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San Diego Sees Chance To Bolster Land Preservation

Aired 9/11/12 on KPBS News.

The California Legislature passes a bill allowing San Diego to boost the number of acres that are off-limits to developers.

— San Diego has been buying and protecting open space ever since Pete Wilson was mayor. But now, the city has a chance to increase, by 42 percent, the amount of dedicated open space within its boundaries.

Governor Brown signed a bill last week that will allow San Diego to set aside 10,666 more acres of land to make it off-limits to development. When open space is "dedicated" by law, that means it requires a two-thirds vote of city residents before anyone can develop even one acre of it.

Eric Bowlby is executive director of the group San Diego Canyonlands, which has lobbied for the legislation. He said the wild canyons, mesas and mountains of San Diego are clearly at risk.

"Our open space will continue to be whittled away for various other uses if we don't dedicate it... if we don't give it that layer of protection." he said.

Bowlby said city infrastructure, like sewer lines, could still be built on the protected land. But local builders say they want to hear that from the City Attorney. Matt Adams, vice president of the Building Industry Association of San Diego, said he also wants to know how land dedication could affect adjacent property owners.

"Will they be required to create some kind of buffer of private property if it's next to dedicated land?" he wondered aloud.

Calls to the mayor's office were not returned.

Bowlby said the City of San Diego already has more than 22,000 acres of dedicated parkland and open space. Now that the governor has signed the legislation, the San Diego City Council must act before any land is officially dedicated. It has until the end of the year to make that happen.

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