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UC San Diego coming to downtown

UC San Diego coming to downtown

UC San Diego will lease the building shown in the foreground

A couple posts back I listed several new mixed-use projects planned for downtown.  Last week’s news that UC San Diego will lease and improve the four-story building set for the Park & Market project was a pleasant surprise – of the 35 largest U.S. metros, San Diego is the only one “lacking a major public or private university campus location within, or adjacent to, the central business district boundary.”  While this isn’t an entire campus, having a significant UC presence downtown is a big positive for San Diego – enabling potential collaboration between the university and private companies nearby.  

The downtown outpost will connect to main campus via the UC San Diego Blue Line trolley.  As a UCSD employee in a department that’s evaluating offsite work options, the downtown location would be a short MTS Rapid Bus ride away, and much closer than main campus. 

There’s plenty of change happening on the main La Jolla campus too – trolley line construction has begun, which will require a move of 6th College from the Pepper Canyon area to the (current) giant surface parking lots north of Muir College:

Both the 6th College rendering above and the trolley/pedestrian connection to campus can be seen in this flyover simulation

– In Mission Hills, the business district there has posted a video of the Jonathan Segal mixed-use project The Fort, located at Hawk & Ft. Stockton.  It features an “8-story mixed-use building with 20-residential units (3 Very Low Income housing units) and 6-offices”:

Fort Stockton – The Fort – Teaser Video

Even though it’s located in front of the only tall building in Mission Hills – the senior housing tower put up by the feds back in the 1970’s (along with similar towers on Park Blvd. in North Park and downtown) – the 90-foot tall building sure seems like a stretch for a community where many residents were apoplectic over the five-story Mission One building.  Despite Mission Hills being located just minutes from downtown, in a metro of 3.3 million people creating 37,000 new jobs a year, the wealthy homeowners of neighborhood NIMBY organizations Save our Heritage and Mission Hills Heritage say traffic and street parking concerns trump safer streets and housing for others.    

When asked for examples of new construction built under MHH’s now-dead Interim Height Ordinance, MHH Director Barry Hager famously cited the Snooze AM building on 5th Avenue – which contains a total of zero residences.  MHH’s long-winded 25-page comment (p. 53) to the Uptown Community Plan Update was largely (and rightfully) ignored by the city council, because land costs in Uptown are simply too high to build housing at the lower height limits and downzoning MHH advocates.

Research shows the exclusionary zoning promoted by these residents reduces productivity and makes the poor poorer, while their “opportunity hoarding sharpens the divisions between ordinary and upper middle class Americans”:

Culturally, homeowners clamor to preserve what they regard as the “character” of their communities, by which they mean things like traffic, and the race and social status of their neighbors.

In addition, these residents worsen sprawl by pushing new housing far away from jobs.  When Mission Hills Heritage was called out on this by, of all people, the conservative Union Tribune editorial board back in 2008, their responses predictably dodged the question.  Eight years later, nothing has changed – except new visualization tools showing the sea level rise resulting from these policies:

Much of downtown San Diego, including the airport, will be underwater under a minimum global warming scenario

– Despite its Climate Action Plan and housing affordability crisis, San Diego still requires developers to include costly off-street parking downtown (unlike many other cities).  F11, a 7-story, 99-unit mixed-use project coming to F and Park is the latest example of an expensive subterranean dig, despite being located near a jobs center and multiple transit options – including the trolley and 2 new rapid bus lines:

F11 will feature “a multi-level subterranean parking garage with space for 103 vehicles, recreational amenities and 5,841 square feet of ground-floor retail space.”

– In Bankers Hill, The Park at Palm and 5th/6th has topped out.  It was scheduled for completion in early 2017, but that might be pushing it given its current state:

– At Adams and Bancroft in Normal Heights, Frank Auto Repair has been demolished for a 3-story, 11-unit mixed-used project:

Just west of there, across 805, Tajima has opened next door to Et Voila, and El Zarape has opened in the former Casa Adams location:

Yes they have the $1 fish tacos the Park Boulevard location is famous for.

– Stick a fork in Hillcrest, it’s done – S&M is the latest casualty in a declining neighborhood: 

…while the owner of recently-shuttered Salt and Cleaver notes Hillcrest’s slumping economy and the likely reason:

“Unfortunately, as of late we’ve observed what is hopefully just a temporary slump in the Hillcrest economy — perhaps it’s a lack of new developments.”


