Pershing, Meade and 4th/5th Ave Bikeway Meetings

Pershing, Meade and 4th/5th Ave Bikeway Meetings

It’s a busy week for the SANDAG Bikeways this week, with two community planning group presentations and a public open house.  The big one is the public hearing for the Pershing Bikeway, which will be held Wednesday at 6:15 PM (doors open 5:30) at the Mingei Museum in Balboa Park:

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I can’t seem to find the renderings for the project on the SANDAG page, but it will address the incredibly dangerous section of Pershing near I-5, where bicyclists must navigate drivers accelerating onto two high-speed freeway onramps.  This terrifying navigation isn’t always successful: there were 13 bicyclists injured (two severely) from 2004-14 on Pershing.  A separated bikeway and reduction of auto lanes from four to two will greatly increase safety:

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Opponents of the project say that no bicyclists deserve safe facilities, because some of them run stop signs; meanwhile, fatalities caused by inattentive drivers are at an all-time high, yet we keep building roads.  Last Saturday we saw an SUV (likely speeding in the wet conditions) up on the guardrail on Pershing, just inches from flying into the canyon below.  

Pershing Bikeway opponents also claim the changes will cause huge traffic delays, but a traffic study performed for the project shows no significant effect.  “We don’t believe it” is the predictable response from some residents on NextDoor.  The traffic study, which only considers automobile level of service, was required by the City of San Diego for compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act.  This is because the City still hasn’t adopted a state directive from 2014 to evaluate a project’s impact on *all* modes of transit, not just drivers.  If the City is serious about its Climate Action Plan, why is it still only measuring auto delays while ignoring how bike lanes reduce vehicle miles travelled and carbon emissions?

– SANDAG will be giving an update on the Meade Avenue Bikeway Tuesday at the Normal Heights Community Planning Group (4649 Hawley, 6 PM).  The update is in response to opponents who have been demanding changes that would result in no parking loss.  Currently, the project will remove a small number of spaces around intersections set to receive traffic-calming circles and crosswalks.  

I often bike this route and the intersection visibility is terrible – drivers have to pull into the street to see what’s coming, because there’s only a small red-curb section on two of the four Meade intersection corners.  It also lacks crosswalks.  Drivers speed well over the posted limit, and I had one driver come within a foot of me as they passed.   Given the above, and the City’s adoption of NACTO recommendations specifying 20-foot no-parking buffers around intersections, there is no way to make Meade safer for all users without some on-street parking loss.  Even without the 20-foot buffer, installing just a crosswalk would still result in one parking space loss on one side of the street (the other side is already red-curbed). 

Opponents claim they simply have no on-street parking to “give” – as if they own the public street space for their personal car storage – and some have suggested their property lines extend halfway into the public street.  Meanwhile, bike lane advocates, who hoped for protected bike lanes on El Cajon Boulevard, but ended up with unprotected lanes on Meade (to preserve street parking on both streets), can only wonder how much more their safety will be compromised while attempting to get a single safe bike route through the neighborhood.

– At the same time as the Meade update, SANDAG will be doing another at Uptown Planners (Tuesday, 6 PM at Joyce Beers center) regarding the 4th/5th Avenue Bikeways.  Attendees will also be able to provide input on aesthetic elements of the project.  

If you can attend any of these meetings to voice your support, please do.  Be aware that speaking out for a single safe bike lane in your community may get you labelled as an “extremist biking lobbyist“, but treat it as a badge of honor.  Opponents will be present at all three, so it’s important that SANDAG and City officials hear both sides.  

Downtown’s housing boom

Downtown’s housing boom

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The fountains are on at Horton Plaza Park downtown

KPBS published an article this week on efforts to overcome opposition to density and new housing in San Diego.  As housing prices continue to skyrocket, frustration with self-interested residents is boiling over: 

NIMBYs — a pejorative term that stands for “not in my backyard” and is meant to describe opponents to new development — are fighting to keep the system as it is.

“We are facing folks who are very anti-density,” (Borre Winckel) said. “And density has become kind of a four-letter word, for reasons that are completely insincere. People are talking a great deal about wanting more housing, but not near them.”

Winckel pointed to a (rejected) plan by Habitat for Humanity to build 22 affordable housing units for veterans on an empty lot owned by the city of Poway. A number of residents mobilized against the plan, saying while they support affordable housing for veterans, the project was too expensive, would increase traffic and would not fit in with the neighborhood.

“It’s disgusting,” he said. “NIMBYs are the greatest threat to densification. They don’t want it, but they don’t want it for any articulated reason other than self-interest. And I’m not buying that.”

