My last post described Urban Mo’s plans to tear down a nearly 100-year old house to put in another surface parking lot in Hillcrest. Thanks to all the folks who have sent messages to owner Chris Shaw on the Urban Mo’s Facebook page asking him to reconsider (and thanks to Tyler for alerting me to the house in question and its age). In Little Italy, they’re taking a decidedly more walkable neighborhood approach, where a groundbreaking is set for December 1st for the new pedestrian-only plaza on West Date Street:
The Little Italy Association and San Diego-based developer H.G. Fenton Co. plan a Dec. 1 groundbreaking for Piazza Famiglia, a 10,000-square-foot public plaza serving the downtown neighborhood.
Officials said the plaza is designed to emulate the grand piazzas of Italy and other European cities, and will feature classic Italian architectural details and design. The plaza, set for a 2016 opening, will also include landscaping, seating, gathering areas and a “grand water feature.”
A $16 million Rob Quigley-designed fire station is planned for the taco shop (and mostly parking lot) at Cedar and Pacific Highway. Throw in the nearby Waterfront Park and the Embarcadero makeover and there are some really positive pedestrian-oriented things happening in the area. Not to mention all the residential development that’s planned, which will greatly increase the number of people on the sidewalks.
Speaking of the Embarcadero, I checked in with the Port to see what the status of the Navy Pier park was. Apparently it’s been wrapped into the larger Port planning process – so not much to report there:
The USS Midway Museum has developed a conceptual vision for Navy Pier, and that proposal was first shown publicly in 2011. Since then, the Port of San Diego has launched an Integrated Planning process, which will culminate in a comprehensive update to the Port Master Plan, the guiding document for the nearly 6,000 acres of land and water overseen by the Port. The conceptual vision developed by the USS Midway Museum will be studied and considered as part of the Integrated Planning process.
But over at the airport, who wouldn’t want to take their date to a car rental building restaurant? That’s the crazy idea being put out by the airport authority – although runway views could be pretty cool from the top of that building:
Hey guys, how about getting the trolley to connect to your airport first, then focus on car rental cuisine?
CityLab has a good article on Maker’s Quarter. East Village’s creative approach to this parking lot provides another sharp contrast to Hillcrest’s (lack of) vision. In the article, Bill Fulton describes our city’s conservative planning mindset:
“There’s a very conservative culture, which is reflected as a cautious approach on the part of the city,” he says. “I mean culturally conservative, in the sense that … the people that live in San Diego and the power structure are often not at the cutting edge of national trends.” The city’s financial crisis and political instability have contributed to this.
With temporary, tactical projects like the Quartyard, it took a while for the city to understand how to make them work, given the existing code, but “eventually they got there.”
Across the bay in Coronado, a traffic calming study for 3rd and 4th Streets considered bike lanes as one calming method, yet many residents declared “bikes don’t belong on 3rd and 4th” – despite increased mobility for bicyclists being one goal of the project. At least several Coronado political representatives performed a bike tour recently to evaluate improvements to bike infrastructure there. And the Coronado Bicycle Advisory Committee appears to be doing good work too – even if the first cranky resident comment in the meeting minutes is, “the biggest lawbreakers are bicycle riders”.
We had a fun ride this morning over to Barrio Logan on the Bike San Diego Art of Riding monthly ride, a perk available to members. If you’re in a giving mood, your donation to Bike SD will be matched by Jacob from Modern Times Brewing until the end of the month. Brent Beltran, who lives in one of the newer, modern affordable housing buildings near the Mercado, updated us on the neighborhood – the Barrio Logan sign is up:
…the Mercado is filling up with tenants, San Diego Taco factory and Border X brewing are moving in, (as is Iron Fist Brewing), the monthly Barrio Art Crawl (next one: 12/6) is drawing crowds, and there’s a meeting next week for the Barrio Logan segment of the Bayshore Bikeway. Across the street from the Mercado, a $50 million continuing education building is going up and opens next year.
More pics from the ride: the Bread and Salt building houses a live/work space and art gallery:
And Comm22, the mixed-use project going up on the trolley line:
In Mission Valley, MV News had a good writeup on the presentations given by New School of Architecture students to the Mission Valley Planning Group, focusing on walkability and quality of life over parking lots. Meanwhile a Mission Valley resident has a meltdown over the much-needed housing being built at Civita, decrying the “population impact on Friars”, then insisting the units will end up empty and as HUD housing. Seriously, is everyone fucking crazy in this city? Soothe your mind with the progress being made on the Discovery Center at Grant Park, a “17-acre river fronting property to benefit the community of Mission Valley and San Diego in general”. Somehow this wasn’t mentioned in the obrag.com piece that criticized Mission Valley’s lack of parks and advocated keeping a golf course as “open space” instead of building transit-oriented housing there.
