bottega americano

8 Sep

- Thanks to Our City San Diego for including sd urban in the list of “San Diego’s 10 best blogs“, and congratulations to all of the other bloggers. Our City is holding a discussion series event to recognize the winners this Tuesday (9/9) at 6 PM, at the World Resource Simulation Center downtown (1088 3rd Ave).

- Some quickies: Orchids and Onions annual voting closes next Friday, and the San Diego Architectural Foundation celebrates Orchid winner Station Tavern’s 5 year-anniversary with a voting party next Thursday from 5-8 PM.  This year’s awards ceremony is October 2nd… SANDAG and City officials will be on hand at the Hillcrest Business Association’s bike lane meeting next Wednesday, 6 PM at Bombay restaurant.  They’ll be discussing the Transforming Hillcrest alternative put forward by architect Jim Frost and supported by several community groups…  MTS will debut the new Mid-City Rapid Bus Line 215 and Rapid Route 237 (Escondido to UCSD by way of Mira Mesa) on October 12th… And MTS is testing stored value on the Compass Card next month and hoping to have it available to all users early next year.

- On our last visit to New York City, our hotel was near Eataly, the multiple-restaurant/cafe/rooftop bar/Italian grocery across the street from Madison Square Park. And each morning it was the perfect spot to start our day, whether it was at the espresso bar or lunch at one of the restaurants – as long as you didn’t mind the hordes of people there. Given how successful the concept was, I wondered why San Diego didn’t have anything like it.

With Bottega Americano‘s recent opening in the Thomas Jefferson building downtown, now we do – sort of. While there are some elements of Eataly present, like the Marketplace counter where you can order coffee, dessert and various deli items to go, it’s still primarily an Italian restaurant. But it’s an Italian restaurant with design unlike any other in San Diego, as you can see in these pictures:







As we ate, the trolley glided by on Park. We couldn’t think of another (upscale) restaurant downtown on the trolley line, but hopefully this is the start of a trend that will extend to challenged C St.


The patio also fronts the trolley – Bottega is definitely a pioneer restaurant in this part of downtown, close to the new library.


Our paninis did take a while to appear, but were quite good. My veggie panini proved you can make a good one without cheese, as the ceci bean hummus, tapenade and marinated artichokes more than made up for it. And my strong cold-brewed iced coffee was a good sign that they’re serious about their coffee too. We’re looking forward to returning for dinner and trying more of the menu, including some pizzas from the wood-fired oven.

Further east, Pinnacle International’s 15th & Island 45-story condo project continues to tower over anything around it in the East Village. In the foreground of the photo below is a long-empty building at 14th and Island that will apparently house an artisan food restaurant named Stella, and Halcyon coffee/bar/lounge. There’s a sizable patio being built around back too, which will front the Pinnacle project’s park.


UPDATE: Here’s a rendering (more info, including naming meeting) of the park:


Just up 14th, at the southwest corner of Market, construction continues at the 6-story Alpha Square affordable housing project. And across Market, the street has fully re-opened in front of the 13th and Market luxury apartment mixed-user, signaling things there are just about complete.

We headed west on this stifling Sunday, coming across the still under-construction Half Door Brewing on Island:





We were disappointed to see that Le Parfait Paris wasn’t open yet on G Street; they’re a commercial bakery based out of the Mission Gorge area, according to Eater.

Eventually we made it to the bayfront, where the Embarcadero makeover is slowly revealing itself.  I like the low-water landscaping, benches, walkways over the rock gardens, lighting and pavers:



After all that walking in the heat it was time to cool off with a Hemingway daiquiri with Mezcal at the new Fairweather rooftop patio from the Consortium Holdings folks, while enjoying a shaded view into the idle ballpark.


Later, as we exited the Park at the Park, we noticed Copa Vida is coming to the west side of the DiamondView building; their Pasadena location has made Eater LA’s best cafe list 2 years in a row.



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ciclosdias hillcrest

31 Aug

- The city’s proposed Uptown Community urban design guidelines are out, and I’ve been asked to share them here since comments are due by 10/10. Great Streets SD points out that many new residential projects are turned away from the street instead of facing it, reducing street-level interaction. If you care about Uptown architecture being people-friendly (not just car-friendly), give your feedback!

- The next Ciclosdias is 11/9 and will be in Hillcrest (woo-hoo!):

CicloSDias November 9th

Elsewhere in Hillcrest, San Diego Streets has an update on the Robota Jinya restaurant going in to the historical building just east of Bank of America on University. Photos from their LA location look pretty impressive, and it’s been named one of the best Ramen spots in LA by Eater LA. This is a big arrival for Hillcrest, it seems… Jonathan Segal’s project at Park and University was unveiled on twitter, and I’m curious to see how those 7 stories on the right will be less than the current 65 foot height limit there (UPDATE: The Hillcrest Interim Height Ordinance does not apply to buildings on Park that do not front University – thanks Walt!):

Just up Park, several properties have been purchased and are set for HUD/senior/low-income housing:

GLD Housing Inc. has acquired five commercial parcels on Park Boulevard in the Uptown area of San Diego for a total of $6.2 million. The company intends to redevelop the site for HUD housing and to build a fourth Tower on Park for senior and low-income housing. The properties sit on the highest point in Hillcrest, in close proximity to Mission Valley, Banker’s Hill and North Park. The five parcels are 3952, 3958, 3960, 3968 and 3974 Park Blvd. and total 24,900 square feet. Cushman & Wakefield was the broker.

Here’s another tower that will run up against the restrictive height limits of Hillcrest. More importantly, I’ve been told the Uptown Planners Committee has been much more hostile to affordable housing than planners in North Park. Will liberal community activists support a project that supports our progressive ideals, or do they continue to think affordable housing doesn’t belong in their neighborhood? While we’re on that touchy subject, why is the head of the Hillcrest Business Association taking video of buses in an effort to rid them entirely from University Avenue? While I’m a supporter of Jim Frost’s Transform Hillcrest, using it as a method to remove bus riders from University isn’t the inclusive Hillcrest we believe in:

Meanwhile at the other end of the rental scale, 36 luxury apartments are proposed at 8th and Washington (where the two-story strip mall is?):


The article also mentions the Atlas Lofts project in South Park, composed of 3 live/work lofts and a single office and retail space each:

Atlas Lofts

A quick side note on upper-end rentals: the laws of supply and demand are evident in Washington, D.C., where new residential construction has created a renters market for millennials. Imagine that in Uptown!

- I’ve been riding my bike to work for one of the two days I’m in Kearny Mesa, and I often go up Bachman instead of Texas because the latter is so unpleasant (fumes, incline, etc). Tyler provides an update on the crumbling pavement at the bottom of this hill that’s hazardous to bicyclists:

The really bad ‘lower portion’ is an easement owned by the directly easterly Bartell Hotels (Days Hotel San Diego Hotel Circle) … Technically they own it but UCSD Real Estate helps the hotel group get the paving happening.

The word I just got is that they have had multiple meetings about getting the paving fixed, a quote and contractor have been selected, now it is just up to the heads of the department to approve / work out who is going to pay for it between the two groups.

“Its up in the queue to happen in the next 90 days” … we will see!

p.s. google street view just got updated this week with an April 2014 street layer to see the current condition!,-117.167533,3a,75y,186.44h,64.63t/data=!3m5!1e1!3m3!1smQNu4HYUGCC8PI2xyG6A0w!2e0!5s2014-04

- In North Park, the You Got Mail folks (where Dark Horse Coffee will be opening a location) have purchased the lot that contains the Crazee Burger building and the auto dealer for their next mixed-use project… We had dinner at Queenstown Pubic House in Little Italy the other night and the manager there confirmed they’re opening in the current Eddie’s spot on 30th that closed this week. He said the space will be designed by Michael Soriano (who did the Little Italy spot), and they’re planning a name/concept unique to North Park.

- The new Plumeria spot at Adams and Idaho will be named Chi Kitchen, while Plumeria will expand into the ill-fated American Voodoo space next door. Just down Park, Bike SD had a recent board meeting at 3rd Space, a cool common workspace and gallery spot

- Downtown Bottega Americano has opened and was packed when we drove by Friday night. San Diego Magazine explains it’s a scaled-down version of New York City’s Eataly food-hall concept:

A multi-faceted food environment where someone can come for their morning espresso, then lunch, pop in for afternoon grocery shopping, return for dinner and a nightcap at the bar.

Nearby, the new rooftop Fairweather bar looks pretty amazing… And so do the tree-wrap street lights all over downtown.

- Transit-oriented development has found a new funding source in state cap-and-trade credits. One of the beneficiaries is the new Comm 22 residential project near the Commercial Station on the Orange Line in Barrio Logan, an area that holds a lot of potential given its proximity to downtown:

Comm 22

Here’s the unit breakdown:

130 Affordable Family Rental Units (1, 2, & 3—bedrooms)

70 Affordable Senior Rental Units

35 Market Rate Lofts

17 For-Sale Townhomes

And here’s more information on how state cap and trade funds will be doled out to transit-oriented affordable housing and other climate-friendly infrastructure, with a big chunk going to high-speed rail. I’m proud to live in a state that’s proactive on addressing climate change and pollution, and dispenses with the “you’re taking away our motoring freedom” crap from the libertarian set. For another approach, here’s how Seattle is building equitable TOD… Elsewhere downtown, City College’s new art gallery has opened.

- I missed this excellent summary of upcoming Mission Valley development, another prime location for transit-oriented residential.

- Finally, in Little Italy, we’re excited for the new things coming to the Ariel Suites building on Kettner, including Javier Plascencia’s (Romesco’s, Mision 19) Bracero, which will serve modern Mexican cuisine:

According to Steve Donlon of Ariel Suites, where Bracero will keep company with Pan Bon, an Italian market-meets-eatery, and a natural grocery store, major contraction should start in October. Each floor of the bi-level restaurant will have a bar, kitchen and heated patio; first floor dining will be casual, with no reservations, while the second level will take reservations and offer a more high-end experience. The upper bar plans to be dedicated to craft liquor from Mexico, including mezcal and tequila.

2 Responses to ciclosdias hillcrest



September 1st, 2014 at 3:46 pm

Neither the Segal site at Park and Robinson or the 3952-74 Park Blvd Site falls within the Interim Height Ordinance boundaries. They are not subject to the 65 foot height limit. In fact, although it is hard to determine, I believe the Park Blvd site could go as high as150 feet or more, assuming they get entitlements prior to the Community Plan Update.


Paul Jamason

September 1st, 2014 at 9:38 pm

Thanks for the info Walt, I fixed the Park Blvd items.

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Lots of restaurant changes going on around town – Heights Tavern in Normal Heights has been bought out and will be closing this week, according to Hutton Marshall at Uptown News… Plumeria’s new spot is coming along on Adams… A friend says Eddie’s on 30th in North Park is closing and will make way for a Queenstown Public House operation.  I never did get Eddie’s concept – the menu was so wide-ranging that there had to be some serious Sysco going on… Across the street, Veg-N-Out is also closing… Marie’s on University is being replaced by a new Lucha LibreDark Horse Coffee is opening a location in the You Are Here project in Golden Hill… Acme Kitchen downtown has also closed; we enjoyed our dinner there a while back but there’s no way I could eat there regularly without elastic waistbands… Comun is open downtown with an upscale Mexican concept; chef Chad White has worked at Roseville, Gabardine and Counterpoint.

Meanwhile, LGBT Weekly asks why there’s been so much restaurant turnover in Hillcrest – but considering the above, restaurant changes aren’t unique to this neighborhood.  We get New York magazine (gotta use those airline points) and there’s plenty of turnover all over that city too.  Maybe it’s not about the parking as the article implies, but rather strong competition for a finite dining-out dollar.

- Upcoming: come to Modern Times Wednesday at 6 and support the minimum wage increase, since our current mayor and former mayor heading the SD Chamber of Commerce will be doing their best to keep thousands of San Diegans working in poverty… Monty Python and The Holy Grail finishes up the Normal Heights summer movie season at Ward Canyon Park (Adams and I-15) this Saturday at 8… There are a couple of clean-up events coming up: Operation Clean Sweep this Saturday morning cleans up the bay, while Coastal Cleanup Day is Saturday 9/21.

- A new residential project is planned for the vacant lot just east of Albertsons on University:

View Larger Map

As SD Streets notes, this is the same architect who designed the Columbia Lofts going up in Little Italy (Columbia St, between Fir and Grape), and there’s an interesting-looking possible rendering of the University project. With North Park Nursery moving in a few doors east, this humdrum stretch of University is looking up.

- I attended Jim Frost’s Transforming Hillcrest presentation last week at the Hillcrest Town Council and was impressed by the thought put into the plan, which would provide protected bike lanes while retaining all current parking on University:


Something’s gotta give, and in this case it’s two travel lanes, which could create traffic flow issues for the frequent bus service on that street.  I had assumed SANDAG performed a traffic study indicating no travel lanes could be lost, but apparently that’s not the case.  We’ll see if they consider this plan, which has broad community support.


- We were headed to the beach Saturday (this has been the best beach summer I can remember since moving here in late 1997, btw) and got caught in the backup from the 7-car sandwich just east of I-5 on I-8.  Here’s a map showing this is the worst stretch of I-8 in the city:


I looked at other freeways individually since you can only plot 1000 collisions at a time, and this appears to be the worst freeway stretch within city limits, largely due to the morning backup onto the I-5N off-ramp.  While Caltrans is widening this off-ramp, why not reduce speeds and/or add caution signage in the area?  It’s been a problem since at least 2000 when I began driving this route (although now I usually exit at Taylor and take the bus to work on my UCSD days – or ride my bike to the Hillcrest/UCSD shuttle).
- Looks like the I-5 widening is going to happen; meanwhile, San Diego ranks poorly on transit.

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seattle’s booming

15 Aug

I posted recently about our trip to Denver and the positive steps they’re taking on public transit and urban residential construction.  If we had returned home from there without visiting Seattle, I’d probably still be blabbering about how much Denver is doing to promote smart growth and transit-oriented development that attracts skilled younger residents.  In my opinion this is key to a city’s economic well-being, but in San Diego, my generation (X) continues to flee as our increasingly older population opposes increased density that could address our city’s housing unaffordability crisis.  Yet for some, a city composed of only rich, old people “will be great”:


Instead, I’ve been blabbering to anyone who’ll listen about the density increase we witnessed in Seattle, from the Amazon-induced construction-on-every-block in South Lake Union just north of downtown, to the five-to-eight story buildings going up in every near-urban neighborhood. And it’s not anything new – Seattle has been building multi-unit housing at a rate twice that of San Diego for years (more data here).

We took the new-ish light rail line from the airport into downtown Seattle, which was only $2.75 for the smooth 15-mile trip.  It shares the downtown bus tunnel to avoid street-level congestion (at a recent SANDAG meeting, the MTS head stressed the need for San Diego’s first tunnel, downtown):


The first night we stayed in the formerly-blighted Denny Triangle neighborhood, amidst cranes on nearly every block.  The parking lot next door to our hotel was set for a 38-story tower; Amazon had just bought the fading Hurricane Cafe across the street, and the crater for the new Amazon headquarters on 7th Street was well underway (full Seattle construction photo set): 


Amazon’s paying for cycle tracks to be built on 7th St and installing 1200 bike stalls as they encourage bicycling to their downtown location. Conversely, in San Diego, Qualcomm complains about the I-805 traffic they created, spends millions on an exit ramp, and lobbied Wednesday for the widening of I-5. But it was the South Lake Union neighborhood just to the east that was undergoing an even greater transformation.  On the workday we visited, the streets were full of young tech workers amidst the office buildings, residential housing, and restaurants.


We managed to grab a table at this awesome biscuit spot before the worker hordes moved in:


These pictures don’t do justice to the scale of the mixed-use projects, some of which took up entire city blocks. This banner shows the area’s walk score, something we saw in other places around the city as a public marketing tool. And the workers at this site said they’ve been having difficulty finding employees due to the area’s construction boom.


More new construction nearby:


The South Lake Union Streetcar runs through the area:


Up the hill in Capitol Hill, there’s a new light rail station and tunnel under construction, along with a ton of new housing. While Seattle’s historic gay neighborhood can change, Hillcrest was declared off-limits to development precisely because of its gay history by Uptown Planner chair Leo Wilson.  New buildings in Capitol Hill routinely exceeded the 30 foot height limit promoted by the anti-density community activists at HillQuest.




Protected bike lanes even grace the main street of Broadway in Capitol Hill (another flashpoint in our gayborhood):



Seattle’s public bike share isn’t online yet, so I rented a bike for the day and hit the Burke-Gillman trail, where cars actually stop for bikes when they cross the road:


It was a beautiful, heavily-used facility.  Compare that to the sparsely-used Mission Valley bike trail, where you’re required to dismount, walk your bike to the (far) nearest intersection, wait to cross, walk back to the path on the other side, and get back on your bike. And that occurs at multiple points along the trail:


Another night we had a fantastic dinner at the Korean fusion spot Revel in Fremont, where we enjoyed pork belly pancakes, short rib dumplings, sausage and shrimp dumplings, and lemongrass beef noodles.  Everything was as tasty as it sounds…



After that we headed over to Ballard where I enjoyed my first of two excellent vegan desserts at Hot Cakes (the second was vegan cherry chunk ice cream at Molly Moon’s):


While there’s also construction going on in Fremont, it seemed much more so in Ballard, especially as we headed east from there:




There was also some residential construction around the University of Washington, which I passed through on a detour from the Burke-Gillman trail.  And we stayed a couple of days with friends in West Seattle, where there was a new 7-story mixed-use building going in.

UPDATE: Here’s a map from the 2030 Seattle transit master plan document (I cut the area south of Seattle out) which shows the neighborhoods above. Notice how 91% of population growth is set for urban centers. In San Diego, our leading growth area has been the South Bay, sending tens of thousands of cars onto our freeways daily: transportation docs tmp final TMPFinalSummaryReportandAppendices.pdf

Imagine if we had hundreds, if not thousands, of new units going into Hillcrest, North Park, Golden Hill and Mission Hills.  Because that’s exactly what was happening in the similar neighborhoods of Seattle.  And this rainy city is priming itself for the future after years of high unemployment by building the housing that its tech workforce requires.  How is Seattle able to overcome NIMBY opposition to smart growth, while San Diego isn’t?

Seattle’s also building the mass transit and bike facilities younger workers seek, while raising its minimum wage to $15 as our mayor vetoes our much smaller increase. The Seattle metro’s unemployment rate is the nation’s lowest, at 5.9%. It’s the fastest-growing large metro in the country.  I wonder where our city’s economy will be 20 years from now versus Seattle, as our skilled workers move away in search of affordable housing, our aging population continues to fight development, our hourglass economy worsens, and we continue to expand our freeways for ‘boomers in the ‘burbs.

Well, on that cheery note I leave you with a picture of Bell Street in Belltown (near downtown), where they took a 3-lane one-way street and put in bioswales and seating on two of the lanes.  It looks great, and yet it’s awfully hard to imagine it ever happening in San Diego.


3 Responses to seattle’s booming


Todd Schlender

August 15th, 2014 at 5:09 pm

Your most recent post about the building boom taking place in Seattle clearly shows how the short-term and longer-term paths the two cities are taking are diverging. I love San Diego and, like many, I don’t want to see the basic character and face of the city I love to change.
We need to understand what the effects of our current policies will be. Are we happy having such an inconsistent level of public transportation across the city? How will this affect San Diego as the population continues to grow? How will those new citizens move across the city if a) there are limited options for them other than the single-occupant car so common on our roads, and b) if the density in the more central neighborhoods is not allowed to be increased, thereby causing longer and longer commute distances and times?
No, we’re not Seattle. And we don’t want to be — I like the sun! But we can learn a lot from the progress happening elsewhere in the US, Europe and beyond.


Joe Wolf

August 21st, 2014 at 10:23 pm

Paul: Thanks so much for this piece – my buddy Todd Schlender shared it with me earlier this week, I lived in San Diego for many years – Hillcrest, North Park, Little Italy – before moving to Seattle in late 2011,. Planning-related jobs and interests in both cities.

I love San Diego, and it frustrates me – to say the least – to read that its governance is still mired in the traps and mindsets I remember, It has the potential to be such a fantastic place – for everyone, and not just the 5-10%.

You nailed a lot of what makes Seattle such an exciting. uplifting … fun place to be now. It is far from perfect, but there is an openness to trying new things, listening to new voices that I rarely experienced in San Diego, I hope your blog and activism helps to change that.,

Here are some sites you might find interesting:

Seattle Transit Blog (a must-read):

Crosscut: Online daily, good coverage of planning & development issues:

Smart Growth Seattle:

Curbed Seattle.

Finally, my Flickr page – much of my photography focuses on the built environment,


Joe Wolf

August 21st, 2014 at 10:23 pm

Paul: Thanks so much for this piece – my buddy Todd Schlender shared it with me earlier this week, I lived in San Diego for many years – Hillcrest, North Park, Little Italy – before moving to Seattle in late 2011,. Planning-related jobs and interests in both cities.

I love San Diego, and it frustrates me – to say the least – to read that its governance is still mired in the traps and mindsets I remember, It has the potential to be such a fantastic place – for everyone, and not just the 5-10%.

You nailed a lot of what makes Seattle such an exciting. uplifting … fun place to be now. It is far from perfect, but there is an openness to trying new things, listening to new voices that I rarely experienced in San Diego, I hope your blog and activism helps to change that.,

Here are some sites you might find interesting:

Seattle Transit Blog (a must-read):

Crosscut: Online daily, good coverage of planning & development issues:

Smart Growth Seattle:

Curbed Seattle.

Finally, my Flickr page – much of my photography focuses on the built environment,

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fitting in

4 Aug

These pictures were taken last month before we headed out on vacation, so they’re a bit out of date, but I wanted to follow up on a San Diego twitter discussion a while back about architecture “fitting in” to a neighborhood. Specifically, a North Park resident (and/or patron) was saying the Orchid-nominated North Parker didn’t fit in to the Craftsman-dominated neighborhood:


Personally, I think the North Parker’s (“beautiful“) modern design and clean lines look great. Sure, it’s different than the surrounding architecture, but there isn’t a lot of exemplary architecture along 30th to begin with. It’s not a house, so why should it look like the Craftsmans on the adjacent residential streets?

I’m not an architecture critic, nor is the aforementioned North Park resident as far as I know.  North Parker architect Jonathan Segal is probably a bit more knowledgeable in this department, and he addressed the issue in a U-T article:

“My hope is that people start understanding that modern architecture can nestle into a neighborhood rather than being afraid of it,” said developer-architect Jonathan Segal.

(I missed a gem of a quote from Segal the first time I read that article – “I find that community people tend to be interested in venting some anger and I’m not interested in being a recipient of that.”  While I’m guilty of this, I can’t help but think of the North Park community meetings’ venter-in-chief, Don Leichtling.)

Taken to an extreme, if architecture always has to “fit in”, every block of every city would look like it did at its founding. That doesn’t make for a very interesting urban landscape.

Here in Kensington, Kensington Commons is nearing completion (San Diego Streets has a good writeup and much better pictures), and it definitely fits in to the neighborhood’s existing architecture more than the North Parker:


While we’re excited about finally having some new mixed-use development in what’s been a stagnant stretch of Adams (including the Stehly Farms grocery store, set to open in October), the project’s design doesn’t exactly set the heart racing. Considering the age of the average Kensington heart, that’s probably a good thing, but I’d gladly take the North Parker’s more adventurous design in that space instead. With a third floor, of course.

3 Responses to fitting in



August 7th, 2014 at 6:31 pm

I can’t wait to see what Segal has planned for Park and Robinson!!



August 7th, 2014 at 7:02 pm

As long as the building is designed with the pedestrian experience as first priority, I don’t care about the style. Activating the street level, and making it interesting for people walking by is far more important. With that said, people need a variation and detail of facade to keep their interest. Something modernism has failed to do in most cases. The NorthParker seems to do this, however, with its varied street level facade.


Paul Jamason

August 11th, 2014 at 9:54 am

Good points Walt! I neglected to mention that Kensington Commons replaces a gas station, which was about as un-pedestrian friendly as it gets.

Also related – when KC was scaled back after resident opposition, I think the large pedestrian plaza on the corner was significantly reduced in size.

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