By definition, a strategy is the art of combining and employing the means to an end. Building a strategy can often be like putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle; there are many small pieces that must all fit together seamlessly for the bigger picture to make sense.
To promote smart development and encourage job growth, it is essential to incorporate planning and transportation while recognizing the impact on the surrounding community.
Creating strategies that are transit-oriented, walkable and bicycle-friendly with a mix of land uses, including schools, retail, offices and a range of housing choices can be especially challenging.
One key element is “understanding the community and finding the right mix,” including transportation and parking, both of which are fundamental to smart development, said Allison Beall, director of business development for Pacific Building Group and moderator of a recent CREW San Diego panel on smart planning and development.
For Carolina Gregor, a senior regional planner with San Diego Association for Governments (SANDAG) and panel member, the focus for smart planning should be “big picture and long term.”
By 2050, the needs of the San Diego region will be greater and different than those of today, SANDAG projections show. Gregor said that future regional development should focus on live/work/play cluster development with an expanded transit network and more travel choices.
Regional vice president and architect with Ware Malcomb, Matt Brady also said that transportation should be front and center when planning out a strategy.
“We can create the parking, but it comes down to transportation … how are people going to get around?” Brady said. “Even in a mixed-use (smart) area, people may work someplace else from where they live.”
Steve Scott, senior vice president with Kilroy Realty Corporation, said San Diego is “car-centric,” though he added that “everyone wants a walkable environment with amenities.” Scott said that such a community “can be anywhere but must have a sense of place, diversity, housing and employment.”
Our region’s addiction to cars is somewhat at odds with the smart-growth philosophy of having a mass transit orientation, making the need for parking and amount of parking part of the strategy puzzle.
Beall asked the panelists about the difficulties of planning for parking, including the ongoing challenges faced by companies that cannot find office space with parking that can meet their employee needs, due to permit restrictions by the city and other jurisdictions.
Government needs to address this issue, Scott said, noting that their objectives must take into account day-to-day realities and shifting trends.
“(They) want jobs but won’t allow users and developers to provide requisite parking necessary for business, Scott said. “The workplace per employee is shrinking, so there are more employees in less space, so parking must be adjusted.”
Gregor said that in downtown San Diego, parking costs $40,000 per space to develop, and there needs to be a careful balance so as to not create a parking surplus.
She added that a recent SANDAG study found suburban parking standards are still being used for smart growth. “We need to have fewer cars,” she said. “This is done with mass transit and mixed use … we see fewer cars because people already are where they need to be.”
Panelist Pete Garcia of I.D.E.A. Partners agreed that the trend is for “people to want to be in urban environments,” adding that “the millennial generation wants to be in a dense environment.”
One idea Garcia promoted is the development of a collective of spaces creating a parking cluster close to pedestrian villages with amenities. This concept eliminates the need for expansive parking and driving from location to location.
“Today’s workers have flex schedules, yet companies look at use as 100 percent, five days a week, but in reality there is at least 10 if not 20 percent flow factor when it comes to parking,” Scott said.
His company, Kilroy Realty, is developing One Paseo in Carmel Valley, which will feature office space with ground-level retail surrounding a new main street with an open plaza and 608 residential units. The company may spend as much as $9 million on traffic mitigation, Scott said.
With change and new development comes the “not in my backyard” phenomenon. Beall asked the panelists how they deal with NIMBYism and other political issues.
Gregor said SANDAG has developed tools to combat objections, such as simulations of how new development can change specific communities, which “help to initiate conversation and promote understanding.”
Garcia said his role can be more like a community organizer than a developer, adding that sometimes you need to do due diligence of the area you want to develop versus on the land you want to develop before you start a project.
“If you find the right place that has the right needs, and you bring the right formula … it can be rewarding,” he said.
Brady deals with NIMBYism on a project-by-project basis, noting that communities make decisions on an emotional level while government looks at different fundamental issues such as tax basis.
He also noted that spec projects get a different reaction than tenant-driven projects, with the latter being more acceptable. “People prefer a company coming into town versus a developer speculating,” Brady said.
Scott is circumspect when it comes to his industry, noting “we inflict our own problems.”
“Most people are against growth … but planning is a different word, and it has a different meaning. We need to put ourselves in the community’s view and talk about jobs, revenue, etc.”
Teresa Warren is president of TW2 Marketing, Inc. and provides public relation services to CREW San Diego.