the lonely tower

the lonely tower

The new Pinnacle tower in East Village is currently the only high-rise for blocks, a lonely skyscraper seemingly set adrift from the rest of the downtown skyline. There’s a second Pinnacle tower coming next door, but otherwise this area is a sea of vacant lots ringed with the tents of the homeless (or the what-could’ve-been 6-story buildings replacing them). That’s about to change with a proposed 21-story tower from architect Carrier Johnson at 460 16th St:


The project also includes another, 6-story, building.  368 residential units are planned along with nearly 20,000 SF of commercial space…  Over at 7th and Market, a Ritz-Carlton and Whole Foods are planned as part of this Cisterra project:



…The I.D.E.A. District, a 35 block area of East Village proposed to be a work/live/arts/innovation center, got a possible kickstart with news of a potential UCSD co-laboratory there, possibly in the old Central Library… Over at the Courtyard, there’s a vote next Tuesday on three different designs for the East Village Green park proposed for the District between 13th, F, 15th and G Streets… Also at the Courtyard, they’ve started booking music events for this fun space, with personal favorites Cut Copy doing a DJ set there on Sunday July 5th.

– A major upzoning was approved by the city council for Grantville around the trolley station there, converting largely industrial lots to mixed-use residential and commercial.  I like that the San Diego River will have adjacent parks added to it with the potential for outdoor dining overlooking it.  And kudos to the Chamber of Commerce (wow that feels weird to say) for acknowledging the greenhouse gas benefits of the transit-oriented plan versus building these 8000+ units in the exurbs:

Sean Karafin of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce praised the zoning changes, which are called the Grantville Focused Plan.

“The Grantville Focused Plan is exactly the type of effort that we need to replicate as fast as we can responsibly do,” said Karafin, adding that the changes help the city achieve a climate plan that would reduce greenhouse gases. “It makes all the sense in the world that we prioritize development in Grantville.”

Meanwhile, criticism of the plan was strong here on the Nextdoor Kensington page – because of fears of increased traffic in our neighborhood.  Never mind that not a single one of these units will actually be built in Kensington – residents here oppose *any* development, anywhere, apparently.

This same me-first mentality pervades the Kensington-Talmadge planning committee, which somehow gives the former Uptown Planners board a run for their NIMBY money.  During last week’s meeting, members voted to:

  1. Require the property owner of the vacant lot at El Cajon and Fairmont (Price Charities) to widen El Cajon Boulevard by adding a right turn lane onto Fairmont.  No matter that this block is the focus of coordinated efforts by the City Heights Community Development Corp., El Cajon BID and Circulate SD to increase pedestrian safety, improve the transit user experience and perform placemaking.  Or that the city’s pedestrian master plan calls for a sidewalk bulb out here.  The KenTal Planning Committee gives exactly zero shits about these efforts, and are only concerned with reducing the number of cars on Monroe and Aldine Aves in Talmadge – pedestrian safety on El Cajon be damned.  (In addition, the Monroe/Euclid intersection is receiving a traffic-calming roundabout as part of the SANDAG Mid-City Bikeway.)
  2. Reject the state plan to reduce onsite parking minimums for projects located near transit.  On-street parking is far more important to these folks than addressing our housing affordability crisis or meeting the city’s Climate Action Plan goals.  One board member was literally clutching her shawl as she fretted about visitor parking.  Meanwhile Minneapolis is proposing to eliminate all minimum parking requirements near transit.
  3. Recommend a dog park for the vacant lot just east of I-15 at El Cajon Boulevard – despite it being an ideal location for a mixed-use residential/commercial project near two rapid bus lines.

