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Archive for the ‘Land use’ Category

Bureau of Reclamation awards $1.025 million toward San Diego watershed basin study

Posted by George J Janczyn on July 29, 2013

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has agreed to contribute funding in the amount of $1,025,000 in fiscal year 2013 for a San Diego Watershed Basin Study proposed by the City of San Diego along with two other local agencies.

According to San Diego’s proposal, the study’s two primary objectives are:

  1. Determine how climate change will impact the current and future water supply portfolio of the San Diego region.
  2. Develop infrastructure options within the San Diego Basin that can serve as adaptation strategies to manage climate change impacts, focusing on optimizing the reservoir systems and furthering development of indirect potable reuse.

There are uncertainties associated with Northern California and Colorado River water (regulatory restrictions and dry conditions, respectively) upon which the San Diego region relies for 70-90% of its needs. While previous work has been done to address the potential gap between supply and demand from the above causes, the potential climate change effects were not taken into account. The proposed watershed basin study would analyze those effects.

The San Diego Public Utilities Department (PUD) is the project sponsor, with the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) and the County of San Diego serving as partners.

The San Diego watershed basin study is comprised of six sub-hydrologic units (HU) within San Diego County highlighted above in blue.

The San Diego watershed basin study area is comprised of the six sub-hydrologic units (HU) within San Diego County highlighted above in blue. Click map to enlarge.

Budget: $1 million was requested from Reclamation, a grant of $782,244 was secured from the San Diego Integrated Regional Water Management (IRWM) Program, and $300,000 would be paid by PUD creating a project total of $2,082,244.

The San Diego IRWM Program, formed in 2005, has a vision for “[a]n integrated, balanced, and consensus-based approach to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Region’s water supply, water quality, and natural resources.”

In addition to approving the requested $1 million, the Reclamation Bureau granted an additional $25,000. In its notification letter to the city, the Bureau said “…funding will be provided in two phases. First, $25,000 will be allocated for the development of a detailed Plan of Study… [and] Contingent upon Reclamation’s approval of the Plan of Study, $1,000,000 will be allocated for conducting the study.”

Work on the Plan of Study and a Memorandum of Agreement begins today at a kickoff meeting between the study partners and a representative from Reclamation. The Plan must be submitted for approval by September 30.

The new basin study might be able to consider aspects of a four-reservoir intertie project for which San Diego and Sweetwater Authority tried to execute a feasibility study in 2011 but were unsuccessful partly because, according to PUD Principal Water Resources Specialist Cathleen Pieroni, hoped-for funding from the Bureau of Reclamation fell through because the Bureau was unable to get an allocation from Congress did not appropriate the funding necessary to complete the Study that it authorized.

Tasks for the San Diego Watershed Basin Study include basin water supply and demand projections, climate change evaluation, development of adaptation strategies, and a trade-off analysis. The final report is expected to be ready in mid-2015.


Posted in Environment, Land use, San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA), San Diego Public Utilities Department (PUD), Water | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

San Diego River Bend project draft EIR open for public comment

Posted by George J Janczyn on February 29, 2012

The City of San Diego has announced that the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the San Diego River Bend project (aka the proposed Shawnee/CG7600 Master Plan redevelopment project) is now available for public review and comment. The deadline for comments is Monday, April 29.

The 22.88-acre project is located alongside the San Diego River in Grantville near the intersection of Mission Gorge Rd. and Old Cliffs Rd.

The project would redevelop the site with 996 multi-dwelling units, 27 single-dwelling units, 37,500 square feet of accessory commercial, a 2.57-acre population based park, 1.55 acres of open space, and associated infrastructure.

The EIR indicates the project would result in significant but mitigable impacts with land use, biological resources, historical resources, noise, and paleontological resources.

Project impacts to air quality, hydrology, water quality, and other areas of concern were determined to be less than significant.

The EIR also found the project would result in significant unmitigated impacts related to transportation/circulation and parking. In particular, it states that “eight street segments and five intersections are anticipated to operate at an unacceptable level of service under the Year 2030 without Project condition….” Although the report allows that those conditions might ultimately be mitigated through construction of the Santo Road and Tierrasanta Blvd. connections, “there is no way to assure these connections would be constructed…”

The draft EIR is available on the city’s website here and Appendices can be found here.

