Hi Paul, just want to clear up a few things since 99% of what you “reported” in your blog is inaccurate. I have been open about my identity as a founder of Care About South Park since we issued our first press release on November 11th requesting transparency from Todd Gloria about the South Park TargetExpress project. Mark Arabo is not a spokesperson for Care About South Park. He is the President and CEO of the Neighborhood Market Association. We are aligned in our opposition to a TargetExpress coming into South Park but we are independent organizations. Care About South Park is speaking out on behalf of the many people in the community who oppose the TargetExpress due to the negative impact it will have on our neighborhood and Mark is speaking out on behalf of his members, whose independent businesses in and around South Park will be negatively impacted by a corporate chain.
Not that it’s at all relevant, but you have not identified my current employer accurately. I won’t bother to correct you, because as a homeowner in South Park, I’m entitled to want to protect the neighborhood in which I live regardless of where I work. The one thing you did copy and paste correctly was the “gem” about me shopping at Target but not wanting one in my neighborhood. Let me explain the logic behind that. Mission Valley and Sports Arena are both well-established commercial areas that are densely populated with corporate chains. When purchasing a home in San Diego, I specifically chose not to buy in these areas because I personally don’t want to live in a dense commercial zone. And that’s not a slight against people who do. We all have preferences and choices. And if the residents of Mission Valley or Sports Arena wanted to oppose yet another chain opening in their neighborhood, I would support them and certainly wouldn’t expect them to give up their fight so I could personally shop at said chain. Again, everyone has a right to protect the neighborhood in which they live. The TargetExpress will only be 18,000 sq feet whereas the average full sized Target is over 100,000 sq feet. South Park residents will still have to drive to Mission Valley and Sports Arena to get things that the TargetExpress won’t carry. I, and many of my neighbors, on the other hand will never shop at another Target store again if TargetExpress comes into South Park.
What our neighborhood wants and needs is a grocery store and there was and is one who is interested that would be a perfect for us. However, we have been lied to by Mr. Hirmez, who stood up in front of members of the community at the Greater Golden Hill Planning Committee meeting on October 8th and told us that he wanted to retire and Target was his only option because no other grocery stores wanted the space or could afford the improvements needed to the building. So if you want to add some new and interesting information to your blog, perhaps you should research that story and report back with some facts that have actually been corroborated beyond a simple Google search.
I appreciate Sabrina taking the time to respond to my post and would like to address some of the points she made:
1) “I have been open about my identity as a founder of Care About South Park since we issued our first press release on November 11th requesting transparency from Todd Gloria about the South Park TargetExpress project”.
When I heard about Care About South Park, I went to their website, which to this day still doesn’t identify anyone associated with the group. I wasn’t aware of any press release. It’s hypocritical for a group to demand “full transparency and accountability” from Target (who have met with Todd Gloria’s office and have addressed community concerns over products/services offered) while not even saying who makes up said group on their site. Why not list the organizers – is it just Ms. DiMinico? – or the hundreds of people and businesses who have signed their petition?
2) “Independent businesses in and around South Park will be negatively impacted by a corporate chain.”
Most of the independent businesses in South Park don’t carry the same items as a TargetExpress (TE), but rather niche items, like unique clothes and funky gifts. Grant’s Market probably has the most goods overlap, but it also has a very popular deli. Their Yelp page mostly features reviews of the deli’s food offerings, not their grocery items.
I do agree that big box stores like Walmart have an extremely negative impact on main street businesses. They even leave inner-suburb stores vacant to reduce competition as they follow the sprawl. But TargetExpress isn’t a big-box store that you drive to in the exurbs – it’s an oversized drugstore on main street. It will complement and strengthen the surrounding business community instead of drawing shoppers down to Mission Valley. Their Minneapolis location is part of a new 300-unit mixed use development. In fact, the TE small-store concept is in response to the trend of younger people moving to urban neighborhoods so residents can be closer to the store instead of driving 15 minutes away – which Ms. DiMinico would force South Park residents to continue doing.
3) “I don’t want to live in a dense commercial zone”.
And you won’t after TargetExpress opens either – South Park will still be the same, just with a TargetExpress instead of a failing grocery store. Also, I’m guessing most residents of the Sports Arena commercial zone didn’t willingly choose to live there, as Ms. DiMinico implies. They live there because its scattered apartment housing among the meth-making hotels is what they can afford. I’m sure they’d love to live in South Park, but those residents largely oppose any new housing – including a project that was planned for this same Gala Foods site.
