The San Diego County Board of Supervisors members desire to streamline the discretionary permit process while maintaining public review safeguards, and the February 12 Board of Supervisors meeting provided direction to county staff to move forward with several measures.
Multiple 5-0 votes gave direction to staff to continue bringing to fruition seven options for self-certification of project components, two California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) review timing options, one option on final engineering changes, three checklist exemption options, and one recommendation to continue the existing land development technical working group. No formal board vote was needed to accept the staff recommendations on the project issue resolution process and on increasing coordination and accountability between departments.
“What we’re doing today I think makes a lot of sense,” said Supervisor Dianne Jacob.
A 5-0 Board of Supervisors vote July 24 directed the county’s Chief Administrative Officer to return within 180 days with recommendations for implementing a self-certification process for engineers, implementing permit and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) evaluation requirements, increasing final engineering flexibility, increasing opportunities to expand checklist exemptions for certain permit processes, implementing a project issue resolution process, and increasing coordination and accountability between departments. The motion also included the formation of a working group of industry members and other stakeholders.
Ministerial permits are for projects which are considered “by right”; the facilities are not truly by right but are contingent upon compliance with a checklist. Such permits include building permits, electrical permits, and well water permits. Ministerial permits are exempt from CEQA and are for the most part flat fee permits which can be processed relatively quickly.
Discretionary permits are subject to CEQA. Any rezone, general plan amendment, or specific plan amendment is a discretionary action which must be approved by the Board of Supervisors. The county’s Planning Commission has the authority to approve subdivision maps and Major Use Permit requests, although the decision may be appealed to the Board of Supervisors. A Minor Use Permit or a design review permit such as a site plan would also undergo the discretionary process.
As part of the process for providing recommendations county staff held meetings with local professionals and reviewed the policies of the county’s 18 incorporated cities, 16 other cities and counties in California, and seven jurisdictions outside of California. The county’s Department of Planning and Development Services (PDS) met with industry groups, community planning and sponsor groups, other community members, and environmental stakeholders. The county’s Planning Commission reviewed the recommendations December 13 and provided input, although no formal Planning Commission vote was taken.
The Planning Commission recommendations included the ability to self-certify private roads beyond the four lots recommended by PDS staff, initially beginning self-certification with small projects and expanding to larger projects or reducing self-certification based on the success or lack thereof of the initial self-certifications, and not including structural changes for tenant improvements among the self-certification items. The Planning Commission also recommended a review committee to provide a forum for the articulation of issues and recommended that PDS staff track which options approved by the board are or are not effective.