ANATOMY OF FAILURE:
PLANNING AND POLITICS IN SAN DIEGO'S NORTH CITY, 1970-1995
A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of San Diego State University
In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree
Master of City Planning
Norma S. Damashek Fall 1995
ABSTRACT City planning in the United States is an inherently political activity that readily falls prey to the pressures of the growth and development industry. Political decisions regarding local land use issues are subject to the same pressures. The growth machine paradigm describes the setting but not the mechanisms by which the growth and development industry wields its power. This thesis describes a chain of institutionally embedded practices routinely employed by city government to facilitate the planning process and demonstrates how these practices reinforce growth machine dominance over local land use. The planning history of San Diego's North City, from 1970-1995, is used as a case study to illustrate the staying power of the growth machine and the variety of stratagems employed by and on its behalf. This thesis finds that (1) the growth machine persistently subverts public practices and procedures to control the planning process; (2) as a result, the planning process is twisted to legitimize growth and development interests; and (3) this subversion undermines democratic principles by constricting public participation in the planning and regulation of local land use and creating an environment that is ripe for political abuse.
If one believes, as I do, that land, like water and air, belongs to all of us, then the public power to determine its use is absolute. We are the public and our representatives should control land use in our interest. Ann L. Strong (1979)
PREFACE While a student in the Graduate Program in City Planning at San Diego State University, I spent a semester poring over maps of San Diego's North City Future Urbanizing Area (FUA) with two fellow classmates. Our assignment was to determine appropriate land uses for the area and to design the perfect plan. We headed north on several occasions to crisscross the area's dirt roads, marveling at the tranquility of the distant views and gentle breezes as we discussed development opportunities and constraints and calculated which lands to leave open and which to build to capacity. We did a very plannerly job. A short time later, I was offered the chance to fulfill my student internship requirement in the City Council office of Abbe Wolfsheimer. It was 1990. Growth management hearings were in full swing and the FUA was the most popular acronym on the Council agenda. I signed on and soon became adept at juggling a never-ending barrage of city reports and paperwork. Mastering the imbroglio of Council politics was a considerably more challenging feat. My internship was transformed into a full-time staff position, ending when the Councilmember retired from office in December 1993. During my 3½ years on the Council floor, I had the unique opportunity to study the planning process as it passed through the hands of staff planners, politicians, and developers and to observe, first hand, the vagaries of the political decision-making process. My academic training had focused on planning history and theory. It did not provide me with an adequate vocabulary to explain what I was witnessing -- the subversion of the planning process in the political setting, a phenomenon I would later identify as the "micropolitics of planning." My thesis emerged from this context.
TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT......................................................................................................................... 2 PREFACE……………………….…………………………………………………………………………………………………3 PART ONE: PLANNING IN THE POLITICAL CONTEXT INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................. 8 CHAPTER I. GROWTH MACHINE THEORY AND THE MICROPOLITICS OF PLANNING Introduction............................................................................................................11 The Growth Machine Paradigm................................................................................ 11 Thesis Statement ................................................................................................... 13 Thesis Organization .................................................................................................14 PART TWO: TWO DECADES OF PLANNING IN SAN DIEGO'S NORTH CITY, 1970-1990 CHAPTER II. THE STAGE IS SET: PLANNING IN THE 1970s Introduction........................................................................................................... 15 The Progress Guide and General Plan .......................................................................15 North City Ho ........................................................................................................ 16 Planning for the Future of the North City....................................................... 17 Planning for North City West ........................................................................ 19 From the Pen of Visiting Consultants ....................................................................... 22 Growth Management Planning................................................................................. 23 San Diego's Vale of Tiers ............................................................................. 24 The Developers' Counteroffensive................................................................. 24 Who Will Pay for Growth? ............................................................................ 25 Guidelines for Future Development ............................................................... 26
CHAPTER III. STIRRINGS IN THE FUA: THE EARLY 1980s Introduction............................................................................................................29 Whittling Away the FUA ...........................................................................................29 The Oddity of Council Policy 600-29 and the Geniality of Council Policy 600-30...............................................................................................30 Growth Management on Review ...............................................................................33 A Slight Oversight.........................................................................................35 The La Jolla Valley Proposal .....................................................................................35 The Rick Report ...........................................................................................36 Council Acquiesces .......................................................................................37 Remarks .................................................................................................................38 CHAPTER IV. THE GROWTH MANAGEMENT BATTLE SCENE, CIRCA THE LATE 1980s Introduction............................................................................................................41 Who Will Manage Managed Growth?.........................................................................41 The Development Industry Rebounds ............................................................43 Mapping Growth Management Strategy ....................................................................45 Ballot Box Redux ..........................................................................................47 Combat in the Dialectic Zone.........................................................................48 Growth Management Laid Waste ..............................................................................49 Remarks .................................................................................................................52 PART THREE: THE FUTURE URBANIZING AREA-THE CASE IN POINT INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................54 CHAPTER V. PLANNING TO PLAN THE FUA Introduction............................................................................................................55 The Sleeping Giant Was Only Dozing ....................................................................... 55 Keeping the FUA Dormant............................................................................ 56 Public Deliberations ................................................................................................ 59 The Denouement ........................................................................................ 61 The FUA Task Force .................................................................................... 62
The Vision Quest ......................................................................................... 63 Task Force Reports...................................................................................... 64 Preemptory Strikes ................................................................................................. 65 Remarks ................................................................................................................ 67 CHAPTER VI. THE FUTURE URBANIZING AREA FRAMEWORK PLAN Introduction ....................69 The Overlays ......................................................................................................... 69 The Consultant Overlay.................................................................................70 The CAC Overlay ..........................................................................................70 Policy Overlay ..............................................................................................71 Developer Overlay ........................................................................................71 The Environmental Overlay ...........................................................................74 The Planning Process Overlay........................................................................76 Public Hearings ............................................................................................79 City Council Sits in Judgment ...................................................................................80 The Framework of the Adopted Framework Plan........................................................84 Remarks .................................................................................................................85 CHAPTER VII. THE AFTERMATH Introduction..........................................................................................................87 The Subarea Planning Process ...............................................................................87 The Subareas...............................................................................................88 The Process Falters ......................................................................................89 The Process Degenerates..............................................................................91 Developers Prefer CACs ...........................................................................................92 The Developers Roundtable .....................................................................................92 Council Takes its Place at the Table ...............................................................93 Composing the Ballot Initiative ......................................................................94 Ballot Box Planning...It's Back ..................................................................................95 For Every Action ...........................................................................................96 Remarks ...............................................................................................................97
PART FOUR: THE INSTITUTIONAL WEB INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................................99 CHAPTER VIII. THE CHIMERA OF PUBLIC PARTICIPATION Introduction.......................................................................................................... 100 CACs and Task Forces ........................................................................................... 100 Planning Fads and Trends ........................................................................... 102 Grass Roots Planning............................................................................................. 103 In the Public Interest............................................................................................. 105 The Zoning Code Update ............................................................................ 105 Regulatory Relief ........................................................................................ 106 Facilities Benefits Assessment...................................................................... 107 Development Agreements ........................................................................... 108 Environmental Considerations ..................................................................... 109 San Diego Government Form ................................................................................. 110 The Unelected Decision Maker..................................................................... 111 Remarks ............................................................................................................... 113 CHAPTER IX. ACCESS TO POWER Introduction.......................................................................................................... 114 Lobbying .............................................................................................................. 114 Lobbying Styles .......................................................................................... 115 A Sampling of Influential People .................................................................. 116 Remarks ............................................................................................................... 120 CHAPTER X. PLANNING AND PLANNERS Conclusion ............................................................................................................ 121 The Implications of Planning .................................................................................. 122 The Planners' Conundrum ...................................................................................... 124 The Next Synthesis ............................................................................................... 127 POSTSCRIPT.................................................................................................................... 128 REFERENCES ................................................................................................................... 130
PART ONE PLANNING IN THE POLITICAL CONTEXT
INTRODUCTION The city of San Diego's first Progress Guide and General Plan (General Plan) was ratified by popular vote nearly 30 years ago. It envisioned a compact city with a strong downtown core. To minimize untoward consequences of urban sprawl, it espoused protracted development in the northerly sector of the city, not in the present but at some future date. This General Plan counsel notwithstanding, urban sprawl immediately became the order of the day as development of new communities in San Diego's northern outlying areas proceeded with impunity. In a culminating decision made barely five years ago, the City Council initiated a planning process for the development of the final remaining open tract of land in the northernmost reaches of San Diego, the North City Future Urbanizing Area (FUA) -12,000 rural acres being held in abeyance as an urban reserve in accordance with the city's adopted growth management policy. The initiation of the North City FUA planning process in 1990 was an indirect but unmistakable signal that growth management, long professed to be a guiding tenet in San Diego planning and politics, was now considered expendable. By the early days of this new decade, with the city in the throes of an economic recession, the pitfalls of growth and development ceased to be the focus of political debate. Under increasing pressure from business and development interests, the City Council discreetly swept unresolved growth management issues -- urban redevelopment, public facilities financing, traffic management, and containment of urban growth -- under the rug and turned its attention to development in the urban reserve. Council marshaled a panoply of forces, a private land use consultant, city planners, public workshops, and a hand-picked, broadly-based advisory committee, in setting up the planning process for the FUA. City officials, in response to criticism that they were encouraging urban sprawl, asserted that their goal was not to expedite North City development but to create a rational, integrated, innovative "vision" for the area to use when the time for development was ripe. As later reported by a local development mogul, "The painstaking planning process for the FUA [was] unlike any ever undertaken in the City of San Diego" (Madigan, 1993). In reality, the planning process was an underfunded and truncated endeavor, distorted by heavy pressure from development interests. The resultant FUA Framework Plan -- which was approved by the City Council in 1992 -- fell dismally short of what the public had been promised. Far from honoring the goals and objectives prescribed in the city's General Plan, the plan recommended a retrograde proposal for an exclusive resort/estate/suburban enclave, a nearly virtual replication of private development proposals already submitted to the city. It
immediately became a source of consternation and contention among property owners, neighboring communities, environmentalists, affordable housing advocates, planners, and politicians as they attempted to interpret its provisions. Based on this criterion alone, the planning process could be deemed a failure. There was, however, a more serious consequence of miscarried planning. Within two years of the adoption of the Framework Plan, developers and property owners who had previously participated in the framework planning process precipitated a Framework Plan amendment that permitted Council to prematurely place a "phase shift" initiative on the June 1994 ballot to transfer the FUA from its passive designation as an urban reserve to an active designation as a planned urbanizing area, open to full fledged development. (In 1985 voter approval of Proposition A had imposed development restrictions in the FUA to maintain lowdensity agricultural zoning. The initiative had also decreed that voter approval would henceforth be required for zoning or regulation changes whose purpose was to increase development intensity in the FUA.) A well-financed development coalition backed the initiative. A poorly funded, loose coalition of community activists and environmental groups opposed it. The outcome of the election startled even seasoned political pundits. Despite the lavish infusion of over $2 million dollars in support of the initiative, it went down to defeat. The public voted no, but no to what -- to details in the language of the ballot proposal? to proposals for residential estates and golf courses? to all development in the FUA? for now? forever? Developers were sphinx-like as they assessed their costly miscalculation. But the question of who were the victors and who the losers in the initiative battle was moot. The real question was, What now? After years of planning, the FUA remained as vulnerable as ever to urban sprawl and piecemeal development. The planning literature has frequently described the failures of planning and breakdowns in the planning process in terms of planners' inability to effectively deal with the prevailing political environment (Altshuler, 1965; Krumholz & Forester, 1990; Vasu, 1979). Planning failures have also been attributed to "the nature and ideological tendencies of the planning profession" (Judd & Mendelson, 1973, p. 211), which encourage planners to engage in prolonged planning exercises rather than in the active pursuit of working solutions. To grapple with these issues, studies and reports have critiqued and compared the many roles that planners in this country historically have played (Baum, 1983; Beauregard, 1978; Faludi, 1973; Friedman, 1987; Hoch, 1984; Hudson, 1979). These approaches are arguably solipsistic: although ineffectual or ill-conceived actions by particular planners might justifiably warrant criticism, the repetitive patterns that breed planning impotence and breakdown cannot be attributed solely or even typically to planners' performances. Even when planners have girded themselves with organizational, political, psychological, and technical skills to better maneuver in the social and political arena (Carter, 1993; Forester, 1989; Hoch, 1994), it has been to limited avail. Planners continue to be routed or, more often, co-opted by institutional practices and forces whose combined influence has been chronically underestimated. By focusing the inquiry too narrowly on planning theory or planners' behavior, the opportunity to identify pivotal operational stumbling blocks to effective planning policy and implementation may have been bypassed. These impediments require critical exposure. Three decades ago, Alan Altshuler observed that "the political culture...tended to inhibit
the development of conditions in which comprehensive planning, even at the level of the city, could have a great deal of impact" (p. 411). Although describing conditions in Minneapolis, Altshuler's observations continue to have more generalized application. In fact, his premise might be taken a step further: in San Diego the local political culture has tended not only to inhibit favorable planning conditions but to actively create an environment inimical to comprehensive and effective planning. Moreover, these adverse planning conditions have been generated, not by behind-the-scenes ploys, but by institutionalized practices commonly deemed routine, respectable, desirable, and in the public interest. The story of the planning process for San Diego's North City region over the past quarter century provides ample evidence to sustain these assertions. Starting from the ballot measure that established the city's first General Plan and ending with the ramifications of a ballot measure intended to complete the urbanization of the North City, it is a tale of how planning fails, time and time again; why the public remains passive and community activists "burn out"; why city planners become inured and cynical; and how the development industry, alternately promising a new paradise and threatening economic cataclysm, retains its authority and political clout. For these reasons it behooves us to take a closer look at the lengthy planning process that led to the development and subsequent unraveling of the FUA Framework Plan. Can we learn something that will help clarify San Diego's planning dilemma? Can we remedy the chronic undermining of the planning process? Responses to these questions, as well as to related problems, will be attempted after the tale of this prolonged planning venture has been told.
CHAPTER I GROWTH MACHINE THEORY AND THE MICROPOLITICS OF PLANNING Introduction Throughout recorded history the control of land has been equated with power and wealth. In a contemporary interpretation of this phenomenon, land is viewed not only as a resource with "use" value to satisfy the requirements of security, residence, or production but as a commodity with market "exchange" value, a ware available for speculative purchase, sale, or trade transactions (Logan & Molotch, 1987; Popper, 1981). Much of the wealth derived through land speculation is directly attributable to public sector decisions that transform potential value into actual and negotiable value. Local governments, assigned the responsibility of protecting the health, safety, welfare (and morals) of their constituents, exercise these "police powers" primarily through the regulation of land and provision of urban services (Fulton, 1991). Although invested with limited autonomy, they hold many of the high cards in the creation of private wealth as they exercise their prerogatives to change zoning, extend roads and sewer lines, or simply to initiate a planning process. These decisions have the potential to create large increments in land values, that is, increases in the value of private property for owners who have done little but wait (Hagman & Misczynski, 1978; Molotch, 1976; Patterson, 1988). Such windfalls are viewed by most planners (especially in European countries) as unearned increments since these enhanced land values are the result of public investment and government decisions. (The precedent for employing governmental mechanisms to add value to private land without demanding reciprocating compensation had been established in the mid-19th century when Baron Haussman's Plan for Paris was undertaken. Public expenditure was regarded as an "investment, recoverable from rising tax revenues and increased property values" [Girouard, 1985, p. 287].) Indeed, public investment in the creation of additional infrastructure and the underwriting of services and maintenance -- especially when extended to the outskirts of the city -- or in the creation of planning documents and new zoning are tantamount to outright gifts to property owners. The Growth Machine Paradigm General fund revenues are generated predominantly by land use related activities through property taxes and sales taxes. Increases in land values have a double-edged allure: they benefit the city coffers while providing profits for property owners. This ostensible concordance between public and private benefit is routinely distorted to signify that what is good for property owners and developers will necessarily be beneficial to the city. But what is good for developers is more growth and development. Although local governments are charged with protecting the public quality of life by enhancing the use aspects of land development, they readily find justification for their bias toward exchange values to accommodate the desires of private entrepreneurs. In San Diego, public policy has traditionally rewarded land speculation and development. Throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s, sizable tracts of undeveloped land were still available for speculative purposes, particularly in the northern and southern fringes of the city.
Major developers and investment partnerships, banking on the region's growth potential, were able to purchase the remainder of the city's rural areas at relatively cheap prices. Although the city's inclinations to underwrite growth were sometimes tempered by public pressure for growth management, in the end, growth and development interests exerted transcendent influence on city land use policy. The model of the growth machine has been used to describe the underlying forces and processes at work in municipal politics that exert profound influence on local land use decisions in favor of increased growth and development. Harvey Molotch, a highly persuasive emissary of the growth machine argument, characterized the growth machine as "nested interest groups with common stakes in development [that] use the institutional fabric, including the political and cultural apparatus, to intensify land use and make money" and further asserted that "coalitions with interests in growth of a particular place...turn government into a vehicle to pursue their material goals" (1993, p. 31). In the process, the city government itself is transformed into a growth machine, a mechanism that advances and legitimates the manipulation of land use on behalf private interest profits. As succinctly summarized by Nico Calavita: Growth machine theory maintains that growth is the essence of local politics and that a land-based elite is generally able to legitimate the ideology of growth and to manipulate the planning process to foster growth and increase land use intensities. (1992, p. 1) Basic tenets of Molotch's growth machine paradigm found resonance in the saga of San Diego's longstanding attempts at growth management planning and were generally congruent with the history of the planning process for the North City and FUA. However, his model fails to address local conditions in certain regards. For example, Molotch likened the struggles between developers and citizens over urban growth to a seesawing action. Calavita's characterization of these struggles as a dialectical process appears more apt in regard to the planning history of San Diego's North City. The contest rarely took the form alternating dominance but rather of a spiral of actions, responses, and further reactions: Growth problems precipitated by planning decisions that have been shaped by the growth coalition have led to reactions by citizen groups; these in turn have led to countermeasures on the part of the growth machine. (1992, p.6) In addition, while the growth machine paradigm focuses on the ability of the growth coalition to influence local political ideology and agenda-setting in matters regarding "the manipulation of the built environment" (Molotch, 1993, p.35), missing from Molotch's analysis is a comprehensive account of the institutionalized and interlocking mechanisms through which the growth machine exercises its powers to gain control over land use policy. Finally, Molotch gives the city planning process short shrift. While acknowledging that planning is an inherently political process since "any land-use designation distributes use and exchange values," and that it is an activity whose "selective intervention can yield, in the end, benefits for the growth process," he seems to regard it merely as a mechanism employed by the city to "smooth out" the functioning of the property marketplace" (Logan & Molotch, 1987,
p. 154). Molotch offers only perfunctory appraisal of the role played by planners in the formulation and/or legitimation of the city's growth and development policies. Although the growth machine paradigm provides a close fit and an orientation for understanding the evolution of development in San Diego's North City region, the expansion of three elements -- (1) specific mechanisms through which the growth machine exercises its powers; (2) the micropolitics of planning, that is, "the incessant erosion of general principles by special-interest pressures" (Davis, 1991); and (3) the role played by planners in advancing, resisting, or legitimating growth machine agendas -- will enhance the growth machine paradigm and provide a clearer and more comprehensive understanding of land use politics in San Diego. Thesis Statement My thesis is that the decision-making process regarding land use in the city of San Diego is orchestrated on behalf of the local growth and development industry through a plethora of routinely activated institutional, political, and planning practices that function as legitimating forces to enhance and buttress the economic interests of the land development industry. Furthermore, I claim that political policy dictating local land use is formulated in a closed system that not only caters to the appetite of the development industry but is actively shaped, modified, and amended by the private interests it serves, and that the planning process and the instruments and mechanisms designed to enhance planning efforts are trapped inside this system. Finally, I postulate that city planners unwittingly take on the role of legitimators and operate to serve the interests of the growth machine. This thesis expands on the growth machine model by explicating the processes by which the development industry in San Diego manipulates and controls local land use and how it engages in the micropolitics of planning, effectively undermining planners' efforts to create equitable, principled, and implementable plans. To elucidate this thesis, I will describe and analyze the setting in which land use planning and decision-making in the city of San Diego take place. I will use as a case study the history of planning for the city's North City region over the past 25 years, with emphasis on the planning process for the North City FUA and its aftermath. The analysis will be structured around the disaggregation and identification of practices so thoroughly embedded in the city's political and planning system, so intimately woven into the fabric of ordinary procedure that their presence is rarely questioned, much less contested. These practices operate across a wide institutional spectrum, from community participation, to ballot box action, to regulatory oversight, to public facilities financing, to natural resource safeguards, to the administration of city government, to lobbying practices, and finally, to planning. When examined one by one, the impact of each appears utilitarian, distinct, and limited. However, their conjoined and cumulative impact on political decision-making and the formulation of land use policy illustrates why the outcome of the planning process for the North City FUA fell far short of its potential and why the planning process, in general, so regularly and predictably miscarries.
Procedural and strategic mechanisms enlisted throughout the FUA planning process resonated with remembrances of things past, yet city officials and staff planners approached the planning process as if they were engaging in a newly-hatched and unique activity. Indeed, the planning process for the FUA could be analyzed and evaluated in isolated terms, on its own merits. But the attempt to fathom the recurrent nature of the malfunction of planning and failed planning objectives requires a broad historical perspective, one that includes consideration of the economic and political forces activated whenever land use issues are negotiated. Toward this end, an account of past decades of planning for San Diego's North City region and the context in which planning took place will be provided as a preamble to the tale of the FUA. By focusing on how, by whom, and under what circumstances local land use decisions were developed in this region, the patterns of past planning practices will become apparent, providing the basis for questions about the future of San Diego planning. The story of North City development and the FUA may be unique to San Diego, but it can readily be translated into universal terms as a cautionary tale of the planners' dilemma. Thesis Organization This thesis is divided into four parts and a total of ten chapters. Part One: "Planning in the Political Context" sets the stage with an introduction and thumbnail sketch of the case study, plus a description of growth machine theory and its applicability to the thesis subject. It concludes with a statement of thesis issues and organization. Part Two: "Two Decades of Planning in San Diego's North City, 1970-1990" is an historic overview. Chapter II looks at San Diego planning in the 1970s, starting with the adoption of the city's first General Plan. Chapter III traces the planning narrative into the 1980s, with a focus on city policy regarding the FUA, growth management, and North City development. Chapter IV describes San Diego's attempts in the late 1980s to establish a complex growth management policy, out of which planning for the FUA was born. Part Three: "The Future Urbanizing Area: The Case in Point" continues the historic narrative with the commencement of planning for the FUA in 1990. Chapter V describes the development and political activities that led up to the planning process. Chapter VI is an account of the creation of the FUA Framework Plan, and Chapter VII reports on political and growth machine responses in the wake of the formal planning endeavor. Part Four: "The Institutional Web" dissects the forces that serve to legitimate political and planning processes in the service of the growth machine. Chapter VIII examines public participation in official planning processes and includes a section on San Diego government form vis-a-vis the planning and decision-making process. Chapter IX describes the quest of lobbyists and lobbying practices in San Diego to gain access to political power. Chapter X, the final chapter, presents a summary of the thesis findings in terms of the micropolitics of planning and the growth machine paradigm. It ends with an analysis of the relationship between planners and planning in the face of the powerful forces of the growth machine and speculates on planners' prospects for the future. A postscript brings the story of the FUA up to date.
PART TWO TWO DECADES OF PLANNING IN SAN DIEGO'S NORTH CITY, 1970-1990 -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------CHAPTER II THE STAGE IS SET: PLANNING IN THE 1970s Introduction In the years following the Second World War, suburban sprawl characterized San Diego's changing landscape, with newly built freeways sluicing a growing population to and from formerly rural lands in the eastern and southern outskirts. By the 1960s, with a population of over one-half million, the image of San Diego as a quiescent, sunburned navy town was laid to rest. Self-styled as the "City in Motion" and billed as the "All-America City" by Look magazine, San Diego had acquired the trappings of a big time player -- a major league sports stadium, a new civic center, a regional shopping center in Mission Valley, two state university campuses, new downtown skyscrapers, a bridge spanning San Diego Bay, a worldclass research center at the Salk Institute, and its first comprehensive plan. Chapter II introduces a major theme of this thesis: the factors that contributed to the planning outcome of the FUA were operating long before the 1990 FUA planning process was undertaken and were put into place by, and to serve the interests of, the growth and development industry. This chapter documents the planning process during the decade following the adoption of the Progress Guide and General Plan (General Plan), the city's first comprehensive planning document. It illustrates how the seeds of future development in San Diego's North City region were planted in the General Plan and in subsequent planning documents and projects. The chapter focuses on Planning Department activities during the 1970s, as planners developed new principles and new community plans for suburban development. It describes the advent of growth management planning in the latter half of the decade and its limited success in controlling growth in San Diego's North City region. The Progress Guide and General Plan California state law enacted in 1937 required all cities to create a general plan to guide local development (Fulton, 1991). It was not until the mid-1960s, however, following decades of disjointed growth patterns, that San Diego created its first master-planning document, the Citizens General Plan, and submitted it to the voters for approval. Mission Valley hotel developers and property owners waged a fierce opposition campaign, directed especially at recommendations for downtown "urban renewal," and were instrumental in defeating the proposal by a 62% majority (Showley, 1992). On a second go-round in 1967, voters were
persuaded to approve a revised master plan called the Progress Guide and General Plan (General Plan). 1 The inaugural General Plan envisioned San Diego as a compact city with a strong downtown core. It called for the development of an open space system and the preservation and enhancement of indigenous environmental features. The city had expanded northward since pre-war days with the annexation of 40,000 acres of sparsely developed agricultural land (mostly zoned at a density of one unit per ten acres, A-1-10) located between San Dieguito River Valley/Lake Hodges and Penasquitos Canyon to the north and south, and between the I-5 and I-15 freeways to the west and east. In an attempt to deter urban sprawl in the annexed areas, the General Plan recommended gradual and coherent development in North City's western portion adjacent to I-5, leading to an eventual urbanized status over the following two decades. But the words were barely dry on the page before proposals for zoning changes and new development in the outlying northern areas flooded city hall. The General Plan conveyed conceptual statements but implementation was a political matter. Developers knew how to exploit the difference. They chose to interpret the General Plan concept of "future urbanization" as an invitation to mount the pristine North City territory and bring forth new growth, without further delay. North City Ho In 1970, in response to accelerating leap frog development the city's Planning Commission urged Council, rather than to consider more restrictive regulations, to initiate a planning process for the North City to address issues like the financing of new capital improvements, patterns of development, and the place of industrial zoning in new residential enclaves.2 Three major development proposals for new communities planned to accommodate 121,500 people in the North City region had already been adopted -- Carmel Valley, Penasquitos East, and Rancho Bernardo; construction was well underway in the latter two. 1
Mayor Frank Curran (1963-1971) ruefully acknowledged the successful attempt to hoodwink the public into ratifying a general plan document by appending the softening phrase â€œProgress Guideâ€? to its title (F. Curran, personal communication, 1992). Opponents had joined forces with anti-communist groups like the Christian Anti-Communist Crusade, extremists who had previously accused the City Manager of participating in a Communist cabal to create a world superstate, citing his membership in the International Association of City Managers. They also enlisted the support of the "Citizens Protective League," a group that condemned general planning as a tool of socialism. Only after the death of the chief organizer of the anti-planning effort, developer of Town & Country and other Mission Valley Hotels Charles Brown, was a revised general plan put back on the ballot (Showley, 1992). In 1992 new state legislation mandated that city zoning laws must be brought into conformance with adopted general plans, elevating the status of the general plan as a quasi-constitution and bestowing official sanction to local land use planning. 2
Planning Commissioners typically drew from an interest group with high economic stakes in growth and development. This one was no exception: among its members were a land use attorney, a land developer, a realtor, and an architect.
Council had also approved development proposals for five planned communities on the southern and eastern periphery of the North City -- Carmel Mountain East, Chicarita Creek, Lago Dorado, Scripps Miramar, and Mira Mesa --for a cumulative population of 144,500. In fact, to better navigate in the prevailing winds, the 1971 City Council amended the fledgling General Plan with new zoning designations east of I-15 to hasten the urbanization of Carmel Mountain East and Chicarita Creek. At the rate it was going, the city's northern region could end up with approved plans to accommodate over six times the population laid down for the area by state agencies. Forecasts by the State Department of Finance predicted that about 2/3 million additional people would be settling in San Diego County between 1970-1985. Half of this increase, roughly 300,000 residents, were expected to live within the city limits, dispersed evenly over the northern region and southern and eastern outlying areas yet to be developed. In this equation, the North City was expected to absorb 100,000 people over a 15-year period. Yet, three North City communities already approved by Council, occupying only 15% of the North City acreage, were planned for populations in excess of 120,000, surpassing by 20% the expected need for the entire northern region. According to Planning Department calculations, if the rest of the North City were to be developed at urban densities comparable to city norms (an average of 10 people per acre), the population in the area could approach 1/2 million by the end of 1985 -not including the population increase in already approved developments on the eastern rim of the North City (City of San Diego Planning Department, 1972, p. 9).3 Planning for the Future of the North City The proposal to plan for the North City met no opposition. The urban planning organization Citizens Coordinate for Century 3 (C-3) joined forces with the League of Women Voters and American Institute of Planners in urging Council to initiate a planning process to develop a comprehensive plan for the North City (Citizens Coordinate, 1970) and to appoint a broad-based citizens advisory committee. Planning Commission chairman Louis Wolfsheimer4 also endorsed the idea of planning for the area ("City planning chief," 1971). He already had a well-formulated image of what he wanted to see in the region: a set of new towns, say for instance four or five self-contained communities...people would be working within their community, there would be all types of housing available, all types of shopping. The whole spectrum of services would be available, right there...you can 3
Nevertheless, as Council approved one major development proposal after another, planners were reluctant to openly challenge these decisions. Rather than taking an adversarial stance, they cautiously stated for the record that: â€œa tremendous disparity exists in what could be accommodated as compared to the possible demand...the conclusion can only be that if urbanization were to be encouraged careful timing and phasing of development is extremely important [italics original] in order to avoid growth which requires extensive and costly facilities to serve and maintainâ€? (City of San Diego Planning Department, 1972, p. 9). 4
Beginning in the late 1960s, land use attorney Louis Wolfsheimer played an active role in San Diego planning matters. His wife, Abbe Wolfsheimer, was to become Councilmember for District 1 in 1985, several years after their marital relationship had been severed.
house an awful lot of people in an awfully good manner using this concept....I believe that San Diego has to grow...but we want to see intelligent growth and properly planned growth. (p. B-3) Council gave the go-ahead to start the planning process.5 The Planning Department responded, not with an inquiry into the necessity or advisability of additional development, but with a "Statement of Planning Principles" (City of San Diego Planning, 1972), a conceptual guide for impending development that filled in the gaps of the Planning Commissioner's new town vision: Communities should be designed and located to insure that future residents will be afforded an optimum balance of dwelling styles and prices; convenient shopping, office and similar business centers; educational, cultural, recreational and health services and facilities. Each community should contain a readily identifiable focus achieved through careful utilization of natural terrain in site selection, enhanced and strengthened in the application of the highest standards of the architectural and landscape architecture disciplines. (pp. 13-14) In 1971 Council adopted these planning principles6 and gave the Planning Department formal direction to develop a conceptual plan for the North City region. This request was not merely overdue, it was spurious, a legitimating backup for past decisions; the North City landscape was already charted through piecemeal Council approval of major development 5
The universal endorsement of planning for the North City, which was already in the throes of development, appeared to be less a validation of the benefits of city planning and more a retroactive legitimation for prematurely approved development plans. It also offered presumptive validation for the remainder of proposals waiting in the wings. 6
The "Statement of Planning Principles" was both comprehensive and specific. It called for a planned residential development (PRD) concept instead of typical suburban subdivision practices; minimal transformation of the natural topography; and a balance of social and economic factors, including housing for low moderate as well as high income groups. It called for natural, interconnected open areas linked to and penetrating neighborhood and working areas. Open space was viewed as a means of separating one built area from another and, through the resulting containment--one of the key objectives of the ideal new community--of strengthening a sense of community. Another principle identified employment centers, strategically located throughout the community in a series of small industrial parks to minimize the need to commute to work and to foster the desirable goal of community containment. Planning and siting were to accommodate and support future alternative modes of transit other than the automobile. Natural land forms were to be respected in the creation of a city-wide mass transportation system. Cost benefit principles dealt with the economically sound distribution and operation of public facilities through the clustering of new development and the preservation of the natural environment. Finally, principles involving development phasing focused on the prevention of land speculation and scattered land development. Planners concluded with a seemingly simple planning statement: "In arriving at a concept for the development of the [North City], the principal objective has been to distinguish land which can be developed from land which should not be developed." This objective was to become a Pandora's box of interpretation, value judgment, and power struggles over the following two decades.
proposals. Nevertheless, resilient and hopeful, a small group of dedicated staff planners acceded to Council's request and developed a plan based on the guiding principles they had recently formulated. In the summer of 1972 they submitted a document called New Communities: Background Study (City of San Diego Planning, 1972). It included the following disclaimer: The concern of this report is not whether urbanization should occur, but if it does, how should it occur, and what are its desirable characteristics....The Council's direction to conceptualize the possible development of North City is used as an example in this report. However, it should be cautioned that this is not a plan for the urbanization of North City [original emphasis]. p.iii 7 North City planners had significant insights into the planning issues of the day. New Communities was an enlightened compilation of planning concepts, covering a wide range of issues. It reiterated the merits of natural open space networks, socially and economically balanced and self-contained communities, planned district zoning as an alternative to traditional zoning, and a layered transportation system. It included several fresh ideas concerning land acquisition by public agencies, the growth inducing effects of public improvements like roads and utilities, property tax relief measures, the provision and financing of public facilities, and suitability analyses to guide land use. North City planners, working alongside county planners, made use of computer modeling techniques that quantified environmental and social values to determine suitability, an approach newly popularized by Ian McHarg in Design With Nature. They borrowed freely from the popular "new town" prototype.8 They propounded concepts that were yet to become fashionable and would later be provided with updated labels like multimodal transportation system, environmental tier, and facilities benefits assessments. The New Communities document was an important exercise in comprehensive, long range planning and a thoughtful compendium of new planning doctrines. It fell into the laps of a newly constituted City Council. Joining the city's progressive new Mayor, Pete Wilson, were three new Councilmembers, all purportedly committed to ameliorating the problems of urban sprawl.9 Planning for North City West In quick succession, Councilmembers adopted the Planning Department's cogent set of planning principles, called for a conceptual planning document for the area, and then directed 7
Planners disavowed responsibility for potential growth-inducing consequences of the planning process. They also disavowed policy-making intentions. These sentiments would be repeated--verbatim--in the preamble to the 1990 planning process for the FUA. 8
Planners drew on the new town prototype of Ebenezer Howard's turn of the century "Garden City," fleshed out a generation later in the Clarence Stein/Andrew Wright community of Radburn, New Jersey, and in the 1960s new towns of Reston, Virginia and Columbia, Maryland. 9
Newly installed in office in 1972 were Gil Johnson, District 1; Maureen O'Connor, District 2; and Jim Bates, District 8.
the Planning Department to develop a plan for the largest pending project in the North City, a new community called North City West. Armed with a freshly-penned set of planning principles and the New Communities treatise, and equipped with the integrative possibilities of computer technology, it was a unique opportunity to put idealistic planning paradigms to the test. In addition, the 1967 General Plan was in the process of revision, partially in response to new state legislation that elevated the status of locally adopted general plans by instituting consistency requirements for zoning and subdivision regulations. Regional planning was also given new priority with the initiation of a city/county endeavor (the "Integrated Regional Environment Management Project"), whose goal was to deliver a computer-generated environmental data base to evaluate potential effects of new land uses on natural resources. It was in this auspicious setting that city planners embarked on a what seemed like a pioneering experience to design the new community of North City West. The planning area covered 13% of the greater North City area, over 4,000 acres of mostly undeveloped land lying just east of I-5 and straddling the northern and southern slopes of Carmel Valley. The population allotted to North City West was to be 20% of the population growth projected for the entire area by 1990; the remaining 80% of future growth was directed to the area's eastern fringe along the I-15 corridor. The ratio was based on environmental constraints in the western sector. In the eastern fringe, inadequate water and sewer services and traffic congestion were already apparent but not deemed insurmountable. Planners seized on computer modeling and the McHarg approach10 as the ultimate tool for rational land use planning: The computer modeling approach which was used to provide a basic framework for the North City West Community Plan involved the collection and manipulation of a data base with thousands of individual pieces of information...variables of the land form to determine the structure of urbanization. (City of San Diego Planning Department, 1975b, pp. 16, 21) And to provide "the framework that future urbanization should follow," they invoked five planning goals: (1) to establish a physical, social, and economically balanced community; (2) to establish self-containment and a feeling of community identity among the future residents of North City West; (3) to preserve the natural environment; (4) to establish a balanced transportation system as a tool for shaping the urban environment; and (5) to establish realistic phasing of development based on maximum utilization of privately financed public facilities (p. 50). Facilities financing. Traditionally, the cost of providing infrastructure for new development was funneled through the city's Capital Improvements Program and paid out of 10
McHarg's suitability analysis overlaid a value system, derived through social consensus, on enumerated environmental constraints to identify the carrying capacity of an area. Rather than taking this technique a step forward, San Diego planners focused their analyses exclusively on the physical determinants of land capability. They passed up on the opportunity to add crucial economic and political overlays to the suitability equation and settled for a two dimensional planning matrix, limiting the outcome from the very beginning.
the general fund. But the rapid expansion of suburban communities, especially along the I-15 corridor, had put untenable pressure on the city's resources and made it politically infeasible to plan a new community in the old fiscal mold.11 The North City West community plan (City of San Diego Planning, 1975b) proposed an inventive alternative method to finance the community's infrastructure: "It is the intent of this Community Plan that all public facilities be financed by the property owners within the planning area by a charge against the land only in the planning area" (p. 38). Phasing of development and public facilities was also integral to the plan. Private financing of public facilities -- most likely in the form of assessment districts -- would go hand in hand with the phasing of development "to insure that the proposed public facilities to serve each area are, in fact, scheduled and guaranteed to be provided concurrent with need" (p. 137). The best laid plans. The North City West community plan invoked specific "new community" concepts: a focal town center, self-contained pedestrian oriented neighborhoods, and a transportation network -- "a fully integrated system of pedestrian, bicycle, transit and automobile facilities" (p.100) with a local and regional bus system linking the community to jobs, recreation, and schools.12 To illustrate diverse possibilities for this new community, planners prepared three alternative sketch plans. They wrote: Having established the overall planning goals, determined what land should be urbanized and what land should be retained to preserve the natural environment, and determined the basic land use allocations necessary to promote a balanced land use mix, a series of conceptual sketch plans were prepared. (p. 51) Yet, instead of true alternatives, planners devised minor variations on a theme. And ironically, the eventual outcome of the North City West plan resembled the most conventional and least favored of the planning alternatives. Plan implementation was hampered by planners' reliance on an implementation tool popularized during the previous decade's suburban boom, the planned development concept. Legislated through customized zoning ordinances (PDOs), "the planned development is acknowledged as a tool which provides the best options for the developer, particularly in the clustering of developments and in the application of common open 11
The most egregious example was Mira Mesa, a community outside the southeastern edge of the North City. Planned for a population of 89,000, no provisions were made for basic community facilities like schools and parks. In 1970 the City Council, itself a facilitator of costly development, adopted a resolution "to insure that needed public services will be available concurrently with need" (Council Policy 600-10). Council persisted in approving major development proposals and, one year following approval of the North City West community plan, found it necessary to amend Council Policy 600-10 to address the exacerbation of traffic congestion along the I-15 corridors by establishing development phasing conditions based on construction and expansion of roadways. Two decades later, the I-15 communities rallied behind a campaign to release FUA for development in the latest attempt to gain new roads and a freeway that might ameliorate their traffic gridlock and suburban entrapment. 12
The plan for a coordinated transportation network languished; it was still deemed infeasible 20 years after the community plan was adopted. As it turned out, the planning and construction of a local freeway (State Route 56) would consume the lion's share of community and regional financial resources.
space" (p. 120). However, the creation of PDOs took place in the political arena, within which development interests were adept at gaining concessions, compromises, and give-aways, and in which planners customarily assumed a passive and supplicatory posture. By the time the carefully crafted community plan was ready for legislative review, there had been yet another turnover on Council and a shift to a more conservative bent.13 Planners shied away from active attempts at educating the three Council newcomers about the "new communities" concept in the North City, its planning principles, environmental goals, or balanced community philosophy, leaving the job to North City developers. Through the micropolitics of planning, atavistic forces prevailed. New standards were significantly attenuated, despite the presence of high-minded planning principles, apparent consensus, large blocks of land in single ownership, and new computer techniques; special interest pressures were a stratum that had been ignored in Planning Department computerized overlays. Following stormy public hearings and vociferous opposition from neighboring communities, the North City West community plan was adopted by the City Council in 1975. Mayor Wilson, having been swept into office on the strength of his commitment to growth control, cast a dissenting vote.14 From the Pen of Visiting Consultants They came; they saw; they wrote a pamphlet about it. Donald Appleyard and Kevin Lynch came to town in 1974 to study and comment on the physical and social landscape of the San Diego region.15 While local planners had the advantage of first hand knowledge of their subject and sensitivity to the pulse and details of their surroundings, out-of-town experts had the advantage of a fresh perspective and an objective appreciation for the whole. Following spirited exercises in "regional reconnaissance" and community participation, they issued a forthright document with the provocative title, Temporary Paradise? A Look at the Special Landscape of the San Diego Region. It was delivered on the eve of official consideration of the North City West community plan. From the pens of bold and exuberant planners like Appleyard and Lynch, planning concepts presented in the 1972 Planning Department document New Communities took on new 13
New Councilmembers were Lee Hubbard, District 3; Jim Ellis, District 7; and Jess Haro, District 8.
