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San Diego Downtown Zoning

Dyett & Bhatia prepared the San Diego Downtown Community Plan and the Downtown Planned Development Ordinance (Zoning Ordinance); both were adopted concurrently in 2006. Key aspects of the zoning regulations include:

  • Combination of form-based, use, and performance approaches. The zoning regulations promote mixed-use, transit, and pedestrian-oriented development. Building bulk and massing standards ensure that sunlight reaches parks and streets, and promote fine-grained and large floorplate developments in appropriate settings.

  • Flexibility and distinctive neighborhood development. Uses, building height, intensities, and several other features are regulated separately from one another, allowing for flexibility in application and furthering development of distinctive neighborhoods.

  • Map based approach. Retail uses, view corridors, building bulk and mass, intensity, height and other provisions are regulated through maps.

  • Integration of street typology and zoning. Street level uses are linked with character based street typology to ensure integration of public and private realms.

  • Community Benefits. The plan and the zoning regulations establish an incentives-based approach to achieve desirable civic benefits. These include FAR exemptions for active uses along designated streets; and bonuses for specific amenities such as public open space, affordable housing, larger units, eco roofs, and infrastructure improvements in specific areas. Many of these programs have been very popular and have raised tens of millions of dollars in community benefits. The system is entirely voluntary and transparent, and is available as of right (subject to zoning and geographic limitations, as established in the plan).

  • Transfer of Development Rights. Provision of new parkland and open space to match the increased intensities is one of the key tenets of the plan; acquisition and development of these was expected to cost approximately $200 million. To provide funding for these, a multi-pronged system is established, including FAR “purchase” and a system of bonused Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs) for sites designated as public parks. The program is grounded in analysis of benefits and costs, and sending and receiving sites are matched to ensure TDR viability.

Thousands of new housing units, numerous hotels, and other buildings have been built under the zoning regulations.

Adopted 2006

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