The Crack Shack opened last weekend in Little Italy next door to chef Richard Blais’ other venture, Juniper and Ivy. All of its seating is outdoors in the great space shown above, which takes some big cues from Carnitas‘ patio in North Park. The bar in back and some of the seating is fully covered but this is one of the best outdoor spaces going in San Diego. You order at the counter from the various free range chicken (and egg) options – I chose the Coop Deville fried chicken sandwich, while our friends had the The Royale (chicken sausage and egg on an English Muffin) and the five piece fried chicken. I thought the fried chicken was delicious but our friends still give the nod to Streetcar’s fried chicken, which I haven’t tried yet. My Coop Deville came with a lime mayo but be sure to grab one of the six-packs of sauce bottles, featuring “chimichurri, Baja hot sauce, curry mustard, buttermilk ranch, kimchi bbq and ‘Cracksup’ ketchup” (from San Diego Magazine, check out their photos). With 129 apartments going in just down the street, this block will keep getting busier.
– Construction is ongoing for the centerline rapid bus stations and dedicated lanes on SR-15 through City Heights:
Here’s a screen grab from the SANDAG slideshow for the project, which should be completed in 2016:
SANDAG is also designing the SR-15 Central Ave bikeway from El Cajon Boulevard to Adams, which will then connect to the SR-15 Commuter bikeway from Adams Ave to Camino Del Rio South. SANDAG presented various options at a Kensington Talmadge Community Planning Group meeting in October but haven’t posted anything online. My preferred option for closes the one-way Central at El Cajon, converting it into a 2-way street.
Caltrans says the commuter bikeway will start construction in January and its connection to the Central Ave bikeway could look like the below:
– Local developer Danny Fitzgerald, who’s helping to create the 37ecb co-workspace project on El Cajon Boulevard, gave a presentation to the Kensington Talmadge Community Planning Group a couple weeks ago that highlighted the various mixed-use projects and investments coming to the Boulevard. Many of these are west of 805 because densities decrease east of there, so he made the point that despite investing tens of millions of dollars on the Rapid bus line, why are used car lots all that pencil out in this area at current densities? (Not to mention the upcoming $100 million dollar investment in Wilson Middle School). Unfortunately El Cajon Boulevard is at the dividing line of multiple community planning groups, so it makes upzoning difficult. Danny also advocated for increasing the walkability of El Cajon Boulevard to attract millennials. Yet the KenTal planning group recently voted unanimously to widen El Cajon Boulevard at Fairmont, wiping out a planned curb bulb-out in the city’s pedestrian master plan, and counteracting efforts by the City Heights CDC to placemake the block. And as I mentioned last time, the KenTal CPG also voted unanimously against reducing parking requirements for new affordable and senior housing near transit. Until the makeup of these community planning groups change, attempts to address our housing crisis by adding housing near transit will be prevented by their street parking and traffic complaints.
The same is happening in the neighborhood that shall not be named, where its town council seeks to downzone the entire neighborhood west of 163 and apply a dubious historical district, simply to make new housing more difficult to build. And the no-growthers of Mission Hills, including exclusionists Tom Mullaney and Barry Hager, have succeeded in permanently reducing building heights there. Mullaney argues that we shouldn’t have to accommodate growth, but at this point it’s not even about that – Mullaney’s exclusionist, no-more-housing policies mean people who were born here twenty or thirty years ago have to leave due to escalating unaffordability. Meanwhile University Heights residents “envision affordable housing” while offering no suggestions on how to actually do that, except opposing bonus densities that would help enable more affordable housing. Why do we allow homeowners, who profit from exclusionary zoning through increased home price appreciation, nearly unrestricted power to set zoning in San Diego via our community plans?
Bay Park residents, fresh off their victory in stopping height limit increases near the Mid-Coast trolley line stations, now want to extend their 30-foot height limit to southwest Linda Vista, where no height limit exists, to stop development near the trolley station planned there.
– Some leftovers from the pile of links I didn’t get to last time:
Outdated suburban-style planning policies — like the ones Oakland still uses — incorrectly assume that all residents drive and want parking included in their rents. In truth, the much higher costs associated with mandated parking make housing less affordable for middle- and low-income people. Indeed, outmoded parking policies can help accelerate gentrification by forcing the construction of apartment buildings that attract wealthier people who own multiple cars and can afford to pay the higher rents that come with excess parking, thereby squeezing out lower-income tenants who want to live greener lifestyles.
The second half of 2015 has featured plenty of transit and housing-related developments, both here and in other west coast metros. I was taking a break from the blog during much of that time, but not from obsessively (and sadly) collecting links about all the changes. Here in San Diego the biggest development was SANDAG’s unanimous approval of a regional transportation plan for the next 40 years that “fails to set the county on a course for a transit-friendly future, fails to meet the state’s long term greenhouse gas reduction goals and fails to address the reality of climate change“. The SANDAG plan essentially nullifies the city of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan before it’s even up for city council vote; SANDAG’s executive director (and former Caltrans district head) Gary Gallegos called the CAP’s transit goals “unrealistic” and “dreamed-up stuff”, plus:
Gallegos said communities outside the city, especially those along congested state Routes 78 and 56, would prefer to see a greater percentage of SANDAG’s money spent on freeway widening and road construction instead of transit and bike lanes.
Despite pleas from transit advocates, CAP author Todd Gloria and CAP advocate Mayor Faulconer both voted for a regional transportation plan that didn’t remove a single freeway expansion from its last incarnation – not even the general-purpose-lanes expansion set for I-5 in National City.
For context, on-road transportation accounts for 43% of San Diego’s greenhouse gas emissions, global CO2 emissions are now at an all-time high, and we appear to be on course for at least a 2.7 degree Celsius increase in global temperatures, with huge impacts as a result. San Diego is uniquely vulnerable to the effects of climate change given our coastal location, ongoing drought and high wildfire risk; its regional planning agency responded by approving a transportation plan that exceeds state 2050 emissions goals 7 times over.
The plan isn’t just a failure from a transit and climate change perspective, but on a common sense level too. Gallegos’ former agency now admits that widening freeways just creates new traffic through induced demand, and other state DOT’s are also beginning to grasp this concept. Yet the suburban board members of SANDAG and their car-dependent constituents simply refuse to listen, and are relentless in their demands for more and wider roads.
What’s most interesting about SANDAG’s actions isn’t their continued defiance of state court rulings invalidating their plans, but how out of date their freeways-first approach is versus plans approved in other cities recently. In Los Angeles this summer, the city council voted for a mobility plan that “adds hundreds of miles of new bicycle lanes, bus-only lanes and other road redesigns”, acknowledging the changing transit priorities of younger residents. Because this will potentially slow traffic in some areas, drivers there have claimed the city “want[s] to make driving our cars unbearable by stealing traffic lanes from us on major streets and giving those stolen lanes to bike riders and buses“. For a group that doesn’t even come close to paying the cost of roads, it takes a lot of chutzpah for some motorists to say our public streets are “theirs” only.
In San Diego, elected and appointed officials typically cave in to these selfish interests, as we’ve seen time after time. (One notable exception is Marti Emerald, who stood up for a bike lane on College Ave., and more recently, a road diet on Fairmont in City Heights.) In LA, the council members didn’t back down, and are doing the right thing for their constituents’ safety and the planet’s future. Reaching a Vision Zero goal of zero pedestrian deaths within 20 years requires courage to stand up to business and motorist interests, not just passing proclamations.
In his piece on LA’s Mobility Plan 2035, Christopher Hawthorne addressed the commonly-voiced complaint that making streets safer for others will inconvenience drivers (in this case, taking the kids to soccer practice), and therefore shouldn’t be done:
For starters, people who live in Chicago (or Seattle or New York or Philadelphia) don’t consider taking their kids to soccer practice some distance away, via private car, the sort of basic right that their elected representatives should spend a lot of time helping them protect.
In Los Angeles we have come to view things differently. We’ve convinced ourselves that we are the only big city in the country where we can have all the great things that come with urbanization and, remarkably, none of the eternal and endless traffic congestion. We want the cultural amenities and economic clout of a major metropolis but the traffic patterns of a garden-variety suburb.
This is a kind of magical thinking.
There are several other good points in Hawthorne’s piece, including how residents have blocked needed housing because of traffic congestion concerns, helping to create the housing crisis in LA. The same applies to San Diego, where preservation of free street parking nearly always trumps affordable housing – just ask the KenTal Community Planning Group and their unanimous opposition to state assembly bill #744. The bill (now signed by Governor Brown), reduces parking minimums on new senior, special-needs and low income housing near transit. Are state laws our last resort to overcome the hostility of many San Diego planning groups toward affordable and middle class housing?
Another big change in LA’s mobility plan is that it follows a state directive to drop the automobile Level of Service (LOS) policy. Auto Level of Service analysis, which measures traffic delays, is currently applied to any development or infrastructure change – even transit-oriented development and bike lanes. So changes that encourage multi-modal transit and safer streets for people on foot and bikes can be rejected solely because of their impact on auto travel times. This is exactly what San Diego’s Traffic Engineering Divsion (Steve Celnicker in particular) did to the Transform Hillcrest bike lane compromise that had universal community support. Yet when I asked Climate Action Plan author Todd Gloria (whose plan seeks an 18% Uptown bike mode share by 2035) why an outdated analysis method was being used to kill the compromise, he seemed unfamiliar with the policy. Why do our street engineers, who have spent their entire careers optimizing our roads for fast traffic flow, still have final say on deciding our city’s (unsafe) street design?
In Seattle, voters passed a bold transit plan earlier this month to increase the number of rapid bus lines by 7, add bike lanes and fund safer street design. Residents there get it – the lives of people on foot and bikes are more important than fast street speeds for motorists – and so they allocated $71 million toward implementing their Vision Zero policy to eliminate pedestrian fatalities. How much funding has the City of San Diego or SANDAG devoted to Vision Zero? With the city’s infrastructure megabond looking unlikely, don’t expect much (from the UT):
San Diego Councilman Todd Gloria said Friday that (the megabond) was unlikely.
“I don’t have confidence the city is going to be in position to put a reasonable measure on the ballot in 2016 that could be successful,” said Gloria, noting that San Diego doesn’t have an expenditure plan and hasn’t done preliminary polling like SANDAG.
Cheap on-street storage of private vehicles is an incredibly inefficient use of public street space, when you can move many people to their destination rapidly in this same space via bus. So Seattle has removed over 1000 parking spaces for bus and bike lanes, and downtown parking garages are still only at 60% capacity. In San Diego, Hillcrest’s parking facilities are also not at capacity, yet the Hillcrest Business Association successfully lobbied Todd Gloria and SANDAG to kill the agency’s protected bike lane design on University – to preserve cheap/free street parking. Incredibly, the 91 spaces lost under the design’s worst-case scenario were more than offset by nearly 200 spaces in the DMV lot, and 145 spaces from forthcoming angled parking conversions in the neighborhood.
Seattle organizations were already taking big steps toward reducing solo car commuting before the vote. Seattle Children’s hospital subsidizes transit, bicycling, walking and carpooling using employee parking fees. Here in San Diego, the CFO of Rady Childrens Hospital was killed while riding his bike in an unprotected bike lane earlier this year; the driver still hasn’t been charged. Next door to Rady’s, Sharp Memorial employees lock their bikes to trash cans due to a lack of racks, pedestrians are regularly run over, and a visitor was even killed while crossing the speedway in front of the hospital known as Health Center Drive. In response, the hospital told visitors to park in the parking garage. How does a public transit user who disembarks on Health Center Drive do that, exactly?
In addition to passing a failed transportation plan, SANDAG also ignored requests to incentivize transit-oriented development. The Bay area has a comprehensive regional TOD plan that quantifies minimum levels of development around stations and to fund plans for jobs and housing near stations. Conversely, San Diego’s trolley system was named worst in the state for putting jobs, housing, retail and services near stations (from Voice of San Diego):
(The study) quantified a phenomenon that’s long been apparent anecdotally: Local leaders support smart growth – urban development that’s crucial for transit ridership – in theory, but not in practice.
They are not planning for or facilitating enough construction of walkable, affordable housing near transit access points.
More than any other large metropolitan area in California, San Diego has not allowed for the development that would capitalize on the major investments made in its transportation system. Leaders in recent years have continued to profess their support for accommodating a growing population responsibly, but their decisions tell a different story.
San Diego’s awful grades for its rail station amenities are a direct result of decades of building trolley lines along existing rail corridors, rather than in dense neighborhoods with built-in ridership. When you’re focused on widening freeways over building rail infrastructure (and just 12% of the new SANDAG transportation plan goes toward new rail), there’s no money left over for the expensive rail right-of-way infrastructure costs in urban neighborhoods. Throw in our city’s notorious provincialism and NIMBYism that blocks development near stations and you’ve got yet another failure.
As bad as the city and SANDAG are on these issues, the Airport Authority somehow tops them with their utter disregard for both transit users and climate change. The Authority has done next to nothing to connect to the trolley line that runs just yards from the airport, then insists to the Coastal Commission that they must build a 3000 space parking garage because no one’s taking public transit there. If you use ride-share services, airport officials say you’re creating more traffic congestion and should be parking in the garage instead (for more airport revenue). Two more garages are slated, in addition to the massive rental car garage and parking lot that were recently constructed. And while airport after airport connects to their light rail systems, next month San Diego trolley users will have the honor to stand on the side of Pacific Highway and wait for a rental car shuttle to get to our airport.
Next up is the SANDAG Quality of Life half cent sales tax, which will likely appear on the ballot next year. The measure would fund water, environmental and transportation projects, but once again freeway widening rears its ugly head (from the UT):
North County leaders stressed that including upgrades to state Route 78 would play a key role in building support for the measure in their communities.
“78 constrains every single project in my city,” Chris Orlando, San Marcos councilman, said. “We have to fix it.”
Orlando and his constituents still think you can “fix” congestion by adding more lanes, but even Caltrans is admitting this is false. Meanwhile, while there are billions available to widen freeways in the current SANDAG plan, Gallegos says we have to pass the Quality of Life Initiative if we want any SANDAG funding for a critical trolley line connecting job centers (from KPBS):
Gallegos said SANDAG needs more local funding to enact the transit projects in its recently approved Regional Transportation Plan, including a purple trolley line from San Ysidro to Sorrento Valley. He said some of that project’s $6 billion price tag could be covered by federal funds, but SANDAG can’t secure federal funding without local matching funds.
“Absent local funding, the purple line will not be possible without new local resources,” he said.”
Personally I think that before we give them any more money, SANDAG needs to be reformed to address a senior staff that’s unaccountable to taxpayers, and biased toward suburban interests that ignore state GHG emissions goals and induced demand concepts.
Well, this post has turned into a novel and I still didn’t get to some recent housing-related developments, so I’ll cover them next time.
Tostadas has been open for a couple of months now in North Park and we enjoyed our first visit there recently. From the owners of City Taco just down University, Tostadas serves up seafood and fruit on corn tortillas. It’s like TJ Oyster Bar plus fruit, which means it’s really good.
We had the Mixta (“Fish ceviche, octopus, shrimp, crab meat, Pineapple, red onion, parsley, SPICY tomato, lemon juice, raspberry sauce”), shrimp, and salmon tostadas. Messy eating but well worth it with all the unique flavor combinations going on. The Reader has a more detailed write-up.
When I worked at SIO we used to go down to La Jolla Shores for lunch on occasion, but I haven’t had much reason to visit since. Back then the La Jolla Shores Market was a fixture in the neighborhood, but it’s been replaced (partially) with Galaxy Taco from the George’s at the Cove folks. It’s been written up favorably in San Diego Magazine and the Union Tribune. The restaurant has two rooms – a covered area outside (how about some paint for those cinderblocks?), and another on the west side of the old market building:
While the tacos here are spendier than what you’d get at a ‘Berto’s, the quality of the meat is higher too. This was evident in my Tacolandia taco, a tender, juicy braised/marinated/seared pork shoulder that nearly melted in your mouth. I’m not sure when we’ll make it out to La Jolla again but we’d definitely sample some more of their menu.
