UPDATE (6/2): The Hillcrest Business Association has endorsed the new bike lane-free Uptown Bikeway proposal, saying it “provides alternative transportation options” and “additional bicycle infrastructure” when in fact it is no different than existing conditions:
June 3, 2015
Honorable Councilmember Todd Gloria
SANDAG Transportation Committee
401 B Street, 7th Floor
San Diego, CA 92101
Re: Revised Scope for Uptown Bike Corridor Project
Dear, Chair Gloria:
On behalf of the Hillcrest Business Association (HBA) Board of Directors, please accept this letter in support of SANDAG’s revised scope of work for the Uptown Bike Corridor Project.
HBA representatives recently met with SANDAG to discus the revised scope, and we appreciate SANDAG’s commitment to improving the pedestrian experience along University Avenue while also providing additional bicycle infrastructure along Washington Street and University Avenue. Equally important, it’s our understanding the revised scope will maintain eastbound vehicular access to University Avenue from Washington Street, and it will also minimize the parking loss along University Avenue throughout the Hillcrest business core.
The HBA has always advocated for a balanced plan – one that provides alternative transportation options while still respecting the reality that many customers access Hillcrest businesses by car. We feel both goals are met under the revised scope, and we respectfully ask for the Transportation Committee’s support. As this plan moves forward, the HBA is committed to partnering with SANDAG, the City of San Diego and the respective transportation and community groups to ensure the project is designed well and provides the most significant impact possible for Hillcrest residents and businesses alike.
We look forward to working with SANDAG to ensure that the proposed new infrastructure be installed in appropriate areas of opportunity such as east University Ave. and Normal Street. It is our intention to work with our partners, such as the Uptown Community Parking District, to connect community funds to this project to ensure the best project is created and maintained into the future.
Thank you for your consideration and support of this substantial investment. We look forward to this becoming a reality.
Hillcrest Business Association
UPDATE (5/29): The agenda for next week’s SANDAG Transportation Committee meeting has been posted and all bike lanes have been removed from University Ave. in the new staff proposal. SANDAG board members almost never go against staff recommendations, so it looks nearly certain Uptown will have a $40 million dollar bike lane project with no bike lanes:
As SANDAG and the city heavily promote Bike Month and Bike to Work Day Friday, senior SANDAG staff have presented a new plan that eliminates all protected bike lanes from University Ave in the $40 million dollar Uptown Bikeway project. After the city and SANDAG used an auto Level of Service analysis to reject the Transform Hillcrest plan (which preserved on-street parking by removing travel lanes instead), SANDAG’s original plan remained as the only viable protected bike lane option. But because the Hillcrest Business Association, led by Crest Cafe owner Cecilia Moreno, has refused to “give up” a single on-street parking space (they don’t own them) the HBA’s lobbyist California Strategies instructed SANDAG to keep the status quo. And the status quo is exactly what SANDAG chief and former Caltrans head Gary Gallegos delivered in private to HBA representative Ben Nichols last Friday: the Uptown Bikeway would now become a “pedestrian improvement” project, with sharrows (painted bike symbols) as the “bike facility”.
Bike infrastructure has been neglected for decades in San Diego. Roads, including University Ave in Hillcrest, remain highly dangerous for people on bikes. I was nearly hit by a driver there recently who was performing an illegal turn – ironically, while I biked to an Uptown Planners Special Meeting where its board members rejected the Uptown Bikeway. Meanwhile, cities across the country are implementing safe bike lanes at a rapid clip.
Given the above, it was huge positive news when SANDAG, an agency fighting a state court case for the excessive greenhouse gas emissions in their transportation plan, allocated a small percentage of their sales tax funding on a regional bike plan early action network. The Uptown Bikeway was the first step in this network, and to be a model for the rest of the region.
Well, unfortunately that model is in sad shape, because business and community members have deemed on-street parking spaces more important than the lives of fellow residents on bikes. Despite bike advocates signing on to Transform Hillcrest (a convenient smokescreen for the HBA to pretend they cared about bike infrastructure), and caving on the closure of the University Ave off-ramp for traffic calming, opponents have refused to budge from losing one parking space. Yet since the Uptown Bikeway was announced there has been a huge increase in the number of parking spaces and resources in Hillcrest, far outweighing any worse-case scenario of Bikeway-related parking loss:
- Nearly 200 evening parking spaces were added in the DMV parking lot
- 40 spaces at the IBEW parking lot in Mission Hills
- 145 new street parking spaces have been identified by angled parking conversions (to be installed)
- Off-street surface parking lots and garages in the area (and there are lots of them) are not at 85% capacity, making it difficult to issue bonds for a new parking garage
- Smart meters have been installed, allowing for dynamic pricing based on demand and maximizing street parking resources
- A parking shuttle has been added, not to mention the proliferation of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft.
And still, no matter how many studies showing that removing some parking for protected bike lanes makes good business sense, the other side simply will not listen.
The city’s draft Climate Action Plan, which seeks to increase bike mode share to 6% by 2020, also appears to be irrelevant. Here was Uptown’s best chance to provide a safe bike infrastructure to get more folks to ride – a rare $40 million dollar funding opportunity for a Bikeway – and now this money is going toward painting sharrow symbols on the road, and pedestrian improvements? More than half of all people who want to ride are afraid of being hit. How are sharrows, which offer zero protection from being hit, going to get these folks to ride?
I want San Diego to be considered one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world. We know we have one of the best climates – one that I am working to protect through my Climate Action Plan and its call for even more bike facilities. Our biggest task is to put in the infrastructure that allows and encourages people to ride bikes more often.
If that’s the case, why has there been no leadership from the mayor’s office to keep the Uptown Bikeway’s protected bike lanes from being removed?
Next Friday, June 5th is the SANDAG Transportation Committee meeting where the Uptown Bikeway has been kicked back for re-evaluation. Projects typically only get sent back to the TC if they’re fighting for their lives, which this one sure is. SANDAG Transportation Committee member Ron Roberts, whose County Climate Action Plan was recently thrown out in court for being too weak, has been strongly lobbied by his Mission Hills neighbors to reduce the Bikeway to sharrows. If we’re lucky, SANDAG engineering staff will be able to salvage parts of the project on University – a protected bike lane for 3 blocks along its widest stretch (10th to Normal) and some traffic calming elements like mini-roundabouts and speed tables in Mission Hills. Yet even that is a sorry excuse for what could – and should – have been.
Given that opponents have refused to compromise, it makes little sense to do the same here, but let’s try anyway. Since it’s not clear if SANDAG’s protected bike lanes on 4th and 5th Ave have been killed yet (worst case, we’ll still have the city’s buffered bike lanes there, unless Leo Wilson gets his way), how about connecting these lanes to east Hillcrest with a combined bus/bike lane on the narrower section of University (5th to 10th)? Then do the protected bike lanes from 10th to Normal as mentioned above. This would preserve all street parking on University, except for spaces near the few driveways between 10th and Normal.