It seems nearly every line in San Diego’s public transit system ends up downtown at some point – from local routes, to express routes like 150 to UCSD; from the green/blue/orange trolley lines to the new Rapid 215 and 235 routes. So when San Diego Magazine did a feature for their July issue
(not online yet, will post the link when it is) on our city’s public transit system by asking their staff to try it out for a day, I assumed that at least some of them already used it, because the magazine’s office is located at 7th and Broadway downtown. And indeed they do: a whopping 1 person out of 28 on their staff uses public transit to get to the neighborhood best-served by it.
Most days I work at our UCSD satellite office in Kearny Mesa, where it’s no better – of the 100 or so people working there, a co-worker and I are the only two people who don’t drive alone every day that I know of (the area is served by just two transit lines, not dozens like downtown). So the point of this post isn’t to portray San Diego Magazine employees as uncharacteristic of our city, but whether we can learn anything about our transit system – and ourselves – from them.
There were some encouraging experiences, like the user of the new Mid-City Rapid bus and the North Park resident who took the #2 bus. But why did it take a work requirement (the magazine article) to get these folks to even try public transit? Maybe I can answer that one, because I lived in San Diego for a few years before ever even thinking about riding the bus. I was raised in a suburban car culture and carried that mindset with me even after moving into a large – yet sprawling – metro like San Diego.
Other staff statements about their transit experience were a bit more baffling and seemed to result from a genuine lack of knowledge, or worse, were just plain excuses. 22 year-old Chelsea Street of Carmel Valley took the Coaster from Sorrento Valley but said that since gassing her Prius only cost her $5-6/day, “Fiscally, it doesn’t make any sense (to pay $120/month to take the train). I wish it did”.
Considering only the cost of gas is a common mistake when calculating transit costs. In reality, auto travel can cost around 75 cents/mile when depreciation and wear & tear are included. Let’s be conservative and use the federal government reimbursement rate: 57.5 cents/mile. Multiply that by the 40-mile round trip from Carmel Valley to downtown and the travel cost is really $23/day, or four times Chelsea’s estimate.
Then there’s parking. The article never mentions what employees pay to park, or if their employer offers free parking. Let’s say it’s $100/month. So Chelsea is really paying $100+($23/day * 22 workdays per month = $506), or $606/month! That’s 5 times the amount of a monthly Coaster pass from Sorrento Valley to downtown. Even factoring in the cost of the drive from Carmel Valley to the Sorrento Valley train station, it’s still less than half the true cost of driving the whole way. Yet taking the train doesn’t make any fiscal sense?
That’s not the only dubious statement used to justify driving every day. New Executive Editor Erin Meanley Glenny took the #50 Express Bus from Bay Park and had this to say about it:
I think if mass transit is anything but a necessity, people will opt for the car. I love having my personal space and being able to leave items like a gym bag in the car, and I cherish the control and freedom to leave a place exactly when I want, or be able to run an errand, or stop at an event on my way home. I can’t see getting rid of my car permanently.
I think I count as “people” and for me, mass transit isn’t a necessity, but I still use it as part of my travel. This is because I care about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and traffic, getting exercise as part of my commute (via walking/biking part of the way), and because our city’s aggressive, dangerous drivers really kill my buzz. I get part of her point about personal space, especially since my legs are too long to fit behind most bus seats. But the freedom part is confusing… how is sitting in soul-sucking traffic “freedom”, exactly? I run errands and stop at events on my way home all the time by transit or bike. And who said anything about getting rid of your car permanently just because you ride the bus once in a while? That’s a false choice in my opinion.
But the most revealing statement was when Erin scoffed, “What a waste” that only 11 of 45 seats were filled on the bus. She’s riding a dedicated Express Bus (resulting in 11 less vehicles on the freeway) to her central San Diego neighborhood that refuses to allow any increase in density (because traffic), but it’s a waste? There’s almost an animosity toward transit in her statements. Could this explain why the nearly all-white staff of a magazine that endorsed Carl DeMaio for mayor never rides public transit – because they consider themselves too good to ride with the poors? To be fair, that sentiment would hardly be unique to the employees of San Diego Magazine.