4) “And if the residents of Mission Valley or Sports Arena wanted to oppose yet another chain opening in their neighborhood, I would support them”.
Somehow I don’t see CASP folks standing on Sports Arena Drive with a “No More Chains!” sign when the next Jamba Juice opens there. Statements like these are a stretch (to say the least) and are a cover for the ugly motives involved: liberal NIMBYism, snobbery and elitism. And to suggest that Mission Valley residents are cool with all of South Park driving in to pollute and congest their neighborhoods, simply because they already had commercial areas, is condescending.
5) “South Park residents will still have to drive to Mission Valley and Sports Arena to get things that the TargetExpress won’t carry“.
Probably true, but they’ll certainly be making those trips less often since TargetExpress will carry many of the items they do need. Yet for Ms. DiMinico, not one drive out of South Park can be sacrificed because her corporate-free neighborhood lifestyle requires every one of these wasteful trips. Does she gas-up at the dreaded corporate 7-Eleven next door to Gala Foods for those Mission Valley Target runs?
6) “What our neighborhood wants and needs is a grocery store and there was and is one who is interested that would be a perfect for us“.
Claiming to represent an entire neighborhood is certainly bold, but there are plenty of residents who want a drugstore too – which is what TargetExpress (TE) basically is. And why not just tell us who this perfect grocery store is? Is it national chain Trader Joe’s? National chain Whole Foods? Because I think residents would be just fine with these stores, despite having the same corporate classification as Target.
If South Park residents oppose a private property owner leasing out to the business of his choice, then offer to purchase the property from the owner. Or don’t support the business, and it will go away. While I completely support their right to protest (I’ve done the same with Urban Mo’s planned demolition of housing they own for a parking lot), thinking they control whom private property owners rent to is delusional.
If I lived in South Park, Target wouldn’t be my first choice for this location for a number of reasons. Their labor practices are Walmart-like, they gave money to an anti-gay organization, and they tried to lay off all their Canadian workers with no severance pay. And I agree with CASP’s complaint that money spent there leaves the community in greater numbers than at local merchants. But TE will provide essential household goods to South Park that are unavailable there now.
It’s 2015 – why are we still labeling our neighborhoods as residential vs “commercially dense”? Mix these uses in urban neighborhoods like South Park, which are well-served by alternative transit options, and you’ll end up with a lot less vehicle miles travelled. Opposing TE because they’re a corporation is mostly an excuse for the real reasons: competition concerns from rival markets, traffic, and complete disregard for other communities.
The Jonathan Segal project at Robinson and Park has a name (Mr. Robinson) and a sign showing what it will look like when it’s complete:
The rendering reminds me a bit of Segal’s project on India Street in Little Italy. Mr. Robinson is among the first residential projects in Hillcrest since 2008, which also happens to coincide with the introduction of the Interim Height Ordinance there. This project isn’t affected by the IHO due to its location on Park, and it should exceed the IHO’s 65 foot height limit given that the rendering shows 7 stories on one side. Because discretionary review by the community is not required, Segal chose not to present the project to the neighborhood, and I don’t blame him. His son Mathew explained last fall that community planning group meetings are largely attended by residents who oppose any development because of parking impacts. And sure enough, that’s exactly what a Hillcrest resident says in this clip about the project: no one else should be allowed to live in Hillcrest because parking. Remember, this is the first sizable mixed-use project in Hillcrest in 6 years, so there’s been hardly any new housing since then.
I’ve had some interesting exchanges with folks on the Hillcrest Business Improvement Association Facebook page (not the official HBA page) about the housing issue. First, they say no new housing should be built because it won’t be affordable. If you suggest reducing minimum parking requirements to reduce cost, they say parking is more important than housing. Mr. Robinson had to dig out expensive underground parking to meet the city’s minimum parking requirements, despite five bus lines (including the new Rapid
235215 to downtown) nearby, and a DecoBike station across the street. These costs are part of what makes the units so unaffordable. And yet it’s still not enough parking to appease residents. Perhaps they should read this.
Another Facebook freakout ensued over the sale of the Baras thrift store on University at Normal:
These are real people who want to decide the future of Uptown. They’ve declared that they got there first, their parking is more important than housing for others, and they’re fighting like hell to keep anyone else out. Can you blame developers for ignoring them whenever possible?
The market features locally-grown produce from a farm near Ramona, imported goods from Spain, and soups, salads and paella to go. Nearby, La Marque has been serving up Moto Roasters coffee since November.
