It was great to see so many people out riding (no alcohol was provided until the ride was over) and enjoying some of the new bike infrastructure in San Diego, including the new buffered bike lane on 5th Ave in Hillcrest:
This new buffered lane has helped increase biking on 5th by over 300% from 2012 to 2014, even though this Hillcrest segment wasn’t open until last month. But check out what happens after the bike lane ends on 5th:
Here, event riders are squeezed between parked cars and three lanes of cars. Let’s extend these lanes to Washington, since I’ve yet to witness any traffic backups on 5th due to the removal of one auto lane.
There are still challenges to overcome even with the new bike lane installed. The women below (or the person driving) were blocking the bike lane and refused to move for a friend of mine riding her bike there:
The women pictured quickly escalated the incident into a physical confrontation, getting in the rider’s face and yelling “hit me!”, then pushing her when she went past. And the responding officer didn’t help matters by incorrectly stating the hash marks were a “passing zone” for bikes to move around cars stopped in the bike lane. Hopefully the city can get its officers up to speed on these new buffered lanes, and the minority of drivers who believe they own the entire road become more reasonable.
– An update on the Uptown Bike Corridor: the Mission Hills SANDAG presentation set for April 23rd has been delayed and the project is being kicked back to a SANDAG Transportation Committee meeting on June 5th at 9AM. Will provide more details as I hear them, but it would be great to have some people who support safer streets turn out for this meeting.
Thanks to editor Hutton Marshall, who’s leaving Uptown News, for allowing both sides on the Uptown Bike Corridor to present their views over these past few years, including this week’s editorial from the Livable Streets Coalition. Since this piece was written, I’ve been hearing about a potential compromise that could move one part of the Uptown Bike Corridor forward from its current stalled state.
– The new Lane Field park across from Broadway Pier is complete and adds more pedestrian-friendly space to the waterfront. The park replaces a parking lot that existed at the site for nearly 50 years(!) after the Padres’ original baseball field was torn down. Two new hotels are planned just to the east; the northern one is well under construction. Here’s the marker at “home plate”:
While we were there, some UT San Diego folks showed up to interview local baseball historian Bill Swank on the new park, and we managed to get quoted in the resulting article. Lane Field Park is another small step toward making our waterfront enjoyable for everyone.
– Another event I’ve been meaning to mention was held at the new City Heights Copley YMCA on El Cajon Boulevard last month. The City Heights Community Development Corp. brought together residents, transit users and artists to discuss how to improve this stretch of El Cajon Boulevard via “Creative Placemaking” – art, lighting and improved public transit facilities:
There were lots of great ideas on how to make this block better for pedestrians and transit users, including a screen in front of the U-Haul business behind the eastbound rapid bus stop that incorporates art. There’s often not enough seating at this (brand new) stop and transit users sit on the hoods of the U-Haul trucks.
This project will serve as a catalyst for other transit stops along El Cajon Boulevard. I’ll follow up with more information on next month’s (5/29) meeting.
The new Rapid 215 bus from SDSU to downtown runs on ECB and has shown solid ridership increases, but takes much longer to travel than initially promised. Nearly a year after its rollout, traffic signal issues still haven’t been addressed? I thought the buses were equipped with technology that changed the signal as they approached. Nevertheless, if Los Angeles can create peak-hour bus only lanes for non-rapid routes, why can’t we do the same for a “rapid” bus on a boulevard that’s been shown to have excess lane capacity?
– WalkScore has updated their numbers and San Diego continues to trail its peer cities on walk/bike/transit scores. By peer cities, I mean metro size (their list uses city size) – e.g., Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis… Here’s an interesting mass transit proposal for San Diego.
