Mixed Feelings As San Diego Dissolves Planning Department

As the San Diego Planning Department folds into another department to save city money, locals and former officials grapple with whether it was the right move and how the city could change as a result.

Mixed feelings abound in the city, even from the former planning director who resigned over the merger.

"Until now the city's pro-active planning model has been similar to models used in Boston, Seattle, San Antonio, Austin, and Portland-all cities recognized for effective planning and high-quality urban development. San Diego won awards from the American Planning Association and the Urban Land Institute for its 2008 overhaul of the city's general plan. But in his state of the city address in January, Mayor Sanders claimed that merging planning with development services would "save as much as $1 billion by eliminating duplication."

Bill Anderson, who was the city's Planning Director before resigning in May, sees pros and cons in the new arrangement. "We will benefit by having California Environmental Quality Act issues tied more to development. Also, with the staff for land development code under development services instead of in a separate planning department, things may be more efficient," he said. However, Anderson cautioned, "Now planning becomes a more conventional regulatory process, rather than a pro-active community planning and development department." Currently a principal and vice president at AECOM, Anderson left his position with the city largely because of the impending merger."

Full Story: Down with the Plan?

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