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As a transportation and land use think tank, Circulate San Diego frequently publishes research reports to engage decisionmakers and the public on policy choices. Below is a collection of our major reports. Our shorter policy letters are available on their own page.

Hope for Vision Zero

Publication Date: 05-12-2021

The City of San Diego adopted its Vision Zero commitment in 2015, pledging to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2025. The data in this report is an account of the progress towards Vision Zero at the half-way point of the City of San Diego’s 10-year goal. 

This report contains data on traffic fatalities and serious injuries from 2013 through 2020 in the City of San Diego. The data shows that while traffic fatalities and serious injuries rose between 2013 and 2018, they declined in 2019 and again in 2020.

Traffic fatalities and serious injuries in San Diego increased between 2013 and 2018, particularly for pedestrians. This reflects a national trend of increasing pedestrian traffic fatalities. In 2019, there was a modest decrease in the City of San Diego for serious injuries and fatalities compared to 2018.  2020 showed a further decline in the City of San Diego, compared to 2019. While data from 2020 is likely to be an outlier due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the data from recent years give reason for optimism that San Diego may be turning a corner for Vision Zero.

While the City of San Diego’s efforts have shown modest success, more must be done to achieve the goal of eliminating traffic fatalities and serious injuries by 2025.

(Read More)

Memorandum: Permissible Expenditures by Community Parking Districts

Publication Date: 04-21-2021

The City of San Diego’s Community Parking Districts have more than $9 million in unspent revenues collected from parking meters. Since 2009, the City Attorney has considered parking meter revenues to be “fees,” which places limits on how Parking Districts may spend those revenues. However, in 2010, voters adopted Proposition 26, which amended the California Constitution and clarified that revenues generated from charging for the use of government property, including revenues from parking meters, are not fees or taxes. These parking revenues can therefore legally be spent for any government purpose.

Proposition 26 allows the City of San Diego to revisit its policies and to expand how parking meter revenue can be spent by Community Parking Districts. The City of San Diego can and should update its policy and join many of its peer jurisdictions in California that allow parking revenues to be spent on a wide variety neighborhood amenities for residents, visitors, and businesses.

Parking meter revenues could be spent on amenities that provide transportation access to the neighborhood in a manner that would not burden limited parking resources.

(Read More)

Equity and Climate for Homes

Publication Date: 07-14-2020

The City of San Diego’s Affordable Homes Bonus Program (AHBP) has demonstrated continued success with a surge of new market-rate and affordable homes, primarily in Transit Priority Areas and high opportunity locations. 

The AHBP allows developers who build a percentage of their developments as deed-restricted affordable to receive added development capacity and other incentives that make it easier to build. Proposed by Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s administration, San Diego’s AHBP was supported by a broad coalition led by Circulate San Diego, and was approved unanimously by the San Diego City Council in August 2016. 

California Density Bonus Law allows for a maximum of 35 percent density bonus, depending on the amount of affordable homes provided. The new AHBP builds on the existing California Density Bonus Law and allows for a maximum of 50 percent density bonus, going above and beyond what was once allowed. 

A prior analysis by Circulate San Diego found that the AHBP had entitled substantially more projects on an annual basis than the predecessor California Density Bonus program. The AHBP also helps affordable housing developers maximize the benefits of public funding by allowing bonus units above the base density, resulting in more deed-restricted affordable homes than would be produced otherwise. (Read More)

Good Bargain

Publication Date: 05-19-2020

The City of San Diego’s new Affordable Homes Bonus Program (AHBP) created a surge in project approvals, and is set to produce more market-rate and affordable homes.

For more than a decade, California’s Density Bonus Law has been a policy designed to offer developers a bargain–if they set aside some units as affordable, they can build more units overall. Specifically, California’s Density Bonus currently allows a residential developer to build 35 percent more units than allowed by base zoning, if the developer agrees to set-aside up to 11 percent of the base density units as permanently affordable.

Proposed by Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s administration, San Diego’s AHBP was supported by a broad coalition led by Circulate San Diego and was approved unanimously by the San Diego City Council in August 2016. The new AHBP builds on the existing California Density Bonus Law and allows for a maximum of 50 percent more bonus units, if a residential developer chooses to set-aside up to 15 percent of the base density units as affordable.

This report contains an analysis of 20 months of entitlement data under the AHBP from the City of San Diego’s Housing Commission and Development Services Department. That entitlement data was compared to 12 years of production under the City’s implementation of California Density Bonus Law. (Read More)

Essential Transit

Publication Date: 04-23-2020

During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, San Diego’s essential workers rely on public transportation. Our trains and buses are providing essential transit services that help our region survive today’s pandemic.

