Browsed by
Category: Community

Planning Groups Block City’s Vision Zero, Climate Action Plans

Planning Groups Block City’s Vision Zero, Climate Action Plans

Several local community planning groups (CPGs) are obstructing the basic safety improvements required for San Diego’s Vision Zero and Climate Action Plans.  These plans are official city policies endorsed by many CPGs.  However, several bike and pedestrian safety projects have been delayed, watered down or killed by these groups recently.  This is because the established residents who often make up our CPGs prioritize street parking and fast, dangerous roads over their neighbors’ safety.

I contributed to the Monroe Bikeway piece published on BikeSD and reproduced below.  It details how the Kensington-Talmadge Planning Group has lost all credibility on bike infrastructure after opposing the City’s El Cajon Bikeway in favor of three years of delays and eventual opposition to SANDAG’s Monroe Bikeway.  The Peninsula Planning Group, fresh off declaring its opposition to affordable housing at the Famosa site (what housing crisis?), opposed two versions of a bike lane for West Point Loma Boulevard: a road diet and a reduced parking alternative.  And let’s not forget Uptown Planners declaration that absolutely no parking could be sacrificed for any SANDAG Uptown Bikeways, a position which helped kill most of the University Ave Bikeway

It’s clear that a large segment of our city’s car culture will never accept any version of a pedestrian or bike safety project, despite the recent explosion in bike and scooter riders. Much like our housing crisis, why are we allowing residents who helped create the problem an opportunity to veto any and every solution?  San Diego will never implement its Vision Zero or Climate Action Plans so long as self-interested residents continue to dictate our land use policies.    


SANDAG Monroe Bikeway Held Hostage by Kensington Talmadge Planning Group, Residents

Last week the Kensinton Talamadge Planning Group (Ken-Tal) received an update on the Monroe Bikeway segment of the North Park-Mid City Bikeways from SANDAG (San Diego Association of Governments) staff member Danny Veeh. The Monroe Bikeway is one of the last planned segments of the still-unconstructed North Park Mid City bikeways, and is a 1.3 mile bicycle boulevard connecting from Copley Price YMCA to Collwood Blvd in the College Area:  

Monroe Bikeway San Diego

Before summarizing the events of the meeting (hint: it didn’t go well), let’s go over the history of bike lane projects in the Talmadge area:

andrew bowen

So after multiple years of Monroe Bikeway planning, traffic studies, traffic modeling, presentations to planning groups/planning group subcommittees/maintenance assessment districts/community councils, modifications to those presentations, more modifications to those presentations, and votes against other bikeways because of Monroe Bikeway—what did Ken-Tal planning group do? They prepared to vote against the Monroe Bikeway.

Monroe Bikeway San Diego

The overriding issue that long predates this project is auto congestion on Monroe during rush hour. While Ken-Tal and the City have implemented many attempts to address this issue, the entire community has never been satisfied. The city tried stop signs in 2013, left turn restrictions from 47th to Monroe in 2015, and Ken-Tal floated closing 47th at Monroe and a traffic island that restricted turns. Ken-Tal has also voted to widen El Cajon Boulevard at Fairmont, directly contradicting the city’s safety efforts on this deadly street for pedestrians. These actions have exposed a bitter community divide over a basic equity issue: Should auto access to one of the most heavily-used two-lane roads in the city be limited to wealthier north Talmadge residents, or do lower income residents in south Talmadge and City Heights have a right to this public road too? The City of San Diego answered this question by instructing SANDAG to design the bikeway without altering access to Monroe from 47th.

Despite Ken-Tal chair Don Taylor’s reminders that congestion issues are well beyond the scope and budget of the bikeway, Talmadge residents and board members continue to hold the Monroe Bikeway project hostage over this neighborhood dispute. In 2017, SANDAG staff was prepared to move the project forward for environmental clearance but delayed the project for 1 year to appease Ken-Tal’s concerns. As Ken-Tal requested, a HAWK beacon was replaced with a bicycle only left turn pocket in the most recent design. Despite this concession, many board members still refused to support the project. Remarkably, former Ken-Tal chair David Moty removed his support as a result of this concession.  

