san diego sustainabilityA City of San Diego program to incentivize affordable housing developments and sustainable buildings by offering permitting in half the time of standard projects is underperforming, says a December 2 report from San Diego’s city auditor.

According to the city’s website, the purpose of the Affordable/In-Fill Housing and Sustainable Buildings “is to reassert the city’s commitment to green building practices in City facilities, and to provide leadership and guidance in promoting, facilitating, and instituting such practices in the community.”

The program, however, has not fulfilled those promises. The audit revealed that 45 percent of qualifying developments were completed late and those that weren’t considered late were likely not processed twice as quickly as the program promises. 

The investigation also revealed that the city has failed to update its criteria for what qualifies as a sustainable building. By failing to do so, many of the sustainable projects delivered few environmental benefits and many others should not have qualified for the program. An example: the program requires that in order to qualify, sustainable projects must include four or more units; however, the audit discovered that 30 percent of the projects categorized as sustainable and built between 2011 and 2015 were single-family homes.

“In addition,” reads the report, “because sustainability criteria is outdated, these projects were allowed to enter the program providing as little as 50 percent renewable energy on-site. [The Development Services Department] should cease to allow small projects into the program and should update eligibility criteria to ensure that [program] resources are focused on projects providing the greatest environmental benefit to the city.”

The city auditor recommends that the city’s Development Services Department implement practices to ensure that adequate computer software is in place as well as ensure more focus is paid to tracking the timelines of each project.

In addition, the report suggests that the city stop promising developers their projects would be processed in half the time of other projects and instead advertise the program as a potential goal.

Among other recommendations, the city auditor is asking that the Development Services Department stop allowing admittance to developers of single-family residential homes.



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