Still here? Let’s knock these out:
It’s been a year since The North Park Theatre was purchased by the owners of West Coast Tavern, and six months since it re-opened with modernized sound and lighting, plus a refurbished lobby (more details at discoversd.com). We got our first look during Saturday night’s Tegan and Sara concert and it’s a fantastic venue to see a show – great acoustics, impressive sound system, and plenty of room. And what concert experience isn’t made better by having a full bar just steps away?
Prior to North Park Theatre’s conversion from primarily an opera house, we used to lament the lack of music venues in Uptown. We’d travel to other cities and see major artists listed on the venue of theaters in near-downtown neighborhoods, but here, smaller venues like Casbah and Soda Bar focus more on up-and-coming artists. If you wanted to see more established alternative or electronic acts, you had to go downtown (to House of Blues, or the now-closed 4th and B, or the now-closed Anthology) or to Midway (Sports Arena and SOMA) or out to San Diego State or Chula Vista. Many of these involve getting in the car, driving to the show, drinking overpriced macro beer, and driving home. That’s definitely not the case with North Park Theatre, where the thriving neighborhood offers loads of pre- and post-show dining and drinking options.
And the quality of the acts has been impressive – we were out of town for the sold-out Cut Copy show, but a recent stretch included the aforementioned Tegan and Sara, Flying Lotus, the Presets, and Lauryn Hill. And with other shows like The New Pornographers, Lykke Li, Warpaint and Washed Out, it’s clear the bookings are geared toward the younger residents who live in North Park and Uptown. Here’s to many successful years and great shows at the North Park Theatre.
– Over in Hillcrest, I’m happy to see the owner of Urban Mo’s and several other establishments on University has endorsed the Transform Hillcrest proposal to bring bike lanes to this street; Chris Shaw previously wanted the lanes moved to Washington (SANDAG has again stated at length why that’s not possible). And I was impressed that Shaw secured two parking lots for his patrons, even promising discount validation. But then it became clear they intend to tear down this 1917 house directly behind Urban Mo’s to put in a parking lot:
I realize the new owners of the property (Hillcrest Partners LLC) can do whatever they like, pending historical review of the old house by the city. And while I hate to see century-old homes torn down for any reason, sometimes the net effect can be positive – here in Kensington, two older homes (along with a gas station) were replaced by the Kensington Commons mixed-use project, which has greatly improved walkability on Adams, increased housing inventory and will include a market. But I can’t support tearing down historic architecture and residences in an urban neighborhood for yet another parking lot – especially given San Diego’s ranking as second-most unaffordable large city for housing in the nation. An aerial view of that area shows lots of parking lots already (there are 15 paid lots within a few blocks of Mo’s), and these only decrease the walkability and vibrancy of the neighborhood.
Many cities are addressing the negative impact of surface parking lots on their urban neighborhoods. Millennials (and nearly all age groups) are driving less as they use alternate transportation more. Our city’s Climate Action Plan seeks to reduce auto mode share, and SANDAG’s smart growth map shows Hillcrest as an urban center. Uber and Lyft are new alternatives to DUI-plowing your car into others after leaving a Hillcrest establishment. Yet many Hillcrest businesses are still demanding the city provide them more parking, or leveling housing for people to park cars instead.
Fortunately, the public relations director for Mo’s Universe set me straight – it was really me that was out of touch with urban planning trends, not them:
@sdurban “it’s no bueno”? What is no bueno is your out of touch reality of the impact construction and no parking will have on Hillcrest.
— Eddie Rey (@ILoveEddieRey) November 17, 2014
(The “small building” was what I thought was being torn down at the time, but the larger house behind it is too). The construction Eddie’s referring to is the pipeline project on 5th Avenue, which will wrap up eventually. What’s odd is that these pipeline projects are far from rare, so why are they used to justify a 97-year old house being reduced to rubble?
