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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.  

Summer Update

Summer Update

Summer is (sort of) here in San Diego – seems like a good time to run through the photo roll and post some updates… Pacific Gate at Broadway and Pacific has completed construction.  Here’s a picture of the public art out front from several weeks ago: 

From the developer’s press release:

Jaume Plensa’s Pacific Soul – with countless passersby stopping to photograph the installation – located in the public plaza at Pacific Gate, and one of the most important additions to downtown San Diego’s robust art scene. Pacific Soul is a sculpture that stands 25 ft. tall and utilizes characters from eight alphabets, including Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, and Latin in the form of the human figure

(Updated 7/2: added new Pacific Gate and Intercontinental photos)

 

Nearby, the Intercontinental Hotel opens in September and will feature “Five food and beverage outlets, including Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steakhouse, which will feature an open kitchen in the lobby. More casual concepts include the 19th floor rooftop bar, a pool bar, and a café.” 

And work started this month on Manchester Pacific Gateway, which is expected to be completed in 2021 – an ambitious schedule for a seven-building project covering eight blocks:

Just south of there, Seaport Village‘s welcome obliteration is now scheduled to begin in 2021 (subscription required).  In the meantime, it’s still the only harbor-front path segment from the Hilton all they way to Spanish Landing where bike and scooter riding is prohibited:

That won’t be the case with the Seaport’s replacement, which will have an integrated bay-front bike path.

But it’s East Village that’s seeing the most construction activity in the city right now.  The Alexan at 300 14th Ave is finished and leasing:

Across 14th, construction continues on the 222-unit, 23-story K1 apartment building:

K1 will include an “adjoining mixed-use, low-rise annex designed by Rob Wellington Quigley” – who also designed the downtown library and his personal residence nearby:: 

Pinnacle on the Park‘s second tower continues to grow and will top out at 45 stories (one fewer than the first tower) and 472 units:

Ballpark Village is nearing completion with 713 units across its 37-story tower and shorter buildings:

This rendering from the Welcome to San Diego blog provides another perspective:  

The parking lot in the lower right hand corner of that rendering, next to the 12th and Imperial trolley station, may be the location referred to in this week’s news regarding a state cap and trade funding award for a new 400-unit affordable housing project

A $20 million award will help bankroll a 400-unit housing project operated by Father Joe’s Villages next to the 12th and Imperial transit station in East Village, as well as more than two miles of protected bike lanes on both 6th Avenue and J Street.

Makers Quarter is located in East Village around 15th and F, and will contain a variety of residential, office and commercial properties. Their website states, “Our mission is to cultivate a neighborhood for San Diego’s Entrepreneurs, Artists, and Makers. We aim to preserve the existing Maker Spirit that already thrives here, while consciously developing lifestyle, residential, and business properties, designed to reflect the artistic integrity of the neighborhood.” 

While Makers’ first establishments, 10 Barrel Brewing and Punchbowl Social (which opened earlier this month) are big improvements over what was(n’t) there before, I’m not sure they represent the Maker Spirit originally envisioned.  Case in point: Opinion: 10 Barrel is NOT local beer).  I’m also unclear how luxury condos fit into that vision. But I am a sucker for ping pong, and Punchbowl Social – shown below – has that and much more in the way of games:

The 23,500-square-foot two-tiered complex — built inside a long-abandoned boxing gym at 1485 E St. — combines a made-from-scratch restaurant and three bars with eight bowling lanes, karaoke rooms, vintage arcade games, 8-man foosball, bocce, shuffleboard, Ping-Pong, darts and table games.

The Block D office building at Makers Quarter is set to open this summer:

Elsewhere, Jonathan Segal’s Polk and Park in North Park/University Heights is complete, with restaurant shop BFD moving in from down the street: 

Segal’s The Fort project in Mission Hills looks about done, and its height has got to be infuriating the Mission Hills set – despite being located next to an equally tall building: 

Fort Oak restaurant, from the Trust restaurant folks, will open in The Fort this fall

James Coffee has opened in the new Louie building on 4th in Bankers Hill:

Communal Coffee has been open for a few months now in South Park and they’ve crated a really cozy space:

And finally, since it’s summertime, here’s some irrelevant pics of one of my favorite warm-ish weather hangouts, Panama 66: