Construction went from 1 percent to 0.1 percent

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The project to regenerate downtown San Jose has another weapon at its disposal to help it reach its goal: the implementation of the reform to the Urban Plan of San Jose, that was approved by the city council and put in force on August 1st, 2005

Its contents and make up undertake to generate important changes in land use and ways of building, with the goal of ordering and guiding urban development in the capitol.

Johnny Araya, mayor of San Jose, says the plan “responds to the necessity to change current norms to meet the dynamic and complex growth of the city as well as the changing needs of its citizens.”

Changes put in place: The new plan comprises four major principles of general provisions, zoning, public spaces, roads and transport; and exterior advertising.

One of the most evident changes, is the substitution of parameters such as height, density and covering of buildings under the title “co-efficient of use of urban land.” This is used to determine the maximum building area on each lot. This co-efficient is related to the location of the land as well as to its size.

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The larger the lot, the larger the building can be to encourage more intensive use of the land. Modifications will also be implemented in land use such as on Rohrmoser Boulevard, which changed from a residential to a mixed neighborhood.

These and other changes hope to facilitate, from the legal and planning aspect, the building of projects downtown that will improve the competition and sustainability of San Jose, improving the quality of life of its residents and users. Unable to change taxes and rates, which can be done only by the Legislature, San Jose has created incentives to urban renewal though this reform.

Such is the case of the construction tax, which can be changed by the city, and which was reduced from 1 percent to 0.1 percent for those projects that propose to regenerate and repopulate the downtown.

This incentive is also granted to housing for social use in the entire canon.

In fact, a larger construction area is granted to those projects that give some land to these public spaces.

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Streets and public zones. In some thoroughfares and national public-transport roads such as the highway to Pavas or to San Pedro, an additional percentage of building allowance will be granted.

As to the ruling regarding public spaces, roads and transport, the Ministry of Public Works and transport is making a map that will define the category of roads in the canton.

Use of public space has been more clearly regulated and given a status different from that of the roads that have been made pedestrian walkways, such as Central Avenue.

Also, the method to change a boulevard into a street has been changed.

The minimum width has been reduced from 7 to 6 meters and neighborhood consensus for this change has been lowered from 100 percent to 75 percent.

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As to exterior advertising, the size of buisness-name signs allowed on private property has been reduced to diminish visual contamination in the city.

Reforms, in short

Increase in Construction Area: A 10 percent increase in construction area for those projects that donate land to public space.

Street status: some streets, such as the walking street on Central Avenue, have had their status changed.

From boulevard to street: The minimum width has been reduced from 7 to 6 meters and neighborhood consensus for a change has been lowered from 100 percent to 75 percent.

Publicity: size of signs on private property has been reduced. For each linear meter of property, from 0.2 to 0.5 meters of publicity are allowed.

Our thanks to our friends at La Nacion – Costa Rica’s largest Spanish circulation newspaper for their permission to use their article in English..

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