Today is the last day of the BikeSD January online fundraiser. For the fundraiser, I wrote a post on the BikeSD blog about how my husband and I were personally affected by the unsafe conditions for people on bikes in San Diego. Check it out here (or here if that doesn’t work) and donate if you can!
BikeSD is a non-profit organization that’s trying to pay a salary to our Executive Director Samantha Ollinger after her years of amazing, expert advocacy – that she did for free. If my story can’t convince you to contribute, check out these other perspectives.
There are some fun BikeSD-related events coming up too. MJ’s Cyclery celebrates their second anniversary next Saturday evening (2/6), with proceeds going to BikeSD. The Modern Times Festival of Funk benefits BikeSD and Cleveland National Forest Foundation, and happens on March 5th in Bankers Hill:
And Bikes and Beers returns for a third year on March 26th, starting/finishing at the Quartyard downtown. There are some other cool BikeSD rides and events coming up later this year too. Let’s keep up the momentum especially considering all the bike infrastructure that’s about to be built. Other stuff going on:
– We spent last Saturday in National City (check out the recent San Diego Magazine neighborhood writeup) visiting my husband’s family and hanging out with Marcus Bush, who also lives there. As head of the National City Chamber of Commerce, Marcus led the group in opposing the SANDAG Regional Transportation Plan because it adds general purpose lanes to I-5 there, while killing the Blue Line trolley express track that would have been less expensive. The result is more air pollution in an area already suffering from poor air quality. Marcus mentioned two interesting events coming up in the area:
Last week was a good one in North Park as SANDAG presented an impressive Pershing Bikeway project (more on that below) and the North Park Planning Committee voted to support higher densities along the El Cajon Boulevard transit corridor and redevelopment of the Huffman 6-packs nearby. The planning committee overcame factually incorrect statements from NIMBY residents in University Heights, Uptown Planner Tom Mullaney’s anti-development road show (posters included) and a resident who exclaimed, “We don’t need more housing, we need more parking!”.
NPPC’s actions were a welcome contrast to the anti-housing forces here in Kensington, where KenTal planning chair David Moty repeatedly cited a lack on infrastructure for opposing new affordable housing, while failing to describe what that infrastructure actually is. Apparently the $100+ million in bus rapid transit infrastructure on El Cajon Boulevard and SR-15, and the multi-million dollar SANDAG and Caltrans bike lane infrastructure nearby aren’t actually infrastructure. After two consecutive hottest global years on record, adding new housing near near transit is one proven method to help the city meet its Climate Action Plan goals. Yet many on our local planning groups (North Park and downtown excepted) seem entirely uninterested in what happens to the planet – just don’t take their street parking.
The same priorities apply to affordable housing. The Union Tribune reports on evictions of seniors in Hillcrest due to rent increases as Uptown Planners seeks to downzone the neighborhood, reduce height limits and implement a historical district to ensure no new housing pencils out. And SOHO San Diego’s Executive Director declares that since we’ll never meet our housing needs, why build any at all?
It’s funny how residents decide we don’t need any more housing so long as they have a residence. Would Mr. Coons have opposed the building of the very bungalows he now advocates preserving? Because many people did when they were built. Historical preservation and new affordable housing don’t need to be mutually exclusive.
Instead of scapegoating “greedy” developers, some people are coming up with useful ideas on housing, such as allocating infrastructure funding toward it. And commercial property owners are making their case in Hillcrest against the planned downzoning that will hurt an already-declining business district. Uptown will continue to debate their new community plan at a special meeting on February 2nd. Meanwhile a neighborhood obsessed with parking and traffic continues to add parking, which just causes more traffic.
Elsewhere, a Rob Quigley-designed mixed-use project is being proposed for the (UPDATE: I was asked to take these images down since they were”early capacity studies, not concept designs, and were not meant for public consumption as much will change as we respond to community desires and develop an architecture”. I attended the Kensington Talmadge subcommittee meeting last Wednesday where Rob and the Price Charities representatives listed to suggestions from residents, and will post any updates on the project on this blog.)
vacant lot across from the YMCA on El Cajon Boulevard in City Heights. It includes a preschool and park:
Speaking of Quigley, renderings are up for his fire station planned for Cedar and Pacific Highway in Little Italy. (UPDATE: Quigley’s folks informed me that link is actually an old rendering for the Hillcrest fire station. Here’s the new Hillcrest station graphic and the one for Cedar and Pacific):
On the restaurant front, Pop Pie Company from the Sycamore Den folks is coming to Park and Meade, while Cucina Urbana-spinoff Cucina Sorella will finally replace Fish Public in Kensington. And PapaPizza looks ready to open any day now.
