Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Planning Comm. recommends lower floor-to-area ratio for village core standards - Directs staff to re-evaluate I-15 corridor guidelines

Various issues addressed during the county Planning Commission’s March 12 hearing on the county’s general plan update included recommending a lower floor-to-area ratio for mixed-use village core development and a direction to county staff to re-evaluate the Interstate 15 corridor guidelines with specific attention to ridgeline development.

The March 12 hearing also addressed permissive versus restrictive language, the pipeline policy, alternative septic systems, lands subject to the Forest Conservation Initiative, and tracking the implementation of the plan.

Public comment, discussion, and recommendations on specific properties and roads took place at four Planning Commission hearings in November and December, although some of those issues were referred to county Department of Planning and Land Use (DPLU) staff and returned to the Planning Commission during the Feb. 19 meeting. The broader issues discussed Feb. 19 included conservation subdivisions, equity mechanisms and population projections. A Planning Commission recommendation on the entire package is anticipated after an April 16 hearing, and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors is expected to hold a hearing this fall.

The Planning Commission’s motion on the I-15 corridor buildout was to reaffirm the tentative land use map while directing DPLU staff to evaluate the effect various general plan amendment proposals currently being processed would have on the corridor, and directing staff to re-evaluate the design guidelines with specific attention to ridgeline development. That motion passed 4-0; Commissioner Adam Day abstained on the grounds that no vote was necessary to provide further direction to staff while Commissioners Bryan Woods and Peder Norby heard public testimony prior to the lunch break but had not returned to the hearing chambers by the time the vote was taken shortly after the meeting was reconvened.

According to Devon Muto, the chief of DPLU’s Advance Planning Division, the housing and population growth rate along the I-15 corridor is comparable to the rate for the entire unincorporated portion of San Diego County. Most of the planned development is at freeway interchanges and within one mile of Interstate 15 in either direction.

Approximately 6,500 homes already exist within one mile of Interstate 15 in the unincorporated portion of the county. The existing general plan calls for 4,979 additional units equating to an additional population of 13,808 while the update being processed plans 3,524 additional units translating into an expected additional 9,824 residents. (Approximately 20,000 unincorporated county residents now live within one-mile of the

freeway.)

Four projects in process totaling 5,007 requested units will affect those numbers depending on whether they are approved and how many units would be included in any approvals. Merriam Mountains calls for an additional 2,700 units, Campus Park seeks 1,066 units, Meadowood is requesting 886 units, and Campus Park West desires 335 units. Since 1,400 units are already accommodated under the update in those areas, the projects could create up to 3,607 additional units, or an estimated 10,800 residents.

Although the quantities exceed general plan update numbers, the locations of those developments meet the criteria of development taking place mostly at key interchanges. “We planned for that where we believe it is appropriate,” Muto said of the growth.

Concentrating the I-15 development near the intersections of Deer Springs Road/Meadow Mountain Parkway and State Route 76 will preserve other portions of the freeway. “It has significant aesthetic resources,” Muto said.

Earlier in the day the Planning Commission approved the 11-unit Fallbrook Ranch subdivision but not before noting that the I-15 design review guidelines were last updated in 1987. “The guidelines are 23 years old,” said Planning Commissioner Michael Beck during the general plan update hearing. “We should really look at this thing again.”

Woods wants an updated design review policy returned to the Planning Commission prior to a final recommendation. “I don’t care when you bring it back as long as it’s before you pass this entirely,” he said.

DPLU director Eric Gibson doubts that new guidelines, including their programmatic environmental review, could be completed by this Fall. Muto noted that preparation of an updated general plan would guide ridgeline issues and other design review guidelines.

“Moving forward with the general plan will not preclude us amending,” Gibson said of updating the design guidelines.

The draft general plan’s land use element had specified a maximum floor-to-area ratio of 1.3:1 and a maximum residential density of 30 dwelling units per acre. “There have been concerns that these standards are too high and result in incompatible community character,” Muto said.

A 7-0 Planning Commission recommendation amended that maximum ratio to 0.7:1 unless off-site parking is provided, in which case the ratio can be as high as 1.3:1. Building height and parking standards are covered by the county’s Zoning Ordinance but are not addressed in the general plan update.

The Planning Commission voted 7-0 March 12 to add a clarification paragraph to the draft general plan which stated that the policies contained within the general plan were written to be a clear statement of policy but also to allow flexibility during implementation. The clarification paragraph notes that policies cannot be applied independently but rather implementation must balance policies with one another. “It provides us with clarity but also provides us with flexibility,” Muto said.

“Mandatory language provides the benefit of a clear intent,” Muto said. “Permissive language provides for more flexibility.”

Commissioner David Pallinger noted that the April 16 hearing could refine the issue further. “This is still in the scope of our tentative recommendations,” he said.

On August 6, 2003, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a pipelining policy allowing any project applications deemed complete as of that date to be processed under the provisions of the current general plan while any applications submitted after that date would be governed by the general plan in effect at the time the parcel map or specific plan amendment is approved or disapproved. The Planning Commission supported the staff recommendation to retain that pipeline date.

In November 1993 the county’s voters approved the Forest Conservation Initiative (FCI) which stipulated a density of one dwelling unit per 40 acres for lands within the Cleveland National Forest boundary but outside of existing country town areas. General Plan land use designations cannot be changed for covered lands until the FCI’s expiration date of December 31, 2010.

County staff is working on new maps for the FCI land and expects completion by early 2011. DPLU is not pursuing significant changes, and the DeLuz portion of the Cleveland National Forest is not expected to be changed. The area where additional development, including commercially-zoned land, is likely to be incorporated into an updated general plan is near the Viejas Indian Reservation in Alpine. The FCI areas will be mapped using general plan update principles. The Planning Commission voted 6-0, with Day abstaining due to his feeling that no action item requiring a vote existed, to direct staff to continue with the revised mapping efforts for the FCI lands.

The tracking implementation issue is not time-sensitive, and the Planning Commission voted 7-0 to direct DPLU staff to return to the Planning Commission with that issue prior to the first annual report following the general plan update’s adoption.

Alternative septic systems may be required when a sewer connection is not feasible or approved by the sanitation district and when geologic constraints preclude use of a septic tank. The Planning Commission did not change previous policies concerning alternative septic systems, and no board vote was taken following review of the issue.

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