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San Diego code updates could bring more community gardens, faster broadband

More community gardens and better broadband could soon be coming to San Diego. KPBS Speak City Heights reporter Jacob Aere says that’s after the City Council approved 33 code updates.

More community gardens, faster broadband and larger child care facilities could soon be coming to San Diego after the City Council approved 33 updates last month to the Land Development Code.

One of the code updates will create a faster process to install 5G fiber optic equipment, said Simon Tse, the city's development project manager.

“In short, the code update is intended to increase equity and access by streamlining our permitting process for data access and to allow for increased capacity,” he said. “Ultimately, this will benefit everyone in the city of San Diego including those who continue to telecommute, small businesses, educators and our health sectors.”

16-year-old  Mu Hsu working in the IRC's Youth FarmWorks & Cafe Program garden.
Ebone Monet
16-year-old Mu Hsu working in the IRC's Youth FarmWorks & Cafe Program garden.

Another code update means community gardens are now allowed in designated Open Space parks.

The previous code made it difficult for San Diegans to grow nutritious foods on city-owned spaces within their communities, said Lauren Welch, co-chair of San Diego Promise Zone Healthy Communities.

“There are these challenges where community parks or food forests are not allowed in spaces. And to do it, it's a lot of paperwork, and it's a lot of time and effort or you can't do it at all,” she said about the old code. “It just wasn't useful, and the timing or the challenges, the red tape, got in the way.”

Spaces to grow fresh food are key for communities like City Heights that are considered food deserts. Those are defined as mostly low-income areas that lack grocery stores that sell affordable healthy food options.

“This code amendment helps for communities to put together gardens, for community groups to put together species, for shared spaces for food,” Welch said. “To learn how to share and co-opt that food, it just really allows and makes everything a lot easier.”

Another of the Land Development Code updates incentivizes developers to build more and larger child care facilities, said Mike Hansen, the city's planning director.

Before the update, ”for every square foot of gross floor area a developer builds for a child care facility, they would receive an additional 4 square feet as an incentive," he said. "Now, due to this update, for every square foot they build, they will receive an additional 10 square feet as an incentive.”

The city makes updates to the Land Development Code yearly. Suggestions can be submitted year-round at the City Planning Department's website.

Members of the public have until the end of March to submit ideas for 2022.