– Check out the Children’s Book Party and giveaway in Balboa Park from 8:30 to 11 a.m. April 25 at the Organ Pavilion… Also on the 25th, there’s a grand opening event for a new event space for the progressive community in San Diego near Old Town Transit Center:
April 6, 2015, San Diego- Progressive grassroots, art and cultural events will now have a centrally located event space for the San Diego community and beyond. Situated in a large building, it offers indoor and outdoor space that is ADA accessible with a stage, sound system and lighting, ample seating, tables, and more. Located just off I-5, parking is available and it is close to Old Town Transit Center, a hub for trolley, Coaster and bus. Exclusive tours are being set up for local non-profits, grassroots organizations, and cultural groups to consider the space for special events, workshops and classes. The grand opening on April 25th will feature a concert by one of San Diego’s “Most Influential Artist of the Decade”.
This new center aptly titled, “The Grassroots Oasis” is part of Apply Liberally Enterprises, an LLC founded by local event producer and community organizer Martha Sullivan. She previously hosted the Oasis House Concerts from 2009-2012. During this time, Martha also hosted many progressive political events in her leased business space for fundraisers, touring speakers, and organizing/action meetings. This experience sowed the seeds for a progressive community center.
Since community involvement is an important aspect of this center, a crowdfunding campaign will begin on April 20th so those interested can be a part of growing the space. Funds will be used to cover operating expenses for tthe first several months in order to build a sustainable center that is equipped to serve our progressive community. A variety of perks will be offered to encourage donations such as space rental, art, eco-friendly dinnerware kits, t-shirts, CD’s and much more.
Learn more at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Grassroots-Oasis/814389255304739
For more information contact Martha Sullivan at 858-945-6273
or e-mail at Crowdfunding@ApplyLiberallyEnterprises.com
“They’re going to create INFILL in Uptown!” Those were the breathless words of Uptown Planner Beth Jaworski tonight, in the midst of an impassioned plea to oppose a neutral Uptown Planners approach toward the One Paseo project. The original motion from fellow board member Tom Mullaney had already been watered down to remove some of the language opposing the project, and instead focused on criticizing the process, namely the city council’s override of the Carmel Valley Planning Group’s “no” vote on One Paseo. But many board members were uncomfortable voting on a project they didn’t know much about, much less one well over 15 miles beyond their jurisdiction. In the end, planner Chris Ward’s sub-motion to remain neutral on the project passed by a vote of 7 to 6.
Planning groups are an interesting concept in San Diego. Technically advisory only, they write the community plans that guide community development. Deviations to the community plan (Carmel Valley’s is still from 1975) often require discretionary and/or environmental review. Yet these groups, which are primarily focused on local concerns, can be overruled by our city council when our elected representatives decide that the regional pros/cons of a project trump the local community’s. Despite their advisory nature, Jaworski implied that Uptown Planners alone should decide Uptown’s future – a future that largely excludes letting anyone else in.
It’s also important to note that some community groups, like Uptown Planners, limit voting hours to just a single half hour once a year (6-6:30 PM; by contrast, La Jolla allows voting for four hours). This obviously makes it challenging for working residents to vote, especially lower-income residents working multiple jobs, and benefits those with extra time in their schedules, like retirees. Sure enough, most of the folks deciding Uptown’s future for decades to come have been over the age of 60. Not to mention that many of these same members are part of the Leo Wilson Metro CDC/Western Slopes alliance. If community planning group members like Jaworski really believe they have the final say on all development, why aren’t their names on a general election ballot?
“Community Control is Destroying America’s Cities” lays out the arguments against giving local communities absolute power to reject projects that benefit the greater good – like affordable and middle-class housing, in San Diego’s case. It was certainly odd to witness Uptown Planners debating a mixed-use project in Carmel Valley after years of ignoring any affordable or middle class housing in their own neighborhood. Compare this to downtown or North Park, where there are many new affordable housing projects planned, including non-profit developer projects for low-income seniors. There are none planned for Uptown, and based on the NIMBY histrionics from Jaworski, I’m guessing there’s not a whole lot called for in the new community plan Uptown Planners has been working on for years.