On transit, KPBS has a good writeup on how MTS’s Compass Cards are “stuck in the past” – they still don’t have a stored value feature while nearly every other major metro does (or has a mobile payment option). Yet instead of funding this needed feature, new SANDAG board chair Ron Roberts is focused on transporting tourists over Balboa Park in gondolas. While gondolas do sound pretty cool, why can’t we do the easy stuff on transit and safer streets first?
SANDAG is holding a public conference call Wednesday regarding their next sales tax request, which is dead on arrival if it widens any more roads.
On biking infrastructure, it’s been a busy 3 weeks with SANDAG bikeway presentations on the Robinson bikeway bridge, Pershing Bikeway, and Bankers Hill Bikeway. These will have to wait for a follow-up post here but the Pershing plan in particular looks great – with a separated, two-way bikeway up the hill and a roundabout to replace that messy intersection at Redwood:
For more information, SD Yimby has a much better summary of the Pershing project than I can write at this time. And SANDAG pulled off a miracle in Bankers Hill, where the protected bike lanes and pedestrian improvements there will actually yield 41 *more* on-street parking spaces – not to mention the fantastic landscaping, hardscaping and lighting planned. Residents responded by criticizing the plan because buses will briefly block traffic in one lane.
Remember that Hillcrest stands to gain well over 100 parking spaces using the same angled parking conversions that are being employed in Bankers Hill above. The difference was that in Hillcrest, these spaces were already “claimed” as theirs by Hillcrest residents and business owners on the Uptown Parking District. So University Ave will largely remain a traffic sewer with little in the way of place-making improvements west of 163, while Bankers Hill’s business district will enjoy a renaissance from SANDAG’s traffic calming and complete streets:
Years from now, people will ask, “Who in their right mind would have turned down such an improvement?”. The short-sighted thinking of the Hillcrest Business Association, with its tens of thousands of dollars in lobbying fees to kill the Uptown Bikeway, will still be the answer.
Civic SD has released an updated mobility plan that sees pretty big changes in its proposed bike lane network from an earlier iteration. Here’s the old one with cycle tracks running down 4th, 5th and Broadway:
And here’s the new one with cycle tracks on Pacific Highway, 6th, and C:
– Bikeway Village is finally happening in Imperial Beach, with two warehouses on the north end of town turning into a hotel, hostel, cafes and outdoor space.
– Voice of San Diego is putting on a cool downtown art/culture walk.
– The Wall Street Journal notices downtown San Diego is attracting a whole lot of real estate interest.
While waiting for the 235 bus on Broadway downtown last month, I noticed a new Japanese restaurant between 5th and 6th. Later I realized this was the long-awaited second location for Ramen Yamadaya. Since were in the mood for noodles yesterday but not the Kearny Mesa strip mall scene, it was time for a visit.
The majority of the dining area is set back from the street in a cozy lower level adjacent to the kitchen:
I like the layout of the big, easy to read menu:
We started off with a chicken karaage plate, and Jay had the chicken katsu (shown below), both ample servings for their respective prices:
My options at ramen places like Yamadaya are usually pretty limited because of my egg intolerance, but they offer a vegan ramen that’s remarkably different from my usual standby at Tajima (who also now have a downtown location nearby). Yamadaya’s broth has a distinct coconut flavor and you can almost see the creaminess:
Some more pictures from our visit, including the inexpensive small spicy tuna rice bowl:
Next door is Guadalajaran grilled meat restaurant Pipirins, which looks close to opening. The $4 craft beer on listed on the menu board can’t hurt either.
The most visually impressive restaurant of the three is BIGA, with gleaming counters and re-finished wood tables throughout. They opened after Christmas and serve fast-casual Neapolitan-style pizzas and sandwiches, while featuring coffee and gelato at the counter up front:
Look for more big changes two blocks to the east, where all the buildings on the north side of the street are now empty, waiting demolition for Bosa’s “The Block“, a $250 million dollar mixed-use project consisting of two towers, 21 and 41 stories each.
The Market Hall is open on Market St. downtown, combining a gourmet grocery store and restaurant. It’s the first of four locations nationwide with the flagship set to open in San Francisco. The restaurant hadn’t opened yet when we visited a couple weeks ago, but we liked the large communal seating tables inside.
Hawthorn Coffee opened last week on Adams in Normal Heights, offering pour-overs and yet another solid coffee option on a street with many of them:
Here in Kensington, Ken Video has re-opened in a smaller version, and includes Vidajuice juice bar. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything, right? Kensington Pet Supply down the street will be moving into the space next door, which is also owned by the Ken Video folks.
Two doors east, Peevey Jewelers will close in February after 35 years in operation in Kensington; the business began downtown in 1946. And just down the street from us, Papapizza from the Pappalecco folks looks close to opening.
