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County land development code update workshops to commence

The County of San Diego’s Department of Planning and Development Services (PDS)  held four workshops to update its Land Development Code.
A Feb. 28 meeting at the PDS hearing room in San Diego began a series of workshops which will conclude March 21 at Valley Center Middle School.
The county is working with AECOM to update the Land Development Code.

“Today’s really focused on listening and sharing some of our initial research,” said AECOM principal planner Nancy Bragado.

The county has had updates to specific zoning or other land development ordinances, but the Land Development Code has not been updated since 1978.  That means that the Land Development Code does not reflect the update of the county’s General Plan which was approved by the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in 2011.
“This process really implements the general plan,” said PDS group program manager Eric Lardy. “This is not a general plan amendment.”

The intent of the Land Development Code update is to make the code easier to understand and use for property owners and members of the public, to reform regulations to provide more effective and predictable results, to improve public access to information by better organizing the code and providing tables or other graphics, to give citizens tools to address current statute and community needs along with innovative development trends, and to offer flexibility so the code can continue to evolve with new technologies and demographic changes.

“We want people to be able to understand them,” Bragado said. “You want to have a better idea of certainty in the process.”
Shortening that process without sacrificing public review is another goal.

“We’re trying to simplify the review process,” Bragado said. “We want to reduce permit processing time.”

The general plan update addressed land use elements including zoning of properties but did not address zoning ordinance elements such as height designators, setback requirements, lot coverage limits, or animal restrictions.

“This work effort is really focused on the zoning codes,” Bragado said.

The county’s Subdivision Ordinance and the Grading Ordinance will also be reviewed and possibly revised during the Land Development Code update process.

“It’s overall about a four-year process to do a comprehensive update of the Land Development Code,” said AECOM senior planner Nicholle Wright.

Although staff and consultant time for the update process will be incorporated into the PDS budget on a fiscal year basis, the workplan year doesn’t necessarily match the fiscal year.

“It’s going to end earlier,” Lardy said.

While Lardy hopes that each of the annual phases will be complete prior to June 30, there is no deadline.

“This is a long-term program,” Wright said. “We want to make sure that we move through it carefully.”
The start-up and code evaluation phase scheduled for 2019-20 will include an introduction to the project, public workshops, an evaluation of the code to determine simplification and streamlining possibilities, the draft of a new code organization along with a table of contents, and alignment with community plan updates.
“We know that each community in the county has its own character,” Wright said. “We’re ultimately going to be looking at community.”

Code update concepts will be the 2020-21 focus and will include simplifying permitted use tables, creating standardized zone concepts, streamlining permits and procedures, updating overlay zones concepts, and public workshops.

The 2021-22 phase will address drafting the code and will include pubic workshops, creating community-specific regulations, and writing the proposed regulations for review.
The 2022-23 emphasis will be public review and hearings.

The full zoning code will be compiled, a draft new Zoning Ordinance will be released for public review, public workshops will be held, and the draft and final California Environmental Quality Act documents will be released.

Hearings by the county’s Planning Commission and by the Board of Supervisors may take place before the final product is heard at a Planning Commission hearing and then brought to the Board of Supervisors for adoption.

Environmental review is likely to occur for various elements of the program and that will be incorporated into the final CEQA document.

The Land Development Code update will not preclude some changes from being adopted during that time.

“There are going to be other ordinance updates that move forward in the next four years,” Lardy said.  “There are some opportunities for changes along the pathways.”

Source: East County Californian

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