Additional information about the project can be found at these websites:


Posted in Environment, Land use, Navajo Community, Water | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Equinox Center releases new “Regional Quality of Life Dashboard”

Posted by George J Janczyn on February 3, 2012

San Diego’s non-profit Equinox Center (actually it’s located in Encinitas) has published a new 2012 report Regional Quality of Life Dashboard on its website.

The Dashboard front page (which also has reports for 2010 and 2011) states that it aims to

“…shine a spotlight on the questions that truly matter to San Diegans: Are we leaving our children a heritage of thriving, rejuvenating nature? Will our businesses have access to resources such as energy and water so they can provide economic opportunities to all of the region’s inhabitants? Do we have efficient and adequate transportation options? Simply, is our quality of life improving?”

As you can see, a variety of relevant topics are addressed in the dashboard. You have the choice of clicking a specific topic from the left-hand sidebar or you can download the entire report as a PDF (clicking the above image will take you to the main Dashboard page).

Each topic is organized into four units, with the headings asking:

  1. What is the measure?
  2. How are we doing?
  3. Why is it important?
  4. How can we improve?

In the unit on water, here’s a map from the “How are we doing?” section. The map portrays each water district in the county in shades of green, with dark green indicating the highest water consumption (clicking the image will display the version on the Equinox website).

In addition to the Dashboard reports, the Equinox Center website is well-worth exploring for reports on other research it has conducted. One that is quite revealing is the 2010 report San Diego’s Water Resources: Assessing the Options. It drew quite a bit of attention from community leaders and activists. For my summary of that report please click here.


Posted in Environment, Government, Land use, Water | Leave a Comment »

Legal challenge continues over SDSU’s Master Plan and Adobe Falls development

Posted by George J Janczyn on June 21, 2011

This is to catch up on the multi-year legal maneuvers that involve the Adobe Falls area — undeveloped open space adjacent to Alvarado Creek just north of the I-8 freeeway across from San Diego State University, west of College Avenue. San Diego State University’s Master Plan intends to develop that land with up to 348 residential housing units for faculty and staff.

Alvarado Creek (the green tree belt) crosses to the north side of Interstate 8 near College Avenue. The Adobe Falls cascades wrap to the north and then the creek turns westward.

Beginning with the 2005 Master Plan and then the 2007 Master Plan revision, California State University’s certification of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) was challenged in lawsuits by the City of San Diego, Del Cerro Action Council, and other entities.

February 2010: after years in court during which the cases were consolidated into one, the Superior Court entered a judgment in favor of SDSU (for history up to that point click here).

Subsequently, the City of San Diego and its Redevelopment Agency, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) decided to appeal the decision (due to lack of funds, Del Cerro Action Council was unable to join the appeal).

December 2010: City of San Diego and other parties filed opening briefs in their appeal of the Superior Court judgment.

February 2011: CSU filed its brief.

March 17-18, 2011: San Diego [et al.] filed reply briefs.

April 26, 2011: Amicus curiae (friend of the court) briefs were filed by California Department of Transportation, League of California Cities, and California State Association.

May 26, 2011: CSU filed responses to the amicus curiae briefs.

Del Cerro is in the background. Alvarado Creek's Adobe Falls, which flows year-round although sometimes at a trickle, is hidden at top right

The issues discussed in the various briefs go into considerable detail. Note that SDSU’s Master Plan includes other development projects in addition to the Adobe Falls proposal, so the mitigation issues discussed in the appeal are much broader. I would characterize the arguments very generally as going back and forth over the following:

1. The City asserts that CSU abused its discretion under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by claiming its financial obligation to ensure mitigation for traffic is limited to requesting funds from the Legislature. If funds were to be denied, CSU would assume no further responsibility.

2. SANDAG and MTS argue that CSU failed to address the impacts that will result from SDSU’s massive increased use of public transit systems to transport additional students, faculty, staff and visitors to and from the SDSU campus” and that CSU should have considered alternate potentially feasible mitigation measures.

CSU argues that it cannot make funding requests for highway traffic improvements, because only Caltrans can do that. CSU says the Master Plan project traffic impacts are just one part of the overall traffic growth picture that Caltrans must plan for. However, CalTrans presently has no plans for highway improvements in the vicinity of the project, so without such a plan, it would be impossible to determine what CSU’s fair share should be. CSU says it can only commit to pay a fair share for traffic improvements when Caltrans develops a plan.