San Diego Beer Week is in full swing so we stopped by Bottlecraft in Little Italy last Sunday for their Baja Beers event, which featured plenty of IPAs from Tijuana and Ensenada brewers. I really like the low-key vibe at this Bottlecraft, almost the exact opposite of the hubbub down the street at Ballast Point. We had friends in town who drink a lot of San Diego beer back east, so they were excited to check out Ballast Point; I was excited to try the mango Sculpin, which didn’t disappoint.
Some other beer week events of interest: more Baja beers at National City’s Machete X Beer on Friday, Modern Times‘ Bikes and Beers Extravaganza, followed by their vegan pizza party at Blind Lady Ale House, both Saturday, and Benchmark Brewing’s Donuts, Coffee and Stout event Sunday.
One block down the hill on Kettner, free range chicken and egg-themed Crack Shack opened Wednesday from Richard Blais at Juniper and Ivy next door:
And Devil’s Dozen donut shop has opened down the street next to Kettner Exchange.
Not everything is great in Little Italy. John Anderson details the exorbitant cost of the new County parking garage there, where employees park for free. Encouraging your employees to drive by giving away free parking, after your county’s weak climate change plan is tossed by the courts – you really have to hand it to County Supervisor and SANDAG board member Ron “Balance” Roberts. Whether at the county or at SANDAG, he consistently shows zero concern about climate change’s impact on the region.
The article got picked up by Streetsblog, and one of the well-intentioned comments was revealing. Suburbanites actually think urban neighborhoods are dependent on them for business, despite the high population density in and around Little Italy:
There are a lot of great restaurants in the Little Italy area that frankly would
not survive if their only customers were “walkable locals” — Little
Italy and Bayfront businesses *need* county residents like myself who
drive into the city to spend our money there on nights & weekends.
For 50+ years now we’ve been ripping apart our urban neighborhoods to build freeways for suburban drivers, so they can conveniently zip around metros. Air pollution, kids with asthma, environmental impacts on those neighborhoods? Not something to be concerned with if you’re just driving through, right? But that’s still not enough – urban neighborhoods are actually so dependent on the ‘burbs, we need to build parking garages for them too (which sit empty most of the time). It’s the same argument we hear from business owners in a certain “fabulous” neighborhood that shall no longer be named here. And given the established trend of urban resurgence, it’s completely wrong today.
Okay enough venting. While Little Italy continues to grow and thrive, the opposite is happening in Clairemont/Bay Park, where residents opposed the Mid-Coast trolley, increasing the height limit for housing near the trolley, existing (tall) height limits in Linda Vista, multi-family housing in general, etc. But there is one thing they want, badly: they’ve been begging Trader Joe’s to open in the neighborhood. Apparently TJ’s isn’t interested:
The Trader Joe’s issue shows there’s a downside to keeping young people out of your community by blocking new housing: businesses look elsewhere when their target market isn’t present.
Last Saturday was the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s Open House event, with noted architecture venues in and around downtown opening their doors to the public. We opted to start with the hard hat tour at the still-under-construction Lane Field hotel building, which actually houses two hotels and is set for completion within the next 100 days. The lobby will serve both hotels:
Much of the interior is unfinished but we did get to see a demo room for each brand (Spring Hill Suites and Residence Inn). Views are what you’d expect given the prime location (how was this a parking lot for over 50 years?) and likely even better once you get above the 6th floor where we maxed out. The building is 17 stories tall; another hotel building on the remaining parking lot to the south will be 32 stories and likely a more upscale brand.
The fifth floor outdoor area is on the south side of the building and will include a pool:
The freshly-paved parking lot to the west of the building shown below isn’t a good sign. This is a parking lot for employees of the Navy building fronting Pacific Highway, just to the north of the hotel. While that lot is also set for eventual redevelopment, for now its surface parking lot puts a big ugly dent in the linear park expected to extend northward from Lane Field. Only the dirt area in the foreground of the picture will become park space, meaning the parking lot will separate the ground floor commercial space (the only “public” area on the property) from the bayfront.
