- CicloSDias 2 was a few weeks back, one day after the Bikes and Beers ride from my previous post. I’m biased toward North Park so I preferred the inaugural event there, but it was still great to see lots of people out on bikes along Garnet and Cass Streets:
With DecoBike launching soon, and with so many of its stations downtown (station map/list/graphics), how about putting the next CicloSDias there? Give participants free rides and watch those membership numbers take off.
Unfortunately, CicloSDias paled in comparison to the astounding number of bicyclists and participants at CicLAvia on Wilshire Boulevard the next weekend. I really enjoyed the emphasis on Wilshire’s architecture, which I’d never fully appreciated before while driving in heavy traffic:
We also enjoyed seeing the Wiltern, El Rey and other theaters along the route. For lunch and craft beer, we walked a block up Vermont to Beer Belly in Koreatown, where the parking lot was overflowing with bikes. After that we rode the rest of the route back to our hotel a block from Wilshire downtown.
The rest of the LA trip was also fun – on our way up we got to see the impressive bike infrastructure in Long Beach, and we also biked over to the Arts District in eastern downtown LA, home to the first Stumptown Roasters in southern California:
The Arts District is undergoing a big change, with upscale restaurants and a market having moved in (complete with a dozen EV charging stations in its lot). More pictures from the trip
Back in San Diego, the Port of SD had a good presentation last week on the future of our region’s bay front, and how it’s often disconnected from the neighborhoods that surround it. Some interesting ideas included an “Emerald Necklace” of parks ringing the waterfront, parks that run perpendicular to the bay front to draw neighborhood residents to the water, reducing physical barriers to the bay, and incorporating a grand, pedestrian-friendly boulevard. This is just the beginning of the planning process, and the Port has a survey you can take to provide your long-range vision input.
Across the street from B Street Pier where the forum was held, Lane Field is set to finally shed its parking lot status with the approval of two hotels on the north end of the lot, and a 150-foot green space setback:
And just east of Lane Field, MCASD is holding Public2 this weekend:
…a celebratory reopening of the renovated North Plaza and One America Plaza, directly across the street from MCASD’s downtown location.
This free two-day event will feature music and dance performances, exhibition tours, art-making activities, silent discos powered by Silent Storm, artist workshops and more to encourage the community to “take back” this public space as a communal locale for gathering and creating.
Over in Little Italy, Ironside from the Craft & Commerce folks is open on India street, and the interior pictures on Eater look really cool. The owners’ attention to design details really shows again here.
We watched the Padres at Petco Park Sunday and they’ve really stepped up their local craft beer selection – there’s a new Green Flash stand beyond the outfield, a new Mission Brewery stand inside, another Ballast Point bar, Draft, and a Stone bar we didn’t get to. And the Goose Island and Kona stands are nice additions too, although the latter was there last year, I think.
Afterward we had dinner at Lucky Liu’s across from World Market, from the Celadon folks; hopefully this will put a dent in the lack of quality Chinese places downtown. Why is Chinese cuisine so often reduced to Americanized slop served up in depressing buffets and MSG-laden lunch specials? Here, the pork buns were one of many highlights (as they were at the recently-shuttered French Concession in Hillcrest – same owner) and it was good to see plenty of vegetarian options on the menu. Once they get their liquor license they should be all set.
Two more sightings downtown: Union Tap (out of Encinitas) coming to the former Donovan’s Seafood spot on 5th, and Bottega Americano set for the Thomas Jefferson Building.
Coming up this weekend:
South Mission Draft that will showcase a selection of 70 craft beers on draft and 100 bottled beer selections and will serve American pub fare. The 275-seat restaurant will have an industrial feel with exposed metal beams and polished concrete floors, but a big attraction will be a huge walk-in glass cooler stocked with 120 beer kegs and bottled beer.
Taking advantage of its location just off the boardwalk, the restaurant, unlike its earlier incarnation, will have large roll-up glass doors fronting the ocean and outdoor seating that will run for 130 feet.
