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San Diego County Supervisors OK Streamlined Building Permit Process

Construction workers set up the framing of an apartment building in North Par...

Photo by Andrew Bowen

Above: Construction workers set up the framing of an apartment building in North Park, July 23, 2019.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Wednesday to streamline the discretionary building permit process, which backers say will allow for more housing for the region.

According to the county, the changes will "support the local economy by working with development- and construction-related professionals by reducing the time and cost of permit processing."

The board approved recommendations for:

— implementing a self-certification process for engineers;

— implementing permit and California Environmental Quality Act evaluation requirements;

— increasing flexibility on final engineering plans;

— more exemptions on certain permit processes;

— a project issue resolution process;

— more coordination and accountability between departments; and

— consideration of a formal working group featuring industry representatives.

Supervisor Jim Desmond, who sponsored the overhaul, said that while some regulations are necessary for fire safety and code requirements, others have "become outdated or overburdening."

RELATED: San Diego Is Still Behind In Building Housing, Keeping Rents And Home Prices Too High

"Every day families spend hours in their car, stuck in traffic as they make their way to and from work," Desmond said. "Many of these folks are not living in San Diego County ... because housing prices are lower in neighboring counties."

Desmond said that government regulations account for more than 40% of the cost of building a house, which increases home prices.

Last July, the board directed the county's chief administrative officer to find ways to reduce the time and cost of discretionary permit processing and return within a three-month period with recommendations.

The regulation changes were crafted by county attorneys and staffers with Planning & Development Services; the departments of Parks and Recreation, Public Works and Environmental Health; and the San Diego County Fire Authority.

Board Chairman Greg Cox said a streamlined process will mean more demands on project developers "to make sure their consultants are doing a good job."

Supervisor Kristin Gaspar said that along with an easier permitting process, it's important that the county's building and development departments work more in a more cohesive fashion on projects.

Before voting, the board heard from several industry representatives who echoed Desmond on how the streamlined permitting process would mean more housing options.

Jack Shu of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation objected to the changes, saying the county needs to have a solid climate action plan before loosening any permit requirements.

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