– UPDATE: Seven parcels are for sale at Sixth and Robinson in Hillcrest for 18.5 million, with redevelopment planned for the site. As the article points out, can it overcome opposition to height limits that has resulted in little to no new residential development in the neighborhood for years?
– CicloSDias was held in Hillcrest a couple weekends ago, and a big thanks goes to the folks at KTU-A Planning and Landscaping for going all out with the demonstration cycle track and People’s Plaza. These guys brought out truckload after truckload of pallets and landscaping for these demonstration areas. And thanks to Circulate SD for setting up their cool giant Scrabble board:
(UPDATE: Additional thanks to the Hillcrest Business Association for “hosting the permit, assisting with SDPD costs, and providing a large amount of equipment for KTU-A project and the event itself.”) I hung out by the cycle track and showed the Transform Hillcrest plan to folks who were genuinely excited for this facility. Afterward we rode the route and enjoyed some seafood tacos at Oscar’s, and did some shopping at Obelisk. While turnout was decent, I’m guessing Palm Springs Pride, the North Park bottle share event, and Taste of University Heights impacted attendance somewhat. Unfortunately criticism of the event was swift from the usual anti-bike crowd in Hillcrest – sdpix.com’s Jim Winsor posted pictures of empty streets, his Facebook friends threatened to shoot riders with a bb gun (or stick a golf club in their spokes) and Crest Cafe owner Cecilia Moreno questioned “why are they pushing so hard for bike lanes?”. Replace “bike lanes” with “gay marriage” and there’s an analogy there somewhere. (UPDATE: To avoid any unintended implication in the previous sentence, Ms. Moreno is a supporter of marriage equality.) For these folks, there was only one measure of success for the event, and that was financial (despite a lack of actual sales numbers, this didn’t stop criticism of the event). No matter that that CicloSDias’ primary goal is simply to set aside a single afternoon for pedestrians and bicyclists to enjoy a car-free street.
Elsewhere in Hillcrest, we enjoyed our meal at the new Brazilian/American fusion spot Buffalo Public House in the former East Village Asian Diner location on University… The Broadstone Balboa website is up for their project at 5th and Thorn… DecoBike “installations are expected to begin on Sixth November 14th working north to Mission Hills by year’s end” and smart meter installations are expected in late November or December in Uptown (both updates from Uptown Parking District)… Taste of Italy and Jakes on 6th have or will be closing soon.
Speaking of closures, Pizzeria Mozza is closing at the Old Police Headquarters downtown. Word from friends was that it was very expensive for what they were serving. Meanwhile, the more-reasonably priced Puesto next door is always packed… The Port of San Diego had their grand opening celebration for the Embarcadero project Saturday – we couldn’t make it due to our endless landscaping project. It’s awesome to see Phase 1 of the NEVP complete, and its focus on residents and visitors to the waterfront, not just their cars. Unfortunately there’s no funding for Phase 2, which would tackle the waterfront area just to the north. Looks like that will be years away, if ever.
San Diego’s coffee culture continues to grow, and San Diego Magazine has a good writeup on the Third Wave trend that’s (finally) becoming increasingly popular here:
The most recent phase, known in the industry as the Third Wave, is coffee craftsmanship of the highest level. Drilling down past sourcing and labeling beans by country, they’re sourced from specific farms. The dark roasts made popular by Starbucks are now manifesting into lighter, brighter roasts, more acidic and almost sour (though this isn’t a defining characteristic of the movement, just a result of it). New serving techniques also mark the arrival of the Third Wave: A pour-over is a slow-drip single cup of coffee made to order, where beans are ground and placed in a filter-lined ceramic funnel and hot water delicately drenches the grind. Siphoned coffee is brewed in an hourglass-looking device that uses heat and vacuum pressure to reverse-cycle (from bottom to top) hot water through coffee grounds. Cold brewing is an eight-to-12-hour process in which room-temperature water percolates through coarsely ground coffee.
Along with pioneering third wave locals like North Park’s Coffee and Tea Collective (and innovative roasters like Caffe Calabria), Bird Rock Coffee Roasters keeps the ball rolling with their new location across the street from Juniper and Ivy in Little Italy. They’re currently doing a soft opening with hours from just 7 AM to noon, but on a recent morning they had a steady stream of customers braving the jet path noise from above.
