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San Diego City Council Will Consider Making ‘Placemaking’ Easier

A resident sits on a bench at the corner of Euclid and Imperial avenues in Sa...

Photo by Claire Trageser

Above: A resident sits on a bench at the corner of Euclid and Imperial avenues in San Diego, Oct. 31, 2015.

The San Diego City Council on Tuesday will consider changing city rules meant to make it easier to spruce up vacant spots in neighborhoods across the city.

Those makeovers are called "placemaking," a trend that involves setting up things like benches and parks in unused spaces to make them community gathering spots.

The effort to change the city's rules started a few years ago after a group in Encanto was forced to take down planters and benches they had set up at the intersection of Euclid and Imperial avenues.

The group did not have the required permits, and they had to take them down.

RELATED: Encanto Group Told To Get Permit Or Get Rid Of Sidewalk Improvements

So city staff began rewriting the rules to streamline the permitting process for similar projects.

The new rules would allow one permit to cover everything, and include money for grants and loans to cover permit fees.

It's a step in the right direction, said Barry Pollard, the head of the Urban Collaborative Project, the nonprofit that set up the benches. But he wishes the changes went further.

"Since we're talking about this being a community-based effort to make community-based gathering places, then it would make sense to me to make that goal affordable for every community, not just some communities," he said.

He would like to see a sliding scale for permitting fees to cut costs for nonprofits with smaller budgets.

For example, he is also working to spruce up a vacant lot in the Lincoln Park neighborhood and said he was quoted $10,000 for a permit for a toilet.

Kathleen Ferrier, a San Diego activist who helped to craft the new rules, said she is happy to add the term "placemaking" to the city's municipal code.

"That's a huge step forward," she said.

She hopes the city will set up a formal evaluation after a year "to see how easy or onerous it is for community groups to go through the approval process."

The San Diego City Council on Tuesday will consider changing city rules meant to make it easier to spruce up unused spots in neighborhoods across the city.

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