- Renderings are up for the new 45-story, 296 unit Bosa residential tower planned for the parking lot just west of the Santa Fe Depot. It’s the second high rise from the right in this image (the tower across Broadway is another Bosa development currently under construction):
The project will feature an open public plaza and ~15,000 sq. ft. of retail/commercial. In addition to the projects mentioned above, Bosa also built Bayside, The Grande and Electra, all nearby. While it’s great to see one developer investing so heavily in the area, what does that say about downtown San Diego’s ability to attract a wide range of residential developers?
– Construction at Horton Plaza Park has been back underway for a while now and there are some small new structures up:
– Upcoming events: Is it possible for a machine to think? Uncanny Valley is a unique science fiction play from San Diego Rep appearing at the Lyceum Theater through May 10th that asks this and many other questions we may soon have to answer… Bike to Work Day is Friday May 15th, check out the map of all the pit stops… North Park Festival of the Arts is the next day, featuring a craft beer block and two beer gardens… And the following day is Pedal to the (Petco) Park Day – join an organized ride to the baseball game, or make your own way to the Bicycle Pavilion at Park Boulevard & Tony Gwynn Drive… Silo at Makers Quarter‘s 4th annual Craft Beer and Bites features 15 new breweries on Saturday the 30th… Earlier in the day, check out the Bike SD Bike Month Bash at the Lafayette Hotel, featuring a ride down El Cajon Boulevard to some select businesses. Art Around Adams is back on June 6th.
– Summer is around the corner and often provides an uptick in business for San Diego dining establishments. There’s been a flurry of activity recently: Rustic Root, next door to Don Chido, opens on 5th downtown next week and includes a rare second-floor rooftop dining/bar area. I’ve always wondered why Austin has all those rooftop venues while our downtown (with its milder climate) mostly restricts dining to ground level or high up on hotel rooftops… Park and Rec from the Waypoint Public folks also opens this month in the former Bourbon Street location in University Heights and will feature live music and DJs, with old-school games in the courtyard… Hillcrest gains a new winery in August but loses R Gang Eatery this month. I was surprised that R Gang remained open this long, it often looked empty evenings, but perhaps the brunch business compensated for a while.
Here in Kensington progress is slow on a number of fronts. It looks like the sushi joint planned for the Kensington Video space from the Ponces folks may not be happening, given the handwritten For Lease sign now up in KV’s window. While the store closed weeks ago, there doesn’t appear to be any rush to clear the space for a new tenant:
Two doors down, the former Fish Public spot remains empty several months after closing, and further east on Adams the Pappalecco build-out has been impressively slow. But it’s the Stehly Farms market in the new Kensington Commons building that has been the most bewildering. A recent post on Nextdoor Kensington said the opening has been delayed from January to June, but several commenters asked why the apparent deli equipment permitting issues weren’t considered before leasing to the market owners, and some speculated the market may never open.
Meanwhile a recent Uptown News article about Kensington Commons made no mention of the market’s issues, or the absence of evening activity on this block resulting from a lack of any dining establishments. KC is still a big improvement over the gas station previously at this location, but I can’t get on board with the article’s praise for KC’s Spanish colonial architecture. This style may fit in to the neighborhood, but I personally find this building to be bland and outdated compared to the vibrant and award-winning North Parker:
This exchange started based on your statement at Uptown Planners in support of a high density project at Park Blvd and Robinson, in spite of concerns about adequate parking.I will respond belatedly to your email from 3/10/15.