Uptown’s elected representatives, from Democrat Todd Gloria to Republican Kevin Faulconer, agree that San Diego faces a housing crisis. SANDAG estimates we need about 300,000 new housing units in San Diego by 2050. Younger families are leaving because they can’t afford to live here, and companies struggle to attract young talent. San Diego is routinely named the most unaffordable city in the country based on our housing and transportation costs versus our salaries, the latter of which are significantly lower than cities like San Francisco. Uptown is an ideal place to add housing because of its proximity to transit and downtown jobs. Plus, providing housing for a range of incomes actually frees up valuable parking, because low and middle income workers in the neighborhood don’t have to drive in and park.
Given the above, why are avid anti-growthers like Tom “job growth should not be encouraged in San Diego” Mullaney (pictured) writing our community plans? Mr. Mullaney isn’t troubled by whether you, your neighbors or your children have job opportunities – his traffic and parking concerns are more important than your basic life needs. But why would someone live in an urban neighborhood in the heart of San Diego if they oppose letting anyone else in? Perhaps San Diego’s many amenities are only to be enjoyed by them.
At last month’s Uptown Planners meeting, a woman complained for several minutes about parking impacts from the market-rate Jonathan Segal condo project in Hillcrest (“Mr. Robinson” on Park) – despite it meeting city parking requirements. I followed up by saying we need to consider the city’s housing needs in addition to parking, and that multiple bus lines serve the area. Afterward, Mr. Mullaney emailed another Uptown Planner and stated I was “doing great harm to bicycle advocates” for supporting badly-needed new housing while also advocating for safer streets for people on bikes and on foot.
Personally, I think Mr. Mullaney did far greater harm when he repeatedly voted against the SANDAG Uptown Bike Corridor recently, because he deemed public street parking more important than the lives of fellow residents on bikes. And a community planner who actually claims “there is no housing crisis in San Diego”, while offering no supporting evidence, is like a climate change denier running the Senate Environment Committee. Here’s our email exchange, including Tom’s initial complaint:
Paul Jameson is doing great harm to the bicycle advocates. You heard his statement at the Uptown Planners. He was completely unsympathetic to the woman who lives near Park Bl and Robinson, and is concerned about a large project with inadequate parking.
Paul made a statement about “inevitable growth”. Yet I will wager that he is not an expert on the statistical relationship between housing supply, prices, regional forecasts, nor examples of stable communities whose populations grew slowly or not at all. (My group, Friends of San Diego, has gathered such information, and even obtained a specific analysis of the “inevitable growth” issue from a top economist).
I don’t know that Paul Jameson is any more of an authority on growth and urban planning than Jenny McCarthy is on vaccination safety. Even if he is, his message is confusing when mixed with the simple goal of “safe bicycle routes”.
The result is that many people see bicycle advocates as Smart Growth/ Urban Infill fanatics, who are intent on cramming thousands more residents into an area which is already deficient in public facilities.
Hi Tom, I wanted to extend an invitation to you to write a guest blog post on sdurban.com. I’m interested to hear about the growth analysis you mentioned in your e-mail. I clicked through the Friends of San Diego site but didn’t see it there.
Dave Gatzke, who works at Community Housing Works (http://chworks.org/real-estate-development/meet-our-team/) has volunteered to provide a counterpoint view, from his perspective as a local non-profit developer.
This could be a good opportunity to begin a dialogue about growth and housing in San Diego.
Thanks for the invitation Paul.
It’s likely that I won’t have time to write on SD Urban. The issue of “growth inevitability” is a complex one. So is the relationship of supply and demand. The dialogue about growth and housing has been going on since the 1980’s.
Generally, I have doubts that increasing urban densities would be beneficial. A local economist explained what people in his profession view as obvious: San Diego is expensive because it’s a nice place to live.
Another prominent local economist stated that there was no evidence of a “housing shortage”.
