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Last week, the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) issued a big request for proposals (RFP) to develop its large lot located next to the 12th and Imperial Transit Center.

The RFP describes the project saying “MTS is seeking to identify qualified development teams with the vision, resources and expertise to promptly develop a large, contiguous, and highly visible, mixed-use residential, transit-oriented development on property owned by MTS in downtown San Diego.”

The action by MTS is great news for the agency, and for the region. Building more homes near transit can help address our regions affordability and climate crises.

This RFP is a direct result of advocacy from Circulate San Diego. Our groundbreaking report “Real Opportunity,” called on MTS to transform its empty parking lots into affordable homes. In particular, our report showed that MTS needed to update its joint-development policies to create more development on transit agency land. We also called on the agency to issue RFPs, to ensure that taxpayers get the best value for their properties, and to ensure the agency identifies priorities and takes action to develop. As our report detailed, MTS had not issued an RFP for development in at least a decade.

Fortunately, MTS and Chairperson Georgette Gomez heeded Circulate’s call. Shortly after our report was released last year, they took action to update their development policies, and are currently processing numerous proposals to develop on their land. The press has taken notice, showing how the new policy is already showing results.

The new MTS joint-development policy guarantees that projects on agency land will provide on-site affordable homes as well as good jobs. Plus, building more near transit will allow more people to live and work near our region's transit investments. 

Making public policy, and developing real estate take a lot of time. We shouldn’t anticipate a development on 12th and Imperial immediately. However, this recent step by MTS shows that Circulate’s advocacy is working, and that regional transportation agencies can take positive steps to improve transportation and sustainable growth in the region.