In this report, Circulate San Diego utilized data provided by the national advocacy organization TransitCenter to determine how many transit riders rely on transit to get to essential jobs in the San Diego region. These figures show just how vital the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and North County Transit District (NCTD) are for getting us through this pandemic. (Read More)

Fair Share

Publication Date: 01-27-2020

The Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program (AHSC) seeks to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by financing new affordable homes and improvements to greener transportation infrastructure. AHSC funds are prioritized in disadvantaged and low-income communities, investing in the health and quality of life of residents who benefit most from investments in affordable homes and the reduction of GHG emissions.

Unfortunately, San Diego has underperformed compared to other large and urban regions in California in its ability to bring in AHSC funds for disadvantaged and low-income communities. Local jurisdictions have an important role to support applicants and bring this funding to San Diego. Cities, counties, and other agencies have the ability to provide technical assistance and pro-actively support potential AHSC applicants to increase their chance of qualifying for these multi-million dollar grants.

This report reviews best practices from various agencies across the state and outlines steps that local jurisdictions, transit agencies, Local Housing Finance Agencies, and the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) can take to attract statewide investment into the San Diego region. (Read More)

Vision Zero in North County

Publication Date: 09-30-2019

Circulate San Diego developed this report for policymakers and community advocates interested in saving lives and creating safer streets for all. In this report you will find background information on Vision Zero, data on the most dangerous intersections and corridors for each city in North County, and tried and tested recommendations to start saving lives.

This report focuses on San Diego’s North County cities: Carlsbad, Del Mar, Encinitas, Escondido, Oceanside, Poway, San Marcos, Solana Beach, and Vista. (Read More)



Vision Zero in East County

Publication Date: 09-17-2019

Circulate San Diego developed this report for policymakers and community advocates interested in saving lives and creating safer streets for all. In this report you will find background information on Vision Zero, data on the most dangerous intersections and corridors for each city in East County, and tried and tested recommendations to start saving lives.

This report focuses on San Diego’s East County cities: La Mesa, Santee, Lemon Grove, and El Cajon. (Read More)




Leveraging FACT

Publication Date: 09-11-2019

Facilitating Access to Coordinated Transportation (FACT) provides transportation options for seniors, people with disabilities, and San Diegans that need help getting around the region. FACT is a cost-effective specialized transportation provider that fills transportation gaps through their dial-a-ride service, RideFACT.

RideFACT provides transportation for people who do not qualify for ADA paratransit or other transportation programs. In addition to RideFACT, FACT maintains a database of current transportation providers Countywide, refers individuals to other transportation providers if they are eligible for existing programs, and provides transportation services for public agencies through contracted services.

This report analyzes data from thousands of trips in FY 2018 provided by FACT as well as input from an advisory committee formed by Circulate San Diego, to determine FACT’s regional impact. (Read More)


Aging in San Diego

Publication Date: 05-10-2019

San Diego’s population is aging. This trend mirrors the national growth of the senior population in the United States. While approximately 45 million Americans are currently 65 or older, that number will reach 73 million Americans by 2030. AARP and the World Health Organization have partnered to help cities prepare for the aging population through their program called Age-Friendly Communities.

This report explains the steps and commitments needed for a city to become an Age-Friendly Community to be able to address the many issues that impact the quality of life for older adults in San Diego County.  This report also shares the benefits of joining the Age-Friendly Network through a review of best practices from across the country in each of the Eight Domains of Livability. (Read More)


Transit Together

Publication Date: 03-06-2019

Improvements to San Diego’s transit network will require new funding from a local ballot measure.

The voters in 2016 rejected a transportation ballot measure put forward by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). For the region to succeed with a new future ballot measure, leaders must learn from SANDAG’s experience. (Read More)





Vision Zero in South County

Publication Date: 02-27-2019

Recently, San Diego County made national headlines from the Hepatitis A outbreak that hospitalized 395 individuals and resulted in the death of 20 individuals. Although these rates are alarming, they pale in comparison to the 2,155 people walking and biking that were injured and the 107 people walking and biking that were killed on our roads in San Diego County in 2016.

