- 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!):
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!):
— Jimmy Sullivan (@CITIZENhello) August 29, 2014
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:
— paul jamason (@sdurban) August 29, 2014
- 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) http://www.dayshotelhc.com/ … 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!
- 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.
- 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:
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.
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 Libre… Dark 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:
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 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:
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.
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.
We spent several days in Denver recently and really enjoyed our visit to this rapidly changing city. It has a similar feel to San Diego – laid-back, brewpubs, outdoor-oriented – but is further along in building a robust public transit system and near-transit development. And as this banner at the 16th pedestrian mall downtown shows, there’s a big push to promote bicycling in the city. We spent a full day riding the B-Cycle bike share around town and it offered plenty to see in its coverage zone, from downtown to Capitol Hill, to Cheeseman Park and the Denver Botanic Gardens, to a packed City Park full of people watching a free jazz show on a beautiful summer evening.
We stayed in Wheatridge with my stepbrother, just west of many of the “hot” neighborhoods on that side of downtown. That put us relatively close to Tennyson Street in the Berkeley neighborhood, where new cafes, restaurants and mixed-use development dotted this main drag. But it’s further east in Highlands where things are really getting interesting. Connected to downtown via the Millenium bridge over I-25 and 15th St. pedestrian gateway, there’s lots of new residential development and restaurants/bars going in. It’s also home to Little Man Ice Cream, where I had the most delicious vegan ice cream of my life (named “Munchies”, which was rather appropriate at the time).
Across the freeway near Confluence Park there’s some high-rise development going in:
And plenty more development further east, near the current Union Station light rail station and 16th St pedestrian mall bus terminus (this picture doesn’t show more high-rises to the right):
Lots of bicyclists use this pedestrian path to get between west Denver and downtown, so the city incorporated these neat bike rails so you don’t have to carry your bike down the stairs:
Moving further east, the new Union Station rail stop canopy has been built, and this station will open in 2016. There was a grand opening at Union Station the weekend after we visited, with various new restaurants (including a Snooze AM) and a hotel in the building:
Denver’s FasTraks program, funded by a voter-approved 2004 0.4 cent sales tax increase, is in the midst of adding 122 miles of rail lines (and 18 miles of BRT), one of which will connect to their distant airport in 2016. We rode the line from west of Denver to downtown to catch a Rockies game and it was a convenient car-free experience. Meanwhile, the city’s innovative Transit Oriented Development Fund invests in sensible development near public transit:
The Fund is capitalized at $15 million, but is evolving now to $30 million in total loan capital. This revolving loan fund will make capital available to purchase and hold sites for up to five years along current and future rails and high frequency bus corridors. The $30 million investment will leverage over $500 million in local economic development activity, serving many economically challenged neighborhoods in Metro Denver with construction and permanent job creation. The Fund will also directly benefit low-income households that on average spend 60% of their gross income on housing and transportation expenses combined. By controlling these expenses and providing access to quality, environmentally-sustainable housing, the TOD Fund will make it possible for families to build wealth and access employment and educational opportunities. It will also provide employers with access to an expanded workforce.
There’s very frequent bus service along the 16th St. pedestrian street, which was bustling both on a Friday afternoon and on Saturday, when the street was closed to buses for a ped/bike event:
As one of the cities with the greatest millennial in-migration, Denver’s new urban residential construction isn’t limited to just west Denver and downtown. We noticed several streets where single homes had been replaced by duplexes:
While they do change the character of the street, they’re certainly a better option than the cheaply-built Huffman six-packs and their large curb-cuts that have negatively impacted Uptown.
The Five Points neighborhood northeast of downtown was also full of new residential projects, and we ate our best meal of the trip on the inviting back patio of The Populist restaurant there. Another dining highlight was lunch at Steubens in Capitol Hill:
Capitol Hill is the city’s gay center, but the vibrancy of their gay community is one area where Denver lags San Diego, in my opinion. We did enjoy our time on the patio at X Bar, which is owned by a San Diegan. And Capitol Hill, like many other neighborhoods, contained several establishments that sold marijuana to both in- and out-of-state customers. Purchasing and intaking cannabis, free of the guilt of doing something illegal – what a concept! Follow that up with a visit to the surreal Chihuly glass exhibits at the Denver Botanical Gardens (more in the Denver flickr set):
It was eye-opening to experience a city that’s applying smart principles to growth, considering the benefits growth can bring to a region’s economy. Denver’s public transit expansion and nearby development was a sharp contrast to San Diego, where established residents oppose any new urban development outside of downtown, and millennials depart at one of the highest rates in the nation. Every new housing unit that Denver builds near downtown is one less resource-intensive suburban home contributing to sprawl – something we appreciated during our amazing hike at Three Sisters Park high in the hills.