Dr. Ross Starr is the economist who explained a few years ago that San Diego has high housing prices because it’s a nice place to live.I already mentioned that Dr. Richard Carson is the prominent UCSD economist who explained a few years ago, to SANDAG officials, why there was no evidence of a housing shortage. He did not say “shortage of affordable housing” which appears to have a different meaning. Yet neither term can be defined satisfactorily.To summarize his findings: There is no agreement on how to measure an adequate number of homes, or a shortage. There is no evidence that the market mechanism is broken. That is, developers can and do buy land, design projects, finance and build them.I will add: The City of San Diego Housing Element contains an inventory of “housing sites”. This plan has been approved by the State of Calif as demonstrating an adequate number of buildable sites.A reasonable conclusion is that developers routinely look for and find land which has the potential for new projects, in which they can make a profit. They move forward whenever they can devise a project which “pencils out”, if they can obtain financing.The phrase “housing shortage” has been repeated so many times that it’s become accepted as fact, by some people. I don’t want to be unduly critical about the 2/5/15 article in the Voice of San Diego which you referenced. There must be better cases made as evidence of a housing shortage. I urge you to reread that article. The logic is almost childish.Excerpt:
We looked at census data to find the number of new housing units added in San Diego County between the 1990, 2000 and 2010. In 1990 there was one housing unit for every 1.285 members of the labor force. By 2010, that had risen to 1.346 workers for every housing unit in the county. Even adjusting for the increase in labor force participation, between 2000 and 2010, we added about 20,000 fewer houses in the county when judged against increases in the local labor market. So where did those workers go to sleep at night? Simply put, the failure to build enough in our county fueled demand for housing in southern Riverside County, and to an extent, BajaConsider what the author is saying: That during any period in which the labor force grew faster than the housing stock, we can conclude that there was a housing shortage!Such a simplistic conclusion completely ignores factors like: The average number of residents per dwelling unit (household size), changes in the square feet and number of bedrooms per home, and the age of the workforce, which can affect household size.In conclusion, I don’t doubt that Transit Oriented Development offers some benefits. I think there is good reason to create safe bikeways. However, trying to cure a “housing shortage” is a futile goal, since such a shortage can’t be adequately defined, and is probably non-existent.Tom Mullaney
- SANDAG has released their draft regional plan for growth in San Diego County. It acknowledges the estimated 1 million more people that will be added to our population by 2050, largely from within, requiring 330,000 new housing units. That’s about 10,000 units per year (an apartment industry analyst said 15-20,000 last week), yet our metro has only built about half to three-quarters that amount over the past decade. Since we’ve run out of buildable land to sprawl onto, the report notes we’ll have to grow up rather than out. Yet given our city’s restrictive height limits – from the 30′ Coastal Height Limit, to community plan height limits, to community overlays (e.g., the Clairemont Mesa Community 30-40′ Height Limit) – and our high land costs, where exactly can we build up, apart from downtown and Mission Valley? Because we’re not going to fit 330,000 new housing units into those two places.
The details of SANDAG’s transportation plan, which still relies heavily on freeway expansion over mass transit in its early years, are available in this appendix. I was interested to see whether the current 90-minute public transit commute from residential center North Park, to job center Sorrento Mesa, would be addressed by the planned Rapid route 688:
And it is… by 2035. So hang in there folks – SANDAG may have widened the I-5/805 interchange to 22 lanes a decade ago, but you’ll still have to wait another 20 years for a reasonable public transit option to Sorrento Valley.
– Earth Week was last week and UCSD students and administrators donned hazmat suits to collect trash on campus. Sustainability is a big deal at UCSD – their website says the following about the institution’s commitment to our environment:
At UC San Diego, our school colors may be blue and gold, but at heart, we are green. Sustainability is not just a catch-phrase here – it is a way of life, part of the institutional DNA imparted to us by Roger Revelle, one of the university’s founders and a pioneer of climate change research.
Revelle helped found Scripps Institution of Oceanography and SIO has a strong history of climate research, including current researcher Richard Somerville. Somerville attended the San Diego Climate Action Campaign launch event last week. (My graduate degree is in climate research, so I’ve had a personal interest in this issue for some time.)
The university’s sustainability goals are part of a sustainability effort at all UC campuses:
UC’s robust sustainability program covers all ten campuses and five medical centers. The systemwide programs are driven by a nationally-recognized comprehensive sustainability policy and leading-edge presidential initiatives
The UC system aims to be carbon-neutral by 2025, but upon closer inspection, this only applies to their buildings and vehicle fleet. Yet transportation accounts for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in California. UCSD chancellor Pradeep Khosla, gave a presentation in 2013 reaffirming UCSD’s goal of “increasing the use of alternative transportation options by commuters” to reduce these emissions. Given the university’s strong pro-sustainability position, what actions are they taking to back up these statements? You might be surprised.
Last year, UCSD ended a decades-long agreement with MTS that provided free bus service to UCSD employees and students. Initially, it was proposed that UCSD would contribute to MTS bus passes for the first few years. Yet last fall UCSD employees had the same option as those of any other large employer: the 25% discounted MTS EcoPass for $54/month. For students, a transit referendum was passed (it was proposed by UCSD student and new Uptown Planner Kyle Heiskala), and all students now pay an annual fee to receive an MTS/NCTD transit pass for about $16/month during the school year. Killing the free bus zone subsidy saved the university $3.2 million per year; at this point, none of this funding has been restored. Meanwhile, students and staff are now contributing about $3.97 million per year to MTS via the referendum and EcoPass purchases. Efforts to create a low-cost bike share system on campus have been delayed, with repeated requests by administration officials for items that have already been submitted. UCSD has essentially shifted most of the financial burden for transportation sustainability onto employees – that means they don’t get to claim credit for the resulting environmental gains.
