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Down With Planning

— Here’s a bureaucratic land shift that has gotten very little attention in the San Diego press. But it might have some real consequences for the way our city looks and functions at street level.

The question of who decides what San Diego will look like is up in the air, now that the city planning department has been eliminated.
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Above: The question of who decides what San Diego will look like is up in the air, now that the city planning department has been eliminated.

On July 1, Mayor Jerry Sanders’ plan to get rid of the city’s planning department took effect. My old KPBS colleague Dirk Sutro wrote about it for the Architect’s Newspaper.

San Diego has won awards for overhauling its urban plan. But Sanders said folding the planning department into the development services department (forgive my bureau-speak) could save the city huge amounts of money by eliminating “duplication” of services.

So… will San Diego no longer be planned? Hard to say. But a lot of people fear that developing an overall vision, seen in San Diego planning documents like the City of Villages, won’t be a priority.

Mike Stepner is an architect and he was the San Diego City Architect back in the days when municipal government had such things.

“I think merging the departments could be good,” he said. “The critical issue is where does long-range planning fall in the process. I think it could be very disastrous if the focus is just permit processing.”

We’ll have to wait and see who takes the lead in deciding what the city will become.

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