Reader Rant: An End To Our Commercial Zones?

by on July 31, 2014 · 0 comments

in Culture, Economy, Environment, History, San Diego

Gated CommunityBy Dave Little

A gated residential community is coming to a commercial zone near you.

This development may or may not be in compliance with the City’s Land Use Code and very likely will not have public notice nor any community review.

Recently the City has allowed development of residential gated communities to take over commercial space with only token commercial areas to satisfy the “mixed use” requirement. The commercial units are entirely outside the gates of the residential area.

More importantly, the City has ignored the commercial off-street parking requirement in the Land Use Code. Not having off-street parking forces commercial parking for customers and clients into the streets. In addition, ignoring the commercial off-street parking requirement gives developers more space for residential units, and residential units are where the money is.

Mixed use commercial zones were established years ago to provide neighborhoods with local commercial areas so that residents don’t have to travel to Mission Valley or University Town center in order to visit a plant nursery, an auto garage or a hardware store.

The idea of a “mixed use” designation was to allow residential units on the upper stories and in the rear where commercial shops would not do well. The current law requires unobstructed off-street parking for the commercial parts of the development. This off-street commercial parking is distinct from the required residential parking.

How can the City just ignore the code and not require commercial off- street parking?

They do so by issuing a Process One permit, effectively an over-the-counter permit that requires no public notification and is exempt from community review. They do this in the name of “reducing red tape and streamlining” the permit procedure.

But the City’s real goal is to “densify” our community – even if the land use code has to be ignored to do it. Over twenty new residential units have recently been built in two gated communities on Turquoise Street in Pacific Beach. Is anyone naïve enough to believe this type of development will not find its way into all our communities?

About ten years ago while serving on a review committee, I was told the “All we (the community) have is the Land use Code.” If our elected and appointed City officials choose to ignore the code, we don’t have much at all to preserve the character of our communities.

Dave Little is a community activist in the Clairemont neighborhoods and was the former chair of the Committee of Community Planners.

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