In Bankers Hill, several new mixed-use projects are on the way, including Orchid-award winning architect Lloyd Russel’s 4th Avenue Lofts. The article also mentions this project set for 5th and Palm, where Extraordinary Desserts is currently located:
74,000-square-foot Fifth and Palm will combine a 145-unit multifamily market-rate rental building with a 66-unit extended-stay hotel component. The two towers will be a maximum 150 feet tall, with 37 spaces in three levels of underground parking.
Bourbon Street and Lei Lounge have closed and will re-open as a new, non-gay concept by one of the owners of Waypoint in North Park:
While the usual suspects in our gay community blamed the lack of parking for the closure, there are plenty of successful spots along this strip of University Heights (Plumeria, Small Bar, Lestat’s) regardless of the parking situation. I think it has more to do with the changes both in the neighborhood and in our culture. We have gay friends in University Heights, but they’re in their 50’s and don’t go clubbing. The demographics of any new people who can afford to move there are likely much different than the primarily gay and lesbian residents who turned the neighborhood around two decades ago. It seems a gay club doesn’t really reflect the direction of the community anymore. And on a larger scale, gays and lesbians are no longer limited to just gay establishments as discrimination decreases. Finally, many gayborhoods are simply being priced out of existence as housing and commercial rents increase, and older residents largely oppose any new inventory of either.
Down Park, we made it to S&M Sausage and Meat, drawn in by the sleek bar and CityBeat’s wing week:
Pork wings in a root beer balsamic were as delicious as they sound, as was my vegan Italian sausage (I’ve forgotten the ingredients) and Jay’s cajun chicken sausage. The restaurant was very busy, much more so than we can remember at Gulf Coast Grill. It also felt like they knew what they were doing – ideas like putting in our order out front, then using signage on our table to let the server know if we needed anything, worked well. The owners’ considerable experience with their Slater’s 50/50 establishments showed.
Another place with prior restaurant experience that’s new to the area is Swamis in North Park:
From the efficient ordering process, to the huge variety of coffees, to my dairy-free pancakes (yes!) it all just seemed to work. And I’ll never get tired of indoor/outdoor spaces like these as we enjoyed yet another 75 degree January weekend day. Another one in this category is the new Streetcar on 30th which I mentioned in an earlier post, but this time I’ve included a picture of the cool interior:
A lack of outdoor seating was one of the reasons cited for the recent closure of Alchemy in South Park, as the patio fills nightly across the street at Buona Forchetta, and Hamilton’s expands next door. Alchemy will be replaced by a vegan restaurant from the brains behind the LOVELIKEBEER events, (with help from the Craft & Commerce folks) and add patios… According to the North Park Facebook page, San Diego Soup Shoppe on El Cajon will be getting two new neighbors: a second Cafe Madeline (first location is in South Park) and a beer/burger place, The Barn… And last but not least, Good Life Eatery has moved into the former 30th Street Cafe on 30th in North Park.
Preservation alert: the owners of the church next door to the Irving Gill-built chapel on 30th in North Park are offering $10K to anyone who will move the structure. Contact me for more information (thanks to John Anderson for the photo):
Here’s some photos of the new Pan Bon Italian market/restaurant in Little Italy, which looks (and tasted) great but still needs to work out a few kinks regarding their confusing ordering flow:
While I’m on Little Italy, I was asked to give a shout out to the Happenstance co-workspace there, near the new Bird Rock Coffee Roasters… Finally, the YMCA on El Cajon Boulevard had its grand opening today. I can’t express how thrilled I am to have a 10-minute walk to an outdoor pool I can swim in on warm winter days like yesterday (these pictures are from last weekend however):
Another thing I like: they have a front door that faces the sidewalk:
YMCA’s Mission Valley and Kearny Mesa locations have zero interaction with their streets, so this is a great change. Now if the CVS down the street could just follow suit; their street-facing door has long been sealed off (likely due to theft), forcing pedestrians to enter via the parking lot.
We stopped by the BLVD Food Market on El Cajon Blvd Friday night, where several food vendors and a live band were set up in the parking lot of the Heart and Trotter strip mall at Utah. This isn’t your typical strip mall – on this night, several of the businesses were open late, including a mattress store with art for sale. One of the highlights among the booths was Jordan Hannibal’s 5150 Nut Butter (I’m now hooked on their cookies and cream flavor). Unfortunately it looks like Heart and Trotter still has a ways to go before opening their space. And since their booth already was out of food two hours into the event, we walked up 30th to Chris’ Ono Grinds, where we enjoyed their tasty Kahlua pork and barbeque chicken dishes. They have Fall Brewing on tap so we headed up the street to that new brewery next and were surprised to see the place was nearly full:
Who knew there was still demand for even more breweries in San Diego? It was the same story down 30th where the new Rip Current brewing (and its food joint in the back, Sublime) was also packed. In fact, nearly every business along this northern stretch of 30th was busy – Streetcar, Ritual, Nomad Donuts, Toronado. Compared to a few years ago, North Park is definitely stretching out.
