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Otay Mesa Planning Coalition seeks balance for residential, industrial growth

Group aids city's efforts to update community plan

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A plan to fashion Otay Mesa into one of San Diego's comprehensively-planned communities is the goal of a joint planning effort by the city of San Diego and landowners on Otay Mesa. The city of San Diego is working with the Otay Mesa Planning Coalition (OMPC), comprised of representatives from seven local residential and industrial development companies, to ensure that the long-term blueprint for Otay Mesa's future includes a balance of new homes, job centers, community amenities and environmental protection.

The OMPC is comprised of representatives from Centex Homes, DR Horton, Integral Communities, McMillin Land Development, Murphy Development, Pardee Homes and Sunroad Enterprises. The coalition formed in 2004 to help facilitate a public discussion about the need for a new community plan. Otay Mesa, a 9,300-acre community within the city of San Diego, is located east of Interstate 805 and south of Chula Vista. Otay Mesa also includes one of the busiest commercial land border crossings in the United States.

The Otay Mesa Community Plan was last comprehensively updated in 1981. Since then, more than 6,000 potential homes have been lost to set aside land for the Multiple Species Conservation Program.

The original community plan reserved most of the community for industry. However, Otay Mesa has remained largely undeveloped, in part because of a lack of housing and services for workers. Additionally, Otay Mesa desperately needs new infrastructure to succeed. New development is crucial to funding these improvements. Working closely with the community and stakeholders, the new plan will help Otay Mesa reach its full potential.

The cooperative planning program seeks to ensure that the Otay Mesa Community Plan Update comprehensively incorporates best land use practices. The right combination of available housing and industrial and commercial growth will help position Otay Mesa for prosperity long into the future and strengthen its role in international trade.

Smart growth principles emphasize placing housing near jobs and transportation corridors to create stronger and more livable communities. The coalition is working with the city to incorporate concepts such as transit-oriented development into the plan. A unique element is to provide the right mix of uses and housing densities to support a bus rapid transit line (BRT) between the BRT corridors already planned along I-805 and State Route 125. This will go a long way toward meeting the region's changing economy, transportation and housing needs, while reducing traffic congestion and improving our environment.

While the planning process to bring Otay Mesa to full bloom continues, a concern some have is that San Diego County is suffering from a shortage of available industrial land. However, the shortage only exists in readily deliverable industrial sites, much of which is due to infrastructure constraints, rather than a long-term shortage. Even with the conversion of some industrial land to provide a balance of land uses in Otay Mesa, there will still be enough land for 18 million square feet of new industrial space. That space, combined with the land available in east Otay Mesa, could sustain the entire county's industrial land demands for the next 24 years, and Otay Mesa's for 94 years. In Otay Mesa, the issue is the capacity of industrial land, rather than supply. Otay Mesa generates only 6.2 jobs per net acre.

To diversify the industrial profile in Otay Mesa, a mix of housing, amenities and services coupled with infrastructure improvements will turn Otay Mesa into the next major employment center in the San Diego region. With an international port of entry, four existing or planned freeways and a general aviation airport, this new comprehensive plan for the Otay Mesa community will bring a long-sought vision to reality over the next 25 years.

The city of San Diego has been holding public workshops on the update. City staff has been working to incorporate input gathered in these sessions and in other stakeholder meetings into the draft update. The city council is expected to review the community plan update in early 2007.

For more information on the Otay Mesa Community Plan Update, contact City of San Diego Community Planning Program Manager Mary Wright at (619) 533-4528 or visit the city's Web site at www.sandiego.gov. For information on the Otay Mesa Planning Coalition, contact Dave Nielsen at (619) 239-9877.

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