Current Issue

Proposed zoning change at Balboa Mesa Shopping Center

Our position: The proposed zoning change is not in the best interest of Clairemont. We believe so for the following reasons:

  • Redevelopment CAN and IS happening with the current zoning.
  • The current zoning is highly beneficial to our community.
  • The long-term vision for Clairemont can only be achieved with consistent and stable zoning standards.

1. Redevelopment CAN and WILL happen with current zoning.

When Regency Centers purchased the property in September of 2012, they touted the purchase to investors and the business community, calling the center “one of the more desirable locations for retailers in the San Diego market” and emphasizing its “dense residential and daytime populations”. They stated that it offers “an immediate redevelopment opportunity”.
read press release

Construction has begun on the already-approved redevelopment plan which will add 4 new buildings to the center.  However, every business operates with the goal of maximizing their profits. So if they can rezone the property and make more money, then naturally they would try to do so. Of course, as they neither live in the community, nor have the community’s long-term goals as part of their business goals, it does not make sense for us to look to Regency Centers for guidance on our community zoning.

The Balboa Mesa Shopping Center contains two zones…Community Commercial “CC” and Commercial Neighborhood “CN”. The CC zone encompasses most of the shopping center. The CN zone runs along the western edge of the property nearest Genesee Ave which faces neighborhood homeowners across the street. These zones are very similar regarding the types of businesses allowed to operate within them. Both allow a variety of retail such as restaurants, general merchandise stores, grocery stores, and specialty stores. Of the hundreds of thousands of retail options available, a CN zone restricts only 4 kinds: alcohol, live entertainment, drive-thrus, and 24-hour businesses.

We have only to look at the nearby redevelopment already happening (large remodel and expansion of the Home Depot, a thriving Panera Bread replacing Blockbuster, and the under-construction Five Guys Burgers and Chipotle) to see that growth is already occurring. Rent will be increasing for tenants in these shopping centers, and the Balboa Mesa Shopping Center, already anchored with a Kohls, Vons, and CVS, will line up new, higher-rent paying tenants as well. This is already happening, without any change to the zoning!

2. The current zoning is highly beneficial to our community.

Whenever a community considers rezoning, we must first ask questions such as:
Are the reasons the current zoning was put in place still relevant today?
Do we lose anything significant when we eliminate this zone?
Do we gain anything?
What are the short and long-term consequences of this zone change?

The short answers to these questions in regards to the Balboa Mesa Shopping Center are:
“not as much as we lose”
“short-term:  a late-night fast-food drive-thru directly across from residential homeowners; long-term: a community core that is a less-desirable place to live.

The current zoning is still relevant today. CN zones exist for the specific purpose of blending commercial areas with neighborhood areas. Planners recognized that there is great value in having residents live near shops and businesses. They also learned that a few kinds of businesses caused more concern than others when located near homeowners. They wisely provided a CN “buffer” zone to specifically address this concern.
When citizens live near commercial areas, communities have less traffic, less pollution, and healthier citizens and businesses. Read more on the economic benefits here. Keeping our community core a safe, healthy, and desirable place for residents to live benefits everyone in our community.

3. The long-term vision for Clairemont can only be achieved with consistent and stable zoning standards.

Our community is growing. The city of San Diego is growing. To achieve our goals as a community we must have a stable and consistent plan. Zoning is the foundation of our community. Zoning provides the basis for all the development that has occurred and all the development that is yet to come. Everything from our roads and traffic to our home values and schools are affected by zoning changes. That is why we must take a very careful and considered approach to any zoning change.

It is also important to note that the simple will of the majority can have disastrous consequences when implemented in “piecemeal” community planning. For example, let’s say most citizens want a zoning change in order to allow a desired business in area A but the citizens that live around area A do not. Following the will of the majority, the zoning change takes place. If the only guideline is the will of the majority, it is easy to see how the next time the zoning change could take place in Area B, then Area C, D, and so on. Over time it is quite conceivable that the community could become one in which no one wants to live, and yet everyone voted to create! Well-planned communities encourage stability, investment, and growth. They are better at weathering cyclical economic downturns than communities that are willing to ignore or change their long-terms plans for an immediate (perceived) benefit.

When we begin to “tweak” the foundation our community was built upon, we risk no longer achieving the goals this foundation was put in place to support. Redevelopment and revitalization are essential parts of our community’s growth. Changing our zoning, however, is fundamentally different, and should be treated as such.