City Council Speeds Up Growth-Control Plan

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The San Diego City Council on Thursday set in motion a complex scheme designed to rush a council-endorsed growth-control plan into effect shortly before Nov. 7, when San Diegans will probably vote on a competing growth-control plan prepared by the San Diego 2000 committee.

The city's still-evolving growth plan, already more than a year in the making, would limit new development until the city solves its huge deficiency in roads, parks, sewers, jails, police stations, libraries and other public services.

The council Thursday ordered the city staff to speed development of a plan to manage traffic congestion and a capital-facilities master plan that would serve as the cornerstone of the growth-control plan. Drafts of those documents were recently submitted to the council by Robert Freilich, an attorney who advises the city on growth-related issues.

Acting on a motion by Councilwoman Linda Bernhardt, the council ordered the city staff to develop those documents on a "fast track" so they can be incorporated into emergency ordinances on July 11.

Freilich argued that the emergency ordinances are appropriate because, throughout California, residents are being assaulted by increased pollution and traffic generated by unrestrained growth.

The emergency ordinances planned for July would be followed in September by still more ordinances and General Plan changes that would be needed to have most of the growth-control plan in place before the November election.

The council opted for a fast-track approach so council members can, in effect, campaign for the city's proposal and against the San Diego 2000 initiative.

"I want ours in place so we can go out and say (the city plan) is the best," Mayor Maureen O'Connor said Thursday.

The council's action drew praise from Peter Navarro, founder of Prevent Los Angelization Now, a group supporting growth control as necessary to ensure that the public infrastructure exists for the city to grow.

Navarro and other slow-growth advocates Thursday described the San Diego 2000 growth-control initiative as ineffective.

But Construction Industry Federation spokesman Tom Sheffer on Thursday described the council's plan as "a formula for economic destruction . . . new developments would not be able to go forward."

Although the council Thursday addressed key elements of its control plan, it once again failed to say how it would pay for infrastructure costs estimated at nearly $2 billion. Council members indicated that they would tackle the tough question of how to pay the city's share of those costs before July 11.

Opponents of the city plan have argued that the city will never raise the money needed to pay for its share of needed improvements. Without the city's contribution, construction will grind to a halt, critics predict.

In a series of rapid votes Thursday, council members took preliminary steps to place the competing growth-control plan developed by San Diego 2000 on the Nov. 7 ballot.

The San Diego 2000 committee, which includes developers and civic leaders, earlier this month gathered enough signatures to place the initiative on the Nov. 7 ballot. However, the council also has the option of refusing to place the initiative on the ballot, which could spark a court battle.

Council also voted against placing on the November ballot a growth-control initiative developed by PLAN. But Navarro predicted that the council will reverse course and place his group's initiative on the November ballot as an "insurance policy" that would help to defeat the San Diego 2000 initiative.

Thursday's flurry of votes occurred shortly after Councilman Wes Pratt urged council members to "get off the dime on this. . . . we've been jockeying around playing dueling initiatives. . . . Let's either vote something up or vote something down."

Under the plan adopted Thursday, the council would enact emergency ordinances to set in motion changes in the city's General Plan. In September, the council would augment those emergency measures with ordinances and General Plan changes to further flesh out the plan.

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