When community members oppose a project for reasons that directly contradict each other, how is SANDAG ever expected to achieve the elusive “consensus” required for bike lane projects that is not required for freeway widenings and road expansions? This is the main reason why nearly every SANDAG bike lane project is behind schedule: attempting to appease armchair engineer residents who write 62-page manifestos demanding the city subsidize his lack of off-street parking, or Ken-Tal board members who attack the Monroe Bikeway for failing to improve safety—while offering no viable alternative. A Talmadge attorney even insisted the California Environmental Quality Act prohibits the bike lane—despite the governor signing two laws that prevent this environmental policy from being perverted to kill bike lanes.

Meanwhile, here’s fomer Ken-Tal chair Moty in 2015, offering full support for the Monroe Bikeway: “SANDAG staff are faced with challenges enough elsewhere, we should not create challenges for them here where overall community support is strong. The KTPG does not believe this is the city’s intent, and hopes the city will give its full support to SANDAG’s plan and remove any roadblocks to its implementation.”  

As Ken-Tal prepared to vote “no” on the Bikeway (with chair Taylor, Transportation Subcommittee chair Sean Harrison and Deborah Sharpe the only apparent “yes” votes), District 9 City Councilmember Georgette Gomez asked the board to postpone their vote. Gomez was present for the full 2 hours of contentious debate about the Bikeway and does not support 24-hour left turn restrictions onto Aldine from Monroe. She promised to take the feedback from the community planned to work with SANDAG and City of San Diego staff. Councilmember Gomez has been vocal supporter of active transportation in her role on SANDAG’s Transportation Committee and BikeSD is hopeful her leadership will result in a high-quality Monroe Bikeway.

Yet so far Ken-Tal’s efforts to delay the Monroe Bikeway have been successful. As we’ve seen with the Uptown Bikeway and in communities across the country, this is a proven model to continually delay and water down bike lanes, until eventually killing them. If San Diego is going to implement any of SANDAG’s bicycle projects, city leaders must not give into “advisory” planning groups, who actually hold a powerful veto over bike infrastructure. Further, Ken-Tal’s long history of placing its own interests over the larger Mid-City community (attempting to move planned retail away from El Cajon Boulevard; voting to worsen pedestrian safety on ECB) is another reason why our planning groups should be consolidated—at a minimum.

For supporters of the bikeway, the next big timeline will be a CEQA exemption hearing. Prior to the recent Ken-Tal planning meeting, SANDAG planned for a September hearing. Any delay will add to concerning pattern of City of San Diego and SANDAG tolerating delays to SANDAG’s early action bicycle plan.  

2018 San Diego Housing Federation Ruby Awards Winners

2018 San Diego Housing Federation Ruby Awards Winners

Algire Talmadge

The San Diego Housing Federation held its 2018 Ruby Awards in Balboa Park Thursday, recognizing leadership, innovation, and impact in the affordable housing and
community development industries.  I was happy to see the Talmadge Gateway project among the winners, which overcame the usual Kensington/Talmadge NIMBY objections over parking, traffic and in this case, outright exclusionism.   Here’s a rundown of all the winners (thanks to SDHF and Cook & Schmid for photos and information):

Outstanding Resident Leader Award – Miguel Figueroa

Miguel Figueroa is a resident of Paradise Creek Apartments at 2120 Hoover Avenue in National City, where he began volunteering in the Paradise Creek Learning Center’s afterschool program in his teens. He has worked his way up as Volunteer Leader at the Learning Center, becoming the first teen to ascend to this position. He participates every single day to work with Kindergarteners to 5th-grade students to support them on homework and in enhancing their literacy skills. He has been a huge positive role model at the Learning Center, encouraging other young males to also become involved, and also ensuring his younger sister attends regularly as well. He is a bright, inspirational leader that is truly deserving of the Outstanding Resident Leader award.

