The College Area Community Plan Update (CACPU) remained a hot topic throughout 2022.
After community members overwhelmingly rejected two housing development scenarios proposed by the city in an online poll last May, they spent the late spring and summer defending their own plan for the future of the university area.
Their plan, which they call the 7 Visions, is the result of years of community engagement in the planning process.
Above all, the 7 Visions plan preserves single-family homes in College Area neighborhoods. It also emphasizes future development along key corridors and at key intersections, known as nodes. It’s a plan that the community supports, but has yet to be adopted by City staff.
Rather than give up or give in, residents showed up en masse at two in-person meetings to share their ideas and preferences for the development of the College region through 2050. On June 6, more than 100 members of the community gathered at Faith Presbyterian Church to attend a planning meeting co-hosted by the College Area Community Council (CACC) and Neighbors for a Better San Diego (NFABSD). They worked in groups to make recommendations for future development on maps of the College area, aimed at balancing the needs of current and future residents. These maps were based on projected population growth and housing needs in 2050 as projected by SANDAG Series 14 forecasts.
On June 29, approximately 125 community members attended an open house hosted by planning staff at College Avenue Baptist Church. Attendees read informative poster boards that outlined planning elements, then attached post-it notes to provide feedback on issues such as land use, mobility, urban design and parks. Participants also had the chance to complete a mapping exercise, using colored highlighters to indicate their preferences for the type, height and location of future housing, as well as parks.
A month later, planning department staff used the July 27 meeting of the plan update subcommittee to share a summary of what was drawn on maps and written on post-it notes. they received during the open day on June 29. Held via Zoom, 103 people took the time to attend the meeting. A person logged on between 1:30 and 3:30 a.m. during a family vacation abroad. When asked why attending the meeting was so important to this College Area resident, Danna Givot said, “Because it is of the utmost importance for the future of my community. I’ve been attending College Area Community Plan Zoom policy meetings, internationally, all summer. When your home and community are threatened with unwarranted rezoning, vacations don’t exist. I can’t afford to be absent while the planning department quietly plans to double, triple or even quadruple the density of our community.
Nathen Causman, urban planner and project manager for CACPU, informed participants that he had digitized comments from maps and notes, and summarized responses into general themes. He noted that 68 cards were completed at the meeting and one was emailed back. He went on to describe the cards, acknowledging that 16 cards reflected a desire not to change anything. Another 15 maps suggested a preference for small to medium scale housing on El Cajon Boulevard (ECB), while 22 maps indicated support for future medium to large scale development along the ECB. Beyond the ECB, Causman said another 20 maps look to “Alvarado Canyon and the corridors near SDSU to accommodate more homes in the community.” The latest maps show interest in the “activity center” and “city campus” developments, with 5 and 7 maps respectively. Only three maps indicated support for townhouse-style infill in existing single-family neighborhoods.
As for the handwritten entries, Causman said he summarized 269 comments, again grouping them by theme. The main themes were: infrastructure and services (96), housing and mixed-use corridors (33), preservation of single-family homes (33) and other things on the Post-its that did not correspond to the themes , such as issues (24), small-scale development (15), prioritizing parking (11), car congestion (10), green streets (7), Soria Drive (7) and roundabouts (5) . A few outliers mentioned preservation of historic resources, access to SDSU, and concerns about eminent domain.
The main themes apparently paint a picture of what attendees prefer: a community with active parks and amenities, mixed-use development on existing transit routes like ECB, neighborhoods of single-family homes, more parking and less traffic congestion.
After sharing the key themes, Causman said, “We try to take all the feedback and incorporate it into refined land use scenarios.” While this sounds encouraging, community members know that it’s not their ideas that drive the scenarios; these were state-mandated housing, climate, and equity goals.
When asked, Nancy Graham, an urban planner who co-hosted the July 27 meeting, told attendees about some of those factors that determine the degree of rezoning needed to achieve a target number of housing units that has yet to be determined.
She informed them that “the housing targets are based on a range of policy objectives, including examples, such as RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Assessment) requirements, creating sufficient building capacity to make redevelopment feasible and the creation of housing to meet different price levels and social equity. Goals.” She went on to say, “The state forces us to set housing goals, and the city is massively behind those goals. But, the city itself, we’re not building homes, so we need to create enough viable sites to generate this housing construction growth.
On learning that the city is massively behind on its housing targets, Givot said: “This is no excuse to punish communities for working on community plan updates, with excessive zoning. The College region should plan for the growth it is expected to experience by 2050, not the shortfall the city as a whole is experiencing in achieving its RHNA goals.
Jim Jennings, chairman of the College Area Community Planning Council, said he understands the role of RHNA policy goals, but backtracked on the community’s goal of not turning its single-family neighborhoods into apartment buildings. great height. He said: “We are not NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard – objection to unwanted building in his neighborhood), we know there is going to be growth, but we want smart growth, not growth. at all costs. The 7 Visions adapted this with the nodes along El Cajon (Blvd.), Montezuma, etc.
Jennings’ statement and other comments that questioned the City’s lack of support for the 7 Visions plan, led Nancy Graham to say that if the community wants a community plan that reflects the “7 Visions”, the community will have to produce it itself. She further stated, “We are willing to allow this group to draw another map that we can feed into the environmental process for analysis. In the same way, we would analyze the alternatives proposed by the planning department, so that they can be taken into account by the municipal council or the planning commission within the framework of the decision-making process.
And that’s exactly what the College Area community did.
At a specially convened community meeting on August 27 at the College Area/Rolando Library, the housing aspect of the 7 Visions plan was updated on a map.
Robert Montana, chair of the College Area Community Planning Board’s Plan Update Subcommittee, and Geoff Hueter, president of Neighbors for a Better San Diego, a grassroots advocacy group, ably assisted the community members to draw their recommended location and scale for the development of 5,500 future homes. This estimated target number is based on current SANDAG Round 14 population data, household size calculations, RHNA requirements, current housing performance and other factors.
Community members recommend these areas for 5,500 additional housing units:
1. Alvarado Road from College Avenue to 70th Street (2,000 additional units)
2. North side of El Cajon Boulevard. from Collwood Blvd. at 73rd Street (2,000)
3. Montezuma Road, from College Avenue to El Cajon Blvd. (500)
4. East side of College Avenue from College Avenue Baptist Church to Mesita Drive (500)
5. Montezuma Road, from 55th Street to Campanile (500), 5-7 stories, dropping to 3 stories on the north side of Mary Lane Drive.
Each area on the map reflects the 7 community visions, which preserve single-family homes while zoning for high-density housing development along major corridors and at intersection nodes. As it is being digitized, the map will be shared in several upcoming meetings.
Three plan update meetings are scheduled for September and all community members are encouraged to attend. The Planning Board will meet in person on September 14. The community map will be presented to council members for adoption at this meeting. On September 28, the Plan Update Subcommittee will meet via Zoom to discuss land use and urban design in more detail and view a presentation of the city’s refined development scenarios, based on all community contributions. The following day, City staff will make the same presentation at an information workshop for the Planning Commission at its Sept. 29 meeting, which typically begins at 9 a.m. The community expects its 7 Vision plan to be presented alongside the scenarios generated by the City.
Check these websites for meeting announcements and other information:
plancollegearea.org (plan update information, meeting announcement, documents)
sandiego.gov/planning-commission (public hearing)
sandag.org (RHNA, data)
City staff remind community members that this plan will be developed over 30 years; properties are not threatened with development through eminent domain (the power of government to take private property and convert it to public use).
– Karen Austin is a College Area resident and a new member of the College Area Community Council, not the Planning Council.
(Photos by Karen Austin)