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Growth Management

Carefully managing growth and development is critical to maintaining the City of Carlsbad’s excellent quality of life. In 1986, Carlsbad residents voted to pass the Growth Management Program, which put conditions on how growth could occur. Most importantly, the plan established that in Carlsbad, development pays its own way.

Today, at about 110,000 residents, the city is very close to reaching the time when most of the major new development is complete, called build out. The Growth Management Program has allowed this growth to occur while maintaining the right mix of commercial, industrial, recreation, open space and infrastructure; Under the plan, growth may only occur when adequate public facilities and improvements, such as street widening and parks, are also provided.

History of growth management

Annual growth report

Open space

Facility Performance Standards

Under the Growth Management Program, development can only occur when certain quality of life standards are met. Called "performance standards," these include:

  • City administrative facilities
  • Libraries
  • Parks
  • Drainage
  • Circulation
  • Fire response times
  • Open space
  • Sewer collection system

Provided by other agencies:

  • Schools
  • Water service/emergency water storage
  • Wastewater treatment

How Big Will the City Will Get?

The future maximum size of the city under the Growth Management Program is established by limiting housing to 54,599 dwelling units in each of the four geographic quadrants of the city.  When individual projects use fewer than allocated by the General Plan, these units are held on account in the Excess Dwelling Unit Bank, and later could be withdrawn and applied to another project (see Council Policy 43). The city's General Plan establishes the level of future commercial and industrial development.

To plan for facilities to match future demand, the city uses a three-phase approach:

  • The "Citywide Facilities and Improvement Plan" establishes the 11 public facility performance standards and establishes principles for capital financing plans.
  • "Local Facility Management Plans" are established for 25 sub-areas of the city.
  • Development is reviewed for compliance with the Citywide Plan and the appropriate Local Facility Management Plan. Special conditions, phasing and other requirements may apply.

Tie Development to Performance

If at any time a proposed development would result in a failure of any of the adopted facility performance standards, the development cannot be approved until the problem is resolved.

Monitor Development

Active monitoring programs assure that performance standards are being met and the limit on residential building permits is being observed.

Development Projects Pay for New Facilities

Therefore, as the rate of development ebbs and flows, so does the rate of providing new facilities. All development since 1986 has been carried out in accordance with the Growth Management Plan.

Facilities Performance Standards

The City Council created the following performance standards through adoption of the Citywide Facilities and Improvements Plan (created on Sept. 16, 1986, and amended on April 22, 1997). These standards are real standards, not simply goals or aspirations. Development cannot proceed unless the standards are met.

Facilities Provided by City of Carlsbad

City administrative facilities – 1,500 sq. ft. per 1,000 population must be scheduled for construction within a five-year period or prior to construction of 6,250 dwelling units, beginning at the time the need is first identified.

Libraries – 800 sq. ft. per 1,000 population must be scheduled for construction within a five-year period or prior to construction of 6,250 dwelling units, beginning at the time the need is first identified.

Parks – 3.0 acres of community park or special use area per 1,000 population within the park district ¹ must be scheduled for construction within a five-year period or prior beginning at the time the need is first identified.  The five year period shall not commence prior to August 22, 2017.

Drainage – Drainage facilities must be provided as required by the city concurrent with development.

Circulation – Implement a comprehensive livable streets network that serves all users of the system – vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles and public transit. Maintain LOS D or better for all prioritized modes of travel, as identified in the General Plan Mobility Element, excluding LOS exempt intersections and streets approved by the City Council.

Fire response – No more than 1,500 dwelling units outside of a five-minute response time.

Open space – Fifteen percent of the total land area in the zone exclusive of environmentally constrained non-developable land must be set aside for permanent open space and must be available concurrent with development.

Sewer collection system – Trunk line capacity to meet demand as determined by the appropriate sewer district must be provided concurrent with development.

Facilities Provided by Other Agencies

Schools – School capacity to meet projected enrollment within the zone as determined by the appropriate school district must be provided prior to projected occupancy ². The city is served by four school districts: In addition to Carlsbad Unified, parts of S.E. Quadrant are served by San Marcos Unified, San Dieguito Union High School, and Encinitas Union Elementary districts.

Water distribution system – Line capacity to meet demand as determined by the appropriate water district must be provided concurrent with development. A minimum of 10-day average storage capacity must be provided prior to any development. The Leucadia Wastewater District and San Marcos County Water District serve portions of the S.E. Quadrant and have their own emergency water storage standards.

Wastewater treatment – Sewer plan capacity is adequate for at least a five-year period. Treatment is provided by the Encina Wastewater Control Facility.

  1. "park district" = "quadrant". There are four park districts within the city, corresponding to the four quadrants.
  2. In 1999 statewide Proposition 1a limited developer participation in school construction to payment of fees on a per-square-foot basis for new homes, as established by a state fee schedule.