Outstanding Service to Residents – Dennis Dearie

Dennis Dearie is the Director of Supportive Services for Serving Seniors, a nonprofit that provides services to older adults living in poverty. Dennis has played a large role in the success of Serving Seniors’ two supportive housing buildings, Potiker Family Senior Residence at 525 14th Street and Potiker City Heights Residence at 4065 43rd Street. The two buildings encompass 350 units of affordable housing for senior citizens. As Director of Supportive Services, Dennis earned the Outstanding Service to Residents award for his unwavering support, compassion and encouragement to senior residents in need. In his position, he works closely with communities that are at the cross-section of the most vulnerable seniors. He has a deep interest in the well-being of his residents and incorporates social events including education and health workshops as well as the necessary resources for successful, independent living.

Outstanding Advocate – Jackie Camp

Jackie Camp was selected for her 20-year commitment to affordable housing and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Serving as the longest member of the City of Oceanside Housing Commission, her expertise towards affordable housing and the ADA has been critical given the number of seniors and individuals with disabilities who often depend on affordable housing due to their incomes. Jackie regularly requires updated presentations and timelines from city staff and developers to ensure that affordable housing is met with the highest build quality, design and is ADA-compliant.  She asks tough questions and is not afraid to express her opinions of projects that do not meet a high standard.

Outstanding Development Partner – LISC San Diego

LISC San Diego works tirelessly to support the affordable housing development community, providing catalytic funding for the creation of affordable housing.  The agency’s strategic move to raise a $50-million Housing Affordability Fund that could accelerate the creation of 2,500 affordable housing units in San Diego is a true testament to their dedication and commitment to affordable housing for the City.  Executive Director Ricardo Flores explains, “We’re aiming to take a leadership role in jump-starting these projects, which are sorely needed as government and private interests work together to ease our region’s growing housing crisis. We’re committed to our role as a prime facilitator in the months and years ahead.”  LISC San Diego knows how to make things happen and their unflinching championship of the affordable housing sector distinguishes them as the recipient of the Outstanding Development Partner of the Year.

Outstanding Government Agency or Elected Official – Senator Toni Atkins and Assemblymember Brian Maienschein

Senator Toni Atkins is a long-time advocate in the fight to improve California’s affordable housing dilemma.  Her introduction of Senate Bill 2 (the building Homes and Jobs Act) during the 2017 legislative session has created a permanent funding source to benefit affordable housing and decreased regulations for affordable housing developers.  The Act is estimated to generate $250 million annually ($1.2 billion during the next five years), create 20,000 new houses and produce 57,000 jobs over five years. Champions like Senator Atkins’ efforts are pivotal in addressing the housing crisis; they will improve the quality of life for California’s future.

Assemblymember Brian Maienschein is a former San Diego City Councilmember, United Way Commissioner on the Homelessness, and currently representing the 77th State Assembly district. He was supportive of Senate Bill 2, and was one of the deciding votes for its passage.

John Craven Memorial Award – Rachel Hurst

Kensington resident Rachel Hurst is awarded the John Craven Memorial Award for her commitment as a public employee who has taken risks and has gone above and beyond the call of duty to assist affordable housing developers. In her role as City of Coronado’s Director of Redevelopment and Housing Services, she led her team to rehabilitate and develop the City’s and Coronado Unified School District’s facilities and improvements such as the Village Theatre. The Theater was closed for many years, and Rachel worked with an absentee landlord and movie theater operator to completely renovate and reopen the theater. Rachel served Coronado for more than 11 years, training and managing a team to support the community’s planning and building needs. There, she oversaw the development of the Coronado Senior Housing on Orange Avenue, and helped to acquire and rehabilitate other properties.  She has also served as the Housing and Redevelopment Director for the City of La Mesa, where she helped to develop one of the first large-scale transit-oriented developments in San Diego, and was previously a planner for the cities of Simi Valley, San Diego, and Beverly Hills.

