Author: Linda

San Diego’s City Council is requiring developers to pay a $40,000 fee to redevelop vacant buildings

San Diego’s City Council is requiring developers to pay a $40,000 fee to redevelop vacant buildings

Column: What $104 million could buy, instead of a failed mayoral run


As City Pages published this month, a story about how San Diego’s city council has made it easier for new developers to knock down and then redevelop a dozen old industrial buildings.

The article included a map showing where nearly half of San Diego’s downtown area used to be, where vacant building space is in short supply, and where redevelopment could be most valuable.

The map shows how the city’s downtown is changing from a commercial center dominated by the iconic St. Mary’s Cathedral to a regional hub with thousands of residential units.

How did we get here?

San Diego’s City Council has not only made it more difficult for developers to re-develop and occupy vacant buildings, it now requires commercial buildings such as hotels and office buildings to pay for environmental reviews. The only exception, in what has become a controversial practice, is for a building that will be used for retail purposes.

The San Diego City Council passed legislation in June 2012 that requires developers to pay a $40,000 fee or provide a bond to pay for environmental reviews of new projects.

The ordinance also creates a “redevelopment district” where buildings that have been vacant for at least five years can be bulldozed and replaced with up to 50,000 square feet of new office space or residential units of any type if two thirds of the building owners do not apply for a use permit.

The city council, under a unanimous vote (six to three), approved the ordinance that became the law on July 1, 2012.

For a year, local developers have paid the fee or the developers have purchased the buildings. But the city council then told the developers not to use the new fee to develop the buildings. Instead, they are required to pay the fee and apply for permits.

But a lawsuit and a moratorium on the new ordinance has led to a “fishing expedition,” as one city council member called it, to find out who is developing the buildings, where buildings are being developed and what the businesses are doing inside the buildings.

That investigation has been ongoing for two years.

Here are the findings so far

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