The funniest-yet-saddest part of the article was 25 year-old Sydnie Goodwin, who drives her car each day from K St. downtown to Starbucks, parks it, then drives again to the magazine’s 7th and Broadway office. While millennials across the country have established a clear trend of living in walkable neighborhoods near work and using alternative commuting modes, San Diego Magazine’s millennials are opting to drive 0.7 miles of walkable neighborhood instead. Is the magazine giving away parking or something?
I appreciate San Diego Magazine writing this feature, and pointing out the lofty goals of SANDAG and the city to increase alternative transit use. It’s the best way to significantly decrease emissions to address climate change, while also decreasing traffic congestion. Contrary to what Ms. Meanley and others say in the article, using public transit doesn’t mean you have to give up your car, but rather just realizing it exists, maybe even sometimes as a viable option.
Mass transit usage one day a week by a majority of San Diego commuters would have numerous, significant positive impacts. But as another magazine staff member pointed out, why doesn’t MTS offer smartphone payments and/or the ability to load cash onto Compass Cards to help make this happen? Apparently that’s something for every other major metro to offer, just not San Diego.
The new Pinnacle tower in East Village is currently the only high-rise for blocks, a lonely skyscraper seemingly set adrift from the rest of the downtown skyline. There’s a second Pinnacle tower coming next door, but otherwise this area is a sea of vacant lots ringed with the tents of the homeless (or the what-could’ve-been 6-story buildings replacing them). That’s about to change with a proposed 21-story tower from architect Carrier Johnson at 460 16th St:
The project also includes another, 6-story, building. 368 residential units are planned along with nearly 20,000 SF of commercial space… Over at 7th and Market, a Ritz-Carlton and Whole Foods are planned as part of this Cisterra project:
…The I.D.E.A. District, a 35 block area of East Village proposed to be a work/live/arts/innovation center, got a possible kickstart with news of a potential UCSD co-laboratory there, possibly in the old Central Library… Over at the Courtyard, there’s a vote next Tuesday on three different designs for the East Village Green park proposed for the District between 13th, F, 15th and G Streets… Also at the Courtyard, they’ve started booking music events for this fun space, with personal favorites Cut Copy doing a DJ set there on Sunday July 5th.
– A major upzoning was approved by the city council for Grantville around the trolley station there, converting largely industrial lots to mixed-use residential and commercial. I like that the San Diego River will have adjacent parks added to it with the potential for outdoor dining overlooking it. And kudos to the Chamber of Commerce (wow that feels weird to say) for acknowledging the greenhouse gas benefits of the transit-oriented plan versus building these 8000+ units in the exurbs:
Meanwhile, criticism of the plan was strong here on the Nextdoor Kensington page – because of fears of increased traffic in our neighborhood. Never mind that not a single one of these units will actually be built in Kensington – residents here oppose *any* development, anywhere, apparently.
This same me-first mentality pervades the Kensington-Talmadge planning committee, which somehow gives the former Uptown Planners board a run for their NIMBY money. During last week’s meeting, members voted to:
The irony of the nearly all-white, elderly KenTal planning board sitting in the new YMCA, plotting against the interests of the diverse gym-goers outside the room, was a bit much. Remember, these are the same folks who wanted to turn the ground floor retail planned for the Talmadge Gateway project *away* from El Cajon Boulevard, so it would serve their community instead. Our communities deserve planners who consider the economic future of the city, including the impacts of climate change they helped create – not just their own parochial parking and traffic issues. This lack of leadership extends to our elected leaders on major challenges facing the city:
Ultimately, the City Council sits in judgment on development issues such as One Paseo, but there are challenges of greater import that deserve greater attention from councilmembers.
These issues are the Chargers stadium, Convention Center expansion, aging infrastructure (deteriorating water mains and sewer pipes, in particular), desalination or other means of assuring drinkable water, preserving the city’s quality of life for future generations, and formation of a San Diego-Baja California regional economy where goods, labor and traffic flow freely to harness an economic engine of enormous potential.
