County pushes more density in rural San Diego

Persuasion meetings in Valley Center, Lakeside, El Cajon

Lakesiders want single-family homes.
  • Lakesiders want single-family homes.

The county board of supervisors has assigned their Planning & Development Services department to look to incorporated areas for housing development. County employees started the tour in August with a workshop at the county building in Kearny Mesa, a session in Valley Center, a recent stop in Lakeside, and another meeting scheduled for September 13 in El Cajon.

County employees outnumbered the public.

County employees outnumbered the public.

Reserving the large room at the Lakeside community center was kind of a wishful thinking; county employees outnumbered the public. Andy Pendeloy from the county presented a grim situation: the average price of a home in San Diego County is $550,000. To afford a $550K home, a family of four would need annual income of $105,000. The median income according to HUD is $81,000.

Andy Pendeloy from the county presented a grim situation.

Andy Pendeloy from the county presented a grim situation.

At the workshop in Lakeside. Pamela Heatherington with the Environmental Center of San Diego said, “The county is already giving up millions of dollars in incentives on housing projects that are already approved without requesting these developers to include affordable housing in their projects.” Heatherington asked the county reps to consider the fact that “the encroachment is subtracting from the environmental sustainability and the quality of life for the people who already live here.”

“Why would anybody want to build next to the Cleveland National Forest anyway?"

“Why would anybody want to build next to the Cleveland National Forest anyway?"

Jeremy D., who volunteers on the East County Homeless Task Force, pointed out “The County is running out of land to build.”

Beth M. from Lakeside said this plan “should not be a burden on all of us just because some people cannot afford houses in California." John S., another Lakesider, argued that “if placing more resources toward solving the poverty issue falls on us, so be it.” Mary P. from Alpine said, “Property managers discriminate against people using Section 8 vouchers,“ explaining that it’s hard for poor people to be accepted by the community. Beth M. said it was impossible to build a granny flat on her property because of a complicated and expensive permitting process: “I have three contractors right now, and none of them wants to get involved.”

On the other side of the housing crisis issue, the county staff raised up easels and posters to explain possible solutions. People were asked to place colored stickers on the type of houses they see viable in rural, semi-rural and village areas. The single-family homes seemed to be the popular choices; the multiplex got zero stickers.

The county proposes to create a system of transferring credits for construction units. A land owner who only wants to build one family home on a parcel that is zoned for four units, would be able to either sell the remaining (potential) three units credit to the county who will act as a middle man or directly to developers. Nicholle Wright, senior planner, said there will be a cap to the construction projects in order to control population density. People’s written comments mentioned the risk of bypassing the community’s input.

Another popular idea was the mandatory request to include housing for low income in every construction project in the county. Most stickers were placed on the proposed Comprehensive Inclusionary Housing Ordinance that would require “projects of all sizes, above a minimum threshold, to provide 10% units as affordable.”

Mary P. from Alpine wondered, “Why would anybody want to build next to the Cleveland National Forest anyway, when the right question is 'if' not 'when' a fire may destroy your home?”

The community input along with the solutions from Planning & Development Services will be centralized and presented to the board of supervisors this month. The board will meet on October 10 when the public will be allowed to participate and comment.

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There are a number of towns in the county that have not incorporated. They are at the mercy of the whims of the five little kings and queens on the board of supervisors. If Lakeside were an incorporated city, its residents would not have to appear "at court" and beg the supes for whatever they can get. Their own locally elected officials would have a say.

There are a number of other such unincorporated areas that might benefit from city-hood. They are, by my count, Fallbrook, Spring Valley, and even Ramona. Becoming a separate city isn't the answer to all ills; it brings a new set of issues and complications. But it does bring some element of home rule to the area.

Visduh: At least one city might have done better as a county area. Lemon Grove has had excellent management these many years and yet the economy has not worked well for them. The reality is that only so much tax can be extracted from local citizens who tend to be lower income. A county wide tax base might have improved their situation.

"County pushes more density in rural San Diego"

When I worked in the County Planning Dept 20 years ago, the writing was on the wall; density should be increased where it exists, not in rural areas. This thinking was solidified into the General Plan. The same thinking went into the City Planning- increase density where it exists, especially near public transportation. So, are we to believe that this is all going to be ignored?

Nonsense. Actually I don't see any evidence for it in this meandering story. The headline is misleading.

The proposed plan targets the villages, rural, semi-rural communities in the unincorporated areas. The unit credit system poses a high risk of increased density in designated areas where the county would act like a broker, shuffling credits around based on availability, not density restrictions. I believe it was explained quite clearly that if a parcel is zoned for 4 units and the owner only builds one, the owner then could sell the remaining 3 unit credits to another builder to use in an area zoned for just one home. That is clearly a way of increasing density.

Check the county's website for more info. I saw the plans with my own eyes and I guess I have no choice, but to believe my own eyes. :-)

Here's the link:

Lemon Grove may have to disincorporate. It has a declining retail tax base and lots of commercial vacancies. Demographic shifts have introduced higher petty crimes and violence. The meager law enforcement resources cripple the city’s ability to protect its citizens compared to other incorporated and unincorpoarted peers. The changes in demographics has hastened a fiscal crises in Lemon Grove where the people are going to have to decide between self-determination with a lot of crime, or letting the county flood the new territory with law enforcement that Lemon Grove has not witnessed in decades. It's the Wild West in Lemon Grove; no parking tickets, no speeding tickets, you can run all the red lights and stop signs you want... no penalty. No law enforcement is a recipe for disaster, and that is not a light and the end of the tunnel for Lemon Grove, it's a train.

My wife grew up in Lemon Grove so I knew a little about the area. When it incorporated in the mid-70's, it was built-out, except for the dairy property. At the time, I commented that it was too late to take charge of its own destiny and design. I don't doubt your analysis of the present situation. The complications that it brought by incorporating are those you outline. Not all such areas will suffer a similar fate if they incorporate.

Lemon Grove is a contract city in that it contracts with the SDSO for its law enforcement. The SDSO is spread thin in the unincorporated areas. If Lemon Grove disincorporates (is that a word?) the law enforcement may get worse not better as LG is sandwiched between La Mesa and San Diego. I don't see the county flooding the area with law enforcement.

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