In Wilson's earliest days in office, Council established a policy regarding future land development that stated: "The issue of residential-commercial-industrial development, particularly its timing and location, is of crucial importance to the long-range future of San Diego" (Council Policy 600-18, 1972). Citing the strong emphasis the 1967 General Plan placed on the prevention of sprawl and the creation of a more compact city, Council resolved that only after the execution of "a total cost/revenue analysis...based on objective studies and to cover total expenditures, both capital and operating, by all governmental agencies" would it consider additional outlying development. However, the North City West plan was exempted from complying. The same would later be true for the FUA Framework Plan. 15
Appleyard and Lynch were engaged by the city but paid by a grant from the Marston family, venerable figures in the San Diego downtown business scene.
life. The two transformed the term "environmental quality" into a kaleidoscope of sociologic, psychologic, aesthetic, economic, physiologic, and futuristic facets. In their hands, an environmental plan addressed the whole gamut of human needs and its nexus with the physical world. But then, city planners took over the project; they sorted, restated, and transliterated Appleyard and Lynch's observations and recommendations, arranged them in matrices, and wrote a planning report (City of San Diego Planning Department, 1975a). Temporary Paradise? was redolent with possibility. The city report was a dead end, devoid of energy but full of jargon -- identify, interface, team, product, funding source, work program -- terms that signaled caution, delay, unresponsiveness, and business as usual. City officials laid both Temporary Paradise and the Planning Department report aside. Public pressure to gain control over rampant growth pushed issues like regional planning and urban design guidelines into the shadows.16 Growth Management Planning City efforts toward responsible planning seemed to come to life under the aegis of Mayor Wilson, who was popularly viewed as an advocate of managed growth and the environment and as the city's guardian angel, dedicated to "prevent Los Angelization" in San Diego (Keen, 1977, p. 10). A number of Council resolutions pertaining to community planning (Council Policies 600-5, 6), growth management (Council Policies 600-7, 10, 18), and the economic and racial balance of newly developing communities (Council Policies 600-19, 20) were processed during his first term in office. Public support for his growth platform was reflected in the strength of his reelection victory in 1975. But problems caused by rapid growth persisted as politicians proved willing to endorse only symbolic anti-growth regulations. As a pragmatic compromise, slow growth advocates attempted to draw a distinction between growth control and growth management (DeGrove, 1984; Warner & Molotch, 1995; Witt & Sammartino, 1990). While the former signified efforts to prevent or curtail additional growth, usually by means of rigid capacity limits or outright building moratoria, the latter promoted less confrontational measures, asserting that growth could be guided rather than resisted and that growth management mechanisms could guarantee that new development would not be a financial drain on the rest of the city but would "pay its own way." The city hired land use consultant Robert Freilich, professor of law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, to develop a growth management strategy. He was brought to San Diego by Mayor Wilson in the mid-1970s, on the heels of a successful legal defense of his ingenious growth management plan developed for the town of Ramapo, New York (Golden v. Planning Board, 1972). Conventional zoning, as established by the 1926 Standard Zoning Enabling Act, was based on a two dimensional model: zoning could specify and regulate allowable and prohibited uses of land, and it could regulate the height, width, depth, size, that 16
Over the years,Temporary Paradise? became a quasi-sacred text for planners and citizens cognizant of planning matters. San Diego visionaries periodically attempted to reel in the images tendered by Appleyard and Lynch and tether them to the city's shriveling landscape. In 1995 members of the urban planning group C-3, a few of whom had served on the Paradise resource panel two decades earlier, were at work in a renewed attempt to resurrect the principles of the original report and call it Permanent Paradise.
is, the bulk of development. But it had become clear that long range planning required more flexibility than standard zoning could provide. Freilich added a new dimension to planning and zoning parameters -- mechanisms that established holding zones and staged development. In the Ramapo decision, the court upheld the right of a municipality to restrict development through sequential and timed phasing, conceivably for as long as 18 years, without the requirement for compensation to property owners. Freilich had taken the concept of time and crafted it into a zoning and planning tool. San Diego's Vale of Tiers Freilich's growth management proposal for San Diego was a local variation on his trademark theme. It entailed sectioning the city into five discrete areas, each governed by a distinct development policy. These included: (1) a downtown core/Centre City, subject to revitalization through redevelopment (this tier was subsequently folded into the designation of urbanized tier); (2) the surrounding urbanized area, comprised of established communities whose development potential was limited to infill projects and some redevelopment; (3) a peripheral planned urbanizing area, which included newly planned and developing communities subject to development phasing and internally-generated infrastructure funding. Communities labeled planned urbanizing constituted nearly 30% of the total area of the city; (4) a future urbanizing area, to be held as an urban reserve pending the city's future development needs. This land was zoned for agricultural uses, generally at a density of one unit per ten acres;17 and (5) an open space region, a connected series of natural and recreational open spaces. This tier mysteriously disappeared from consideration almost as soon as it was proposed, to be resuscitated in a truncated form years later, coincidental with the official planning process for the FUA. It would be known as the Environmental Tier.18 The Developers' Counteroffensive Throughout the second half of the 1970s, each new growth management proposal triggered a developer roadblock and accelerated the race to develop to capacity. The spiraling national inflation and increasing development costs provided developers with ready and persuasive arguments for immediate building approval. In the lingo of the development industry, delays meant dollars -- and growth management meant delays. Moreover, growth management signified the establishment of new regulations. But instead of fighting additional building restrictions head on, the development industry took a less confrontational route. They changed the terms of the debate by calling for the streamlining of the permit process. Expedited project approval, they said, was essential to their livelihood during inflationary times. They assaulted bureaucratic inefficiencies, always an effective ploy to gain public support. In the name of streamlining, they called for the elimination of existing building constraints. They 17
In contrast, Minneapolis-St. Paul had recently incorporated a tier system into its comprehensive plan for the purpose of channeling growth; its urban reserve tier permitted density at 1 unit per 40 acres, with no urban facilities projected for 15-20 years (Freilich and Ragsdale, 1974). 18
For a more detailed account of the genesis and specifications of the tier system, see Calavita, 1992, pp. 6-9.
assailed community planning as an expensive and expendable exercise, suggesting that curtailment or even outright elimination of community input was a necessary streamlining measure (Corso, 1977; Paddock, 1979a). The City Manager's reports were supportive of and echoed the development industry's position; they proposed expedited and unrestricted development to meet consumer demand, to avoid increased inflationary expenses, and to bring the cost of housing down.19 Indeed, it was strongly asserted that if unrestricted growth were not accommodated the potential for affordable housing would be quickly eradicated.20 The pitched battle between pro-development interests and managed growth/no-growth advocates threatened to catch Mayor Wilson -- who had his political eye on a senatorial seat -in the cross fire. Under increasing pressure from business and development interests, Wilson resorted to revisionist growth management language as he slowly shifted his voting pattern. In 1976 he assembled a "citizens" oversight committee to monitor and advise Council on fledgling growth management proposals. Of 8 participants, 7 represented development industry interests. A $25,000 grant was furnished by the Construction Industry Federation (CIF) to fund the advisory group and funneled through the Chamber of Commerce (Citizen Panel, 1976). As an advocate for growth management, Wilson declared: "What we are now seeking to do is to develop a more compact city to check sprawl. We will infill to the extent that we can." And as a political candidate garnering campaign financing, he tacked on an addendum: "As need requires and dictates, we will incrementally open up new land" ("Pete Wilson's mission," 1977). Who Will Pay for Growth? A central tenet of the tier concept was that provision of public facilities in the planned urbanizing tier would keep pace with residential development. In the scramble to find alternative funding sources, the city created a financing program called Facility Benefits Assessment (FBA). Newly developing communities became giant assessment districts to generate funds for the phased construction of their own public facilities. The concept was appealing in its apparent simplicity: developers would be charged a permit fee on a per unit 19
Fifteen years later, under antipodal economic conditions of a prolonged recession, similar attempts to "streamline" the development permitting process and exclude the public from the planning process were attempted--this time under the guise of hastening an economic recovery. Under the rubric of a Zoning Code update, the process of dismantling long established regulatory and environmental development constraints and eliminating community involvement in planning matters was more successful. 20
The most spirited political proponent of unrestricted development at the time was Councilmember Fred Schnaubelt. He had no qualms about invoking the shibboleth of affordable housing to promote his laissez-faire philosophy. Fifteen years later, provocative as ever, he was still railing at attempts to provide affordable housing by any means other than market driven and unfettered development. The free market, in his world view, would take care of everyone's needs--everyone, that is, who deserved it. In a letter to a community newspaper regarding a Housing Commission recommendation to build low income apartments in La Jolla, he wrote, "The proposal to build 28 low-income apartments...can only be described as stupid, ridiculous, and asinine...Worst of all, stunts such as this send the message that hard work, getting an education, self improvement, and serving society are not the means to rising to the top--to live in La Jolla--you either strike it rich--or go bankrupt and win the Housing Commission lottery" (Schnaubelt, F., 1994).
basis to meet the costs of roads, libraries, parks, and other infrastructure on a timely basis (Witt & Sammartino, 1990). Hailed as a panacea for the financial bind the city was in, FBAs were billed as an orderly, fair, and sound scheme to pay for continued suburban expansion. Word of San Diego's FBA system spread across the country, triggering similar proposals in other states.21 Nevertheless, FBAs were to open a Pandora's box of complications and problems once they were in full swing. Furthermore, they served to narrow and skew growth management planning by shifting the focus of discussion away from the manifold dilemmas of urban growth and blurring it in the mechanics of bookkeeping.22 Guidelines for Future Development In 1979 the City Council ratified a General Plan amendment termed "Guidelines for Future Development," which stated: In the spring of 1975, the City Council directed the Planning Department to prepare a comprehensive analysis of the problems and issues of growth and how this growth affects the fiscal resources of the City as well as the physical and social pattern of development. The results of this study plus the comments and suggestions introduced by individual citizens, property owners and business groups evolved into a program for managing future development in The City of San Diego. (City of San Diego, 1979, p. 25) This benign preamble belied the lengthy and acrimonious struggle that had taken place over how and by whom growth should be regulated and the intense lobbying and fierce battles waged by the development industry in opposition to a growth management plan. As finally adopted, it was a much-reduced strategy based on Freilich's tier system. Development focus had been taken off the downtown core. And conspicuously absent was a previously proposed open space tier, a clear if subtle signal that no land would be categorized as completely off limits to future development.
Publicity about FBAs even reached Staten Island. In 1991 community leaders fomenting a drive to secede from New York City made their way through the labyrinth of San Diego's city hall telephone connections to the District 1 office for information about the city's FBA financing mechanism, hoping it would be a magic funding source for their own venture. 22
In 1978 the Jarvis-Gann Property Tax Limitation Initiative, popularly known as Proposition 13, was passed by the citizens of California. It lobbed an unforeseen variable into planning discussions, one that would alter the city's financial capabilities to conduct not only extraordinary but routine business, as well. Provisions of the initiative resulted in curtailed income from property taxes, previously a major source of revenue for the city's capital expenditures. Although its most serious consequences would not be fully understood for several years to come, the restrictions it imposed on levying property taxes buried any lingering thoughts of tapping the city's general fund for suburban growth.
On top of that, the door to precipitous development in the third tier -- the urban reserve -- was unlatched and left slightly ajar thanks to a loophole inserted in the General Plan amendment, a simple but potent phrase stating that land in the urban reserve "will be released for development as the planned communities are built out or as opportunities to implement the balanced housing or land use goals of the City arise." The City Council 23 had given itself a ready justification to shift the phasing status of future urbanizing land to permit more intense development when and as it saw fit, growth management notwithstanding. According to Councilmember Schnaubelt, "There is nothing [in the growth management plan] to preclude anyone from building anywhere within the city of San Diego" (Paddock, 1979b, p. 1). Responding as they had done following the creation of the General Plan more than a decade earlier, developers stormed the city with plans for new North City communities in the freshly designated planned urbanizing tier.24 23
At this juncture, the makeup of the City Council included Bill Mitchell, District 1; Maureen O'Connor, District 2; Bill Lowery, District 3; Leon Williams, District 4; Fred Schnaubelt, District 5; Tom Gade, District 6; Larry Stirling, District 7; Lucy Killea, District 8; and Mayor Pete Wilson. 24
Mike Madigan, former assistant to Mayor Wilson and currently vice-president of Pardee Construction Company--the major developer of North City West, and engineer Bill Rick, with a major contract for a controversial project in North City West, were ready to break ground in Chicarita Creek. Shapell Industries strained at the bit in Carmel Mountain East. Proposals for Lago Dorado and Chicarita Creek were being negotiated. In the south city, new growth in the expansive area of Otay Mesa was in the
Did the planning and growth management process, in itself, ring the starting bell? Or did the planning process merely provide legitimation of developers' preexisting agendas? Within six years following the adoption of the "Guidelines for Future Development," which had set aside approximately 60,000 acres as an urban reserve, over 40% of that acreage was slated for new development (Hill, 1985). For each project proposal, all that developers required from Council was a five-vote majority. They knew that even presumed defenders of growth management would prove flexible in their voting patterns.
offing. It might be instructional to note that the wives of two active lobbyists were staff aides in Council offices (Paddock, April 1979a).
CHAPTER III STIRRINGS IN THE FUA: THE EARLY 1980s Introduction Accelerated growth has long been a defining attribute of southern California cities. Some observers have claimed that growth, both economic and physical, was required for the long term survival of a city: if cities didn't grow they would wither. This veiled "use it or lose it" threat was superfluous in San Diego where, especially during the 1980s, the momentum of growth seemed unstoppable. Driving the process were not mushrooming costs of public spending (Baumol, 1967), nor multiplier effects and spinoff acceleration (Goodman, 1979), nor the rules of a zero-sum game (Thurow, 1980). The force behind San Diego's burgeoning growth was the territorial imperative of the development industry, a powerful mainstay of the city's political economy not easily withstood by city policy, regulations, or occasional political intransigence. During the decade of Pete Wilson's tenure, from the year he became Mayor (1971) until the year he left city office to become United States Senator (1982), San Diego's population increased nearly 25% to 925,000. Because San Diego was a city that "prided itself as much on what it wasn't -- congested, polluted, a hassle -- as what it was" ("Tough decisions," 1988), the negative impacts of suburban sprawl on the city's quality of life roused continued public resistance to growth. This chapter describes planning activities for the North City following the adoption of the "Guidelines for Future Development" General Plan amendment in 1979 and focuses on the newly designated future urbanizing tier. The narrative begins with a description of incursions into the North City FUA concurrent with attempts to maintain it as an urban reserve. It describes establishment of Council policy to guide the city's efforts at maintaining the urban reserve and demonstrates how these policies were used to undercut growth management efforts. A task force review of the efficacy of the growth management tier system is documented and analyzed in the light of the role it played in legitimating the business of growth. The chapter discusses the impact of influential individuals on the decision-making process and concludes with a description of the process by which a major development proposal in the FUA gained Council approval, growth management notwithstanding.1 Whittling Away the FUA The "Guidelines for Future Development" amendment to the General Plan designated 60,000 acres in locations throughout the city as an urban reserve.2 Between the initial proposal for establishing a future urbanizing tier in the mid-1970s and adoption of the growth management amendment in 1979, over 4,000 acres of prospective urban reserve land had been 1
There were a few new faces on Council at the turn of the decade. They were Bill Cleator, District 2; Mike Gotch, District 6; and Dick Murphy, District 7. Overall, the pro-growth forces on Council now had a decided majority. 2
Half this acreage was under federal jurisdiction in military installations.
shaken loose for the development of North City West. The area set aside as the North City FUA was thereby reduced to 19,000 acres of undeveloped canyons, hillsides, small farms, and river valley lands. Despite the purpose and intent of the city's new growth management strategy regarding development phasing, Council persisted in approving development proposals in the urban reserve. In 1982 the FUA was further reduced by the approval of the 785-acre Fairbanks Ranch Country Club3 (marketed as a North City venue for the upcoming Olympic Games equestrian event). Sparked by the Fairbanks victory, developers of the adjacent 800 acre San Dieguito Valley landholding pressured the city to begin a planning process. Within the year, Council plucked another 600 acres from the FUA for an industrial and commercial community called Sorrento Hills. And waiting impatiently in the wings was the massive La Jolla Valley proposal. How did Council justify its precipitous incursions into the urban reserve? The amended General Plan text provided the answer: The Future Urbanizing area...is to be held as an "urban reserve" and will be released for development as the planned communities are built out or as opportunities to implement the balanced housing or land use goals of the City arise. (City of San Diego, 1979, p. 27) Councilmembers further compromised the irresolute text through interpretive Council policy. Two pivotal resolutions were passed piggyback on the same day in 1981, illustrating Council's equivocal commitment to a strong growth management plan.4 Council Policy 600-29 dealt with maintaining the FUA as an urban reserve, and Council Policy 600-30 laid out guidelines for a phase shift, that is, the reclassification of land from a future urbanizing to a planned urbanizing designation permitting full development. Through this process, Council created legitimating tools to sidestep its own growth management strategy. The Oddity of Council Policy 600-29 and the Geniality of Council Policy 600-30 Council Policy 600-29 was created with a built-in mystery that would plague growth 3
Mayor Wilson abstained from voting, claiming a conflict of interest stemming from a campaign loan he had accepted from the developer of the project. 4
On that day, Council proceedings were uncharacteristically smooth and efficient. Planner Mike Stepner delivered the Planning Department report along with a staff report by planner Mike Stang. Councilmember Gotch commented favorably on staff preparation of the policies. Councilmember Mitchell raised a minor question about the nature of findings necessary for a phase shift -- the difference between incremental and substantial evidence -- and was assured it was an easily made technical distinction. With no further Council comment, and with new Councilmember Susan Golding, District 3 present for the vote, the facilitating FUA policies were unanimously adopted. To maintain regulatory consistency, Council also amended municipal code sections governing Planned Residential Developments (PRD) and agricultural (A-1) zones in the FUA. Consultant Freilich, still working with the city on growth management matters, had a hand--but not the last word--in the preparation of the proposed Council policies. He had been able to mold an orderly process into the policy language but was unsuccessful in excising development loopholes.
management efforts for years to come. Council Policy 600-29 laid out permissible development alternatives to the underlying zoning in the FUA, with an emphasis on clustered development "to promote more efficient land utilization and land conservation." It spelled out three options: (1) developers could build at the underlying zoning of one dwelling unit per 10 acres (or one per five, where applicable); (2) developers could build pursuant to PRD regulations at a density of one unit per four acres, surrendering future development rights on land set aside for open space;5 or (3) developers could design a clustered development at the underlying zoning and preserve their rights to future development on the remainder of their property if and when the land underwent a phase shift. Options 1 and 3 were pro forma, but where had option 2 come from? It was being passed off as an alternative clustering concept, but it was an arbitrary augmentation of existing zoning density, executed so deftly that few growth management activists seemed aware of it -either at the time or for the following few years. With some quietly negotiated strokes of the pen, certain property owners in the FUA were granted the potential of development at up to 2Â˝ times the density to which they were entitled under existing regulations. It was a gift, but to whom? The tracks led straight to land use attorney Louis Wolfsheimer. At the definitive Council hearing, attorney Wolfsheimer requested the opportunity to be heard by the decision makers before they cast their votes on Council Policy 600-29. He had last minute instructions to impart: The thing I'm here to be certain goes today -- and instruction to staff goes -- is to create the ordinances which allow a four acre PRD in the white areas [the FUA] of the city maps. On the books right now and on the books for the last two years in the PRD ordinance is the language which allows four acre PRDs, but unfortunately, language cannot be found in the actual agricultural zoning ordinance that they need to make that small change. (L. Wolfsheimer, taped City Council hearing, July 20, 1981) And he concluded, "You might be interested to know that the county of San Diego allows even agriculturally productive land to be broken into two acre PRDs, so this is, I consider, very conservative treatment of land that is being inventoried." 6 5
For example, on a 100 acre parcel there could be 25 lots developed with 16 acres of open space on which no future development rights could be exercised 6
Attorney Wolfsheimer's professional attention was focused in the North City FUA on behalf of major developer clients. During his stint as Planning Commission chairman ten years earlier he had declared, "I believe in property rights, but the city doesn't owe everybody a profit on their land. People who buy agricultural land are buying it with the hopes that they can get a rezone for subdivisions, I suppose, but there's no guarantee to anyone" ("City planning chief," 1971, p. B-3). His influence on Council actions in 1981 created that guarantee. His claim concerning PRDs, incidentally, was erroneous. Existing PRD regulations did not allow four acre PRDs in the FUA. Whether he intentionally misled Council in an attempt to reduce impediments to approval was moot. Council seemed to need little further encouragement to support the policy.
In a symbolic but dubious affirmation of growth management objectives, Council Policy 600-29 reiterated the city's commitment "to avoid premature urbanization, to conserve open space and natural environmental features, and to protect the fiscal resources of the City by precluding costly sprawl and/or leapfrog development" on one page, while facilitating increased densities in the FUA on the next page. This policy became a glowing ember in FUA land use politics.7 Council Policy 600-30 bridged the gap between the intent of the "Guidelines for Future Development" to forestall development in the FUA and the intent of the development industry to pursue such development. As it was written: The purpose of this Council Policy is to specify the guidelines and requirements for effecting a shift of land from the Future Urbanizing to the Planned Urbanizing area in accordance with the Progress Guide and General Plan. This policy applies to all such shifts of land prior to General Plan Amendment. Council Policy 600-30 codified the vitiation of the city's newly established growth management strategy. In the first round of several amendments to the policy, a "threshold determination" mechanism was devised that allowed Council to authorize official consideration of premature phase shift proposals under the barest of pretexts. FUA developers would no longer have to time and coordinate phase shift proposals with periodic General Plan updates. Council policy now enabled them to go directly to Council at any time. Council could justify final approval of a phase shift with impunity, simply by citing the policy's "substantial and unique public benefit" clause.8
Almost ten years after Council Policy 600-29 was adopted, questions were raised about its legality, specifically addressing its provisions for PRD development at a density A-1-4. Arguments were based on the state's consistency doctrine, which required that local land use regulations conform to and be consistent with the locality's adopted General Plan. To complicate matters, the applicability of the consistency doctrine to charter cities, such as San Diego, was also the subject of legal challenge. The legal argument concerning Council Policy 600-29 was framed on behalf of the Sierra Club by attorney D. Dwight Worden. He asserted that 600-29 was invalid on two counts: it introduced a higher density to the FUA than that which already existed and thereby was in conflict with the General Plan designation of the land as an urban reserve; and by authorizing an increase in density, the policy was inconsistent with the will of the public as embodied in the 1985 Proposition A mandate restricting further development in the FUA. The Sierra Club requested that the City Attorney put an end to project processing until legal resolution of the issue but, with no lawsuit in the offing, the city quietly disposed of the (in)consistency charge without further fanfare. 8
Even if a development project was shown to have negative impacts on its surroundings, Council could issue a statement of overriding considerations to neutralize objections and justify project approval. Moreover, projects that successfully negotiated the threshold determination hurdle of Council Policy 60030 were practically guaranteed ultimate approval. First of all, threshold determination acceptance carried with it a strong suggestion of Council approval, making subsequent rejection unlikely. Secondly, once Council made a threshold determination the momentum generated by the applicant's investment of time and money was sufficient to catapult the project across the finish line. The more time and money spent by a developer on processing an application through city channels, the more convincing the argument that Council owed the applicant final approval. Claims such as: "Well over one million dollars has already been spent on the work leading to the [La Jolla Valley General Plan/phase shift] application" (L.
Growth Management on Review In late 1982 Roger Hedgecock replaced United States Senator-elect Wilson as Mayor. Hedgecock, popularly viewed as an environmentalist, promised to be a more earnest advocate of growth containment, especially in the North City, than had been his equivocal predecessor. Stating that the city's growth management plan "has helped us retain a quality environment and achieve unprecedented economic prosperity," the Mayor appointed a task force to further review and evaluate its efficacy. Hedgecock's comment linking growth management and economic prosperity, which had never been expressed as an explicit goal of the strategy, appeared to be an attempt to gild and redefine the image of growth management "to treat growth management and economic development as mutually supportive activities [since] continued economic prosperity is directly related to our ability to successfully manage growth [by] placing jobs in areas of high unemployment" (Hedgecock, 1984). The Mayor's advisory task force consisted of "leaders in the building industry, the business community, and the high-tech industry," plus a sprinkling of "individual citizens and representatives of groups concerned with environmental and community planning issues" (Growth Management Review, 1984, p. 1). Consultant Freilich, author of the city's adopted growth management plan, had been rehired by the city to assist both the task force in its assignment, and the city in its implementation of task force recommendations. Two planning consultant firms were also hired to provide backup services. The endeavor, in other words, was a signal that the Mayor, who was then embroiled in legal challenges to his campaign financing practices, was capable of taking charge of important city business.9 The task force generated questionnaires, surveys, charts, inventories, graphs, maps, and lists, and supplemented them with an impressive lineup of speakers at its biweekly task force meetings -- representatives from other municipalities, public and private agencies, school districts, even the U.S. Navy. Included among the scheduled lecturers was attorney Wolfsheimer who, though professionally tied to the FUA by business interests, was described by the task force as an "interested citizen." The Growth Management Review Task Force delivered its final report to Council in December 1984. It gave a clean bill of health to the city's efforts at protecting the FUA.10 The Wolfsheimer, letter to city officials, May 9, 1983) were dependably effective stratagems to elicit Council approval. 9
Among others, task force members included Lee Grissom, executive president of the Chamber of Commerce; Keith Johnson, executive vice-president of the Fieldstone Company developers; influential land use attorney John Thelan; a vice-president of the local utility company; and shopping center developer Ernest Hahn. Also on the committee were a representative of C-3, an activist community planning board member, and a geography professor. Did informed responses to the Mayor's questions regarding growth management require the services of a 17 member task force and 3 hired consultants? Could city staff have accomplished the job? Indeed, the Planning Department was the obvious agency to do it, especially since North City planner Mike Stepner was now holding the position of Assistant Planning Director. 10
As supporting evidence, the report stated that from 1980-1984 there had been a population drop in the
committee took it upon itself to go beyond its assigned task to discuss issues that "while not squarely within the scope of the Mayor's charge, were nonetheless felt to warrant greater public exposure...and, ultimately, corrective action" (Growth Management Review, 1984, p. 17).11 It issued a list of 17 recommendations, most of which were familiar standbys -- balanced communities, urban design, natural resource preservation, mass transit, regional cooperation, and community planning. Tucked among them, however, were new proposals for industrialization not only in the south city Otay Mesa area but also in the northern reaches of the city: The Task Force found that North City...represents the most significant demand for high-end use in the industrial market for office, R&D space, and technology based industry...Therefore, the Task Force recommended that a generalized land use and phasing plan be prepared for the entire North City area. The reasons for this recommendation include: (a) the realization that pressures for urbanization within the Future Urbanizing Area are great and can be expected to increase; (b) there may be a need to increase industrial land availability; and (c) historically, the land planning process for major new areas has been in a broad range, but on the order of 10 years, more or less... Such a plan would also tend to shorten the lead time necessary to bring developable land to market, once it has been determined that such land should be shifted out of the Future Urbanizing Area. (pp. 17-18) The message was clear: expedite development in the suburban fringes of North City; continue to shift land out of the urban reserve; add an industrial layer to residential development in newly built areas; and delay no longer in opening up the North City for development.
FUA of 22 people. This was a deceptive claim: the report neglected to explain that three major development projects in the North City had been shifted out of the FUA and into the planned urbanizing tier during that time period, obfuscating the considerable growth slated for the area. 11
Most other citizen committees were punctilious about confining themselves to their assigned charge, often spending half their time trying to define exactly what was being asked of them. The Growth Management Review task force did not fit into this mold. Members of the committee were accustomed to shaping their own rules. They were sufficiently confident of their powerful positions to step beyond assigned parameters and use the occasion to their own advantage.
A Slight Oversight While the Growth Management Review Task Force was inquiring into the efficacy of the city's efforts to contain growth, a major FUA proposal was wending its way through the system. In the fall of 1984, months before the task force report was submitted, Council gave its approval, despite Planning Department and Planning Commission recommendations for denial, to a development of monumental proportions in the North City, the La Jolla Valley project.12 The project entailed the shift of 5,100 acres -- over 1/3 of the acreage still remaining in the urban reserve -- from future urbanizing to planned urbanizing status to accommodate a 1,000 acre graduate university, a 750 acre industrial park, and a residential component of 15,00025,000 homes (Osborne & Ristine, 1983). Yet, the members of the Growth Management Review team reported that "to date, the Growth Management Plan has indeed protected the City's presently undeveloped remote areas from sprawl development" (Growth Management Review, 1984, p. 4). Was it simply an oversight that permitted task force members to ignore the La Jolla Valley proceedings, even though two actively participating "interested citizens" at task force meeting -- Bill Rick, Port Commissioner and chief of Rick Engineering and fellow Port Commissioner Louis Wolfsheimer -were both employed by the La Jolla Valley project? The La Jolla Valley Proposal In 1983 the city accepted a voluminous application for a General Plan phase shift amendment to accommodate "one of the nation's premier, master-planned residential and educational communities" (Louis Wolfsheimer, letter to the Planning Director, May 9, 1983), a 30-40 year phased development sponsored by the Campus Crusade for Christ, International. The application included a draft environmental impact report (EIR); fiscal, transportation, and agricultural impact studies; water and sewer facilities, population, housing, and regional population studies; a suitability analysis applying SANDAG's list of twelve suitability criteria; and a policy analysis to demonstrate full compatibility with Council Policy 600-30. La Jolla Valley developers claimed the project would provide invaluable benefits to the city in four important areas: (1) by providing jobs and filling the gap in the city's supply of industrially zoned land; (2) by committing itself to providing affordable housing; (3) by hastening the provision of east-west connecting roads between the I-5 and I-15 freeways; and (4) by contributing (at build-out) net revenues of up to $1 million per year (Rick Engineering project report, May 1983).13 And they took the opportunity to denigrate growth management 12
The Council majority listed decidedly in the direction of growth machine politics. Council seats were held by Bill Mitchell, District 1; Bill Cleator, District 2; Gloria McColl, District 3; William Jones, District 4; Ed Struiksma, District 5; Mike Gotch, District 6; Dick Murphy, District 7; Uvaldo Martinez, District 8 ; and Mayor Hedgecock. 13
The La Jolla Valley project had higher goals than most. In addition to "causing a positive tax flow to stream to the City from the very outset," revenues were to spill over from an even higher source: â€œFurther, we will be developing a major spiritual, educational and cultural asset that will bring honor to the City as well as be a major instrument in the hands of our Lord to help turn our society in a Christian direction. Our purpose remains as it has always been: to prepare generations of spiritually revolutionary
planning, stating: "Growth...occurs in response to market demands; not on an arbitrary time schedule set by professional planners" (G. A. Kingston/La Jolla Valley Properties, letter to the City Council, June 14, 1984). Debate over the La Jolla Valley proposal was prolonged and heated. Mayor Hedgecock had declared that, while he was not opposed to an educational institution in the area (permissible in the FUA with a conditional use permit [CUP]), he was opposed to a phase shift.14 In an attempt to slow the phase-shift process, Hedgecock initiated an amendment to Council Policy 600-30 for a "threshold determination" step. But Council was loathe to incur the wrath of the development industry and adopted the amendment only after much wrangling that awarded the La Jolla Valley project an exemption from threshold determination requirements. The local television station joined the Mayor in opposing the phase shift: "The only reason to grant an amendment to the Growth Management Plan would be if the City absolutely needed what La Jolla Valley has to offer. We don't think that's the case (KCST-TV broadcast, March 13, 1984). The San Diego Union also declared itself unequivocally in opposition to the proposal, taking the editorial position that: the issue goes far beyond the merits of a planned new community...What is at stake is nothing less than the preservation or abandonment of San Diego's General Plan for managed growth...The La Jolla Valley project should be rejected. (Crossroads for San Diego, 1984, p. B-6) The Rick Report Molotch has observed that: The larger development companies have staff committed to achieving political goals. A successful development team now may include planners, environmental analysts, land-use attorneys, public relations experts, various engineers...and sometimes other specialized consultants." (1995, p. 394). In swift response to opposition to the La Jolla Valley project, the Rick Engineering Company leaders who will catch a vision of what it means to be "salt" and "light" in a society that is becoming increasingly secular and humanistic.” (Campus Crusade for Christ International president W. R. Bright, letter to the City Council, May 8, 1984) 14
The owners of the La Jolla Valley property made their displeasure with the Mayor clear. A "Dear Friend" letter was circulated among potential supporters of the project and signed by the president of the Campus Crusade for Christ International. It said: “In recent public statements, the Mayor has sought to give the impression that he is in favor of the International Christian Graduate University while at the same time rejecting the possibility of any other development on our property. It is important that you know that this kind of "support" is unacceptable to us, since it provides no source of income for developing the University. We cannot achieve our objective of building a world-class Christian graduate university without the development of some portion of the industrial or residential uses of our property, as the Mayor knows very well...Yours for fulfilling the Great Commission in the Generation.” (W. R. Bright, May 8, 1984)
issued a purportedly impartial technical appraisal of the city's economic health called San Diego's industrial land crisis: An immediate threat to economic vitality (Darnall, 1984). It was an elaborate sales pitch, making use of statistical and analytic economic information to weave a matrix of inferences demonstrating that the future economic health of San Diego relied on increased industrial capability in the North City. The premise of the Rick report was that "the overall health of California's economy depended on the continued growth of high technology industry" (p. 6). It warned that the rate of new job creation throughout the state and, by implication, the city would not be high enough to sustain existing employment levels because housing and land zoned for industry were too costly to attract high technology firms. Asserting that the reason for inflated costs was the lack of land availability, it anchored its argument in the "Industrial Element" of the General Plan, which states, "Enough acreage should be designated to meet anticipated needs and to provide enough acreage for choice so that market forces can operate and maintain land prices within reasonable limits."15 The report downplayed the findings of earlier studies by SANDAG and the Planning Department indicating that problems in management, distribution, and planning of the region's existing industrially-zoned lands were more pertinent than a shortage of available acreage. The Rick report dismissed the availability of large parcels of low-cost land in the south bay area ("there are questions as to the attractiveness of this area to high technology-type companies" [p. 39]) and concluded that the North City was the most desirable area for new industry, both for potential customers and to provide the city with economic benefits. Furthermore, a change in the land use designation for the La Jolla Valley would be of widespread benefit since "this project's commitment to providing large-lot industrial acreage in the industrially desirable area of North City will help to correct a major imbalance of the marketplace." And it voiced a warning that was to be echoed two years later in a CIF report: "By artificially restricting the amount of industrial land required by the marketplace, not only is San Diego's economic health threatened today, but its economic potential is severely challenged also" (p. 40). Council Acquiesces In response to Planning Department and public criticism, La Jolla Valley developers submitted a revised plan proposing accelerated development of the project's educational and industrial components and a long delay in development of the residential element.16 The 15
Significantly, the Rick report omitted the remainder of the General Plan paragraph, which states: â€œOn the other hand, too much industrial acreage can preclude the timely development of close-in properties and even result in the premature escalation of property taxes. An overabundance of industrial land may also contribute to a diffused, inefficient, and uneconomical industrial development pattern. â€œ(p. 284) 16
In defense of their position, La Jolla Valley developers claimed that the revised proposal was consistent with the "original" growth management policy to defer residential development in the FUA. Attorney Wolfsheimer had been instrumental in increasing residential density in the FUA for one client and was now upholding pre-1981 conditions for another.