Nationally more than 37,000 people were killed during their daily commute in 2016. Generally when tens of thousands of people die each year, it is considered an epidemic and resources are dedicated to protect the community through medicine, vaccines, and policies. It is time for city leaders to shift the mindset of looking at traffic collisions as “accidents,” and begin taking action to save lives. (Read More)


Real Opportunity with Underutilized MTS Lots

Publication Date: 04-25-2018

Our report titled “Real Opportunity” demonstrates how the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) can transform its underutilized parking lots into affordable homes.

MTS has at least 57 acres of property that can be made available for development. With accommodating land use policies, Circulate San Diego calculates that the MTS properties can support the development of 8,000 new homes, with more than 3,000 reserved as permanently affordable for low income families. (Read More)




Democracy in Planning: Funded by TransitCenter

Publication Date: 02-12-2018


Public participation is a cornerstone of city planning and a pillar of democracy. Everyone should have a voice in how decisions are made, especially in local government. In the City of San Diego, City-sponsored community planning Groups (CPGs) serve as the primary vehicle to facilitate public participation in the planning process. CPGs provide a space for community members to serve their City, and their input frequently improves development and transportation projects.

Unfortunately, not all voices have equal access to participate in CPGs. The structure of CPGs has allowed certain voices to become amplified, while excluding others. The CPG system in San Diego creates barriers to participation from new residents, and those residents that work, care for family members, or who have other obligations. These barriers undermine the purpose of CPGs to collect diverse and representative public input and to advance democratic participation. (Read More)


Early Win for Affordable Homes Bonus Program

Publication Date: 10-18-2017


The City of San Diego’s new Affordable Homes Bonus Program (AHBP) has shown initial success with a surge in applications to produce more market-rate and affordable homes.

In 2016, the City of San Diego adopted an innovative new AHBP to encourage the development of new homes. The AHBP provides meaningful financial incentives to developers that choose to build a percentage of their developments as affordable. (Read More)




Transit Oriented Development Implementation in San Diego

Publication Date: 1-9-2017


Transit oriented development (“TOD”) benefits housing affordability, economic development, and the climate. However, a variety of barriers exist to prevent TOD in San Diego.

This report recommends a variety of specific, detailed, and actionable policy reforms that can be adopted city-wide to implement TOD.

While community plans can and should be updated, they should not be the entire focus of San Diego’s efforts on sustainable growth and TOD. City-wide policies that act as barriers to achieving the Climate Action Plan and the City of Villages Strategy should be reexamined and replaced. (Read More)


A Place for Placemaking in San Diego

Publication Date: 8-25-2016


Both in San Diego and around the country, there are signs that leveraging the power of arts and culture into traditional planning processes can improve neighborhoods while better serving community interests. This convergence of interests has created a field that practitioners are calling creative placemaking. The movement is growing rapidly in part because cities around the U.S. are looking for tools to redevelop communities in ways that not only increase economic development, but also build social capital among community residents.

In San Diego, the movement is grassroots oriented, bubbling up through community-led projects. As the projects continue, City staff is being asked to simplify the process to make community dreams, some of which are relatively simple, become reality. Examples include street paint, benches, art in vacant lots, murals, decorative crosswalks, alley activation, landscaping, wayfinding signage, and temporary mobility enhancements-all promoted to revitalize neighborhoods and jump start the building of social capital. As much as these projects are about the product, they are also about the process. That means an authentic, community-led process that respects community history and values. (Read More)


White Paper: Anatomy of a Ballot Measure

Publication Date: 05-12-16

White Paper

This analysis was generated initially for internal purposes by Circulate San Diego staff and volunteers. The purpose of this memorandum is not for Circulate San Diego to speak in favor or against any ballot funding scenario. Instead, by publishing this information, it is our hope this analysis will help inform decisionmakers, advocates, the public, and the press. We aim to help develop a more broad understanding of SANDAG’s processes, priorities, and constraints.

Released with this document is an electronic appendix, which compares each of the various ballot expenditure plans side by side. Circulate San Diego also calculated the expected service dates for the various transit projects in each expenditure plan, based on the data SANDAG released. (Read More)


City of San Diego's Parking Rules

Publication Date: 5-5-2016


The parking rules in the City of San Diego are generally collected in the Municipal Code, not in individual community plan documents. This presents an opportunity for parking policy to become streamlined, and comprehensive in its approach. However, current parking rules in San Diego lack cohesion.