– Also in North Park, the building formerly housing Undisputed Gym has been sold at 3038 University. Given its size, it could be an ideal spot for an organic market or similar, but some have brought up the lack of parking at the site. Yet when we travel to other large cities, plenty of people shop at markets without the need for parking out front – perhaps they just shop more often. I know that’s a foreign concept to most of San Diego right now, but does that mean it can never change, even as North Park continues to become more city-like?
– In South Park, the anti-TargetExpress group, Care About South Park, have finally revealed themselves (they demand “transparency” from Target yet hadn’t previously identified their members), and one of the group’s spokespersons is Mark Arabo. While CASP purports to be a community group, Arabo is the head of the Neighborhood Market Association, which understandably does not want a Target to compete with. Yet CASP purports to speak for the community, not grocers. Arabo is also known for leading the fight against the plastic bag ban, despite 20 million tons of plastic going into our oceans every year.
“I shop at Target,” DiMinico said. “But we don’t want a Target in South Park.”
While DiMinico criticizes the traffic that a tiny Target would bring to South Park, she has no problem contributing to the congestion and pollution in other, lesser neighborhoods that host giant Targets. Wouldn’t the residents of Mission Valley prefer that South Park residents shop at their own Target? In fact, a TargetExpress in South Park that uses the existing Gala Foods building (I’d be opposed to a giant Target with a huge parking lot) will enable locals to walk, bike, take the bus, or take a shorter car trip to get household items unavailable elsewhere in the neighborhood.
Any successful store is going to increase traffic in South Park compared to the failing Gala Foods. Instead, DiMinico would rather produce more greenhouse gases and road wear by forcing her neighbors to drive to Mission Valley.
– Speaking of GHG’s, a recent headline in the Reader about proposed development near transit in Grantville caught my attention:
Plan for Grantville population boom – Count on more noise, traffic, greenhouse gas emissions
The article is about the environmental impact report for the planned 8725 dwelling units over the next several decades in Grantville. Given the huge need for housing in San Diego, it makes sense to put it near the trolley where some vehicle trips will be replaced by trolley rides. Since those units are going to get built somewhere in our region regardless, wouldn’t this project produce less greenhouse gas emissions than pushing that growth to say, Murrieta and its resulting 60-mile commutes? Pushing growth to the exurbs is exactly what’s been happening as NIMBY publications like the Reader promote no-growth policies. Voice of San Diego also has a good writeup on the planned development in Grantville, where traffic and parking concerns are once again more important to many than our city’s housing affordability crisis.
– Community planning groups draw up the community plans that guide how we’ll live in and get around our neighborhoods, and the plans are currently being updated for the next few decades. One example is the College Area Planning Group, whose existing community plan calls for widening College Ave from four to six auto lanes. CAPG is fighting a proposed bike lane on College Avenue (more on that below) because they feel it will prevent the above widening, despite there being no funding for the hundreds of millions of dollars in demolition and reconstruction costs that would be required for the SDSU campus as a result.
Having attended several community planning group meetings, our neighborhoods’ futures are largely being determined by established residents with older mindsets, primarily concerned with keeping any new housing out of their community. Meanwhile the region’s housing shortage, affordability crisis and hourglass economy worsens. These residents largely oppose any infrastructure devoted to alternative modes of transit, despite younger Americans increasingly using these modes, their own future need for them, or the city’s Climate Action Plan that increases bike and public transit mode share.
If you oppose this cars-first planning approach for our city, and instead think we should plan for the needs of all residents, Circulate San Diego is hosting a panel discussion on how to join a Community Planning Group on January 28th at Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
– Circulate SD also put on a fun event with the help of RideScout in Pacific Beach recently at the Java Earth Cafe, A Night of Short Stories: From Point A to Point PB. With the trolley coming to near Pacific Beach, the event was meant to highlight the project and get people thinking about their experiences on public transit. Five speakers told riveting and/or funny transit tales, and we especially enjoyed the story of a hung-over American tourist vomiting his way through Paris.