As I stated in an email last week: I support safe bike routes, but don’t see any logical connection between this and authorizing increased densities. I think that you are doing a disservice to bicyclists by promoting density while also making public appearances as a bicycle advocate.
Thanks for replying Tom, sorry you don’t have time. I will summarize your email points in my article. Do you have a link to the economist you mentioned, or the study from the earlier email?
Interestingly, you noted the demand to live in San Diego (because it’s nice, but I think our job market and birth rate are also big factors), but you quoted an economist who says there’s no housing shortage.
The notion of a housing crisis in San Diego has been widely accepted in San Diego (http://voiceofsandiego.org/topics/land-use/wanna-fix-san-diegos-housing-crisis-start-here/). I don’t expect to change your mind, but the view that there is no housing crisis is not shared by our mayor, Uptown’s council person, or a majority of our elected representatives in San Diego. A community planner holding this view (and advising the city with it) is sort of like a climate scientist ignoring their data to become a climate change denier.
While I agree that future growth isn’t inevitable (Japan and its unsustainable obligations to their elderly is one example), San Diego has the largest percentage of millennials of any U.S. metro. These folks are already here, living in their parents’ homes. Providing no new housing would require them to remain there, or to leave San Diego. This is not responsible planning for our city’s future, in my opinion.
46,000 San Diego households are on an affordable housing waiting list. Yet Uptown Planners has done little to promote badly-needed new affordable housing. Further, no new market rate housing (like Mr. Robinson) was built in Hillcrest for years. While the hotel planned at 3rd and University was badly out of scale for the neighborhood, the Interim Height Ordinance has resulted in new housing projects not penciling out, given our high land costs (I suspect stopping new housing was the real intention of the IHO). As a member of SOHO, I believe we can preserve our historic architecture and residential streets – while increasing density on commercial thoroughfares.
San Diego is already the most unaffordable city in the country, and skilled workers are leaving because they can’t afford it here (http://www.utsandiego.com/news/2014/aug/13/report-gen-x-leaving-san-diego-taking-their-kids/). What happens when the high-tech companies that need these workers follow them out of town? Our city’s hourglass economy will worsen.
Our future growth is largely due to our high but declining birth rate. I agree lowering these rates should be a goal, but it doesn’t change SANDAG’s estimate of 330,000 new housing units needed in San Diego by 2050. With no more buildable land, increasing density near transit is the most sensible option to accommodate this growth. If I were a planner, I would consider these widely-accepted reports in addition to the unnamed economists and studies you mentioned.
I agree we need more infrastructure in our urban neighborhoods. To me, this means better transit service so not everyone is forced to drive a car – not wider roads. And it means new water and sewer lines, like the ones currently being installed throughout Uptown.
Regarding the connection between safe bike routes and density, the more housing and jobs we provide in our urban neighborhoods, the easier it is for people to replace long suburban car commutes with bike trips, as the Climate Action Plan seeks to do. While my support for more housing is mostly unrelated to biking, I do see a similarity: the people most affected by these issues need strong advocates in San Diego.
Finally, you mentioned that I showed no sympathy for the Hillcrest resident’s parking concerns, but where is the concern for our children who can’t afford to live here? In my opinion, prioritizing people over parking isn’t doing a disservice to anyone – including bike advocates.
I don’t see the point in summarizing my recent email in an article.
Unfortunately, these are the folks “planning” our city’s future, based on unnamed experts and studies – despite a broad consensus to the contrary. Exclusionists like Tom Mullaney, who put their own interests over everyone else, share the blame for our city’s housing crisis.
The SANDAG Uptown Bike Corridor is the subject of a special meeting of Uptown Planners, next Tuesday, March 24th at 6 PM in Bankers Hill. The plan faces a strong attack from various organizations and people throughout Uptown. Let’s run through the folks involved and what you can do.
