The San Diego County Board of Supervisors approved a comprehensive update to its general plan on Wednesday, bringing an end to a process that took more than a decade.
The zoning plan for the region's unincorporated areas, which will guide future development, was approved by a 4-1 vote.
County staff devised the guidelines to concentrate new construction closer to existing infrastructure, which will result in numerous backcountry and desert properties being down-zoned to lower densities.
Board Chairman Bill Horn opposed down-zoning without compensation to owners of the affected properties.
"We're changing the equity positions of a whole lot of people,'' Horn said. He also reasoned that since less land will be available for development, future property tax revenues will be lower than they could have been.
Supervisor Pam Slater-Price pointed out that there are no changes to the density levels of 70 percent of the parcels in unincorporated areas, and densities were increased in some of the rest.
"A lot of things aren't changing that much,'' Slater-Price said.
The county has been operating under a general plan that's been in effect since 1978, and officials have been working on the update for a dozen years to bring it into conformity with state law and 21st century conditions. It was before the board for 10 months. The document itself was downsized, from more than 1,000 pages to less than 300.
Slater-Price also touted the updated plan for environmental benefits that will discourage development in sensitive biological habitats, floodplains and areas where groundwater needs to be protected.
But Horn had another take.
"Today, the board has sided with the environmentalists over the property owners,'' Horn said. "I'm proud to stand with the farmers and property owners.''
He later added that he feared his community of Valley Centers would soon see "more high-rise condos than avocado trees.''
Supervisor Ron Roberts said it was "painful'' in how long the process took.
The board split 3-2 when voting to meet Nov. 9 to review unresolved issues regarding a number of specific properties.
The county stated in a news release that the benefits of the plan when compared to the previous plan include:
- Accommodating a roughly 41 percent increase in population in unincorporated communities while still cutting projected growth in the old general plan by 15 percent.
- Cutting potential greenhouse gas emissions by 550,000 metric tons a day by reducing new road construction by 780 lane miles and eliminating up to three million vehicle trips a day.
- Reducing wildfire threats by locating more growth closer to existing fire stations.
- Reducing potential direct effects of development on biological habitat.
The General Plan Update was developed with broad public input from developers, business owners, environmentalists, farmers, homeowners, landowners and renters. To see the plan, go to sdcounty.ca.gov/dplu/gpupdate.
City News Service contributed to this report.