– I met with Robert Schultz, Vice President of Real Estate at SDSU recently regarding the proposed College Ave bike lanes that are part of the South Campus Plaza mixed-use project there:
The project will house 600 students and include ground floor retail. Bike lanes that were added to the project at the request of the City of San Diego to mitigate the impacts of the new development by employing a Complete Streets approach (the project also widens sidewalks for the significant pedestrian traffic there). I was surprised to hear that the city may kill the same lanes they suggested, because they have performed an auto level of service analysis that shows increased congestion. Bob explained that while there have been suggested changes to using LOS at the state level, it’s still fully in charge here in San Diego (this was also confirmed at a later meeting I had to UCSD). Further, a traffic engineer with the city asked SDSU to perform a 95th percentile traffic queue length study. The city’s Climate Action Plan, which seeks to increase bike mode share to 18% in communities like the SDSU area, was never brought up.
It sounds like different people within the city have different missions, and the result is that Complete Streets policies are nearly impossible to implement. (An aside: an email was forward to me from a Portland State faculty member who was looking for examples of mid-rise developments near San Diego college campuses that connect the campus to the community. Amazingly, there don’t appear to by any near our three major universities). I understand that state policies take a while to filter down to municipalities, but it would be beneficial to have a more unified approach from the City instead of the contradictions that prevent Complete Streets.
While the College Ave bike lanes face challenges from within the city (and offer a fascinating case study on how hard it is to implement Complete Streets in San Diego), let’s not forget the vehement opposition from local residents, who may seek legal action to prevent them. Their vision of a six-lane College Ave, which is in stark contrast to the alternative transit modes being used by younger San Diegans (the trolley reduced annual parking permits by 6000 at SDSU, and they’re trending downward yearly), means that bike lanes and widened sidewalks simply aren’t an option for College Ave, ever. And this is in a neighborhood that lacks any real safe bike facilities at all for a large student population. If you support bike lanes on College, please email council member Marti Emerald at email@example.com.
Residents also oppose the size of the student housing building, yet they also complain about neighborhood houses being turned into mini-dorms as a result of insufficient student housing on campus. Insufficient parking is another sore spot, yet College area residents benefit from the city’s cheap residential parking permit program ($13/year; no significant increase in decades) that city taxpayers subsidize to the tune of a few hundred thousand dollars every year.
– I also met with Robert Clossin, Director of Physical and Community Planning at UCSD recently. UCSD and the UC system have a “robust” sustainability policy in place, so I was confused when UCSD supported the proposed I-5 widening that will increase greenhouse gas emissions. This widening is part of the SANDAG 2050 transportation plan that has been thrown out in court twice now, for exceeding state greenhouse gas goals. So Robert and Catherine Presmyk in the same office met with me to clear things up.
Here are the transit projects coming to UCSD:
Robert explained that UCSD only supports the direct access ramp from the new carpool lanes onto campus, and cited the buses they will bring onto campus. Unfortunately this distinction was not made in any of the article I read indicating UCSD’s support for the freeway expansion. Also, I’m unable to find any mention of planned bus routes for the new lanes. Assuming the lanes will be like those on I-15 where solo drivers can pay to use them, the lanes will simply enable faster access to campus for wealthy North County residents, while not providing a robust public transit alternative to taking the Coaster and waiting for a shuttle to campus.
Speaking of the Sorrento Valley Coaster station, one benefit of the Genesee Avenue widening project shown above is that it will include a new bike path to the Coaster station from campus. On the negative side, despite the Genesee bridge being expanded, there was only room for a painted bike lane, not a buffered or protected one. This is also the case for the new Gilman bridge over campus.
One bright spot are the trolley stations coming to campus; the west campus station will include bike lockers, a public gathering space, some potential retail, and a new walkway connecting to the Price Center. Another positive is the plan to replace some of the Mesa housing at the southeast corner of campus with new multi-story buildings, including micro-units for graduate students. This would also have the potential to connect with the businesses across Regents Road there.
Overall however, UCSD remains largely isolated from its surroundings, especially the businesses and residences on the south side of La Jolla Village Drive. While there is a pedestrian bridge, LJVD is practically freeway-like and dangerous by design to pedestrians and people on bikes. UCSD has taken positive steps to create village-like settings on campus; it would be great to see them connect with villages off-campus too, as other colleges are doing around the country.
A ferris wheel has been proposed for the San Diego bayfront, near the Midway museum. While it’s not exactly the most innovative idea – several cities now have these giant ferris wheels – it does at least get people thinking about our valuable public space on the waterfront, and the best way to use (or not use) it.