Planning Department rejected the revised proposal as "basically a phasing of the land uses proposed under the original submittal" for which the required findings based on need, growth impacts and sprawl, and unique public benefit still could not be made in support of the project. On the other hand, in a 180ยบ turnaround from its previously stated position, the San Diego Union endorsed the revised plan. The newspaper's updated editorial appeared to flow directly from a La Jolla Valley Properties pen: Although the [original] development plan itself had considerable merit, it was simply a case of too much, too soon. The new, scaled-down plan is not...The city's Growth Management Plan was designed primarily to deal with residential development....With the housing element eliminated, the new La Jolla Valley plan should be viewed in an entirely different light. ("Manageable growth," 1984) With renewed confidence, project developers returned to Council for approval of a phase shift. Not only had they done their own homework, they did the Councilmembers' homework, as well, providing them with written responses to Council Policy 600-30 provisions, detailed findings for Council to make in order to approve the project, and even a ghost written statement of overriding considerations to deal with the negative findings of the project's EIR: The impacts of the project -- traffic, public services, air quality, subregional growth patterns, growth inducement, cultural resources, biology, geology, landform alteration, and indirect impacts to agriculture -- would not be mitigated with the general plan amendment. The No Project alternative was the only mechanism identified to adequately reduce these impacts. Facilities and economic benefits resulting from the proposed project, summarized above, including circulation element improvements, large-lot industrial land, and affordable housing, justify approval of the project despite the remaining impacts not mitigated through the project design and conditions. (La Jolla Valley Properties General Manager G. A. Kingston, letter to Deputy Mayor Gotch, September 11, 1984) In September 1984 a Council majority rejected Planning Department and Planning Commission recommendations to deny the La Jolla Valley proposal and adopted three resolutions pertaining to the project. First, it granted the threshold request by La Jolla Valley Properties for an amendment to the General Plan for a phase shift. Second, it accepted the EIR for the project. Third, it granted an amendment to the "Phased Development Areas Map" of the General Plan to shift 5,100 acres of La Jolla Valley property from future to planned urbanizing status, stipulating an 11 year moratorium on over 3,000 acres designated for residential development. Remarks A growth management crisis of identity was inevitable, given the cumulative impact of inimical official actions taken throughout the growth management planning process. An urban reserve had been established as the linchpin of a growth management strategy and, within a few years, Council approved half of it for suburban development. Council adopted policies to facilitate the growth management plan, which provided loopholes for development initiated by a
past Planning Commission chairman who subsequently negotiated exceptions and exemptions to growth management programs he had been instrumental in formulating. A succeeding Planning Commission chairman declared that, in the few years since its inception, the growth management program had fulfilled its prime objective -- the creation of a mechanism for new development to pay its own way (Del Principe, 1983, p. B-2). A Council-appointed task force evaluating the facts gave the growth management plan a clean bill of health. Technical reports from development interests superseded those from public agencies. In the world of San Diego growth management planning, black was white; up meant down; and policies restraining growth guaranteed development.17 It might even be argued that the growth management tier system was more beneficial to development interests than to the public. Developers could count on favorable city policy to expedite development in the urbanized and urbanizing tiers (Warner & Molotch, 1995). By providing them with a high degree of certainty over when and how they could profit from their investments, the city decreased their risks and expenses. Even so, developers persisted in their 17
Even growth management guru Freilich was capable of speaking in strange tongues. "The [growth management] plan has been eminently successful," he asserted. "In-fill development has been achieved, new residential growth is required to pay its own way and the urban reserve has been preserved. Pressure is mounting because the very success of the plan has created new challenges" (R. H. Freilich & M. L. Leitner, 1984). In an attempt to reply diplomatically, Freilich's statements denied reality. Infill development in the city's downtown and urban areas failed to provide essential fees to improve defunct infrastructure. And it was too soon to tally the effectiveness of the FBA system. As author of a program that was being dismantled before his eyes, he was in a frustrating position. Perhaps his defense of the growth management strategy was self-protective. Perhaps, given his experience with the micropolitics of planning, he knew to expect no more.
assaults on the FUA. They had bought large tracts of agricultural land at low cost.18 A phase shift and zoning change, even without development, would automatically send property values soaring. Their motivation for encroaching on the urban reserve had another impetus, as well. It was a muscle-flexing activity in the face of philosophical constraints on growth. The attempt to modulate market driven activity with growth management policies was anathema to the growth machine. In one way or another, the development industry was intent on wrestling growth management to the ground. In the first part of the 1980s the battle was staged in the pseudo-public setting of city hall. During the following years it would be forced into an open public arena. The next chapter will provide details of the struggle between development interests and the public for control of the future of the urban reserve.
In matters of business and development, popular wisdom attributed financial acuity to the private sector. However, developers were not immune to bad business judgment. Some of the speculative land deals of the 1980s proved to be disastrous. With land prices on a steady incline, some well known development companies bought land at highly inflated prices, apparently expecting the boom to last indefinitely. Of the four major builders of master planned communities in San Diego (Pardee, McMillin, Fieldstone, and Baldwin), half were in default on property loans acquired in the late 1980s, at the peak of the land boom cycle. Both Fieldstone and Baldwin were forced to withdraw from development commitments in the county and city's northern region (Showley, 1995)
CHAPTER IV THE GROWTH MANAGEMENT BATTLE SCENE, CIRCA THE LATE 1980s Introduction In September 1984, despite strong opposition from the Planning Department, the Planning Commission, the Mayor, environmentalists, and managed growth advocates, the City Council released 5,100 acres of dormant land in the North City Future Urbanizing Area (FUA) -more than 1/3 of the remaining FUA -- from the constraints of an urban reserve designation. In the final showdown, Mayor Hedgecock was unable to muster a Council majority to reject the La Jolla Valley project proposal. "La Jolla Valley's approval," concluded an astute observer, "was a classic example of the ability of the growth machine to subvert the planning process" (Calavita, 1992, p. 10). Proponents of the project included Louis Wolfsheimer, land use attorney and Port Commissioner; Bill Rick, engineering consultant and Port Commissioner; and Mike Madigan, vice-president of Pardee. Their victory had roots in actions taken years earlier, when they persistently and systematically participated in formulating a growth management strategy with enough strategic loopholes to accommodate a project such as La Jolla Valley. This chapter describes the city's aborted attempts during the remainder of the 1980s to codify an effective growth management plan. It traces the public response to political recalcitrance, starting with its reaction to Council approval of the massive FUA La Jolla Valley project and its resort to the ballot box. The chapter describes, in terms of a dialectical process, growth machine reactions to the success of the 1985 Managed Growth Initiative and speedy retrenchment. It details the nature and efficacy of development industry reports and their impact on long term policy-making. It also details the city's efforts to legitimize its own growth management compromises through creation of a new citizens task force and follows the events that led repeatedly to growth management ballot initiatives, actual and threatened. The chapter concludes with an account of Council's final attempt at growth management implementation as a new decade was ushered in and the focus of attention was once again trained on development of the FUA. Who Will Manage Managed Growth? Proponents of managed growth responded swiftly and angrily to Council approval of the La Jolla Valley project. San Diegans for Managed Growth, an umbrella group of environmentalists and community activists, with the strong backing of Mayor Hedgecock, circulated a petition calling for a ballot initiative to reverse the Council decision. The development industry challenged the legality of the referendum petition on procedural grounds but the City Attorney, in the face of 75,000 petition signatures obtained in the weeks following the Council hearing, chose to err on the side of public clamor and overrode the challenge; the Managed Growth Initiative was placed on the November 1985 ballot. On the face of it, the Managed Growth Initiative seemed a straightforward measure to rescind approval of the La Jolla Valley project and halt premature development in the FUA. It
appeared on the ballot as Proposition A and posed the question: "Shall the City of San Diego Progress Guide and General Plan be amended by adding restrictions requiring that land areas which are designated as `future urbanizing' not be redesignated without voter approval?" Its intent, however, had a keener edge. If passed, not only would it instate public control over future growth in San Diego but it promised to blunt the influence of powerful development interests on local politicians. A community newspaper editorial captured the public mood, at least in the northern section of the city: Proposition A is a symbol that portends a commitment to planning that could become decidedly anti-growth, or at least different from the vision of people who stand to profit from lateral growth throughout the city. What's more, the initiative makes painfully explicit what heretofore has been suspected -- the City Council is corrupt when it comes to important land-use votes ("Proposition A," 1985, p. 6). Overcoming David versus Goliath odds, Proposition A passed with a 56% majority, by a vote of 77,640 to 60,712 (Caves, 1990).1 It overturned Council approval of the La Jolla Valley proposal and determined that any subsequent change in FUA land use designation that increased the intensity of use would require voter approval. The success of Proposition A brought renewed confidence to the environmental and growth management coalition and suggested that the politics of planning had taken a decisive turn. As observed by Calavita: [Proposition A] was a very simple, clear initiative, which helps explain why it won rather handily, even though [supporters were] outspent 10 to 1....Another reason for its victory was the unity with which environmental and good government forces fought the La Jolla Valley rezoning, an issue behind which they could unite. (1992, p. 10) Shortly afterwards, Mayor Hedgecock was convicted on charges regarding illegal campaign contributions and resigned from office. Maureen O'Connor was elected Mayor in June 1986, six months after the hapless Hedgecock was forced to resign.2 O'Connor had served as Councilmember from 1971-1979, the 1
Nevertheless, to most city residents, the FUA was a vaguely defined place with little relevance to their own neighborhood problems of poorly controlled infill development, inadequate and ageing infrastructure, and a steadily expanding population. Citywide voter turnout was small: only 28% of registered voters cast their votes in that off year election (Colburn, 1986, p. 30). The growth industry raised nearly $600,000 to fight the initiative from sources including the San Diego Board of Realtors, Ernest Hahn, the Koll and the Kaiser Development Companies, California Transportation Commissioner and Caterpillar Company dealer Tom Hawthorne, the Ralphs family of the county 4-S Ranch adjacent to the FUA, FUA landowners, Bill Rick, and land use attorneys Paul Peterson and Louis Wolfsheimer (Hill, 1985, p. 152). The local branch of the American Planning Association (APA) also went on record in opposition to the ballot measure. APA apprehension over the inadequacy and dubious outcome of the initiative process in land use matters superseded its distress about the political decision-making process. 2
In the previous November election, two new Councilmembers had been brought in, along with Proposition A -- Abbe Wolfsheimer, District 1 and Judy McCarty, District 7. Council majority was still
formative years of growth management planning. As Mayor, she faced the formidable reality that the rate of growth in San Diego since she had vacated her Council seat had outstripped all projections. Public facilities in the city's urbanized areas were sagging under the weight of multifamily development projects gone wild, with no new financing sources in the offing. And in the burgeoning suburban communities, the provision of new infrastructure lagged behind growing needs, despite the oratory of growth management -- FBAs had just emerged from the courtroom after years of litigation, finally ready to be put into service. In the FUA, however, development had apparently been frozen when developers were forced to the mat by the Managed Growth Initiative. But Proposition A was a temporizing agent, not an alternative growth management strategy. Having spelled out the following instructions to the city on the ballot, growth management advocates sat back on their laurels, complacent in the belief that they had safeguarded the long term integrity of the FUA: The City Council, City Planning Commission, and City staff are hereby directed to take any and all actions necessary under this initiative measure, including but not limited to adoption and implementation on [sic] any amendments to the General Plan and zoning ordinance or City Code, reasonably necessary to carry out the intent and purpose of this initiative measure. Said actions shall be carried forthwith (Proposition A, 1985). "Forthwith" was a term immediately ignored. In the aftermath of the ballot victory, no General Plan amendments were proposed and no regulatory changes enacted to secure the intent of the initiative, beyond an administrative modification appended to Council Policy 600-30 stating that "as a result of voter approval of Proposition A...any shift from Future Urbanizing area...to another designation must be approved by the voters."3 The Development Industry Rebounds Development industry reaction to the Managed Growth initiative was both direct and indirect. Within months of the public vote, the firm of Milch, Wolfsheimer & Wagner filed a lawsuit against the city and Councilmembers on behalf of University Development Inc. for damages in excess of $70 million, claiming that the reversal of Council's phase shift for the La Jolla Valley Properties was an "arbitrary and capricious exercise of police powers, as it has no reasonable relation to the health, welfare or safety of the region" and that it caused the market clearly in the growth and development camp. 3
Evidently, proponents of Proposition A believed that FUA zoning was defined as and limited to A-1-10. Potential conditional uses posed no obvious threat. The clustering option instituted in 1981 that permitted an increase in density of up to one unit per four acres either escaped public notice or was not understood as significant since growth management advocates made no attempt to rescind the provision that allowed increased density. Most subsequent references to FUA development mistakenly suggested that the A-1-4 option was common knowledge, for example: "...voter approval would be required for most development of the area, other than estate-type housing" (Weisberg, 1994b, p. 1). But estate-type housing was not what sponsors of the initiative had in mind when they voted to restrict development in the area.
value of the property, which had escalated to over $130 million following Council approval, to plummet to $60 million. Here was a textbook example of the effects of zoning changes on the exchange value of private property, and of the power of local politicians to create large increments in land values on behalf of the private sector.4 The development industry also adopted an indirect but highly effective strategy in response to the passage of Proposition A. The dust had not yet settled in the offices of the newly seated Mayor and Councilmembers before they were presented by the CIF with the White Paper, a gold leaf, personalized, bound primer on San Diego land use, planning practices, and growth management. According to Kim Kilkenny, CIF legislative counsel, it was a guide to help Council resolve: the many land use challenges confronting this region...The purpose of the report is to dismiss growth management as a simple, monolithic issue and instead attempt to analyze growth's complex and interrelated policy questions in a thoughtful and comprehensive fashion. (K.J. Kilkenny, letter to Council, September 25, 1986) On each page, the CIF report provided simple answers to complex problems concerning "long range land use planning, the provision and financing of public facilities, environmental protection, transportation systems, permit processing, housing affordability and economic development" (Construction Industry, 1986, p. 2). To avoid urban sprawl: stop downzoning and permit increased development in the urbanized area. For more jobs: use public, not developer, financing to expand labor intensive and industrial land uses. For balanced communities: bring down citywide land costs by releasing the FUA for development. For more affordable housing: reduce development regulations and eliminate protective overlay zones. The CIF report took special aim at two targets, planning and permit processing. It called for a complete restructuring of the Planning Department and an independent program to establish planning principles for future development: "Armed with an agreed upon statement of principles and accompanying procedures, the City would then have the policy framework not to acquiesce to special interests, community based or builder" (p.20).5 In its analysis of the city's 4
This lawsuit, though eventually dismissed on technical grounds after years of litigation, left uncontested the right of a property owner to demand and accrue the bounty of unearned increments resulting from municipal zoning changes. As an immediate result of Council approval to shift the La Jolla Valley property out of A-1 zoning, the value of the property doubled. Developers argued that, based on enhanced property values and increased property taxes, the city would also reap the benefits of zoning changes. Cost/benefit analyses might or might not uphold that position. But in the case of the La Jolla Valley project, the question was moot: the tax exempt status of proposed land uses and church ownership of the property precluded significant tax benefits to the city. Windfall profits would be pocketed by the project developers. 5
This was a masterful sentence, hitting several targets at once. It erased all distinctions between community and developer interests. It bypassed the General Plan and recommended replacing it with a new policy framework. And it suggested that the dilemmas of planning could be resolved with a new set of planning principles. Drawing on the conclusions of the 1984 Growth Management Task Force (to which members of the CIF had contributed their "time and expertise"), the report criticized infill development in the
permit processing activities, it decried design standards, discretionary permits under PDOs and other overlay zones, and interim ordinances that curtailed development and eliminated project exemptions. "The Federation suggests that the proper way to solve [these problems] is to update the zoning ordinance" (p. 32). Indeed, most of the CIF report recommendations found their way into the monumental Zoning Code update initiated barely four years later. Doggedly persistent, the growth machine shifted its course as it continued to plant its seeds in a receptive political environment. While overt pressure on the FUA temporarily diminished, the development industry's renewed engagement in the micropolitics of growth management and planning policy accelerated. Mapping Growth Management Strategy The CIF White Paper offered a series of remedies for growth-related dilemmas. Two months afterwards, a Planning Department growth management report was circulated proposing a reevaluation of the city's growth management program, a comprehensive review of the city's General Plan "leading to adoption of a new plan no later than 1988," and continued review of the 1984 Growth Management Task Force recommendations (City of San Diego Planning, 1986).6 In 1987 a CAC for Growth and Development was appointed and growth management consultant Freilich rehired to work with the newly formed 27 member advisory group and 15 city staffers to reevaluate the city's growth management program. This latest CAC issued an 80 page illustrated booklet entitled Alternative Futures for San Diego (Citizens Advisory Committee, 1987). A compilation of planning goals pirated from decades of community plan "vision" statements, it endorsed popular urban concepts like balanced communities, open space systems, people-oriented development, quality of life, urbanized area as a drain on the city budget and an undesirable locus for further development activity and promoted the "pay your own way" strategy in planned urbanizing areas. Then taking this subject a step further, the CIF report upheld the city's position that public funding for construction of public facilities in the urbanized area should be limited to minimal requirements for health and safety and concluded that if the city did not have to provide more than base level facilities, neither should the developers. "Just as the City is not responsible for providing enhanced facilities, it is also inappropriate for the City to require builders to provide an enhanced level of services as a condition of new development" (Construction Industry, 1986, p. 10). The report was also a disguised diatribe against developer impact fees, inferring that they were regressive taxation that penalized average and poor home buyers. It especially decried school impact fees on the grounds that "education is a public service of general public benefit [and not a service] directly or indirectly tied to the use of the land" (p. 14). The CIF offered generalized alternatives: get more money from state sources, sell off excess school property, and raise the sales tax. "White paper" was a term usually reserved for official government reports; by preempting the term, the development industry added an overlay of urgency and legitimacy to its message. The report was a harbinger of growth management battles to come, a shrewd piece of propaganda that seamlessly interwove objective reporting and tendentious rhetoric. 6
The 1984 Growth Management task force had issued 90 recommendations, 51 of which had been awarded a high priority rating by Council. Of these, 36 passed through Council committee review. Among those, a few had actually been acted upon.
neighborhood character, and a comprehensive transportation system. It reviewed 15 years of local attempts at growth management and concluded that the tier system was still the method of choice to meet the city's goals -- but with certain caveats. Employing the art of double talk, the report called tier designations "extremely valuable as a planning tool and as the basis for...implementation strategies" but asserted that the tier system was "not intended to be a straightjacket" incapable of changing to suit the needs of individual development projects (pp. 74-75). While acknowledging that more finely-detailed tiers would be desirable from a functional standpoint, the report concluded, nonetheless, that the resultant increase in regulations would be deleterious. Council agreed to put a growth management plan on the ballot based on the CAC's final recommendations. As an added growth machine insurance policy, the San Diego Building Industry Association (BIA) entered the growth management advisory arena with "community" workshops of its own. The resultant BIA report, "Progress '87/'88," assessed growth related issues of traffic congestion, school financing, and public facilities (Building Industry, 1988) and was consolidated with the city's efforts to mold a long range growth management agenda. BIA findings and recommendations joined those of the CIF in the city's growth management proposals and would later be incorporated into the Zoning Code update. Reacting to Council's equivocation on growth management,7 a new coalition called Citizens for Limited Growth threatened to put a citizens' growth management initiative on the ballot. In an attempt to resolve growing tensions and forestall a rush to development by builders wary of restrictive growth management measures and/or another ballot fight, Mayor O'Connor introduced an interim development ordinance (IDO) in the summer of 1987. It was a narrowly focused remedy that established an annual limit on new dwelling units throughout the city. In further response to strong public pressure, Council narrowly adopted an environmental ordinance called the Resource Protection Overlay Zone (REPOZ), which added additional restrictions on development on environmentally sensitive sites. But jubilation in the environmental and growth management camp was short-lived. Council immediately softened development restrictions by granting sizable exemptions to both the IDO and REPOZ. Slow growth activists responded with the vexation of spurned lovers. By the early days of spring 1988 they had gathered sufficient public endorsement to place two slow growth/quality of life initiatives, one in the city and one in the county, on the upcoming November ballot. Consultant Freilich was given the unenviable task of fashioning the city's growth management initiative to placate both the disgruntled public and the development industry. Bowing to public pressure, Freilich included a building cap proposal in his formula. But in his opinion, building caps, alone, were not an effective cornerstone of a growth management strategy and he actively promoted the concept of "level of service" (LOS), an integrated set of standards and criteria to measure growth impacts.8 7
The Council roster included Abbe Wolfsheimer, District 1; Ron Roberts, District 2; Gloria McColl, District 3; Wes Pratt, District 4; Ed Struiksma, District 5; Bruce Henderson, District 6; Judy McCarty, District 7; Bob Filner, District 8; plus Mayor Maureen O'Connor, still a pro-growth dominated majority. 8
Councilmember McCarty unexpectedly jumped the gun and submitted a growth management
Ballot Box Redux The city's ballot initiative was based on the final report of the Growth and Development CAC. It set limits on new residential construction, called for the protection of single family neighborhoods, and reaffirmed community planning, regional planning, and balanced communities policies. It included a section on the protection of sensitive lands but omitted environmental standards, gave lip service to the adequate provision of public services and transportation, and eliminated proposals to establish linkage fees to finance low income housing. It was considerably more moderate than the competing Citizens for Limited Growth "quality of life" initiative. Still, despite its compromised standards and goals, the development industry found the city's initiative unpalatable. The growth machine would not brook building caps or other explicit growth controls, however watered down. "We oppose caps....It is bad public policy," stated the CIF attorney Kilkenny (Bernstein, 1988). In November 1988 the public was confronted by an election ballot with four growth management initiatives, two city and two county. The development industry attacked the city sponsored initiative by defining it as a misbegotten offspring of developer greed mixed with politician complicity.9 Despite the odds, and contrary to apparent anti-growth sentiment in the city, and notwithstanding hyperbolic claims that "environmentalists and slow-growth activists have emerged as a political phenomenon, an unstoppable force for change in municipal government" (Frammolino, 1987), the growth machine successfully fended off the entire package, catapulting all four initiatives to defeat on election day. (For a detailed account and analysis of the 1988 initiatives debacle, see Calavita ). Although politicians were back in the spotlight, going through the motions of leadership,10 the victorious development industry memorandum months before the city released its proposal (McCarty, 1988). Hers was a generalized and vaguely worded set of objectives, several of which bore an uncanny resemblance to the not yet released set of CAC recommendations, raising questions about the identity of the ghostwriter ("The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on" [Omar Khayyam, circa 1200 A.D.]). Pointedly criticizing Citizens for Limited Growth, she warned of the dangers of mistaking citizen activism, "an honored tradition in San Diego," with "outright vigilantism...Are we a parade or a lynch mob?" she demanded. 9
This strategy was resurrected in the 1994 ballot battle over a phase shift proposal for the FUA. In that case, development interests campaigned that the public could trust neither developers nor city politicians and should instead rely on the ballot measure. Voters voted no to everyone. 10
Out of the charged ashes of election fallout arose a mutant partnership, the unlikely coupling of the politically conservative Councilmember McCarty and politically liberal Councilmember Filner, in joint sponsorship of a new growth management proposal. It precipitated a new round of political maneuvering to mollify the public while not alienating the private sector. Their joint plan was "based on facilities, is environmentally sound but flexible and preserves single-family neighborhoods" said Filner. "We have established the policy that development in any community will not outpace the availability of public facilities," said McCarty (Bernstein, 1989). Physical proximity, perhaps, had advanced the alliance of these two, seated side by side in Council Chambers. Until that moment there had been a striking paucity of constructive contact between them. In fact, a business oriented "gang of five" voting bloc (Councilmembers McCarty, Henderson, Struiksma, Roberts, and McColl) regularly kept the two on opposite sides of most substantive issues. Most likely, Filner was repaying--or incurring--a political debt to McCarty by adding ballast to her earlier
was back in the saddle, determined to keep growth management under tight rein. And so, the problems that had precipitated the ballot initiative free-for-all continued to mount. "I don't think setting growth policies by initiative is a reasonable way to go," stated Linda Martin, co-chair of the vanquished Citizens for Limited Growth, sponsor of the 1988 slow growth initiative. "Obviously, it's a desperation measure that we grasp at when no one else seems to be in charge" (Elster, 1989). In October 1989, in the midst of preparations for city hall's annual Halloween festivities, the City Clerk's office was officially notified that another attempt at a growth management General Plan amendment via initiative was in the offing, led by the redoubtable community activist Peter Navarro and his newly formed citizens group "Prevent Los Angelization Now" (PLAN!). Council was put on notice that "Initiative proponents... have until April 18, 1990 to file..." (City Clerk memorandum, October 27, 1989). Navarro's "Planned Growth and Taxpayer Relief Initiative," circulated in late 1989, proclaimed its intent "to prevent San Diego from becoming an overcrowded, gridlocked, crimeridden, and water-starved suburb of Los Angeles." Tapping Freilich's LOS approach, the PLAN! proposal established criteria for local and regional public facilities: including but not limited to police, schools, fire, jails, parks, libraries, recreational centers, sewage, solid waste, public transit, parking, and open space [and specifying that they] shall be available prior to or concurrent with the need for them. The initiative also waded into new territory by including a water conservation policy and requirements for "fiscal balance" analyses. Its central tenet was that new development must pay its own way and contribute its fair share of the costs of growth. Once again, the introduction of standards and quality of life indicators to compel the city to consider the integrated and global aspects of growth and development came not from staff planners but from citizen activists; not through politicians' mandates but from constituents' political action; not from the top down but from the bottom up. Combat in the Dialectic Zone In the late 17th century the English mathematician Isaac Newton concluded, after repeated observation, that for every action there was an equal and opposite reaction. A generation later, the German philosopher Hegel offered a variation on the theme by applying this proposition to the realm of human endeavor. An action, he said, might inspire an opposing reaction, and find resolution in the synthesis of the two opposing forces. This resolution might eventually function as an action and provoke a reaction, leading to a new -- if temporary -solution, and so on in the chain of historical events. bid for growth management leadership. Their joint proposal faded as mysteriously as it had appeared.
True to both natural law and philosophical construct, San Diego's growth machine banded together under a new umbrella group, the San Diego 2000 Committee, for the purpose of oppositing the PLAN! measure and developing a counter-initiative. Being neither Newtonians nor strict Hegelians, the San Diego 2000 Committee response was not diametrically opposed to PLAN!. Rather, it was a modified and scaled back measure addressing similar issues -- traffic and growth. City engineers also advanced the Hegelian motif, reacting strongly to Navarro's focus on LOS traffic standards as the key to assessing the consequences of growth.11 Although LOS was a descriptive measure appropriate for objective interpretation, it was open to subjective judgements. City engineers, chary of incurring the wrath of developers, buffeted Council with negative responses to PLAN! provisions requiring traffic congestion analyses from all discretionary permit applicants, warning that the extra work would necessitate 40 new engineering positions at a cost to the city over $2Â˝ million (Deputy Director, City Engineering Division, 1989). Growth Management Laid Waste For managed growth proponents, the new decade brought renewed hope. The recent election of two new Councilmembers promised to shift the balance of power on the Council floor.12 A majority vote was now possible for strong regulatory action, particularly on environmental issues. Mayor O'Connor, a long time supporter of growth management, agreed to work with Navarro to promote PLAN! proposals. Consultant Freilich was once again on hand to facilitate the Mayor's intention to rework the PLAN! initiative into a sweeping city ordinance. A cautiously optimistic editorial in a local business journal stated:
LOS was a seemingly simple quantitative yardstick used by engineers to measure traffic impacts. City engineers periodically distributed charts and matrices assigning grades (A, B, C, D, E, and F) to San Diego streets and thoroughfares. They dissected local freeways into junctures and lanes going north, south, east, and west, factoring in referential dimensions of year and hour. Council got more than it bargained for in its request for an overview of San Diego congestion problems--peak and off peak periods, count stations, LOS, density=vehicles/mile/lane, V/C (hourly volume divided by capacity). 12
The newly elected Councilmembers were John Hartley, District 3 and Linda Bernhardt, District 5, both well known for their pro-environment and politically liberal biases.
On the matter of growth management, San Diego has become a city of low expectations. The growth debate frequently comes to a head, but remedies have been elusive. A temporary housing cap, several unsuccessful ballot measures and some token ordinances are all the city has to show for years of discussions and efforts to mitigate the consequences of a population boom...But all of a sudden, there may be a real chance for progress...The PLAN initiative is sound in its most basic intent. And if the Council can pore through PLAN's proposal, eliminate its unrealistic provisions and adopt its better guidelines, the city may begin to silence the ranks who have given up on government ("A Chance," 1990, p. 6). The City Attorney, City Manager, and Planning Director formed a "growth management team" to gather together the Planned Growth Initiative, the San Diego 2000 Initiative, the Planned Growth Ordinance, reports from staff, proposals from Councilmembers -- 14 disparate efforts in all -- and within 60 days to weave them into a coherent program, a multifaceted dialectical synthesis, of sorts. Despite Council's new slow growth majority and heady new year's resolutions, growth management proceedings throughout 1990 were chaotic.13 Council was deluged by paperwork: preliminary and final drafts, reports, memos, motions, counter-motions, revisions, technical explications of fiscal impact analyses, development monitoring, development phasing, and capital facilities plans for citywide public improvements were circulated, each warranting an informed response from Council.14 All the while, a steady barrage of developer-initiated rebuttals and counter-proposals deluged Council offices, demanding a hearing. During months of public testimony, responses from business and development interests were vehemently 13
1990 growth management proceedings were staged by a company of would be stars to a diverse and demanding audience. The Mayor tried to occupy center stage. Vying for the spotlight was Councilmember Bernhardt, ingenue environmentalist, offering her own growth management plan. Bernhardt's version one-upped the Mayor by reintroducing the concept of an open space tier, a neglected component of Freilich's 1979 proposal. Bernhardt's intent to strengthen the clout of growth management by incorporating the program into the General Plan dovetailed with the PLAN! initiative and the 1988 growth management attempt. But a General Plan amendment was a more time consuming procedure than would be required by an ordinance, the Mayor's choice. Other Councilmembers played secondary roles, some flamboyant, some cautious, some proponents, others opponents. Councilmember Wolfsheimer attempted to advance the Navarro agenda: "Instead of using the Planned Growth Ordinance, as submitted by the Mayor and amended by my office as the basic building block for a comprehensive growth management plan," she wrote, "the [Growth Management] task force seems to be going off on a tangent to create a new, totally different plan. I find this disturbing..." (Wolfsheimer, 1990a). Staff planners functioned as stage hands, behind the scenes technicians who collated data, compiled information, compared and analyzed planning ideas, fashioned ordinance language, reckoned the budgetary impacts of new proposals, and issued volumes of reports overwhelming to the authors and readers alike: "Project managers and teams from a number of City Departments were assigned to each concept with the task of analyzing the concept and developing recommendations for action" (City of San Diego Planning Department, 1990a). 14
In the words of a dazed Council aide freshly recruited from the ranks of the Planning Department, "Growth management? Please someone, explain it to me!" (personal communication, April, 1990).
negative. Developers once again announced their intention to place their own growth management initiative before the voters. In response, "Council opted for a fast-track approach so Council members can, in effect, campaign for the city's proposal and against the [developer sponsored] San Diego 2000 initiative" (Johnson, 1990, p. B-3). Consultant Freilich, in an eloquent and exhaustive defense of the city's strategy for growth management, pointedly put the city on notice. By adopting the growth management ordinances, he said: the City will be demonstrating the ability of local government to analyze and redress problems...Failure to seize upon the solution of actual problems is what is leading to proposed regional anti-home solutions [which would] vastly diminish the authority and capacity of local government to solve problems (Freilich, Statement of Issues Memorandum, July, 1990). But despite attempts to salvage a reasonable growth management proposal, by the end of 1990 the components of a comprehensive program were in tatters. The city had compressed Navarro's multifaceted concept of growth management and focused it on a single issue -- traffic congestion. According to a Planning Department briefing, "The basic [growth management] program concept is to phase new development on a citywide basis in accordance with the capacity of transportation facilities." The Traffic Congestion Management Ordinance governing the phasing, sequencing, and timing of future development had fallen by the wayside. Concurrency requirements had been skillfully bypassed. Fiscal analyses were amended into empty phrases. The nagging question of water availability was excised from public debate. Citywide impact fees, a potential tool to sculpt city form, were argued into oblivion. The specter of lawsuits over claims of economic injury put the hex on decisive action. 15 PLAN! promoters went back on the warpath, determined to do battle on the 1992 ballot with a revised Planned Growth and Taxpayer Relief Initiative. "It's not a pretty way to do business," said Mike Gotch, former Councilmember and member of the state assembly, "but we
It was to be expected that the development industry would oppose tight regulatory controls on growth. But what was to be made of obstructive responses from within the city's bureaucracy? Through delays, omissions, nonresponsiveness, and other techniques of passive resistance, planners and other city staff were able to vitiate many of the growth management proposals they found unpalatable. "It is very clear that members of the...Planning Department and City Manager's office are hostile to many of the concepts embodied in the Planned Growth Ordinance," said Navarro. "Indeed, it is common knowledge that Dr. Freilich has been overridden time and again by top and middle level bureaucrats...who have far less experience in growth management law and economics and considerably less commitment to bringing a comprehensive growth plan to San Diego" (P. Navarro, personal communication, March 20, 1990). Such was the internal antipathy to Navarro's growth management measures that the City Attorney, planting the kiss of death on the matter, withdrew his department's legal support for a growth management ordinance, contending that aspects of the proposal would be indefensible if challenged in court.
have a long history in this state of having to pass citizen-led measures because elected legislators have failed to act" (Wood, 1991, p. 11).16 Remarks After two decades of planning, San Diego entered the 1990s still lacking an adequate strategy for controlling and paying for growth and development, particularly in the city's urbanized and future urbanizing areas. After years of planning reports, public hearings, task forces, ballot initiatives, shifts in political ideology, and rapid growth, the codification of strong growth management policies had been successfully thwarted. Throughout this time, incursions into the FUA were proceeding with impunity -- with the major exception of the La Jolla Valley proposal. The City Council clearly exhibited political cowardice in its unwillingness to control growth. Staff planners were also culpable. They often took negative routes, sabotaging undesired proposals instead of agitating for strong policy and implementation measures. Planners in the private domain were ringingly silent on growth issues, assuming the mantle of conscientious objectors rather than planning professionals responsible for contributing informed perspectives.17 The only consistent and persistent voice belonged to the growth machine, 16
As it turned out, in the autumn of 1991 a court ruling disqualified the new PLAN! initiative from the ballot, claiming that it violated the electoral limiting the content of initiative measures to a single issue. The judge refused to allow a separation of the offending couplet to remedy the problem. 17
In a two part commentary on the PLAN! initiative in a local planning publication a rhetorical question was raised: "Is planning fundamentally a public and professional process, or is it simply a political process?" The response was a thinly veiled attack on the initiative process with a concluding recommendation to open up the subject to popular debate: "More public comment and outreach should occur as growth management policies are formulated...public discussion can lead to well-considered amendments and better coordination with broader growth management and planning policies" (Anderson, 1991). Where had the APA been over the last decade? Its members sat silent throughout growth management battles as proposals, swollen with promise, entered the Council debate and emerged
whose proposals and recommendations penetrated the city's land use policies, codes, and decisions and sometimes, but not always, manipulated public responses at the ballot box By 1990 the growth management process had been laid waste, not with a bang but a whimper. Recessionary economic conditions had transformed large lot estate housing into an attractive development option. By resurrecting Council Policy 600-29, developers could achieve new goals in the FUA without going to the voters for approval. City decisionmakers had the exclusive power to keep estate development out of the FUA. The story of their choices will be narrated in the following chapters.
shriveled and vapid. Were public forums a constructive substitute for active engagement by planners?