The bike improvements are currently finishing up the community outreach phase. Depending on the scope of community input, the plans will go to the Street Division at the end of April or in May for implementation. Typically construction starts about a month after plans go to the Street Division.
This year’s rotunda designer is Carlos Franco of Hillcrest’s Green Fresh Florals. His inspiration is the museum’s Spanish Baroque architecture, and the area will be designed to look like the gardens of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.
$1.7 million will go towards making the heart of Golden Hill safer and more accessible, more pedestrian and bike friendly – including wider sidewalks – and something called reverse-angle parking: vehicles required to back into a space so drivers can easily see the bicyclists going by in the new bike lanes.
RailPAC has a good summary on the status of rail projects in San Diego, including the short-term plan to “connect” the trolley to the airport:
By 2015 it is planned to connect the San Diego Trolley to the airport with regular shuttle bus service on the airport road for (new car rental facility) CONRAC. There are plans to build a pedestrian bridge between the airport and Washington St. Trolley Station, which will be part of the future ITC. However funding for the ITC isn’t expected before 2017. In the interim shuttle buses may be used to carry Trolley passengers to the airport at the station until the bridge can be built. For Coaster passengers this would mean transferring at Old Town to the Trolley the short distance to Washington Street and then connect to the Shuttle Buses.
Longer-term plans include a multi-modal facility that will provide a direct connection between the Coaster, Amtrak and the trolley to the airport – but not until 2030. Meanwhile, add Denver to the list of cities with direct rail connections to their airport in 2016, even though construction of both their light rail network and airport were started well after San Diego’s, respectively… Community opposition to the Mid-Coast trolley extension has begun in La Jolla. Also, the owners of La Jolla Village Square oppose leasing any of their abundant parking spaces to SANDAG for trolley station users because they are needed one or two days a year (perhaps even less than that in the near future)… SANDAG’s new I-15 transit parking garage in Sabre Springs is cutting-edge: solar panels, EV stations and modular bike parking – hopefully it entices more commuters to consider using the express bus routes one or more days a week.
- SD UrbDeZine scores our downtown on John Karras’s “12 Strategies That Will Transform Your City’s Downtown”… Little Italy is converting part of Date Street to a public plaza as part of a project that will bring two new mixed use buildings to the neighborhood and add underground parking. More restaurants, jobs, off-street parking and a new public plaza for pedestrians – Hillcrest, that’s what a reasonable height limit could do for your neighborhood too… The city council has approved new regulations that put parking over food trucks, effectively removing them from several neighborhoods. Council members weren’t shy about trying to ban food trucks near restaurants, particularly council member Lorie Zapf. When there wasn’t legal authority to do that, they used parking or other strained excuses to justify their actions (e.g., citing the historic nature of downtown – and Austin’s isn’t?). No excuses needed when you just follow the money: restaurant association $$ -> local GOP/Lincoln Club -> Zapf -> squash the food trucks. Remember this job-killing ordinance next time the council claims it’s focused on job creation.