Building yet another parking garage ignores the arrival of the Mid-Coast Trolley to campus in just a few years. At SDSU, the trolley resulted in a decrease of 6,000 parking permits/year, and the number continues to decrease.
If single occupancy vehicles (SOV) make up 75% of UCSD’s carbon emissions by transportation mode, how does cutting transit subsidies and building parking garages help reduce emissions? To their (employees) credit, UCSD’s SOV mode share is a respectable 42%, down from 66% in 2001, versus the county’s current 70+%. The university’s current Climate Action Plan is from 2008; its updated version should contain significant alternative transit mode share increases. UCSD also supported the controversial I-5-widening, part of SANDAG’s regional transportation plan that exceeds state 2050 greenhouse gas emissions targets by 7 times. Environmental groups, with the state on board, sued to stop this freeways-first plan and have won twice in court so far.
UCSD has been without a transportation director for several years, and the transportation services division is under-staffed – my efforts to review their budget were rebuffed due to a lack of resources. Once the position is filled, the university’s new transportation director should work with stakeholders to develop 5 and 10-year strategic plans that spell out how UC’s carbon neutral goal will be achieved, including mode share goals.
To be fair, the UC’s must limit their transportation funding to transportation-related income only: parking revenue and tickets (although I’ve been told this can vary by campus). This is mostly beyond UCSD’s control, but that doesn’t stop them from lobbying the UC Office of the President to change this policy. On their end, UC President Janet Napolitano could lobby our elected representatives for a pilot transit subsidy program using state cap and trade funds, where revenue has exceeded expectations by billions of dollars. The UC’s should be leading in the area of greenhouse gas reductions by examples like these.
Interestingly, one of UCSD’s Earth Week’s focus areas was on water conservation, given our severe drought. A link between climate change and California’s drought is not yet proven. Yet warmer temperatures are definitely caused by increased carbon emissions – the same ones UCSD commuters will be increasing under the university’s policies. And warmer temperatures are directly correlated to reduced snowpack and increased drought severity.
UCSD actually is doing several positive things with respect to sustainability, including new bike paths on campus, electric car charging stations, and green building projects. Achieving sustainability goals can be costly and incredibly challenging. Perhaps UCSD should dial back their rhetoric a bit on this issue until it’s consistent with their actions.
April is always jam-packed with events in San Diego, and this year is no exception. Last weekend was busy with the City Beat Festival of Beers in North Park, Taste of Hillcrest, and Earth Fair at Balboa Park. But this weekend is even crazier: the El Cajon Boulevard celebration (shown above), Adams Ave Unplugged, Chicano Park Day, Little Italy Art Walk, and the Creek to Bay Cleanup. Still, there’s one event I’m really hoping people will turn out for – Sunday’s Mission Hills Free Bike-In Movie and Neighborhood Ride:
The event is being put on by the Mission Hills business district, using SANDAG grant funds. People on bikes have spent a lot of time recently making the business case for bike infrastructure – now it’s time for us to get out there and spend some money in the community. If you’re going to the free movie, grab your tickets here. Hopefully folks can squeeze this event into an already-full weekend.
Bankers Hill has been seeing quite a bit of construction activity. The most entertaining has been the slow demolition of this old medical building on 6th (I had an appointment there back in 2000 and remember it to be just as depressing inside as out). Luxury 13-story condo project The Park, shown at left, with 63 units, is set to replace it. With The Abbey next door (and asbestos galore?) the demolition is being done the slow way using the machinery in the third picture below, which pulls chunks out slowly as they’re hosed down. It’s actually fascinating to watch – along with the lack of any traffic backup on the 5th Avenue side while I was there, despite it being reduced to one lane.
Further down 5th, the rebar is going in for another luxury condo project, Vue. This one’s a real disappointment architecturally – beige, sand and bland. More pictures of this and other Bankers Hills projects on Gregory’s San Diego.
Over on 4th at Palm, Lloyd Russell’s 4th Ave Lofts (4 stories, mixed-use, 49 rental units, 4 very low income units) are getting their garage carved out:
The rendering of the new building is shown here. The project narrowly passed Uptown Planners by a 6-5 vote last year. Opposition to the project was due to the reduction in parking allowed for the four affordable units – showing that once again, parking is unfortunately more important than housing for many on the Uptown Community Planning Group.
We finally had lunch at Artisan Bento across from Cucina Urbana in Bankers Hill, and it’s a great healthy alternative to the heavier fare up the street at Hash House. Jay’s chicken skewer bowl and my salmon bento were a perfect lunch break after our bike ride through Balboa Park.
– Imperial Beach’s Bikeway Village, near the end of the Bayshore Bikeway on the southern end of San Diego bay, has received final approval. Studio E Architects are involved, and they’re the same folks involved with a low-income/mobility senior project on El Cajon Boulevard in Talmadge.
