car-free cabrillo

car-free cabrillo

December Nights was held last weekend in Balboa Park, and Saturday offered one of those rare glimpses of what the park would look like without cars:




It’s pretty awesome to see people on foot and bikes enjoying Cabrillo Bridge and the west Prado, and it begs the question: Why doesn’t the city do this more often? The answer is that the park’s institutions (most of whom supported the harmful Jacobs bypass bridge that would have brought more cars into the heart of the park) appear to control this issue, not the residents whose taxes in theory pay for the park. It’s probably futile at this point, but would park institutions really suffer if the bridge were closed to traffic, say, one weekend morning a month?

To the east, planners have been calling for the closure of the north end of Florida Drive in Balboa Park for 55 years, but a potential minor inconvenience for drivers always trumps nature in San Diego. I rode my bike from Golden Hill to Zoo Place for the first time last weekend and was dumbfounded that the posted speed limit is 50 MPH. What a pleasant experience, to have cars zipping past at 70 MPH just feet away from you… all while biking through our best park, in the heart of our city.

In North Park, construction of new mixed-use project The Earnest from the FoundationForForm architects (North Park Post Office Lofts) has begun at the former Crazee Burger spot on 30th:


At University and 30th, Encontro in the former Heaven Sent location is getting closer to completion:


Verbatim Books is moving into 3793 30th and the building has received a fresh coat of blue paint:


– Some bad news for people on bikes in San Diego recently. The worst was the fatality of a bicyclist in Mission Valley on Friars at Rio Bonito, hit by a BMW. Friars is basically a freeway, and painting bike lanes green doesn’t make a big difference when drivers respond to a road design that encourages high speeds (especially those driving BMW’s, from my personal experience). Friars was upgraded to this design in the late 1960’s (h/t Michael Ballard) despite the presence of I-8, and nearly 50 years later it’s still unsafe for anyone outside of a metal cage. Instead of addressing the dangers of the road, or the lack of a low-speed street grid in Mission Valley, the city is doubling down with a widening of Friars over SR-163. The bike lanes come at the end of the project (2024) in an unfunded phase. I assume initial funding comes from Civita developer impact fees, and that’s probably because of how San Diego’s Auto Level of Service planning works: when homes are added, roads get widened, period.  The potential loss of human life to the resulting dangerous road design isn’t even considered, at least not until a courts find a city liable after someone is killed.

In Oceanside, despite a 12-year old fatally hit while biking to school, residents oppose efforts to make Coast Highway safer for people on bikes because it might slow their drive a bit… In Carlsbad, three bicyclists were hit by a drunk driver on Carlsbad Boulevard at 10:30 AM while riding in the bike lane.  Paint doesn’t stop people from being hit.  But Carlsbad councilwoman Victoria Scully is “tired of hearing how everything is about the bikes” and doesn’t feel there should be any bike lanes…  In Coronado, the San Diego Bike Coalition is trying to make streets safer for people on bikes, but to a certain provincial resident, that’s “imposing its cycling agenda on others“.

One recent positive development was the 8-6 Uptown Planners vote to support a safe east-west bike lane on University in the community mobility plan.  While mostly symbolic, it was a rejection of the Hillcrest Business Association’s lobbying actions that resulted in the striking bike corridor gap shown below (h/t @ollingers):


This vote wouldn’t have been possible just a year ago, before the election of new members that have changed the anti-bicyclist views of some on the board. If you’re interested in being a part of this change, email anti-bicyclist board chair Jim Mellos that you’d like to run. He’s one of the board members whose terms expire next year.

– Lots of college and middle school students walk to class on Mesa College Drive, yet decades after its bridge over 163 was built, it remains incredibly unsafe for people on foot and bikes. A sidewalk only exists on one side of the road, and it crosses the onramp to 163 South on a downslope, around a corner, and with no crosswalk. This week workers put up fencing that forced walkers into the road and posted a “Sidewalk closed, use other side” sign directing them to use the non-existent sidewalk (and backtrack hundreds of feet to do so).  Somehow, they made this intersection even more life-threatening:


Two days later, the sign was gone but the hazard remained, with no other signage or traffic cones to alert drivers to pedestrians walking in the street.

– On Georgia Street just south of El Cajon Boulevard, drivers have taken to parking on the sidewalk (this wasn’t the only car parked there):




– SD Uptown News has a great article on the resurgence of El Cajon Boulevard in North Park, including the 37ECB business incubator and HG Fenton residential project at Florida Street:

(HG Fenton’s) La Raia characterized The Boulevard’s ongoing revitalization as “another golden era.”

“El Cajon Boulevard has a combination of features that make it optimal as a lifestyle destination for both work and play,” he said. “This includes a strong neighborhood feel, diverse culture, excellent location close to job centers and transit, nearby parks and open space. We anticipate more young professionals moving here to live in the new residential apartment communities being developed. We also see exciting new retail and restaurant businesses attracting shoppers and diners from outside of the neighborhood.”

What a contrast to the neighborhood just to the west, where efforts to create a historical district are the latest tool being used to keep young professionals (or anyone young, for that matter) out.   I’m all in favor of preserving our city’s rare historic architecture, especially when it’s affordable urban housing being torn down for parking lots.  But given that the folks behind the historic district proposal oppose any new housing in Uptown, because on-street parking is more important, it’s obvious what the real intention is – use the development guidelines established by historical districts to make it even more difficult to build anything:

Development guidelines may regulate the size, scale, design and use of new infill on existing vacant lots, or where demolition of non-contributors has occurred.


