Study Recommends Reforms for San Diego’s Transit Oriented Development

by on January 9, 2017 · 2 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Environment, Health, History, San Diego

Study’s Proposed Expansion of Floor Area Ratio Will Not Fly in Ocean Beach

Editor: Much of following is from a Press Statement by Circulate San Diego.

Transportation and land use think tank Circulate San Diego published a report on Monday, Jan. 9 on how the City of San Diego can better facilitate transit oriented development (TOD).

Circulate San Diego’s report titled “Transit Oriented Development” outlines a variety of policies the City of San Diego can implement through city-wide municipal code updates. To promote more TOD, the report details proposals covering a variety of policies, from reform of parking requirements, updates to traffic models, and implementation of the City of San Diego’s groundbreaking update to the Affordable Homes Bonus Program.

For example, current development rules in San Diego provide reduced parking requirements for new TOD in only limited circumstances. The report recommends creating a rule that would provide smarter parking policies for any new development near high-performing transit like the trolley or rapid bus lines.

If adopted, these policies would lead to more opportunities for San Diegans to live and work near transit. The report is a part of Circulate San Diego’s #PlanDiego initiative, focusing on improving land use policy for the region.

The report details how city-wide policies to promote TOD can provide overlapping benefits to housing affordability, climate change, and economic development.

Since the City of San Diego adopted a City of Villages Strategy as a part of its general plan, San Diego has committed to building more homes and job centers around our region’s public transit investments. The City of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan also calls for increasing land use intensity near transit, to allow more people to commute to work without having to rely on a car.

San Diego is working to achieve the visions in its City of Villages Strategy and Climate Action Plan. However, a recent study by U.C. Berkeley shows that San Diego utilizes land near its transit system less effectively than any other region in California. Furthermore, recent updates to community plans have provided relatively modest increases to development potential near transit. Colin Parent, policy counsel with Circulate San Diego, and author of the report, stated:

“While community plan updates remain an important tool for improving transit oriented development, our TOD report identifies other city-wide policies which can be reformed to remove barriers to smart growth.”

Here is the Executive Summary:

Transit oriented development (“TOD”) benefits housing affordability, economic development, and the climate. However, a variety of barriers exists to prevent TOD in the City of San Diego.

This report recommends a variety of specific, detailed, and actionable policy reforms that can be adopted city-wide to implement TOD.

While community plans should be updated, they should not be the entire focus of San Diego’s efforts on sustainable growth and TOD. City-wide policies that act as barriers to achieving the Climate Action Plan and the City of Villages Strategy should be reexamined and replaced.

Housing affordability, climate change, and economic vibrancy are all city-wide concerns. City-wide challenges merit city-wide solutions. This report includes proposals in the following policy areas:
Affordable Homes Bonus Program: Implement the City of San Diego’s innovative and transformational program to provide added development rights if projects incorporate affordable homes.

  • Traffic: Provide credits to TOD projects for their traffic calculations, and implement recent state laws for measuring traffic impacts.
  • Parking: Allow developments near transit to provide modestly less parking, and to satisfy some of their parking requirements with alternative transportation choices.
  • Floor Area Ratios: Create a program to sell bonuses to floor area ratios in exchange for contributions to the City of San Diego’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
  • Development Fees: Reform the calculation methods for development fees to remove disincentives to build compact units near transit.

Editor’s Comment: Many of the recommendations make sense; however, one of them will not sit well with OBceans and that is the recommendation to “sell bonuses to floor area ratios”. OB has the lowest FAR within the City and uses it as a tool to prohibit over-development in one of the densest neighborhoods in San Diego. It is doubtful that the community will go for that proposal.

The report was funded by a variety of local and national donors including TransitCenter, a foundation that supports advocacy, research, and leadership development for transportation reform across the United States. “By reducing costs and increasing incentives for development capacity–including affordable housing–within walking distance of existing and planned transit, San Diego can increase transit use and reduce travel costs, greenhouse gas emissions, and congestion,” said Julia Ehrman, Program Analyst with TransitCenter.

The report is heavily researched, identifying best practices from throughout the country, and featuring more than 100 citations. It is available online


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

kh January 9, 2017 at 6:18 pm

It would be a big to relax the parking standards. Many of the older homes in OB predate the parking requirements, and have no off-street parking. The current parking standards are barely adequate as is by assuming 2 cars per household… and even less for a 1 bedroom unit.

Development Impact Fees are supposed to pay for infrastructure improvements to handle the increased development. But even if OB had a bunch of new development, you can’t buy more traffic flow… Unless they plan to make Sunset Cliffs blvd double decker. OB isn’t even built to the current allowed density and the traffic is a mess. There is no more room, period. Sunset Cliffs gets backed up for 15 blocks every weekend when the tourists leave. And during the daily commute in the 8 freeway is backed up for a mile in either direction.


kh January 9, 2017 at 6:19 pm

*big mistake


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