The San Diego proposal reminded me of my recent experience on the Las Vegas wheel, which is located behind the new Linq casino (which replaces the Quad, which replaced Imperial Palace) and was named “Best New Attraction of 2014” there. At 550 feet, the High Roller is taller than any building in San Diego, thanks to downtown’s FAA-imposed height limit. Four of the pods feature open bars, which will answer the question “How much can I drink in half an hour?”. One of the things I liked most about the Vegas wheel wasn’t the ride itself, but rather the pedestrian-only walk leading up to it, where people were lingering and enjoying a rare public outdoor space:
In contrast to the promenade, the Linq’s owners chose to extend a giant middle finger to pedestrians on the bustling Strip by fronting it with a giant blank wall:
Long blank walls are death to areas that function on pedestrian traffic. For anyone walking by, but not going through the Linqperial Palace, this creates a unfriendly dead zone on the strip. Now the idea may exactly be to direct the traffic inside the casino. But poisoning the strip is a crappy way of doing it.
The Linq’s wall is a sharp contrast to other casinos that are revamping their frontage from dead space and driveways to restaurants, markets and “vibrant patio cultures“. The Cosmopolitan features a bar that looks out directly onto the Strip. These casinos realize the value in the heavy pedestrian traffic outside and are trying to draw them in, rather than repel them like the Linq does. Even the new basketball stadium proposed for the Strip features a large pedestrian area:
Victory Plaza, a 300,000-square-foot streetscape lined with retail and restaurants, is being billed as a Times Square-like experience with Las Vegas sensibilities. Planned to be the social heart of the urban-scaled project, it includes pedestrian walkways, event spaces, rooftop dining, and public balconies overlooking the street below.
– A weekend trip to L.A. was a fun way to finish off the holiday break. Baco Mercat is part of the burgeoning restaurant scene downtown, and their baco flatbread sandwiches are pretty amazing. I’m a big octopus fan and their dish, with chorizo, a walnut vinaigrette, cranberries and olives, was the best I’ve had. A trip to dim sum spot Elite in Monterey Park yielded flavors superior to those we’ve had in San Diego (or L.A.’s Chinatown, for that matter).
Our hotel in L.A. Live was near a whole lot of downtown construction, including the billion-dollar Fig Central project which features three 40+ story towers and 450,000 square feet of retail. To the north, the Metropolis mixed-use project will be the largest mixed-use site on the West Coast, and include the tallest residential tower (58 stories) in the city. Curbed has a map of the vast changes coming to the L.A. skyline.
Here are some pictures from the L.A. trip in no particular order… it was our first visit to the postmodernist Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels:
Next door, the tower of the Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts beckons:
The unfinished, honeycombed Broad Museum next door to Gehry’s Walt Disney Hall has been revealed:
As we walked around the city, we were amazed at just how fast drivers go – 50, 60 mph on downtown streets. But when you build 7-lane one-way streets like this block of Figueroa, what do you expect?
The Last Bookstore downtown was a trip, with some off-kilter art and several galleries located upstairs:
I’m grateful to have a cultural resource like L.A. so close. Hopefully this year we’ll get up there more often.
Balboa Park received new energy-efficient lighting last month, including varying colors projected on the park’s buildings:
We snapped this picture after taking in the 20th Century Icons exhibit at the Museum of Art yesterday. The exhibit, which ends January 27th, features artists from Picasso to Warhol; works from Miro and Rothko were personal favorites. While you’re at the park, the San Diego History Center has an informative new film, “Balboa Park: The Jewel of San Diego” that we saw on an earlier visit. Also don’t forget that the California Tower opens to the public on New Years Day – the first three days are already sold out.
– Coachella’s a fun music festival, but its location often means the fest’s electronic artists pass over San Diego due to the event’s no-compete radius clause. But now Coachella’s promoter, Goldenvoice, is helping to put on the CRSSD electronic music festival at the new Waterfront Park in March. The festival’s proximity to the Santa Fe Depot Amtrak station makes for easy public transit access, and it’s encouraging to see the new park being used for a music event. Let’s hope this site won’t meet the same fate as the Embarcadero Marina Park South, where bass-heavy nighttime concerts have been banned due to noise complaints from Coronado residents. Here’s the lineup (I’m partial to Chromeo, Flight Facilities, Classixx, and Tensnake):
– The new City Heights YMCA has had its opening date pushed back (again), this time from 1/3 to 1/24… The folks at Urban Angels asked me to mention their non-profit organization, which provides meals to the homeless downtown, and even helps them transition to jobs and permanent housing:
Urban Angels is committed to providing daily breakfast and dinner to residents of Connections Housing, and also feeds homeless San Diegans at the Salvation Army each Wednesday. This is admirable, but it’s not what makes them so cool. In addition to providing meals, Urban Angels has launched a Social Enterprise program where they actually employ Connections Housing residents part time to help prep the meals, teaching them job skills and helping to build their work history. The ultimate goal is to find program participants a full time job, once they’re ready. The program only launched in April 2014, and already 4 out of 5 of the participants have been able to transition out of Connections Housing and into a more permanent living situation.
