San Diego approves plan to prioritize infrastructure for neighborhoods in need

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Building a better SD
Mayor Gloria at the announcement of the Build Better SD initiative in February. Photo via @MayorToddGloria Twitter

The San Diego City Council on Monday approved Mayor Todd Gloria’s Build Better SD initiative, an initiative to equalize funding for public infrastructure in all areas of the city on a need-based basis, rather than more affluent areas. benefit more.

“For the past 40 years, we have used development fees to only pay for infrastructure specifically listed in the communities where the fees were generated,” Gloria said. “Once upon a time it made sense – but not anymore.”

“Now this system only perpetuates historic inequalities and leads to millions of desperately needed infrastructure dollars that sit unused,” he said. “That changes today. With Build Better SD, we will be able to prioritize projects (libraries, streets and other public spaces) where the need is greatest and get projects done faster across the city. »

It used to be that when private projects were built, the development impact fees that real estate developers pay for new infrastructure improvements – such as libraries, streets and other public spaces – varied widely from community to community. to another based on planning documents that are often decades old.

These fees collected went into 43 separate neighborhood funds and could not be shared between neighborhoods. According to Gloria’s office, many of these individual pots of money were insufficient to fund planned improvement projects, resulting in a current combined total of $222 million in unspent funds in various parts of the city. .

“There is no doubt that many communities in our city are suffering from outdated policies that allow for underinvestment in infrastructure,” said City Council President Tem Monica Montgomery Steppe. “I look forward to the implementation of Build Better SD to close the infrastructure gaps in our regions that need it most.

The mayor’s initiative aims to change that by placing future development impact fees into city-wide funds by asset type – reducing pots of money from 43 to a handful. Infrastructure needs will be reviewed throughout San Diego by city staff and funding will be directed to high priority projects.

“The Developer Impact Fee program was long overdue for an overhaul because it could no longer provide infrastructure and resources for maximum impact in our neighborhoods,” Councilman Joe LaCava said.

“Build Better SD will be a seamless conversation with our neighborhoods to provide the city’s infrastructure and facilities to accommodate the increase in housing. Build Better SD ensures that we can allocate infrastructure dollars when and where they will have the greatest impact, while continuing to protect existing funds in their community vaults.

Despite Monday’s rule change, previously collected fees will remain limited to the neighborhood in which they were collected, but can be supplemented with new citywide fee collections to implement projects faster across all districts. parts of the city. A similar funding structure was applied to parks as part of Gloria’s Parks for All of Us initiative, passed by the city council in August 2021.

“This is a win for our historically underserved neighborhoods and for our city as a whole,” said Heidi Vonblum, the city’s director of planning. “Our communities desperately need infrastructure and rather than raising money to languish in their individual neighborhood funds, these new policies focus on delivering those investments to our communities more efficiently, quickly and equitably. “

A statement from the mayor’s office said that to ensure the initiative is implemented appropriately, new policies in the city’s master plan “will prioritize investment in areas of greatest need, including where where the greatest growth is occurring, and will create more opportunities to gather community feedback on the types of infrastructure projects our residents want and need most,” it read.

City News Service contributed to this article.

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