Further, CSU argues that it prepared a traffic analysis that studied impacts to the transportation network surrounding SDSU as required by CEQA; identified significantly impacted intersections, roads, and road segments; negotiated extensively with the City of San Diego and other agencies over the fair-share mitigation amounts; made final fair-share determinations; adopted fair-share mitigation measures specific to both the City of San Diego and Caltrans; and requested fair-share mitigation funds from the Legislature. CSU says it changed its capital outlay budget process to include mitigation of off-campus impacts. CSU also argues that there is nothing in CEQA that requires “alternate potentially feasible mitigation measures” not required by statute or implementing regulations.

Naturally, everybody involved with the case declines to comment because it is ongoing litigation.

What’s next: a clerk at the Court of Appeals indicates that no further hearings have been scheduled, but guesses that it could be September or later before the next hearing.

One of several cascades at Adobe Falls.


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Preview: City of San Diego 2010 Urban Water Management Plan

Posted by George J Janczyn on May 12, 2011

As part of its long-range water resources planning activities, the City of San Diego, like other large water agencies, is required to adopt and submit an Urban Water Management Plan to the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) every five years. Here’s the 2005 version. The new 2010 plan was originally due by December 31, 2010 but a six-month extension was given and the July 1 deadline is now approaching.

Until recently, where public comment on the draft 2010 plan is concerned, the Public Utilities Department (PUD) kept a fairly tight rein on it (but you can get a copy below).

Last month PUD announced the planned publication of the 2010 plan at an Independent Rates Oversight Committee (IROC) subcommittee meeting and the Natural Resources and Culture (NR&C) Committee by offering a brief PowerPoint summary about it.

For the upcoming May 18 NR&C meeting the agenda packet includes a shortened PowerPoint summary but not the full draft plan. The committee will be asked to approve the plan and forward it to the full city council.

The only complete public copy of the draft (so far, that I know of) was just distributed yesterday to the IROC mailing list with its May 16 meeting agenda packet. Here’s a portion from the section discussing public involvement:

“The Plan was presented at public meetings to the Independent Rates Oversight Committee (IROC) Environmental and Technical Committee on April 11, 2011 and the San Diego City Council’s Natural Resources and Culture Committee (NR&C) on April 20, 2011. These public meetings included a discussion of the Plan including the per capita water demand targets. The draft Plan was presented to IROC on______ and to NR&C on _______. The Plan was presented at a public hearing before the San Diego City Council at one of its regularly scheduled meetings on_______, where it was approved for adoption. A notice of the public hearing was provided to all cities within San Diego County and to the County of San Diego 60-days before the hearing. Public hearing notifications were published and copies of the Plan were made available for public inspection at the City’s office and on the web site two weeks before the public hearing. Copies of the 60-day notification, published public hearing notification and adoption resolution are included in Appendix A. The Plan will be submitted to DWR, the California State Library and San Diego County within 30 days after adoption. The Plan will be available for public review on the City’s web site within 30 days after filing a copy of the Plan with DWR. The City shall implement the adopted Plan in accordance with the schedule described in this Plan.” [from Section 1.6]

From the looks of it, that was the original idea, anyway. If you read it carefully, the draft plan wasn’t shown or distributed at the April IROC and NR&C meetings, it was simply announced with PowerPoint slideshow handouts. The blank dates for the draft plan apparently will be filled in with the May 18 IROC and May 20 NR&C meetings, although only IROC’s agenda packet actually includes the draft plan [note–see update below]. Presumably broader public access to and ability to comment on the draft plan will be possible once it is docketed for the City Council meeting.

Councilmember Sherri Lightner should be interested since she lately expressed the wish to develop a new water policy for San Diego.

The draft management plan emailed to IROC was sent in three parts; you can view it here:

Update: I sent email to the NR&C Committee Consultant regarding the absence of the full plan from the May 18 agenda packet and he arranged to add it. It’s now there, here’s the direct link:

I should also note that on May 16 I received an email message from Eric Symons, Supervising Public Information Officer for the Public Utilities Department, in which he said: “There was no intent on the part of the City to keep a “tight rein” on the UWMP. The Draft 2010 UWMP was inadvertently excluded from the Documents Available for Download section of the NR&C website on Wednesday when other supporting documents appeared.”