The irony of the nearly all-white, elderly KenTal planning board sitting in the new YMCA, plotting against the interests of the diverse gym-goers outside the room, was a bit much.   Remember, these are the same folks who wanted to turn the ground floor retail planned for the Talmadge Gateway project *away* from El Cajon Boulevard, so it would serve their community instead.  Our communities deserve planners who consider the economic future of the city, including the impacts of climate change they helped create – not just their own parochial parking and traffic issues.  This lack of leadership extends to our elected leaders on major challenges facing the city:

Ultimately, the City Council sits in judgment on development issues such as One Paseo, but there are challenges of greater import that deserve greater attention from councilmembers.
These issues are the Chargers stadium, Convention Center expansion, aging infrastructure (deteriorating water mains and sewer pipes, in particular), desalination or other means of assuring drinkable water, preserving the city’s quality of life for future generations, and formation of a San Diego-Baja California regional economy where goods, labor and traffic flow freely to harness an economic engine of enormous potential.
The difficulty of addressing these issues effectively is no excuse for not trying. The temptation for city councilmembers past and present has been to give up on big picture items and instead argue less important issues parochially. It is easier and the results are visible more immediately, before the next election occurs.
As voters, however, we expect the officials we elect to be leaders, capable of making tough choices and developing a vision, goals, strategies and priorities for the good of the community at large. Instead, what we get are local policy debates that frequently boil down to little more than assertions not backed up by credible research or made by “experts” whose views are predictable.

Elsewhere in Kensington, party like it’s 1985 because Kensington Video is back, complete with juice bar (despite a juice bar planned for the eternally-delayed Stehly Farms Market nearby)… Over in Normal Heights, where new establishments actually open, Burnside has replaced the old Greek eatery and has a variety of sandwiches and craft beers available.  The fried chicken sandwich and a poutine-like dirty fries with roast beef were highlights.



There’s a pre-4th of July bike decorating and ride at Mona Lizzy’s and Adams Avenue Bikes:


– Two terrific concerts recently with Spoon at the Observatory:


and Sufjan Stevens at Copley Symphony Hall:


I complain a lot here about San Diego but I’m grateful we have such prime venues for artists like these.  So I’ll spare you my complaining about SANDAG killing most of the Uptown Bikeway on University until next time.


6 thoughts on “the lonely tower

  1. Hi Paul — great post. Just discovered your blog and spent the past hour or two reading about the SANDAG mid-city bike improvements. I ride the Meade — Monroe portion east to SDSU 4-5 days/week when classes are in session (with a fair bit of jogging-between-streets because I don’t feel safe riding on Montezuma). While some of the planned improvements are great, like the westbound cycle connection at Monroe and Aldine, I have a big problem with a couple intersections. The roundabout at Monroe/Euclid does nothing but improve car traffic at the expense of biker safety. A big reason I use this route is because cars *have* to stop there and see cyclists. The suggested improvement at Collwood and Monroe isn’t much unless you want bikers to get back on Collwood and then, presumably, Montezuma — again, a treacherous route for many cyclists. You might have discussed these in earlier posts, so sorry to be late to the party, but THANK YOU for bringing this and other cycling issues to my attention!

  2. Well said Walt! On each item I mentioned, the Kensington Talmadge planning group completely ignored those plans (and the upcoming Vision Zero plan) and supported self-serving interests instead. How do we task these groups with writing our community plans when they disregard city policies?

  3. Someone needs to slap ALL CPGs up the side of the head and remind them that it is their duty to help implement the City General Plan, Climate Action Plan, SANDAG RTP, Bike Master Plan, and Pedestrian Master Plan to the best of their ability in a style and manner that best fits their community. They don’t get to make up their own rules and pretend they don’t live in San Diego.

  4. Carrie, “people from all income groups living near transit owned fewer cars, drove less and took transit more than those not living close to transit”. Households living near transit making under $60K/year drove half the miles of everyone else (reducing GHG emissions and traffic):

    The fact that we’re having this conversation shows how much education is needed on the issue. Instead, I heard comments from the KenTal board saying how “all those low-income people jammed into those units each have a car they park on the street”. Clearly, if we had better transit options and more housing near them, there would be less cars per person.

  5. Is there any evidence that people who live near transit own fewer cars that they try to park on the street?

  6. I do hope the video store works out. I don’t think it’s healthy for a city to have only restaurants, bars, and nail salons, and sometimes it feels like that is where things are heading.

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