San Diego County Supervisors OK Policy to Streamline Building Permit Process

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Article by City News Service. Click here to read this article on The Times of San Diego website.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a policy Wednesday that would let developers self-certify projects in open space between existing structures as a way to speed up housing construction.

Passed as part of Wednesday’s consent agenda, Vice Chair Terra Lawson-Remer’s plan directs county staff to review self-certification programs in Chicago and Phoenix as potential models.

A working group will offer feedback on where self-certification should be pursued, project components such civil training and standards, and the compliance process.

Staff will later present options to expand and improve the program within so-called “infill” locations in the county’s Transportation Study Guide, which focuses on how development affects transportation in unincorporated areas.

Lawson-Remer said the policy will help the county tackle rising housing costs “by clearing one of the main bottlenecks that’s making our homes so expensive. The faster a project can get a permit, the faster someone can move in,” she said.

Lawson-Remer said the board’s action “will dramatically expand” an existing program adopted in 2019 that eliminated plan review, and allows registered professionals to take responsibility for certifying project compliance with building codes, ordinances and standards.

That program covered smaller projects such as private roads and landscaping — but not single-family or multi-family home construction, according to Lawson-Remer’s office.

The supervisor said county building permits “could be issued in just one to five business days.”

Quick approval for building permits is important for affordable housing projects, which have strict time lines mandated by state funding, she said. Delayed permits “could jeopardize the viability of an affordable housing project and even trigger the potential claw back of state affordable housing funds,” Lawson-Remer added.

According to Lawson-Remer’s office, similar programs in Chicago and Phoenix cover more types of eligible developments, with Phoenix processing over 4,500 building permits for projects such as single-family housing, subdivisions, multi-family and commercial.

During public comment at the Wednesday meeting, two building and business industry representatives said the county’s new policy will help streamline regulations and address a serious housing shortage.

Hannah Gbeh, an official with the Building Industry Association San Diego,  said the median house price in San Diego was $1 million as of June and the only solution is to build more homes immediately.