PART THREE THE FUTURE URBANIZING AREA: THE CASE IN POINT --------------------------------------------------------------------INTRODUCTION San Diego's FUA was set aside in 1979 as a holding zone. It was an attempt to impose a rational system on growth and development, to enable the city to grow in accordance with need and available resources. But for major developers, the North City was the promised land, only temporarily off limits. The only question in the minds of the development industry was, When? Ten years after it established the FUA, yielding to relentless pressure from development interests, the city initiated a planning process for the area, explaining that planning was necessary to prevent piecemeal development from destroying future options for the urban reserve. Skeptics worried aloud that the planning process -- in and of itself -- would precipitate and accelerate FUA development, but planners assured them that planning was an independent, rational process not synonymous with development. Earlier chapters have covered 20 years of North City and growth management planning history and the forces that were instrumental in determining the present condition of the FUA. Part Three picks up the narrative at the point in San Diego history at which renewed attempts at growth management planning were ignominiously scuttled. The interval between 1990 and 1994, the period of active planning for the FUA, will be examined to cast some light on the hidden as well as overt influences that dominated San Diego planning in the past and have persisted into the present. Chapter V describes the forces and process that finally brought the urban reserve to the drawing board. Chapter VI describes the FUA planning process and resultant Framework Plan. Chapter VII describes post Framework Plan subarea planning and the aborted attempt by the development industry, fortified by the city's backing, to effect a FUA phase shift.
CHAPTER V PLANNING TO PLAN THE FUA Introduction Like a phoenix, the FUA rose out of the ashes of the ill-fated growth management efforts of the late 1980s. First introduced as a minor component of the umbrella growth management proposal, the question of planning the FUA rapidly assumed prominence. Twenty years of studies, Council policies, planning principles, and General Plan directives concerning the North City and urban reserve apparently disappeared from the city's collective memory. The idea of planning for the FUA emerged as if it were a newly invented idea. This chapter describes development activity in the FUA at the turn of 1990 and the pressures that led to the call for comprehensive planning. It documents the existing regulatory environment and indicates how city regulations may have encouraged plans for development. The chapter looks at the role of staff planners and at the motivation of individual Councilmembers in the decision to plan the FUA. Council's public hearings are described in some detail to illustrate how political exigencies interface with the planning process. The chapter reports on the creation of the FUA task force and its progress in reaching a decision about comprehensive planning. Developer attempts to circumvent the city's plans to plan are described along with final Council actions regarding the question of planning. The chapter ends as the formal framework planning process is about to begin. The Sleeping Giant Was Only Dozing For five years following the passage of the 1985 Managed Growth Initiative (Proposition A), which instituted the requirement for a public vote to pursue development in the city's urban reserve, the FUA appeared to lay dormant, but by 1990 the hibernation clearly had ended. "Unexpectedly," claimed a Planning Department report, "substantial private sector interest has emerged in current or near-term development of more than half of the North City Future Urbanizing area" (City of San Diego Planning, 1990b, p. 3). How could this be explained? What was driving this turn of the screw? Some developers were spurred on by fears of restrictive growth management limitations. Others were impelled by new market trends for estate housing. Still others took a pragmatic bird-in-the-hand approach: "All of us in the urban reserve realize we're not going to get rezonings," reflected a property owner, "and because we don't know when Proposition A will expire, we're saying our future is here now" ("Builders find ways," 1990, p. B-7). Although the prospect of developing the FUA under Council Policy 600-29's clustered A-1-4 option did not seem alarming to most Councilmembers, the problem, according to the Planning Department, was that even as modest an increase as 3,000 dwelling units in the 12,000 acre FUA would put a significant strain on existing infrastructure and impose a measurable drain on city resources. Planners claimed that even development at A-1-10 was undesirable since it would have negative effects on future planning options. In the movie The Graduate, a magic word was whispered into the young hero's ear that disclosed the wave of the future ("plastics" was the get-rich word of the '60s). In the FUA version, the equivalent shibboleth was golf courses. Golf courses would soon penetrate new
sections of the municipal code, restructure regulations for planned developments and conditional uses, and dominate Council proceedings. In fact, by 1990 there were eight FUA development proposals either under city review or imminent, covering over 8,000 acres and proposing 3,700 dwellings, 861 hotel rooms, and 4 golf courses. Proposition A constrained two of these projects; the others planned on slipping in under prevailing regulations.1 The Fairbanks Highlands proposal for a 92 unit PRD fell into the latter category. It had a strategic grip on the future of the region in two respects. First, it's location made it the geographical waistline of the FUA through which major roads were planned. Secondly, its application for a vesting tentative map (VTM) had been accepted by the city in 1988, providing the project with a degree of legal standing. If it were approved, not only would it cut the area in half and render the idea of comprehensive planning moot, it would also set an irresistible precedent for all other pending projects. The 385 acre Bougainvillea project proposed 77 dwelling units, a 27 hole golf course, and a 453 room resort hotel. Zoning complications for this project included the fact that it lay across the FUA boundary line: 70 of its acres were in the planned urbanizing area of Carmel Valley and 315 acres were in the FUA. The PRD component could be built in accordance with the A-1-4 clustering option but the construction of the hotel would require a phase shift. Prominent land use attorney Paul Peterson represented the project's legal interests and lobbyist Tom DiBenedetto handled the political sales job. The antipodal hunk of property that occupied the northern sector of the FUA posed great dilemmas. Advancing like a semi-submerged iceberg, the Black Mountain Ranch proposal forged new paths and knocked over regulatory signposts. Potomac Investment Associates was the developer of this two-pronged project. The first phase called for over 1200 dwelling units plus two golf courses to host the annual Pacific Golf Association (PGA) tournament event (replacing the traditional San Diego site a few miles to the south) and could be built under the A-1-4 option. The second phase called for residential and commercial development and a resort hotel and required a phase shift. Potomac's chief officer was Lance Burris, an adept lobbyist. Keeping the FUA Dormant In the early months of 1990 the Planning Department brought its argument for FUA planning to the Planning Commission, which was then engaged in sorting through a complex range of growth management issues.2 Into this overwrought setting, planners introduced a list 1
These proposals did not materialize overnight. Throughout the growth management skirmishes of the late 1980s, lobbyists for large development proposals called regularly at Council offices with sales campaigns for a new kind of product, estate developments accompanied by golf course resorts, promoted by mainly out of state developers. Councilmembers, city staff, indeed even city regulations had been primed by development interests long before these proposals were publicly debated in 1990. The Planning Department also played its part: it issued planning proposals for regulatory options that were like elastic mouse holes, providing ample wiggle room for development interests of all sizes and shapes to enter. 2
The list of growth management questions was indeed overwhelming: emergency ordinances, Transportation Congestion Management and Phasing Ordinance proposals, a 20 Year Preliminary Capital
of FUA policy changes they deemed imperative, including revisions to Council Policy 600-29, the A-1 zone, ordinances governing PRDs and CUPs, and the floodway zone.3 Planners warned that: policies regarding urban form, the role of these lands in the future growth of the city, the appropriate types and intensities of land use, the relationship of these lands to their surrounding communities, the regional and local public services and facilities needed to accommodate this development, the phasing of development and capital improvements, the responsibilities and mechanisms for financing the required infrastructure, and many other important issues need to be resolved prior to permitting any appreciable amount of development to occur in this large undeveloped area. (City of San Diego Planning, 1990c, p. 4) Policy guidance was urgent, they said, and a comprehensive land use plan was the best way to provide it. "The Planning Department does not believe that adoption of a comprehensive plan for the Future Urbanizing areas would either promote or allow premature development" (R. Brocato, personal communication, March 8, 1990). Although championed by the Planning Department, the idea of immediate planning for the FUA was not universally endorsed. The Sierra Club strongly opposed instituting a planning process, fearing it would hasten rather than guide development. It recommended downzoning the area to A-1-40 to reinforce its status as an urban reserve and setting as top priority the development of the long awaited Environmental Tier. Growth management consultant Freilich, often at odds with city staff on growth Facilities Plan, SANDAG's Freeway and Expressway System Congestion maps, reports such as "Estimates of % of Freeway System at LOS D or Better in Various Years," and a City-Wide Impact Fee program were up for grabs. "I can't do my job if I don't know what the documents say," exclaimed a frustrated Commissioner (S. Bernet, personal communication, March 15, 1990). 3
After Council Policy 600-29 was adopted in 1981, relevant sections of the municipal code were modified to implement the new policy, particularly those introducing PRD uses in the FUA. But the conditional use section of the code was not revised to exclude the FUA from provisions that permitted such uses as private clubs and lodges, veterinary clinics, schools, theaters and nightclubs, automobile junk yards, hospitals, sand and gravel extraction, airports, amusement parks, cemeteries, race tracks, campgrounds, hazardous waste facilities, and last but not least, golf courses. Proposals for these uses could be brought before Council for CUP consideration in the FUA. Regulations governing PRDs were no less problematic for those wishing to see the FUA set aside as an urban reserve. The PRD code provisions were a study in internal inconsistency. Specifying that PRDs were intended "to facilitate development of areas designated for residential use...within the Urbanized communities" the code, as if primed for an upcoming event (this section was amended seven times between 1978 and 1981), laid down conditions under which PRDs might be established in A-1 zones in the FUA. In agricultural zones, PRDs were encouraged to conform to something called rural cluster and other unspecified conditions "to insure maintenance of the remainder of the parcel in an undeveloped state until the land is shifted to the Planned Urbanizing area" (section 101.0900). Such were the regulatory underpinnings of the FUA.
management strategy, locked horns with the Planning Department over the FUA, as well. Planners took the position that FUA regulations needed tightening to squelch development appetites, particularly concerning CUPs, while Freilich declared the obvious: development in the FUA could be kept to a manageable minimum if Council exercised its prerogative to turn down all requests for CUPs. Planners contended that clustered development was an essential technique for preserving future land uses, while Freilich insisted that clustering increased the need for services and additional land use regulations and should be eliminated as an option. Planners claimed an immediate need for FUA planning, while Freilich considered it unnecessary and even undesirable. He listed the major choices for the FUA as (1) a permanent rural resource base; (2) an urbanized area at some time in the indeterminate future; or (3) a combination of the two, for example, an intensely urbanized corridor along SR-56 with the remainder designated as a rural resource. The elimination of CUPs and clustering best preserved future options and obviated the need to make major planning decisions for the FUA with the least expenditure of time, money, and energy (R. Freilich, testimony at Planning Commission workshop, March 1, 1990). A round of FUA public hearings at the Planning Commission and Council were conducted from summer through the end of autumn, 1990. The city was still considering additional growth management measures and the FUA was the linchpin of the city's growth management strategy; one might have assumed, therefore, that FUA safeguards would be reinforced in the face of increased development pressures. Instead, the Planning Department and Council were considering zoning modifications that would accommodate development. Councilmembers were quick to cite threats of litigation as justification for their equivocal stance, even though growth management measures had been found legally sustainable.4 Before the year was over and without fanfare, the FUA was cut loose from all association with its growth management parentage and came of age as an independent issue. At a July Council hearing, Councilmember Roberts initiated a directive to the Planning Department to: establish a committee consisting of balanced community interests to make recommendations on the issues, processes and funding for all future urbanizing areas and report back on September 10, 1990 with a recommendation for the composition of that committee. By the end of a stormy session, Freilich's position for tightening FUA regulations prevailed: provisions of Council Policy 600-29 were radically altered to eliminate the A-1-4 option and clustered PRDs, and the city would provide the FUA with neither "urban level" services, nor public facilities, nor access to existing public facilities. Developers were furious, but summer recess gave them a chance to regroup and retrench.
Threats of lawsuits were being hand delivered on a regular basis to the City Attorney, with copies for the Mayor and Council, from law offices of Latham & Watkins and Milch & Wolfsheimer, among others. Without a touch of irony, the latter firm issued letters of legal defense of regulations instituted a decade earlier on behalf of previous clients.
Summertime meant a vacation break for Councilmembers but not for the development industry. In reaction to Council decisions over FUA zoning, a draft "clustering" ordinance materialized on at least one Councilmember's desk, unsigned except for a set of appended initials, "LMWPIA8." Decoded, they signified Louis M. Wolfsheimer (Black Mountain Ranch project), PIA tournament. The draft ordinance proposed that no building permits for A-1-4 clustered projects or CUPs be granted until January 1, 1995 -- unless "the City Council makes a finding that the project requesting advancement will provide a substantial public benefit," like the dedication of land for a park or open space, surplus funds generated to the city through property taxes, and "substantial transient occupancy tax" revenues generated from conditional uses (that is, hotels and golf courses) -- all congruent with the Black Mountain Ranch. Furthermore, he suggested, any project electing to be considered for "advancement" from the otherwise binding 1995 release date would receive expedited service from the Planning Department and Council to "minimize applicant processing costs" (LMWPIA8, letter to Council office, August 14, 1990).5 Public Deliberations When Council convened in the fall of 1990 it was to inaugurate a singular political season. The tone was set at the opening Council session when 85% of public attendees, 40 or more well-dressed individuals got to their feet and emptied the Council chambers upon word of postponement of the docket item concerning the revision of Council Policy 600-29. Once reconvened, consideration of the issue proved riotous. It was Councilmember Wolfsheimer's intent at the initial Council hearing to confirm the previously ratified, restrictive interim program for the FUA. But Councilmember Pratt initiated an alternate motion (with support from Councilmember Bernhardt), a confusing, carelessly-worded vernacular version of the "LMWPIA8" ordinance in support of clustered projects and CUPs. Although public testimony had been closed, attorney Wolfsheimer appeared at the speaker's microphone to coach the floundering Councilmember; Councilmember Henderson used his prerogative to retroactively invite the land use attorney to clarify Pratt's fumbled proposal. Other motions were proposed. In an attempt to gain Councilmember Wolfsheimer's support, Councilmember Bernhardt inserted additional clauses to enhance River Park objectives. 5
In another summertime maneuver to shape future events, a recall effort was unleashed in full force against Councilmember Bernhardt. In a complex distortion of the recently established system of district elections, Bernhardt was about to be ignobly beached for making too many campaign promises she couldn't keep to constituents she abandoned, and succumbing too readily to the erosive compromises of political office. Her recall would mark the end of hopes for the new "gang of five." (For a full account of the rise and fall of Linda Bernhardt, see Fromm, 1993.) As for the vaunted liberal "gang of five," there already were signs that the coalition was more rhetorical than operative. Hubris, conflicting goals, and personal agendas prevented the group from unified and decisive action on growth management efforts and would soon contribute to the confounding of FUA proceedings. And in the recesses of the Planning Department discord waxed and morale waned as a new Planning Director, hired with high hopes of revitalizing the department, engaged in a winnowing mission, reducing the size, scope, and quality of key divisions, among them the environmental section.
Councilmember Filner avoided confrontation by making simple requests for more details. In fact, most Councilmembers were remarkably ignorant of basic FUA facts. They were adjudicating proposals to change the zoning and land use activity in an area whose location, history, and geography were mysteries to them. Councilmember McCarty summed up the tenor of the hearings: "I believe in Lance Burris," she was not loathe to admit (J. McCarty, personal communication, September 24, 1994). As an indication of what lay ahead, Council docket item-200, October 8, 1990, read: Continued from the meetings of July 30, 1990, Item 51, September 17, 1990, Item 200, and September 24, 1990, Item S404; last continued at Councilmember McCarty's request, for a report from the Planning Department on the motion by Councilmember Pratt and the substitute motion by Councilmember Bernhardt and on other ideas expressed in the Council meeting... Highlights of the subsequent Council hearing on the FUA were as follows: Councilmember Pratt tried once again to propose his motion. Attorney Matt Peterson, speaking on behalf of the Bougainvillea project, attempted to "clarify" Councilmember Pratt's motion.6 The City Attorney, having been pulled into the maelstrom, provided a confused and erroneous interpretation of Council Policy 600-29 (one that had been advanced by developers) instead of the accurate rendering that specifically required relinquishment of subsequent rights of development by projects choosing the A-1-4 clustering option in the FUA. Councilmember Filner, for sport, sparred with Lance Burris in a battle of wits and power. "To make the [PGA] golf courses viable," it had been noted, "Potomac Investments must convince the city council to allow the residential portion of the project to be built at a density of one-unit per-four acres" (Biberman, 1990a, p. 1B). Hence, more than 100 golfers had been bussed in by Burris to fill the public section of Council chambers. In the words of a would-be public participant: I attended the hearing held by the Council members on the Urban Growth Management [sic]. Although I was prepared to speak, the Agenda was so confusing that I did not know whether to enter a speaker slip to speak for or against the actions the way they were stated. Apparently, there were others that were in the same dilemma (Constituent letter to District 1, October 8, 1990). A day afterwards, flowers were delivered to Councilmembers' offices from Potomac with a note, "Thanks for your support"; Filner's office was bypassed. Hearings resumed one week later. Attorney Matt Peterson stepped to the microphone with a point of order: the Planning Department should not depart from the issue at hand, he said, but should answer only to the item trailed from the week before, namely, Councilmember 6
Councilmember Pratt's real intention, said Peterson, was to extend the privilege of A-1-4 clustering to the entire FUA and not only to the River Park focused planning area, as proposed by Councilmember Wolfsheimer. This clarification was, of course, of vital concern to the application of A-1-4 density to the Bougainvillea project.
Pratt's motion. Councilmember McCarty was also impatient: "I know what I want. I already know all the options and I'm choosing A-1-4." Councilmember Henderson also knew what he wanted: low density, a park, a greenbelt, and "the project that will bring us the PGA tournament." Councilmember Wolfsheimer echoed her call for good planning to avoid piecemeal development. Councilmember Filner chided the Mayor to honor the spirit of Proposition A and live up to her past commitment to the environment by saying "no" to A-1-4 development. Mayor O'Connor retorted: "Don't tell me what I stand for; I know exactly what I stand for: A-1-4! 3,000 units maximum! That is what Proposition A was all about. Planning is what will increase density, you mark my words."7 Attorney Matt Peterson was drawn to the microphone yet again to ask for a clarification of Councilmember Pratt's motion, which by this time had acquired a condition requiring the provision of affordable housing in the FUA.8 Councilmember Roberts said, "What Councilmember Wolfsheimer wants and what Councilmember Pratt's motion says are one and the same. It's all okay. We can make everyone happy. Let's come back to it in four weeks and get it settled." The Denouement At the beginning of the summer, a Council majority had voted to discourage FUA development through the following policy adjustments: rescinding the A-1-4 clustering option (except for provisions extracted by Councilmember Wolfsheimer on behalf of the River Park); denying provision of public services and facilities to new development; planning for the FUA following a General Plan update; and focusing on environmental resource mapping and transportation studies. Within the course of four months, adopted policy for the FUA did a turnaround. In November, Council reversed its decisions and voted not to eliminate A-1-4 clustering throughout the FUA;9 to provide public services and access to public facilities to new development; to drop the requirement for a General Plan update; and to engage in a limited environmental tier mapping exercise targeting the FUA. A task force was established to discuss the need for planning in the FUA, and a temporary moratorium on discretionary (clustering) approvals was imposed to keep developers in a holding pattern pending task force 7
The Mayor knew how to divide the FUA's 12,000 acres by 1 unit per 4 acres for a quotient of 3,000 units. But she was wrong in ascribing this understanding to the mission of Proposition A. The goal of the initiative had been to maintain the integrity of the urban reserve with minimal development, presumably at a density of A-1-10. Whether she spoke in error out of ignorance, sloppiness, or convenience, it is hard to know. 8
This was an important victory for housing advocates. Although major developers blanched at the prospect of working around such a seeming anomaly, they took a collective deep breath and quietly acquiesced. The appearance of social responsibility would be a feather in their caps. Later, once public attention had waned, they would search for a way to work around the requirement. 9
Council decisions obfuscated the concept of clustering. While the percentage of open space requirements in clustered projects at A-1-10 was spelled out, guidelines governing how much land was to be designated open space in A-1-4 clustered PRDs were ignored. Since open space areas under the latter conditions were required to be relinquished, this was a significant omission, leaving the issue wide open for later manipulation of policy determining overall densities, primary and secondary land uses, and land dedication, particularly in the Black Mountain Ranch project.
recommendations. "It leaves the door ajar," commented Sierra Club representative Linda Michael. "If they have multiple motions on top of what they've already done...they won't have the mechanism to maintain the area as an urban reserve" (Weisberg, 1990, p. B-3). On the other side of the battle line, developers like Lance Burris were "breathing a little easier, but...`You never really rest until the project is built,' Burris said" (Biberman, 1990b, p. 2B).10 The FUA Task Force When Councilmembers wanted to avoid making controversial decisions, they appointed an advisory task force. Were task forces rubber stamps, legitimizing instruments for an already existing political agenda? The answer appeared to be yes, usually. The requisite that a task force be comprised of a "balanced" assembly of interests and viewpoints practically ensured a predictable outcome. The FUA citizens task force convened in December 1990.11 Planning Department staff was relegated to a technical role as information gatherers. The group met on a weekly basis for six months to fulfill its charge to:
The comprehensive growth management program, however, was being laid to rest. In mid 1990 an alternative growth management plan called "A Reasonable Approach to Managing Growth" was submitted to the city by a business consortium representing the Chamber of Commerce, San Diegans, Inc., and the Coalition for San Diego, among others. It proposed eliminating key city proposals for development and transportation phasing and citywide impact fees. The city's program was effectively dismantled by the time the FUA planning process was launched. RPO and the FUA were the remaining components of the otherwise defunct growth management plan. 11
In August 1990, the Planning Department submitted its recommendations for a FUA citizens task force. The group was proposed as a 13 member panel comprised of 3 city officials (Planning Commission chair Karl Zobell, Planning Director Bob Spaulding, and City Manager Severo Esquivel), 3 academic/planning professionals (SDSU Nico Calavita, UCSD Robin Philips, open), 3 civic/environmental representatives (C-3 Max Schmidt, Sierra Club Linda Michael, River Park JPA Diane Coombs) and 4 FUA property owners (2 major developers--Potomac Lance Burris, ardee open, and 2 smaller ones--Dave Goodell, Jerry McCaw). Staff planner Bob Brocato, a pivotal player in the process, promoted the Planning Department proposal on the grounds that 1) city officials should be active agents in determining the planning process; therefore, the city's interests should be on an equal footing with other interested parties; 2) planning groups from communities adjacent to the FUA would necessarily have parochial points of view and inevitably ally themselves with the major developers proposing estate type housing resulting in a skewed committee; therefore, they should be kept off the task force; and 3) the pressure from property owners was too strong to be ignored; therefore, they needed to be heavily represented. The final group included all of the above names except for the 3 city officials and Robin Philips. Added to the group were landscape architects Nick DeLorenzo and Karen Scarborough, environmentalists Alice Goodkind and Kathleen Zaworski-Burke, growth management Dave Kreitzer, property owner Pardee Mike Madigan, community John Dean, Kevin McNamara, Tom Bilhorn, Opal Trueblood, and Jim Madaffer, and at large Verna Quinn.
review the North City Future Urbanizing Area within the context of the entire city. Identify relevant issues that need to be addressed, including but not limited to: development potential in the Urbanized and Planned Urbanizing areas of the City; projected City-wide fiscal impact of development within the North City Future Urbanizing Area; regional and local transportation facilities; and the environmental tier [and] prepare recommendations for the City Council regarding: a process for resolving the issues identified in Phase 1; a method of financing the required work; and a schedule for completion of this effort (Councilmembers Wolfsheimer & Roberts, memorandum, September 24, 1990). The task force was not empowered to engage in planning for the FUA. Its task was to determine the need to plan or the lack thereof. Has there ever been, in the long history of advisory committees, a 20 member group that decided, after months of weekly meetings, that the subject of its long consideration should be put aside for no further consideration? The Vision Quest Task force proceedings followed a well worn pattern. Initial meetings were dominated by organizational issues -- the choice of the chair, time and place of subsequent meetings, clarification of the committee's purpose. Senior planners Bob Brocato and Janet Fairbanks arrived at meetings with work programs, schedules, and agendas. Not until a full month after the initial meeting did planning staff provide the committee members with FUA background information, relevant regional data, and area maps. Council's explicit charge to the committee was to analyze FUA issues in the context of the city's needs and resources. Yet, in the absence of relevant data, the task force embarked on creating a "vision" for the FUA. According to the minutes of the group's second meeting, "the Committee consensus was to proceed with the vision exercise, recognizing that it did not commit the Committee to any specific determination on the need for planning" (North City FUA Advisory Committee meeting, December 19, 1990). By February planner Brocato had provided the advisory group with fact sheets, analyses, and a warning: "Clearly, [comprehensive planning] could not be accomplished by continuing to allow the FUA to develop on a project by project basis at densities of 1 du/10 acres and 1 du/4 acres" (Bob Brocato, personal communication, February 1991). The path was set. An early report circulated by the Potomac delegate, Lance Burris, theorized that land values in the FUA had escalated due to a combination of market forces and "government imposed regulations limiting development throughout the City," which had made it economically feasible to develop in accordance with FUA zoning restrictions12 and concluded, "It is therefore clear that it is time to plan the NCFUA." The Potomac report proposed a planning strategy. First, create a framework plan to indicate environmentally sensitive lands and transportation systems in the FUA; based on this, certain "qualifying" rural type development could proceed immediately. Second, divide the area into four subareas, each of which would be comprehensively planned before higher density proposals were brought to the voters for a phase shift. This strategy implicitly assured that both the immediate and long term 12
This was especially ironic since the establishment of the urban reserve was supposed to forestall marketplace pressures in the FUA and keep land values stable.
development plans of the La Jolla Valley project would be accommodated with minimal further delay (Burris, 1991). Task Force Reports In March the task force produced an interim report for the City Council, a premature and hastily written document containing a vision statement and calling for a framework planning process for the FUA based on a loosely organized list of planning issues, excerpted from the group's initial "brainstorming" sessions (and identical to past decades of North City planning visions). It stated: The Committee's vision for the North City FUA is based on a view that future development in the area should preserve the inherent character of the natural landscape and habitat while providing neighborhoods with a diversity of character, a sense of place and history, a sense of community, and a range of affordability. (North City Future Urbanizing Area Advisory Committee, 1991a. p. 2) The report contained no discussion of alternative responses to existing development pressures, no contemplation of city-wide issues as per Council direction. A month after the interim report was submitted, the Planning Department took the task force on a field trip to the FUA. It was the first time that many task force members had a first hand look at the region under discussion and for which they had already made decisive recommendations. Though several members expressed misgivings about development in the area, the die had been cast.13 The final meeting of the task force ended on a sour note over the task force chairman's summary report. The report had major flaws in style and substance, and last minute editing attempts were contentious. The task force had identified two interlocking objectives -- to secure a strong open space system and to develop the remainder of the land. The former received considerable lip service while the latter received working attention. Final report recommendations, presented to Council in July 1991, held no surprises: they unabashedly echoed the report issued by Potomac's Burris several months earlier. The report asked and answered: 13
A short but detailed issues paper reflecting the point of view of San Diegans for Managed Growth, the group behind the 1985 Proposition A, was submitted to the task force in the weeks following the interim report. Written by Jay Powell, it was the most comprehensive analysis of issues related to the FUA yet available and exactly in line with the literal charge of Council. The report asked: â€œDoes the FUA need to continue to function as an `urban reserve' to assure the growth management goals outlined in the [General Plan]...Can the FUA continue to function as an urban reserve given existing and anticipated pressures...What are the options available to eliminate, deal with/accommodate or mitigate existing pressures for development...Are the development policies and ordinances in place sufficient to maintain the FUA as an urban reserve?â€? Powell attempted fair responses to both sides of these questions. He explored issues such as county land use policies, private property rights and public rights, transfer of development schemes, roads and traffic, and agricultural uses. Finally, doing the work of the Planning Department, the task force, and politicians combined, he constructed alternate scenarios for the FUA and identified tasks to be accomplished before policy decisions were made. His analysis received scant comment.
(1) Should the North City Future Urbanizing Area be planned? Yes, we strongly recommend a two-step planning process which consists of a Framework Plan and, later, community level subarea planning; (2) When should the planning begin? The first phase of planning, the Framework Plan, should begin immediately; (3) How should the planning proceed? The committee is proposing a new two-step planning process...The first step [is] an area-wide Framework Plan for the Future Urbanizing Area. (North City Future Urbanizing Area Advisory Committee, 1991b, pp. 3-4) The FUA had been defined as unique and deserving of a distinctive future, yet the task force, despite its apparent earnestness, reverted to boiler plate ideas. The majority of members believed the time had come for planning, although not necessarily for urbanization. A minority glumly forecast that development pressure would inevitably intensify once a planning process began.14 Preemptory Strikes Throughout the period of FUA task force activities, developers kept constant pressure on Council to lift the moratorium on project approvals and to modify regulations to expedite approvals, asserting that they were being victimized, their rights thwarted, and their coffers depleted. A particularly intricate maneuver was brought before Council involving a revised interpretation of zoning restrictions in the A-1 zone regarding golf courses. The dilemma was twofold and intertwined, illustrating the way growth machine interests wrote, edited, and manipulated regulations to suit private projects. It involved the distinction between private and public golf courses and the distinction between primary uses and accessory uses in PRDs. Under standing regulations, PRDs could include accessory private recreational facilities if they were "limited in size and capacity to the needs of the occupants of the development and their guests" (Municipal Code section 101.0900 B3, 1988). But the tournament league golf courses proposed by Potomac's Black Mountain Ranch were of sufficient size and public function to be classified as primary and not accessory uses, a distinction that had potentially lethal implications for the project. If the golf courses were designated a primary use, the acreage taken up by golf courses would be subtracted from the total acreage of the property. The remainder would then be the base for calculations of the residential component of the project, resulting in a much reduced number of allowable residential units. The city agreed to rewrite its ordinances to permit Potomac to build its golf courses and retain its full complement of residential density, intensifying the land use by raising densities on portions of the FUA beyond 14
To add to the general turmoil at this time, the Planning Department was without an official chief. Planning Director Bob Spaulding, embroiled in a personnel harassment suit, had been fired at the beginning of the year. Six months later, the administration of the Planning Department was shifted from Council to City Manager control. To accommodate the mood of Council, the City Manager embarked on tightening department management, trading senior staff through circular transfers and bringing a couple of junior planners to the FUA project. In part due to layoffs and also because Bob Brocato was mortally ill (he was to live only until the end of the year), the FUA staff was reconstituted with Anna McPherson, a dedicated environmentalist, slipping into Brocato's slot.
the A-1-4 level. Precise wording of the ordinance changes was submitted on separate occasions by attorneys Matt Peterson working for the Bougainvillea project and Louis Wolfsheimer for Potomac. The regulatory status of golf courses became a confounding, time consuming subject of Council debate.15 While the Planning Department opposed a proposal to permit residential density to be based on the entire acreage in projects that entailed multiple primary uses, it was persuaded to support the developers' subterfuge to classify all recreational uses in PRDs (and this included golf courses) as accessory and not primary uses. Calculations for permitted residential density would be based on the entire acreage no matter what proportion was taken up by golf courses. Using self-justifying circular reasoning, developers argued that, in a PRD, golf courses were "legitimate, active open space uses, since they preserve open space..." and that options applying to public golf courses should also apply to private courses because "in the case of privately owned golf courses, they [preserve open space] without cost to the City" (Lance Burris, personal communication, June 12, 1991). Another persistent campaign was waged by the Bougainvillea proposal. The project initiated action for a "pipeline exemption" provision that would release it from all future conditions that might be imposed by a planning process for the FUA.16 A lobbyist for the Bougainvillea project delivered sample language for legislation directly to the Mayor and Councilmembers, to wit: I move approval of the Future Urbanizing Area Advisory Committee's Report. With regard to the recommended 1-year moratorium, I would direct the City Attorney to prepare whatever language is necessary to provide for a pipeline for those projects which have submitted discretionary permit applications on or before January 1, 1990. (J. Kruger, personal memorandum, July 3, 1991)
Of course, Potomac could have planned for public access golf courses through the mechanism of a CUP and avoided much confusion and city expense. But under a CUP, these golf courses would have been viewed as primary uses. 16
The Bougainvillea project received the endorsement of a local biologist holding respectable credentials in the environmental community, who claimed that based on biological studies he performed in conjunction with property owners in the Bougainvillea vicinity -- which was perhaps the most environmentally sensitive portion of the FUA -- he had devised an open space connection through the property that obviated the need for further delay in approving the project. In fact, he contended, delays would jeopardize protections for this wildlife corridor. Enjoying the new found glory of public and political attention, this biologist aligned himself with a small contingent of neighboring activists whose interests in the project was clearly self-serving. (The Bougainvillea project would be a desirable upscale neighbor. The same contingent also endorsed an exemption for the Fairbanks Highlands project to gain quicker construction of a connector road.) The Planning Department once again found itself on the defensive, protesting that the plan, rather than offering something new to the city's mapping efforts, would contribute to subverting the planning process. It was a scenario that was echoed in 1994 in a referendum attempt that prematurely brought the FUA before the voters.
