Supervisors approve streamlining final map process

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The San Diego County Board of Supervisors’ 5-0 vote March 28 approved the first reading and introduction of an ordinance to delegate the final map authority to the county’s Department of Planning and Development Services (PDS) and a 4-0 vote April 18, with Ron Roberts in Asia, approved a second reading and adoption. The change will take effect May 18.

“I think it’s a great improvement,” said Supervisor Bill Horn.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors’ 5-0 vote March 28 approved the first reading and introduction of an ordinance to delegate the final map authority to the county’s Department of Planning and Development Services (PDS) and a 4-0 vote April 18, with Ron Roberts in Asia, approved a second reading and adoption. The change will take effect May 18.

“I think it’s a great improvement,” said Supervisor Bill Horn.

A proposed subdivision map under the jurisdiction of the County of San Diego has at least one public hearing before the tentative map is approved. A tentative map becomes a final map when all conditions of the tentative map, other than those for which a final map is required, are fulfilled.

The county’s Planning Commission has the authority to approve a tentative map in the absence of a rezone, general plan amendment, or specific plan amendment. Any tentative map which includes a rezone or plan amendment must be approved by the Board of Supervisors, and a Planning Commission decision may be appealed to the county supervisors, although the decision becomes final if there is no appeal and no conditions requiring Board of Supervisors approval.

Supervisor Dianne Jacob said she approved delegating the oversight of the map to the department.

“It is going to make the process better,” she said. “This is truly a common sense move.”

The delegation of authority for a final map will reduce the processing time along with the processing costs.

On December 6 the county supervisors voted 4-0, with Kristin Gaspar absent, to direct the county’s Chief Administrative Officer to investigate the feasibility of delegating the approval of final maps to the appropriate PDS authority and to return to the county supervisors with changes in the county code to enable such streamlining within 120 days if such delegation is feasible and in accordance with state law. 

The conditions of a final map include secured agreements to ensure that the infrastructure will be built and that payment for labor and materials used to build the infrastructure will be made. 

The Board of Supervisors has been approving final maps along with secured agreements to guarantee completion of the infrastructure. The request for Board of Supervisors approval for the final map and secured agreements was not docketed until after a county staff determination that the map meets all applicable codes and ordinances and that all conditions have been fulfilled and the board letter to docket the final map was not prepared after all conditions of the tentative map were satisfied, the final map was deemed technically correct, the improvement plans were completed, and the required securities and related secured improvement agreements were provided.

State law does not require Board of Supervisors approval for a final map. 

The cities of Carlsbad, Chula Vista, and San Diego already delegate the approval of final maps.

Since a tentative map has already been approved, the discretion is with the security agreements rather than with the subdivision map. 

During the December 6 hearing, Jacob supported the streamlining but expressed concern that changes which were not included at a public hearing, such as conversion of a public road to a private road, may exist, in which case the project would return to the county supervisors for approval of a modified map. The supervisors’ action also requested the Chief Administrative Officer to explain the process on how minor revisions to projects would be approved.

County staff conducted an outreach effort to community planning and sponsor groups and to industry representatives. The planning and sponsor group recommendations included that the map be approved only by the PDS director, acting director, or assistant director and that planning or sponsor group chairs be notified prior to the decision of approving or modifying a final map, and those requests were incorporated into the county’s ordinance.

Once an application for a final map is received the department director will notify the Board of Supervisors that the map is being reviewed, and the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors will post the notice of the pending decision on the board’s regular agenda. 

A decision on the final map will be made within ten days, and that decision can be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.

Most minor deviations occur during the final engineering or construction process to correct errors which might not have been known when the discretionary approval was granted or to accommodate changed circumstances. 

A minor deviation is defined as a revision in which no revisions are made to the conditions of approval, the cumulative change is less than ten percent, the total number of units is not increased, no associated environmental impacts will occur, and the change will not adversely affect adjacent properties or property owners. 

The new approval process for a minor deviation is that such applications will be considered by the PDS director and the decision is final with no appeal. 

No notification to neighbors or planning or sponsor group members will be given.

A potential modification to a final map will be considered by the PDS director following notice to neighbors and the planning or sponsor group, and the director’s decision can be appealed to the Board of Supervisors.

Horn said the obvious benefits of the plan will be good for the county.

“It’s something we should have done long ago,” he said.

The anticipated time savings for the project is 30 to 45 days and the anticipated cost savings for the applicant is between $3,000 and $5,000 per map. Because the application process includes charges for cost recovery, the county’s revenue decline will be offset by decreased staff and other expenses.