Downtown’s housing boom

Downtown’s housing boom

The fountains are on at Horton Plaza Park downtown

KPBS published an article this week on efforts to overcome opposition to density and new housing in San Diego.  As housing prices continue to skyrocket, frustration with self-interested residents is boiling over: 

NIMBYs — a pejorative term that stands for “not in my backyard” and is meant to describe opponents to new development — are fighting to keep the system as it is.

“We are facing folks who are very anti-density,” (Borre Winckel) said. “And density has become kind of a four-letter word, for reasons that are completely insincere. People are talking a great deal about wanting more housing, but not near them.”

Winckel pointed to a (rejected) plan by Habitat for Humanity to build 22 affordable housing units for veterans on an empty lot owned by the city of Poway. A number of residents mobilized against the plan, saying while they support affordable housing for veterans, the project was too expensive, would increase traffic and would not fit in with the neighborhood.

“It’s disgusting,” he said. “NIMBYs are the greatest threat to densification. They don’t want it, but they don’t want it for any articulated reason other than self-interest. And I’m not buying that.”

This is hardly unique to San Diego, so a positive sign in Santa Monica recently was voter rejection of a particularly severe anti-density measure.  Prior to the election, Vox pointed out the hypocrisy of residents who advocate for low carbon policies while preventing housing in their urban communities, thereby promoting sprawl and excessive carbon emissions:

In many growing urban areas, residents (mostly older, wealthier, whiter residents) are working hard to slow and block densification. They are doing so even as they celebrate their own eco-friendliness with back yard chicken coops, rooftop solar panels, and f’ing canvas tote bags.

The cognitive dissonance is reaching absurd levels.

“Progressives” who contribute to inequality and climate change by excluding others is a familiar concept to those of us who attend community planning group meetings in Uptown and North Park.  Fortunately things are looking up downtown, where more than 1600 proposed housing units were approved this month at Civic San Diego.  The $200 million Park and Market project on city-owned land (where proceeds will go toward affordable housing) from Carrier Johnson was one of those approved:


The recently-approved units are on top of more than 4400 units being built downtown, including the 330 units at the mixed-use 19-story Alexan development just east of the downtown library: 


Check out San Diego UrbDeZine’s development map for all the ongoing and new projects.  New hotels are also going up downtown – here’s a recent shot of the Pendry Hotel on 5th Ave, looking close to completion:


Speaking of downtown hotels, we finally saw the new pedestrian access to the harbor that the Marriott Marquis added earlier this year: 



While the passageway isn’t much to look at – it could use some more public art, for example – it certainly makes getting to the bay front more convenient from downtown.

– The one project that didn’t make it through Civic San Diego this month is the Jonathan Segal housing development planned for Union and Cedar streets.  It seems not everyone who lives downtown is into the whole urban living thing, preferring a suburban, cars-first approach.  Residents complained about the project’s lack of off-street parking, despite the fact this would significantly reduce rental prices:

This approach… was condemned by two neighbors, Denise Nelesen and Michael Smith. They said Little Italy residents and businesses face chronic parking and traffic problems. “The notion of creating this type of development with no offstreet parking is ludicrous,” Smith said. Director Phil Rath said state and local zoning allows for such a no-parking plan, but director Robert Robinson said it was “unfair” to the community.

As cities across the country remove minimum parking requirements to make housing more affordable, San Diego caters to residents like Nelesen (apparently the wife of County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis?) and Smith, who demand developers build and charge for parking in all development, regardless of whether residents or patrons need it.  Nelesen appears to work nearby at the County Administration Building, so couldn’t she avoid the parking and traffic problems she complains of (and are inherent to every healthy downtown) by simply walking the few blocks to work? And if these Little Italy residents want more parking and less traffic, why choose to live in a downtown neighborhood in the first place? 

In North Park, the senior housing complex on Iowa Street is complete, and San Diego Housing Federation has moved their office there:   


If you’re thinking of making a charitable contribution before the end of the year, SDHF seems like a great option.  Their executive director, Stephen Russell, has advocated for affordable housing before hostile audiences in North Park and Uptown.  

– CicloSDias was held in North Park a few weeks ago and thankfully the rain held off until the event ended.  Here’s some pictures from a very fun day:







– The LA Times reviewed the Louis Khan exhibit at San Diego Museum of Art; I’m hoping to get over there sometime during this long holiday weekend.

Fair at 44, an international food and crafts market on El Cajon Boulevard near the YMCA, started up recently and runs on Wednesdays at lunch and dinner.  We enjoyed some tasty Jamaican jerk chicken and Cambodian beef on a stick.