The difficulty of addressing these issues effectively is no excuse for not trying. The temptation for city councilmembers past and present has been to give up on big picture items and instead argue less important issues parochially. It is easier and the results are visible more immediately, before the next election occurs.
As voters, however, we expect the officials we elect to be leaders, capable of making tough choices and developing a vision, goals, strategies and priorities for the good of the community at large. Instead, what we get are local policy debates that frequently boil down to little more than assertions not backed up by credible research or made by “experts” whose views are predictable.
Elsewhere in Kensington, party like it’s 1985 because Kensington Video is back, complete with juice bar (despite a juice bar planned for the eternally-delayed Stehly Farms Market nearby)… Over in Normal Heights, where new establishments actually open, Burnside has replaced the old Greek eatery and has a variety of sandwiches and craft beers available. The fried chicken sandwich and a poutine-like dirty fries with roast beef were highlights.
There’s a pre-4th of July bike decorating and ride at Mona Lizzy’s and Adams Avenue Bikes:
– Two terrific concerts recently with Spoon at the Observatory:
and Sufjan Stevens at Copley Symphony Hall:
I complain a lot here about San Diego but I’m grateful we have such prime venues for artists like these. So I’ll spare you my complaining about SANDAG killing most of the Uptown Bikeway on University until next time.
UPDATE (6/2): The Hillcrest Business Association has endorsed the new bike lane-free Uptown Bikeway proposal, saying it “provides alternative transportation options” and “additional bicycle infrastructure” when in fact it is no different than existing conditions:
June 3, 2015
Honorable Councilmember Todd Gloria
SANDAG Transportation Committee
401 B Street, 7th Floor
San Diego, CA 92101
Re: Revised Scope for Uptown Bike Corridor Project
Dear, Chair Gloria:
On behalf of the Hillcrest Business Association (HBA) Board of Directors, please accept this letter in support of SANDAG’s revised scope of work for the Uptown Bike Corridor Project.
HBA representatives recently met with SANDAG to discus the revised scope, and we appreciate SANDAG’s commitment to improving the pedestrian experience along University Avenue while also providing additional bicycle infrastructure along Washington Street and University Avenue. Equally important, it’s our understanding the revised scope will maintain eastbound vehicular access to University Avenue from Washington Street, and it will also minimize the parking loss along University Avenue throughout the Hillcrest business core.
The HBA has always advocated for a balanced plan – one that provides alternative transportation options while still respecting the reality that many customers access Hillcrest businesses by car. We feel both goals are met under the revised scope, and we respectfully ask for the Transportation Committee’s support. As this plan moves forward, the HBA is committed to partnering with SANDAG, the City of San Diego and the respective transportation and community groups to ensure the project is designed well and provides the most significant impact possible for Hillcrest residents and businesses alike.
We look forward to working with SANDAG to ensure that the proposed new infrastructure be installed in appropriate areas of opportunity such as east University Ave. and Normal Street. It is our intention to work with our partners, such as the Uptown Community Parking District, to connect community funds to this project to ensure the best project is created and maintained into the future.
Thank you for your consideration and support of this substantial investment. We look forward to this becoming a reality.
Hillcrest Business Association
UPDATE (5/29): The agenda for next week’s SANDAG Transportation Committee meeting has been posted and all bike lanes have been removed from University Ave. in the new staff proposal. SANDAG board members almost never go against staff recommendations, so it looks nearly certain Uptown will have a $40 million dollar bike lane project with no bike lanes:
As SANDAG and the city heavily promote Bike Month and Bike to Work Day Friday, senior SANDAG staff have presented a new plan that eliminates all protected bike lanes from University Ave in the $40 million dollar Uptown Bikeway project. After the city and SANDAG used an auto Level of Service analysis to reject the Transform Hillcrest plan (which preserved on-street parking by removing travel lanes instead), SANDAG’s original plan remained as the only viable protected bike lane option. But because the Hillcrest Business Association, led by Crest Cafe owner Cecilia Moreno, has refused to “give up” a single on-street parking space (they don’t own them) the HBA’s lobbyist California Strategies instructed SANDAG to keep the status quo. And the status quo is exactly what SANDAG chief and former Caltrans head Gary Gallegos delivered in private to HBA representative Ben Nichols last Friday: the Uptown Bikeway would now become a “pedestrian improvement” project, with sharrows (painted bike symbols) as the “bike facility”.
