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Three Weeks Downtown

Three Weeks Downtown

Letter arrives in the mail: “SUMMONS FOR JURY DUTY”.

That heart-sinking feeling… and work is way too busy.  Can I postpone?  Yes, but you need to re-schedule for a Monday. Postponement date arrives.  Turns out Mondays are when they assign the long trials.  I’m in the jury box.  Oh, you work at UC San Diego – they pay for your jury duty, right?  We’d love to have you for the next three weeks.

Your (county/state) jury duty destination: the Hall of Justice (with new county courthouse behind it)

And so it went.  After nearly 20 years in San Diego I was finally on a trial.  Overall it was a good experience, especially because I could walk around downtown every day at lunch and get up to speed on all the changes happening there.  The other neat part was how easy it was to get there.  An invigorating 10-minute morning walk to either the 215 or 235 rapid bus stops on El Cajon Boulevard, a fast trip downtown (on the 235 anyway), and a drop-off just a block from the Hall of Justice.  Compare that to my commute to UC San Diego: get cut off repeatedly on my drive to Old Town Transit Center, then sit on a bus stuck behind solo drivers on I-5.

The county’s new $555 million courthouse, the most expensive in state history, is nearly complete behind the Hall of Justice.  Here’s a shot of how the perforated roof creates light lines on the exposed interior wall of the structure:

The 22-story, 389 foot courthouse replaces the old courthouse just east of the Hall of Justice on Broadway.  I’ve heard the old central courthouse described as a ‘skyscraper on its side’.  Considering how little demand there was for land in 1960’s downtown San Diego, why build an expensive tower when you can just sprawl across three blocks:

Move-in for the new courthouse was supposed to be this month, and the new jury lounge there would have been an improvement over the one in the Hall of Justice – which along with much of the ground floor, feels much older than the building’s 1996 opening date. 

My lunchtime walks often took me past the ongoing demolition at the Naval Broadway Complex, which will be replaced by the Manchester Pacific Gateway project:

The $1.3 billion project, spread across 12 acres, will include a 17-story office building to serve as the U.S. Navy headquarters, four office buildings, two hotels, a museum, retail promenade and 1.9-acre park.

Pacific Gateway opens in 2020.  A friend who works at the Navy facility said they had to helicopter the bulldozers in because a wrecking ball wouldn’t work on the very thick walls of the buildings.  I’m guessing asbestos plays a role too:

Across Pacific Highway, Bosa’s Pacific Gate is nearing completion:

It was good to see two cruise ships docked on the harbor, given the cruise ship downturn here when travel to Mexico plummeted a decade ago:

Savina is going in behind Bayside.  Its street-level podium appears to take up the entire block, which would make it larger than Bayside’s:

The new Intercontinental Hotel continues to build up at Harbor and Broadway:

Unfortunately there’s a huge pedestrian detour on Pacific Highway for folks walking out of the SpringHill Suites/Residence Inn combo hotel, requiring them to do a loop around the Intercontinental construction.  Pacific Highway is nearly 90 feet wide here, but there isn’t enough room for a temporary pedestrian walkway? 

I stopped into Horton Plaza Park several times and witnessed the homeless problem there that was recently covered in the U-T.  While it was disappointing to see the sheer number of struggling people, I wasn’t personally impacted by it, and the Park still has potential to be a fine civic gathering area.  At least people are talking about what a space like this should be, and how it could be improved.  The same can’t be said for the south side of Horton Plaza, which couldn’t present a more pedestrian-unfriendly face to the street if it tried:  

There have been suggestions of incorporating office space into Horton Plaza, which would bring a built-in customer base to the Jimbo’s Grocery and other retail there.  Whatever changes Westfield has planned for Horton, they can’t come soon enough.

The long lunch breaks even offered the opportunity to get over to East Village, where the library’s reading room offered an excellent view of the 19-story Alexan 23-story K1 construction (the Alexan is just north) on 14th 13th:

Bike to Work Day turned into Bike to Jury Duty day this year, but I was able to hit some new pit stops (for me) as a result, including this one at Laurel and 6th:

On the Park side of Balboa Park, the zoo had also set up a pit stop, and this giant Australian Kingfisher made quite a ruckus (at 3:30 in the video):

And while I didn’t get to Quartyard during my jury duty, I did bike by there yesterday, where they were counting down their last days before moving to their new location a few blocks east at 13th and Market.  Tickets for the June 2nd closing party are available. 

Speaking of Quartyard, there’s an interesting article up about the UCSanDiego.Urban mixed-use project that will replace it, which will feature “music and food festivals”. 

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.”