CITY SPOTLIGHT: San Bernardino, California Part 3

This post is part of a new series on the CNU Salons, CITY SPOTLIGHT. City Spotlight shines a light on the latest news, developments and initiatives occurring in cities and towns where CNU members live and work.

The post below is City Spotlight Part 3 of a 4 part series on the City of San Bernardino, CA from Mario Suarez, AICP, CNU-A. Part 3 extends the transit conversation to passenger rail corridors and the City's TOD ordinance. Read Part 1 (overview) and Part 2 (bringing BRT to the City).


Four important regional actions took place prior to the start of the passenger rail expansion plans: (1) In 1989, Measure I ballet measure was approved by the electorate which includes funding for Metrolink/Rail Service; (2) In 1993, SANBAG purchased right-of-way from AT&SF (Santa Fe) Railroad; (3) In 2003, the Redlands Passenger Rail Feasibility Study was completed by SANBAG to assess feasibility of establishing passenger rail service between San Bernardino and the City of Redlands; and (4) In 2004, Measure I was extended by voters. 

The rail component is older and much more complicated in form and partnerships. It has become a second implementation phase to the most current regional transit plan for the City of San Bernardino. The general purpose of the SANBAG rail project:

  1. Enhances transit options in the region
  2. Improves transit travel time
  3. Helps cities use transit-oriented development to coordinate land use and transportation goals
  4. Meets regional and state goals to reduce greenhouse gases and create compact development

See the following link for the Gruen Associates report on the San Bernardino to Redlands Rail Project. Great resource on the Building Blocks of a Transit Village.


The funding for both BRT and Rail projects have a good history dating back to 1989 with Measure I, which received over 80% voter approval, setting a one-half of one percent retail transactions and use tax for enhanced bus and rail projects, which turned out to be less than 11% of total Measure I funding.  The pie chart shows the breakout of $4,520 million funding for Measure I. It was a start while substantially smaller in comparison to funding set aside for the mighty automobile.

At this time, only the first mile extension of the Metrolink Rail project from Santa Fe Station into Downtown San Bernardino has been funded via local (Local Measure I and Private Sector), state (Proposition 1B and Transportation Development Act) and federal (Congestion Mitigation Air Quality (CMAQ) Funds and 5307 & 5309 Grants) funding totaling over $400 million.

The Omnitrans BRT project has a budget of $191.7 million.  It is fully funded with 96 percent of the budget coming from federal, state and county funds designated for transit projects, the funding sources include:

  • $75 million from the FTA Small Starts Program
  • $45.62 million from the FTA Urbanized Area Formula Program
  • $21 million from the Federal Highway Flexible Funds for Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program
  • $14.34 million from Proposition 1B General Obligation Bonds
  • $10.80 million in State Transit Assistance funds
  • $5 million in STIP Funds
  • $5.50 million from the San Bernardino County Measure I, the voter-approved half-cent sales tax, from funds dedicated to express bus and bus rapid transit
  • $8.10 million from local contributions estimate
  • $5.3 million in Local Transportation Funds (LTF) Sales Tax
  • $1.10 million in Omnitrans Reserves

The project, now fully funded, is under construction and slated to begin operation in early 2014. To date, the timeline is on track, milestones continue to happen, and agreements continue to hold - for the most part. One area where agreements have stalled concern part of the multi-modal transit center. Below are some plans from HDR, lead designer, as a teaser.


It is the spirit of the age and time that a transit-oriented development (TOD) code would fit in with the regional transportation improvements. City residents, tourists, students and many others will have new transportation options to travel the region. It provides a glimpse of what may be the new economy and an improved "quality of life" for San Bernardino residents.  

The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) is the provider of monetary assistance for transportation planning projects designed to improve mobility and lead to the programming or implementation phase for a community or region. In 2009, San Bernardino's former Redevelopment Agency applied for and successfully fulfilled the requirements to be awarded a $250,000 Caltrans Community-Based Transportation Planning (CBTP) grant to prepare a TOD Overlay District.

The CBTP continues into 2013 and more details are available at the following link:

After completion of a consultant selection process and final recommendation at a City Council meeting, the Planning Center, Irvine-California Office, was selected as the lead consultant. Some of the major deliverables included public outreach & participation, existing conditions report, station area market analysis, station area screening, preparation of a Transit-Oriented Development Ordinance and taking the draft ordinance to Planning Commission and City Council.


The City has developed a set of zoning regulations surrounding 13 future transit stations that fall within the designated overlay district. The regulations are accompanied by a set of development standards and design guidelines that are flexible enough to allow property owners and developers to express their vision while maintaining a consistency in urban form to encourage an attractive multi-modal atmosphere. The TD zoning regulations would apply to the establishment of all new structures and uses within a 1/4-mile distance (measured from centerline of the street)  from a BRT station and future downtown multi-modal transit center. A 1/2-mile distance is proposed to be used for future rail stops. The 1/4-mile distance was based on current neighborhood patterns and existing zoning conditions.  

The graphics and table below was used at the public hearing to show the location of the Transit District Overlay boundaries, location of the BRT station, colored rendering of the type of station (in this case center running), and table showing details on zoning impacts.  This helped clarify the zoning impacts and misconceptions about zoning such as creating more low-income housing projects or increasing residential densities.

The City would maintain the existing land use and zoning designations of the affected parcels in place under the proposed project.  New development standards include but are not limited to:

  • New build-to-line setback requirements to allow buildings to be placed closer to street frontage with parking at the rear of the site along designated street areas
  • Building heights are set differently within each proposed transit stop type with upper story step-back requirements and two story maximum building heights when adjacent to single family residential zone
  • Building ground floor transparency percentage requirements added by transit station area
  • Building entrance orientation requirements set for a building's main entrance to face Kendall Drive and E Street frontages; residential transition standards when projects are adjacent to single-family residential are set to maximum of two stories or 30 feet
  • Reduced on-site parking requirements are provided to encourage the use of the adjacent transit district facility
  • One bicycle parking space provided for every 10 automobile parking spaces provided
  • Street block maximum lengths, with some minor exceptions, reduced to 400 feet
  • General design guidelines with residential and commercial site planning, architectural design, parking design requirements, and street sidewalk landscape recommendations.


  • It starts with funding.

...Stay tuned for the finale, Part 4, next week, "The Takeaways from The City of San Bernardino"



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