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: email@example.com. 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)
Saiko Sushi is another new addition to the burgeoning restaurant scene in North Park. We’re fans of the more casual Riki Sushi around the corner on 30th but it’s often either full or a wall of sound in there. There’s more outdoor seating at Saiko too:
The interior features this large mural but is otherwise mostly sports a clean and sleek look:
Bonus points for a good local craft beer selection and a wide range of sakes (I went with the former – old habits die hard). And the grilled eggplant and cucumber was a unique, excellent appetizer. It’s great to have another sushi spot in North Park, especially since Saiko’s concept and design differs from the more economical approach at Riki and North Park Sushi. Now if we could just get a sushi spot in Kensington… (or are we?).
A few changes are coming to Adams Ave in Normal Heights, including Burnside, a deli from the Sycamore Den folks a few doors down:
We hadn’t eaten at the Greek spot it’s going into in years, and Sycamore Den sure looks cool inside, so we’re looking forward to it. Can’t say the I Heart 92116 Facebook page agrees with that sentiment however:
Alexander Fazekas-Paul: Let’s hope the new place isn’t an overpriced hipster joint. As much as I like to see Adams Ave. blossom, I fear a lot of ill effects and end up being overcrowded like North Park has become.
Kevin Byington: Sorry, not excited for this place. It will be over priced and only bring more douchbaggary to our neighborhood. I want the old Ab-Normal Heights back.
Further west on Adams, near Sabuku Sushi, window signage for Hawthorne Coffee is up:
And east of 35th, signage for craft beer and taco spot El Tacon has been up for a while in the former Villa Del Mar location:
Last Tuesday evening saw gridlock downtown with the closure of 5th for the Mardi Gras celebration. For me it was the perfect opportunity to use my DecoBike membership after disembarking from the 150 bus from UCSD. After some trouble with the courthouse station on Broadway, I walked to the station just west of Horton Plaza, undocked and glided past the stuck drivers on 1st Ave. Meanwhile Jay parked in Golden Hill (there was little street parking downtown due to the festival) and grabbed his bike from near the police headquarters. We met in front of Petco Park, docked there and walked to nearby Table No 10 to celebrate our 15 years together. This photo doesn’t to justice to the interior; check our their website for a much more impressive shot.
I don’t usually order steak but their Steak Frites with Onions plate was cooked to medium-rare perfection. The charred octopus was a favorite too. With excellent service and food Table 10 is a significant upgrade over the former establishment at this location.
In Hillcrest, Pakistani/Indian restaurant House of Khan has opened in the former Mama Testa space on University… Local Habit on 5th is doing a reboot and will feature a new patio, rollup doors and a liquor license… Rip Current Brewing turned out to be a pleasant surprise over a couple of recent visits. I really how open it is to the street – you basically feel like you’re outside as the afternoon sun hits you. And the food from the Sublime folks in back, especially their fries, is better than you’d expect from a tasting room. I didn’t know much about Rip Current but after tasting their popular Lupulin Lust IPA, I can see why they’re popular up in north County. In fact all of their beers I’ve tried have been solid… If you’re in a healthier mood, Smooth Operator has opened next door with juices and smoothies.
- Representatives from The City Heights Community Development Corporation, Wakefield Housing & Development Corporation, St Paul’s PACE, and Studio E Architects presented preliminary information about the Talmadge Gateway Project at last week’s Kensington/Talmadge Community Planning Group Meeting (image from SD Uptown News/Studio E):
Unfortunately, the first question from the planning board wasn’t about the project’s amenities or planned tenant mix, but rather parking, which was deemed insufficient despite this being a reduced-mobility senior housing project. Other board members voiced concerns over parking in front of Talmadge residences, traffic and crime. Board chair David Moty voiced support for putting the project’s retail at the north end of the project, away from El Cajon Boulevard, because this commercial center is out of the “safety zone” for Talmadge residents. It was another reminder of the gulf that exists between the wealthier, older and largely white neighborhoods of San Diego and the more racially and economically diverse areas that represent the future demographics of our city. Personally I’m excited that this project could be the first of many mixed-use retail and housing projects along eastern ECB given its proximity to transit. It’s baffling to see such poor land use on so much of ECB – empty parking lots, single story buildings and used car dealerships – when the city faces such big housing affordability challenges.
– The Foundation For Form folks (You Got Mail, You Are Here) have purchased the building housing the Revivals thrift store on eastern University in Hillcrest. I never realized just how big this parcel is:
Given this news, I need to make a correction to an earlier post that identified the Baras Thrift Store site nearby as having development planned (oops). Interestingly, there’s an empty lot behind Revivals’ ample rear parking lot that appears to contain a couple of boats. San Diego is the least affordable city in the country due to its housing crisis, there’s been hardly any residential construction in Hillcrest for years – and yet there are still empty lots in the neighborhood housing old boats? Regardless, if their previous mixed-use projects are any indication, the Foundation for Form architects/developers will bring an innovative design and residential focus to this potential Hillcrest development.