Bike infrastructure has been neglected for decades in San Diego. Roads, including University Ave in Hillcrest, remain highly dangerous for people on bikes. I was nearly hit by a driver there recently who was performing an illegal turn – ironically, while I biked to an Uptown Planners Special Meeting where its board members rejected the Uptown Bikeway. Meanwhile, cities across the country are implementing safe bike lanes at a rapid clip.
Given the above, it was huge positive news when SANDAG, an agency fighting a state court case for the excessive greenhouse gas emissions in their transportation plan, allocated a small percentage of their sales tax funding on a regional bike plan early action network. The Uptown Bikeway was the first step in this network, and to be a model for the rest of the region.
Well, unfortunately that model is in sad shape, because business and community members have deemed on-street parking spaces more important than the lives of fellow residents on bikes. Despite bike advocates signing on to Transform Hillcrest (a convenient smokescreen for the HBA to pretend they cared about bike infrastructure), and caving on the closure of the University Ave off-ramp for traffic calming, opponents have refused to budge from losing one parking space. Yet since the Uptown Bikeway was announced there has been a huge increase in the number of parking spaces and resources in Hillcrest, far outweighing any worse-case scenario of Bikeway-related parking loss:
And still, no matter how many studies showing that removing some parking for protected bike lanes makes good business sense, the other side simply will not listen.
The city’s draft Climate Action Plan, which seeks to increase bike mode share to 6% by 2020, also appears to be irrelevant. Here was Uptown’s best chance to provide a safe bike infrastructure to get more folks to ride – a rare $40 million dollar funding opportunity for a Bikeway – and now this money is going toward painting sharrow symbols on the road, and pedestrian improvements? More than half of all people who want to ride are afraid of being hit. How are sharrows, which offer zero protection from being hit, going to get these folks to ride?
I want San Diego to be considered one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. We know we have one of the best climates – one that I am working to protect through my Climate Action Plan and its call for even more bike facilities. Our biggest task is to put in the infrastructure that allows and encourages people to ride bikes more often.
If that’s the case, why has there been no leadership from the mayor’s office to keep the Uptown Bikeway’s protected bike lanes from being removed?
Next Friday, June 5th is the SANDAG Transportation Committee meeting where the Uptown Bikeway has been kicked back for re-evaluation. Projects typically only get sent back to the TC if they’re fighting for their lives, which this one sure is. SANDAG Transportation Committee member Ron Roberts, whose County Climate Action Plan was recently thrown out in court for being too weak, has been strongly lobbied by his Mission Hills neighbors to reduce the Bikeway to sharrows. If we’re lucky, SANDAG engineering staff will be able to salvage parts of the project on University – a protected bike lane for 3 blocks along its widest stretch (10th to Normal) and some traffic calming elements like mini-roundabouts and speed tables in Mission Hills. Yet even that is a sorry excuse for what could – and should – have been.
Given that opponents have refused to compromise, it makes little sense to do the same here, but let’s try anyway. Since it’s not clear if SANDAG’s protected bike lanes on 4th and 5th Ave have been killed yet (worst case, we’ll still have the city’s buffered bike lanes there, unless Leo Wilson gets his way), how about connecting these lanes to east Hillcrest with a combined bus/bike lane on the narrower section of University (5th to 10th)? Then do the protected bike lanes from 10th to Normal as mentioned above. This would preserve all street parking on University, except for spaces near the few driveways between 10th and Normal.