Reducing height limits to 65 feet on Hillcrest’s commercial corridors isn’t enough for some. As the opinion piece’s author, Nancy Moors, states on her blog, “Future development should respect the lower scale of our built-out communities, which is much less than the 65-feet height allowed by the IHO.”  And how would they reduce height limits below even 65 feet?  By creating a historical district like the one in Sherman Heights that limits all buildings to 30 feet, even on its commercial street, Market. Market Street there is a strip mall and parking lot-dominated stretch of road. It’s suburban planning in an urban neighborhood, or precisely the vision some in Uptown have for University Ave. had a good article recently on how these land use policies, which exclude younger and less wealthy residents, are contributing to inequality and hurting economic growth.  What’s odd is that many of the folks pushing restrictive land use policies are fairly liberal on other equity issues like the minimum wage.  How do they not understand that lowering height limits and densities means mixed-use housing and commercial projects (not to mention boutique hotels) simply don’t pencil out, which reduces housing and employment opportunities in an area well-served by transit?  If anything, many of these residents want fewer businesses in Hillcrest, and that’s exactly what they’re getting as business after business closes.  Meanwhile every other neighborhood in Uptown is thriving.

The funniest part of Moors’ piece was that 80% of residents surveyed by Uptown Planners supported lowering height limits.  Of course they do – most of the respondents of the 2006 unscientific survey were likely homeowners, who benefit from exclusionary zoning via increased home prices.  Try polling young renters or those who can’t afford to leave their parents’ home throughout San Diego, and I bet you’ll get a much different result. Sadly, parochial Uptown residents don’t think anyone outside of their neighborhood should have a say on its planning, regardless of our city’s Climate Action Plan goals or state affordable housing requirements.

– Quickies:

    • The cross-border Tijuana airport terminal pedestrian bridge is open.  The “stand on the side of Pacific Highway and wait for the rental car shuttle” trolley link to San Diego Airport is not.
    • Big changes coming to our downtown waterfront, with the dated Anthony’s Fish Grotto being replaced with a multi-restaurant and public viewing deck project; the Manchester Gateway Project has been approved (not a fan of Papa Doug or the architecture on this project but it’s a huge improvement over what’s there now); and say goodbye to the subpar restaurants and tourist traps of Seaport Village, set to be replaced – possibly with an ampitheater.  NBC7 could only find tourists to interview about the change (because downtown residents have little reason to go there), unsurprisingly they don’t want to change a thing.
    • Bill Adams makes a convincing argument for academic development in the East Village instead of a football stadium
    • Most newer baseball stadiums have an outfield public viewing area with restaurants and bars, offering a social place to stretch your legs and chat without bothering those seated around you.  But for the second year in a row, Petco Park will create a viewing area for private parties only.
    • Many cities are adding housing near transit to reduce reliance on cars and to address climate change.  But at the Solana Beach train station, housing can’t comprise more than 40% of the land use, and proposed projects for its parking lot are still all about the parking.
    • The California Supreme Court has rejected the suburban sprawl of Newhall Ranch north of LA, saying it will increase greenhouse gas emissions.  If the Court is willing to block suburban sprawl to reduce emissions, why can’t it also override those who prevent the alternative: new housing near transit and jobs?
    • 12,000 new multi-family housing units are envisioned for Southeast San Diego in its new community plans.

5 thoughts on “car-free cabrillo

  1. Your belief is that once that stubborn generation of convenience in front of you gets old and dies out, then you’ll be able to show the rest of the world your new, millenial ways, and rid this world of cars!

    We need a balanced approach to transport planning, not the removal of cars. And yes, once the generation of opulence, convenience, and destruction are gone we’ll finally get back to what made America great.

  2. Hahaha! OK. let me see if I read this right….

    Your belief is that once that stubborn generation of convenience in front of you gets old and dies out, then you’ll be able to show the rest of the world your new, millenial ways, and rid this world of cars! You just need to chip away, one blog post, one blog post comment, one reddit post. And then someday, your work will payoff and the automobile infrastructure will collapse and YOU will be the smart ones with the bicycles.

    Then again, if I move to North County, I can play Mad Max with all the rest of the world who needs to be somewhere on time several miles from their home. Is that how it goes? You’re not a fan of Escondido, so THEY should have cars?

    You guys/gals are a bunch of hypocrites.

  3. Thanks for your posts Paul. It’s really great to see what progress is being made in San Diego while I’m gone. Things will continue to get better slowly but surely as the old dinosaurs die out and leave smart, young progressive people to inherit the city. Or perhaps those old NIMBYs will realize that a city is an urban environment and if they want to be lazy and drive everywhere, they can move to North County.

  4. It’s simple math. More people rely on cars as their preferred method of transportation. That is never going to change. So the math dictates that since there is a higher number of cars compared to the number of bicycles, then appropriating space for parking those cars becomes a greater necessity than provisioning the same property for bicycles.

    You’re always going to be treated as second class citizens in the transportation world. You can blog and whine all you want, but you do not have a say in the end result. Auto transportation is simply more important the to greater good of the rest of the world outside of your self-entitled millenial bubble. You really should consider getting used to this fact as it will never change.

    Maybe you should move to Amsterdam. They sure love their bikes over there. But, alas, they have cars too. I guess the show stopper would be is that the people who choose to ride their bikes over there do it without having to constantly moan about the existence of automobiles. That might confuse you, so I take back that Amsterdam idea.

    Portland needs their leader. Start packing 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *