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Supervisors call for comprehensive update of PLDO

The County of San Diego ordinance which provides for the collection of Park Land Dedication Ordinance (PLDO) fees from developers to fund park improvements in the area of the development will be receiving an update.

A 5-0 San Diego County Board of Supervisors vote July 20 directed county staff to proceed with a comprehensive PLDO update while appropriating $300,000 into the Department of Parks and Recreation budget to cover the expenses of preparing the necessary studies.

"I think it's long overdue," said Supervisor Dianne Jacob.

"It's been 30-plus years of operating under this PLDO, so it's time for a comprehensive overhaul," said Supervisor Bill Horn.

The county has collected PLDO fees from developers since 1973. Changes to the fees have been made since then, but the ordinance has not had a comprehensive update or fundamental changes since its adoption.

"Staff still needs to work through some difficult details, but the update will improve the process so developers can meet the necessary requirements while ensuring county residents are happy. I look forward to reviewing staff recommendations," Horn said.

In 1965 the State of California adopted the Quimby Act which authorizes local governments to assess impact fees on new residential development to provide funding for park and recreation facilities to serve the new development. The Quimby Act allows fees sufficient to provide three acres of park land per 1,000 residents, although a local government may adopt a higher standard of five acres per 1,000 residents.

PLDO funding can only be used for active recreation parks and not for open space or trails. The fees can be used for acquisition of land but not for maintenance or operation, and they can be used for replacement of playground equipment or other renovations but not for the restoration of historic structures. Fees collected for development within a park planning area must be spent within that park planning area. Developers have the option to dedicate parks instead of paying PLDO fees, and a combination of park dedication and PLDO fees is also potentially acceptable.

The last adjustment to PLDO fees was approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2007. During 2006 the Department of Parks and Recreation developed a "model park" methodology based on current land and construction costs to identify the rates needed to acquire and develop park and recreation facilities to meet the standard of three acres per 1,000 residents. The 2006 development included working with community groups, the Building Industry Association of San Diego County (which took no position), and other stakeholders.

The 2007 adjustments, which were the first since 1986, included an inflation escalator. Jacob cast the only vote against the 2007 adjustments on the grounds that the identification of park land should be a part of the county's general plan update process which was completed in 2011 and that the cost of park maintenance also needed to be addressed.

On Dec. 16, the supervisors voted 5-0 to direct the county's Chief Administrative Officer to conduct outreach efforts, review similar ordinances, and develop recommendations to amend the Park Land Dedication Ordinance and to return to the Board of Supervisors in 180 days with those findings and recommendations.

County staff reviewed 42 city and county ordinances throughout California; some of those jurisdictions utilized the Quimby Act while others based their fees on the state Mitigation Fee Act which requires a nexus between the fees and the improvements. County staff also met with community planning and sponsor groups, land development representatives, and park and trail user groups.

Since conformance with the general plan and the community trails master plan is already required for new development, county staff did not propose any changes to those plans. County staff recommended three options for the supervisors to consider: a comprehensive update which includes the hiring of a consultant to conduct a feasibility and nexus study, a limited update with limited changes, and minor text changes.

The supervisors chose the comprehensive update for further study. That has an estimated cost of $300,000, which was funded by a 2015-16 balance in the Land Use and Environmental Group budget. The nexus and feasibility study, ordinance and policy amendment development, public outreach, environmental review process if necessary, and hearing preparation will likely take 18 to 24 months before the ordinance returns to the board for potential adoption.

In addition to establishing a nexus between the new development and the park fees the study will also address the amount of park land needed to serve the public.

The study will also examine the feasibility of projects paying in-lieu fees to establish a mechanism to fund ongoing operation and maintenance of improvements which would be funded by the in-lieu fees, and that will also include the amount of in-lieu fees required. The study will also address level of service standards, and the park planning areas may be realigned to be consistent with planning group or sponsor group areas.

The study will also review a possible expansion of the scope of the park fee program and provide additional clarity on conditioning parks along with flexibility for siting parks.

The updated ordinance will reflect the adoption of the county's Live Well San Diego initiative which encourages physical activity as well as healthy eating habits and the elimination of unhealthy behavior. "We're seeing more and more people getting out there and exercising," Jacob said.

"This is protecting the quality of life for our residents," said Supervisor Dave Roberts.

The limited update with limited changes would not have included the nexus and feasibility studies, the realignment of local park planning areas, or reviewing potential maintenance for parks but would have updated or created new relevant ordinances and policies, which was not part of the option for minor text changes.


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