Parking policy in San Diego is complex, inconsistent, and difficult for developers to navigate. The parking code represents a hodgepodge of different policies, layered on top of one another over time, reflect a variety of sometimes conflicting and shifting policy goals. In some circumstances, parking minimums for new developments are reduced because of lower expected or demonstrated demand. More frequently, parking minimums are increased, on the assumption that certain areas need added parking, or perhaps more cynically, to keep new developments from coming to those neighborhoods at all. (Read More)


Smart Mobility for Smart Growth

Publication Date: 3-10-2016


In 2013, California adopted SB 743, a landmark transportation impact law that holds the promise to rethink how transportation and communities are shaped.

Prior to SB 743, transportation analyses for development projects under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) relied on a metric called “Level of Service” (LOS), which measures the duration of expected vehicle delay. To minimize LOS impacts, projects were incentivized to build more car-related infrastructure, which in turn encourages more driving and higher greenhouse gas emissions. (Read More)



2015 San Diego Regional Walk Scorecard

Publication Date: 1-6-2016


Like many Americans, San Diegans increasingly demand safe, walkable neighborhoods. From City Heights to Carmel Valley, El Cajon to Solana Beach, Lemon Grove to Escondido, families contact our office to learn how to make their streets more walkable.

The San Diego Regional Walk Scorecard measures what cities in the region are doing to answer the call for improved walkability. Circulate San Diego’s predecessor organization WalkSanDiego created the Scorecard in 2012 to raise awareness of the actions that can improve walkability, and to foster healthy competition among cities in the San Diego region to champion walk-friendly policies and projects. This 2015 report is the third scorecard to be released. (Read More)


New Climate for Transportation

Publication Date: 9-23-2015


The City of San Diego’s proposed Climate Action Plan (CAP) commits the City to change the way people get to work. Not only is transportation important for economic development, lifestyle, and social equity, it is a crucial component to reducing the risks from climate change.

The purpose of the CAP is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in the City of San Diego and to protect our quality of life. (Read More)





TransNet Today: Improving Mobility Responsibly

Publication Date: 7-15-2015


This report makes the following findings:

(1) SANDAG’s Draft 2015 Regional Plan is inadequately designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and promote health, equity, and economic development.

(2) SANDAG must shift priorities toward transit and active transportation to maintain the region’s ability to compete for federal and state transportation funds.

(3) SANDAG has the flexibility to advance a number of transit and active transportation projects in the Regional Plan without needing to amend TransNet. (Read More)



Vision Zero San Diego: Zero Traffic Deaths by 2025

Publication Date: 6-22-2015


As San Diego’s population grows, more people are walking, bicycling, and driving on our streets. Along with this growth comes the need for a commitment to road safety for all San Diegans.

The City has worked hard to bring safety to San Diego’s neighborhoods by addressing crime, repairing infrastructure, and restoring much needed services. These efforts have proven successful as San Diego has one of the lowest crime rates among other cities of its size. (Read More)





Water-Infill: A Key Strategy for Water in San Diego

Publication Date: 6-1-2015


San Diego faces a continuing challenge for adequate water supply and water quality. Infill development provides a useful tool for the region to safeguard water supplies and ensure continuing water quality.

Infill development, consistent with General Plans for both the City and County of San Diego, can provide relief from the combination of drought susceptibility, deteriorating water infrastructure, and population growth. (Read More)




La Mesa Safe Routes to School Guide

Publication Date: 8-1-2013


2013 San Diego Regional Walk Scorecard

Publication Date: 1-1-2013


Imperial Beach: Let's Move Together! SRTS Plan

Publication Date: 1-1-2013


Implementing Complete Streets in the San Diego

Publication Date: 6-1-2012


San Ysidro Walks & Wheels to School SRTS

Publication Date: 2-1-2012


Senior, Sidewalks, and the Centennial Final Report

Publication Date: 1-24-2012


2012 San Diego Regional Walk Scorecard

Publication Date: 1-1-2012


South San Diego: Let's Move Together SRTS Final Plan

Publication Date: 1-1-2012


Safe for All: 2011 Street Design Benchmark Study

Publication Date: 5-1-2011


Health Equity by Design: A Resident's Guide

Publication Date: 2-1-2011


City Heights Safe Routes to School

Publication Date: 1-1-2010


Walkable Neighborhoods: Economic Development Study

Publication Date: 1-1-2010


Enhancing Walkability in East Village

Publication Date: 9-1-2007


Enhancing Walkability in North Park

Publication Date: 3-1-2006


Illuminating San Diego's Streets

Publication Date: 1-1-2006


Enhancing Walkability in National City's Old Town

Publication Date: 9-1-2005


Enhancing Walkability in Sherman Heights

Publication Date: 6-1-2005


Improving Walkability in San Ysidro

Publication Date: 6-1-2005