Progress Slow For San Diego's 'City of Villages' Plan

The city's lauded framework plan for implementing smart growth practices has failed to deliver on its promises, say some residents and experts.

"...Five years after the city adopted the framework, and three-and-a-half years after the pilot villages were designated, the once-touted City of Villages campaign has lost some of its luster. With just a fraction of the support that was promised for needs like sidewalks and sewers actually coming in, some community planners wonder if the framework was ever rooted in reality."

""In February 2004, the City Council voted to designate five pilot villages in San Ysidro, North Park, City Heights, the College Area and southeast San Diego. The city's Planning Department projected it would take three to five years to build every village except North Park, which was expected to take five to 10 years. A pledge for a sort of fast-track system through the permitting process was promised, as was a pledge of prioritizing infrastructure improvements in the pilot villages."

"Turnover among city staff has nearly bankrupted the program of institutional memory, contributing to an unfocused implementation of the proposals. And many of the resources the City of Villages planners promised the pilot villages originally have now come under the scrutiny applied to all budgets in light of the city's financial woes."

"There's just not a heck of a lot the city's doing, as far as I can tell," said Bob Forsythe, a former county planner who's helped plan the pilot village in City Heights.

Mike Stepner, a former planner with the city of San Diego and professor at the New School of Architecture, said the concept has met mixed success."

Full Story: Taking Years to Raise a Village



Of course...

What do you expect, when you have:

1.) An ex-cop mayor (Jerry Sanders) who wants to downsize city government and public services, and copy the Indianapolis libertarian micro-city government model, resulting in high turnover, and LOW salaries. Most other large-sized California jurisdictions pay 20-30% higher salaries than the City of San Diego Planning Department, despite a cost of living higher than the Bay Area.

2.) A former Planning Director who fled to a city that actually cares about good urban design, comprehensive planning, and physical transformation (Gail Goldberg's departure to Los Angeles)

3.) A city council and government so historically corrupt and in the fiscally red, that it is in league with "Gilded Age" New York, Chicago, and New Orleans

4.) A balkanized community planning board system, which was so NIMBYist, that it voted consistently to strip out the density element from the "City of Villages" vision (most notably the Peninsula/Point Loma Community Planning Group).

5.) One of the cheapest, most tax-adverse cities in the United States, that refuses to tax itself at higher rates for more visionary, comprehensive, and successful city planning and development.

6.) And a current, highly-polished resume-holding, Harvard grad Planning Director (Bill Anderson), who LOVES to take personal credit for his part on the San Diego City Planning Commission in drafting the City of Villages plan, but has done NOTHING as Planning Director to implement its true vision (a polycentric city of medium-density, mixed-use, urban nodes connected by public transit).

In fact, due to Mr. Anderson's un-dying loyalty to the Jerry Sanders' mayoral administration, Bill Anderson may go down in San Diego history as one of the most ineffectual and pro-development planning directors the city has ever had with regards to NOT implementing the smart growth and new urbanist principles that he consistently refers to in his countless public speaking engagements.

This anti-climactic story has been playing out ever since the "City of Villages" pilot villages were unveiled, and shelved back in 2004. Given San Diego's prior track record and its emasculated planning department, "City of Villages" will NEVER be implemented the way Gail Goldberg had envisioned. At least not in San Diego...

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