New restaurant and cocktail bar Madison opens tonight on in University Heights next door to Park & Rec, completing the transformation from Bourbon Street/Lei Lounge. The interior looks amazing (sadly you can’t see it in this shot):
Further south on Park, would it be possible to annex the Egyptian Quarter from Hillcrest into North Park? With mixed-use project Mr. Robinson (pictured below) about complete, and forward-looking businesses like Heat Bar and Kitchen and MJ’s Cyclery nearby, this block has a different feel than the rest of the now-stodgy neighborhood:
Pizza mini-chain Flour and Barley is coming to the former Pizzeria Mozza location at the Headquarters any day now, and we had lunch at their Las Vegas location last weekend. The stools fashioned from recycled Formula 1 circuit oil barrels were a neat touch:
– On the housing front, media outlets are picking up on the inequity that results from the exclusionary zoning created by established property owners:
– Here in San Diego, Don Bauder at the San Diego Reader notes San Diego’s unaffordable housing and its negative impact on residents and the local economy: “Housing affordability is one of the nation’s worst. That’s a reason that domestic migration outflow tops inflow: how many families can afford San Diego?”
I was surprised to read this since Bauder is one of the biggest NIMBYs at a publication that ceaselessly questions every new housing project in the region. Bauder actually wrote an article opposing new development because of our city’s water situation, while neglecting to mention the city’s $3.5 billion dollar wastewater recycling project, or Carlsbad’s new desalination plant. Yes Don, San Diego’s housing affordability is one of the nation’s worst, in part because folks like you write biased pieces opposing new housing supply.
Bauder is hardly the most biased writer employed by the Reader. While nearly every piece on development in the publication neglects to mention the region’s housing crisis, two authors, Barbara Garazoa and Susan Luzzaro, are particularly guilty of only presenting anti-development views. In a recent piece, Luzarro quotes one Chula Vista resident opposed to transit-oriented development as saying “Chula Vista has enough housing”. If that were the case, why are apartment rents up over 40% there in the past 3 years? Surely that couldn’t have been too hard to look up.
So for the new year, I’m naively asking the Reader (again) to fact check NIMBY statements like the one above, and to at least acknowledge the region’s housing crisis in any development-related coverage.
– Finishing up:
December Nights was held last weekend in Balboa Park, and Saturday offered one of those rare glimpses of what the park would look like without cars:
It’s pretty awesome to see people on foot and bikes enjoying Cabrillo Bridge and the west Prado, and it begs the question: Why doesn’t the city do this more often? The answer is that the park’s institutions (most of whom supported the harmful Jacobs bypass bridge that would have brought more cars into the heart of the park) appear to control this issue, not the residents whose taxes in theory pay for the park. It’s probably futile at this point, but would park institutions really suffer if the bridge were closed to traffic, say, one weekend morning a month?
To the east, planners have been calling for the closure of the north end of Florida Drive in Balboa Park for 55 years, but a potential minor inconvenience for drivers always trumps nature in San Diego. I rode my bike from Golden Hill to Zoo Place for the first time last weekend and was dumbfounded that the posted speed limit is 50 MPH. What a pleasant experience, to have cars zipping past at 70 MPH just feet away from you… all while biking through our best park, in the heart of our city.
In North Park, construction of new mixed-use project The Earnest from the FoundationForForm architects (North Park Post Office Lofts) has begun at the former Crazee Burger spot on 30th:
At University and 30th, Encontro in the former Heaven Sent location is getting closer to completion:
Verbatim Books is moving into 3793 30th and the building has received a fresh coat of blue paint:
– Some bad news for people on bikes in San Diego recently. The worst was the fatality of a bicyclist in Mission Valley on Friars at Rio Bonito, hit by a BMW. Friars is basically a freeway, and painting bike lanes green doesn’t make a big difference when drivers respond to a road design that encourages high speeds (especially those driving BMW’s, from my personal experience). Friars was upgraded to this design in the late 1960’s (h/t Michael Ballard) despite the presence of I-8, and nearly 50 years later it’s still unsafe for anyone outside of a metal cage. Instead of addressing the dangers of the road, or the lack of a low-speed street grid in Mission Valley, the city is doubling down with a widening of Friars over SR-163. The bike lanes come at the end of the project (2024) in an unfunded phase. I assume initial funding comes from Civita developer impact fees, and that’s probably because of how San Diego’s Auto Level of Service planning works: when homes are added, roads get widened, period. The potential loss of human life to the resulting dangerous road design isn’t even considered, at least not until a courts find a city liable after someone is killed.