In contrasting related news, the San Diego County Water Authority (SDCWA) announced on May 9 that it is seeking public comment on its draft 2010 Urban Water Management Plan for San Diego County. The draft can be viewed at SDCWA’s website. Comments on the draft will be accepted through June 6.


Posted in Commerce, Land use, Water | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

Helix Water District holds public scoping meeting for groundwater recharge IPR project in El Monte Valley

Posted by George J Janczyn on March 9, 2011

El Monte Valley. El Capitan Dam is around the bend a couple of miles.

The Helix Water District held a public meeting yesterday to give notice that it is beginning preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed El Monte Valley Project (or more completely, the El Monte Valley Mining, Reclamation, and Groundwater Recharge Project).

El Monte Valley lies just west of El Capitan Reservoir and dam, with the San Diego River channel running through its length. Beneath the valley is a groundwater aquifer that provides water to the Helix district and many valley residents with wells on their property. The project aims to recharge the aquifer with purified recycled water (aka indirect potable reuse, or IPR) that would be piped in from a facility in Santee and emptied into recharge basins to percolate into the ground. Some injection wells might also be used for the recharge process, which would raise the water table for the slowly depleting aquifer and provide the district with an additional 5 million gallons of water per day.

Other components of the project are a temporary (8-10 years) sand-mining operation that would help pay the cost of the project. Parts of the valley and river channel would then be graded, contoured, and restored for riparian habitat with native plants and trees and recreational features including hiking and equestrian trails.

Yesterday’s “Scoping Meeting” was held as an adjourned board meeting at the district’s La Mesa offices at 7811 University Avenue at 7pm. The primary reason for the meeting was to get feedback from stakeholders and interested persons about topics of concern they would like to have addressed by the EIR.

About 75 people attended this meeting. After a brief overview of the project by Tim Smith, Project Manager, about 14 people spoke on a variety of viewpoints.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Environment, Helix Water District, Indirect potable reuse, Land use, Water | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

City of San Diego files opening briefs in appeal of SDSU’s plan to develop Adobe Falls

Posted by George J Janczyn on December 3, 2010

Overlooking the Adobe Falls area. Freeway I-8 is on the left, Mission Valley in the distance

Adobe Falls is a parcel of undeveloped land and open space adjacent to Alvarado Creek across the I-8 freeway from San Diego State University just west of College Avenue.

Since before 2005, SDSU has been pressing to implement its Master Plan project to use that land for up to 348 residential housing units for faculty and staff. Numerous lawsuits by the City of San Diego, Del Cerro Action Council, and other entities challenged the California State University’s (CSU trustees) certification of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The cases were eventually consolidated into one and last February the court entered a judgment in favor of SDSU (for details about the project and those legal actions click here).

On May 25, 2010 the City submitted notice of intent to file an appeal (Del Cerro Action Council had earlier filed an objection to the proposed statement of decision, but lack of financial resources prevented it from filing an appeal).

Just a few days ago, on Nov. 24, 2010 an appellant’s opening brief was filed by the City of San Diego and the Redevelopment Agency. On Dec. 1, 2010 the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) filed their opening brief.

Adobe Falls is considered to be the only year-round waterfall within City limits

Judges have not been determined yet. According to Gina Coburn, Communications Director for the City Attorney’s office, “The appellate court assigns a 3 panel judge but we don’t know who until they send out the notice of hearing which will be after the briefing is complete, sometime in February 2011.”

The City of San Diego [et al.] opening brief argues that the EIR was improperly certified because the approval is based on an erroneous interpretation of a different case that was cited as precedent. It also charges that CSU was “disingenuous” and abused its discretion under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by claiming it has no obligation to ensure mitigation for traffic and other issues beyond asking the State Legislature for funding (i.e., if funds were not forthcoming, CSU’s position is that it has no further obligation).

The SANDAG and MTS opening brief states that “the most fundamental violation of CEQA at issue concerns CSU’s complete failure to address the impacts that will result from SDSU’s massive increased use of public transit systems to transport additional students, faculty, staff and visitors to and from the SDSU campus.” It goes on to say that CSU “deliberately” understated automobile traffic impacts.

A response brief from CSU is due in January or February of next year.


