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Development Near Transit Takes New Turn

Many mornings, Carl Waidell gets on a train and travels from San Juan Capistrano to his Downtown office at Intracorp San Diego, LLC.

Waidell, who is the vice president of suburban development for the San Diego-based redevelopment company, is able to make calls, answer his e-mails and get a jump start on the day before he arrives at his office at 9 a.m., an hour after most of the staff arrives.

“I’m already well into my day by the time I arrive,” Waidell said. “When I get there I can jump right into my meetings.”

Waidell is not alone in his quest for transportation that doesn’t come at the expense of wasting time and gas.

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According to the North County Transit District, which operates the Coaster, the 42-mile commuter rail line that runs from Oceanside to Downtown San Diego, the rail line has continually increased its ridership in its 10 years in existence.

In 2004, the commuter line carried 1.4 million passengers, a 100 percent increase since it first began operations in 1995.

In 2003 the commuter line carried more than 1.3 million passengers, an 8 percent increase from 2004.

Despite the increase in rail passengers and the more than 100 miles of rail and trolley lines throughout the county, there has been little transit-oriented development, a concept many planners believe can likely ease traffic congestion and provided needed housing.

Transit oriented development, which includes retail, housing and office space, is estimated to reduce transportation expenses, increase the share of walking and transit trips, and generate revenue for developers, cities and transit agencies, according to a 2004 study by Reconnecting America’s Center for Transit Oriented Development, an Oakland-based organization formed to link transportation networks and the communities they serve.


Increase In Projects

With traffic congestion at an all-time high and a limited amount of available land, mixed-use development that puts housing and shopping next to transit are now viewed by many in San Diego as a viable solution.

“I think transit oriented development is a way to go,” Waidell said. “I think you will begin to see these types of projects increase.”

Intracorp is working on a project within a five-minute walk of the Coaster station just east of Highway 101 at Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach.

Dubbed Cedros Seaside, the project, is a high-end 22 single family detached homes.

In its first phase of construction Cedros Seaside is scheduled to be completed by June with prices ranging from $1.3 million to $1.7 million.

There are no plans to include any retail or office development, according to company officials.

In the San Diego metropolitan area, future transit zones have the potential to accommodate nearly 17 percent of the projected household growth between now and 2025, according to the report.

In 2000 there were more than 96,000 San Diego’s households in transit zones, which include households in a half-mile radius around both existing and planned future stations. By 2025 that number could potentially increase to 174,007, according to the report.

“Whether the project is Downtown or some other transit route, to me there is just so much logic to putting high density housing on transit corridors,” said Rob Lankford, president and chief executive officer of Lankford & Associates, a San Diego-based developer. “Residential development in this city has really taken off. There’s an explosion in this city for housing.”


A Smart Corner

Lankford is developing Downtown’s Smart Corner project, a mixed-use project, which includes a 19-story residential tower and a five-story, 93,000-square-foot office building next to the San Diego Trolley College station.

“Transit oriented development is definitely not just residential,” Lankford said. “It needs to incorporate retail, office and residences. The more density concentrated on a transit stop, the more sense it makes.”

The project is expected to be completed in early 2007.

Interest in transit oriented development projects in San Diego is beginning to rise as development companies across the county are seeing the benefits of mixed use and residential projects built nearby public transportation.

Sheadona LLC, a joint venture of San Diego-based Sedona Pacific Corp., a redevelopment company, and Shea Properties, an Orange County-based home builder, is planning a mixed-use transit oriented project, which will be part of the Solana Beach Train Station.

“We are really focused on transit oriented development,” said Greg Shannon, the president of Sedona Pacific Corp. “It’s where development should occur. When you have housing shortage, land shortage and traffic congestion, this (transit oriented development) is one way to try and relieve the pressure.”

People Project

At Shannon’s Cedros Crossing project in Solana Beach, the development not only centers around transit but also considers the needs of residents to make the project pedestrian friendly.

“One of the things you need to do with transit oriented development is to make it very people oriented,” Shannon said. “With transit oriented development you have to make it somewhere where people want to go.”

The $27 million project includes 141 rental lofts and 25,000 square feet of retail space to “serve the neighborhood and the train station passengers,” Shannon said.

The development also includes public plazas, fountains, a pedestrian bridge, parking garage and a spot for the planned 500-seat North Coast Repertory Theatre.

Tom Kelleher, a Transit District spokesman, said transit oriented development has been prevalent around the rail lines for the last several years, including the NCTD’s $375.5 million Sprinter rail line, which runs 22-miles from Oceanside to Escondido and is expected to be completed in 2007.

The Sprinter has already seen signs of development including the 400-acre Ocean Ranch Corporate Centre, across the street from the proposed Rancho del Oro Sprinter station in Oceanside.

“We really think the Sprinter will be a magnet for transit oriented development,” Kelleher said. “The area around Rancho del Oro has already been booming with business parks.”

Tony Pauker, regional president for the San Diego branch of the Olson Co., a Seal Beach-based home builder, said that San Diegans should take advantage of the local transit system and one way to do that is to develop around it.

“We have pretty good transit and it is only going to get better,” Pauker said. “Transit oriented development affords the opportunity to rely less on your car and allow you to take transit rail to get to work. There is a benefit for all parties involved. The city, developers and the users.”

But to increase transit-oriented development, Pauker said the cities must get involved.

“They need to lower the required amount of parking for owners and guests and provide increased density to allow more residential dwelling around transit stops,” he said.

Beth Steckler, a policy director for Livable Places, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit housing developer and policy organization, said cities such as San Diego need to build up instead of out.

“If you look at places like New York or Chicago where transit works for a lot of people, density is part of the answer,” Steckler said. “If we build up around transit then we give people options to sitting in traffic. If people have alternatives then some of them will choose not to drive their car.”

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