988, two years after it became a city. It’s been amended since then but this is the first comprehensive update. The housing element must be adopted by April 2013.

So far city staff and the consultants have completed background research to understand existing conditions. An initial public workshop was held in May and a community questionnaire was released to garner public input.

City Council members were updated and they provided input. The consultants have also been working with Councilmen Tom Campbell and Mike Nichols, the ad hoc committee members.

The housing element ensures jurisdictions plan adequately for their housing needs for all income groups, Morrow said.

“The state stepped in to make sure that that happens,” he said. It is intended to address problems that arise if there is an inadequate supply of affordable housing.

A shortage of any housing leads to price increases and fewer units available for lower and moderate income groups, Morrow said.

The “ripple effects” include overcrowded households, dilapidated housing, a potential increase in the homeless population and longer commutes, which contribute to increased greenhouse gas emissions.

The state identifies projected housing needs for all economic segments based on Department of Finance population estimates and then assigns a required number of units to each jurisdiction.

Locally, the San Diego Association of Governments allocates the number of units to the county’s 18 cities.

“Each one of them gets a share of housing so that we, as a region, can fulfill our regional housing needs,” Morrow said. If cities can’t show they can provide the assigned number of units, which is 340 in Solana Beach, they must demonstrate rezoning plans to be in compliance.

“We’re fortunate in Solana Beach that we don’t need to do that,” Morrow said.

The city is also working to update its land-use and circulation elements.

In land use, residents have indicated a desire to focus on reducing the carbon footprint, conserving open space, creating additional green space and making the city more pedestrian, bicycle and dog friendly.

They also said they would like to protect ocean views, be business friendly, develop a downtown near the train station and Cedros district and increase, restore and preserve beach access.

As for circulation, residents said they would like to see a reduced reliance on cars and incentives to use other modes of transportation. They also indicated a desire for a bike-sharing program and a focus on addressing traffic during school hours, perhaps bringing back buses.

Residents can provide additional input via the city website or by attending upcoming workshops, hearings and council meetings.

 

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