SDG&E Environmental Award and Innovations Award – North Park Seniors

Innovative and imaginative, North Park Seniors is a groundbreaking project, consisting of 194 units (including 76 affordable apartments). It was designed and entitled as a sustainable, transit-oriented, mixed-income development. The developer Community HousingWorks partnered with the LGBT Center of San Diego to provide homes that are open to all, with an affirming and supportive environment for LGBT seniors. It is one of only a handful of such developments in the nation. It also shelters formerly homeless seniors in eight permanent supportive housing units. The artist and architect, both North Park local businesses, collaborated on creating the “You Are Home” installation, which embraces the pedestrian landscape with color, movement, and a sundial and tower with motifs of the timeless cycle of sun and stars.

CSH Supportive Housing Award – Talmadge Gateway

Talmadge Gateway is a project that has transformed San Diego’s approach to addressing homelessness for older adults, paving the way for a replicable model that can make a significant difference in elder homelessness across the country. Talmadge Gateway embodies all of the elements of quality supportive housing. St. Paul’s PACE and Wakeland have provided a much needed solution for the 59 residents who moved in, as well as a national best practice that is challenging other communities in San Diego and across the country to identify how they can also effectively weave together PACE services, affordable housing, operating subsidies, and have referrals flow to the property through the Coordinated Entry System (a program which streamlines the process of finding housing for those who are chronically homeless — with the goal of housing the most vulnerable people first).

Project of the Year – Rehab – Woodglen

Woodglen Vista Apartments provides high-quality affordable housing to 185 families who earn at or below 50% and 60% of the area median income (AMI) in a community with excellent job and educational opportunities.  Last year’s property rehabilitation went above and beyond the typical property refresh. The 2017 rehab of this 40-year old property was focused on both improvements in the individual units and an overhaul of the major components of the property infrastructure.  This involved a retrofit of the landscape irrigation system and the introduction of a solar hot water heating system. Common areas were redesigned in order to step up resident services. Woodglen Vista became part of the SanteeTLC (Teaching- Learning-Connecting), a collective impact network focused on utilizing trauma-informed practices to engage students, families, school staff, and the community. Santee TLC is comprised of a group of 25 cross-sector partners, anchored by the Santee School District.

Project of the Year – New Construction – Atmosphere

Atmosphere is a new, 12-story high-rise community of 205 affordable homes in downtown San Diego that uniquely serves the broad spectrum of people who need affordable housing, including working families, seniors and people who have been homeless. The $79 million project does this by integrating traditional affordable housing with 51 units of permanent supportive housing designed to help the formerly homeless live stable, independent lives.

Designed by an internationally-recognized architecture firm and slated to achieve LEED Silver Certification for sustainability, the development brings numerous benefits to the neighborhood, including:

  • The revitalization of an underutilized inner city site that has remained vacant since 2004 with a vibrant, attractive and affordable community that has the potential to help up to 10,000 people over its 55-year life span;
  • A significant increase in the amount of high-quality affordable homes available to San Diegans that are located close to jobs, transportation and other resources residents need for daily living;
  • And the addition of 51 much-needed supportive homes with wraparound services that promote individual well-being and independence for people who have been homeless.

 

Housing Champion Award – Ken Sauder

The Housing Champion Award honors professionals with more than two decades of leadership, innovation and impact in the affordable housing field. Ken Sauder was selected for his 35-year commitment to affordable housing that continues to advance the principles of the San Diego Housing Federation. As President and CEO of Wakeland Housing, he led the development of more than 6,700 units in 44 developments throughout California, including more than 100 units of permanent supportive housing designed to help stabilize formerly homeless individuals. Throughout his career, Sauder has exemplified strong leadership and an unwavering dedication to serving lower income families and those in need. His strong impact in the industry not only affects the San Diego community but extends beyond the County. He was the former executive director of Tijuana-San Diego Habitat For Humanity, where he headed a team of six staff and countless volunteers that built 100 houses in Tijuana. Sauder’s achievements point the way toward a broader view of the region.