Elsewhere downtown, Caffe Primo from L.A. is moving into the recently completed mixed-use project at 13th and K (which, at six stories, is another project likely too tall for Hillcrest under its current height ordinance). They’ll serve espresso during the day and be a full-service Italian restaurant at night… During that rainy weekend a few weeks ago, all the outdoor seating at the Old Police Headquarters’ Puesto was unavailable, which meant a half hour wait for a table at 1 PM. So we tried out Seasons 52 across the way, and while it was refreshing to see all that all their menu options are under 400 calories, they’re certainly not cheap. Plus I prefer the casualness of Puesto – Seasons 52′s carpeting and stuffy interior seemed out of place at the Headquarters. Hey, at least they’re not Pizzeria Mozza, where a couple of pizzas and a bottle of wine will set you back $100… Anthony’s Fish Grotto on the downtown harbor front has such potential given its location, but it’s atmosphere leaves a bit to be desired. That’s going to change with the planned makeover of the building, which will feature open architecture and green building concepts:
- Kensington is getting a 5000 square foot Stehly Farms Market in its Kensington Commons mixed-use project, which is still under construction. They’ll feature all organic produce, and a juice bar, deli and indoor/outdoor seating. Sounds just like what our neighborhood needs, and that’s one more errand that won’t require a car trip for us… On Convoy in Kearny Mesa, Common Theory will serve Asian food and 30+ taps of local craft beer; grand opening in May… Still waiting to hear if and when the San Diego night market will return to Kearny Mesa after an amazing 15,000 people turned up for the inaugural event last year… For some reason we’d never been to Alforon on El Cajon Boulevard in Rolando, and it turns out we’ve been missing some great Lebanese flatbreads, hummus and baba ganoush, all at very reasonable prices. Plus the family that owns the restaurant will really make you feel at home… DeMi Cafe has opened in the former Monica’s spot in University Heights.
- Next weekend is a big one for bicyclists, with the (nearly sold out) 26-mile Bikes and Beers on Saturday 3/29, followed the next day by Pacific Beach Ciclosdias on Garnet… If you’re really into bicycling, L.A. shuts down Wilshire Boulevard the next weekend for CicLaVia… We’ve been hearing about the SR15-adjacent bike lane from Adams Ave to Camino Del Rio South ever since we moved to Kensington 14 years ago, and now it looks like it’s really going to happen. The only bummer – how many times will you need to east/west backtrack just to get to the trolley station on the other side of the freeway?
- Thanks to SD Uptown News for asking me to contribute an opinion piece on pedestrian safety in Hillcrest… The Hillcrest Business Association decided not to vote on the SANDAG Universtiy Ave bike corridor this week and formed an ad-hoc committee to study it… Since businesses are concerned about the loss of street parking with the project, I started researching ways to mitigate the problem and posted some suggestions; I’ll add any more as I receive them. I’ve forwarded them on to the Chief Operating Officer of Uptown Parking District, who provided lots of additional information.
(UPDATE: Many commenters continue to blame jaywalkers for all collisions, even though a majority of cases in San Diego are the driver’s fault. Of course pedestrians bear responsibility for their actions, but many are being hit while crossing legally.)
Two Sundays ago, pedestrian Aaron “Curtis” Voorhies was killed while crossing University Avenue between Vermont Street and 10th Avenue. The driver did not stop. The incident occurred near an opening in the Uptown District plaza that funnels pedestrians to the street at mid-block:
Pedestrians will often cross the north side of University here, find refuge in the thin median, then cross to the south side. Voorhies was leaving the median (or may have been reaching to pick up his roommate’s dog) when hit. This stretch of University, much like the rest of it from 6th Ave eastward, is up to 8 lanes wide: 4 lanes dedicated to auto through-travel, up to 2 turn lane pockets at intersections, and 2 lanes for street parking. So out of these 6-8 lanes, we’ve set aside 0 for cyclists, and 0 to reduce crosswalk distance for pedestrians. The median is more to keep cars from hitting each other than hitting people.
Because Voorhies crossed the street outside of a crosswalk, some Facebook commenters actually said he deserved to be killed:
And idiots jaywalk expecting cars to see them. Roads are for cars. That’s why there are crosswalks.
One commenter speculated Voorhies was under the influence, a dog thief, and/or homeless. So it seems only drivers are entitled to our public streets, and if a bicyclist or pedestrian is hit, they’re to blame. While the SANDAG Uptown Bike Corridor has been proposed as a traffic-calming measure for University, that feature is less important than the potential loss of any street parking. As one bike lane opponent said, “It should be about the money”. Yes, because people’s lives are less important than money.
Another commenter asked how a two-ton vehicle is supposed to stop “on a dime” for a jaywalker. No one is expecting this to happen, but by reducing speeds, a pedestrian – in or out of a crosswalk – has a dramatically-increased chance of surviving a collision:
Eighty percent of pedestrians struck by a car going 40 mph will die; at 30 mph the likelihood of death is 40 percent. At 20 mph, the fatality rate drops to just 5 percent.
