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Thursday, February 2, 2023

Frustration building over City’s College Area plan update

Members of the College Area Community Planning Board (CACPB), say crucial issues like zoning, density, and mobility are at stake and that San Diego’s Planning Department is ignoring their recommendations to update the College Area Community Plan.

Their concept wasn’t presented as an option on the City’s recent survey seeking public input on what will be the “blueprint” for future College Area development through 2050. Instead, the planning department promoted two of its own plans in the lengthy, technical survey which was online between March 27 and May 1, 2022.

Jim Jennings is both a resident and chairman of the CACPB. Last updated in 1989, he says, “The group has for several years been advocating for the community plan update and after input from numerous community meetings, put together a report which it presented to the City, laying out its vision for the College Area.” He noted that, “Officials assured us that the plan would use the Community’s report as its framework.” It seems that without explanation their plan was omitted from the survey.

City of San Diego public information officer, Tara Lewis, confirmed from the planning department that the survey had 451 respondents who were asked to provide input on the two land-use approaches: Grand Boulevards and 15-Minute Neighborhoods.

Images on the survey depicted mixed-use developments along transit corridors, some linear parks, and areas which would “up-zone” dozens of blocks and hundreds of single-family homes. The City indicated these plans could add 10,000 and 20,000 new housing units respectively, some seven to nine stories tall.

Having taken part in various aspects of the planning process herself, longtime College View Estates homeowner, Jean Hoeger, was so upset by what she found on the survey that she wrote a letter to the editor of The San Diego Union-Tribune (5/2/22), calling the City’s survey a “farce.” She wrote, “The illusion of community involvement is just that. We are given the choice of bad and worse.”

Danna Givot, who has lived in her El Cerrito neighborhood for years is now a member of Neighbors for a Better San Diego (NFBSD), a community advocacy group working to protect single-family housing from up-zoning to high density. She completed the survey without supporting either plan.

Givot says, “These plans are based on outdated and inflated population growth projections that are no longer valid.” According to Givot, the planning department developed its two proposals using nine-year old population data from the San Diego Association of Governments (Series 13), that projected 95-percent population growth in the College Area by 2050. Givot says, “the Plan Update needs to be based on the latest SANDAG (Series 14) data, released just five months ago, now projecting only 35-percent growth for the same period.” That’s an estimated 15,000 fewer people, which she says should reduce the need for an estimated 4,300 housing units between now and 2050. “A reduction,” Givot adds, “that can help spare our unique and beautiful single-family neighborhoods from the City’s plan to up-zone them for townhouses and apartment complexes.”

In comparison, the CACPB’s vision, left out of the survey, allows for higher density only along the three main corridors and intersecting nodes of Montezuma Blvd., College Avenue and

El Cajon Blvd. Development would take advantage of key transportation systems like the trolley and major transit stops, and spare areas of single-family houses. They say their proposed “Campus Town,” along the eastern part of Montezuma would meet future needs by creating mixed-use projects featuring ground-level businesses with housing above. Adding parks and open spaces, addressing mobility issues, and supporting economic development are among the group’s other plan update recommendations.

Some 60 residents and planning board members attended the College Area Community Council’s (CACC), May 3 community meeting looking for answers and to voice their concerns about the planning process, the plans and the survey. The allied group involves representatives from SDSU and the College Area Business Improvement District, as well as residents of the College Area neighborhoods: Alvarado Estates, Baja Canyon, College View Estates, El Cerrito, Mesa Colony, and The Triangle.

City Council President Sean Elo-Rivera (pictured above talking to residents), who represents the College Area, and his representative, Jefferey Nguyen, were also in attendance. Elo-Rivera said he shares the citizens’ frustrations. He said, “Folks put in a lot of work in good faith. I understand that work feels disregarded. I’m mad with you and for you.”

While answers were hard to come by at the meeting, City staff did respond subsequently when the College Times Messenger asked for answers to the questions raised by community members. Among them, this key question: Will the City use the new SANDAG Series 14 Data as the basis for the plan update? The response: City Staff will reference the data from it as part of the community plan update.

College Area Signs SMALL copy

Part two of this article will continue in the June issue of the College Times Courier and will feature more answers to questions, the perspective of a local developer, and next steps the City and community will take to formalize the plan update.

Register for the May 25 CACPB meeting, for survey results and answers to questions via Zoom (5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.) Use the QR Code and visit these websites:

U-tube video of key points and link to register for survey results meeting


plancollegearea.org (CACPB)

collegearea.org (CACC)

neighborsforabettersandiego.org (advocacy organization, video)

Karen Austin is a College Area resident and new member of the College Area Community Council, not the Planning Board.

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