It’s been a year since The North Park Theatre was purchased by the owners of West Coast Tavern, and six months since it re-opened with modernized sound and lighting, plus a refurbished lobby (more details at discoversd.com). We got our first look during Saturday night’s Tegan and Sara concert and it’s a fantastic venue to see a show – great acoustics, impressive sound system, and plenty of room. And what concert experience isn’t made better by having a full bar just steps away?
Prior to North Park Theatre’s conversion from primarily an opera house, we used to lament the lack of music venues in Uptown. We’d travel to other cities and see major artists listed on the venue of theaters in near-downtown neighborhoods, but here, smaller venues like Casbah and Soda Bar focus more on up-and-coming artists. If you wanted to see more established alternative or electronic acts, you had to go downtown (to House of Blues, or the now-closed 4th and B, or the now-closed Anthology) or to Midway (Sports Arena and SOMA) or out to San Diego State or Chula Vista. Many of these involve getting in the car, driving to the show, drinking overpriced macro beer, and driving home. That’s definitely not the case with North Park Theatre, where the thriving neighborhood offers loads of pre- and post-show dining and drinking options.
And the quality of the acts has been impressive – we were out of town for the sold-out Cut Copy show, but a recent stretch included the aforementioned Tegan and Sara, Flying Lotus, the Presets, and Lauryn Hill. And with other shows like The New Pornographers, Lykke Li, Warpaint and Washed Out, it’s clear the bookings are geared toward the younger residents who live in North Park and Uptown. Here’s to many successful years and great shows at the North Park Theatre.
– Over in Hillcrest, I’m happy to see the owner of Urban Mo’s and several other establishments on University has endorsed the Transform Hillcrest proposal to bring bike lanes to this street; Chris Shaw previously wanted the lanes moved to Washington (SANDAG has again stated at length why that’s not possible). And I was impressed that Shaw secured two parking lots for his patrons, even promising discount validation. But then it became clear they intend to tear down this 1917 house directly behind Urban Mo’s to put in a parking lot:
I realize the new owners of the property (Hillcrest Partners LLC) can do whatever they like, pending historical review of the old house by the city. And while I hate to see century-old homes torn down for any reason, sometimes the net effect can be positive – here in Kensington, two older homes (along with a gas station) were replaced by the Kensington Commons mixed-use project, which has greatly improved walkability on Adams, increased housing inventory and will include a market. But I can’t support tearing down historic architecture and residences in an urban neighborhood for yet another parking lot – especially given San Diego’s ranking as second-most unaffordable large city for housing in the nation. An aerial view of that area shows lots of parking lots already (there are 15 paid lots within a few blocks of Mo’s), and these only decrease the walkability and vibrancy of the neighborhood.
Many cities are addressing the negative impact of surface parking lots on their urban neighborhoods. Millennials (and nearly all age groups) are driving less as they use alternate transportation more. Our city’s Climate Action Plan seeks to reduce auto mode share, and SANDAG’s smart growth map shows Hillcrest as an urban center. Uber and Lyft are new alternatives to DUI-plowing your car into others after leaving a Hillcrest establishment. Yet many Hillcrest businesses are still demanding the city provide them more parking, or leveling housing for people to park cars instead.
Fortunately, the public relations director for Mo’s Universe set me straight – it was really me that was out of touch with urban planning trends, not them:
@sdurban “it’s no bueno”? What is no bueno is your out of touch reality of the impact construction and no parking will have on Hillcrest.
— Eddie Rey (@ILoveEddieRey) November 17, 2014
(The “small building” was what I thought was being torn down at the time, but the larger house behind it is too). The construction Eddie’s referring to is the pipeline project on 5th Avenue, which will wrap up eventually. What’s odd is that these pipeline projects are far from rare, so why are they used to justify a 97-year old house being reduced to rubble?
– UPDATE: Seven parcels are for sale at Sixth and Robinson in Hillcrest for 18.5 million, with redevelopment planned for the site. As the article points out, can it overcome opposition to height limits that has resulted in little to no new residential development in the neighborhood for years?
– CicloSDias was held in Hillcrest a couple weekends ago, and a big thanks goes to the folks at KTU-A Planning and Landscaping for going all out with the demonstration cycle track and People’s Plaza. These guys brought out truckload after truckload of pallets and landscaping for these demonstration areas. And thanks to Circulate SD for setting up their cool giant Scrabble board:
(UPDATE: Additional thanks to the Hillcrest Business Association for “hosting the permit, assisting with SDPD costs, and providing a large amount of equipment for KTU-A project and the event itself.”) I hung out by the cycle track and showed the Transform Hillcrest plan to folks who were genuinely excited for this facility. Afterward we rode the route and enjoyed some seafood tacos at Oscar’s, and did some shopping at Obelisk. While turnout was decent, I’m guessing Palm Springs Pride, the North Park bottle share event, and Taste of University Heights impacted attendance somewhat. Unfortunately criticism of the event was swift from the usual anti-bike crowd in Hillcrest – sdpix.com’s Jim Winsor posted pictures of empty streets, his Facebook friends threatened to shoot riders with a bb gun (or stick a golf club in their spokes) and Crest Cafe owner Cecilia Moreno questioned “why are they pushing so hard for bike lanes?”. Replace “bike lanes” with “gay marriage” and there’s an analogy there somewhere. (UPDATE: To avoid any unintended implication in the previous sentence, Ms. Moreno is a supporter of marriage equality.) For these folks, there was only one measure of success for the event, and that was financial (despite a lack of actual sales numbers, this didn’t stop criticism of the event). No matter that that CicloSDias’ primary goal is simply to set aside a single afternoon for pedestrians and bicyclists to enjoy a car-free street.
Elsewhere in Hillcrest, we enjoyed our meal at the new Brazilian/American fusion spot Buffalo Public House in the former East Village Asian Diner location on University… The Broadstone Balboa website is up for their project at 5th and Thorn… DecoBike “installations are expected to begin on Sixth November 14th working north to Mission Hills by year’s end” and smart meter installations are expected in late November or December in Uptown (both updates from Uptown Parking District)… Taste of Italy and Jakes on 6th have or will be closing soon.
Speaking of closures, Pizzeria Mozza is closing at the Old Police Headquarters downtown. Word from friends was that it was very expensive for what they were serving. Meanwhile, the more-reasonably priced Puesto next door is always packed… The Port of San Diego had their grand opening celebration for the Embarcadero project Saturday – we couldn’t make it due to our endless landscaping project. It’s awesome to see Phase 1 of the NEVP complete, and its focus on residents and visitors to the waterfront, not just their cars. Unfortunately there’s no funding for Phase 2, which would tackle the waterfront area just to the north. Looks like that will be years away, if ever.