I have attached a flyer with all of the key details of what SANDAG has planned for 5 Points, Mission Hills and Bankers Hill. Of course, this does not include what craziness they have planned for carving up Hillcrest, but Hillcrest BID is taking care of that matter.
WE NEED BODIES AT THIS MEETING WHO SUPPORT OUR POSITION. Right now the Bike coalition and SANDAG are going to try to pack the room with their supporters. If we don’t speak up now, we are going to end up like Seattle and Portland, where residents are livid at what is happening with their beautiful cities thanks to the bike lanes.
Please note that if you cannot make it, please still e-mail Leo Wilson, the Chair of Uptown Planners, your thoughts and concerns. His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org. However, we need everyone to attend!!!! This is a HUGE battle we can win if we get out and show the politicians the silent majority want this plan to go back to the drawing board for more reasonable alternatives that will NOT wipe out all of our parking and make Washington St into a parking lot.
At last month’s meeting of the Hillcrest Business Association, the HBA voted to spend $10,000 on a lobbying firm to fight the Bike Corridor. This matches another $10,000 from Hillcrest businesses including Crest Cafe and Bread & Cie. The firm, California Strategies, employs James
HoffmanLawson, a former staffer for Mayor Faulconer. Hoffman is making the rounds and lobbying the city to prevent the closure of the off-ramp from Washington to University, despite SANDAG explaining why this is required for a safer Corridor. So a Hillcrest organization that receives city-distributed funds (these funds are from a separate pool) is lobbying the city to change a bike route in another neighborhood. They also want the bike corridor moved off 5th Avenue in Bankers Hill and Hillcrest to 6th – away from the more extensive commercial corridor on the former street.
Jonathan Hale is chair of the Hillcrest Business Association. At an HBA meeting last year, he asked for both sides to “work together to find a solution” on bike lanes, and created a task force to address the issue. The task force included the Crest Cafe owner, Cecilia Moreno. Unfortunately, “working together” somehow became “pay a lobbyist to get the city to change the bike lane route”.
(Update: Great Streets San Diego has a terrific writeup questioning the Hillcrest Business Association’s assumption that closing the off-ramp to University will hurt business. No study has been done to support this assumption.)
Hale’s publication, SDGLN, published an article promoting a petition from the Keep University Ave Open Facebook group to keep the University Ave offramp open to cars. Yet the article neglects to mention that Hale’s HBA has hired a lobbying firm to do the same. The petition is over 200 signatures and will be presented at next week’s Uptown Planners meeting. An alternative petition for a safer University Ave for all has less than 100 signatures.
SDGLN columnist Jim Winsor sells nightclub photos to Hale Media’s sdpix publication, and has a vested interest in preserving street parking for imbibing club-goers. He also has a reputation for attacking people who threaten that interest, having said people on bikes are declaring a “war on motorists”, are “homophobic” and that they want to see all gay businesses in Hillcrest fail. Recently he’s notched up the rhetoric by labeling bike advocates fascists:
The real censorship of opposing views has been taking place on the Keep University Ave Open Facebook page. The site is likely run by Powers Plumbing co-owner Janet O’Dea, Kimberly Edwards, and Patty Ducey-Brooks who owns the Presidio Sentinel, a publication that has repeatedly attacked the bike lane project. While promising an open dialogue, the page owners banned multiple posters simply for providing civil yet opposing views. This included banning Mission Hills residents, contrary to this declaration:
Uptown Planners Chair Leo Wilson also claims that SANDAG has not listened to residents. Yet I’m told Wilson and others with his Metro CDC organization walked out of a SANDAG outreach meeting early on, saying, “we’ll see you in court”. When powerful people don’t get their way, that’s what happens.