Three months later another rendition of "pipeline wording for your consideration" was delivered to Council, signed by father and son attorneys Paul and Matt Peterson. Its purpose was to make it clear, without naming names, that the Bougainvillea project would be the only exemption to the future plan. The result was arguably ludicrous, but nobody laughed: This ordinance shall not apply to...any project with applications on file prior to December 10, 1990 which i) includes a golf course open to the public, and ii) is located partially within the Planned Urbanizing portions of Carmel Valley Neighborhoods 8 and 10 Precise Plans. (P.& M. Peterson, personal memorandum, October 21, 1991)17 FUA task force issues were resolved at an October 1991 Council session, at which an irate though idiosyncratically low keyed Paul Peterson, using his privileged position to approach Council at will, made frequent use of the public microphone to speak on behalf of his client, the Bougainvillea project. In addition to his right to a pipeline exemption, he expected the Planning Department to expedite environmental studies for his client because, he said, "we pay the Planning Department for that work; we put up the money and they have to come across." Potomac's Burris joined in, warning that an extension of the moratorium might result in the loss of cooperation from his client regarding the sharing of consultant costs, acquisition of open spaces, provision of roads and parks, and proceeds from golf course revenues. Councilmember Pratt took the opportunity to state for the public record that he had few problems with either of the projects, but that he parted ways with Councilmember Wolfsheimer's claim that the "public interest" took precedence over private property interests. Council accepted the task force recommendations and called for the initiation of a framework planning process. Responding to pressure from property owners, Council set a tight interval: a Framework Plan was to be developed within a 12 month period. Despite a serious budget shortfall, the City Manager uncovered $100,000 for the city's share of a planning consultant's fee, an amount to be matched by FUA property owners. To its credit, Council voted to extend the FUA moratorium -- with no exemptions -- until September of the following year.18 Remarks After the FUA tier was established in 1979, development pressures in the area subsided. More precisely, they took other, more indirect, paths. Developers did not map out a 17
Aside from setting a bad precedent, consideration of an exemption for the Bougainvillea project had no justification. The project had neither submitted complete plans nor had it performed a required environmental report. Staff estimated that processing the project would take more than an additional year before it was ready for review. Yet, the project applicants received a cordial Council reception for their request. 18
By approving plans to create a Framework Plan for the FUA, Council declined to immediately commit itself to opening up the area to development. Nevertheless, Councilmember Henderson expressed the sentiment for the rest of his colleagues when he reminded developers that the watershed vote several months earlier, which had begun the planning process, had already taken the "future" out of the FUA (Council hearing, July 8, 1991).
confrontational strategy for battling newly established constraints, but they made strategic advances toward undermining regulatory impediments to FUA development. Did politicians have a clear strategy in mind when they instituted a tiered growth management plan? Perhaps for the moment. But subsequent Council policy revealed not only political ambivalence but also unwillingness to withstand development pressure. Although they may occasionally have been outmaneuvered by clever land use attorneys or expert lobbyists, for the most part, Councilmembers were compliant accomplices in the development industry's campaigns to manipulate land use policy. And what about planners? Might they have better withstood development pressure? First of all, they were not immune to the siren songs of developers, attorneys, and lobbyists. Secondly, they were at the mercy of their own superiors who, in turn, received marching orders from high officials in city hall closely attuned to the development industry. For example, FUA planners privately admitted that, from the perspective of good planning and long term efficacy, the preferable designation -- the one that would keep the FUA quiescent while preserving future options for parks and open spaces -- was A-1-10. Nevertheless, the Planning Department publicly recommended an A-1-4 clustering option on the grounds that it provided an essential incentive to developers to dedicate park land (B. Brocato, personal communication, July 1991). The Planning Department's official recommendation to permit both public and private golf courses in the FUA as accessory rather than primary uses also contradicted the personal positions of FUA planners. The combined effect of these revised policies was not insignificant: it eliminated regulatory impediments to the Black Mountain Ranch project without the need for public hearings for explicit project exemptions. Planners were kept on a short leash by upper management officials. In turn, staff planners exercised subtle but real control over task force proceedings. Task force members were effectively stymied, yet few turned their exasperation into rebellion. Most were unwilling to step out of bounds, set their own rules, and define the problem independently, much less confront one another or put concerted pressure on staff planners. To even a casual observer, the problems were clear: (1) the task force was too big; (2) the task force chair was ineffectual and a stumbling block; (3) backup provided by planning staff was obstructionist, inadequate, and often prejudicial; and (4) controlled debate and personal restraint among task force members stunted the process considerably. With no apparent leader but seemingly driven by a will of its own, the task force moved forward on a single track. It did exactly what it had been set up to do. It bestowed legitimacy on the foregone decision to plan for opening up the urban reserve.
CHAPTER VI THE FUTURE URBANIZING AREA FRAMEWORK PLAN Introduction In 1992 the city embarked on a framework planning process for the FUA, appending a new chapter to the prolonged continuum of North City planning. The FUA planning process was a microcosm of the multilayered planning world in which planners function, where many subthemes crisscross the planning effort and shape its outcome. The process drew upon a base map of the Planning Department game plan, overlaid by the contributions of a private planning consultant, with input from a reconstituted advisory committee appended to instructions from the previous advisory committee, overlaid further by political and bureaucratic skirmishing, and even further by developer and property owner proposals, and again by lobbying activity, plus Council direction, and CEQA requirements. Was it any wonder that planning took the path of least resistance and fell into the open arms of the developers? This chapter examines the planning process undertaken in the final days of 1992 that produced the FUA Framework Plan. It reports on several forces that fed into the final product. It begins with a description of the procurement of a private consultant to work with staff planners and of an appointed citizens advisory group to create a Framework Plan for the FUA. The chapter also looks at the structural shifts within the city's bureaucracy that had direct bearing on the planning process and at the interaction between Council policy and procedures and the planning process. The chapter describes existing FUA project proposals and developer pressure throughout the planning process. It describes the environmental planning process and its relationship to the Framework Plan and takes a long look at the public hearings leading up the adoption of the Framework Plan, at Council behavior, and at the plan itself, and comes to some conclusions regarding CAC and planning activities. The Overlays In deference to developer impatience, Council imposed a tight 8-12 month schedule in which to produce a Framework Plan for the FUA. Planners immediately set to work shaping the process. To advertise for a consultant, they prepared a Request for Proposals (RFP), which spelled out four objectives of the planning process: an Environmental Tier/open space system, a regional transportation network, urban design standards leading to "enjoyable, healthy and affordable neighborhoods, and urban design standards leading to a measure of community containment and reduced automobile use.1 Reflecting the developers' strangle hold on the 1
The tight schedule and modest remuneration offered for the job reflected more than economic hard times; they were also an indication of the city's low requirements or expectations for a complete or thorough planning effort. The City Manager/Planning Department selected a committee to screen applications. It consisted of three staff planners and four ex-task force members, one of whom was the major developer in the FUA. Although the District 1 Councilmember objected to the inclusion of anyone with direct financial interest in the outcome, planners defended the screening committee, invoking the shibboleth of community participation. Besides, they added, FUA property owners were paying half the bill!
process, they prepared a constricted time line leading to a draft EIR by May 25, a draft Framework Plan by June 1, and a final Framework Plan by July 24. The preparation of an EIR, with its mandatory periods for public review, was an inflexible and legally nonnegotiable determinant of the process, whose exigencies extended the Framework Planning process into the fall of 1992 -- a three month delay that brought renewed pressure from property owners requesting exemptions to the development moratorium. Planners bore the brunt of the onslaught and responded with decreased tolerance for anything that might further slow the process, particularly and predictably increased public involvement. The Consultant Overlay The San Francisco firm Blayney Dyett Greenberg, Urban and Regional Planners was chosen to create a Framework Plan for the FUA. As specified in the RFP, the work of the project manager, Ellen Greenberg, was to be overseen by the Planning Department long range planning division. The consultant's task was to work alongside city staff to produce a plan with a limited budget, a compressed time frame, an internally inconsistent set of directions from the previous task force report, and a new CAC laden with special interests and indeterminate duties. The web of influences shaping and controlling the planning process was subtle but not invisible, even to an out-of-town consultant. In fact, a pair of fresh eyes probably sized up the situation more quickly than those long accustomed to local politicking. The consultant had eight months to produce a plan that would be in tune with Council proclivities regarding developers and their plans. She was also to respond to an unarticulated goal -- to give every property owner some development value. Who was her client, the region or the property owners? "I was not at liberty to choose the region" (E. Greenberg, personal communication, October 22, 1994). Only by working quickly and by keeping sight lines steady would the mandated deadlines be met.2 It was a characteristic planner's response, an act of self preservation. As observed by Altshuler three decades ago, "the typical American city planner already has enough difficulty avoiding paralysis of will, that any deeper perception of obstacles or more sophisticated sense of complexity would totally ruin him" (1965, p. 452). The CAC Overlay The San Diego North City Future Urbanizing Area Framework Plan Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC) was appointed at the very end of 1991 by the City Manager to work with the Planning Department and consultant. It was comprised of 12 members, 10 of whom had been on the preceding task force and included FUA developers, FUA property owners, adjacent community representatives, and a sprinkling of environmental, planning, and affordable housing advocates. Given that the FUA was a central component of the General Plan growth management amendment, the decisions made by the City Manager in his appointment of CAC members were especially telling: members were selected as if FUA planning was strictly of local concern, equivalent to developing a community plan -- no more, no less. 2
Consultant Greenberg immersed herself in the technical job of producing a plan; her contract was not to do battle with Council, community groups, developers, or dissenters, nor to be bold and innovative.
Policy Overlay The transfer of the Planning Department to the domain of the City Manager launched a structural shift of power and behind-the-scenes battle over control of the FUA planning process. Changes were evident even before new lines of command were formally announced. FUA planners were advised that they could meet with developers but not with the staff of Council offices. Furthermore, the City Manager advised Councilmembers to refrain from making direct contact with the consultant. The only objection came from the Councilmember in whose district the FUA lay; others were content to let the City Manager control the FUA process. In 1991 Council adopted a new policy, Preparation of Long Range Plans (Council Policy 600-40), as a supplement to RPO (passed almost two years earlier). It called for the preparation and approval of a suitability analysis indicating "constraints and opportunities of the planning area" in the preparation of long range plans in areas of environmental sensitivity. But the FUA planning process was permitted to bypass Council Policy 600-40 with City Manager claims that Environmental Tier mapping activities were equivalent to a suitability analysis. In reality, FUA mapping activities failed to meet the standards and scope of Policy 600-40. Developer Overlay Upon making the decision to proceed with framework planning for the FUA, Council extended the temporary moratorium on discretionary project approvals until September 1992 but left the door open to projects wishing to continue working their way through the city's processing procedure. Lobbying efforts on behalf of several FUA project proposals continued unabated throughout the planning process and effectively controlled the shape of the emerging Framework Plan. The Black Mountain Ranch. Potomac's Black Mountain Ranch project cast a long shadow over the framework planning process. It was adept at circumventing municipal regulations and policy, pitting skilled land use attorneys against the city's legal resources.3 The city repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to reshape official policy around Potomac's needs. It condoned splitting the project into two phases to take immediate advantage of the discretionary A-1-4 option and subsequent advantage of a phase shift;4 it approved categorizing 3
City attorneys were no match for or threat to the private sector. For one thing, highly qualified professionals could find more remunerative work in the private sector, and most chose to do so. For another, private firms were potential employers and future associates of city attorneys wishing to move out and up. 4
The subdivision map for this project designated a two-phased identity: in the first phase, development was to be based on A-1-4 densities; the second phase called for a hotel and densities requiring a phase shift on "future development sites." To avoid internal contradictions and truncated planning, planners proposed to evaluate both phases of this project as a unified whole. But the Potomac project played by its own rules; it submitted separate proposals for each phase with separate application completion dates invoking separate legal circumstances, covering its legal bases in a manner sufficiently hazy and complex to defy coherent analysis or challenge. Even a cursory reading of Council Policy 600-29 indicated that projects pursuing A-1-4 clustering options would surrender subsequent development opportunity on the remaining property. Yet, the City
private golf courses as open space; it amended city ordinances governing golf courses as accessory uses in PRDs; it agreed to postponing, until the project's undetermined second phase, honoring of the provision that required additional units totaling 20% of the project's phase one residential allowance to be "affordable" housing. Invoking the state's Permit Streamlining Act, which requires cities to issue land use decisions within specific time limits, Potomac pressured the city to deem the Black Mountain Ranch proposal complete before the Framework Plan was adopted. Staff planners were instructed by the Development and Environmental Planning section (DEP) and by the City Manager, himself, to expedite the process -- more quickly than was physically achievable and in the absence of adequate technical data concerning environmental, circulation, and residential density issues (staff planner, personal communication, March 1992). If Framework Plan maps did not mesh with Black Mountain Ranch plans, the former would be ignored. Could the message have been more explicit? The Bougainvillea. The Bougainvillea project called for a mixed resort development, accommodating a residential estate community built around a golf course, a hotel, and a commercial center. The emerging Framework Plan did not specify these uses for that site, but neither did it preclude them. Staff planners assumed that an accommodating stance would be met with favor by project developers. They were unaware of the negative campaign being waged against them by the project lobbyist, intent on currying favor with Council by disparaging the Planning Department. At the same time that Potomac's Burris was declaring his independence from the details of the Framework Plan and even from the necessity to engage in subarea planning, the Bougainvillea's lobbyist DiBenedetto was threatening to take legal action against the city if his project was denied automatic access to PRD clustered zoning provisions and was stepping up efforts to gain an outright exemption from provisions of the forthcoming Framework Plan. Pardee's Pacific Ranch. Pardee had long been a major developer in the North City. Its plans for the FUA entailed a 5,000 unit mixed use residential community called Pacific Ranch. In the midst of the framework planning process, the firm's big bosses made the rounds of Council offices requesting a "threshold determination" to initiate a phase shift for the property. On colorful maps they illustrated the special bonuses offered by the project: a northsouth connector for an open space corridor was a notable example; the incentive of donated right of way for SR-56 was another.5 They were scheduled to appear before Council with their request in June, three months before the Framework Plan would be brought forward for Council Attorney ruled that the double-phased nature of this project conformed to Council Policy 600-29, a distortion reiterated by the City Manager: â€œThis project is consistent with Council Policy 600-29...no future development rights shall remain on the property....The reference to no future development rights applies only to the acreage on the property defined as "a part" of this proposal, over which the density calculations were determined.â€? (City of San Diego, 1992, p. 5) 5
Staff environmentalists contended, however, that an open space connector would be forthcoming as a condition of development and was therefore not a special offering. They claimed the same for the road right-of-way dedication.
consideration. Relying on contorted logic, Pardee explained that "our Threshold Determination application outlines in detail how continuing planning on this sub-area of the FUA will complement and enhance the city's Framework planning program" (M. Madigan, letter to Councilmember, February 27, 1992). Alliance for Property Owners. The Alliance for Property Owners was a consortium of approximately 82 landowners holding 1700 acres, primarily in the Del Mar Mesa region of the FUA. Although not a CAC member, Alliance representative Stephen Coury was an active participant in framework planning meetings. The Planning Department had drawn up a "memorandum of understanding" with the Alliance to procure technical data for the Environmental Tier mapping process. But as the planning process advanced, feelings of entitlement already witnessed among major developers grew among small property owners, as well. Alliance members balked at proposals to fold at least 6,600 acres of the Del Mar Mesa into the Environmental Tier and decided to take the offensive and develop a concept plan calling for substantially higher densities than either the city or the property owners themselves had previously envisioned. They pointed out that the emerging Framework Plan offered no concrete proposals for the purchase of their land for open space. The flabbier the guarantees of a fair exchange, the more successfully they pressed their claims on Council for greater property and development rights.6 Development Agreements. The city's policy of entering into development agreements with major developers was a double-edged endeavor. Established in 1988 as Council Policy 600-37, development agreements were called "one of the most flexible land use tools and probably one of the best for all parties, if properly negotiated" (J. Sammartino, personal memorandum, 1988). The city invariably proved an inferior negotiator. At a minimum, development agreements granted development certainty and future regulatory immunity to developers in return for a variety of pecuniary concessions to the city. They were subject to amendment, but only to meet the changed needs of project developers, not the city. Admonitions written into Council Policy 600-37 (on the prodding of consultant Freilich) were especially applicable to FUA planning: The original function of the development agreement process was to make available to the City the ability to obtain fees and capital improvements from development in community plan areas within the planned urbanizing tiers pending the 6
The Del Mar Mesa had long been fractured into many small landholdings, reflecting the fact that much of the area was highly constrained by sensitive environmental features and not attractive to major developers. Property owners were a diverse group of individuals; some had lived there for many years, while others were relatively recent investors. Much of the proposed Environmental Tier open space system in other parts of the FUA was to be acquired through the subdivision process, but in the Del Mar Mesa region 550 acres were to be purchased. At roughly $45,000 per acre, the total cost was $25 million. The need to discourage development and keep prices stable until the Environmental Tier was secured was uppermost, but instead of a realistic purchase strategy, the Planning Department recommended selective downzoning in the area -- a holding pattern small owners considered unfair. To move the matter forward, the District 1 office pressed for an innovative effort to develop a leveraged funding mechanism for immediate acquisition, but the City Manager thwarted the proposal.
judicial approval of the Facility Benefit Assessment program. The vesting of rights under such agreements, however, has raised a host of issues as to the wisdom of granting unrestricted and perpetual vesting of rights in exchange for financial commitments which, for the most part, can be obtained through existing city regulations, policies and ordinances. (Council Policy 600-37) This cautionary preamble fell on deaf ears: the city was ready to engage in development agreements with FUA developers even while the Framework Plan was being written. Bougainvillea offered the spurious argument that the city could get more concessions from the project developers with a private agreement than through planning. The Black Mountain Ranch had similar contentions, even though the Potomac representative was a CAC member working on the plan. By the end of 1992 a development agreement between the city and the Black Mountain Ranch and PGA Tour, Inc., initiated four years earlier, was approved by Council. Framework Plan provisions that applied to this project were reformulated by provisions in the legally binding development agreement. The Environmental Overlay The establishment of a regionally significant open space system was supposed to receive top priority in the framework planning process and inaugurate the city's long awaited Environmental Tier. It was a source of major contention between planners and property owners. It also drove a divisive wedge among developers: investors in large landholdings such as Potomac could afford to set aside a sizable acreage as open space, but most small Del Mar Mesa properties were dominated by environmental constraints. While preferring a united front to strengthen the overall position of property owners, Potomac had no desire to be dragged into paying for acquisition mechanisms to preserve open space outside its own boundaries. As unsympathetically observed by attorney Wolfsheimer, "People knew what they were buying" (L. Wolfsheimer, personal communication, April 1992). To add to the turmoil, CAC members seemed ignorant and confused over the interwoven but distinct programs of CEQA (state legislation requiring analytical environmental evaluation), the Environmental Tier (a descriptive mapping exercise), and RPO (an implementing mechanism to preserve the local ecosystem).7 Under existing city policy, environmentally constrained land was normally dedicated to the city during discretionary review of development proposals. RPO was a new implementing tool to acquire open space. However, it was limited in its ability to preserve major open space connections since it could only be applied on a parcel by parcel basis. Attempts to develop a transfer of development rights (TDR) policy met with stubborn resistance from planners and the City Manager, who claimed TDRs were too complex and unworkable. (For other points of view see Dahlin, 1992; Montgomery County, 1986; Pizor, 1986.) Compounding the planning puzzle was the Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP), established coincidentally with the FUA framework planning exercise to "mitigate for 7
Planners did little to clarify the issues. They may not have been aware of the extent CAC members' misconceptions. Or they may have concluded that keeping the CAC confused was in the best interests of planning, that is, of their own partnership with the consultant in formulating the Framework Plan.
the loss of plant and wildlife species and habitat due to the direct and indirect impacts of future development of both private and public lands" (MSCP working draft, December 1993). It should have dovetailed with the Environmental Tier program for the FUA, but like other public programs (the River Park, for example), the MSCP had particular goals and criteria that sometimes deviated from FUA planning goals. CAC member Karen Scarborough (representing C-3) chaired the city's MSCP advisory committee. Claiming that MSCP goals were impeded by RPO's site by site approach, she supported the development industry's push to suspend RPO in the FUA. Her MSCP experience had made her sensitive to the concerns of the development industry and less willing to alienate developers over FUA environmental matters. In a like manner, FUA planning was also held hostage to the regional goals of another important program, the River Park, whose interests were represented on the CAC by Diane Coombs. Creation of the River Park relied on open space dedication and land purchase; the former was obviously its preferred method of land acquisition. Dedication of rural land buffers along the Park's edges was more likely to occur if a very low density plan for the FUA in the vicinity of the River Park were adopted -- just what the Black Mountain Ranch had in mind. An uneasy alliance was forged between Coombs and Potomac to further common goals. The Framework Plan EIR. Under the tight time frame and early deadline established by Council for the completion of the framework planning process, a draft EIR had to be available by the middle of June to provide the state-mandated period for public notice and review. But the Framework Plan was not yet available for review. If an environmental review were prepared before the plan was ready, it would indicate that the planning product was so predictable or predetermined that the planning process was superfluous. Indeed, the draft EIR circulated, on schedule, by environmental planners was based on educated guesses and projections about potential impacts of existing project proposals. Environmental assessment of the presumed Framework Plan was harsh. Framework planning had narrowed the previously identified boundaries of the Environmental Tier and wildlife corridors. It identified only a core area as the Environmental Tier and shifted peripheral buffer areas into a category that retained potential for development. It was exempted from preparing a development suitability analysis as required by Council Policy 600-40 that, presumably, would have strengthened claims for an expanded Environmental Tier. The EIR listed five preferred alternatives to the anticipated final plan: (1) a perpetual building moratorium with no physical changes to the FUA; (2) maintenance of existing zoning and policy, allowing for A-1-10 or PRD at A-1-4 density; (3) adoption of the Environmental Tier, expanded beyond provisions in the Framework Plan; (4) concentrated development along the periphery of the FUA; and (5) indefinite delay of a phase shift, pending completion of regional planning efforts like MSCP, River Park, County projects, and roads. The EIR hit like a thunderbolt. It exacerbated discord between long range planners and environmental analysis planners: the latter perceived themselves excluded from the planning process. Even though it dealt in depth with issues sidestepped during the months of Framework Plan development -- development patterns in adjacent communities, the phasing and cumulative effects of development, and citywide development capacity and housing -- long range planners criticized it for a lack of comprehensiveness. And by letter and telephone, major
developers contacted the City Manager with attacks on the draft EIR and the Planning Department. Long range and environmental planners were targeted indiscriminately. CAC response was also vehement. Chairman Nick DiLorenzo attacked the environmental staff for doing an "end run" and embarrassing the CAC. Instead of railing against the time constraints that put the cart before the horse (which would have pointed the finger at FUA developers and Council) he fretted that Council would now be confronted by too many conflicting documents: a Framework Plan, a very problematic EIR, and probable amendments to the Framework Plan by the CAC.8 Environmental analysis chief planner Tom Story defended his staff. The EIR had to be legally defensible, he said, and it was better to err on the side of the environment. He cautioned that major changes to the Framework Plan by the CAC would necessitate circulating an amended EIR, an impossibility given the tight public review schedule. And he reminded the group that Council had the power to ignore negative assessments in an EIR, that is, to approve a project despite negative environmental findings.9 The Planning Process Overlay Even under less encumbered circumstances, the FUA planning process would have been a weighty undertaking. Oddly, the repetitive nature and outcome of past planning endeavors in the North City did not temper the optimism of planners, environmentalists, and community members who entered the process thinking: this time will be different; this time we will do it right. But the rules of the game remained the old ones. The CAC, by the City Manager's and Planning Department's decision, was assigned a small role in the planning process, merely to engage in the "narrowing of the range of options [as proposed by the consultant] through elimination of those that do not have support" and "the addition of detail to those options that do have support and will be considered further" (Blayney, 1992b, p. 1). Constrained by a rigidly timed planning schedule and attempting to assuage small and large property owners alike, consultant Greenberg closed her eyes even to this meager CAC input. Many CAC members felt shortchanged, but were reluctant to raise the ire of the development industry with calls for extending planning deadlines and the development moratorium. It would precipitate a messy showdown at Council. Those whose points of view were already being transmitted 8
CAC response was splintered. Community representatives McNamara and Bilhorn were eager for new roads and railed against the presumed malevolence of the EIR regarding traffic problems. Environmental advocate Michael suggested that the EIR was more realistic than the CAC. River Park advocate Coombs warned that, without the Framework Plan, adequate preservation of an open space system would not be possible and that the committee should not support the EIR. Potomac's Burris reminded everyone that transportation studies always indicated that high densities could not be supported and, therefore, that the Potomac development plan was highly desirable. 9
When the EIR came before Council as a companion to the Framework Plan in the fall of 1992, Council chose to ignore 14 of 16 EIR categories that predicted significant, that is, negative cumulative impacts on the environment. Instead, it made findings of overriding considerations and called it a day. When Council adopted certain CAC recommendations that had not been considered by the EIR in place of recommendations made by the consultant/Planning Department that had been evaluated in the EIR, questions about the EIR adequacy, validity, or legality were summarily cut short.
directly to the City Manager and Councilmembers were content to have the process speed along. The vision becomes blurred. The first "working paper" was circulated by the consultant in January 1992. It promoted the concept of compact development sites "of sufficient size to support a viable residential neighborhood with...potential to be served by public transit" (Blayney, 1992a, p. 9), and was reinforced by repeated CAC instructions to avoid using traffic concerns as the organizing principle of the planning process. But warning that such ideas were usually honored more in the breach than in practice, the consultant hedged her response: "Transportation system design and plan financing," she wrote, "are particularly difficult to analyze independent of land use decisions...[and] will be undertaken during the Sketch Plan phase" (Blayney, 1992b, p. 1). In other words, from the beginning, planning attempts to incorporate alternative transportation modes were not given high priority.10 One by one, open-ended visions created by the first advisory group were replaced by more conventional planning pronouncements. The "inherent character of the natural landscape and habitat" was transmuted to "preserving scenic value and biological resources...[and] opportunity for recreational pursuits"; "sensitively designed developed lands" became "small urban nodes, where cultural facilities will exist, and where shopping is accomplished along oldstyle Main Streets." From the start, the scales were tipped in favor of development proposals already in the hopper. In March the consultant submitted her sketch plans. They introduced development nodes at sites that conformed to developers' plans -- the Black Mountain Ranch, in particular -and were so reduced in size that the question of an alternate transportation/transit mode was rendered moot. Although paid lip service, the model of compact neighborhoods was effectively dropped from serious consideration. In further capitulation to developer interests, major roads were sited within the open space system. The Environmental Tier, supposedly the centerpiece of the planning effort, had already been compromised by a priority system introduced by the Alliance of Property Owners and other FUA property owners. Staff planners were given little choice but to endorse this mapping invention.11 Deep-sixed at the same time was the question of housing affordability in the FUA. In response to the question, "How should a vision of `a range of affordability' be interpreted?" 10
The city had hired well-known consultant Peter Calthorpe to work with staff in the development of a land guidance/transit oriented development (TOD) program. The goal of the land guidance program was to direct the location and density of future development in the city, and the goal of the framework planning process was to guide future development in the FUA. It would be expected that Calthorpe's work on urban form and FUA planning would intersect. In fact, they were kept at arm's distance from one another. 11
The system was built on additive categories of open spaces. Priorities 2 and 3 differed from priority 1 in the degree of flexibility available when "fine tuning" project boundaries. Although criteria for buffer zones for successful habitat preservation were not definitively analyzed, priority designations gave developers the opportunity to manipulate the system. Predictably, attempts to scale back the open space system to minimal priority 1 boundaries prevailed.
the consultant and city staff shrugged off the issue: "In terms of the framework plan, affordable housing can be addressed through housing density but other solutions are programmatic and beyond the scope of a generalized land use plan" (CAC meeting summary, February 6).12 Despite vehement objections from CAC housing advocates, balanced community issues such as affordable housing were relegated to the bottom of the barrel, along with other issues inadequately analyzed by the previous task force -- the city's development capacity, urban form, new development models, the relationship between housing and employment, and the phasing of FUA development. Instructions from the previous task force had been clear: The (framework) plan must include a thorough evaluation of alternative conceptual plans which offer viable choices to achieve the vision. This evaluation is intended to provide the City Council and community with a basis for selection of an optimal concept for the use of the Future Urbanizing Area. (North City Future, 1991a, p. 11) Yet, the consultant offered only two alternatives, and they were minor variations of the same concept. Sketch 1 showed two "compact neighborhoods" at either end of the FUA; sketch 2 added a third small development node near the center. Traffic impacts, specifically on arterial roads linking the FUA with adjacent communities, were the controlling factors, after all. This startling contraction of options was attributed to: the limited number of potential connections to the regional transportation system, and the high level of congestion currently experienced on surrounding roads, and expected to be experienced in the future even if no development were to occur in the NCFUA...Sketch Plans 1 and 2 are the result of an iterative design process in which possible land uses were tested against transportation system capacity. (Blayney, 1992c, pp. 8, 31) Unless the City Council were willing to reduce the LOS standards for traffic, alternate development options involving increased density were deemed impossible. Furthermore, sketch plans were based on fiscal analyses demonstrating that developerproposed expensive housing types were better able to carry infrastructure costs than multifamily housing: "The ability of development in the NCFUA to bear the costs of facilities...will depend in part on the value of that development" (Blayney, 1992c, p. 42). Although this determination had profound influence over the type and affordability of future development, it was never critically tested. 12
Growth management policies directed new development to existing urbanized or urbanizing areas unless it was clearly in the public interest to consider it in the FUA. The consultant, with CAC consent, disregarded Planning Department housing capacity reports that indicated a continuing availability of development capacity outside the FUA (City of San Diego Planning, 1992a), stating: "in terms of the market, housing in the north city is not equivalent to that in other parts of the City." In other words, city policy would not supersede developers' plans for the FUA.
Public Hearings In mid-spring City Council/Planning Commission held a so-called workshop to review and comment on framework planning progress and the consultant's sketch plans. Instead of pondering planning issues, officials used the session to air special interest comments. When responding to challenges, staff planners invoked loosely defined terms like compact communities, TODs, nodes, neighborhoods, villages, big, small, gross versus net density, offering no clear standards, no illustrations, and only vague answers to questions regarding the size, costs, and definition of the Environmental Tier project. To a Councilmember's request for better illustrative materials, City Manager/acting Planning Director Esquivel responded that it would be too expensive to provide Council with more legible maps. At the end of the session, Council referred the two sketch plans back to the consultant and Planning Department, with no new direction or guidance. In June the first draft of the Planning Department/consultant Framework Plan was circulated for public review. It consisted of a diagram depicting "the location and distribution of land uses and...general alignments for major streets and transit routes" (Blayney, 1992d, p. 6), plus explicating text and tables. The draft failed to incorporate any recommendations or comments made by the CAC during the preceding two months.13 At the second Council workshop two months later, major planning issues were as murky as ever. Basic policy questions still needed answers: At which level of planning should a phase shift occur? should a phase shift be effected for the total area or on a subarea basis? should PRD projects be permitted to go forward before subarea planning was completed? should zoning be tightened in proposed Environmental Tier areas until an acquisition plan was established? what methodology should be used for financing public facilities? would a phasing plan be established for subarea development or would development be left to market forces? was the Framework Plan a hard 13
CAC members had expressed their displeasure at being slighted in the planning process by electing their own chairman and scheduling weekly meetings. They decided to ignore the consultant's instructions to limit their comments on the "preliminary draft framework plan diagram" to the "arrangement and type of land uses...[and] further thoughts on the question of employment." But the CAC was too fragmented to organize effective coalitions. Still calling for basic planning paraphernalia six months into the process ("A map showing land use and open space connections in adjacent communities and jurisdictions should also be provided by staff" [CAC Meeting Summary, May 12, 1992]), CAC members contented themselves with housekeeping chores instead of conceptual changes -- rearranging spots of density, tightening reports, and arguing over details. CAC members directed their anger at the planning process. In turn, staff planners defensively vented their own frustration on committee members rather than on politicians, developers, or their own bosses, deriding CAC inability to make decisions or reach consensus. The only consistent motif, month after month, was property owners' determination to develop the FUA. Confusion in the planning ranks bolstered their objectives. Chairman DeLorenzo defended the system, explaining that, just when the CAC had finally become ripe with fruitful recommendations, the consultant and Planning Department had entered their "production mode" and it was too late for changes. However, certain last minute changes did find their way into the plan: new clauses and subarea boundary changes protecting existing development proposals were appended until the last moment, in the consultant's attempts at equity for small property owners as well as acquiescence to big ones.
and fast plan or a concept, specific and binding or illustrative and guiding? what kind of place would the FUA become? Lack of a quorum at this meeting signified Council's unwillingness to determine FUA policy and denied the Planning Department further official direction in the final weeks of the planning process.14 The Framework Plan came before the Planning Commission for official hearings in September 1992, shortly before the Council-imposed moratorium on FUA projects was due to expire. Putting a bright and positive spin on the planning process, CAC chair DeLorenzo extolled the virtues of the Framework Plan and claimed planning success. He downplayed the major areas of difference between CAC and staff proposals. Property owners went on record in support of the Framework Plan with provisos that special consideration be granted to their own projects. CAC member Michael dissented, branding the Framework Plan a failure and claiming that time constraints made it impossible to do the job right, that the proposed plan failed to secure an adequate Environmental Tier, to set achievable affordable housing goals, to plan for an efficient transportation and transit system, or to demonstrate that the city actually needed additional residential development and would benefit from it. Except for one dissenting Commissioner, the Framework Plan received the blessings of the Planning Commission and was sent on its way to Council. The City Council Sits in Judgment The final draft of the Framework Plan came before Council in October 1992, accompanied by a companion report of CAC recommendations for 580 fewer residential units, approximately half the commercial development, and more dispersed distribution of density to reflect CAC approval of Black Mountain Ranch proposals. The Framework Plan endorsed a land use plan made up of two "compact communities," a swath of open space designated the Environmental Tier, a preponderance of very low-density residential development, some commercial recreational uses, and some local commercial and public facilities. Claiming broad public participation in the planning process, planners presented the Framework Plan as the embodiment of "diversity -- of building types, public amenities, and people...distinctive in character, and a good neighbor to adjacent areas...(combining) the best of rustic, rural, picturesque development with the best of tightly-arranged, fine-grained, modern villages, all tied together with an extensive open space system." It called for completed subarea plans prior to a scheduled public referendum to institute a phase shift for the entire area (Blayney, 1992e, p. 3). Councilmembers were confronted with a multi-part motion that recommended certification of the EIR, approval of the Framework Plan with specific changes, amendments to the General Plan, amendments to Council Policy, and introduction of ordinances amending the municipal code.15 To better prepare them for the long awaited and complex FUA hearing, 14
In a striking juxtaposition of events, the special Council workshop discussed FUA issues of wealthproducing phase shifts, golf courses, and residential estates in city hall's 12th floor while, downstairs, demonstrators in the outdoor plaza attempted to bring public attention to the plight of the city's homeless population. It went unremarked in Council chambers. 15
For decades, the FUA had preoccupied planners and politicians as property owners attempted to
Mayor O'Connor distributed an introductory memo to Councilmembers. It stated: The North City Future Urbanizing Area Framework Plan is a very important issue which the City Council should carefully deliberate. This is the last major undeveloped area in the City and our decision will shape the future of the region for decades to come. In order to focus our discussion and reduce the total time needed to resolve the outstanding issues on this important issue, I am requesting that the Council frame its discussion around the attached outline of questions. Staff will be prepared to provide a brief overview of the entire proposal prior to public testimony and discussion in order to set the context and frame the outstanding issues. Following the staff presentation, I propose to accept public testimony on each question separately to focus our discussion and resolve the issues individually. (M. O'Connor, September 30, 1992). With such an orderly and focused approach, what could go awry? Without warning or explanation, the Mayor disappeared, closeting herself in her office on the floor below Council chambers during the ensuing five hour City Council FUA Framework Plan hearing. Deputy Mayor Roberts chaired the meeting. The staff planner delivered a brief overview of the project and listed Framework Plan limitations: it would not solve congestion problems on freeways I-5 and I-15, nor would it bring rail transit along those corridors; and it would not deliver an acquisition plan for Del Mar Mesa properties delineated by Environmental Tier mapping.
dominate the course of the city's future. Yet, on eve of its big day at Council: (1) the District 1 Councilmember had not yet returned from an out of town trip; and (2) the Councilmember for the district geographically furthest removed from the FUA, when asked: "What do you think about the Framework Plan?" responded with a blank look and finally said, "I haven't given it much thought yet."
Public testimony followed. Seventy-three (73) speakers were granted two minutes apiece at the microphone to state their points of view. The CIF applauded the forward thinking Framework Plan. Neighboring communities, impatient for the construction of SR-56 to remedy traffic congestion, also endorsed it. Other neighbors condemned it as the harbinger of more traffic congestion. School district representatives reiterated their requirements for a school financing package. Consultants for small property owners complained on behalf of their FUA clients of being slighted in the planning process. Some CAC members heartily endorsed the Framework Plan; others roundly criticized it. Coombs stated that, as long as all Park concerns were met, there would be no further opposition to the Plan. Michaels and other environmentalists tore into it on all counts. Calavita criticized the Framework Plan as a breach of city policies and planning principles.16 Coury, speaking for the Alliance for Property Owners, assailed the Environmental Tier boundaries and denigrated the consultant and environmental planners. Property owners in the Del Mar Mesa threatened legal action. Tom Steinke, newly departed from the City Attorney's office and representing Pardee, objected to the application of the facilities financing provision to existing PRD proposals. Bougainvillea's agent DiBenedetto put his stamp of approval on the Plan except for the condition that required his project to engage in subarea planning. Attorney Matt Peterson, also representing Bougainvillea, warned that the project would be destroyed or forced to leave town if not provided with relief from the subarea planning provisions.17 Burris stated that Potomac supported CAC modifications to the Framework Plan. And attorney Wolfsheimer, on behalf of Potomac, congratulated staff planners and the CAC for their wonderful job and suggested to the Deputy Mayor that it would not be necessary for Council to review the issues one by one, as per the Mayor's memo. Deputy Mayor Roberts took attorney Wolfsheimer's advice to heart and dispensed with the Mayor's recommendations for Council discussion of the Framework Plan, the EIR, or public comment. Instead, he distributed copies of a theretofore uncirculated and lengthy nine-part motion from Councilmember Behr, introducing changes to Planning Department proposals, specifically one that would grant an exemption to the Bougainvillea project. The City Attorney commented that the exemption stood on shaky legal ground. Nevertheless, Councilmember McCarty seconded the motion. Then chaos ensued. A riotous hearing. Council comment was an occasion for grandstanding. Councilmember McCarty challenged the role of RPO in the FUA. Councilmember Stevens made a pitch for fair housing standards. Councilmember Stallings questioned the lack of planning for transit. Councilmember Hartley made an abortive attempt at a substitute motion based on a 16
The principles Calavita referred to included planning for mass transit, transit-oriented developments, socially balanced communities, and a jobs-housing balance. 17
In a masterful contortion of logic, project attorneys had previously asserted that a pipeline provision for Bougainvillea would "result in the earliest possible implementation of the Framework Plan concepts into a specific subarea project which will provide a model for future development in the FUA" (P. & M. Peterson, letter to the Mayor and Council, October 21, 1991). In other words, the Framework Plan would be best implemented by exempting projects from its provisions.
memo previously distributed by Councilmember Wolfsheimer. Councilmembers McCarty and Roberts demanded an explanation for conflicting recommendations concerning degree and distribution of density. What if the Council favored the CAC density figures? Since the EIR was based on the consultant's plan, would additional environmental review be required that might impose more delays for developers? Councilmembers McCarty, Roberts, and Stevens used the occasion to heap opprobrium on the Planning Department and the planning process in general.18 City Manger McGrory responded with a tepid defense of staff planners while the new Planning Director remained mute. Council approved Behr's motion, including the exemption clause, prompting him to reassure all who were present that despite exemptions, "Nobody gets off the hook." Thus was concluded the first Council session on the FUA Framework Plan. The matter was to be brought back to Council two weeks later for reconfirmation, as required for all Council action regarding ordinances. When the Framework Plan returned for its second hearing, public testimony was closed. However, attorney Matt Peterson rose to speak on a point of order and embarked on a long defense of his client's project, the Bougainvillea. Tenaciously holding fast to the speaker's microphone, he let it be known that he disagreed with the City Attorney's interpretation of Councilmember Behr's motion regarding pipeline exemptions and advanced substitute phraseology. Attorney Wolfsheimer, impatient and eager to move the proceedings forward to his project, rose to the occasion and offered a better alternative: grant the project a pipeline exemption and, to take care of loose ends, add a provision for a development agreement. Finally satisfied, attorney Peterson returned to his seat. Thereupon, in mid-October 1992, the Framework Plan was formally adopted as an amendment to the General Plan, incorporating CAC recommendations for reduced development intensities. Subarea planning was to be immediately instituted and completed during the following year, after which the matter of a phase shift for the entire urban reserve would be brought before the voters. Although "Deputy Mayor Ron Roberts has praised the [FUA] plan as "the most well-planned open space of any community plan I've ever seen," a Sierra Club official pointed out that much of the open space took the form of golf courses (Fulton, 1992, p. 32).
In her enthusiastic haste to solidify a provision of Behr's motion for an exemption of the Bougainvillea project, Councilmember McCarty became thoroughly confounded and inadvertently cast the wrong vote. Perhaps she had read from the original docket motion when she thought she was reading from Behr's substitute motion or vice versa, it was hard to know. The resultant 4-3 vote meant that the item would be trailed until a reconstituted Council meeting. It caused pandemonium among lobbyists. The City Attorney offered to extricate Council from its conspicuously compromised posture by returning with a legally proper pipeline provision. Not content to leave it at that, up jumped attorney Matt Peterson calling for a point of order and requesting a clarification of the preceding vote; whereupon Councilmember McCarty mumbled that she had read the wrong page; whereupon attorney Peterson said, "We would ask for a revote on that item"; whereupon Deputy Mayor Roberts replied: "Sure, we can do that"; whereupon they did. The City Attorney remained silent, despite the fact that legal procedures for a revote had been violated. Instead, she offered the cryptic message that the pipeline exemption would affect only a particular subsection related to the needs of the subarea. Afterwards, Councilmember Stevens's sarcastic offstage comment, "This planning is really high tech stuff," elicited great mirth in the wings.
Barely a month after the Framework Plan was adopted, the city entered into a development agreement with the Black Mountain Ranch project. The project picked up where it had left off almost two years earlier, with little evidence to suggest that the Framework Plan had made a dent in its development plans. Unanimous Council approval of the Black Mountain Ranch development agreement was met with cheers from over 100 golfers as warm rounds of self-congratulations washed over the Mayor and Council. The Framework of the Adopted Framework Plan The FUA Framework Plan was fashioned along the lines of a conventional community plan. It envisioned an eventual population of nearly 38,500, to be housed in up to 14,780 dwelling units, 10,000 of which would be single family homes and 4,000 multi-family, with an average density of just over one dwelling unit per gross acre. The combined area projected for retail, office, and commercial uses was 2.4 million square feet. The resultant communities would exhibit "fine-grained character."19 The Environmental Tier was a central component of the Plan, with open space acquisition a pivotal variable -- the Plan provided a list of potential acquisition mechanisms. The Environmental Tier was divided into what were finally called "management zones": core habitat protection areas; biological buffer zones open to certain forms of recreational uses like hiking; and transition areas available for landscaping, hiking and horse trails. The Plan advanced a theoretical multimodal transportation system; most attention was paid to roads, streets, and highways. "Transit emphasis streets" were recognized in principle, but the siting of high density cores (quaintly referred to as urban villages) on the outer edges of the FUA eliminated realistic prospects of a viable transit system. The Framework Plan specified that Subarea Plans for each of five subareas were to be prepared and adopted prior to a phase shift. Subarea Plans were to include specific land use and public facilities locations, final open space boundaries, road alignments, a school facility financing plan, purchase agreements for public facilities sites and a facilities financing plan, a fiscal analysis of long term operational costs and revenues, and a discussion of the provision of 19
This was an oft-repeated planning phrase, for which a good definition was hard to obtain. The Framework Plan characterized fine grained land use as that which "strives for relatively small parcel and building sizes that create pedestrian interest and a diverse land use pattern" (Blayney, 1992e, p. 35).
low income housing. Specific instructions were provided for projects wishing to proceed before subarea planning was completed. The Framework Plan satisfied the "threshold determination" requirements of Council Policy 600-30, claiming that it (1) concentrated development and reduced urban sprawl, (2) provided unique public benefits through the establishment of the Environmental Tier, and (3) developed potentially needed land to accommodate growth. The Plan dictated that: a phase shift shall occur for the entire North City Future Urbanizing Area to the Planned Urbanizing designation. The City Council shall consider this phase shift and, after approving appropriate ballot language, place it on the ballot for voter approval in the Statewide Primary Election in June 1994. (Blayney, 1992e, p. 10)20 Once a phase shift occurred, growth management phasing would evaporate and no further timing or phasing constraints would be imposed. Market forces would determine what got built, where, and when. Remarks The city's FUA framework planning process, initiated in the final days of 1991, was another chapter in decades of planning exercises focused on San Diego's North City, another political public relations exercise to formalize and legitimate approval of preexisting development proposals and to hasten foregone intentions to open up the area for development. The Framework Plan took its place as the most current in a lineup of "innovative and visionary" planning documents, one that embodied diversity "of building types, public amenities, and people. The NCFUA should in its very essence be different, not just another new community" (Blayney, 1992e, pp. 2-3). That manifesto notwithstanding, the guiding principle had been described on the very first page of the document: "...severe congestion on the freeways during peak travel periods and a limited circulation network combine to restrict the intensity of NCFUA uses that can be well served" (p. 1). The dictates of peak rush hour traffic and the concerns of surrounding communities -- not of unique planning principles -- pointed the way. And hidden behind this structural vise lay the most potent determinant of all, the dictates of preexisting private development plans. The most striking aspect of the Framework Plan's land use proposals lay in their remarkable congruence with preexisting development plans. Subarea boundaries conformed to the contours of major landholdings. Black Mountain Ranch land use proposals were preserved fully intact. Pardee's Pacific Ranch project was granted its sought-after density quota. The Fairbanks Highlands project could go forth unruffled. The Bougainvillea project was imprinted on the landscape. Small property owners were provided with considerable leeway. And those who felt thwarted by the Plan were not 20
A subtle but important change regarding the public referendum had occurred between the June and September drafts of the Framework Plan. No mention of ballot date was made in the former, but the latter draft read: "Upon adoption of the Framework Plan, the City Council should approve a General Plan amendment...This amendment should then be brought to the voters for final action...in June 1994." In the final version, "should" was changed to "shall," and Council became the official agent to endorse and finance the ballot measure.
bound by inflexible conditions. The hired consultant, staff planners, CAC members -- they all participated in a time consuming ritual whose outcome was never in serious doubt. The Framework Plan that came before Council held little that had not been seen in the past or that was not already on the books.
CHAPTER VII THE AFTERMATH Introduction City Council adopted the Framework Plan for the FUA in October 1992. It was a turning point for the development industry, signifying not only the apparent cessation of uncertainty for property owners in the FUA but the end of San Diego's venture into the arena of growth management. Development phasing, citywide impact fees, and transportation management were measures whose time had come and gone. A slow-moving local economy, coupled with developer pressure, ushered in FUA planning and sent growth management packing. Subarea planning was initiated on the heels of Council approval of the Framework Plan, which also prescribed a June 1994 date for a phase shift referendum. The timing was tight: to meet CEQA requirements for adequate public review, Subarea Plans needed to be completed and their EIRs circulated by August 1993. Council would have to approve and adopt the plans before the end of the year to meet ballot deadlines.1 Chapter Seven describes the city's efforts to fulfill the Framework Plan guidelines concerning subarea planning in the FUA and analyzes the development industry's unsuccessful attempt to obtain a phase shift of the urban reserve in 1994. It describes the initiation of the subarea planning process following the adoption of the FUA Framework Plan. Each subarea was distinct and approached the planning endeavor differently. The chapter documents Planning Department dilemmas in trying to oversee the planning process and the eventual breakdown in the process. It presents an account of the alternative plan accepted by Council to bypass the provisions of the Framework Plan with a ballot measure prior to completion of the subarea planning process. The aggressive role played by the newly elected District 1 Councilmember in promoting the ballot route and the contributions of the reconvened CAC are chronicled. The chapter examines the ballot proposal, phase shift campaign, and finally the voters' decision to maintain the FUA designation. The Subarea Planning Process The Framework Plan stipulated that a "single, unified Subarea Plan is to be prepared and adopted for each of the subareas delineated on the Framework Plan Diagram prior to a phase shift" (Blayney, 1992e, p. 10). Property owners wishing to exercise their development rights in conformance with the baseline A-1-10 zoning could proceed at any time. Property owners wishing to exercise the A-1-4 option could proceed if they satisfied specified conditions concerning open space boundaries, public facilities siting and financing, and clustering. The 1
Council's dismissive attitude toward FUA planning was confirmed by inference. In the summer of 1993 Councilmember Roberts recommended a one-year moratorium on permits for "adult entertainment" businesses, accompanied by a one year study of the efficacy of existing ordinances controlling these businesses. The same Council authorized a one-year time frame for planning for the entire FUA; even less time was granted to accomplish detailed planning for designated subareas.
Framework Plan provided no further guidance concerning procedure or mechanisms for planning, nor had the Planning Department established a working strategy for the planning process. Subareas differed from one another in several aspects: ownership patterns ranged from few to many propertied interests; sizes varied widely; environmental constraints fell more heavily on some than others; the Framework Plan assigned different distributions of density and land use to each; and some had ready-made plans while others had none. Each was left to its own organizing, negotiating, and planning devices. The idea of subarea planning was a newly fabricated concept, to be improvised step by step. While similar to precise or specific planning, subarea planning involved wider parameters, variables, and requirements, with greater numbers of active participants and fewer codified guidelines than those encountered in customary planning exercises. Another ambiguous aspect of subarea planning was how the yet-to-be completed Subarea Plans would be presented to the public in anticipation of a phase shift vote. Presumably, subarea planning would sufficiently resolve regional issues concerning the provision and financing of roads and other public infrastructure, along with density projections and an open space system, to enlist public support for a phase shift. The Subareas The Framework Plan delineated five geographic subareas. Subarea I covered nearly 5,200 acres and was dominated by the Black Mountain Ranch property; some small independent properties lay in the eastern extension. To accommodate the separate phases proposed by the Potomac plan, the Subarea was divided in two: section IA was characterized by low density development and golf courses; section IB was to be the site of relatively dense commercial and residential development requiring a phase shift. It's northern border was adjacent to the county's 4-S Ranch project, which was slated for an extensive planning process of its own. The Framework Plan specified that the Subarea Plan for IB should not be approved until the county completed 4-S Ranch planning. However, it gave the county 18 months from the October 1992 Framework Plan adoption date to complete the task, a condition out of step with county deadlines.2 Subarea II was like a country cousin. At 830 acres, it was the smallest and one of the more environmentally constrained of the subareas. It occupied a distant western outcropping of the FUA, adjacent to the I-5 freeway and within the River Park focused planning area. The Plan allotted very low intensity residential and recreational commercial uses to this subarea. The major property owner was the San Dieguito Partnership, which had submitted plans to the
The Framework Plan paid lip service to the necessity for coordinated city-county planning for an area proposed as a major commercial and job center, certain to generate serious traffic congestion in the region. A county planner had attended most FUA task force and CAC meetings from 1991-1992. Despite calls for comprehensive planning with a regional perspective, the comments and concerns of the county planner were met with polite disinterest.
city for a high density development and, along with the subarea's other property owners, vigorously resisted the restrictions of the Framework Plan. Subarea III, the second largest of the five, contained over 2,600 acres. Most of subarea was owned by the Pardee Development Company, which had plans for a major "compact" development called Pacific Ranch. The CAC had reapportioned an additional 1,000 dwelling units to this area, over and above the consultant's recommended number. Land slated for the SR-56 freeway connector, one of the driving forces behind the planning process, was controlled by Pardee. An existing subdivision with prior approvals also lay in this subarea.3 Subarea IV was planned for diverse uses. Its geographic location adjacent to the developed suburb of Rancho Penasquitos was both an asset and a liability. The 37 property owners in this 1,330 acre subarea pressed for high intensity uses, citing proximity to the anticipated SR-56 and to already developed areas on the eastern boundaries. The residents of Rancho Penasquitos, on the other hand, pressed mightily for low intensity uses at their borders. The subarea was also the city's chosen site for a municipal operations station. Subarea V was problematic for different reasons. Over 70% of its 2,290 acres was identified as highly environmentally constrained and was slated in the Framework Plan for an open space designation with very low density development. Generally, lands with high development potential were acquired by major developers in large increments; the limited developability of Subarea V was reflected in its segmentation into at least 50 small scale land holdings. Because the Framework Plan offered no serviceable mechanisms for Environmental Tier land acquisition, these property owners were stymied in their subarea planning efforts. A significant portion of the Bougainvillea project lay in this subarea. The Process Falters Subareas I, III, and IV hired planning consultants to draw up Subarea Plans. I and II were entirely controlled by the major developers, Potomac and Pardee. Planning for IV entailed a more democratic (and therefore more chaotic) planning approach as its consultant attempted to balance a wide range of development interests and capabilities. Planning for Subarea V was to be undertaken by the Planning Department, but cutbacks in planning staff and discord among subarea property owners soon dismantled the planning effort. And from the start, Subarea II appeared unwilling to hire a consultant or initiate a subarea planning process. A few consultants approached Council offices with honest intent, seeking answers to procedural questions. Could they use higher Framework Plan densities or the reduced CAC densities approved by Council? How fixed were Framework Plan land use designations? Exactly what did Council have in mind concerning Subarea Plans? Others visited Council offices with more political agendas. In its bid to hasten the planning process and bypass staff criticism of Pacific Ranch, Pardee lobbyists conducted an ongoing campaign to discredit the Planning 3
The Rancho Glens Estates subdivision was a text book example of leap frog development. Several units of an uncompleted PRD sat in surreal isolation down an unpaved road in otherwise undeveloped FUA terrain.
Department, pressuring Councilmembers to reconstitute the CAC to oversee subarea planning activities, particularly environmental review, and approaching the Planning Director and the City Manager with complaints about staff inability to adhere to a tight schedule (even though private consultants were most often responsible for delays). Staff planners opposed the idea of yet another CAC, observing that citizens' groups drained time and energy from the Planning Department and slowed down the process. They were pessimistic about meeting the June 1994 ballot deadline and suggested that a November ballot date would be more realistic. Draft Subarea Plans from I, III, and IV trickled in throughout spring, 1993. Each of them called for greater densities than those assigned in the Framework Plan. At the end of the previous year, Council had rushed into approving a development agreement with the Black Mountain Ranch, but by May 1993 Potomac had not yet signed the agreement. Internecine activity (signified by a rift between lobbyist Burris and new project directors) was manifested by proposals for project modifications, like the addition of a community college and increased residential density of approximately 5,000 units. The revised Potomac plan proposed to shift residential units from its southern region, northward, and to shift almost all commercial uses out of its northern sector and across the county line, even though the county warned that planning for the 4-S Ranch was still incomplete and that the county might not choose to absorb additional commercial uses. And in Subarea IV, despite protests by their own hired consultant, many property owners pressed for additional densities and, to placate residents of neighboring Rancho Penasquitos, a municipal golf course. Such density changes required new computer runs of traffic models, adding time and expense to the planning process and resulted in new environmental impacts, triggering further environmental review. Such lengthening of the subarea planning schedule jeopardized meeting the January 1994 deadline to docket an initiative for the June ballot.4 Subarea planning also required the development of a public facilities financing plan. A private consultant, former city bureaucrat John Leppert, was hired and paid by the Alliance of Property Owners -- which had taken an aggressive role in FUA planning. An interim development impact fee schedule was created to assess development activity initiated prior to a phase shift. But FUA property owners balked at paying into an interim financing proposal, since a phase shift and full build-out might not occur for an indeterminate period and early payers might forfeit their contributions. Starting in June 1993, the Planning Commission conducted subarea planning workshops for Subareas I, II, and IV. The Planning Commission at this time consisted of three old-time members who were somewhat familiar with the project, another member who was barely knowledgeable, and three brand new appointees with no previous exposure to planning for the NCFUA. Much of the presentation, therefore, fell on virgin ears. Week after week, planners and consultants diligently educated the new Commissioners about FUA history and Subarea 4
Adding to the behind-the-scenes chaos, the City Manager had recently restructured the Planning Department by shifting long range planners into permit processing slots and plucking two of the most active and knowledgeable environmental planners away from their work on the new General Plan Resource Management Element, leaving that project in the lurch. It was an especially suspect decision in the midst of Environmental Tier planning in the FUA.
Plans. Although it conducted its weekly tasks with diligence and became experts on FUA planning, in the end the Planning Commission passively witnessed its carefully wrought recommendations summarily disregarded by the City Council.5 The Process Degenerates As autumn 1993 advanced, it became evident that Subarea Plans would not be completed in time to meet the ballot deadline. Some developers (particularly Pardee/Subarea III) blamed the Planning Department for inefficiency. But development consultants were faced with disarray among competitive property owners, as well as with contention over environmental and other complex planning issues not resolvable in an unrealistically short period of time. This was the dilemma: in the waning days of framework planning, under pressure from developers, June 1994 was set as the date for a phase shift vote. But completion and approval of Subarea Plans was a central tenet of the Framework Plan. Practical realities made these two conditions mutually exclusive. Which condition would prevail? Rather than postponing the ballot process until the completion of the subarea planning process, FUA developers and property owners pressured Council to place a phase shift initiative on the June 1994 ballot. Should the voting public reject a phase shift of the entire FUA in June, they reasoned, they would have another opportunity just a few months later to place individual Subarea Plans or projects on the November ballot. Although staff planners claimed that Subarea Plans could be ready for a November ballot deadline, a newly modified Council bowed to development pressure and amended the Framework Plan to delete requirements for completion of the subarea planning process prior to a public vote.6 The new District 1 Councilmember was the business partner of an active lobbyist for FUA property owners and threw his full weight behind the proposal. The new District 5 Councilmember had promised her constituents that she would make the completion of SR-56 through the FUA a top priority, and a phase shift would expedite matters. Under intense pressure from politicians as well as developers, the Planning Department reversed its formerly steadfast position and officially endorsed the proposed amendment to the Framework Plan to sidestep subarea planning. Planners were directed to steer an election ordinance through the Council Rules committee and shepherd a General Plan amendment through the Planning Commission and Council.
Council rarely heeded strong recommendations from Planning Commissioners, particularly those that diverged from Council predilections. On the other hand individual Commissioners, particularly those who chaired the Planning Commission, often used their positions to cultivate considerable influence during and following their tenure. 6
Council resumed in January 1993 with a decidedly pro-growth majority. Its newest members were Harry Mathis, District 1; Chris Kehoe, District 3; and Barbara Warden, District 5. Ongoing members were Ron Roberts, District 2; George Stevens, District 4; Valerie Stallings, District 6; Judy McCarty, District 7; Juan Vargas, District 8; and Mayor Susan Golding.
Developers Prefer CACs The creation of multiple concurrent CACs produced a complicated wave pattern that buoyed up FUA development interests. One was the SR-56 CAC, established in May 1993 to speed up the completion of a long awaited east-west freeway connector.7 Neighboring communities along the I-15 corridor pressed for the accelerated development of the FUA as a means of clearing away environmental, financial, and zoning hurdles to SR-56. Developers allied themselves with frustrated communities to increase pressure for a FUA phase shift. Yet another advisory group was convened to join the planning fray. After long months of developer pressure, the Framework Plan CAC was resuscitated, called back into service to reinforce developers' efforts to override subarea planning, a process the CAC had earlier championed. Direction to reconstitute the CAC came from the Mayor's office weeks before the decision was publicly brought to Council for official and public approval.8 It would be politically useful to have the CAC that had legitimized the Framework Plan now consent to amend it. The Developer Roundtable Local press coverage of the FUA saga was methodical but superficial. A pre-election day newspaper article regarding the upcoming FUA vote explained simply that "the council ultimately agreed to make an exception to its own rules and put the matter before the voters, but only after landowners, community activists and environmentalists met in numerous sessions to fashion what was billed as compromise ballot language" (Weisberg, 1994a, p. B-8). The mechanisms and machinations that underlay the Council decision to amend the Framework Plan and General Plan and proceed with the ballot process were barely hinted at, and the role played by the new District 1 Councilmember was entirely glossed over. In fact, Councilmember Harry Mathis chose to play an unusually active role in steering FUA development activity.9 While the winter holidays afforded respite to most city employees, 7
CAC members for this task force were drawn from a familiar list of FUA development interests -Alliance of Property Owners' Stephen Coury, Pardee's Randi Coopersmith, Newland's Jim Whelan, and Peterson attorney Lyn Heidel, plus community representatives from neighboring Rancho Penasquitos and Carmel Valley. 8
Such covert agreements in advance of public hearings were generally perceived to be in violation of the state Brown Act. But it was not in the self-interest of the development industry nor of members of the reconvened CAC to raise legal objections to such political practices regarding the FUA. On the other hand, so intense was the pressure on the Planning Department from the new District 1 Councilmember and Mayor that some planners sought relief via the City Attorney, who advised the offending parties to moderate their efforts (Staff planner, personal communication, 1993). 9
Councilmember Mathis appeared to be acting on behalf of the business interests of his erstwhile partner Stephen Coury and the Alliance of Property Owners. Mathis had hired a former District 5 council aide, who had traded his city position in the waning days of Councilmember Behr's term barely six months earlier for a job with the Stoorza public relations/lobbying firm, where he lobbied for the Pardee project in the FUA. Now back on the city payroll, the aide continued to advance FUA development interests. A self-styled mediator, Mathis was intent on assuring his fellow Councilmembers that he had all
the weeks following his December 1993 installation as Councilmember were filled with frenetic behind-the-scenes activity -- meetings between the City Manager and Pardee and Potomac lobbyists, meetings between the Councilmember and FUA property owners, meetings between Mathis and managed growth activists, and meetings of individuals organizing in opposition to Council plans for a June ballot initiative. Declaring his intention to bring peace into the valley, Councilmember Mathis opened his previously organized "developer roundtable" to community groups during the first week of January 1994. His goal was not to change the intent of the ballot initiative but to make it more palatable to its critics. "If there are people here," he declared at the outset of the meeting "who don't believe there will be development in the FUA, they had better leave now" (meeting participant, personal communication, January 6, 1994). His advice was thoroughly pragmatic. Take what you can get now, he counseled community members. And to property owners he said, resolve the details of the ballot proposal among yourselves and leave as few decisions as possible to Council or the public at large.10 Council Takes its Place at the Table The new year opened with Council consideration of a proposal to initiate an amendment to the FUA Framework Plan and General Plan to eliminate the requirement for subarea planning prior to a phase shift vote. A predictable lineup of speakers testified at the hearing, both in support and in opposition to the question. Nick DeLorenzo, former chair of the FUA CAC, asserted that subarea planning had been a compromise position taken by the committee, never a serious instruction, and that the public should be permitted to decide if it wanted subarea planning. Councilmembers displayed their usual feathers. Councilmember McCarty declared it contentious FUA factions well under control and that he could maneuver all parties into a civilized and cooperative agreement that would forestall embarrassing public showdowns by irate constituents or environmentalists. 10
Hand-picked participants at Councilmember Mathis's meeting included planning staff, a couple of growth management advocates, neighboring community representatives, FUA property owners, and lobbyists for the Alliance for Property Owners, Black Mountain Ranch, and Pardee. The positions taken by participants at this meeting forecast events to come. The outgoing chair of the Carmel Valley planning association announced that he didn't care about any FUA issues except for traffic impacts on his community. Political consultant Bobby Glaser, once instrumental in putting the Managed Growth Initiative on the 1985 ballot, now allied himself with Councilmember Mathis's political tenure and development inclinations. Similarly, Mike Kelly, erstwhile advocate for environmental issues in the North City, appeared convinced that a compromise strategy held the best promise for the Environmental Tier. Attorney Wolfsheimer insisted that the June 1994 ballot date was required by the Framework Plan; he neglected to cite the equally compelling requirement for Subarea Plans. And Lance Burris "confidentially" advised Carmel Valley to trust the District 1 Councilmember, claiming that Mathis would not risk his political career by giving away too much to developers. (Privately, Burris had strongly opposed the June target date and tried to dissuade Mathis from pursuing this course. He argued that a November ballot date would give developers needed leeway to win community support for a phase shift while subarea planning proceeded [L.Burris, personal communication, November 22, 1995]). Apparently, in this matter, Coury carried a bigger stick. Environmentalists attending this meeting were in a predicament: their participation would be construed as endorsement; non-participation would be called intransigence and obstructionism.
was time to build out the FUA and not the urbanized communities. "It's just as well not to have subareas plans," she opined, since "planning locks in uses and we need flexibility." Other Councilmembers took a guardedly neutral stand, attempting to provoke neither developers nor the public. "Let democracy work," strutted Councilmember Vargas, "let the people decide." Councilmember Mathis, asserting that the ballot language would be the key to success, and assuring his fellow decisionmakers that his roundtable group would reach consensus on protective ballot language, moved to approve the initiation process. With no opposition, apart from a mild demurral by the Mayor ("The integrity of the [framework planning] process is important and is being questioned by this action"), the motion passed. The city would cover the cost of a ballot initiative and spare the development industry the expense. In addition, the CAC would be officially reconvened to "help or advise in the process of review leading to the City Council's action." Composing the Ballot Initiative A coterie of FUA developers and lobbyists set about creating a General Plan amendment for the June 1994 ballot to rescind public control over the phasing of development in the FUA. The impetus for initiating the amendment came from Stephen Coury and was transmitted to newly elected Councilmember Mathis.11 The justification for the amendment proposal, explained Coury to the reconstituted CAC at its first meeting in January 1994, was based on "financial exigencies." Subarea planning had bogged down. Small and major property owners were severely burdened by planning and carrying costs. Certainty of development would induce lenders to provide additional loans to developers, and the planning process could resume. CAC members were unclear about their role. Should they question Council's ballot decision? Should they edit the ballot proposal? Should they fiddle with shortcomings, omissions, and inconsistencies in the Framework Plan? Or should they limit themselves to the legitimizing activity of approving the amendment process? "Are we willing to settle for Subarea Plans later on or should we risk losing the open space system?" CAC members were asked by Scarborough.12 Nonstop for two months, developers and their lawyers labored over the task of creating suitable ballot language, flexible enough to suit developers and sufficiently protective of public interests to mollify environmentalists and managed growth proponents. The attempt to reduce the formal framework planning process to a ballot statement revealed an underlying contempt 11
Not surprisingly, the initial draft was written by attorney Wolfsheimer who, shortly before New Year's Eve, had submitted his version of desirable initiative language to both Councilmember Mathis and the City Manager. 12
Oddly, no CAC member objected outright to Council's decision to initiate a Framework Plan amendment on behalf of developers or to discard a major provision of the Framework Plan. No one repudiated DeLorenzo's Council comments. And Scarborough, now staff aide to the Mayor, had loyalties more divided than ever. Equally oddly, CAC members failed to comment on the implications of Coury's "certainty of development" argument, an unquestioned assumption that a phase shift would provide developers with an automatic elevation of property values.
for the planning process on the part of politicians as well as developers.13 While the Framework Plan was a synthesis of planning principles, policy, and data, the creation of ballot language was an exercise in political negotiation: if developers relented on point A, would environmentalists give way on point B? In a carefully choreographed strategy, a standard called "level of comfort" gradually replaced the planning criterion called "level of service." Eventually, even reluctant players were drawn into the game -- affordable housing advocates, community leaders, environmentalists, planners -- all trying to protect their own pet pieces of the Framework Plan. Ballot Box Planning...It's Back At the end of February, FUA ballot language was submitted to the CAC for comment. It was a densely worded declaration made up of 10 "whereas" clauses and 15 sections,14 including a "residential density limits" clause that specified considerably more development than permitted by the Framework Plan and a "severability" clause designed to guarantee the security of the phase shift whether or not other sections of the proposal should fall by the legal wayside. The vote to endorse the proposed initiative split the CAC down the middle. A week later, the matter came before Council. Planning Department objections were overridden by a City Manager report supporting the ballot proposal.15 Councilmember Mathis, assuming the role of broker, made a strong plea on behalf of the initiative, claiming that its specific prescriptions and guarantees served the public interest better than subarea planning could, and legitimizing the procedure by emphasizing the cooperation and compromise that went into the effort. It took an additional week of wrangling and last minute modifications before Council voted to accept the proposed ballot language for the upcoming June docket. The Mayor held out, saying she agreed in principle that "the people" had the right to vote on a 13
At a roundtable meeting, Potomac lobbyist Allen Haynie declared: "The Framework Plan is interesting, but it's history." Councilmember Mathis confirmed the observation with his instructions to the group: "We have to look at what's affordable to developers." Fifteen developers excused themselves and stepped outside the meeting room for a powwow over density issues, provision of affordable housing, and other thorny planning questions, leaving behind a knot of environmentalists and community representatives to twiddle their thumbs. Planning policy was being determined outside in the hallway (Mathis roundtable meeting, February 2, 1994). 14
The document penned by attorney Wolfsheimer two months earlier had been subjected to interminable wrangling and had undergone 9 revisions. Nevertheless, the final version was true to its initial identity, form, and thrust. 15
Planners were caught in an unenviable position, vulnerable on all sides: "We get hammered by developers and rejected by the opposition; it's a thankless position" (FUA planner, personal communication, February 24, 1992). They were also under intense pressure from their superiors to support the development proposal. Who was telling them what to do? "Jack McGrory--he's very political" (FUA planner, personal communication, January 18, 1994). Dave Nielsen, lobbyist for the Alliance of Property Owners (and chief of staff for Mayor Hedgecock during the waning days of his tenure) was reportedly "very angry" with planners for their stand on ballot language environmental standards. "How could Jack [McGrory] allow this?" he fumed at the close of a CAC meeting (February 21, 1994).
phase shift, but questioned planning by ballot. In addition, she was "uncomfortable with some of the ballot language." Developers were vexed by the Mayor's recalcitrance, but very pleased with the substantial majority vote. For Every Action Within days of Council's decision to initiate the process for a FUA phase shift proposal on the June 1994 ballot, a steering committee was organized to oppose the ballot measure (Proposition C). The committee was composed of people long experienced in campaign battles: members of the Sierra Club and League of Women Voters; proponents of the 1985 Proposition A, San Diegans for Managed Growth; slow growth constituents from Carmel Valley and Rancho Penasquitos; activists for the River Park; and a C-3 representative. The development industry reiterated a consistent theme throughout the campaign: the initiative was the product of a cooperative effort between environmentalists and developers to preserve the environment and provide jobs and economic development. Their list of supporters included community planning groups, the taxpayers association, the AIA, the association of realtors, business and community leaders, and 10 former Planning Commissioners. The ballot argument in favor of the initiative read: "Proposition C is our best chance to guarantee MANAGED GROWTH in the North City Future Urbanizing Area...STOP UNPLANNED DEVELOPMENT IN THE North City." The argument in opposition said: "Don't sign a blank check...Landowners in the 12,000 acre Future Urbanizing Area prepared this measure. They're asking YOU to give up control of when and how development will proceed." In June 1994 Proposition C was defeated at the polls with 54% of the voters voting no. Supporters had raised over $2 million for their campaign to convince the public that it was time to release the FUA for development. Opponents had raised barely $30,000. The measure received voter approval in communities along the I-15 corridor -- Rancho Penasquitos, Mira Mesa, Carmel Mountain Ranch, and Sabre Springs -- longing for the completion of SR-56. The northern community of Rancho Bernardo was the exception; development in the FUA was predicted to exacerbate rather than relieve its traffic problems. The measure was actively opposed in other North City precincts, such as Carmel Valley and Del Mar Heights. What turned the tables? The developers' Yes campaign had evoked positive images of harmony, cooperation, and compromise. The opponents' No campaign had capitalized on the powerful impulse of distrust. The Yes campaign stressed cooperative planning. The No campaign promised public control of land use decision-making. Certainly, extensive media coverage sympathetic to the opposition proved invaluable. While the city's major newspaper came out, not unexpectedly, in support the development proposal: "The 1994 vote on the urban reserve is not on whether or not the region will be developed. It's only on whether to remove the `future urbanizing' designation from the land" ("A plan," 1992, p. B-4), the battle received extensive and sympathetic attention from its staff columnists. And local community newspapers published editorials in opposition to Proposition C, reinforcing editorial opposition by local radio and television stations. Once again, voters seemed to have acted on a practical imperative: When in doubt, don't. Almost 10 years after Proposition A placed control of FUA development in the hands of the public, voters reconfirmed their intention to keep it there.
Remarks The Council that convened in the final month of 1993 woud prove to be a compatible group that rallied behind the Mayor in shared enthusiasm to make life in San Diego more congenial for business and development interests. In their inaugural speeches, the new Councilmembers made their positions clear. San Diego isn't a small town any more, declared Councilmember Mathis, and one should not be nostalgic for old times. And Councilmember Warden stated that it was time to build SR-56 to relieve traffic congestion on the I-5 and I-15 corridors (December 6, 1993). New Councilmembers were immediately put to the test as they positioned themselves on the well worn road of North City planning. The FUA Framework Plan process called for Council review and approval of Subarea Plans to clear the way for a phase shift. But the decision makers were not eager to resurrect confrontational planning debates. It was easier to avoid making difficult decisions. "Let the people decide," became Council's escape hatch. FUA developers were equally enthusiastic over recourse to a ballot decision. Subarea planning put too vivid a face on the consequences of development, especially at the increased densities being proposed by property owners. A phase shift would immediately send property values soaring, even before a spade of earth was turned.16 It was time to shrug off the oppressive yoke of Proposition A and memories of growth management. Pardee's Madigan had no doubts: "It's time to move forward" (Planning Commission hearing, November 2, 1994). Harkening to developers' advice that the "public good" would be better protected at the ballot box than by more planning (A. Haynie, personal communication, February 20, 1994), Council agreed to put aside Framework Plan instructions prescribing an orderly planning process and substitute the politically expedient alternative of ballot box planning. But at the ballot box, voters turned away from the developer's siren call and announced their blanket distrust of both the political and planning processes by once again rebuffing North City developers. But the growth machine, although not an infallible monolith, was a well-oiled behemoth. Its strength lay in its staying power. The story of FUA development was not over. In order to better understand the dynamics of past planning history, the constraints and controls that operated in the FUA planning process, and the likely outcome of the FUA, the underpinnings of the decision-making process must be explored. Part Four will analyze the 16
In 1991 a school site was located in the area to become Subarea IV and the acquisition price was set. Two years later, once framework planning was initiated, the property owner went to court to demand increased payment from the school district, claiming increased value captured by the planning process. The court ruled in favor of the property owner. An appeal by the school district was promptly initiated.
institutional web that distorts and also legitimizes political and planning processes in San Diego and will illustrate how it held captive the planning history that has just been related. 1
PART FOUR THE INSTITUTIONAL WEB ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------INTRODUCTION For over two decades, developers devoted to the business of growth had their gaze intently fixed on the North City. In response, the city engaged in numerous planning exercises and developed goals, plans, principles, and policies to guide the area's future development. Yet, the city's efforts to control development activities in the North City were repeatedly subverted. Was there a conspiracy to sabotage city planning? The answer is no. And then again yes. Embedded in the day-to-day functioning of city government were standard operating practices and procedures -- officially sanctioned bureaucratic and legal icons -- that effectively undermined planning and policy implementation in the North City. Each one ostensibly advanced the goal of planning in the public interest. On the flip side of each, however, was a subtle stamp of validation for the objectives of a private beneficiary, the growth and development industry. Taken separately, these practices had limited utility. But collectively, they formed a sturdy web of public and political legitimation for the ambitions of the city's land developers, a web reinforced by an overarching framework -the nature and form of city government. Government structure determined the lines of command, implementing procedures, streams of information, and state of the Planning Department. Like an invisible skeleton, the form of city government escaped critical comment, even as it supported the protracted subversion of North City planning. Similarly, the institution of lobbying was so thoroughly integrated into daily political affairs that, although remarked upon, it eluded critical evaluation. Political decisionmakers may have had few friends at their side, but they were perpetually surrounded by private and public special interest petitioners. Through carefully cultivated maneuvers, the development industry gained access to the inner circles of power. There, they engaged in the micropolitics of planning and exercised inordinate control over land use policy in general, and in the North City in particular. These institutionalized categories of legitimizing operations -- ordinary policymaking mechanisms, city government form, and lobbying -- formed the knotted web that encased and shaped planning efforts for the North City and FUA, trapping and coercing the Planning Department in the process. The following chapters will identify in greater detail the components of this web. They will examine ongoing practices determining city land use policymaking and attempt to put the North City/FUA planning process into a larger perspective.
