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San Diego City Council OKs Uptown Growth Plans

Photo by Nicholas McVicker

Cars drive under the Hillcrest sign on University Ave., Nov. 15, 2016.

Aired 11/16/16 on KPBS News.

Council members approved an update to the Uptown Community Plan, rejecting calls by some residents to put tougher restrictions on housing density and building height.

The San Diego City Council on Monday voted to approve new growth and development plans for the uptown district, which includes Hillcrest, Bankers Hill and Mission Hills, rejecting calls by some residents to put stricter limits on housing density and building height.

The council's action largely reflected a recommendation made last month by the Planning Commission, which advises the council on development issues. It keeps the district's existing land-use map largely unchanged.

RELATED: San Diego City Council Approves Update To North Park Growth Plans

Councilman Todd Gloria did, however, ask city staffers to lower the density in parts of Mission Hills in an effort to preserve the neighborhood's single-family homes. Staffers said the properties there were unlikely to be redeveloped into higher-density apartments or condos, even if the council took no action.

"Today's approval of the Uptown community plan update is an important and necessary step not only to comply with our General Plan and Climate Action Plan, but to also set the right course for the future of our city going forward," Gloria said in a statement after the plan's approval. "With this update, we will be able to foster vibrant, walkable, and transit-oriented communities in Uptown that reduces automobile dependency, protects the integrity of our historic resources, and embraces new urban growth."

Earlier versions of the community plan update included an overall decrease in the number of housing units that could be built under the plan. Councilman Scott Sherman said such regulatory restrictions on the housing supply were to blame for San Diego's high cost of living.

"We are all going to have to understand that unless we're going to grow out into the East County and suck up a bunch of our valuable open space, the only way to deal with this is density," he said. "And it's going to take some sacrifice in every community."

Gloria also asked the city to identify funding for the completion of a bike lane that would connect Hillcrest to North Park along University Avenue. And he asked staffers to initiate a process that would advance a proposal by a group of Hillcrest property owners called the Uptown Gateway District.

The proposal would increase housing density and height limits in the neighborhood's commercial core. Supporters argue that denser development in the area would help the city meet the transportation goals laid out in its Climate Action Plan by creating a walkable neighborhood that is well-connected to jobs via bike lanes and public transit routes.

The city's planning department has commissioned analyses of community plan updates in North Park, Golden Hill, San Ysidro and uptown — all now approved — and has found none is likely to meet the climate plan's goal of getting 50 percent of San Diegans living near transit to commute without a car.

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