The Centre City Development Corporation (CCDC) of San Diego undertook the development of a Sustainability Master Plan and Program to determine appropriate policies, incentives and design guidelines for new and renovated public and private buildings in the downtown urban core of San Diego, establish the path to making downtown San Diego more environmentally sustainable and help the city reach California’s climate change goals for 2020.


The Centre City Green Sustainability Plan is a broad scale municipal program to establish appropriate sustainable policies, incentives and building guidelines for new and renovated public and private buildings in the downtown urban core of San Diego.

Paladino Approach

To succeed, the City needed to prove the feasibility of the policies being proposed and engage the developer community. Paladino was retained to develop the guidelines and shepherd them through public process. The identification of supporters and challengers was critical to the success of the effort in a conservative climate.

Paladino was chosen through a rigorous procurement process that included distinguished national and international competitors. Paladino was selected in part for the strength of its team – which included a coalition of national experts and local community firms – and the breadth of its experience and accomplishments in sustainability and green development.

Paladino developed and implemented a strategic sustainability planning process in three phases that included a discovery period followed by the development and vetting of draft guidelines with stakeholders, concluding with final draft guidelines and ratification. The strategy was to construct the guidelines from standards ratified and in use by other governmental bodies and NGOs such as the USGBC, and engage the user community for feedback. Lasting behavior changes were achieved by showing adoption of the guidelines by peers, and by allowing the future users from the development community to play a role in shaping the low impact development guidelines.

Beginning with the project inception in early 2008, Paladino assembled a group of advisory members representing local governmental interests, community and environmental activist groups, business owners, real estate developers, and professional associations like BOMA to help guide the development of the guidelines, creating an implementation plan and sustainability indicators to measure success over time. By focusing on the outcome of what downtown should look like, the stakeholders were able to work together to set the path forward prior to suggesting changes to policy documents.

The master planning process influenced each of the major policy documents through the lens of the sustainability indicators. The Community Plan was amended to include descriptions of each of the sustainability indicators, their metrics and goals for 2030, and specific green measures that should be developed as part of downtown’s the Capital Improvement Program. The Planned District Ordinance underwent revisions to incorporate incentives for specific green building measures that align with each of the indicators. Green Building Guidelines were created to inform developers of the cost and benefits of each incentive measure to guide them through the decision making process. Finally, a Sustainability Entitlement Checklist was created to form the agreement between the applicant and the CCDC board and become part of the entitlement public record.

Paladino also performed technical analysis of proposed green measures, using standard analysis methods familiar to the development community, to validate and quantify the feasibility and predicted impact of the guidelines and to identify a clear path for code revisions.

Paladino Role

  • Strategic visioning
  • Program development
  • Submission tool development
  • Sustainable strategy technical analysis
  • Project management


The plan was adopted as City code in January 2011