In December or January the San Diego County Board of Supervisors will hear a proposal which would allow for ministerial approval of projects within community design review zones.
The amendments consist of two components: the creation of a community design review checklist and amendments to the county’s parking regulations and parking design manual. The checklist is intended to simplify and streamline the design review process for properties with a “B” community design review designator and would reduce project processing costs as well as processing time. The checklist allows for an exemption to a discretionary site plan permit for applicants of commercial, industrial, and multi-family residential projects which meet the design criteria. The proposed changes to the parking regulations and parking design manual reflect current parking standards and would be the county’s first comprehensive parking update since 1985.
A typical site plan permit currently costs between $10,000 and $15,000 and takes between one to two years to process. Projects meeting checklist criteria would cost approximately $1,000 and have an estimated processing time of one to three months.
Nine planning areas in unincorporated San Diego County have community design guidelines: Fallbrook, Bonsall, the I-15 Design Corridor, Alpine, Lakeside, Ramona, Spring Valley, Sweetwater, and Valley Center. The guidelines ensure that projects meet community architecture, landscape design, signage, lighting, and other standards. The current site plan process includes a recommendation from the appropriate community planning group, sponsor group, or design review board, and under the current discretionary process architectural features also undergo California Environmental Quality Act review.
The new standards would have a specific checklist for each community based on adopted design guidelines. Only allowed uses which would require only a building permit and “B” designator approval would be eligible for the checklist. If all checklist standards are met, the director of the county’s Department of Planning and Development Services would grant an exemption to the site plan permit requirement. The planning group, sponsor group, or design review board would continue to make recommendations.
Projects with biological constraints, code enforcement issues, a “D” design review area designation, or a historical designation would not be eligible for the checklist, nor would projects which require concurrent discretionary permits such as a tentative map or a use permit. Potential on-site constraints would be reviewed by DPDS staff when the project is first submitted.
DPDS was the Department of Planning and Land Use when DPLU staff held stakeholder meetings in September 2011 and October 2011, and potential checklists were also sent to each of the nine community advisory groups. The proposed zoning ordinance amendments, parking design manual changes, and Fallbrook design review checklist were distributed for public review in March 2012. No objections were received on the proposed Fallbrook checklist, which was the first one developed. Development of checklists for the other eight communities is in progress. On June 8, the county’s Planning Commission recommended approval of the Fallbrook design review checklist and the changes to the design review and parking ordinances.
The proposed Fallbrook design review checklist contains 97 items, although not all are applicable to a specific type of use. The 38 architectural design standards cover building location and orientation, building form and massing, multi-building projects, elevations and building materials, roof forms, fences and walls, and parking lot location and access. The 19 landscape design standards address plant selection guide and landscape material, preservation of significant trees, and perimeter and parking lot landscaping. The 14 signage design standards ensure compliance with general design criteria, permitted sign types, prohibited signs types, commercial and industrial development, multi-family residential development, preventing glare and preserving dark skies, and size, color, and materials. Eight building equipment and services criteria focus on building equipment and services design standards, seven items address multi-family residential design standards, and eleven items cover industrial design standards. The checklist includes both a compliance box and a “see comment sheet” box for each item along with a comment sheet and a signature page.
The changes in parking regulations would add a requirement of 0.5 bicycle parking spaces per multi-family dwelling unit. While multi-family senior citizen housing would still be subject to the multi-family housing requirements of 1.5 parking units per dwelling unit or bedroom and 0.2 guest spaces per dwelling unit or bedroom, a separate category was created and no bicycle parking would be required. The requirements for group residential care facilities would be changed from one space per each person based on total permitted occupancy to one space per employee during the largest work shift and 0.33 guest spaces per bedroom, and a requirement of 0.25 bicycle spaces per person would be required except for convents or monasteries. The new regulations would also require one parking space per habitation room for transient boarding houses.
Commercial and civic parking requirements per thousand square feet of gross floor area, per seat, per staff member, or per student in the case of schools would vary by type of business, as would the ratio of bicycle spaces to car spaces. The DPDS director can approve a parking reduction if businesses with distinctly different parking demand patterns (such as day/night or weekday/weekend) have shared parking lots and a shared use agreement, although such approval would require an administrative permit which is subject to public review and to a Zoning Administrator hearing if requested by any party. The updates would also recognize a collective parking agreement which meets conditions.