– In Normal Heights, Sparky’s auto repair sits just east of Blind Lady Ale House on Adams, and we noticed a For Lease sign up on the garage today. Seems like an ideal older structure to convert to a restaurant/bar… We finally dropped into The Rabbit Hole nearby for lunch today and the service is definitely a notch up from Heights Tavern. The menu is also a bit more diverse, although we went the bar cuisine route with their filling Maui onion rings, Meat Love burger and fish & chips. There’s a solid selection of mostly local craft beers on tap too… We also scratched The Patio in Mission Hills off our list a few weeks back. The garden wall was as impressive as we’d heard (not my picture of it unfortunately), and even had a few poinsettias thrown in for the holidays. My memory of the evening is now as fuzzy as my garden wall photo, but I do remember the scallops were pretty amazing.
– Fish Public here in Kensington closes tomorrow; we enjoyed our meals there, but maybe now we’ll get the Cucina Urbana we hoped for when owner Tracy Borkum closed Kensington Grill… Still waiting on the Stehly Farms Market to open here too; January supposedly, but we haven’t seen much activity at the site… The building that houses the forthcoming Pappalecco on Adams here got a new awning and a new art gallery, Gallery 4204… Kensington Video is set to close in February and I’m curious what might replace it; in the meantime, check out their time-warp website for kicks… With all the craft beer options south of I-8, I don’t get up to the Miramar breweries too often. So when friends in north county proposed a trip to AleSmith and the new Ballast Point brewery/bar/restaurant there, I jumped on the Rapid 235 bus up to Miramar Transit Station and took Uber from there. This Ballast Point is gigantic, with indoor and outdoor bars (I do prefer the Little Italy location’s bar to the Miramar one shown below), a massive dining room, and ample outdoor seating. We especially enjoyed their limited-release Toasted Coconut Victory at Sea Porter.
While it was a Saturday evening, the place was absolutely packed with young people. It was another reminder of just how big craft beer has become throughout San Diego.
– Leo Wilson, chair of the Uptown Planners community planning group, has filed a lawsuit to remove the buffered bike lanes that the city painted on 4th and 5th Avenues in Bankers Hill after a recent street repaving. His attorney for the lawsuit is Jim Mellos, another Uptown Planner. Wilson objects to the elimination of an auto travel lane, saying that the city’s original bike plan only called for narrowing of existing auto lanes, and therefore the bike lanes are not exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act. Yes, Wilson is (ab)using a law designed to help the environment to kill an environmentally-friendly project – because his unfounded concerns over traffic are more important.
Wilson never mentions that the city’s entire bike master plan has had an environmental impact review performed, as required by CEQA. Or that state law AB417 “provides environmental (CEQA) exemption for all elements of a bike plan that don’t involve construction – meaning bike lanes are no longer subject to environmental review.” Or that the master plan allows for significant modifications, including changes in bike lane classification – which can require removal of auto travel lanes. And the lane reduction idea for 4th/5th is not a new concept as Wilson insists; it was recommended in a 2005 city report to address dangerous auto speeds in the neighborhood.
Auto Level of Service can no longer be used to kill transit projects in California. But let’s play Wilson’s game anyway. In his lawsuit, he cites daily traffic counts (12000/day) as justification that congestion and/or diversion to other streets will occur – yet never actually demonstrates that peak hour traffic volume will exceed the lanes’ carrying capacity. That’s because it won’t: using the 10% peak hour rule of thumb, and even multiplying by 2 for a one way street, peak hour volume on 5th is 2400 cars/hour at most. Yet urban street capacity is 1600 cars/hour, or 3200 cars/hour for two one-way lanes; a visit to 5th at rush hour yesterday showed no traffic congestion.