An ugly part of the Keep University Ave Open page is the elitism of some Mission Hills residents. Christopher Cole, whose name matches a candidate who ran for Uptown Planners this month, had these kind words for people on bikes concerned for their safety:
Uptown Planner Jim Mellos, who’s the attorney suing the city to remove bike lanes on 4th and 5th Avenues (and the only dissenting vote on supporting the city’s Climate Action Plan), responded later in the thread that there will be many lawsuits to prevent bike lanes in Uptown:
Finally, while the election of Michael Brennan and Kyle Heiskala to Uptown Planners (they’ll be seated next month, after this Special Meeting) gives bike advocates our first strong supporters on the board, Mat “only white people ride bikes” Wahlstrom was also elected by appealing to the Keep University Ave. Open folks with this:
So what can you do? Please turn out next Tuesday for the Uptown Planners meeting! There will be many, many people who feel their own concerns – traffic, parking, power trips – trump the safety of their fellow residents. We deserve better. And please sign the petition for a safer University Ave for All. More information about the Mission Hills part of the Uptown bike corridor is available there. Finally, please don’t support businesses that don’t support us. That includes Crest Cafe and Bread & Cie. I support their right to advocate for their interests, along with our right to dine elsewhere.
Mark your calendars for this year’s Taste of Hillcrest on April 18th from noon to 4 PM. The Hillcrest Trolley will be running to help get you to the 40+ establishments taking part in the event… This Saturday is the rescheduled date for the Hillcrest clean-up event The Great Spring Cleaning, which runs from 8 AM to noon and has two starting points:
Location One: Hillcrest Shell, corner of Washington and Fourth. Volunteers will clean the Medical District & Hillcrest Core. Map
Location Two: Heat Bar and Kitchen, 3797 Park Blvd. (just south of University) Volunteers will clean the east side Hillcrest. Map
Speaking of Heat, they’ve been promoting their block’s Egyptian architectural character through quarterly events, and next Friday March 20th is the third quarterly Hillcrest movie night there. The event starts at 6 PM at 3811 Park Blvd, with the movie (Wizard of Oz) starting at 8.
Last week’s Uptown Planners election result was a pleasant surprise, with Hillcrest’s Michael Brennan and Kyle Heiskala securing seats on the board. Thanks so much to everyone who turned out to vote. I think Michael and Kyle will provide long-needed voices on Uptown Planners in support of safer streets for people on bikes. And given the board’s encouraging vote in support of the city’s Climate Action Plan (only Jim Mellos voted no) and the plan’s lofty bike mode share goals, the timing is right. Congratulations to Dana Hook of Bankers Hill too, whom Walt Chambers of Great Streets SD describes as an “engineer who gets urbanism”.
The second San Diego Bikes and Beers Ride is on March 28th and will feature a festival at the Quartyard downtown (which just celebrated its grand opening with a sold-out event). Registering for the ride gets you a free one-year membership to Bike SD. With big bike infrastructure changes coming to San Diego (and being strongly opposed in the College Area, Bankers Hill, and Mission Hills), it’s an ideal time to join and make a difference. Plus the event was a ton of fun last year!
Downtown is seeing some new business tenants, following the national trend of companies moving to urban cores where younger workers prefer to live and work. Underground Elephant is moving into the long-vacant TR Produce building across from Petco Park, and the company aims to ‘reduce air pollution by encouraging employees to walk, bike, or take public transit to work. The office space will include a locker room with showers for workers. “We made bike racks a significant part of the office,” said CEO Jason Kulpa.’ And Houzz has opened a San Diego office in Diamond View. Meanwhile Qualcomm is building another parking garage and freeway off-ramp in Sorrento Valley (kidding!).
At a “Community Benefits Consensus Project” workshop a few weeks later in January Civic San Diego presented storyboards of projects that they thought best exemplified how a development can provide “community benefits.” The board that caught my attention featured “The Pinnacle,” a 480 foot tall luxury condominium project at the corner of 15th and Island Avenue. So now the beast had a name and a story.
