Voice of San Diego has a good summary on some of the urban initiatives in this suburban city, including the Civic and Urban Initiatives Program, and the R.A.D. Labs project in East Village, which may open in late Spring. As one commenter noted:

New residential construction and retrofitting in Little Italy, Bankers Hill, and Hillcrest document the awareness by developers that people want to live within walking or short public transport distance from Downtown, but in places with a neighborhood feel. SD is early in its urban renaissance.

Unfortunately the latter two of those three neighborhoods have 65 foot interim height limits that local planning groups seek to make permanent. Exceptions in Bankers Hill are allowed pending “special approval” – here’s one at 5th and Palm (what’s going to happen to Extraordinary Desserts there?). A true urban renaissance in these neighborhoods will be challenging with that blanket vertical restriction.

After decades of sprawl and freeway construction/widening, San Diegans are beginning to realize that our core neighborhoods present the best opportunity for future residential growth, jobs, and the alternative transit options between them. Yet many who moved to gay-friendly neighborhoods like Hillcrest in the 80’s and 90’s to avoid discrimination elsewhere now discriminate against potential new residents, via downzoning and height restrictions as rents and real estate prices soar. Uptown Planners discriminated against cyclists as they opposed SANDAG’s plan for bike lanes through Uptown; Hillcrest businesses opposed the Mid-City Rapid Transit line because “no one takes the bus”. So while there are encouraging signs of urbanist thinking taking root in San Diego, there’s also plenty of resistance from those unwilling to share their neighborhoods or roads with anyone else.

– Mission Valley is hardly a core neighborhood, but it is along a trolley line that has the potential to reduce total car trips for nearby residents (as seen recently with LA’s Expo Line extension), and is a prime location for infill development. The Civita project there has been controversial, and I’m no fan of Republican kingmaker/developer Tom Sudberry, but the city did squeeze significant development impact fees out of the project – including the new sidewalk/landscaping going up Texas Street. So it was entertaining to read this response to a NIMBY letter with factual issues. Like this whopper from the Rolando folks that oppose mixed-use construction in their neighborhood, it’s easy to squash the half-truths, scare tactics and everyone-always-drives arguments that don’t hold up.

Speaking of the trolley, how about some free wi-fi on it and MTS buses?  It’s worked to boost Amtrak ridership.

– Good news this month included the city’s approval to build 595 miles of bike lanes, many of them protected; funding remains a question at this time… More good news as an LGBT-friendly senior housing project was announced for the vacant lot behind McDonalds at Texas and El Cajon Blvd. Community Housing Works, builders of the Kalos project on Florida Street, confirmed the buildings would reach the 65′ height limit for the location… New trams are running in Balboa Park, where the Cabrillo Bridge will be closed for the next four months:


…The bridge’s closure will be an interesting test of whether parking armageddon really will occur in Bankers Hill as residents insisted, and/or if it decreases attendance to the institutions at the park’s west end.

– Disappointing news for transit advocates when the city caved in to the cheap parking crowd and provided a second hour of free parking to Central Library visitors.  The library’s parking rates are below market for downtown, but since taxpayers paid for part of the library, apparently we’re supposed to get free parking for it.  Taxpayers also paid for Petco Park yet no free parking is provided there. No discount was extended to library patrons who take public transit, such as the trolley that runs right next door.

– Going out for New Years?  MTS is running extra service that night:

On New Year’s Eve, Tuesday, Dec. 31 MTS will operate extended service.  All three trolley lines will provide two additional later round trips each. Also, Routes 2, 7, 30, and 901 will all have one additional departure from downtown after the New Year is rung in.  For detailed route and schedule information visit

MTS is also planning to finally launch its stored value Compass Card option in 2014.

– Arrivederci continues its takeover of San Diego with a new spot coming to Fern St. in South Park… Finally, with all those year-end music lists coming out, here’s sd urban’s favorite songs of 2013:

2 thoughts on “renaissance-ready

  1. I haven’t checked your blog in a while. That’s my son and I on the tram! We ride it around for thrills when we have a free half hour.

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