Big developer interests should not receive preferential treatment.
By SDFP Staff
After a brief hiatus, we’re back with an analysis of the candidate’s responses to our VMF questions.
Here’s our preface, along with the question to the candidates:
San Diego has a recent history of a flawed building permit enforcement process, such as the construction of the Jack in the Box in North Park, the Walmart in Sherman Heights, the demolition of cottages in La Jolla and the Sunroad encroachment.
What is your plan for addressing this flawed process? AND Do you support the recently re-constituted Planning Department as a stand-alone entity?
Though his brief tenure came to a tumultuous end, former Mayor Bob Filner did do some good things for the city while in office. Arguably, one of the best things he did was to revive the city’s planning department, dismantled and incorporated into the Development Services Department by Jerry Sanders. Filner then went on to hire Bill Fulton to lead the department, a veritable rock star in civic planning circles.
In the past, due to lax enforcement by the City of San Diego—particularly during Sanders’ tenure—developers tended to view the rules more as guidelines or suggestions than they did hard and fast laws they were required to follow or face consequences. Filner changed that, but with his departure, there is concern that developers will once again be allowed carte blanche to skirt the rules when it suits them.
“It’s not a problem of building permit enforcement,” wrote Mike Aguirre, but a problem of whether, when, how, and what type of permit should or should not be issued in the first place.”
Development Services, said Aguirre, would go out of its way to “assist the developers in their efforts to skirt the rules and procedures in order to ensure the project is developed.”
“Keeping the Planning Department separate from Development Services sends an important message that developers are important partners in the future of our communities, but they will not dictate that future,” wrote David Alvarez, stressing the importance of updated community plans for San Diego. Communities must be involved, he says, rather than merely paying “lip service” to the needs and desires of those who live within those communities.
“Everyone should have to play by the same rules,” said Nathan Fletcher, “whether they’re a multi-billion dollar corporation or a small family-owned business.” If the rules are unclear, he says, then it is the city’s obligation to clarify them.
From our perspective, large developers—large or small—should not receive preferential treatment. If the permitting process is flawed or too cumbersome, then efforts should be made to streamline it. If the rules are too numerous and difficult to wade through, then they should be clarified where necessary, consolidated where possible, and simplified so long as the effects are not detrimental to the surrounding communities and stakeholders. They should not be obliterated.
We are also encouraged to hear that the candidates all favor keeping the Planning Department as a separate entity from Development Services, as Mayor Sanders’ efforts to cut back on “wasteful spending” by consolidating the two departments was an abject failure that in nearly every major case brought harm to the impacted neighborhoods due to deferential treatment toward developers/business interests over the needs of the residents.
Rules are rules, and laws are laws. If you don’t like them, work to change them. But blatant disregard for the rules and the concerns of impacted stakeholders should not be tolerated, no matter how much money is at stake or how much a developer has invested in a project. It is encouraging that the three participating candidates appear to agree.
As for Mr. Faulconer, we can only assume that historical trends would prevail, and deference to the business interests will rule the day should he be elected San Diego’s next mayor.