Wilson says construction on 5th street will result in auto travel lane reductions to one lane, yet some of this construction has already begun and removes the bike lane, not an auto travel lane. Frankly, if we used temporary future construction projects to stop public street improvements, none would ever occur. He’s concerned over traffic diversions to 6th and cites the high number of accidents there as proof of traffic flow issues. Yet these accidents are due to excess lane capacity that encourages high traffic speeds – not high traffic volume. In fact, 6th is an ideal street to implement a 4- to 3-lane (plus center turn lane) road diet, since its daily traffic counts are less than 20000 autos (the federal rule of thumb for implementing road diets). This would reduce speeds and make 6th a much more pedestrian-friendly gateway to Balboa Park. But Wilson opposed road diet efforts for 6th, citing fast auto flow as a higher priority than pedestrian safety:
Although most of WalkSanDiego’s endeavors gain praise, the organization is not without some controversy. For example, Leo Wilson, chair of Uptown Planners and a Sixth Avenue resident, called the proposal to trim Sixth Avenue to two lanes “unrealistic.”
“It’s difficult for us as community leaders but we have to balance on one hand that we want pedestrian improvements but on the other hand people are going to use automobiles,” he said. “We strongly oppose [the lane reduction] in Bankers Hill. That is a major arterial; thousands of people drive it. I consider that a traffic clogging measure, not a traffic calming measure.”
Wilson said he agrees with WalkSanDiego’s mission but that its ideas can “go to extremes” at times.
“When they talk about huge lane reductions, the discussion goes from increasing pedestrian amenities to utopianism,” he said. “I think those of us in the community planning process need a balance.”
Wilson also rails against the lane diet and crosswalks on 6th here:
He points across Grape Street toward a row of modern townhouses where, he says, one current Uptown Partnership board member, one former board member, and a senior project planner for the partnership reside. Wilson explains his final complaint regarding the parking organization. “Here’s where some members of Uptown Partnership’s board of directors live, and here’s where they want to put in flashing crosswalks, install roundabouts, and reduce the number of lanes of traffic from four lanes to two. They live within 500 feet of the improvements. I’d say there’s some conflict of interest.
Despite his claims of caring about pedestrian infrastructure and traffic calming in his lawsuit, it’s clear what Leo Wilson’s priorities are:
1) Fast, unencumbered flow of auto traffic – except in “residential” western Bankers Hill (I guess all those condos on 6th are empty).
2) Abundant parking. Wilson opposed a safe bike lane that removed parking in Five Points and the SANDAG bike lane that removed parking from University. Meanwhile all of his traffic flow concerns for 4th/5th could be addressed simply by removing one lane of parking from each street instead of a travel lane. Unsurprisingly, he never recommends this. Mr. Wilson also opposes any closures of the Cabrillo Bridge into Balboa Park because his on-street parking concerns trump the public’s enjoyment of the park.
Wilson’s lawsuit expresses concern for the “public safety” of drivers on 6th Avenue. What about the safety of people on bikes? I had an SUV come within inches of me while riding on 6th Ave a few years back. He also says “don’t assume we’re opposed to removing (an auto) lane on 5th Avenue“. If that were the case, why is his Metro CDC organization pushing for a 2-way contraflow bike lane on 4th Avenue, instead of removing an auto lane on 4th and 5th? This proposal, an alternative to SANDAG’s proposed Class 1 bike lanes on 4th and 5th, has been rejected by the organization; it would require traffic signals to be installed at every intersection.
My opinion is that this is yet another Leo power trip. He and a group of mostly older San Diegans want to decide mobility in Uptown for all, including younger generations, using ideas for transit that are stuck in the past. Younger Americans are increasingly choosing alternative modes of transit, including biking. Yet Wilson’s crew continues to cling to auto-first notions like the 1960’s Level of Service concept, while ignoring the alternative transit mode share goals of the city’s Climate Action Plan. And here’s another example of the egos involved: when DecoBike presented their station plans for Uptown, Wilson told the presenter that the station in front of the Atlas building on 5th was a problem, because there were several lawyers that lived there.
Wilson’s lawsuit says his group represents the Bankers Hill community, yet he is disliked by many there, and has never attended a Bankers Hill Residents Group (BHRG) meeting. He even skipped the city’s presentation of the 4th/5th bike lanes to BHRG. He also claimed to represent Bankers Hill in his support of the Balboa Park Jacobs Bypass Bridge, when many residents opposed the plan that would have permanently damaged the park.
Uptown deserves a planning chair who considers the needs of all residents. If you’ve had enough of Mr. Wilson’s arrogance and disregard for people on bikes, please sign his resignation petition.