Smart Code Project Delayed

by Vickie Vértiz
City zoning codes are facing new challenges, or what some might see as opportunity. In 2013, planning officials in the city of Riverside began discussing a plan to rewrite the zoning rules for what can be built on about 10,000 acres in the city.
While the city looked for consultants to run the project, no one was hired and currently the project is not a priority because some residents objected to the idea that land which is open space could be sold to developers to even pay for the program, said the Press-Enterprise.
Smart code, as the project is known, is still in the works. Some zoning codes are over 20 years old and regulate what can be built in Riverside neighborhoods. Community Development Director Al Zelinka talked to the paper and said that the way the update gets done may change.
The program may focus on a smaller area, he told the paper, or it may look at how to balance development with natural resources.
While current codes describe in great detail allowable building heights, sidewalk widths, the kinds of businesses allowed, there is no unifying concept for neighborhood development. Zelinka told the paper that this gets shaped “one project at a time, one developer at a time.”
According to Zelinka, the smart code program would allow residents, business people, and property owners to tell the city what kinds of buildings, parks and public spaces they want “and then we can build that into the zoning code to make it happen.” Therefore, when someone proposes a development project, if it was already recommended by the community, the process to get it approved would be speedy.
The Enterprise added that people can still propose projects that are outside of the code and would go through the standard process for approval: the planning commission and City Council, and public opinion, Zelinka said.
The project would require the city to hire consultants and two new full-time city planners, costing approximately $4.4 million. One way to pay for the project staff, said Zelinka, would be to borrow “against the possible future sale of some or all of the Ab Brown Sports Complex and the closed Riverside Golf Club, which raised some hackles on the city’s Northside.”
Councilman Mike Gardner, who represents the Northside noted: “The council never formally discussed selling the properties and there may have been other ways to pay for the program, but residents were worried about losing recreation space to development.”
The golf course and soccer fields are publicly owned, undeveloped, and hundreds of trees on the golf course property are important to air quality, said Erin Snyder to the paper, a longtime Northside resident and activist.
“We want (the properties) to continue for public use,” she told the press. “We do [not] necessarily oppose the smart code in general principle.”
Snyder suggested that the golf course land be used for agriculture. In 2015, Snyder and others, including Riverside Public Utilities (RPU), will tell the council their ideas for the land. RPU owns the golf course and Ab Brown properties.

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