This is hardly unique to San Diego, so a positive sign in Santa Monica recently was voter rejection of a particularly severe anti-density measure.  Prior to the election, Vox pointed out the hypocrisy of residents who advocate for low carbon policies while preventing housing in their urban communities, thereby promoting sprawl and excessive carbon emissions:

In many growing urban areas, residents (mostly older, wealthier, whiter residents) are working hard to slow and block densification. They are doing so even as they celebrate their own eco-friendliness with back yard chicken coops, rooftop solar panels, and f’ing canvas tote bags.

The cognitive dissonance is reaching absurd levels.

“Progressives” who contribute to inequality and climate change by excluding others is a familiar concept to those of us who attend community planning group meetings in Uptown and North Park.  Fortunately things are looking up downtown, where more than 1600 proposed housing units were approved this month at Civic San Diego.  The $200 million Park and Market project on city-owned land (where proceeds will go toward affordable housing) from Carrier Johnson was one of those approved:

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The recently-approved units are on top of more than 4400 units being built downtown, including the 330 units at the mixed-use 19-story Alexan development just east of the downtown library: 

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Check out San Diego UrbDeZine’s development map for all the ongoing and new projects.  New hotels are also going up downtown – here’s a recent shot of the Pendry Hotel on 5th Ave, looking close to completion:

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Speaking of downtown hotels, we finally saw the new pedestrian access to the harbor that the Marriott Marquis added earlier this year: 

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While the passageway isn’t much to look at – it could use some more public art, for example – it certainly makes getting to the bay front more convenient from downtown.

– The one project that didn’t make it through Civic San Diego this month is the Jonathan Segal housing development planned for Union and Cedar streets.  It seems not everyone who lives downtown is into the whole urban living thing, preferring a suburban, cars-first approach.  Residents complained about the project’s lack of off-street parking, despite the fact this would significantly reduce rental prices:

This approach… was condemned by two neighbors, Denise Nelesen and Michael Smith. They said Little Italy residents and businesses face chronic parking and traffic problems. “The notion of creating this type of development with no offstreet parking is ludicrous,” Smith said. Director Phil Rath said state and local zoning allows for such a no-parking plan, but director Robert Robinson said it was “unfair” to the community.

As cities across the country remove minimum parking requirements to make housing more affordable, San Diego caters to residents like Nelesen (apparently the wife of County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis?) and Smith, who demand developers build and charge for parking in all development, regardless of whether residents or patrons need it.  Nelesen appears to work nearby at the County Administration Building, so couldn’t she avoid the parking and traffic problems she complains of (and are inherent to every healthy downtown) by simply walking the few blocks to work? And if these Little Italy residents want more parking and less traffic, why choose to live in a downtown neighborhood in the first place? 

In North Park, the senior housing complex on Iowa Street is complete, and San Diego Housing Federation has moved their office there:   

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If you’re thinking of making a charitable contribution before the end of the year, SDHF seems like a great option.  Their executive director, Stephen Russell, has advocated for affordable housing before hostile audiences in North Park and Uptown.  

– CicloSDias was held in North Park a few weeks ago and thankfully the rain held off until the event ended.  Here’s some pictures from a very fun day:

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– The LA Times reviewed the Louis Khan exhibit at San Diego Museum of Art; I’m hoping to get over there sometime during this long holiday weekend.

Fair at 44, an international food and crafts market on El Cajon Boulevard near the YMCA, started up recently and runs on Wednesdays at lunch and dinner.  We enjoyed some tasty Jamaican jerk chicken and Cambodian beef on a stick. 

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City: Thumbs-Down to Uptown’s Downzone

City: Thumbs-Down to Uptown’s Downzone

San Diego leads the state in the number of new hotels opened this year, and the county has nearly 10,000 new hotel rooms planned. With the return of the Intercontinental chain (under construction at Pacific and Broadway), the City council’s approval this week of a new Ritz Carlton downtown strengthens the luxury hotel market there – another ‘big city’ step for San Diego.

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The Ritz is part of the Cisterra Development’s 7th & Market mixed use project, the biggest, most expensive and densest development in the county, with 1.16 million square feet in two towers:

A 39-story tower blends together luxury condos, market-rate apartments, and affordable rental units. Plans by Carrier Johnson + Culture architects include a rooftop terrace, four levels of underground parking and a 6,000-square-foot public plaza.

A separate 19-story tower includes a 153-room hotel component. The developer is incorporating the historic Clermont Hotel, and its 53 single-room occupancy units, into the project. 7th & Market is slated for completion by October 2021.