This is the main commercial thoroughfare in the neighborhood, but the roads are designed to encourage travel speeds in the 40+ mph range. Those speeds are dangerous for pedestrians, even if they’re crossing legally. I can personally attest to the dangers of walking and biking in Hillcrest, since I was nearly hit in the unprotected bike lane on Cleveland Ave, and yelled at for crossing University “too slowly” while in a crosswalk. An intermediate step would be a mid-block crosswalk at this location until traffic-calming bike lanes go in, assuming they aren’t stopped by the opposition.
Walk San Diego performed a pedestrian survey of Uptown over 10 years ago, identifying multiple trouble spots on University. Apart from some sidewalk bulb-outs and pedestrian lead-time crossings, little has been done to increase pedestrian safety. The recent fatality on University is the same location where another serious pedestrian injury occurred in front of Rich’s a few months ago. And another life-threatening injury occurred at 6th and Evans last year. In fact, in the 9 years after that 2003 survey (1/2004 to 11/2012) there have been 48 reported pedestrian collisions on University from Washington to Normal (where the bike lane is planned). Here’s are some partial maps – each dot represents a collision:
From my interpretation of the causes given, in nearly two thirds of the cases, the driver was at fault. Drivers were also at fault in a majority of city-wide collisions (and these are just the reported incidents). San Diego is one of most dangerous places in the country for pedestrians.
Considering the above, it appears there’s been a failure of leadership on pedestrian and bicyclist safety in Hillcrest. Is a lack of funding due to the city’s poor financial condition to blame? Then community leaders from Uptown Planners, Hillcrest Town Council, and the Hillcrest Business Association would welcome the substantial traffic calming funds provided by the proposed University Ave bike corridor. Instead, they all strongly oppose the project, because they’ve prioritized parking and traffic flow over safety. (UPDATE: Speaking of businesses, I forgot to mention that traffic calming increases business revenue [slower drivers see more businesses] – and nearby residential property values.) And it’s not getting any better: at the recent Uptown Planners election, 6 out of the 7 candidates (and all 3 elected) opposed the bike lane project.
Hillcrest’s (and San Diego’s) streets don’t have to be this way. In many countries, pedestrians have a greater right to public street space. For example, in the UK, where jaywalking is legal, road fatalities are one fourth the rate of the U.S. In the Netherlands, drivers have a higher threshold of responsibility in bicyclist collisions. In Sweden, roads are built for safety, not speed and convenience: “We simply do not accept any deaths or injuries on our roads.” That approach is known as Vision Zero, which new NYC mayor Bill DeBlasio has implemented. How great would it be if new San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer did the same? At the state level in California, a new bill to protect vulnerable road users has been introduced.
Cities around the country are implementing protected bike lanes to provide traffic calming as part of complete streets projects. Let’s hope Uptown will reconsider its opposition to them so we can address this urgent issue.
Mo’s Universe owner Chris Shaw wrote an opinion piece today for Voice of San Diego about the proposed Uptown Bike Corridor route for University Ave. With four businesses located along University, Shaw is greatly impacted by the project, and he organized a recent meeting with other Hillcrest businesses that was largely opposed to it. I appreciate the overall tone of Shaw’s article, in which he states his support for bike and pedestrian-friendly projects. However, there are some specific items I’d like to address without cluttering up Voice of San Diego’s comments more than I already have. Mr. Shaw’s words are block-quoted below:
These bike lanes would especially damage businesses on the west end, where congestion is greatest and parking is already at a premium. SANDAG reports most of the lost parking would be in the stretch between First and Sixth avenues…
There’s no denying that the First to Sixth section is the trickiest section of the project due to the narrow street there. In order to provide separate bike lanes, parking on one side of the street will have to be removed, barring some engineering miracle. I’ve pored over Google maps trying to find side streets wide enough to convert to angled parking there (to offset lost spaces), and apart from taking out a travel lane on 4th, I don’t see much. What I do see is 24 parking lots in this area on ParkHillcrest.com:
What’s an alternative approach? Install smart parking meters to demand-price the on-street parking and you’ll get more turnover among the street parking that will remain on *every other street* in Hillcrest. Another idea: institute a 10% fee on parking lots (like LA and SF do, to the tune of $80+ million/year) and put the revenue toward building a new parking garage.
Cities with these initiatives in place have reported that while bicycling ridership increased along routes with safe and buffered bike lanes, motor vehicle volume stayed about the same. This means that an equal amount of vehicle traffic can be expected along the proposed bike routes, on fewer and narrower lanes.
Three- and four-lane sections of Hillcrest would be reduced to two lanes through an already congested bottleneck.
The University exit from Washington Street in Mission Hills would be closed to traffic on a proposed bike route that would force drivers to take Washington and then cut through residential streets to get to University.
The congestion argument is new to me; I thought parking was the main concern. It’s interesting that Shaw says there will be no decrease in traffic on University, yet then explains University at Washington will be closed. Won’t that reduce traffic?
The closure is being done at the request of the residents of Mission Hills, who have complained for years about excessive cut-through traffic on University (residents will still be able to get in and out). Access to University from Washington could be restricted to commercial streets of 4th and eastward with street modifications. So it appears Shaw opposes a street closure that many residents support.
Meanwhile, Washington Street, with its steady four lanes, would remain largely untouched.
Is University Avenue really the best option for bike lanes?
In a word, yes. SANDAG, after working with community advisory groups in public meetings (for which there was little to no business participation) analyzed all east/west routes through Hillcrest and scored University highest:
See the last page for the scoring table, and the “Hillcrest-Hillcrest” rows in particular. Washington scored lower than University for route directness, proximity to other modes of transit, and “activity center proximity” – University is a superior and longer business corridor than Washington. While some have stated there would be 0 parking spaces lost on Washington, that’s simply untrue. Businesses on Washington also opposed the bike lane project because of a projected 60 spaces lost on the south side of the street.
If the bike lanes were moved to Washington, wouldn’t we just have the same fight about street parking again, yet for an inferior route – one that includes treacherous on/off ramps for route 163? Engineering effective traffic calming for those would eat up a significant part of the project budget.
Until SANDAG can account for and avoid the loss of parking and increased congestion with a much broader public conversation, the agency should pump the brakes on these proposed bike lanes through our neighborhood.
Is Shaw implying SANDAG has to replace every on-street parking space with cheap off-street parking? Doing so would exhaust the project budget on building an expensive parking lot or garage, and it’s clearly contradictory to the project’s goals. Even Todd Gloria told the crowd at a recent meeting that not every space will be replaced. Further, the notion that Hillcrest businesses somehow “own” public street space is disturbing, and speaks to the entitled auto culture here in San Diego.
I only hope they and the bicycling lobby don’t throw Hillcrest businesses in the back seat.
Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but “bicycling lobby” seems to imply some well-funded organization throwing its weight around the city. I’ve hung out with the bicycling lobby and believe me, that’s not the case. Instead, Mr. Shaw might consider the restaurant lobby that he’s a part of, which carries much more weight than our rag-tag cycling community.
In the last mayoral election, the San Diego restaurant lobby donated tens of thousands of dollars to the local Republican party (latecomers to the gay rights concept) and Lincoln Club. The Lincoln Club, you may remember, put out those fliers implying Democratic candidate David Alvarez was some sort of Mexican mafia thug – classy! University Avenue bakery Bread and Cie was among the donors. The powerful bicycle lobby’s funding is likely significantly less.
I’m still hoping a compromise can be reached that will see University become one of the best streets in Southern California. But it’s going to take brainstorming, creative ideas, and tough choices – not opinion pieces that lack any realistic suggestions on how we get there.