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North Park to vote on its future

Posted: August 26th, 2016 | Featured, News, North Park | No Comments

Decision time on Community Plan Update

Ken Williams | Editor

Updating a Community Plan — an important policy document that guides new development in San Diego’s neighborhoods — is a long, arduous process requiring patience, perseverance, compromise and a big dose of hope for the future.

The North Park Planning Committee began working on the Community Plan Update (CPU) about eight years ago, at a time when George W. Bush was in the waning months of his presidency. So much has happened in the years that have passed, including countless public meetings involving stakeholders in the community. Finally, the hard work has paid off with a final draft that has been assembled by the city’s Planning Department for public review.

On Tuesday, Sept. 6, the planning committee will take a vote on the final draft. The special meeting will be held at the Lafayette Hotel, located at 2223 El Cajon Blvd., to accommodate what is expected to be a very large crowd to witness the monumental decision.

NP Community Plan UpdateEven if the CPU is approved by the committee, the document must still get the blessing of the Planning Commission and finally the City Council. A final vote by the City Council could come in October, and the new policy document would go into effect by year’s end.

The new CPU will guide development in the greater North Park area for the next 20 years. The city defines greater North Park as the 1,980 acres that comprise the neighborhoods of Altadena, Burlingame, Montclair, North Park and University Heights east of Park Boulevard. Interstate 805 marks the eastern boundary of greater North Park.

The North Park CPU is part of the General Plan, the city’s constitution for development. City planners have been simultaneously working on Community Plan updates for Uptown and Golden Hill, neighborhoods that connect on two sides of North Park, and those updates are also expected to go to the City Council later this year.

Developer Impact Fees

The North Park Planning Committee met Aug. 16, and the board voted 11-2 to approve a draft version of the North Park Impact Fee Study. Board members Robert Barry and Rick Pyles voted against the motion without stating their reasons.

The study is considered a companion piece to the CPU, and determines a formula for charging development impact fees (DIF) on new construction. The fees collect money to pay for community facilities that need to be built to accommodate population growth resulting from new development.

North Park currently has a population of 46,420 living in 25,025 dwelling units, and is expected to grow to 73,170 living in 36,570 dwelling units by build-out, according to city figures.

The Community Plan Environmental Impact Report estimates that North Park at build-out will generate a total of 466,850 average daily trips, compared to the latest data from 2008 that showed 412,046 average daily trips.

The study calculated the new DIF:

  • Residential DIF will be $6,634 per dwelling unit. Out of that, $5,468 would go toward Parks and Recreation, $700 for mobility, $394 for library, and $72 for Fire-Rescue.
  • Non-residential DIF will be $100 per average daily trips and $72 per 1,000 square feet. Out of that, mobility would get $100 per average daily trips and Fire-Rescue would get $72 per 1,000 square feet.

One of the functions of the draft CPU is to identify the future needs of the North Park community. The board has compiled dozens of needs and listed them by priority. To read the draft CPU, visit bit.ly/2bds6Fi.

For example, the No. 1 items by category are:

  • Sidewalk and Pedestrian Improvements — Provide sidewalks that are 15 feet wide at minimum along El Cajon Boulevard and University Avenue. The Active Transportation goal is to enhance pedestrian and commercial activity along those busy thoroughfares.
  • Bicycle Improvements — Support and implement bicycle priority streets and facilities that connect North Park to neighboring communities with emphasis on constructing bikeways in the bikeway network, including but not limited to Normal Heights and City Heights particularly along Adams, Meade, Lincoln and University avenues and El Cajon Boulevard.
  • Street, Traffic Signal, Signage and Traffic Calming Improvements — Support the enhancement of Florida Drive from North Park to Downtown to create an efficient and safe multi-modal “Complete Street.”
  • Public Park and Open Space Improvement Policies — Preserve and protect North Park’s canyons and open space areas by limiting public use to designated trails.
  • Public Facilities Improvements — Provide facilities that accommodate a full range of city programs to serve residents and cultivate civic involvement. Locate free public meeting spaces in easily accessible locations throughout North Park, including but not limited to facilities that are to be rebuilt at North Park Community Center.
  • Community Proposed Future Park and Recreation Projects — North Park Community Park: Existing park and recreation facilities consisting of a recreation center, a teen center, an adult center, a comfort station, a lighted ball field, multipurpose turf area, a children’s play area, three tennis courts, handball courts, walkways, seating and picnic tables. Of the 7.9 acres, 2.8 acres is part of the joint use area with ALBA school. Replace natural turf on ball field with synthetic turf and provide new sports field lighting to increase use.

The problem is that the DIF does not raise enough money to pay for the community’s wish list. A pie chart included in the study shows that 43 percent of the total estimated facility cost in North Park (which totals $567 million) is included in the DIF basis. That means $323 million must be found in other funding sources. The breakdown by category is:

  • Mobility Facilities — The total cost estimate is almost $72 million, but the DIF basis is $43 million.
  • Parks and Recreation Facilities — The total cost estimate is nearly $468 million, but the DIF basis is $185 million.
  • Fire-Rescue Facilities — The total cost estimate is $13.4 million, but the DIF basis is $2.6 million.
  • Library Facilities — The total cost estimate is $14 million, but the DIF basis is $13 million.

Scott Mercer, from the Planning Department, explained it this way: “You can only charge new development their fair share.”

In other news

The North Park Planning Committee heard several information items:

  • Proposition A — David Hicks, representing the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), explained the November ballot measure that proposes to raise the sales tax by a half-cent to fast-track the region’s most pressing transportation needs. About 42 percent of the money raised would go toward improving public transit. He noted that the trolley’s proposed Purple Line — which would go from San Ysidro border crossing to Kearny Mesa employment centers, would likely cross through North Park via the 805 corridor. He said engineers have not yet plotted out the potential location of the Purple Line, but predicted that there would be trolley stations built in the North Park area.
  • Citizens’ Plan for San Diego — Jeff Marston spoke on behalf of the November ballot issue that was crafted by attorney Cory Briggs. Long and complex, Measure D is explained at length at bit.ly/2b0q1Pk. This measure, which involves setting a Transient Occupancy Tax for hotels, authorizes a sports stadium Downtown or at the Qualcomm Stadium site but does not permit the spending of taxpayer dollars for construction costs. Marston pointed out that this was not the same as the Citizens’ Initiative proposed by the San Diego Chargers football team that wants to build a stadium and Convention Center annex in East Village.

Also, the Urban Design/Project Review subcommittee will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 7, at the North Park Recreation Center’s Social Room. The Public Facilities & Transportation subcommittee will meet at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14, at the North Park Recreation Center’s Adult Center. Both meetings are open to the public.

 —Ken Williams is editor of Uptown News and can be reached at ken@sdcnn.com or at 619-961-1952. Follow him on Twitter at @KenSanDiego, Instagram at @KenSD or Facebook at KenWilliamsSanDiego.

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