Elsewhere downtown, the Modern Times Festival of Dankness had a huge turnout at Waterfront Plaza back in August (yes it’s been that long since I posted):

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More than $10,000 dollars in proceeds was donated to BikeSD from Modern Times and its owner, Jacob McKean. As a volunteer board member for BikeSD, and someone who knows how difficult it is to raise funds for a non-profit, I couldn’t be more grateful. For me, Modern Times is San Diego’s best brewery for reasons like this, the impressive creativity that goes into their product and establishments’ design, McKean’s outspokenness on craft breweries like Ballast Point that have sold out, and their awesome beers, of course.

After the festival let out I snapped some pictures of the bayfront area as the sun lowered on this hot day, including one of the new Carnitas Snack Shack‘s bar on the Embarcadero:

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Having a decent restaurant and bar on the city’s prime stretch of redeveloped waterfront is long overdue – especially with all the surrounding development going on.

The north end of Little Italy keeps cranking out new establishments, including San Diego’s second RakiRaki (with a Pokirrito), on India St:

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We visited shortly after they opened in early September and the Pokirrito poke bowls were very filling – I made the mistake of trying to eat two of them with a 2-for-1 promo they had going. Jay and our friends got RakiRaki’s ramen, which was quite good. And I love that this it’s next door to Bottlecraft, which always has a wide range of smaller-brewery craft beers on tap and is wide open to the street.

Soft-opening this week one block south is a Pali Wine Co tasting room, which includes a balcony for plane-watching:

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Pali is “a producer of premium, appellation-specific and vineyard-designate wines from California and Oregon” and the tasting room “features Pali’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines, and Rhone and Bordeaux varieties grown in the Central Coast by its sister label, Tower 15. A rotating selection of eight ‘fresh’ wines, blended straight from the barrel to keg, are available for tasting or for carry-out by growler.”

One last downtown item: after 12 years we finally got up on the roof of the Western Metals Building.  It was a work event at the last game of the season, and while the Padres disappointed as usual, the weather didn’t:

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Closer to home, we’ve been enjoying the ample patio, craft beers, and fish and chips at Beerfish near 30th and Adams:

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Around the corner on 30th, Blackmarket Bakery has opened:

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So many interesting places opening in this area right now, including a Tajima, not to mention all the great stuff there already (Polite Provisions, Soda and Swine, Fall Brewing, Cantina Mayahuel, Jayne’s Gastropub, Hawthorne Coffee, Et Viola). Check them out next Sunday, October 30th when 30th St closes for the return of CicloSDias.

Quickies: Nomad Donuts, just down 30th from Fall, and where I get my delicious vegan donut fix, is opening a second location in the former Lady of the Lake bookstore in North Park (Illinois and University).  They’ll also be serving craft beer and bagels.  Check out the North Park Facebook page for all the goings on in NP, it’s hard to keep up…  Pop Pie Co., serving savory and sweet mini-pies, has opened on Park Blvd in University Heights… Fair@44, the El Cajon Boulevard International Food Market next to the new YMCA, started earlier this month and runs each Wednesday evening… A panel discussion on the future of transit on El Cajon Blvd takes place at the vacant lot at ECB and Central Ave next Tuesday.

Speaking of transit on ECB, the City appears to be endorsing a no-bike lane alternative on El Cajon Boulevard after receiving significant SANDAG and County funding to address this dangerous stretch of road.  As one business owner said, “people have been injured, but nobody’s been killed!” to justify street parking over safer streets.  This is a Vision Zero priority corridor, in a transit-oriented neighborhood where the CAP calls for increased alternative mode share, where many lower-income residents walk and bike, and where abundant commercial off-street parking exists – yet not a single parking space can be surrendered for alternative transit.

Both the North Park and Uptown Community Plan updates have been in the news recently as they near final approval.  It was very encouraging to see the City Planning Commission reject Uptown Planners‘ downzone of the area and restrictive height limits.  Finally, the city is standing up to self-interested property owners in the community and on the board who prioritize LGBT memories, property value profits and abundant street parking over housing for others:

Leo Wilson, chair of Uptown Planners, acknowledged that Hillcrest is the heart of the LGBT community. “This is our Castro,” he said, referring to the famous San Francisco neighborhood. Wilson worried about redevelopment triggering a “cultural desecration.”

Hillcrest Medical Center workers are going hungry due to high housing costs, but Uptown’s planning chair says we can’t add housing in Hillcrest because of its LGBT history?  What a sad, out-of-touch sense of priorities.

