Despite strong opposition from the district's own council member, the San Diego City Council on Monday exempted a large housing and industrial project north of Scripps Ranch from the restrictions of the council's slow-growth Interim Development Ordinance.
After an often-acrimonious debate that alternately pitted Councilman Ed Struiksma against Mayor Maureen O'Connor and the project's developers, the council voted, 7-2, with Struiksma and Councilwoman Judy McCarty dissenting, to conditionally release the Miramar Ranch North community plan from the provisions of the IDO.
While Struiksma warned his colleagues that their action could result in insufficient developer funding for a community park and library, O'Connor said that she was not concerned about that possibility because the developer still must win council approval of a so-called "facility benefits" plan for the exemption to take effect.
Moreover, O'Connor, noting that BCE Development Inc. has pledged not to seek building permits until after the IDO expires in January, 1989, argued that Monday's action would not undermine the IDO's purpose. She stressed that the Miramar Ranch North plan complies with a clause allowing exemptions for community plans that meet certain public facility and financing requirements.
'It's Very Clear'
"It's a conditional release. It's very clear," O'Connor said.
"It's not very clear," Struiksma shot back. "I'm uncomfortable with it. There still are a lot of unanswered questions."
Struiksma, however, was unable to persuade his colleagues to defer action on the issue until next month, when a related matter is scheduled to come before the council.
Last month, the council had twice deadlocked, 4-4, on whether to exempt the Miramar Ranch North plan, where 4,650 residential units are scheduled to be built along with 121 acres of light industrial and commercial development over five years starting in 1989. Because of those tie votes, the matter returned to the council Monday.
The council approved the Miramar Ranch North plan last May, after BCE pledged to spend $40 million on road construction, schools, a library and other public facilities.
Although the firm has pledged not to begin residential construction until after the IDO expires in 13 months, BCE General Manager William Kennedy asked the council to release the Miramar Ranch North plan from the provisions of the IDO as a "vote of confidence" that the development will be permitted to proceed.
With the firm spending $500,000 monthly on engineering plans for road construction, BCE wanted the council's assurance that the slow-growth ordinance would not complicate the development's progress, Kennedy said. The IDO, which established an 8,000-unit limit on residential construction citywide between July, 1987, and January, 1989, is intended to ensure that construction of schools, parks, sewers and other public facilities keeps pace with home building.
"We're very concerned that a delay today could throw this project into turmoil," Kennedy said. "We have to put $40 million in the ground (before beginning to build). We wanted . . . more assurance that we're still on track."
Seeking to block the exemption, Struiksma accused Kennedy of backing down from earlier pledges regarding the financing of a community park and library. Saying that Kennedy previously had told the council that BCE would completely finance development of a park, Struiksma noted that the company has recently suggested that part of the funding come from the Scripps Ranch area, whose residents presumably also would use the park.
"Mr. Kennedy stood before the council and said the park would be built at the company's expense," Struiksma said. "Now they're trying to get out from under that (promise)."
Kennedy, though, characterized Struiksma's criticisms as primarily a difference of interpretation, adding: "I really don't think we're that much apart."