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Little Italy Food Hall

Little Italy Food Hall

The Piazza della Famiglia project in Little Italy opens next month, and by summer it will take a cue from Liberty Station’s hugely successful Public Market concept by including a food hall. The hall will include two Public Market vendors, Wicked Maine Lobster and Roast Meat & Sandwich Shop. A food hall makes sense given the large number of sit-down restaurants already in Little Italy, and you’ll be able to bring your meal into the open-air public piazza:

While public squares are commonplace throughout European cities, this is the first of its kind for San Diego, where we’ve long dedicated most of our public space to moving and storing vehicles. Given the piazza’s likely success (Little Italy is doing pretty well), could this spur other urban communities in San Diego to rethink how they allocate space in their commercial districts?

Here in Kensington, where the Heart of Kensington residential group killed a public space in front of the Kensington Commons project, we’ll just settle for a new restaurant in the long-vacant Kensington Vine space.  Tanuki Japanese will be a “coffee bar by day and a sake bar and eatery by night”, according to Eater. This is just around the corner from our block. With the opening of Kensington Brewing and Pappalecco in the past year, it’s great to have more walk-to options in the neighborhood.

Tickets are nearly sold out for next Saturday’s Modern Times Carnival of Caffeination on Broadway Pier. Proceeds go to BikeSD. There’s a pretty amazing lineup of brewers, roasters and food trucks:

Earlier that day I’m hoping to join the celebration for the long-awaited opening of the Centerline bus rapid transit lanes and stations at Teralta Park over SR-15 in Mid-City:

Speaking of freeways, if Caltrans has an annual funding/maintenance gap of $6 billion, why are they spending $8 billion on an environmentally-damaging, sprawl-inducing freeway in the Mojave Desert?

BikeSD recently endorsed Omar Passons for County Board of Supervisors (thanks to all the candidates who responded) because we know he’ll stand up for the rights of bicyclists even when it’s politically difficult to do so. I joined Omar, urban planner Howard Blackson and a group of bicyclists recently for a ride around downtown where we experienced the challenge of riding in a busy area still bereft of safe bike infrastructure. One highlight was hearing architect Mike Stepner’s efforts in creating the notion of the “Gaslamp Quarter“:

Another reason I support Omar is his support for more housing… which means I can segue into yet another batch of housing bullet points:

  • Opposing housing for your kids to preserve your free street parking isn’t “progressive”, no matter what OB Rag says.  I’m excited about the YIMBY Democrats of San Diego County group because it could make many local Democrats consider where they stand on the housing crisis.  The group has its launch party this Friday.
  • David Alvarez, who will be at the launch party, has several suggestions for the San Diego City Council on how to build more housing, including allowing conversion of vacant ground floor commercial space to housing, and “waiving parking requirement for small apartments, condos, live/work units and studios near transit”.
  • Our City San Diego covers San Diego’s growing affordable housing coalition and how reducing parking requirements gives developers more land on which to build.
  • Todd Gloria introduced a state assembly bill to encourage construction of affordable, smaller units close to transit that would reduce parking requirements.
  • Nearly every city in the state failed to reach state-mandated housing goals and will now be required to streamline projects that include affordable housing.
  • Inner suburbs that declare themselves “built out” and oppose housing (i.e., Bay Park) are a major cause of housing crises in cities across the U.S.

    The reality is that most of the housing stock and most of the land area of America’s metros is made up of relatively low-density suburban homes. And a great deal of it is essentially choked off from any future growth, locked in by outmoded and exclusionary land-use regulations. The end result is that most growth today takes place through sprawl.

  • A public workshop on the Riverwalk project in Mission Valley detailed how the 4300-unit project’s new trolley station will be the center of the development’s retail area.  Constructive input from neighbors included “we don’t want your residents parking on our streets” and declaring that Mission Valley would turn into a Mumbai slum.
Bayshore Bikeway Ribbon Cutting

Bayshore Bikeway Ribbon Cutting

Bicyclists, SANDAG and local government representatives celebrated the opening of another Bayshore Bikeway segment in National City yesterday.  I was surprised to learn that planning of this Bikeway began over 40 years ago.   32nd Street Naval Station Commander Roy Love noted that over 5,000 service members living across Harbor Dr. were driving the half mile to get to the base, but that under his command he has promoted transit alternatives that reduce congestion.  Safe bike infrastructure like the Bikeway is a critical part of that effort. 

Also on hand was a LimeBike representative and a whole lot of LimeBikes, including the very cool e-bikes shown below:   

We tried out an e-bike and were surprised to feel the power assist kick in on the first pedal push.  Electric, dockless bikeshare could be a game-changer in San Diego, as LimeBike and Ofo deployed their systems here last Thursday. The LimeBike rep noted the high usage of dockless bikes around transit stations, solving the last-mile problem.  And the e-bikes remove the “San Diego is too hilly for bikes” excuse often used by the parking lobby.

Unsurprisingly, there’s already been pushback from motorists and businesses who claim our public street space is exclusively for private car storage.  Already complaining on day 2 of the bike rollout: the Hillcrest Business Association, which recently spent another $20K to kill more bike lanes, and home to HBA board member/Grah Safe & Lock owner Glenn Younger, who recently called bike lanes “Spandex Welfare”:

HBA wants to restrict where dockless bikes can be parked in the neighborhood – essentially making them docked – despite previously opposing docked bike share on public streets.  Here’s a solution: follow San Diego’s legally-binding Climate Action Plan and convert 18% of auto parking to bike parking on every block.  And far more bikes can be stored in a parking space than one car.  

After the Bayshore Bikeway event, we rode the Bikeway (which features some really unique sights and nature experiences) down to the new Imperial Beach Bikeway Village, where we were presented with this amazing panoramic view of the bay:

At the Bikeway Village, Trident Coffee (shown below) had a wide variety of cold brew coffees and other beverages.  2 Wheels Cycling Boutique has a variety of bikes, gear and a full-service repair shop.  Coronado Brewing is set to open in the Village later this year with a restaurant and brewing operation. 

It was a great feeling to visit businesses that actually valued bicyclists as their customers.  Compare this to “tolerant, inclusive, and accepting of diversity” Hillcrest, where bicyclists are called “spandex welfare” recipients, and residents and businesses actively campaign against their safety!  I know where I’ll continue to (not) spend my money.  

From the Bikeway Village we biked up the Silver Strand into Coronado and ferried back to downtown:

The Bayshore Bikeway event comes against a backdrop of SANDAG “Early Action” bike projects that have recently been delayed, delayed yet again, and then delayed after that delay – after years of delays.  I was told by a SANDAG project manager in 2014 that the 4th and 5th Ave Bikeways were ready to start construction in 2015 (except for the then-planned Balboa Park Centennial Celebration); they’re now delayed to 2019 at least. 

Every transportation project has snags, but SANDAG hit a mere *1 out of 9* bikeway milestones in FY17 and 3 out of 17 so far – those are San Diego Padre-type batting averages:

I’m a big supporter of SANDAG staff that have worked tirelessly while being targeted for abuse by business associations, community planning groups and the Uptown Parking District.  It’s tough to make progress when your (former) executive director is hostile toward bike infrastructure, absurd public comments must be considered, and local electeds would often rather avoid conflict than assert leadership. 

One bright note: the Howard/Orange Ave Bikeway passed its CEQA exemption Friday (give your feedback on aesthetic elements here).  This bikeway was cited as a reason for the City of San Diego to not provide safe bike infrastructure on El Cajon Boulevard, yet its construction has also been pushed back to 2019.

The above is another example of the City failing to live up to its Vision Zero promises on pedestrian and bicyclist safety as deaths continue to mount.  As the City Council takes notice, the Mayor’s office seems opposed to spending any money on the problem or changing staff culture.  For example, the City’s Transportation and Engineering street designs encourage high speed driving, yet Deputy Director Linda Marabian declared motorists “will not be inconvenienced” for pedestrian/bicyclist safety.  If a city deputy director is fired over a homeless person being placed in a garbage truck, why is Marabian still employed as dozens of residents continue to be killed every year?

Despite daily news of reckless, often drunk drivers killing and maiming residents (a recent example is a red-light running SUV driver that seriously injured a bicyclist in City Heights), motorists take to Nextdoor to declare bicyclists as the bigger problem:


It’s encouraging to see Vision Zero working in other cities that have made serious efforts to fix the problem.  Unfortunately we still have a long way to go in San Diego – on multiple levels.