Planners criticize proposed guidelines for single-family homes

By Karen Brainard

San Diego County’s proposed single-family residential design guidelines received a stream of critical comments from Ramona Community Planning Group members who questioned the impact the guidelines will have on the community and, more specifically, individual property owners.

Although the public review period for the guidelines ended Feb. 25, the planning group was allowed to provide comments from its March 1 meeting because the planners had not received the document in time for review before its Feb. 2 meeting, according to RCPG member Kristi Mansolf, who serves as the group’s secretary.

Prepared by the county’s Department of Planning and Land Use, the 10-page document states that the guidelines will serve as a “reference document for designing residential subdivisions and single-family residences in accord with an established community character. These guidelines should be reviewed prior to applying for any discretionary permit for a residential project and by property owners designing and constructing a new home.”

Issues covered in the guidelines include: planning and designing a compatible development, critical components of lot design, designing homes for the countryside, safe and interconnected roadways, minimizing grading and preserving ridgelines, trail and pathway connectivity, and designing multi-family homes for single-family neighborhoods.

“This is absurd,” said planner Paul Stykel, as he expressed concerns for single-family builders.

Planner Richard Tomlinson told the other members he had learned the guidelines would also apply to remodels.

“They’re really going to burden the individual homeowner,” he said.

Tomlinson also objected to a guideline requesting that the angles of homes be varied in relation to the street, saying he has a problem with people being forced to turn their homes.

RCPG member Torry Brean pointed out that under “critical component of lot design” the lot lines are recommended to be designed with adequate areas for usable private open space. Brean said a five- to 10-acre lot should not need open space.

RCPG Vice Chair Chris Anderson said the county is “double-taking” by adding open space to internal lots.

In comments to the county, the planning group stated: “We are concerned with open space on private lots with the type of open space being unspecified. In a conservation subdivision where lot sizes tend to be smaller, we feel there should be no open space on private lots.”

Brean also questioned the guidelines’ encouragement for incorporating agriculture into new residential development.

Planner Dennis Sprong said the language in the guidelines was subject to county interpretation and RCPG Chair Jim Piva commented that it leaves many questions unanswered.

The planning group unanimously approved the following motions to send to the county:

•The RCPG categorically disapproves of this type of residential guidelines for single lot construction of single-family homes, minor subdivisions, or remodels.

•The RCPG rejects the multi-family proposal for single-family neighborhoods, but supports Ramona guidelines, soon to become Ramona standards, for multi-family homes.

•When developing in the Ramona area, refer to the Ramona Community Master Plan for trails and connectivity.

•Prior to implementation of single family residential design guidelines, county staff give a presentation to describe the effects on the community.

The RCPG also told the county that individual property owners should have the ability to build what they want without the same restrictions as a major subdivision, that not all lots in a subdivision may be large enough for agriculture, and that no economic considerations were included.

The guidelines may be viewed at www.sdcounty.ca.gov/dplu/NON-CEQA/Draft_Residential_Design_Guidelines_January_2012.pdf.

   
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