CHAPTER VIII THE CHIMERA OF PUBLIC PARTICIPATION Introduction Political support for planning proposals was a necessary but not sufficient condition to bring about action. The public also had to accept the proposals in question. If elected officials wished to avoid conflict with the public, constituents had to be reassured that political decisions were being made on their behalf and with their consent. When the city embarked on a major project, it engaged in a number of activities to gain public support for -- or reduce public resistance to -- its intended actions. Implicit in these activities was the assurance that the public was a partner in policy-making. A full range of institutional practices was available to meet this purpose; none had been created for application solely to North City issues. The activity that enlisted the credentials of an expert, a professional, a community group, or a specialized agency, or partook of legal or democratic practices for the purpose of selling the public on a particular idea or program could be classified as legitimation. If the sales job was successful, public approval fed back into the system and further legitimized the item in play. Legitimation provided a mark of excellence, a seal of approval, the prince's kiss that facilitated fulfillment of somebody's heart's desire. Legitimation was not, intrinsically, a dirty word but rather an undiscriminating one. A tool in the political storehouse, it effectively merchandised all kinds of activities. Legitimizing techniques were useful in moving policies of significant worthiness as well as others of doubtful public benefit through the public process under a protective cloak of respectability. They were useful to soothe public passions and reduce opposition to pending political positions. Public approval was the desired end, legitimation the means, and the growth industry the usual heir. This chapter will explore several policy-making and legitimizing vehicles routinely employed that advanced the notion of participatory planning and public involvement in the city's planning and development activities. Most of these mechanisms have already been encountered in the long history of North City planning. The role and pervasiveness of citizens advisory groups will be discussed. The chapter describes other grass roots planning ventures, like the use of the ballot initiative and community planning. It examines the city's decisions to streamline the regulatory process and other management procedures in the context of legitimation. Finally, the chapter critiques the structure of San Diego's city government in the light of "the public interest." CACs and Task Forces The plethora of CACs and task forces created over the past 20 years functioned like a series of echo chambers in which the growth and development industry could turn up the volume on its own agenda.1 Although popularly viewed as functional players in a system of 1
Community advisory groups were an apparent holdover from federal programs of the late 1960s, which mandated, as a condition of federal funding and with hopes of subduing urban upheaval, that local
political checks and balances, CACs served either to embrace and enhance the positions held by participating developers or to solidify and validate political positions that were yet to become public -- nearly identical alternatives. It was rare (although not impossible: see Calavita & Grimes, 1992) for new ideas or publicly oriented proposals to emerge from an advisory committee process. From the inception of an advisory committee to its final flourishes, the following pattern almost invariably prevailed: membership consisted of a core group of developers, with spots reserved for a community representative and an environmentalist. For example, of 39 members of the city's 1991 Economic Development Task Force, perhaps two represented interests other than those of the business and development industry. Staff backup typically consisted of a planner acting as scribe, a city manager acting as an information conduit, and a reticent city attorney. Scant hard data was available to participants. Task force members maintained a polite veneer and quietly ostracized dissenting hard-liners. The final committee report consisted of lofty goals and pro-development recommendations, laced with gestures of compromise. Minority reports were disregarded. The ritual concluded at Council hearings, where developers attacked the compromises as onerous and destructive to the city's economic interests and Council further reduced developer constraints in the name of fairness and the economy. This pattern could be tracked through all growth management and North City planning efforts, from Mayor Wilson's 1976 citizen oversight committee to monitor and advise policy makers on fledgling growth management proposals, to Mayor Hedgecock's 1984 blue ribbon task force to review and evaluate the 1979 growth management General Plan amendment, to Mayor O'Connor's 1987 CAC for Growth and Development charged with another reevaluation of the city's growth management program, and to new FUA advisory groups in the 1990s charged with studying and validating future development in the North City. CACs were also used by the city as escape valves. In 1993, bowing to community insistence, the city created a CAC to consider hotly debated questions concerning the construction of SR-56, a proposed east-west freeway connector crossing the FUA. CAC community members viewed the assignment as an opportunity to shape city policy. City staff assigned to the project took the position that the CAC was a "vehicle" to keep communities informed of planning progress and give them an opportunity to transmit public concerns to the city. As meetings dragged on, city engineers privately acknowledged that they were using a reliable bureaucratic technique: they permitted the CAC to meet to its heart's content because, strung out long enough, it would eventually either peter out or reach consensus not far removed from the officially preferred direction (staff engineer, personal communication, May, 1993). projects engage in participatory planning. A new breed of "advocacy" planners seized upon participatory democracy not only as a desirable but as a necessary remedy. Davidoff (1965) contended that the process of public participation was as important as the product, and perhaps more important, since democratic participation in the planning process would enhance the outcome. This reformist genesis notwithstanding, in the following decades the concept of participatory democracy was artfully co-opted by the special interests whose control over the planning process had been targeted for neutralization.
In a similar vein, in 1992 Council established the Community Planners Advisory Committee on Transportation (COMPACT) to advise the city on local roads, streets, and related budget priorities. Composed of representatives from planning groups throughout the city, COMPACT was challenged by developers, who felt that ordinary citizens ought not to be trespassing into territory like "street improvement evaluation" and other "highly technical matters" best reserved for experts (S.I. Berg/McGrath Development, letter to Council, June 23, 1993). As an alternative to terminating the group's efforts, the city recommended enlarging the committee to include more developers and business people. A complex example of advisory group and growth machine dynamics was played out by the 1991 Inclusionary Housing Task Force, created by the city's Housing Commission to work in tandem with an independent consultant to recommend: an appropriate inclusionary housing program for the City which would set standards for the availability of affordable home ownership opportunities and rental housing in all new residential development, and a series of regulatory reforms that would empower the developer to meet these affordability standards. (San Diego Housing Commission, 1992, p. 1) In order to make inclusionary housing palatable to the development industry, task force housing advocates acquiesced to a program that decreased development costs by relaxing community regulations and building standards. They were also unwittingly coerced into viewing the wary public as their nemesis -- "The NIMBYs2 will be out in force for [the decisive Council hearing]" (Nonprofit Federation for Housing and Community Development newsletter, November 1992). The final task force report submitted to Council was a compromised program, bled even further as the building industry -- which had participated in task force negotiations -- claimed that proposed financial tradeoffs were insufficient. In the end, developers who had participated in the process persuaded Council to reject their own committee report. Planning Fads and Trends Every few years new planning concepts appeared on the scene as panaceas to remedy the city's ills. Most resembled ideas that were already described in past planning reports and the General Plan. Nevertheless, the city hired consultants, appointed CACs, held public workshops and hearings, and adopted new city policy in a ritual that legitimized the development industry agenda. In 1990 the city hired Peter Calthorpe to work with city staff on a program to guide future development in San Diego.3 "The Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) concept," he 2
NIMBY is a pejorative acronym applied to neighborhoods and communities whenever they engage in activities to control and sustain their surroundings by rejecting proposals and land uses they hold inimical to their wellbeing. It stands for Not In My Back Yard. 3
Under pressure of the California Clean Air Act of 1988, San Diego was forced to develop a strategy to reduce smog, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide by 1991 and meet federal and state clean air standards by 1997 (City of San Diego Planning, 1990d). The lone survivor of the 1990 growth
explained, "is a mechanism to encourage non-automobile travel, provide a model of efficient land utilization, serve the needs of future household demographics, and create identifiable and livable communities" (Calthorpe, 1991, p. 2). The CAC was chaired by Stephen Silverman of Rick Engineering and included in its ranks Jim Whalen of the Newland development company. Activity focused on developer incentives -- density bonuses, expedited processing, reduced parking requirements, lower development fees, modified environmental requirements -- to encourage participation in the development of TODs. (A converse alternative, to encourage compact urban development by making development in outlying areas more expensive and difficult, was never promoted.) Developers, "battle-weary from the struggle with environmental regulation" used the opportunity to their advantage: "I cannot guarantee that builders will take the City up on TODs but I can assure you that you will not see TODs proposed if the City doesn't do something meaningful to speed and simplify the environmental review process" (J. Whalen, public testimony, July 15, 1992). Implementation of the program took a back seat to regulatory relief for developers.4
Grass Roots Planning Public action to seek redress through the ballot initiative process5 can rightfully be characterized as an affirmation of fundamental democratic principles. Over the past two decades, San Diego citizens resorted or threatened to resort to the ballot box on several occasions in response to perceived betrayal by politicians over matters of growth management. But developers, too, turned to the ballot box with both proactive and reactive planning propositions (see Caves, 1990), often vitiating the public control afforded by this exercise in direct democracy and demonstrating that "in the real world of electoral politics, passing initiatives has become a game only for those few people or corporations with enough passion or management deliberations was a traffic related strategy called the "mobility program," run by the city's engineering department. It was made up of three components -- a transit management program dealing with public transportation, a transportation systems management program dealing with improvements to streets and highways, and a transportation demand management program dealing with changes in travel behavior and land development practices to reduce auto use. This last component spawned another program called land guidance, which in turn engendered the implementing TOD project. The Planning Department juggled these programs alongside other efforts to produce a unified urban planning agenda, such as COMPACT and the Partnership for San Diego. The proliferation of reports reaching Council offices offered much in the way of disaggregated detail and little in the way of analysis, synthesis, and results. 4
For example, in planning for the FUA, major developers used the TOD concept as an umbrella of legitimacy to advance their projects. Their actual plans envisioned low density, dispersed communities, and complete automobile dependency, offering "pedestrian oriented development" (POD), instead. 5
State law granted California citizens the right to challenge any Council approved legislation, including General Plan amendments and zoning regulations, through the initiative route. Non-legislative processes are not subject to the initiative process. Ministerial decisions may be the subject of a lawsuit but cannot be challenged via the ballot (Fulton, 1991).
money to play" (Mathews, 1991, p. D-1). Furthermore, while planning via the ballot box appeared to be a usurpation of Council prerogative, it was sometimes employed by elected officials unwilling to assert their legislative powers to oppose development pressure or chary of openly supporting developer-initiated proposals. As exemplified in 1988 during growth management debates6 and in 1994 in response to the breakdown of the FUA subarea planning process, Council used the referendum as an instrument of land use policy-making to shift the apparent responsibility for planning decisions onto the voters. Planning by initiative often functioned as the democratic cousin of revolution by overturning the status quo without substituting coherent alternatives. In those cases, it could be an expensive, inefficient, and polarizing political process, resulting in shortsighted and truncated planning policy and the erosion of the status of planning as the preferred means to a desired end. Yet another institutionalized form of grass roots planning had been initiated in San Diego in 1965 with the establishment of community planning groups (City of San Diego Planning, 1987). By definition, the focus of community planning was narrow and self-protective and, therefore, sometimes at odds with citywide goals and comprehensive planning. On the other hand, the institution of community planning expanded the policy-making playing field and made room for the public at the planning table. Traditionally, community planning groups provided the setting for power struggles between development interests and neighborhood protective interests. When controlled by the former, the group could be used to legitimize growth. But when steered by the latter, it was a thorn in the side of the growth machine. As a result, 6
In 1988 city lawmakers had full opportunity to fashion a growth management strategy through ordinary legislation. Instead, they resorted to the public referendum, with its inherent shortcomings, legal complications, and costly campaign expenses. Was Council's decision to make use of the initiative process foolish or sinister? ineffectual or calculating? The lawmakers who freely exercised their power to grant regulatory exemptions to major development projects (from the IDO and RPO, for example) tendered their legislative powers to the public in matters of programmatic development controls. On the same day it placed a city-sponsored growth management initiative on the ballot, Council took action to reduce the apparent need for the initiative by adopting a "Single Family Neighborhood Protection" ordinance that targeted irate communities worried about increased densities in their urban neighborhoods, thereby undermining public impetus to support the ballot measure. (The neighborhood ordinance was a disjointed, piecemeal, internally inconsistent piece of legislation that conflicted with other growth management policies concerning where and how growth was to be absorbed.) Certainly, the financial clout of the development industry helped to topple the 1988 growth management ballot measures. But failure had already been built into the process: to achieve growth management goals, voters were asked to differentiate between lengthy city and county measures that were complex, overlapping, and mutually exclusive and to choose between opposing groups--Citizens for Limited Growth versus Coalition for a Balanced Environment versus San Diegans for Managed Growth versus San Diegans for Regional Traffic Solutions. Voters were deluged with alarmist campaigning by the development industry prophesying economic doomsday and deprivation of property rights with statements like, "We have a right to maintain the quality of life, but when it contradicts such a basic right as owning a home then it's not acceptable" (Growth initiative coming, 1988). It was no wonder the public decided to forego the entire set of ballot proposals.
community planning was plagued by growth machine attempts to dominate it and/or vitiate its power to affect local land use. In the Public Interest As has been amply demonstrated in the story of North City and FUA planning, Council policy and city code regulating land use have always been prime targets for manipulation by the development industry. Practices established to facilitate planning and orderly development were routinely undermined through the micropolitics of planning. The Zoning Code Update Following the growth management defeats of 1988-1990, the Zoning Code update was initiated. A comprehensive overhaul of the Zoning Code provided the development industry with an unprecedented carte blanche to remake land use policy closer to its heart's desire. The Zoning Code CAC was piloted by Planning Commission chairman Karl Zobell, erstwhile community activist and long time developer advocate. Of 10 members selected for the committee, 9 were representatives of the building and/or business industry. (The CAC was later expanded to 13; additional members were selected from the development pool.) This was a CAC with a difference: rather than functioning as a legitimizing rubber stamp, it played a direct role as conduit for the growth machine. As first presented to the public, the Zoning Code update was to be a housekeeping program: to streamline and simplify the process so that it is user friendly and understandable; to create more predictable time lines for project processing; to eliminate the redundancies and contradictions so that the right land use decision is make based on the merit of the project (Zoning Code update mission statement, 1991). Procedural matters turned into policy-making as the update process evolved into a powerful exercise to undercut, among other things, prerogatives of community members in land use matters and their access to decision makers.7 Council had a difficult time absorbing the 7
Ironically, district elections had been established only two years earlier through a citizens' initiative, with the goal of increasing political accountability to local constituents. But the Zoning Code update curtailed neighborhood and community input by a methodical dismantling of the public appeals process. By aggressively reducing the categories of discretionary development projects and substituting ministerial approval for most local projects, land use decision-making was effectively taken out of the hands of (district) elected officials and thereby denied to the voting community. The problem of Council accountability went even deeper: using a scandal concerning the Planning Director and an undisclosed financial settlement drawn from the city's discretionary budget funds, Council opted to give up direct control of the Planning Department by shifting it to the City Manager's bailiwick. It was an incongruous decision, since the City Manager had been a key player in the clandestine monetary transaction. The darker motives of this decision went unexamined: in agreeing to this transfer, Councilmembers tacitly agreed to curtail their oversight and direction of Planning Department activity and transfer control to a bureaucracy not directly accountable to the public. By passing control of Planning Department activities to the City Manager, grass roots access to and influence on the political process were further diminished.
complex and wide implications of the changes proposed by the Zoning Code update, which exceeded in bulk, magnitude, and unmanageability the previous growth management morass. In this case, however, development interests were at the helm and Council went along for the ride.8 Regulatory Relief The Zoning Code update was a more time consuming and complex project than anyone had expected. Rather than viewing the Zoning Code as a tool to implement the General Plan and community plans, planners were directed to focus on regulatory revisions to implement the economic objectives of the development and business communities. But they often had to backtrack and reinstate regulatory material they had deleted, but whose import or legal necessity they had failed to appreciate. Not satisfied with the speed of the update process, developers prevailed upon the city to instate a program called Regulatory Relief to accomplish: a 50% reduction in the permit processing time to be in effect by September 1993...[and which] would eliminate duplicative or unnecessary regulations, reduce the cost of doing business in the City by reducing fees and the time it takes to obtain a development permit, and improve service to the citizens of San Diego." (City of San Diego Planning, 1993) The bulk, scope, and hasty processing of this helter-skelter program made judicious public review nearly impossible and excluded community groups from participating in meetings between city staff and the development industry, where substantive code changes affecting local development were crafted for Council approval. Few direct attempts were made to reduce permit processing time -- the ostensible justification for Regulatory Relief -- but the curtailment of community planning and public comment was accelerated.9 Another subtle subversion of public participation in the planning process was manifested
The 1993 appointment of John Fowler to chair the CAC (replacing Karl Zobell) confirmed growth machine control of the Zoning Code update. Fowler had been assistant City Manager from 1960-1986. At the time of his new appointment he was vice-president at the Rick Engineering Company. The public, not the development industry, picked up the bill for the update process. Expenses for staff "salary, wages and fringe benefits charged to the Zoning Code update Project" were calculated to be over $84,000 in fiscal year 1991 and estimated at nearly twice that amount for the following year (City Manager memorandum, January 30, 1992). 9
Staff planners joined developers in supporting legislative changes that minimized or eliminated direct community involvement in planning matters. Planners reinforced developers' claims that communities, and not bureaucratic inadequacies, were the source of lengthy permit processing. In this way, planners absolved themselves of responsibility while reducing their contact with a demanding public. To satisfy their separate agendas, political, bureaucratic, and business interests identified the public as the enemy and, through the Regulatory Relief program, hastened the process of isolating community groups from the decision-making arena. The public, unorganized and diffuse, was effectively stymied by this coordinated assault.
in Mayor Golding's 1994 Renaissance Commission, a 31-member task force created to study neighborhood issues. Commission members and city staff went from community to community eliciting constituent recommendations for neighborhood improvements. Community planning groups, once afforded direct access to decision makers regarding local community concerns, were superseded by the Mayor's visiting delegation as the city continued to take backward steps in its commitment to the doctrine of true participatory planning. Facilities Benefits Assessment FBAs were another mechanism that legitimized growth and development and was coopted by the growth machine, yet the relationship between FBAs and the pressure for increased development has received scant attention.10 As a financing system to ensure public services in newly developing communities, the FBA mechanism changed the criteria for determining a project's desirability: not planning principles, not urban design, not redevelopment goals, not economic benefit, but whether a developer could finance public facilities to meet new demand became the acid test of acceptability. Perhaps nothing since the appearance of the birth control pill has been as instrumental in lulling the public into complacency and has legitimized growth 10
As a consequence of the 1979 growth management plan that put into place the tier system, a facilities financing division was created within the already powerful City Manager's department of engineering and development. In the early 1990s the facilities financing division was brought into the Planning Department. The original formula for FBAs was clear: with a delineated "area of benefit" the total cost of a public facility project was to be divided by the total number of equivalent dwelling units to be built over a given period of time to calculate the development fee to be paid per unit. Fees would be collected by the city at the time of permit issuance and deposited into a single FBA community fund. But problems had been built into the system, causing the fund to fall behind almost immediately. For example, the cost of proposed facilities, which regulated the fees collected, was based on figures current at the time of the initial projections and did not anticipate delays and cost overruns. There was no mechanism to reevaluate costs if they did not jibe with estimates. An annual increase of 4% to 6% to cover inflation was the only fiscal refinement available. Interest earnings for cash on hand were generally estimated at an annual rate of 7%. Although impact fees were calculated for each new facility, they were pooled rather than being kept in earmarked accounts. A project priority list was approved by Council annually and the fund tapped accordingly. When new projects were added by Council, a not-infrequent action taken in deference to community or developer pressure, fees were not recalculated commensurate with new need. It was not politically digestible to hike fees as high as necessary to cover the actual costs of providing infrastructure. As long as the bookkeeping showed that FBA funds were not fully depleted, few questions were raised. "Staff doesn't have the nerve to present the truth to Council. Besides, they [City Manager supervisors] have warned us not to say anything" (City staff, personal communication, January 19, 1993). Cost overruns and additional projects delayed provision of expected public facilities. Another way to handle the problem was to borrow funds from other sources. For example, to cover mitigation expenses in the wake of SR-56, the city accepted a SANDAG "advance," using Transnet funds to supplement Carmel Valley FBAs. This floating shell game reinforced the need for development to bring in more funds. Few Councilmembers were even conversant with FBAs since the complex system applied only to planned urbanizing districts. The City Manager controlled the FBA system and understood the potential of FBAs as a fungible resource.
as have FBAs. A peculiar property of FBA funds was that everyone claimed ownership of them. Development was held hostage to the scheduled provision of infrastructure and developers closely guarded the FBA cache. The community, on the other hand, believed that FBA funds were like a communal checking account since development fees had been passed from developers to home buyers; they wanted full control of how and when the fund was to be spent. And the city, with its political stake in growth, attempted to maintain tight hold on the reins of a system that was an easy target for abuse and often contorted to conform to developer needs.11 Development Agreements The development agreement mechanism was another vehicle set up to provide simultaneous public and developer benefits. Development agreements, through negotiation between public and private interests, could insulate developers from changes in regulations and, in exchange, exact extensive private investment in public infrastructure. The balance of benefits depended on the negotiating strength of the players. Invariably, city attorneys were no match for the development industry attorneys.12 The public, incidentally, was excluded from 11
In the mid-1980s an informal developer task force with interests in the completion of SR-56 met with city staff and advanced an idea, initiated by a Baldwin lobbyist, to tap into FBA funds from adjacent communities. The proposal was accepted by staff engineers, planners, the City Manager, the City Attorney, and Council, even though this maneuver violated the terms of the community assessment district. It was years before Carmel Valley understood the ploy and raised objections, leading to rescission. There was more. During North City West/Carmel Valley early planning days, the city paid top price to developers for the purchase of a hilly constrained site for a community park and charged it to the FBA fund. Subsequent environmental studies found a portion of the park acreage undevelopable, trimming the size of the prospective park to a substandard level. If the community wished to acquire supplementary land, the FBA would have to pick up costs. The developer was able to use the FBA system to maximize profits and pass the losses on to the future community. Even the city got in on the act. In a 1992 transaction between the Del Mar Union School District and the city's Park and Recreation Department, the school district was required to purchase a piece of park property it had inadvertently encroached upon, adjacent to a Carmel Valley school. The proceeds of the sale ($46,000) were deposited into a citywide fund. But the park property had originally been purchased using FBA funds. The "mistake" was caught and the Carmel Valley FBA fund was reimbursed. 12
The city did not have far to look for examples of poorly negotiated development agreements. For one: in 1985 voters agreed to a land swap between the city and the Newland California development company, in which over 166 acres of city owned land on a steep hillside overlooking the I-5 freeway was exchanged for a 290 acre parcel adjacent to the Penasquitos Canyon Preserve owned by Newland, in addition to a payment of $1 million. In this deal, the city gained valuable open space and Newland acquired industrial and business development opportunities on a prime location. A development agreement was entered into in 1989; one of its terms provided Newland with the exclusive right to back out of the contract. In 1990, the city adopted RPO. It had been in the works for a few years and was expected to affect all pending development proposals. By law, all new proposals were required to conform to RPO -including Newland's newly acquired environmentally sensitive acreage. Newland threatened to withdraw
participating in or observing the negotiating process. Resultant development agreements often undercut or bypassed the planning process. They were being negotiated in the FUA before, during, and after the Framework Plan was established. Developers did not acknowledge that they were the real beneficiaries of CACs, development agreements, and FBAs -- mechanisms created by politicians ostensibly to protect the public interest. They would have preferred fewer impediments. But politicians had to answer to their constituents while capitulating to the growth machine, and did so through these legitimizing institutions. Environmental Considerations The public at large had a limited understanding of ecological principles and environmental issues. To most, acres of golf course greens were more desirable, in aesthetic terms, than a hillside of coastal sage scrub or a stretch of wetland. The perspective of most public debate was that environmental protection impeded the development process, not that private property rights often threatened the natural environment. It followed, therefore, in the logic instilled by the growth machine and buttressed by political policy, that the only way to secure environmental protection was to guarantee development rights. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) focused exclusively on environmental impacts of planning and development processes. Under its conditions, development-related projects, public or private, with the potential for adverse environmental consequences were required to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), whose purpose was to provide decision makers with sufficient information about a project to make appropriate land use decisions (see Fulton, 1991). Enacted specifically to safeguard the state's long term environmental health, CEQA is often manipulated by the development industry to serve as a planning tool to justify short-sighted planning decisions and questionable land use approvals. With its focus on individual projects, the EIR process can be used to bypass consideration of long range, cumulative problems and General Plan goals. Politicians have made generous use of its provision for "overriding considerations" to grant project approvals under the guise of thoroughgoing analysis. By virtue of its legitimizing strength, CEQA has often been contorted into a utilitarian tool of subversion by the development industry. It has also spawned a new industry: "Implementation of CEQA employs thousands of planners, technical specialists, and lawyers" (Olshansky, 1993). 13 from the development agreement, take back its former acreage, and build 68 estate homes at the edge of the preserve; Newland lobbyist Jim Whalen even filed tentative maps for the residential development. The city relented and granted a RPO exemption for the property. Nor did the city choose to assert itself when Newland defaulted on contractual obligations to dedicate right of way for the proposed SR-56 in the adjacent community of Carmel Valley, as partial mitigation for development in Sorrento Hills. Nor did the city analyze a potentially feasible alternative alignment to SR-56 through Sorrento Hills, despite heated community agitation. If the city tampered with the development agreement, Newland warned, it could expect a lawsuit. 13
Now almost exclusively written by specialized planning consultants who believe that the fatter the report, the more comprehensive and impressive it will be to clients and decision makers, consultants
In a similar way, the Multi Species Conservation Plan (MSCP), a commendable environmental program, has been ingeniously manipulated by developers to serve the interests of the development industry. Initiated in 1989 as mitigation to remedy negative environmental impacts of a major local water and sewer upgrading effort, it was further expanded to meet federal and state mandates concerning threatened species conservation. In response, the development industry created the Alliance for Habitat Conservation, with Jim Whalen, vicepresident of the Newland company, at the helm. Whalen was appointed vice-chair of the city's task force to develop MSCP policy. Through this task force, the focus of the program was subtly shifted from natural habitat and species preservation to the preservation of development rights for major developers in the region's still undeveloped coastal areas. Despite CEQA, RPO, the Environmental Tier, and MSCP, a comprehensive environmental program has remained elusive. While planners participated in workshops and meetings, while the Mayor's staff member Scarborough chaired the MSCP committee, while ballot language for a FUA phase shift touted the Environmental Tier, a behind-the-scenes reorganization of the Planning Department in March 1994 plucked the Development and Environmental Planning Division from the umbrella of the Planning Department and slipped it into the building inspection division under the direction of a city manager, taking the most experienced environmental planners with it. San Diego Government Form Who makes planning policy in the city of San Diego? was a question posed at a 1995 League of Women Voters forum. Politically savvy panelists named a long list of actors, but overlooked the role of the City Manager and bureaucracy, players who determined not only who did what, but how information flowed through the system to influence official decision-making. State law granted local governments a limited range of tools to enforce their police powers (that is, the protection of the health, safety, and general welfare of the public). The regulation of land use was their most prominent source of power. Reflecting this limited autonomy, localities tended to define and remedy a complex battery of community needs through solutions based on land regulation and development. Referring to plans to rebuild Los Angeles following the 1992 street riots, Molotch commented that the "error of physical determinism is making a comeback" (1993, p. 35). In fact, physical determinism was what city politics was all about. San Diego's elected legislators, eight Councilmembers and the Mayor, had the authority to enact ordinances and resolutions, approve city contracts, make appointments to the city's greatly inflate the costs of development applications, adding fuel to the indignation developers parade before city officials over environmental constraints. Then again, the fatter the EIR, the more apparently complete the investigation, and the easier it is to justify project approval with claims that all issues have been considered. The EIR for the FUA Black Mountain Ranch proposal (DEP No. 90-0332) was sent to at least 61 federal, state, county, city, organizational, and individual recipients. The draft EIR for a General Plan growth management amendment (DEP No. 90-0526) was distributed to almost 300 recipients.
boards and commissions, and adopt an annual budget. A Council committee system held public hearings and developed policy in areas of land use, public safety, and public facilities. The Mayor's powers were held in check by charter provisions. The City Manager was appointed by the Mayor and Council for an indefinite term of office to preside over a wide ranging set of official duties: to supervise the administration of the affairs of the City...to make such recommendations to the Council concerning the affairs of the City...to keep the Council advised of the financial condition and future needs of the City...to see that the ordinances of the City and the laws of the State are enforced...as Chief Budget Officer of the City [to] be responsible for planning the activities of the City government...[to] prepare annually a complete financial plan. (San Diego City Charter) The Unelected Decision Maker The City Manager had the capability to ensure that the interests of a powerful development elite were enhanced as well as preserved. He exercised control over a multitude of city affairs: he managed the flow of information within the city; he prepared and manipulated the city's annual budget; he negotiated contracts, development agreements, and facilities financing schedules; he assisted the Mayor in setting the Council agenda, controlling which legislative matters were brought to public hearing and which were tabled; and he appointed and directed the heads of the departments in his dominion. In addition, he conducted private meetings with major development interests, after which he issued instructions to city staff that could change the direction of existing proceedings or establish new policy direction. 14 The San Diego public was traditionally wary of concentrating power in the hands of a strong Mayor, yet it turned a blind and uncomprehending eye as power accumulated in the hands of an appointed official over whose tenure it had little effective control. The manner in which information was collected, edited, doled out, and withheld played an indirect but decisive role in how and which decisions were made by Council. As the keeper of numbers -- mostly generated by his own staff -- the City Manager's role in government affairs was far more powerful and influential than commonly recognized. A single set a numbers could be used to justify, obfuscate, explain away, or illustrate divergent and 14
For example, the City Manager often bypassed planning staff, planning groups, and elected officials and met on an as-needed basis with major developers in the FUA and elsewhere. In November 1991, three planners were abruptly shifted to full time work on an EIR for a proposed transfer of open space for a project in San Diego's mid-city, proposed by former State Senator Wadie Deddah. This expedited action overrode the resistance of the district Councilmember. The urgency to expedite the project's EIR quickly dissipated when a local newspaper ran a story about Deddah's involvement in controversial land deals and pointed out that Deddah's contacts included a San Diego Councilmember chief of staff (Flaherty, 1991). Planners had been stunned by the blatant politicization of the maneuver but silently followed directions (staff planner, personal communication, January 1992). Once the Planning Department was under his control, the City Manager issued clear instructions: project planners were not to respond directly to Council requests for information but to refer questions to their superiors. At Council hearings, planners were to answer questions briefly; they were not to elaborate or elucidate, nor to offer anything unless asked. If pressed by Council, they were to keep their eyes on him for further instructions (staff planner, personal communication, June 1992).
contradictory assertions, each leading to different policy implications.15 The City Manager opposed the establishment of independent legislative analysts for Councilmembers, calling them superfluous and in violation of the city charter (J. McGrory, memorandum, November 1994); both descriptions were erroneous. Another major source of power accruing to the City Manager stemmed from his responsibility to prepare the annual budget. The City Manager had confidential access to reports from the departments under his authority.16 He was at liberty to deal internally with many of the city's problems without notifying elected officials. In 1995 Council was kept in the dark about police equipment shortages, lack of funding for parks department hazardous waste cleanups, and the elimination of housekeeping maintenance for libraries (Council budget hearings, June 1995). Certainly, the budget process was one of the most politically charged activities that government engaged in, the ultimate determinant of who got what, of which programs survived and which died, and of which private interests benefitted from the public purse. This was politics, incarnate. And after Council adopted the annual budget, the City Manager exercised control over the disbursement of funds. Acts of omission in the form of delays were as effective in dismantling a program as a legislative decision. Often, the psychological toll on city employees, habitually threatened with transfers and layoffs, was profound. City planners suffered chronic abuse. Recurrent budget crises proved effective restraints on planners who attempted to be professionally independent and principled. Annual survivors emerged chastened and relieved to still be employed. Other departments, as well, were kept under control through the threat of budget cuts. Indeed, the budget process was a time for rewards and punishments, discreetly but decisively meted out by the City Manager, often but not always with tacit Council consent. Councilmembers and their staff were rarely sufficiently sophisticated in fiscal matters to be able to understand, much less analyze, the annual multi-volume budget. Every spring ushered in a political scramble in which each Councilmember attempted to stake out some small and isolated segment of the budget and claim expertise over it. No one but the City Manager, himself, held all the pieces of the budget puzzle. Once the public hearing process was over and the new budget adopted, Councilmembers got back to business as usual, that is, approval of new development projects. In 1995, the city's unmet infrastructure maintenance needs approached $25 million (LaVelle, 1995). Nevertheless, during planning, hearings, and negotiations for the development of the FUA, analysis of the lingering costs of development were effectively avoided by politicians, consultants, advisory groups, and city staff, alike, with the City Manager overseeing the conspiracy of silence. 15
Dockets and background information for Council hearings were routinely delivered to Council offices with few days or hours to spare, a major limitation on processing the information. As far as Council was concerned, the problem was the superabundance of information, not its paucity. But Council was actually being deprived of a contextual framework with which to formulate sound responses. 16
The number of departments under the direct control of the City Manager had steadily increased over the years to a total of 24 in 1994. The only independent departments were the auditor, the clerk, and intergovernmental relations.
Remarks Throughout the recessionary years of the early 1990s, Council engaged in surrendering, through structural reorganization, many of its legislative responsibilities to the City Manager. In the process, the public suffered significant disfranchisement. District elections had promised to mark the end of big developer control of city affairs and a shift back to grass roots politics, but the growth machine persisted. Hiding behind the shibboleth of government efficiency, developers continued to undermine official policy and replace it with planning and decisionmaking injunctions of their own making. Public participation is a mainstay of democratic institutions, so the ample opportunities offered in the city for participatory planning should be reassuring. Instead, they bore witness to serious distortions of the democratic process. The practices described in this chapter had different functions and identities, but they had two things in common: all involved public participation in the civic process; and all, to a greater or lesser extent, played a role in maintaining political equilibrium while advancing the agenda of the development industry.