Holsem Coffee in North Park had their grand opening this week. We were planning on going but Thursday’s deluge took care of that (0.7 inches of rain in just 9 minutes at the airport?) . They’re serving up a variety of specialty coffee drinks and desserts, plus beer and wine will be on tap once the license comes through. They even make their own hazelnut milk. Here’s a picture from yesterday when it and the neighborhood were bustling with the North Park Festival of the Arts. The bright, clean interior design couldn’t be more different from Claire de Lune across the street:
– There’s been several positive changes on San Diego’s long-underwhelming North Embarcadero recently: Waterfront Park, the Embarcadero makeover, Lane Field Park, Broadway Pier (could have been better) and two new hotels under construction. Yet the dining options in the area are still a disappointment. Wyndham shuttered the subpar Elephant and Castle Bar, and we’re still waiting on Carnitas to open in the new Embarcadero space. But Anthony’s Fish Grotto has to be the biggest head-scratcher on the waterfront: a restaurant that hasn’t received an upgrade in 50 years, an outdated menu comprised mostly of fried fish, and a retro-but-not-in-a-good-way bar (solid happy hour specials though). Considering Anthony’s has a 52-year lease, it’s unsurprising there’s been no incentive to improve things. With the lease expiring in 2017, the Port is looking for ways to maximize revenue from the space, so look for big changes and up to 3 restaurants at the location.
– The Port’s getting smart about parking – using smart meters, dynamic pricing and modifying hours to maximize access to the waterfront and decrease circling for spaces, not to mention pollution. After a successful pilot program testing the above, they’re expanding it. One port commissioner even pointed out that the new rates will still be below those of nearby parking garages and noted the city of San Diego’s “free lunch” attitude with respect to parking (and garbage collection, and …). He hoped that the Port wouldn’t adopt the city’s attitude of fiscal irresponsibility. It’s funny how courageous officials can be when they don’t have to appease voters expecting them to deliver that free lunch.
– Welcome news arrived this week in Hillcrest: the Pernicano’s lot is close to being sold after being on the market for 8 months (and dormant for decades). The owner was apparently holding out for a buyer who would build a hotel on the site, but that’s going to be a challenge given Hillcrest’s 65′ height limit. At a Hillcrest Town Council forum last week, Todd Gloria said residents need to be flexible on the height limit to help bring a much-needed new hotel to the neighborhood – one that still has many storefront vacancies despite the robust economy and thriving communities nearby.
Another positive development in Hillcrest: the Uptown Parking District’s free trolley will see double duty starting Monday, with a lunch loop planned to bring Hillcrest Medical Center employees to the neighborhood:
You are cordially invited to join the Uptown Community Parking District in partnership with UC San Diego Health System, Hillcrest Business Association and Hillcrest businesses along with Councilmember Todd Gloria for our ribbon cutting and media event to launch the new Park Hillcrest Lunch Loop!
Learn how this pilot project will decrease the number of cars circling at lunch time and reduce parking impacts! Monday May 18 11:00—11:30 AM UC San Diego Medical Center 200 Arbor Drive San Diego, CA 92103. For more information contact Elizabeth@ParkUptownSD.org
– Next weekend is Memorial Day, but there’s two events on the following weekend to be aware of. The first is the Bike SD Bike Month Bash on Saturday May 30th at the Lafayette Hotel and a ride on El Cajon Boulevard (yes I mentioned it last time but now there’s this cool poster):
Proceeds go to the “Complete the Boulevard” advocacy campaign, which seeks to make El Cajon Blvd safe for all transit modes. Let’s not just make it safe, let’s transform it through art and place-making. ACT: The Blvd, held the day before the Bike Bash, will build on plans to do just that:
– Downtown, The Block is the name of the project on Broadway between 7th and 8th that will bring 41 and 21-story towers, 600 residential units and 20,000 square feet of retail space:
– You know how cool the historic bungalow courts are in our Uptown neighborhoods? The city took one step toward making these possible again, on lots zoned for multi-family housing with their new small lot ordinance. However, the ordinance does not reduce parking minimums, so I don’t see how the old parking-free bungalow courts would happen. Still, it’s a positive step toward providing more housing without creating the vertical “monstrosities” we hear so much griping about from the you-know-who’s. Yet there were still complaints about the parking impacts of the proposal, proof that nothing will satisfy our neighbors who have shut the housing door behind them.