Roast Magazine’s Daily Coffee News has more information on BRCR, including the equipment they’re using to create all those delicious offerings. Just try not to order an iced soy latte like I did on this warm morning. While it was still great, I had forgotten that at Third Wave spots the coffee flavor is meant to be experienced on its own (despite past pour-overs from Coffee and Tea Collective and researching Third Wave cafes while in London). That’s OK, there should be many more opportunities for me to sample as intended, along with enjoying my beans purchase. And speaking of beans, don’t forget the excellent ones from Modern Times roaster Amy Krone, a big part of what makes their Black House coffee stout so amazing, and likely their new Monsters’ Park imperial stout.
Downtown, nearly-open Bean Bar (across from the new library; pictured below) and Copa Vida (at the northeast corner of Park at the Park – not far from where Petco will get a giant new scoreboard and left-field hangout area) will also continue the third wave in San Diego.
Elsewhere downtown, upscale Italian joint Double Standard opens next month in the former
Corner Counter Burger spot at 6th and G, and will serve up Neapolitan pizza and…
…signatures like Cavatelli with Ricotta Dumplings, made with sausage, fresh sliced truffles and a grana padano sauce. The restaurant will also offer small plates composed of carefully selected and combined ingredients, like clams and mussels with Nduja, a spreadable Calabrian sausage made in house. Diners looking for larger dishes will also find wild, fresh-caught fish, dry-aged ribeyes and a Crackling House Porchetta Sandwich. Another standout on the menu is Double Standard’s pizzas. Tender specialty dough is baked in wood-fired ovens to create a crisp, crunchy base piled with organic San Marzano tomatoes and meats cured in house.
The historic Star Building at Beech and Kettner has been demolished for the mundane 10-story, $24 million dollar parking garage shown in the rendering below; it will provide daytime parking for County Administration Building workers (their lot was removed for Waterfront Park) and nighttime parking for Little Italy restaurant patrons. At least it will include ground-floor retail, but this was a big architectural loss for San Diego and another disincentive for County employees to use public transit.
In Hillcrest, South American gastropub Buffalo Public House opened in the former East Village Asian Diner spot on University recently… Just west on University, Bearitos Republic has opened in the former Sloppy’s Burritos… but the biggest recent news in Hillcrest has to be the closure of Harvey Milk’s Diner and the subsequent outrage over legitimate criticism of the restaurant.
Harvey Milk’s got off to a bad start by painting the Egyptian-era, iconic bright fruit frieze above the restaurant a steel gray, then proceeded to put up trashy Bud Light banners and happy hour signs. Food quality and service problems were widespread on their Yelp reviews. There was a strong Log Party Republican presence in a gay community divided by the polarizing Carl DeMaio. But it was one of the owners telling the head of Bike San Diego (while she dined there) that bicyclists should be hit by cars to “teach them a lesson”, that really soured me on the place.
Given the above, it was difficult to read this piece by Jerry Troyer in DeMaio’s partner’s publication, which cried out:
Can’t we treat people, and especially the people in our own community, with a little compassion and understanding? One has to admit that it takes a lot of courage and dedication just to make the decision to start a new business. Why can’t we honor them for that?
We are looking for the straight community to treat us (the LGBT community) with dignity and respect. Oh that we would treat each other that same way.
Frank Lechner hoping for bicyclists to get hit by cars is exactly the lack of dignity and respect that Troyer is railing against. And regarding compassion for others, why did Harvey Milk’s apparent financial backer, Phil Pace of Phil’s BBQ, donate ten thousand dollars to take away a desperately-needed pay raise from tens of thousands of San Diegans earning minimum wage?
OK, enough of that – over in North Park, Safehouse has opened on University, and on Park, S&M Sausage and Meat is open… There’s a big bottle share this Sunday (same day as CicloSDias!) in North Park… The monthly Boulevard Market on El Cajon had its inaugural event last month in the parking lot of the building where Heart and Trotter will be opening; it features some of San Diego’s top/upcoming chefs… Further east on El Cajon, right behind a Rapid 215 bus station, the new YMCA looks pretty close to opening (next month):
While I’m excited for the bike parking in the parking garage, I’m disappointed in the sheer scale of said garage. This is an urban neighborhood on a major transit line – do we need to be encouraging thousands of drivers per day to this location? And in a city that’s desperate for more housing, why do we continue to prioritize housing cars instead?