First floor commercial space with outdoor patios:
Parking garage art installation wrap:
We missed our scheduled tour of the Embarcadero improvements across Harbor (where’s that Carnitas Snack Shack food truck?) so we headed over to the Bosa “Rethink Downtown” gallery/sales office:
The sales office has some interesting information about downtown’s history, and the planned Bosa highrise at the southeast corner of Pacific and Broadway.
We had some time to kill before our guided tour of the new Fault Line Park at the foot of the new Pinnacle tower in East Village, so we ordered sandwiches from Rare Form and enjoyed them upstairs at Fairweather. Nearby, both Social Tap (in the former Southpaw space) and Copa Vida were both newly open.
They’ve done a great job with Fault Line Park – I really like the Fault Whisper chrome spheres that span the fault and include a viewport to see how they’ve moved with respect to each other… they line up perfectly for now. The second Pinnacle tower begins construction soon and is set for a late 2017 opening. Interestingly, the biggest permitting change developers had to address for the second tower: fitting in more required bike parking.
Back home in Kensington, Stehly Farms Market opened today in the Kensington Commons building. We were there as they opened their doors. A wide selection of vegan items, a juice bar, and an outdoor patio all look promising.
Several interesting events going on this month for Archtoberfest, and the Open House San Diego event on the 17th should be a highlight with 41 locations participating. We’re going to try the hard hat tour of the new hotel going in at Lane Field. I’m also hoping to get to Bosa’s Rethink Downtown exhibit at 700 1st Ave, where next week they’ll be “Healing the Gash” known as I-5 between downtown and Balboa Park.
I-5 isn’t the only freeway that has torn apart our downtown communities. State Route 94 did the same to the historic neighborhoods of Sherman Heights and Golden Hill, because suburban commuter convenience somehow justified it. Now, a new park over SR-94 has been proposed, but the project lacks any funding (funds to widen SR-94 further have been identified however). Strangely, Todd Gloria referred to the 10-lane wide freeway as merely a “psychological” barrier, but I’m guessing locals think otherwise. Bring your ideas to the next imagining meeting, this Saturday in Golden Hill.
El Cajon Boulevard continues its turnaround in North Park/Normal Heights with the planned re-purposing of the O’Connor’s Church Goods store at 3700 El Cajon. The same folks who revamped The Lafayette Hotel will convert this property into a mixed-commercial use building called 37ECB with workspaces, event spaces and multiple restaurants. Given the lack of many amenities in the area, this project and the H.G. Fenton purchase of the used car lot nearby could signal the beginning of some big changes in the neighborhood.
Speaking of Fenton, they’ve announced their plans for the former Pole Position strip club further west at Ohio St: a brewery incubator with three brewery/tasting rooms. But if drinking outdoors is more your thing, North Park’s got that covered too. Ramona’s ChuckAlek Independent Brewers is opening a beer garden in the Art Produce garden behind the new Tostadas on University by January. Here’s what it looks like now:
Nearby, Tribute Pizza is set to open in the North Park Post Office Lofts building by spring:
Further west on University, Breakfast Republic has been open for a few months now, but we enjoyed our first breakfast there. So did half the neighborhood apparently – at least the long wait is helped by the coffee and beer bar out front, part of a layout that makes good use of our mild climate.
Clearly there’s demand for more than just a couple of breakfast spots in North Park (the vegan pancakes at Swami’s are a welcome option too). The same could be said for coffee shops: the new Dark Horse Coffee location next to Waypoint was going strong well into the afternoon, despite plenty of alternatives nearby.
Finally, last month’s BikeSD Bike to the Border Ride was a lot of fun. A big thank you to David Alvarez for cheering us on and to Border X Brewing in Barrio Logan for staging the event in their parking lot.
Almost forgot – at next Wednesday’s Kensington Talmadge community planning group meeting, SANDAG will present their “North/South bicycle route paralleling the SR-15/I-15 between El Cajon Boulevard and Camino Del Rio South. The route will include Central and Terrace Streets, access through/around the south Terrace Street parking lot, and access from near the north Terrace Street parking lot to a route above I-15.” The meeting starts at 6:30 PM at Copley-Price YMCA, with SANDAG presenting at 7:30.