Mt Etna Drive Scoping Meeting Summary

Close to 100 people attended a scoping meeting last evening (9/25/18) at the County Operations Center in Kearny/Serra Mesa regarding the proposed development of the former SD County Sherriff Crime Lab at 5255 Mt Etna Drive in Clairemont.  The County is proposing redevelopment of the site to accommodate potentially 454 multi family units of which at least 50% will be affordable housing.

The meeting was intended to be an opportunity for public input on the project additionally, there was a slide presentation which can be viewed here.

23 members of the public stood up to voice their concerns on the record.  Others in the audience spoke up or overshouted others formally speaking.  By my count of the 23 public speakers, 21 expressed concern about the project, what it would do in the neighborhood, traffic, the type of people who would be living here, essentially saying this project should not be here.  1 person spoke in favor of the project and provided suggestions on services and ideas to better acclimate with the neighborhood and 1 person spoke in terms of inquiring about the overall process and timeline.

It should be noted the goal or purpose of the public comment was to listen to feedback as it relates to the Notice of Preparation (NOP) for a future report; the Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

To say this process and terminology used by government officials, consultants etc is common knowledge to Joe & Mary Public is an understatement.  The purpose of the meeting was in 30 minutes to give the public a slide presentation and then let the pubic speak/comment/ask questions for the remaining 90 minutes.

A key point is the County was looking, and still is, for very specific feedback/public input.  The public comment period is not per se an opportunity to voice your thoughts or opinions, but rather provide input on 3 environmental topics.

The County is looking for specific public comment on:

  • Project Alternatives
  • Significant Environmental Issues
  • Mitigation Measures

Slide 9 actually states Environmental Factors Potentially Affected a list of 19 impacts which could affect or present a “potentially significant impact” to this project.

I would again encourage all to look at the 13 slide deck presentation.

If you have public comment, you can email, or snail mail or attend the next Scoping meeting, which had not been scheduled as of last evening, however, it was stated the County hopes to have it “within 2 weeks” at a location closer to the project.

What next?

The next not yet scheduled scoping meeting is very important, however, just as important and according to slide 5 would be on 11/1/18 (tentative schedule) the Planning Commission (PC) meeting open to the public downtown.

Here the County will be requesting a recommendation to move forward with an application of the project to the Planning Commission.

*In lay terms the County is saying, “Hi Planning Commission we (County) have a project that checks some boxes it looks like it could be a fit giving the affordable housing crisis in San Diego.  There is a county owned property in Clairemont no longer in use, etc. etc. We would like to submit this application to get the ball rolling.  The application is a Community Plan Amendment (CPA) which is changing the zoning from commercial to residential.   The PC at this early stage is in essence the gatekeeper.  The PC could say sure we approve the application or we have concerns.  On 11/1 zoning change is not happening, but rather does the PC recommend to move forward with the application.  This project will go again before the Planning Commission see timeline slide in addition to the Clairemont Community Planning Group and ultimately City Council.

*The above is super basic terminology, trying to put it in normal speak rather that city, county, planning language which can be confusing. 

The property is currently zoned for commercial use.  The proposed plan amendment is requesting to change the zoning from Commercial to Residential and increase the density from 45 units per acre to 79 units per acre.  The site is roughly 4 acres.

Last evening was really the first opportunity to provide feedback, however at this point of time things are progressing public comment is 100% necessary.  A lot of public comment focused on the secretive and the fast pace of the project, in addition to the size of the project not fitting within the character of the neighborhood.

If you think there are alternatives, or significant environmental issues or mitigating factors this is what the county wants to hear in person, via email or snail mail.  The deadline to accept public comment October 19th.  Public input is key.  Submit via email, snail mail at the next scoping meeting and at the PC meeting downtown on 11/1 (tentative schedule).

Is there a chance this property will be redeveloped? Yes.  Is the idea of potentially 450 units, extreme in the neighborhood that is not my call.  I would say if you have ideas, if you support affordable housing submit your suggestions (alternatives) if you think no way then again submit your (alternatives).

Now is the time the October 19th deadline is fast approaching.

To learn more about this project the website which has just been set up by the County is:

Here is a shorter version which will take you to the exact same website above and a little easier:


Mail or Email your comments to:



Marc Cass

County of San Diego Department of General Services

5660 Overland Ave.

San Diego, CA 92123

Reference: Clairemont Mesa Community Plan Amendment and Rezone Project Case No. WT-4224097


To view the Request for Proposal visit: Click “Development Opportunities”