Not content with keeping new housing out of just Ocean Beach, Frank Gormlie and the “we got here first” progressives at OB Rag have set their sights eastward, toward proposed transit-oriented development in Mission Valley. Many would agree Mission Valley is exhibit ‘A’ of awful car-oriented development in San Diego, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved while addressing our city’s housing crisis. It’s also one of the few places left in San Diego without highly restrictive height limits (like… Ocean Beach’s 30 foot limit that largely keeps out new housing). Yet because of bad planning in Mission Valley’s past and concerns over traffic, that means we can’t build any more housing there, according to Gormlie and many of the OB Rag’s readers. They’d rather keep a fenced-off golf course for wealthy tourists as “open space” than build much-needed housing near the trolley line.
In other cities, environmentalists who aren’t stuck in the past are teaming up with smart growth advocates to actually work with developers, instead of just labeling them as “greedy”. Seattle has reduced or removed parking minimums in new construction and built affordable micro-housing to attract and retain younger, skilled professionals for their growing economy. Conversely, the “progressives” at OB Rag declare any new development will be unaffordable, so it shouldn’t be built – while ignoring the city’s Affordable Housing Ordinance requirements/fees on new housing. They also oppose increasing affordability by reducing TOD parking minimums, despite their supposed pro-environmental views. The city’s Climate Action Plan and its reduced auto mode share goals are ignored; opposing all development to maintain current traffic levels on I-8 is the answer (push new housing to the exurbs instead). These folks have driven all their lives and largely live in car-dependent neighborhoods – they’re not going to start using transit despite their “concern” over climate change.
The comments on Gormlie’s article provided a neat summary of liberal NIMBYism from established San Diegans with little concern about our city’s housing crisis. I learned many things there, including:
Finally, some progressive San Diegans are beginning to call out their own on their opposition to increased density. (In the comments of that article, I learned that you’re not a NIMBY if you oppose new housing in your neighborhood, but don’t mind when people buy existing single family housing there.) It’s long past time to stop listening to those who offer no solutions to our city’s housing crisis, only criticism of others who attempt to address the problem. Let’s look to other cities like Seattle and Denver (where they’ve implemented a TOD affordable housing fund) that recognize NIMBY excuses and suburban approaches to planning don’t work for handling growth. For Mission Valley, instead of just criticizing development, why not work with developers to implement a pedestrian-oriented river development plan like they’re doing with the San Marcos Creek Specific Plan Area? (Hat tip to Raymond for this, who asks, “If San Marcos can plot out spaces and make developers follow their mandates, why can’t the city of San Diego?”). From that plan:
In order to establish the Creekside District as a vibrant center for the community’s social and commercial life, it is essential that it be an attractive, walkable neighborhood where people feel comfortable strolling, lingering, and engaging in the social and cultural activities that characterize successful downtowns.
– SANDAG has a proposed smart growth concept map for San Diego, and a recent update (page 115) shows they’ve dropped Mission Valley and Midway from “Urban Centers” to “Town Centers”, with reduced density suggestions (community planning groups set the actual allowable densities)… On El Cajon Boulevard near SDSU, mixed-use project BLVD63 is open, despite Rolando residents’ doomed legal efforts to stop it. The Voice of San Diego article above includes comments from Rolandoans complaining about not enough parking despite the giant parking garage on BLVD63’s east side, and about the shuttle that transports students to campus. We drove past there on a recent visit to Haritna (great Palestinian food) and the gym on BLVD63’s first floor was full, giving new life to the street. Five retail spaces next to it are available for lease, despite a Rolando resident telling me that little ground-floor retail space would be available due to the rental office’s location there… Nearby, more residences appear to be planned with the $3.5 million purchase of the 1.8 acre parcel at 6244 ECB where the Campus Medical Dental Center (built in 1964) sits… The U-T has a writeup on dense transit-oriented development planned for Grantville, with 8275 units and 22000 people added over the next 30 years. One commenter says we shouldn’t build this badly-needed housing because “Most people are lazy and won’t walk down the street to a trolley.” Oddly, they didn’t provide an alternative suggestion.
Time flies when you’re spending your weekends converting the yard to drought-tolerant landscaping. Breaking out the bullets to catch up:
The transit only lane will begin near the bottom of the hill at the bridge over Camino Del Rio South. The buses will slow going up the hill but they will be in their own dedicated lane. I assume the buses will do the majority of the merging into the #1 lane (fast lane) north of I-8.
Was hoping to get to some new restaurants and land use items but this post is running long… will save them for next time.