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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”. 

SayNo! Quality of Life Survey

SayNo! Quality of Life Survey

Andrew Bowen from KPBS posted a link on twitter recently to the SoNo Neighborhood Alliance Quality of Life Survey that closes on 1/31 and will be presented to city officials.  Several people who responded noted the leading nature of the questions in the survey – here are a few of the tweets:

The questions are indeed a bit biased.  But that’s not surprising, considering the group opposes new housing, bike lanes and businesses that don’t meet their criteria – despite promising to “to work together” with all residents.  So I thought it would be fun to take some of the survey questions and describe SoNo’s (SayNo’s) likely underlying meaning.  Enjoy!


Please indicate the extent that the following issues cause problems in your South Park North Park (SoNo) neighborhood 
(Not a Problem/Somewhat of a Problem/A Very Big Problem/Not Sure):

1a. Lack of City adherence to Code Compliance and Zoning for residential and commercial properties (No Airbnb in our neighborhood!)

1b. Lack of bike lanes on roadways (Remember when we called safe bike lanes ‘social engineering’? [video])

1c. Increased Housing density (i.e., “Densification”) (We got ours… our children will just have to live somewhere else.)

1d. Preservation of Historic Character (If calling something historic can prevent new housing, then it’s historic.)

1e. Lack of efficient public transportation (We’d never actually ride public transit, but we sure will use it as an excuse to prevent development.)

1f. Lack of affordable housing/rental units (See (1c), (1d), and (1e).  Also, not building any housing somehow creates more affordable housing.)

1g. Non-permitted Marijuana Businesses (75% of our neighborhood voted to legalize marijuana, but residents should drive to an industrial park in Kearny Mesa to buy it.)

1h. Lack of parking on streets (My garage is for storage, not for parking my car – the City should pay for that.  And this is *way* more important than (1f).)

1j. Too many places that serve alcohol (bars, restaurants, night clubs) (North Park was better when we had to drive to Hillcrest because there was nowhere to eat or drink.)

1k. Too few publicly accessible “Green Spaces” (i.e., Parks, Community Gardens) (Even though our neighborhoods are literally right next to the largest urban cultural park in the country.)

1l. Too much vehicle traffic (SD County has 3 million residents, and we live 5 minutes from downtown, but there should be no rush hour congestion… just like every other thriving city.)

1m. Too little representation from Residents, when decisions are made that affect your neighborhood (Only retired ‘R’esidents who can make 6PM Community Planning meetings will decide our neighborhoods’ future.)


Please indicate whether or not you support the following 
(Support/Do Not Support/Don’t Know):

2a. Dispersing affordable housing throughout the city of San Diego (Keeping the poors out of North Park is ‘progressive’.)

2c. A law to hold irresponsible liquor store, bar and restaurant owners accountable for alcohol-related crimes linked to their business practices. (We got a little excited there)

2d. Increasing bicycle lane access on roadways (Roads are for cars!)

2e. More enforcement of zoning restrictions and code compliance for residential and commercial properties (Seriously – did you not get what we were saying in (1a)?)

2f. Densification (Increased Housing Density) (Density belongs downtown!)

2g. Preserving green space (Parks, Community Gardens) (We can’t name a park or community garden that was removed, but we’re really throwing everything against the wall here.)

2h. Stricter penalties for owners/operators of unpermitted marijuana businesses (You will drive far for your disgusting habit hippies – and you will like it.)

2i. A law that requires a residential permit to park in residential areas (Residential parking permits will remain just $14/year, far below the true cost, and continue to be subsidized by other City taxpayers.)

2j. Increased access to public transportation (We demand a trolley that we can later oppose because of construction impacts.)

2k. Building infrastructure before density (i.e., facilities, mass transit alternatives, green space) (We are against the very thing – density – required for the ‘mass’ part of ‘mass transit alternatives’.)

2l. An ordinance that requires the preservation of Historic Structures (A parking lot is a historic structure, right?  Yes, it is. [link])

2m. An ordinance that requires equal representation (Parity) between Residents/Community Members and Businesses on Neighborhood Planning Committees and Councils (But we strongly oppose an ordinance that requires equal representation for young residents and renters. See (1m).)