CHAPTER IX ACCESS TO POWER Introduction In the world of city politics, there are those who achieve power through elective office and others who depend on an association with, and access to, government officials to partake of that power. Special interest groups cultivate a variety of strategies to increase their access to elected officials for the purpose of influencing legislation and shaping policy in their own image. As observed by community organizer Ernesto Cortes, in order to understand power and who wields it: "you have to know not only what a politician says but who gives him [sic] money and how those people influence his decisions" (Moyers, 1989, p. 33). A secondary but serviceable level of power resides among the ranks of bureaucrats who, although they do not legislate directly, wield considerable clout through their control over the administration of policy and the content and flow of information upon which elected officials rely to execute their duties. Easy access to the upper levels of the city bureaucracy is, therefore, also a high priority for special interest groups. In the San Diego political setting, development industry lobbyists frequently crisscrossed from corporate desks to city staff positions, as well as from bureaucratic slots to private public relations firms. Some moved from one Council office staff position to another or from city to county to state level staff positions. They filtered through the city's committees, task forces, and other advisory groups. Politicians might dally for a while in the local spotlight and then float away, but lobbyists were members of a durable, recirculating elite cadre, fortified by overlapping alliances and longstanding associations and rooted in the native terrain. This chapter describes lobbying practices among San Diego lobbyists, particularly those who were active in North City and FUA affairs. Lobbying The job of a lobbyist was to influence the decisions of legislators on behalf and in favor of a particular interest group. Although the term was often accompanied by insinuations of secretiveness, financial manipulation, and back-room deals, lobbying was practiced by a full spectrum of public as well as private interests. (For example, San Diego has a full time lobbyist in Washington, D.C. to represent the city's interests at the national level.) Lobbyists approached decision makers with one of two types of requests: to support a legislative proposal or policy that bolstered a particular interest, or to initiate specific legislation on behalf of a particular interest. In the latter instance, lobbyists often became virtual partners in the legislative process, writing legislative language and supplying supporting arguments; new legislation frequently bore the unmistakable imprimatur of some special interest (see Hannigan, 1988; Hershey, 1994; Powelson, 1994). Recurrent, if ineffectual, calls have been made at the federal level for lobbying reforms. In 1993 a Senate bill proposed to create a uniform statute requiring more detailed disclosure of clients, issues, contacts, and fees. In 1994 Congress repealed the tax deduction for lobbying at the state and federal levels. In 1995 additional restrictions were placed on gifts from lobbyists
to federal officials. San Diego had established its own "disclosure" law in 1973, requiring individuals hired as lobbyists by special interest groups to register with the city as "municipal advocates" and provide the City Clerk with quarterly reports of their current client list and remuneration. Attorneys were categorically exempted from registration and disclosure provisions by a loophole in the ordinance, even when their activities on behalf of their clients were indistinguishable from those of registered lobbyists. At any rate, local enforcement was lax: the Clerk's records were rarely up to date, and only a small percentage of active lobbyists bothered to register. Of those, few reported their wages (Flaherty, 1990, p. 7). Lobbying Styles Several categories of lobbying activity were identifiable at city hall, conducted by both registered and unregistered lobbyists. The most successful styles arose from carefully cultivated, long term personal relationships with decision makers and city staff. They evolved from diverse and genial contacts ranging from campaign fund-raising activities to helpful gifts and favors -- guided tours of development sites by hot air balloon, for example, or introductions to prospective political supporters. At his inaugural Council session, the new Planning Director was approached by a seasoned land use attorney and offered theater tickets for San Diego's Old Globe Shakespeare festival. When the Planning Director demurred, the attorney offered, instead, a personal tour of the city. The Director was soon swallowed up in a sea of other wellwishers offering their services -- every one of them a FUA developer and land use attorney (City Council meeting, August 3, 1992). Campaign contributions and other gifts to politicians and bureaucrats were not necessarily designed to exact a quid pro quo on a particular vote or recommendation. More insidiously, they functioned as tokens of a relationship between the giver and the recipient. They greased the wheels of access to a politician's or other decision maker's office, ensuring cordial receptions and agreeable responses and turning up the volume on developers' messages and requests. Whether secured through gifts, political contributions, or social ties, easy access did not automatically ensure favorable actions on each request, but it assuredly decreased the number of occasions when special interests were thwarted. The familiar faces of lobbyists were like fixed stars at city meetings, hearings, and workshops; they provided a sense of stability and continuity to city proceedings. Lobbyists often engaged in good deeds on behalf of the community, in charitable causes and cultural events. An aura of generosity, prosperity, and social standing made them desirable associates and further legitimized their business petitions. Their constancy and proximity to elected officials and city staff inevitably built feelings of comradeship and forged bonds not unlike those that exist within big families that were not always in harmony but remained connected by shared experiences and a feeling of mutuality. Indeed, some lobbyists roamed through the inner corridors of city hall with the ease of kissing cousins, moving with impunity in and out of the offices of Councilmembers, planners, and the City Manager, carrying photos of their newborn baby and, incidentally, a brief description of a client's new proposal. For some, the boundary between permissible and legally impermissible activity was routinely disregarded. For example, state law prohibited private
communication between legislators and petitioners for a project under appeal (the Brown Act), yet lobbyists frequently made the rounds to Council offices for last minute persuasion and consultation.1 At Council hearings, lobbyists were treated with a deference born of easy familiarity. Council routinely granted them additional time to present their testimony and gave them rebuttal opportunities denied to ordinary members of the public and "point of order" privileges to speak at length once public testimony was closed. Council often turned to lobbyists for clarification of planning issues rather than to city planning staff. These favors were conferred on lobbyists representing private interests; similar courtesies were rarely granted to public interest lobbyists. A Sampling of Influential People City Hall often seemed like a perpetual Academy Awards ceremony, with yesterday's, today's, tomorrow's, and "wannabe" stars in attendance. A random, informal, and small sampling of local lobbyists with special interests in FUA related land use policy, if gathered together in a ballroom, might look like this: Land use attorneys. Attorney Louis Wolfsheimer, as a lobbyist (unregistered) for major development interests for over a quarter of a century, adroitly left his mark on land use legislation, city legal agreements, and overall planning policy, without having endured the scrutiny or slings and arrows of running for political office. Appointed to the Planning Commission by one mayor (Frank Curran) and selected as Commission chairman by the next (Pete Wilson, a law school classmate of Wolfsheimer's long time law partner James Milch, who was, himself, appointed Park and Recreation Commission chairman by Wilson), Wolfsheimer was active throughout the 1970s in developing the city's growth management plan and in molding development patterns in the North City and FUA. Upon his 1995 appointment as an alternate to Councilmember Vargas on the California Coastal Commission, it was noted that "Wolfsheimer...has helped govern at least three agencies since 1969. He served 10 years on the city Planning Commission, then 10 years on the Port Commission. For the last three years he has served on the Del Mar Fair Board" ("Alternate named for coastal panel," 1995, p. B2). Paul Peterson was another ubiquitous land use attorney, for whose eponymous firm no land use issue was too big or too small. His stable of clients included Techbilt, Chevron Land Development Company, DeAnza Land and Leisure, Hahn Shopping Centers, Pacific Homes, and Belmont Park Associates. One of the smaller development interests he represented was downtown property owner Classic Building Owners, for whom Councilmember Mathis had worked as a lobbyist shortly before he advanced to elected office. Over the years, Peterson's legal expertise was tapped by such agencies as the Metropolitan Transit Development Board, the Stadium Board, and the Convention Center Corporation Board. In other words, he advised city officials on major public issues while appearing before them on behalf of private clients. 1
In one instance, a popular lobbyist deposited an architect's scale model of a beachside mansion, the subject of an imminent appeals hearing, on a table in the Council office corridor and stood alongside, ready to provide information to legislators, should they stop to inquire.
Peterson also served on the County Water Authority Governing Board while, as a property owner of county land in the Cleveland National Forest, he lobbied on his own behalf to subdivide his rural acreage in the face of major environmental opposition. Rebecca Michael, an attorney in Peterson's firm, lobbied on behalf of property owners in environmentally sensitive areas of the FUA and Carmel Valley. She was a lobbyist for the San Diego Association of Realtors and also co-chair of the Zoning Code update CAC, which was then debating the elimination of code provisions permitting the public to appeal local development proposals. According to Michael, the public still had the opportunity to be heard by Council during the time allotted to public comment (Planning Commission, public communication, December 2, 1993). The time limit was generally two minutes per individual speaker. The lobbying services of attorney Mike McDade, former chief of staff for Mayor Hedgecock and current Port Commissioner, were engaged in 1993 by the aggressive downtown developer Neil Senturia,2 replacing the legal/lobbying services of Milch & Wolfsheimer. McDade's new position led downtown redevelopment planners to predict: "Look for more Senturia buildings downtown" (personal communication, January 1994). McDade had close connections with the current Mayor; he had been one of the top strategists in her successful political campaign. City Attorney Tom Steinke represented city interests for 15 years, particularly land use, transportation, planning, and development agreements, until he joined the firm of Seltzer Caplan Wilkins & McMahon to represent private clients who had conflicts with the city. His client in the summer of 1991 required an amendment to the downtown Gaslamp District height ordinance to construct a very tall building in gross deviation from historic district height regulations. Thoroughly familiar with the city's internal dynamics, he successfully roused the emotional ire of Council by making a villain of the Planning Department and transforming planners into scapegoats. Two years later, he was back before Council defending the Planning Department and calling for its reinforcement: he was then representing Pardee in matters concerning the Zoning Code update, arguing his client's concern that the update process diverted planners from their true duties -- processing development permits. Attorney Karl Zobell put his personal stamp on land use legislation and policy by serving on important internal advisory committees. Once active in neighborhood planning activities, Zobell underwent a mid-career transformation. As Planning Commission chair between 19881994, Zobell asserted that "planning in San Diego suffers from a surfeit of laws and rules, mostly enacted by the City Council," and that sprawl and other urban ills were exacerbated by the undue influence of community planning groups "preoccupied with neighborhood interests at the expense of the needs of the city as a whole" ("A Fresh Look," 1990, p. B6). He begrudgingly acknowledged the need to preserve open space and provide affordable housing, but warned the development industry: "You have to be aware there are all these groups interested in your project...community groups, the Sierra Club...all these people, and they are like rust -- they never sleep" (Biberman, 1993, p. 1B). As chairman of the Zoning Code update 2
"I have the sense that, at some level, the concept of profit has become a dirty word. I'm resentful" said Neil Senturia, downtown developer (FitzRandolph, 1993, p. 12).
CAC, Zobell had an influential hand in shaping the future course of land use policy. Political consultants/public relations/alter egos. Scott Harvey, of the public relations firm Scott Harvey & Associates, was appointed to fill a vacancy on the City Council in January 1995. On the day of his appointment, his position as lobbyist for Fairbanks Ranch, a prosperous rural community adjacent and intimately tied to the planning process for the FUA, was publicly disclosed. His defense was that Fairbanks Ranch was under county jurisdiction and the city's disclosure rules only applied to lobbying for city-based activities. As director of the city's Intergovernmental Relations Department from 1980-1986, Harvey was well versed in the subtleties surrounding lobbying practices. Another example of the blurred interface between public and private interests was apparent in Mayor Golding's 1994 appointment of Tom Sheffer, legislative director of the CIF (and former staff aide during her days as County Supervisor) to a staff position in her office. Sheffer had represented the development industry throughout the preceding five years, framing environmental policy eventually codified in RPO and settling arguments over housing capacity figures proposed for a General Plan housing element update. His adroit advice to Council was to accept contested data (which implied that sufficient building capacity existed in the city and obviated the need to open the FUA for development) in order to meet state deadlines, but to refrain from using the data for practical purposes, like long range planning (T. Sheffer, Council hearings, March 31, 1992). Political consultant Bob Glaser was an erstwhile friend of the environment. As cofounder of San Diegans for Managed Growth, he "was among a group of environmentalists that announced intention to fight development in the La Jolla Valley `to the bitter end'...Glaser and the Sierra Club will be back as the Black Mountain Ranch project moves through the process, and Burris knows it" (Biberman, 1990a, p. 3B). But Janus-like, Glaser took the job as campaign consultant to Harry Mathis in the 1993 Council contest against Peter Navarro, a vocal proponent of growth management. Soon afterwards, he teamed up with FUA developers in active support of their June 1994 ballot box attempt to sidestep the Framework Plan and effect a phase shift in the FUA. Other wheelers and dealers. Often, individuals who made their living from the development industry offered their services as impartial experts in the business of growth and development. They exacted the kind of deference from the city's decision makers that was usually accorded to royalty or sports heroes. William Rick, as chairman and chief executive officer of Rick Engineering, had working interests in most major development projects from the FUA to Otay Mesa. "Bill Rick has tremendous credentials," attested attorney Wolfsheimer in the earlier days of their working relationship. "His father was planning director...If Bill Rick says it's going to snow tomorrow, I'll bring my galoshes to work" (Paddock, 1979a, p. 2). In 1992 he was appointed by Governor Wilson to the Coastal Commission, having already done his duty as a Port Commissioner. Although Rick Engineering was not a design firm, in 1994 it competed successfully for a city contract (having hired John Fowler, ex-assistant city manager, who had recently replaced Zobell as chair of the Zoning Code update CAC), routing several respected design teams for a major contract to redesign the Point Loma Naval Training Center for civilian use.
Another "expert" was Pardee Construction Company's vice-president Mike Madigan, staff member to former Mayor Wilson. In 1995 he was appointed to chair Governor Wilson's Bay Delta Oversight Council, a committee charged with setting water quality standards for the Sacramento-San Joachim River Delta, a crucial and threatened link in the water supply system for California. He also served as board member of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and was appointed to serve as chairman of the board of directors of the San Diego County Water Authority. Given the nexus between growth and water availability, the appointment of an aggressive land developer to these regional policy positions was a complacent acknowledgement and implicit endorsement of development industry control over land use planning and policy. In city affairs, Madigan served on most committees related to growth management and environmental regulation and, as Pardee representative, sat on all FUA advisory committees. Doing "good works" enhanced credibility, legitimacy, and access to power. Operating on a considerably more modest level but effective, nonetheless, was Janay Kruger, a lobbyist who diligently and tirelessly positioned herself to become an institution on city hall's tenth floor, the locus of Council offices.3 For several years, Kruger called upon her personal affiliations in several Council offices on behalf of Baldwin Company interests in Carmel Valley (then, North City West). While serving as board member of the Centre City Development Corporation and on Mayor O'Connor's task force on growth during the 1987 Interim Development Ordinance (which limited construction of new residential units), she persuasively lobbied Council to lift building restraints on her clients' development projects As another purveyor of good works was Jim Whalen of Newland Development, who organized the Alliance for Habitat Conservation in 1990 during the formulation of RPO "to bring a better understanding of the importance of developing a conservation plan that addresses multiple species and recognizes the need for balancing environmental preservation with economic stability" (L. McKinley, letter to Council, March 31, 1992). The Alliance was composed of 20 "affiliates" representing every major development company engaged in building activity within the city and county of San Diego. Whelan was appointed to the city's MSCP task force.
Kruger took on difficult tasks to cement her alliance with Councilmembers, and not only through fundraising and other campaign activities. In 1993 she chaired a CAC set up by the District 3 Councilmember John Hartley, concerned with homelessness in Balboa Park. Her initial proposal for this controversial subject was to establish a campsite on the outskirts of the park for the temporary use of 500 people and to provide them with tents, blankets, toilets, and minimal security. Unbeknownst to the CAC and Kruger, the plan that came before Council had been significantly modified by the Councilmember, changing the focus of the proposal by adding a social service component to the more limited plans for temporary physical amenities. Stung by this maneuver, an opportunistic ally was transformed into a formidable foe: Kruger switched her allegiance and organized a highly influential competing group to promote an opposition plan called "A Better Way," obliterating the Councilmember's plans entirely. "Kruger, longtime advocate for the homeless who also happens to be a developer lobbyist, is spearheading the proposal with...the Central Balboa Park Association, a group that represents the park's museums and the San Diego Zoo" ("Homeless may get," 1993, p. B-2).
He assiduously guarded the development interests of the Alliance while effectively shaping the MSCP process. Remarks Lobbyists were affable, helpful, often knowledgeable, and always available. Many "good cause" advocates from environmental, affordable housing, and other public interest groups also lobbied decision makers on behalf of their clients. They, too, provided elected officials with maps, charts, technical expertise, and cookies at Christmas. But when it came to providing substantial camaraderie, campaign contributions, and fund raisers, they lost their competitive edge to the development industry. A righteous newspaper editorial roundly denounced special interest access to federal officials: Cultivating members of Congress is, after all, the essence of lobbying. The whole point of spending lavishly on lawmakers is to get their ear, with the hope of swaying votes on an issue. It's called access...special interests that are generous to politicians tend to rate special consideration....Only the terminally naive fail to understand that such a wide array of freebies for lawmakers is antithetical to honest government. (Give up, 1994, p. G-2) At the local political level, close public scrutiny was easier, making lavish spending practices rare. Instead, special access was achieved through a more subtle strategy of business, professional, and social contacts, along with substantial campaign support.
CHAPTER X PLANNING AND PLANNERS Conclusion "The argument for the growth machine model is empirical: it explains a lot" (Molotch, 1993, p. 49). The story of land use policy governing San Diego's North City region over the past 25 years adds further testimony in support of the growth machine model, and clearly demonstrates how municipal government was transformed into "a vehicle to pursue the [development industry's] material goals" (p. 31). Since regulation of land use is one of the few clearly defined powers residing in the hands of locally elected officials, political solutions to a wide range of problems -- economic and social -- are generally sought through land use planning and development activities. Through this process, the direct and indirect relationship between city officials and representatives of growth interests exerts decisive influence on land use policy-making and implementation. And on the other side of the same coin, the persistent activity of the growth industry in the micropolitics of planning -- the relentless chipping away at policies and regulations that oversee development -- further cements its influence. As a group, pro-growth activists exercise more power and control over local governmental decisions than do any other types of special interest organizations. Bringing up the rear in this contest is the general public. This thesis has shown how the growth machine, a local coalition dominated by the development industry, has effectively shaped policy and development patterns in San Diego's North City. It has illustrated how the city's early attempts at managing growth through a development phasing process -- as prescribed in the city's first General Plan -- were immediately undermined by development forces and how the following two decades of growth management strategies, policies, regulations, and planning processes were routinely sabotaged. This thesis has described countervailing efforts by community and environmental activists to reinstate growth management policies, including their resort to the ballot initiative process when other types of public participation were thwarted. It has illustrated in considerable detail how the political process was continually influenced and subverted by the relentless pressure from a growth machine endowed with enormous staying power. By tracing the history of North City planning, this thesis has recounted the planning process for the North City FUA that culminated in the Framework Plan, with the purpose of providing an unobstructed look at the way the growth machine does its work and accomplishes its goals. The maneuvers to place a premature phase shift initiative on the ballot in 1994 have also been documented; they illustrate the means by which politicians join forces with developers to undermine the planning process in a manner that inevitably subverts the democratic process. The influences of the growth machine are evident in the telling of North City history, but this study has gone one step further in analyzing the power and effectiveness of the growth machine in determining land use policy. This thesis has shown how the city's standard operating procedures are set into motion in the service and in the image of the growth machine and used as legitimizing agencies to affirm the city's growth policies. It has shown how public
participation in land use policy-making has been coerced, co-opted, and vitiated by development interests, and cynically orchestrated to legitimize policies that intensify development. It has also shown how the organizational structure of the city government facilitates growth machine activities and contributes to squelching true public participation. Finally, this analysis has reported on the role of lobbyists in congealing growth machine interests and in manipulating the planning and implementation processes in all aspects of city planning and decision-making. The question of whether sustained growth is good or bad, an economic necessity or a detriment to the public welfare (see Baumol, 1967; Finkler, 1972; Goodman, 1979; Jacobs, 1984), is at root an aesthetic, philosophical, and political question, not easily settled by case studies. Challenging the conventional wisdom, Molotch (1993) has argued that rapid and uncontrolled growth results in fiscal, social, and environmental damage. This thesis has raised the further concern that the growth machine apparatus undermines democracy by (1) displacing or repressing meaningful public participation in local government processes and (2) directly and indirectly vitiating the political decision-making process. The Implications of Planning And what about the planners? Throughout the development history of North City, planners have had to make their way through an adverse planning environment, a minefield created by growth machine forces. Not recognizing the complexity of the institutional web that enveloped the planning process, they alternately blamed politicians, community "NIMBYs,"1 property owners, and sometimes one another for planning setbacks and tried to develop strategies to deal, one by one, with their presumed adversaries. But were planners merely innocent bystanders in the battle over control of North City planning during the past quarter century, or were they accessories to the growth machine in the formulation and legitimation of development policy for that region? On the one hand, planners had the markings of a powerful interest group: they had considerable access to the political and bureaucratic decision-making process (Catanese, 1974; Forester, 1989); they shaped city planning policy through analyses and recommendations; they were a constant presence, an organizing principle throughout the North City saga. On the other hand, as has been demonstrated in this thesis, planners were more often treated as vassals at the mercy of shifting patronage, unprotected from Council abuse, a fickle public, and punitive budgetary policy. Neither fish nor fowl, planners occupied a singular category in the local political setting. The public has mixed attitudes about the planning process (when it considers the subject at all). 1 Most citizens and politicians alike believe that their own insights into planning
In the 1988 election, voters unhappy with the management of such issues as air quality, environmental degradation, and traffic problems passed a ballot measure calling for regional planning. It was a paradoxical response; in order to gain more control over their environment, constituents who were unwilling to demand more rigorous city planning at home voted to move consideration of these vexing issues one step beyond local control. A "Regional Growth Management Strategy" drafted by SANDAG, an already existing regional agency with few powers of implementation, emerged from this voter mandate.
problems and solutions are as valid as those of professional planners. They consider the act of planning important, but do not place a high value on the actors whose job it is to plan. "Mainstream culture rarely celebrates, usually ignores, and frequently attacks the activities of professional planners" (Hoch, 1994, p. 9). At best, planners are viewed as useful technical aides; at worst, as janitors -- invisible employees hired to do the dirty work. In either case, it is a far cry from most planners' self image. The disjunction between the public perception of the concept of planning as a positive activity and of the agents of planning as neutral players and/or necessary evils opens the door to aggressive special interest groups to freely engage in the planning process. Developers, fully comprehending the political implications of a process that determines which players get what, when, and how (Vasu, 1979), routinely step into the void and, as demonstrated in earlier chapters, preempt the planning process with programmatic recommendations based on self-generated data, reports, and studies, backed up with legal stratagems to implement their proposals. Planners find themselves alternately in conflict and in alliance with the development industry as they engage in land use struggles over who gets what. Their day-to-day work is decidedly political in nature, involving them in a "moral and material contest over the way production, distribution, and consumption are organized" (Molotch, 1993, p. 31). Yet planners rarely confront the profound implications of their work. They prefer to view themselves more blandly -- as piano tuners, perhaps, tightening and loosening a random array of development proposals in their job to improve the quality of urban life. But as essential players in the planning process, they also play an integral role in growth machine processes. Is planning used as a political tool to legitimize development, an activity that "has primarily been at the service of the growth machine" (Logan & Molotch, 1987, p. 153)? Based on the evidence amassed in the preceding chapters, the answer is, yes. As described earlier, the FUA, in 1990, was plucked from the ashes of growth management struggles and placed on the planning block -- not to preserve the area as an urban reserve but to hasten its demise, that is, to bring to an end the phased development component of the city's growth management plan. Most professional planners, weighing the consequences of procrastination and eager for the opportunity to engage in a new challenge, championed the proposal to institute a planning process for the FUA. The important question, they said, was the quality of planning, not when to plan, or if. The more cagey among them said: Go slowly: start with an environmental map; then use the carrot of future urbanization to lure developers into underwriting the planning process. The most cautious and pessimistic voices said: Planning means only one thing -- development. Indeed, the planning process, intentionally or not, led to an immediate call for a phase shift to clear the way for development. Planning was like the Midas touch. Not only did it enrich the imagination, but it elevated property values. In a political setting that extolled private property rights, planning and development seemed to be two peas in a pod.2 As seen repeatedly in North City history, the creation of comprehensive or conceptual planning documents inevitably raised property owners' 2
When ordinary people talk about private property rights, they mean many things. When growth interests promote private property rights, it has a single meaning -- development rights.
expectations, which swelled into political pressure, which activated focused planning efforts, which encouraged the development of new North City communities. The 1967 General Plan prescribing the slow and eventual development of the North City region was soon followed by Planning Department reports on model communities and planning principles. These were barely dry on the page before a community plan for North City West (now known as Carmel Valley) was written and approved. The growth management tier system and General Plan "Guidelines for Future Development" were subject to immediate Council policy interpretations that pried open the urban reserve to an extent sufficient to send voters to the ballot box for retaliatory action. A few years later another conceptual plan, the Framework Plan, was developed and immediately sabotaged, once again precipitating a ballot box confrontation and new denouement. It was a planning conundrum. Although the process seemed straightforward, in fact, a linear paradigm was deceiving. In the history of North City development, it was not the planning process itself that precipitated development. Rather, in a cynical perversion of the planning process, planning was instituted as a retroactive activity to legitimize extant development proposals and to justify foregone political decisions to approve these proposals. In 1990, in lock step with the patterns of the previous two decades, the remaining North City FUA -- the 12,000 acre holdout of an initial 40,000 acre region -- became the final actor in this growth machine charade. The Planners' Conundrum Nominally in the planners' bailiwick, "the manipulation of place" (Molotch, 1993) was, in real life, preempted by the development industry. 3 Indeed, specific plans, planning policies, and framework plans were fashioned by developers in their own image and to advance their own interests. City planning staff reviewed, commented, negotiated, and eventually signed off on developers' proposals, providing their legitimizing stamp of approval and receiving validation of their planning efforts, in return (Beauregard, 1978; Kravitz, 1970). Despite the assertion that "we are trained to do work in the public interest and our ethical principles demand that we do so..." (Colton, 1994), staff planners rarely had the luxury of taking that path. They were swallowed up by the institutional forces that controlled the direction of planning, leaving few 3
But it was not only the developers who upstaged planners. The City Manager regarded his selfgenerated capital facilities plan, which projected and prioritized citywide facility needs over a 20 year planning period, as the city's only legitimate long range planning document. He had no intention of guiding development, he said, with gimmicks like urban form, which, in his opinion, were just subversive attempts to regulate fees and change his capital facilities priorities (City Manager, personal communication, February 1991). Traffic engineers and capital improvement budget managers also were confident that they were the city's true planners. It was a point of view cynically held by developers, as well. At a heated CAC meeting during the planning days of the FUA Framework Plan, staff planners defended their argument to reject PRD proposals before the completion of subarea planning and accompanying facilities financing and siting plans: "At this point," said the FUA planner, "we still haven't determined the best location for the roads." "Don't worry," countered attorney Wolfsheimer, "engineering will tell you."
opportunities to debate the issue of planning in the public interest (Piven, 1975). And while they chafed under egregious instances of heavy-handed development pressure and lobbyistinitiated behind-the-scenes deals, they remained sanguine about the subtler controlling effects of growth machine dominated processes, a sign of how seamlessly these mechanisms had been integrated into the system. Most planners, as the recession of the early 1990s persisted, were dispirited but elected to hang on to their jobs.4 They busied themselves with seemingly routine assignments issued by the City Manager -- community plan updates, development project processing, the mechanics of streamlining the zoning code -- immersing themselves in activities of process and wearing blinders to the underlying impetus, direction, and results these activities were designed to accomplish. They were beleaguered by many detractors, not the least of whom were the politicians. Because of their ambiguous situation, antagonism between politicians and planners was commonplace: "We're the elected officials. We make policy. We give orders and directives. Their job is only to give us what we ask for" (Councilmember, personal communication, June, 1992).5 4
In 1991 a report was issued at the behest of Council and the City Manager called "Management Review of the Planning Department" (Deloitte & Touche, September 1991). That the review of the Planning Department was a management review laid to rest any lingering notion that planning was viewed as a creative, comprehensive, and independent endeavor. As far the city was concerned, the Planning Department was now to be judged as if it were a business. Procedure and management systems were the paramount issues, measured by dollar analyses run through the Manager's office. Planners were ambivalent about whether they were better or worse off under the City Manager than under Council. They had suffered enough whiplash and abuse in the past to welcome a change, even if it signified further loss of autonomy and independent thought. In the 1993 Council elections, planners overwhelmingly supported the victorious District 1 candidate Harry Mathis over his opponent Peter Navarro. Mathis, genial and low-keyed, was heavily supported by the development industry and endorsed by the Mayor. Navarro, considerably more abrasive and pugnacious, had run unsuccessfully in the mayoral race a year earlier on a managed growth platform. It was true that his personality alienated many potential supporters, but what alarmed bureaucrats and city planners even more was his stated intentions to change the city's planning and development operating systems and shake up the status quo. Even when suffering new types of abuses under the prevailing system, planners preferred to avoid radical alternatives. 5
Former Mayor Frank Curran (1963-1971) expressed similar concern over "control". Planning was a technical activity, he said, that belonged under the City Manager's jurisdiction. The Planning Department tried to control development and usurp the role of the elected official. On the other hand, planners performed the essential task of pointing "the way where we want to go." Citing the development of Mission Valley as one of the major planning failure of the 1950s, Curran acknowledged that he and other Councilmembers had made a mistake by overriding the advice of the Planning Department and permitting excessive "auto oriented" uses and too much "hard surfacing" in the valley -- resulting in years of flooding problems (F. Curran, personal communication, 1991). Former Councilmember Fred Schnaubelt, whose term of office was during the developers' halcyon years, 1977-1981, was especially graphic in his criticism of planners. "When I was on the City Council" he reminisced, "the majority of planners still believed their purpose was to `coordinate' development projects, insure that extension of streets were in alignment, and that public health and safety were protected....Today...they view themselves adversaries of the people who build housing,
Were planners entirely undeserving of reproach? Probably not. As a group they were inordinately cautious and deferential in their professional behavior, although moderate in their planning views (Calavita, 1994), timorous in their proposals, and limited in their planning responses. A few took some initiative in environmental planning. Many fewer took up social planning issues like affordable housing (for an exceptional case, see Calavita & Grimes, 1992). Imaginative and strong-willed planners were often driven out or retreated to the sidelines, hoping for more hospitable days to come. Having no authority to pursue an independent course of action, and not wishing to declare war on the prevailing system, they sometimes took oblique paths, adopting a growth machine mentality in their pursuit of particular planning goals, a self deluding strategy that led to disappointing outcomes (McClendon & Quay, 1988). Planners also provided cannon fodder for the growth machine, whose ability to influence land use decisions was directly proportional to the vitiation of independent and comprehensive planning practices. City planners occupied a Kafkaesque world in which the services they provided were valued by the development industry for their mechanical and legitimizing benefits, while their professional status and integrity were denigrated. By doing their job well, planners simultaneously facilitated growth machine interests and their own impotence. Has planning traditionally been at the service of the growth machine? This thesis has provided evidence generated throughout the long history of North City planning that indicates the answer is yes. The institution of planning, abetted by planners who function within it, has been a coequal force in the institutional web that insulated and nourished the growth and development industry and validated developer-driven land use policy. The growth machine was the source of unyielding pressure on North City planning efforts. For decades it successfully bore down on Council decision-making processes, orchestrating North City development and setting the city's deadlines, timelines, and ultimatums. It was not a monolithic entity (see Calavita, 1992) but a home grown, adaptable process that found fertile ground in the local political climate. The goal of the growth machine was to control the planning outcome. It reorganized Planning Department priorities, effectively expunging the term "public interest" from the planners' agenda. The long history of the North City planning process reduced planners to impotent players whose participation, nevertheless, lent considerable legitimation to the planning outcome. At the end of a long trail of planning documents, the FUA Framework Plan materialized, as had previous North City plans, as a boilerplate, if faddish, community plan that conveniently fulfilled the requirements of private development proposals and congruent traffic concerns of surrounding communities. The obstruct them at every turn, create every legal obstacle to delay whenever possible, force more amenities, demand more landscaping, and make housing as expensive as possible." Reiterating his move-up-trickle-down philosophy in defense of unlimited building as a means of ensuring affordable housing, he continued: "When a few people buy brand new homes they vacate cheaper housing, and the people who occupy that housing, in turn, vacate even cheaper housing thereby creating upward mobility through a whole chain of moves." His recommendation? "Abolish the whole concept of Growth Management...reduce the Planning Department by at least 1/2, and go back to three zones, Manufacturing, Industrial, and Residential (mixing Commercial and Residential reduces crime)" (F. Schnaubelt, letter to Councilmember McCarty, May 20, 1991).
growth machine had no intention of destroying the public image of planning as a worthwhile exercise: the greater the stature of planning -- as a concept -- the more effective would be the touch of its legitimizing wand. As amply illustrated by the protracted story of North City development and planning for the future of the FUA, the city's planning goals emerged indistinguishable from those of the growth and development industry. The Next Synthesis If this were meant to be a tale of woe, the story would end here. But the point of analyzing the planning history of San Diego's North City is to expose and identify the forces that chronically subvert the planning process, in order to find practical remedies. I will state it unequivocally: the alternative to the planning dilemma is not not to plan. The planning process, impaired as it is by internal weaknesses and external pressures, is an indispensable force in defining and implementing public policy and in invigorating the timeless debate over the nature and enhancement of the public good. City planning in San Diego is now at a baleful low. Under the guise of good management and business efficiency, the Planning Department has been effectively dismantled, planning leadership effaced, and internal discord intensified. Planners are held hostage by a weak economy and the concerns over of job security. Worse, most drift unthinkingly and uncritically through their planning careers, incorporating bureaucratic standards and growth machine values inimical to progressive planning: unaware that their entire environment is based on a set of assumptions implicit in the dominant ideology and serving different ends than those articulated by the ideology. As a result of this lack of awareness planners have not felt the need to question the ultimate ends of their actions (Kravitz, 1970, p. 240). Can the planning process be insulated from growth machine domination? Can it be redirected to serve public interests rather than a powerful growth elite? Can the growth machine be undermined? These challenges are less a matter of ideological preference than of necessity. As Davis has observed, "the micropolitics of planning -- that is to say, the incessant erosion of general principles by special-interest pressures -- is antipathetic to both vision and democracy" (1991). Land use politics is not only a determinant of who profits from growth, but an issue of how much more the public can afford -- or will consent -- to lose. The unique pleasures of planning (as well as governing) on the local level are derived from the city's ability to ameliorate social and physical problems immediately, directly, and personally. It is hoped that these small pleasures will be sufficient to inspire and sustain a radical response from planners and the formation of new community and political coalitions to bring about a restructuring of the city's Planning Department and political priorities.
POSTSCRIPT It's been a year and a half since voters turned down Proposition C, the developerinspired initiative for a phase shift of the North City FUA. What has happened in the interim? Opponents of the measure had claimed that "Prop C undermines sound planning" (Sierra Club newsletter, May/June 1994). Did the defeat of the initiative deflect development pressure and reinstate the planning process? True to past patterns in North City history, developers met the ballot box setback by readjusting their strategy, not by changing their goals. The 1994 ballot initiative was a concerted attempt by North City property owners to circumvent subarea planning -- a cardinal principle of the FUA Framework Plan. Post-initiative activity was more of a free-for-all, but it was still focused on the same goal -- to dismantle the Framework Plan and pursue unfettered development. This is how it has been proceeding: In Subarea I, the planning focus is on the Black Mountain Ranch development agreement rather than the prescribed Subarea Plan. The project is in the process of amending its development agreement, which the city had initially approved in 1992, to redesign its "villages" and intensify land uses. In Subarea II, the largest property ownership (the San Dieguito Partnership) was granted an exemption from subarea planning requirements through a settlement agreement with the city, following litigation. Developers want the city to place their project proposal for a phase shift on the March 1996 ballot; its development plans exceed Framework Plan designations. Other property owners in the subarea are requesting similar exemption. In Subarea III, Pardee, the major landowner, is engaged in "transfer of development" negotiations with the city to absorb additional density from one of its development sites in neighboring Carmel Valley, a dubious maneuver that increases FUA land use intensities but sidesteps phase shift requirements. In another dubious but city-approved procedure, an individual property owner in Subarea III is preparing for an isolated phase shift, without meeting Framework Plan requirements for subarea planning. In Subarea IV, property owners continue to work together to prepare a Subarea Plan, with higher densities than those specified in the Framework Plan, and hope to appear on the 1996 ballot for a phase shift. In Subarea V, planning is being circumvented as the city and environmental groups develop a strategy to acquire desirable open space lands through transfers of development within the subarea. The strategy enables development to proceed under a specific plan -which is achieved through a simple ordinance procedure requiring minimal public review -- and without a phase shift, even though resultant land use intensities are expected to exceed urban reserve strictures. The maneuvers will also result in major benefits for certain developers at the expense of many small property owners. In addition, the Subarea V Bougainvillea project has triggered the reinstatement of a CUP permitting hotels/lodges in the FUA, sidestepping the requirement for a phase shift for this
kind of intensified use. A companion initiative will appear on the March 1996 ballot permitting the construction of resort hotels in the FUA by labeling it an "intensification of use" to avoid the necessity of a phase shift. The Sierra Club is supporting this maneuver as a quid pro quo, an opportunity to exact revenues from hotel room taxes to purchase open space lands.Opponents of the 1994 Proposition C had viewed that initiative as a premature attempt to end the area's urban reserve status. Perhaps more than anything, the public felt betrayed by a political and planning process that tuned out the public voice but attended to the whispers of the development industry. But not even at the ballot box -- the public's final refuge in a democracy -- are public interests firmly secured. This was as true in 1994 as it was in 1985. Necessary and invaluable as stopgap measures, ballot initiatives are flawed instruments of land use policymaking. Developers sometimes lose at the ballot box, but they have ready access to other sophisticated strategies to pursue their business interests. FUA development activities during the past year, and the city's responses to them, reinforce my thesis that the land use decision-making process in San Diego is orchestrated by and on behalf of the local growth machine. Recent FUA events confirm the growth machine's successful engagement in the micropolitics of planning: the Framework Plan, having fulfilled its function to legitimize development in the FUA, has been functionally dismantled.
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