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Sounding Board: Co-location

Daily Transcript Question: A debate has arisen in San Diego County communities over the rezoning of properties from industrial to "mixed-use" -- where residential and commercial uses co-locate. Proponents want to increase the housing supply. Opponents note the shortage of commercially zoned land and argue that co-location will lead to conflicts and the restricting of activities in which existing businesses can engage. Is co-location a viable land use policy? If so, where in your community does co-location make sense and why?

As San Diego grows, our leaders will face tough decisions over the use of the remaining land available for industrial versus residential development. Because industrial land is less expensive in comparison to residential, it has become attractive for residential development. Rising home prices in San Diego have created an incentive for developers to locate projects in industrial areas, requiring conversion to residential usage or to collocate such projects.

Preserving limited industrial lands for research, manufacturing and distribution uses is critical to the economic stability of the region. Jobs created by the life sciences industry provide long-term career opportunities, excellent wages and highly competitive benefits. Maintaining and attracting life science facilities and jobs will contribute to the diversity and growth of the San Diego economy. Without an adequate supply of industrial land, this growth will not occur.

There must also be a balance between the creation of affordable housing and protection of the available of industrial land. Like most business leaders in our region, life science executives are concerned about the high cost of housing and its effect on their competitive ability to attract and retain employees. We recognize that there are areas where conversion to residential use, or co-location with residential zoning might be appropriate, and places where it is simply impractical. BIOCOM supports policies that reflect this understanding and that prioritize the preservation of industrial lands for economic purposes.

Additionally, life science companies work with biological materials, hazardous chemicals and radioisotopes, all of which are intended for safe use within certain confines, both internal and external to their facilities. Life science companies must maintain the necessary flexibility in operations for the procurement, storage, and use of these materials. Zoning plans were originally created to provide space between industrial and residential areas with this in mind. Locating industrial and residential uses side-by-side has great potential to cause conflict between the parties resulting in the loss of industrial land, increased costs to life science companies, and a deterrent to the future expansion of the industry in San Diego.

-- Joe Panetta

President and CEO BIOCOM

Mixed-use properties continue to be a viable option to increase our housing supply. These types of projects work in urban infill locations like Hillcrest or Downtown, and increasingly in new suburban developments that offer residents quick and easy access to a variety of services.

More and more people are willing to overlook increased noise and other neighborhood issues, in exchange for the convenience of living within a short distance to services and transportation corridors.

-- Darcy Miramontes J.D.

Multi-Family Investments, Grubb & Ellis | BRE Commercial

The question of co-location is complex. I would submit that in certain circumstances rezoning is imperative. But this flows both from the industrial to residential/commercial and vice versa as well.

I am personally aware of highly contaminated sites or industries which by their nature should not be in residential neighborhoods -- but that have residential uses mixed in and directly adjacent to heavy manufacturing. Is this right? Absolutely not. These residents are potentially at risk. Because the underlying zoning is industrial, with a critical mass of industry in the area, these areas should continue to be industrial and the residential uses relocated.

Conversely, I am aware of heavy industry, including potential "toxics" mixed in and adjacent to residential (for example Barrio Logan), where the core use is residential. This should be pushed to residential.

Can and should rezoning occur? Absolutely, to abate the effects of a legacy of bad or no zoning if nothing else. From a broader redevelopment context, can an industrial property be rezoned and used for commercial or industrial uses. The answer is yes, if done so thoughtfully. We must be careful not to put residences too close to businesses that use highly toxic or hazardous chemicals. This is a tricky question too, because how do you go about deciding who can use which chemicals in what types of zoning without making it too difficult for businesses to find a home?

And this is the final question that must be addressed. How do we make sure we protect our "industrial" lands so that we can continue have the high paying jobs that go along with those types of businesses? The flip side of this argument is equally compelling. We obviously have a housing crisis, and we must provide affordable housing to continue to have a vibrant economy to have the quality of life that comes with more diverse homeownership. Co-location and rezoning probably play a part in this.

As I struggle with these questions, it occurs to me that it is extremely difficult to come up a with formulaic approach. Each project must be considered on its merits in light of the character and critical mass of underlying zoning. Lastly, we cannot, under any circumstances, compromise public health by placing residences too close to industrial uses. Good luck to the decision makers on these difficult questions.

-- Daniel E. Johnson

Vice President SCS Engineers

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