Todd Gloria specifically noted his opposition to Uptown Planners’ plan to reduce density (even more than the city’s earlier downzone), given the city’s Climate Action Plan and related transit-oriented development requirements.  Gloria also said Uptown’s mobility plan needs to be revisited, since it fails to meet bike and public transit mode share goals.  One obvious step, mentioned by the Planning Commission, would be to fill the bike network hole on University Avenue created by the Hillcrest Business Association.

And last, on a completely unrelated note, I finally made it up to artist Do Ho Suh’s “Fallen Star” house at UC San Diego a while back.  Here are some pictures from this unique addition to the university’s Stuart Art Collection.

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Return of the Plaza de Panama

Return of the Plaza de Panama

Like a Comic-Con zombie staggering back to life, the Irwin Jacobs Plaza de Panama Autotopia has returned to Balboa Park.  Despite Jacobs walking away after his defeat in court a few years back, the intrusive project has been resurrected by fact-challenged Park institutions determined to squeeze every last car into the Park.  No matter that Balboa Park is one of the few large public green spaces in all of Uptown and downtown, or that a 650-space parking garage for zoo employees was recently added, or that parking lots at the south end of the park are under-utilized.

I biked through the park on 4th of July weekend and found the Inspiration Point lots across Park Boulevard empty. A 2012 parking study found the lots and their 1100+ spaces, served by a tram, are indeed usually empty on weekends:

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Back inside the park, the southernmost lots on the west side of Park also had hundreds of spaces open.  In fact, the same study shows that on any given day there are 1200-1800 parking spaces available at Balboa Park, mostly in these lots.

Given that there’s a tram running directly from these lots to the institutions demanding more parking, I assumed there had to be signage up to direct drivers there.  Surely the city would do this before spending $50 million on another parking garage and bridge?  But this is the only sign as you head south from the always-full Organ Pavilion parking lot, and it’s not about parking:

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Adding some way-finding signs to the parking lots and tram seems like a low-cost way to maximize existing parking resources.  But given some of the bizarre, parking-entitled arguments for the new garage (“my elderly mother isn’t going to wait for a tram to the Old Globe” – despite a brand new drop-off area on Globe Way for Globe patrons), why start using common sense now?

— Remember when Hillcrest residents opposed the Mr. Robinson project on Park because parking?  Well we visited its new ground-floor restaurant, Trust, a couple weeks back for brunch and had no problem finding any.   It seems other patrons didn’t either (perhaps some of them Ubered, walked or biked) – because the place was full.  I liked the interior design, especially the wall behind the bar, along with the space’s big windows to the street and ample patio outside:


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San Diego Magazine has a much better review of Trust’s food than anything I can write, but my fried chicken sandwich was pretty amazing – the spicy ssam sauce, chili and pickles really brought it to another level.

— The Uptown Gateway Council has put up a video showing their vision for 4th to 6th Aves in Hillcrest south of University, including the long-vacant Pernicano’s restaurant:

One component of the Uptown Gateway may be a hotel, and on a trip to Palm Springs last month the Virgin Hotel going up there reminded me of how Hillcrest could use a modern boutique hotel:

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The hotel is part of a multi-block downtown revitalization project that replaces a dead shopping mall, and includes this nearly-completed building:

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Like Hillcrest, building heights have been a sticking point, and the Virgin hotel’s height was reduced to no more than 69 feet.  This is still taller than the 50/65′ heights specified in the Uptown interim height ordinance (which turns 8 years old this month).  It seems odd that Palm Springs, a city of less than 50,000 people, has a greater height limit than an urban neighborhood near downtown in a city of 1.3 million.  But Uptown Planners and the city planning department are still wrangling over the final building heights for the blocks in the Uptown Gateway area. Much of the debate centers over whether density should be added near Uptown’s extensive public transit, but at a recent Uptown Planners meeting, one caring resident declared that young people shouldn’t be able to live there – unless they can save up the money to afford a house like she did all those years ago.

— The Port of San Diego has selected the winning project to redevelop Seaport Village – the Seaport project from Protea Waterfront Development:

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Contrary to many residents, I’m not a big fan of the current Seaport Village.  It’s largely geared to tourists (including some awful restaurants), has half its prime land devoted to surface parking, requires bicyclists to dismount when riding its bayfront, and sports Cape Cod-style architecture that’s totally out of place in southern California.  With the city encouraging more people to live and work downtown for a variety of reasons, shouldn’t our bayfront serve both tourists and residents?

The Protea proposal is a mixed bag of ideas, some with more potential for the above than others, but at least it doesn’t include an 18,000 seat indoor arena like a competing proposal did.  Why would you put a giant, enclosed arena where the bay view is the main attraction?  The tower ride (and aquarium) is a reminder that tourism will still be a big driver, but at least it’s not another ferris wheel.  I like the terraced green space built into the tower base, actually:

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Here’s an overview of the project:

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I think the above map is the only one which shows the pedestrian bridge (bottom right) planned to connect Embarcadero Marina Park North and South, which is a neat idea.  (Still waiting for someone to implement my infeasible idea of a retractible pedestrian/bike bridge connecting Marina Park to Coronado.)  It also shows the Market Street pedestrian/market area – similar to Pike’s Place – connecting to the G Street Pier.  Here’s a zoomed-in view of the heart of the project, followed by a rendering of Market Street:

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Pacific Place, a pedestrian plaza at the southwestern edge of the project, looks out on a giant floating screen in this rendering.  Yes that is a picture of a whale jumping out of the water of a screen on the bay:
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A wide promenade is planned for the entire bayfront (as far as I can tell) that will allow bicyclists to actually ride through without dismounting, along with additional space for pedestrians.  A boardwalk for pedestrians will extend beyond that:


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I also like the “beach” shown here:

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I’m hardly an expert on these types of projects, just giving my initial thoughts here, but the SD Environment and Design Council’s recommended guidelines for the development of Seaport Village are probably worth reading if you’re interested in the future of this area.

Horton Plaza Park

Horton Plaza Park

It’s been a busy couple of months with lots of evenings spent at community meetings – from proposed bike lane projects to community plan updates.  To catch up, here’s some shots from the camera roll since I last posted, including the Amgen Tour as it sped through Balboa Park in late May:

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Downtown has plenty going on, as always.  The city council passed the Downtown Mobility Plan, and it was encouraging to see council members and Civic San Diego stand up to very powerful interests like the Little Italy Association.  Oddly, the head of LIA (Marco Li Mandri), who speaks of treating streets as public spaces and returning them to pedestrians, strongly opposed this plan that will make Little Italy’s streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.  All because Little Italy will only gain 85 on-street parking spaces under the plan instead of the 135 initially expected.

Tacos El Gordo is coming to 5th and F street downtown in the space below.  We ate at their Chula Vista location recently and it was as packed (and as good) as ever.  The tender lengua (beef tongue) taco is a personal favorite.

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Speaking of tacos, Taco Express at 1330 State Street has closed to make way for the 22-story 401 West Ash St hotel (more information on this scaled-back project).

Bosa’s Pacific Gate development continues to rise at the southeast corner of Broadway and Pacific and is already selling units:

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Caddy corner to that, the Intercontinental Hotel had its groundbreaking recently, the Spring Hill Suites/Residence Inn dual hotel behind it opened earlier this year.  Project rendering follows (h/t isellthecity)

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Across Harbor Drive, Carnitas Snack Shack has been open for several weeks now and brings a welcome change from the tourist-geared establishments on the waterfront.  An outdoor bar and restaurant for locals and tourists, in a neatly-landscaped space overlooking the bay – why did San Diego have to wait until 2016 to do this?

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Horton Plaza Park opened and is a huge positive addition to downtown, providing a critical civic gathering space.  I agree it could use some more shade but it also needs clear sight lines to the west-side wall for films, etc.  Hopefully we’ll see some more activation of the space in the coming months.


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The Marriott Marquis’ pedestrian walkway from Harbor Drive to the bay front has opened, along with a mostly-public pedestrian plaza… Downtown’s first parklet since the city’s new streamlined parklet policies went into place had its ribbon cutting on June 16th at the Moniker Warehouse building at 705 16th St. (more info):

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Liberty Public Market has also opened, and seems to be wildly popular.  There’s nothing else like it in the county and we really enjoyed the mix of food vendors, plus the option to stretch out in Mess Hall restaurant or on the patio (get there early).  Here’s some pics from our visit a few weeks ago, including a delicious ceviche tostada from Cecilia’s Taqueria:

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Renderings are up for Jonathan Segal’s mixed-use project at Park and Polk on a lot that has sat vacant for many years.  Looks pretty similar to Mr. Robinson down the street, where Trust is getting great reviews, while San Diego Magazine wonders, “What Happened to Hillcrest?”.

Finally, Bike SD’s Bike Month Bash was earlier this month and thanks to Lafayette Hotel for hosting the launch and post-pool party, Bean Bar for the refreshing iced coffee pit stop, and to everyone who came out to support the organization!
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