“The process of public engagement [in developing the County of San Diego General Plan] had hundreds of hearings over 10 years…So the implication is that anything that is coming forward now would be inconsistent. It would be amazing if there is going to now be wholesale General Plan amendments.” San Diego County Planning Commissioner Michael Beck, Nov. 9, 2011 interview with KPBS
Last Wednesday, June 20th, the County Board of Supervisors held a hearing for 137 private property requests that would require amending the County’s new General Plan, which was approved in August 2011. These private property owners were critical of the plan’s guidelines which would concentrate new construction closer to existing infrastructure and down-zone to lower density numerous back-country and desert properties. Although this was not the first time that the Board of Supervisors had heard testimony on this contentious issue, Ron Roberts, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors stunned those attendees who were against the proposed amendments and were there to support the General Plan.
The public had been advised via the agenda that day that a super majority of 4 votes would be required to increase the current budget to approve the funds to amend the new General Plan. Did Supervisor Roberts prepare a fall back plan in the event that super majority was not reached? He submitted a recommended Change Letter appropriation to the Chief Administrative Officer that same day for inclusion in the proposed FY’13 County Budget. Roberts was requesting $1,560,000 to develop “workplan options for amending the General Plan.”
Critics view this as a back door gambit. Not only would the General Plan be circumvented, but the process to do so would be at taxpayer expense, all without the required super majority vote. This line item is now buried in the new County budget which only requires 3 votes for passage.
Supervisors Dianne Jacob and Pam Slater-Price were reported as unwilling to go along with Roberts’ request to charge taxpayers another $1.56 million to secure a General Plan Amendment for the property owners. Slater -Price pointed out last year that 70% of the parcels in the unincorporated areas had no changes to the density levels and that densities were increased in some of the rest.
General Plan supporters are outraged that even though the Property Specific hearing has been continued to Wednesday June 27th, the deed that matters most–Roberts’ budget line item for the workplan, will be a done deal with the passage of the FY’13 budget on Tuesday. To further rub salt into the wound, the public comment is “closed” during the budget deliberations on Tuesday.
The only remaining opportunity for public opposition on the budget issue will be during the public comment segment of the regular Board of Supervisors Meeting, 9 am, County Administration Building, 1600 Pacific Highway, Room 310.