In Oceanside, despite a 12-year old fatally hit while biking to school, residents oppose efforts to make Coast Highway safer for people on bikes because it might slow their drive a bit… In Carlsbad, three bicyclists were hit by a drunk driver on Carlsbad Boulevard at 10:30 AM while riding in the bike lane. Paint doesn’t stop people from being hit. But Carlsbad councilwoman Victoria Scully is “tired of hearing how everything is about the bikes” and doesn’t feel there should be any bike lanes… In Coronado, the San Diego Bike Coalition is trying to make streets safer for people on bikes, but to a certain provincial resident, that’s “imposing its cycling agenda on others“.
One recent positive development was the 8-6 Uptown Planners vote to support a safe east-west bike lane on University in the community mobility plan. While mostly symbolic, it was a rejection of the Hillcrest Business Association’s lobbying actions that resulted in the striking bike corridor gap shown below (h/t @ollingers):
This vote wouldn’t have been possible just a year ago, before the election of new members that have changed the anti-bicyclist views of some on the board. If you’re interested in being a part of this change, email anti-bicyclist board chair Jim Mellos that you’d like to run. He’s one of the board members whose terms expire next year.
– Lots of college and middle school students walk to class on Mesa College Drive, yet decades after its bridge over 163 was built, it remains incredibly unsafe for people on foot and bikes. A sidewalk only exists on one side of the road, and it crosses the onramp to 163 South on a downslope, around a corner, and with no crosswalk. This week workers put up fencing that forced walkers into the road and posted a “Sidewalk closed, use other side” sign directing them to use the non-existent sidewalk (and backtrack hundreds of feet to do so). Somehow, they made this intersection even more life-threatening:
Two days later, the sign was gone but the hazard remained, with no other signage or traffic cones to alert drivers to pedestrians walking in the street.
– On Georgia Street just south of El Cajon Boulevard, drivers have taken to parking on the sidewalk (this wasn’t the only car parked there):
– SD Uptown News has a great article on the resurgence of El Cajon Boulevard in North Park, including the 37ECB business incubator and HG Fenton residential project at Florida Street:
(HG Fenton’s) La Raia characterized The Boulevard’s ongoing revitalization as “another golden era.”
“El Cajon Boulevard has a combination of features that make it optimal as a lifestyle destination for both work and play,” he said. “This includes a strong neighborhood feel, diverse culture, excellent location close to job centers and transit, nearby parks and open space. We anticipate more young professionals moving here to live in the new residential apartment communities being developed. We also see exciting new retail and restaurant businesses attracting shoppers and diners from outside of the neighborhood.”
What a contrast to the neighborhood just to the west, where efforts to create a historical district are the latest tool being used to keep young professionals (or anyone young, for that matter) out. I’m all in favor of preserving our city’s rare historic architecture, especially when it’s affordable urban housing being torn down for parking lots. But given that the folks behind the historic district proposal oppose any new housing in Uptown, because on-street parking is more important, it’s obvious what the real intention is – use the development guidelines established by historical districts to make it even more difficult to build anything:
Development guidelines may regulate the size, scale, design and use of new infill on existing vacant lots, or where demolition of non-contributors has occurred.
Reducing height limits to 65 feet on Hillcrest’s commercial corridors isn’t enough for some. As the opinion piece’s author, Nancy Moors, states on her blog, “Future development should respect the lower scale of our built-out communities, which is much less than the 65-feet height allowed by the IHO.” And how would they reduce height limits below even 65 feet? By creating a historical district like the one in Sherman Heights that limits all buildings to 30 feet, even on its commercial street, Market. Market Street there is a strip mall and parking lot-dominated stretch of road. It’s suburban planning in an urban neighborhood, or precisely the vision some in Uptown have for University Ave.
Bloomberg.com had a good article recently on how these land use policies, which exclude younger and less wealthy residents, are contributing to inequality and hurting economic growth. What’s odd is that many of the folks pushing restrictive land use policies are fairly liberal on other equity issues like the minimum wage. How do they not understand that lowering height limits and densities means mixed-use housing and commercial projects (not to mention boutique hotels) simply don’t pencil out, which reduces housing and employment opportunities in an area well-served by transit? If anything, many of these residents want fewer businesses in Hillcrest, and that’s exactly what they’re getting as business after business closes. Meanwhile every other neighborhood in Uptown is thriving.
The funniest part of Moors’ piece was that 80% of residents surveyed by Uptown Planners supported lowering height limits. Of course they do – most of the respondents of the 2006 unscientific survey were likely homeowners, who benefit from exclusionary zoning via increased home prices. Try polling young renters or those who can’t afford to leave their parents’ home throughout San Diego, and I bet you’ll get a much different result. Sadly, parochial Uptown residents don’t think anyone outside of their neighborhood should have a say on its planning, regardless of our city’s Climate Action Plan goals or state affordable housing requirements.