The project site is situated along a key transition point along Bayshore Bikeway, and provides an informal entrance to Imperial Beach. The project transforms two large existing warehouse buildings creating a welcoming, functional rest-stop for both bikers, travelers and locals; complete with a one-stop bicycle and repair shop, cafes and a hostel. A host of amenities are oriented towards the bay and bikeway include; a large outdoor deck with formal and informal seating, outdoor fire pit, restored native wetland planting and landscaped retention basin, bicycle parking, water bottle refill station, trail-side rest stop and public restrooms.
– Quickies: Nat Bosa is proposing a 41-story condo building for the lot just west of the Santa Fe Depot downtown… Congratulations to the North Parker for winning best multi-family project in the 2015 AIA best housing design awards. I still remember the residents who said the project didn’t “fit in” to North Park… SANDAG will be presenting station design information for the Clairemont Mid-Coast trolley station tomorrow night and Linda Vista next week. Those opposed to public transit for others will be there – will you?… The rapid 215 bus on El Cajon Boulevard is showing solid ridership gains but falling far short of its initial projected run time of 38 minutes. With an average of 49 minutes, that’s 30% too long. Yet even as Los Angeles adds peak-hour bus-only lanes to its “standard” buses, MTS still isn’t considering the same for El Cajon despite its extra capacity of auto lanes… The other new rapid bus line, the 235 on I-15, will be getting its “Centerline” stations in the freeway median at University and El Cajon by the end of 2017, to the tune of $30 million each. The $9 million dollar shortfall won’t come from the billions dedicated to freeway expansion (which the state is suing SANDAG over) but rather other BRT projects. From a recent SANDAG transportation committee agenda:
Five bids for construction of the SR 15 BRT: Mid-City Centerline Stations Project (CIP 1201507) were received on March 2, 2015. The lowest bidder, Granite Construction, submitted a bid of $39 million, which was $6 million over the engineer’s estimate. An additional $3 million also is needed to fully fund the project to include contingencies and owner-furnished materials, for a total need of $9 million. This shortfall is proposed to be funded by transferring $5 million from the Mira Mesa Blvd. BRT Priority Treatments Project (CIP 1201511) and transferring $4 million worth of scope for a portion of the station at El Cajon Boulevard to the Mid-City Rapid Bus Project (CIP 1240001). Fund
source revisions to both TransNet and federal funds also are proposed in the budget amendment to facilitate program delivery; however, the net increase to the SR 15 BRT: Mid-City Centerline Stations
Project remains $5 million as described above.
Major construction activities for the Mid-City Rapid Bus Project (CIP 1240001) are nearly complete, and Rapid 215 began service in October 2014. The project also includes Rapid station enhancements along the route, including at El Cajon Boulevard and SR 15. In order to utilize the remaining Federal Transit Administration (FTA) “Very Small Starts” grant and matching funds remaining on this project, which are specific to the Mid-City Rapid Bus corridor, it is proposed to transfer $4 million of the construction elements for the El Cajon Station from the SR 15 BRT: Mid-City Centerline Stations Project to the Mid-City Rapid Bus Project. Since the El Cajon Boulevard station is common to this corridor, it has been determined that this is an appropriate use for these FTA grant funds.
The proposed transfer of $5 million from the Mira Mesa Blvd. BRT Priority Treatments Project will still allow implementation of Phase I improvements, providing the Mira Mesa Boulevard corridor with traffic signal priority (TSP) for buses. The Phase I improvements are expected to improve travel time and trip reliability for Rapid Route 237 (planned service from Rancho Bernardo to UC San Diego via Sorrento Mesa). The proposed budget transfer would reduce the funds available for Phase II of the project, which would add bus queue jump lanes along the corridor that could include some right-of-way acquisition. Staff will monitor the Rapid operations after the TSP implementation and reassess the future need for Phase II improvements.
– I’ve added the BikeSD Strava widget to the sidebar on the blog, and BikeSD is the San Diego organization for the National Bike Challenge… Mark your calendar for upcoming Bike Month events:
May 2, Bike Fiesta. Hosted by the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition at the San Diego Public Library downtown, there will be a bike ride, free mainenance checks, and fun bike workshops.
May 6, National Bike to School Day. Hop on your bike and roll to school!
May 15, Bike to Work Day. Join thousands of people and pledge to GO by BIKE! Stop by one of 100 pit stops for a free t-shirt, snacks, and encouragement.
May 17, Pedal to the Park. Ride your bike to the Padres game and get discounted tickets. Join a group ride, park in the secure Bike Pavilion, or try a DecoBike.
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.