Also coming up in Hillcrest: The Great Hillcrest Spring Clean, which takes place at 8AM on Saturday 2/28:
As always we will provide our colorful HTC Clean T.E.A.M (together everyone achieves more) t-shirts until they run out. If you have one from past Clean T.E.A.M events please wear it. Supplies will be provided.
Two starting points so you can join the neighborhood you want to help in:
(1) Hillcrest Shell, corner of Washington and fifth. Meet at 8:00am for directions. Will clean parts of the Medical District and Hillcrest Core.
(2) Heat Bar and Grill, at Park Ave and Essex St. Meet at 8:00am for directions to clean East Hillcrest.
“TALKING TRASH” happy hour will follow at Hillcrest Brewing Company (1458 University Avenue) sometime between noon and 1pm.
THE GREAT HILLCREST SPRING CLEAN is sponsored by the Hillcrest History Guild, the Hillcrest Business Association, the Hillcrest Town Council and the UCSD Medical Center Hillcrest.
– Waterfront Park has been a big success, but ever try to walk from there to the bay front across Harbor and Ash? What better place to put a high-speed turn ramp (instead of a standard 90 degree right turn) than between our pedestrian-heavy bay front and new family-friendly park. I crossed it recently and the pedestrians had absolutely no idea if they had right-of-way, because there is no visible crosswalk signal. And bonus points if you’re in a wheelchair, because this intersection isn’t ADA-compliant. John Anderson documents this intersection, with photos, in his excellent post, “Pedestrians as Safety Hazards”. Fortunately this and two other intersections on Harbor will receive pedestrian improvements shortly (h/t to Tyler).
– San Diego has been named the least affordable city in the U.S. due to its high housing costs. Voice of San Diego recently did a story on the city’s housing crisis, soliciting suggestions on how to tackle problem; increasing inventory via density was a recurring theme. So it was interesting to see that many metropolitan statistical areas that are have fewer people (and are more affordable) built significantly more multi-family housing in 2014 than San Diego. The metros are Charlotte, Denver, Minneapolis, Nashville, Orlando, Portland, and Tampa. By comparison, Seattle, whose metro population is just a bit larger than San Diego, issued three times as many of these permits. And with support from a majority of Seattle residents, the city is repurposing storage of private vehicles on public streets with bus-only lanes, bike lanes and micro-parks. Buses can move far more people than single-occupancy vehicles, so why not give them priority? Meanwhile in San Diego, businesses along El Cajon boulevard fought the removal of any street parking for the Rapid bus there, which must share a lane with solo drivers. As a result, the “Rapid” bus runs no faster than the prior bus service there.
– Bankers Hill Community Group meets tonight to discuss a Complete Streets approach to the SANDAG bike lanes proposed for 4th and 5th Avenues, while voting on a “Petition for a safer Sixth Avenue to be presented to Uptown Planners for their approval and to submit the petition to the City of San Diego to study traffic calming on Sixth Avenue”. Recall that Uptown Planners Chair Leo Wilson “strongly opposes” a road diet that would increase pedestrian safety on 6th Ave, because fast auto flow is more important. He’s also filed a lawsuit to remove the city-installed buffered bike lanes on 4th and 5th… Recent news that the city’s parking districts have $18 million in unspent funds has prompted a call for ideas on how to spend the money, and whether the funds should continue to be restricted to parking-related items only. February 27th is the deadline to get your suggestions in for 1) the Fiscal Year 2016 Parking District budgets (contact Uptown or Downton parking districts) and to 2) Todd Gloria’s office for changing how meter funds can be spent.
– DecoBike is up an running, so we put our memberships to use last weekend and rode around downtown’s dense station network. Apart from some challenges with undocking the bikes, the system and bikes are easy to use, and we fielded lots of questions from people asking about the program and its cost. As someone who’s had a bike stolen, it’s a great feeling to walk away from your bike and not worry about it.
We started off at the new Meshuggah Shack at the forthcoming Quartyard in East Village:
…ate some really good sandwiches at Rare Form near the ballpark:
…noted the construction at the bay front Marriott that includes the new pedestrian path to the harbor (here’s a rendering):
…and grabbed beers from the new Bottlecraft location – they’ve moved up India to just across the street from Ballast Point in Little Italy:
Then we finished up back at one of the stations with ample docks next to Petco Park. These should come in very handy this season, especially considering all the off-season moves the Padres made to improve the team.