The county’s Planning Commission recommended approval of design checklist standards for eight communities including Bonsall, Fallbrook, and the I-15 design corridor.
The Planning Commission’s 6-0 vote Aug. 16, with John Riess absent, sends the recommendation to the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.
“It’s a good direction to be moving,” said Planning Commissioner Michael Beck.
“I think it’s a major step forward,” said Planning Commissioner Bryan Woods. “I think it’s just a tremendous leap forward for community character in each community.”
The checklist is intended to simplify and streamline the design review process for properties with a “B” community design review designator and to 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.
A typical site plan permit currently costs between $10,000 and $15,000 and takes between one and 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: Bonsall, Fallbrook, 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 (the Ramona design review checklist is being processed concurrently with the Ramona Town Center project and was not included in the Planning Commission’s Aug. 16 action) 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 (PDS) 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 PDS staff when the project is first submitted.
PDS was the Department of Planning and Land Use when DPLU staff first held stakeholder meetings in 2011, and potential checklists were sent to each of the nine community advisory groups. The Fallbrook design review checklist, which was the first one to be developed, was distributed for public review in March 2012 and encountered no objections.
In June 2012, the Planning Commission recommended approval of the Fallbrook design review checklist along with changes to county’s parking regulations and parking design manual. In February 2013, the Board of Supervisors approved the updates to the parking regulations and parking design manual, although minor changes were made to the Fallbrook design checklist and a Board of Supervisors decision on the checklist was postponed until the other checklists were ready to be brought to the Board of Supervisors. Those checklists were distributed for public review in October 2012, and revised drafts were distributed in April 2013.
The checklists include both a compliance box and a “see comment sheet” box for each item along with a comment sheet and a signature page. The proposed Bonsall design review checklist consists of 66 items, although not all are applicable to a specific type of use.
Six site layout design standards cover building location, building orientation, and parking lot location, access, and connections. Nineteen landscape design standards address building form and massing, shade and shadow, multi-building projects, elevations, building facade materials, roof forms, fences, and walls.
Eleven landscape design standards focus on plant selection guide and design, road edges, preservation of significant trees, and perimeter and parking lot landscaping. Ten signage design standards ensure compliance with general design criteria, permitted and prohibited sign types, and commercial and multi-family residential development. Four lighting design standards address shielding and height limits. Six building equipment and services standards focus on screening and compatibility of solar panels. Nine multi-family residential development standards include open space and parking criteria.
The Fallbrook checklist has 96 items. Thirteen site layout design standards cover building location, building orientation, and parking lot location, access, and connections while 24 architectural design standards address building form and massing, multi-building projects, elevations and building materials, roof forms, fences, and walls. (The previous version combined both those categories into architectural design standards).
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 provide compliance with general design criteria, permitted and prohibited sign 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 screening, delivery and service vehicle location, and compatibility of solar panels. Seven items address multi-family residential design standards and 11 items cover industrial design standards.
There are 36 items on the proposed I-15 corridor design review checklist. The 18 site layout design standards cover building location, building orientation, parking and circulation, public utilities, and steep slopes and natural features. The 11 architectural design standards include building configuration, shade and shadow, colors for primary building forms, signage, and visibility from Interstate 15. The nine landscape design standards address landscaping, pedestrian pathways, and screening of satellite dishes and parking or service areas.