When I first beheld the Pinnacle I wondered what the residents of Greater Golden Hill and other affected communities must think of this new feature which greets them anytime they look out a window or down a street with a southern view. As I have discovered it is hard not to see this one feature from many other vantage points in and near Balboa Park.
Yes, you will be able to see a high-rise in East Village if you look downtown from Golden Hill. In my mind, that’s another sign of a long-struggling neighborhood that continues to improve, but to each their own.
– We received our refund check from SoCal Water Smart for removing our lawn and replacing it with low-water landscaping and drip irrigation. We’re still waiting on our rebate from the city, but that program is no longer accepting new applications at this time. Between the two rebates, we’re hoping to get nearly $8K! That’s about how much we spent on materials and labor. Here’s a few pictures of the “completed” project, but we’ll be tweaking it as time goes on (the turf-like area is a low-water groundcover named dymondia):
The Uptown Planners Community Planning Group holds their annual board member vote this Tuesday at the Joyce Beers center in Hillcrest, with seven seats set to be filled. If you’re a resident of Uptown, please consider voting for Michael Brennan and Kyle Heiskala. They will provide a fresh outlook and much-needed millennial representation on the board – more on that below.
While Kensington is unfortunately not a part of Uptown, we spend a lot of time in Uptown’s neighborhoods, and are interested in seeing their turnaround of the past few decades continue. These are increasingly vibrant places, with many new establishments opening, new mixed-use projects planned and transit options like the Rapid 215 bus being added. With regard to the city’s housing crisis, they are also ideal places to increase density given their locations close to downtown and current/potential public transit infrastructure.
When I started this blog ten years ago, I was aware of community planning groups (CPGs) but not their role, which is to advise the city on planning and land use-related items. Yet they also create community plans (which they are in the process of updating now). Many of these community plans are 30-40 years old, but when a project is planned that is inconsistent with these outdated, cars-first plans, the CPG will use its weight as community representative to pressure the city to prevent the change. One example is the College Area Community Planning Group’s threat to sue over a bike lane and widened sidewalks near SDSU – because they feel it will prevent their plan’s goal of widening College Avenue to 6 lanes:
The revised proposal would also be inconsistent with the College Area Community Plan, which calls for the eventual widening of College Avenue to three lanes in each direction. SDSU’s proposed changes would preclude this future widening. The board expressed serious concern about the proposal, and is exploring its legal options.
Sure enough, after pressure from this CPG, councilmember Marti Emerald, head of the city’s “Livable Neighborhoods” committee, wrote a letter to the mayor asking that the bike lane and widened sidewalk be removed. Never mind that actually widening College to 6 lanes would require the teardown and reconstruction of several SDSU buildings and a trolley electrical substation (at the cost of several hundreds of millions of dollars), or that it would make the road even more unsafe for pedestrians and people on bikes.
If community planning groups are truly representative of our communities, and are now planning them for the next 30-40 years, why are they largely made up of older residents who mostly oppose any changes to their neighborhoods? While there are exceptions to this, particularly in North Park and downtown, my experience has been that these groups are often comprised of NIMBY-type folks who are primarily concerned with parking and traffic issues. As a result, their decisions – opposing increased density, bike lanes, and affordable housing – negatively impact the younger San Diegans who might live in the neighborhoods these folks are “planning”.
The Uptown Community Planning Group is chaired by Leo Wilson, who is currently suing the city to remove bike lanes on 4th and 5th Avenues in Bankers Hill and Hillcrest. Jim Mellos, another Uptown board member, represents Wilson in the lawsuit. Wilson has called a special meeting on March 24th to discuss the SANDAG bike lane project in Uptown, yet currently this only appears on the “Keep University Ave Open” Facebook page, set up by a small group opposed to making Mission Hills streets safer for people on bikes. The meeting is not on the Uptown Planners web page, the city planning groups web page, and SANDAG has not been notified of it. Is Wilson working behind the scenes with this group, and if so, how then is Uptown Planners truly representative of the community?