Posted in Adobe Falls, Environment, Government, Land use | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Del Cerro utilities undergrounding project to begin in July

Posted by George J Janczyn on May 26, 2010

A large City of San Diego project called Del Cerro 7CC in the vicinity of Del Cerro Blvd. at the south end of Madra Ave. will underground approximately 4 miles of overhead lines and 422 private properties. According to Nathan Bruner, the city’s Underground Program Manager, the project will likely begin in July. Trenching will last about a year and another year for cabling and removal of poles.

To the east of Madra Ave., Del Cerro Blvd. is divided by a wide island with only a single lane in each direction, but Mr. Bruner did not know if trenching will cause complete closure of single lane segments. That will be determined by a traffic manager and residents will be be informed in advance. Equipment and supplies staging may be done at the fenced asphalt lot on top of the hill at the Pasatiempo Open Space area (the space has been leased from the city for that purpose, in any event).

Affected residents will be kept updated throughout the project via email and regular mail. Anyone can be added to the email list for regular updates by calling the undergrounding information hotline at 619-533-3841.


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Clarification on SDSU’s planned expansion into the Adobe Falls Open Space area

Posted by George J Janczyn on April 24, 2010

I’m maintaining updated information on San Diego State University’s Master Plan project to construct residential housing for faculty and staff in Del Cerro’s Adobe Falls Open Space area, and the legal challenges pertaining to the plan’s Environmental Impact Report that dragged on for years.

The ongoing story is here:


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Sub-metering ordinance approved–will promote water conservation by apartment dwellers

Posted by George J Janczyn on April 5, 2010

941 two-bedroom market-style apartments under construction (in 2008) at Naval Station San Diego

[Revised; originally published Feb 25]

The first public hearing for an ordinance at today’s San Diego City Council meeting will require new apartments in San Diego to include water meters for each unit effective June 1, 2010. The motion passed unanimously and the item will proceed to the second public hearing for adoption in two weeks on Apr 20.

[The second public hearing and adoption passed routinely].

Regarding water charges, tenants in submetered units will not receive water bills from the city; rather, they will be billed through a third party. Tenants will also be subject to a formula allocating between them the fixed fee portion of water bills that might apply to vacant units in their building. Any building permit application on file prior to the effective date will be exempt from the ordinance. It is not known how many projects “in the pipeline” — in planning stages but not yet having filed an application — may be affected. Certain high-rise developments will also be exempt, but council members expressed hope that the state of California will begin permitting “point of use” meters in such cases–apparently there is a regulatory issue with such meters at present.

Click here to view video of the council meeting.

The ordinance carried forward by San Diego City Councilperson Marti Emerald was first conceived in an ad-hoc committee of the Committee on Natural Resources and Culture (see Item 4, Oct 7, 2009 agenda) and passed through the Planning Commission (Jan 21, 2010 docket, item 11) before being scheduled for the Mar. 9 city council meeting [Item 335 on the docket (to be heard in evening session after 6pm), click here for supporting materials].

Breaking the story when the proposal was first made, the Voice of San Diego’s Rob Davis added a personal perspective on individual apartment dwellers who currently have no way to gauge their own water usage. The Voice followed up with a “Fact Check” piece confirming Ms. Emerald’s estimate that apartment dwellers would use between 15 and 39 percent less water if they were responsible for paying their own water bills.

That’s an impressive savings in total, but only a gradual one, since it would occur only with new construction, not with existing apartments which would require retrofitting. Still, as Davis points out, more than 80,000 new apartments and condos are expected to be built in San Diego between now and 2030. [Late update: over 1.2 million new residents are expected in San Diego by 2050, according to the SD Union-Tribune. 80% of them would be multifamily units.]

This somewhat tardy ordinance mislabeled “cutting edge” (when you consider Santa Monica did this ten years ago!) will contribute to the city’s water conservation efforts, but the estimated new apartment construction highlights the perpetual dilemma the city has with respect to its limited water supply: population growth. All that new development will require more water than we now have access to, so we cannot relax from vigorously pressing forward with initiatives such as producing purified reclaimed drinking water (via Indirect Potable Reuse), exploiting new renewable groundwater resources, and putting strict new limits on additional development in the city.

See also:

Rob Davis posted this extra insight into water metering for high-rises.

The Union-Tribune also had this story.


Posted in Land use, Water, Water conservation | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »