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San Diego Downtown Planning and Zoning

On February 28, 2006, the San Diego City Council voted to adopt—at its very first hearing—a new plan for downtown. The Plan envisions downtown as a tapestry of distinctive and livable neighborhoods, with 90,000 residents and nearly 170,000 employees—one of most intense places in the United States. All residents will live within a five-minute walk of a neighborhood center, with easy access to stores, transit, and a transformed waterfront. The Plan emphasizes the public realm and outdoor living, capitalizing on San Diego’s balmy Mediterranean climate. Several new parks, with acquisition costs alone running into several hundred million dollars, are located. Sophisticated three-dimensional computer modeling of the entire 1,500-acre downtown, done in-house by Dyett & Bhatia, ensures that sunlight reaches parks and streets.

The Plan addresses a full spectrum of topics, including land use, urban design, streetscapes, historical resource preservation, design and development standards, and traffic, transit, and parking. Incentives and a transfer of development rights program to assist with parkland creation are included. With new zoning regulations adopted concurrently, implementation is underway. The Plan builds on San Diego’s “City of Villages” strategy, which calls for curtailing regional sprawl and increased infill development. More than 1,500 people directly participated in the process, which one councilmember called at the hearing “… one of the most inclusive in San Diego in quite some time.”

Dyett & Bhatia led all aspects of the Plan, from conducting background reports and case studies to preparing the Plan and zoning regulations, developing databases and a computer model, managing the project and the Steering Committee, and conducting outreach.

Adopted 2006



APA California Chapter Award of Merit for Comprehensive Planning for Large Jurisdiction (2007)

APA San Diego Section Award (2007)

Urban Land Institute San Diego Tijuana Chapter Smart Growth Award (2006)

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