Speaking of these folks, opposition has fired up once again to La Mesa’s Park Station project, despite a significant height reduction in line with downtown height limits… And in Otay Ranch, a group of older residents railed against building housing for younger residents near transit, because traffic.
– UCSD’s sustainability policies with respect to transit have been questionable recently, but they’re putting on a climate change forum anyway, discussing the city’s Climate Action Plan.
Oddly, the event’s organizers only provided parking instructions at first, with no information regarding public transit or other modes. A recent climate change symposium at Salk Institute did the same… Another organization that’s been disappointing on transit is SANDAG, and this KPBS article details how SANDAG’s transportation plan works against the city’s attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As long as SANDAG staff are led by a former Caltrans director, and much of the board is made up of suburban members, freeways are always going to take precedence over mass transit, greenhouse gas laws be damned… SANDAG has announced their North Park to downtown bikeway, and John Anderson of Bike SD suggests closing Florida Drive too… Fox 5 had a good report on efforts to bring Vision Zero to San Diego… If you use the MTS website, you probably know that the tiny map of stops at the top of each route page is nearly impossible to use on your phone. Want to help improve their site? Here’s a survey.
– Finally, my work site near Sharp Memorial is amidst a concrete jungle of parking garages, drivers running through crosswalks despite pedestrians in them, and daily rush hour gridlock. I know there’s no way to get around most patient parking at hospitals, but what efforts have Sharp and Rady Children’s made to reduce the number of employees who drive there? Nearly everyone in my department drives alone, for example. And why wouldn’t they – garage parking is free, bus service takes 45 minutes to Hillcrest (a 10 minute drive), and there’s no marked bike lanes. In fact, drivers are still allowed to park for free on the sides of Health Center Drive despite the dozen or so parking garages they could park in. Why not remove this parking and add a protected bike lane?
It doesn’t have to be this way. Seattle Children’s Hospital has reduced their auto mode share among employees to 38%, with a goal of 30%. The article provides some context: “Healthcare providers are undergoing a fundamental shift from focusing on contagious diseases to treating chronic conditions that are often related to unhealthy lifestyles, like diabetes and heart disease.” Sedentary, car-dependent lifestyles contribute to these chronic conditions. Thus, the hospital has a dozen initiatives to reduce employee auto mode share, from free transit passes, to dynamic parking pricing, to free bikes.
Why aren’t Sharp and Rady’s doing the same, given our city’s Climate Action Plan and the resulting health benefits to their employees? An email question to Rady’s about any alternative transit initiatives went unanswered.
– Renderings are up for the new 45-story, 296 unit Bosa residential tower planned for the parking lot just west of the Santa Fe Depot. It’s the second high rise from the right in the front row of this image (the tower across Broadway is another Bosa development currently under construction):
The project will feature an open public plaza and ~15,000 sq. ft. of retail/commercial. In addition to the projects mentioned above, Bosa also built Bayside, The Grande and Electra, all nearby. While it’s great to see one developer investing so heavily in the area, what does that say about downtown San Diego’s ability to attract a wide range of residential developers?
– Construction at Horton Plaza Park has been back underway for a while now and there are some small new structures up:
– Upcoming events: Is it possible for a machine to think? Uncanny Valley is a unique science fiction play from San Diego Rep appearing at the Lyceum Theater through May 10th that asks this and many other questions we may soon have to answer… Bike to Work Day is Friday May 15th, check out the map of all the pit stops… North Park Festival of the Arts is the next day, featuring a craft beer block and two beer gardens… And the following day is Pedal to the (Petco) Park Day – join an organized ride to the baseball game, or make your own way to the Bicycle Pavilion at Park Boulevard & Tony Gwynn Drive… Silo at Makers Quarter‘s 4th annual Craft Beer and Bites features 15 new breweries on Saturday the 30th… Earlier in the day, check out the Bike SD Bike Month Bash at the Lafayette Hotel, featuring a ride down El Cajon Boulevard to some select businesses. Art Around Adams is back on June 6th.