San Diego is the least affordable city to live in in the nation and faces a housing (affordability) crisis. Hillcrest is an ideal location to add housing given its proximity to downtown and public transit. Yet Wilson opposes any growth in Hillcrest, railing against “straight white bigots” who “need to move downtown” because they advocate for badly-needed new housing in Hillcrest (my husband and I just celebrated 15 years together). While its growth has been stopped, Hillcrest has become more dependent on residents outside the neighborhood to support its businesses – just as those other neighborhoods increased their own dining and bar options. This decreased the need to go to Hillcrest, and Hillcrest’s business community has declined over recent years as a result.
While Wilson is termed out this year, his influence will carry on via the various board members he has recruited. Thomas Fox, a member of Wilson’s Metro CDC organization suing the city, is rumored to be the next chairperson. Candidate Jay Newington (see below) is co-founder of Metro CDC and advocated for the outdated idea of removing parking meters from Bankers Hill. Like Wilson, he also supported the Jacobs Bypass Bridge for Balboa Park, which would have permanently damaged the park and brought more cars into its core (most of Bankers Hill rightly opposed this project). Candidate Chris Cole is a member of the Western Slopes Community Association, another Leo Wilson-associated organization.
Wilson is an effective organizer and turns out a large number of voters each year who vote in his candidates. But it’s clear his influence on Uptown Planners, including this orchestrated maneuver that re-instated him as chair two years ago, makes it far from a representative organization.
Among the other candidates is Jennifer Pesqueira (running for re-election), owner of El Indio in Middletown, who said that “not one parking space” should be removed from her public street for the safety of people on bikes. Apparently she has declared ownership of this public resource, despite her private parking lot across the street.
Nancy Moors and her partner run the HillQuest website and while I support their historical preservation efforts on behalf of SOHO, they advocate for reducing density and a 30 foot height limit for Hillcrest. This would make it much more difficult for younger San Diegans to live in this urban neighborhood, and would only make our housing crisis worse. They represent established residents of Uptown who have secured a home in a prime urban neighborhood of the city, and now have closed the door behind them to new residents – because of parking and traffic concerns. These are suburban neighborhood convenience issues applied to an urban setting.
Mat Wahlstrom has called safe bike lanes for people on bikes “social engineering”, and also stated that only rich white people ride bikes, during an Uptown Planners meeting in 2013.
While it’s nearly guaranteed that Wilson’s candidates will win, I’m asking that if you live in Uptown and care about its future – particularly Hillcrest’s – please vote on Tuesday. There are nine candidates for the seven slots. Michael Brennan is a Hillcrest business owner, member of the Hillcrest Business Association, and former Uptown Community Parking District (Hillcrest) board member who approaches issues with the needs of all residents in mind – and a much cooler head than me. Kyle Heiskala also lives in Hillcrest and secured highly-reduced transit passes for UCSD students via an overwhelming “yes” referendum vote – after our “sustainable” university slashed transit subsidies and now plans to build more parking garages.
In simple terms, Brennan and Heiskala represent the future of Uptown. Wilson’s candidates represent the past. The first example of this will occur immediately after the vote, when the city presents its Climate Action Plan to the board. The plan seeks to increase bike mode share to 18% in Uptown by 2030. Yet much of the current Uptown Planners board opposes the infrastructure to make this happen – if they’re not actively suing to stop it.
Uptown Planning Board Candidates, 2015:
1. Michael Brennan (Hillcrest)
2. Chris Cole (Middletown/Mission Hills)
3. Neil Ferrier (Hillcrest/ University Heights)
4. Kyle Heiskala (Hillcrest)
5. Nancy Moor (Bankers Hill/Park West)
6. Jay Newington (Bankers Hill/Park West)
7. Jennifer Pesqueira (Five Points/Middletown)
8. Ken Tablang (Mission Hills)
9. Mat Wahlstrom (Hillcrest)