Planners are tasked with the great responsibility of providing communities with the opportunity to have a meaningful impact on development plans through public participation. Stephen Haase, an expert in land use planning and entitlements, embodies the AICP principles of social justice, recognizing planner’s obligations to the disadvantaged in San Diego’s diverse communities and the need to plan for economic integration.
To plan for a smart city, planners must have a smart planning toolbox. Haase believes we have the capacity to add a custom, multi-purpose hammer to our toolbox that enables us to make progress toward economic and social equity. His vision calls for an innovative, versatile economic tool in the marketplace that invests in San Diego’s economic prosperity.
A native Californian and proud alumnus of San Diego State University, Haase earned a Bachelor of Arts in Public Administration and a Master of Business Administration. It’s evident throughout his career that Haase cares deeply about San Diego. While market forces led to a Planning Director opportunity at the City of San Jose from 2002-2006, he returned to San Diego in 2006 as Vice President of Development at Sudberry Properties.
At Sudberry, Haase worked on mixed-use development projects including the largest development in Mission Valley, Civita. As San Diego prepares for the region’s growth estimated by the San Diego Association of Governments to be nearly one million people and 325,000 new homes by 2050, Civita, at completion will contribute over 4,700 homes.
In 2009, Haase joined Baldwin and Sons as Senior Vice President of Forward Planning, where he provides entitlement support for land development projects. Haase is responsible for the planning process from community engagement and project design to infrastructure improvements and project revisions. Planning for growth with transit oriented housing is directly aligned with implementing goals of San Diego Forward: The Regional Plan,. His project team includes staff and consultants, responsible for project policy, compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act via Environmental Impact Reports, and engineering documentation.
Haase is proud of the Otay Ranch 5,300-acre planned community project, which incorporates Santa-Barbara inspired historical architecture with current city center, multi-modal and recreational trends in community design. Haase recognizes that successful community design depends on the community around it to create a sense of place. To accomplish this, street integration with topography and purposeful connectivity is essential.
Haase’s active participation in the American Planning Association, the Urban Land Institute, Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, and Circulate San Diego reflects his dedication to forward-looking planning for the San Diego region. As a board member for Circulate San Diego, Haase is passionate about multi-modal transit options towards vibrant and healthy vertical communities that are less dependent on vehicles. He believes we can reduce the cost of housing by reducing parking requirements. As growth shifts away from suburban to urban areas, San Diegans will find that walking can be faster and healthier than driving in urban areas. As Planning Commissioner – and Chair – of the City of San Diego Planning Commission for several years, Haase has called for a shared, vertical, multi-modal and health conscious shift in our culture towards sustainability.
In response to the building slowdown in San Diego, Haase reminds us of the associated tradeoffs. If a builder must build one affordable home for every ten homes, housing costs increase to account for the variance which affects the ability to build. According to Haase, shared costs, such as equal park fees regardless of housing size, is one way to incentivize the construction of workforce housing. To move the needle, we must consider our values and related social costs. In his experience, Haase has observed development costs shift from a shared taxpayer burden to a developer-heavy burden which impacts the ability to build. He has witnessed NIMBY-driven planning decisions when attempting to bring density to low density areas near transit. Collectively, Haase begs the question, “Are we sharing?” In other words, how can we design pareto-efficient economic development policies, in other words, policies that do not make any one individual worse off so that everyone benefits. According to Haase, everyone must share the responsibility and a shared vision for regional economic prosperity would help move us towards that goal.
Shared responsibility begins with community engagement and participation. “We must ensure communities are represented in the process,” Haase said. It’s important for planners to be aware of the diverse voices in communities and empower participation in the process. In his experience, Haase has observed language as the primary barrier to participation. He emphasizes the importance of translators at public meetings for engagement and creating a welcoming and safe environment. Additionally, cultural differences can present a lack of trust for government. He encourages planners to spend time with the community to understand what they value and to build trust. “We have a large and diverse society; however, our voices aren’t heard equally.” Haase adds, “When there’s more involvement, people feel better about the decision.”
Haase is confident that this is an exciting time for San Diego towards responsible land use decisions. He believes that it will be key to the city’s success in how well we are able to collaborate towards embedding forty unique community plans, each with their own likes and dislikes, into one shared City of San Diego vision on how to collectively grow. He challenges planners to take an overarching view towards growth around activity centers; specifically in its connection to the downtown area. To grow efficiently, communities, planners and builders must embrace transit-oriented development in low-density communities that have the potential to accommodate growth near public transit.
With effective land use as a goal of the Sustainable Communities Strategy, housing will be essential towards meeting Climate Action Plan (CAP) goals. Scarcity of remaining green field land combined with land use development patterns moving towards transit oriented development and clustered urban centers requires a shared vision for infill and growth. Haase understands the complexity of land use decisions and warns that ballot box planning can have impacts on social equity and can limit mobility access for low income and minority communities. With public engagement, a vision focused on social equity, and investments that result in economic prosperity for all segments of our population, Haase firmly believes together, we can forward San Diego for future generations.