– Summer is around the corner and often provides an uptick in business for San Diego dining establishments. There’s been a flurry of activity recently: Rustic Root, next door to Don Chido, opens on 5th downtown next week and includes a rare second-floor rooftop dining/bar area. I’ve always wondered why Austin has all those rooftop venues while our downtown (with its milder climate) mostly restricts dining to ground level or high up on hotel rooftops… Park and Rec from the Waypoint Public folks also opens this month in the former Bourbon Street location in University Heights and will feature live music and DJs, with old-school games in the courtyard… Hillcrest gains a new winery in August but loses R Gang Eatery this month. I was surprised that R Gang remained open this long, it often looked empty evenings, but perhaps the brunch business compensated for a while.
Here in Kensington progress is slow on a number of fronts. It looks like the sushi joint planned for the Kensington Video space from the Ponces folks may not be happening, given the handwritten For Lease sign now up in KV’s window. While the store closed weeks ago, there doesn’t appear to be any rush to clear the space for a new tenant:
Two doors down, the former Fish Public spot remains empty several months after closing, and further east on Adams the Pappalecco build-out has been impressively slow. But it’s the Stehly Farms market in the new Kensington Commons building that has been the most bewildering. A recent post on Nextdoor Kensington said the opening has been delayed from January to June, but several commenters asked why the apparent deli equipment permitting issues weren’t considered before leasing to the market owners, and some speculated the market may never open.
Meanwhile a recent Uptown News article about Kensington Commons made no mention of the market’s issues, or the absence of evening activity on this block resulting from a lack of any dining establishments. KC is still a big improvement over the gas station previously at this location, but I can’t get on board with the article’s praise for KC’s Spanish colonial architecture. This style may fit in to the neighborhood, but I personally find this building to be bland and outdated compared to the vibrant and award-winning North Parker:
This exchange started based on your statement at Uptown Planners in support of a high density project at Park Blvd and Robinson, in spite of concerns about adequate parking.I will respond belatedly to your email from 3/10/15.
Dr. Ross Starr is the economist who explained a few years ago that San Diego has high housing prices because it’s a nice place to live.I already mentioned that Dr. Richard Carson is the prominent UCSD economist who explained a few years ago, to SANDAG officials, why there was no evidence of a housing shortage. He did not say “shortage of affordable housing” which appears to have a different meaning. Yet neither term can be defined satisfactorily.To summarize his findings: There is no agreement on how to measure an adequate number of homes, or a shortage. There is no evidence that the market mechanism is broken. That is, developers can and do buy land, design projects, finance and build them.I will add: The City of San Diego Housing Element contains an inventory of “housing sites”. This plan has been approved by the State of Calif as demonstrating an adequate number of buildable sites.A reasonable conclusion is that developers routinely look for and find land which has the potential for new projects, in which they can make a profit. They move forward whenever they can devise a project which “pencils out”, if they can obtain financing.The phrase “housing shortage” has been repeated so many times that it’s become accepted as fact, by some people. I don’t want to be unduly critical about the 2/5/15 article in the Voice of San Diego which you referenced. There must be better cases made as evidence of a housing shortage. I urge you to reread that article. The logic is almost childish.Excerpt:
We looked at census data to find the number of new housing units added in San Diego County between the 1990, 2000 and 2010. In 1990 there was one housing unit for every 1.285 members of the labor force. By 2010, that had risen to 1.346 workers for every housing unit in the county. Even adjusting for the increase in labor force participation, between 2000 and 2010, we added about 20,000 fewer houses in the county when judged against increases in the local labor market. So where did those workers go to sleep at night? Simply put, the failure to build enough in our county fueled demand for housing in southern Riverside County, and to an extent, BajaConsider what the author is saying: That during any period in which the labor force grew faster than the housing stock, we can conclude that there was a housing shortage!Such a simplistic conclusion completely ignores factors like: The average number of residents per dwelling unit (household size), changes in the square feet and number of bedrooms per home, and the age of the workforce, which can affect household size.In conclusion, I don’t doubt that Transit Oriented Development offers some benefits. I think there is good reason to create safe bikeways. However, trying to cure a “housing shortage” is a futile goal, since such a shortage can’t be adequately defined, and is probably non-existent.Tom Mullaney