Lots of restaurant changes going on around town – Heights Tavern in Normal Heights has been bought out and will be closing this week, according to Hutton Marshall at Uptown News… Plumeria’s new spot is coming along on Adams… A friend says Eddie’s on 30th in North Park is closing and will make way for a Queenstown Public House operation.  I never did get Eddie’s concept – the menu was so wide-ranging that there had to be some serious Sysco going on… Across the street, Veg-N-Out is also closing… Marie’s on University is being replaced by a new Lucha LibreDark Horse Coffee is opening a location in the You Are Here project in Golden Hill… Acme Kitchen downtown has also closed; we enjoyed our dinner there a while back but there’s no way I could eat there regularly without elastic waistbands… Comun is open downtown with an upscale Mexican concept; chef Chad White has worked at Roseville, Gabardine and Counterpoint.

Meanwhile, LGBT Weekly asks why there’s been so much restaurant turnover in Hillcrest – but considering the above, restaurant changes aren’t unique to this neighborhood.  We get New York magazine (gotta use those airline points) and there’s plenty of turnover all over that city too.  Maybe it’s not about the parking as the article implies, but rather strong competition for a finite dining-out dollar.

- Upcoming: come to Modern Times Wednesday at 6 and support the minimum wage increase, since our current mayor and former mayor heading the SD Chamber of Commerce will be doing their best to keep thousands of San Diegans working in poverty… Monty Python and The Holy Grail finishes up the Normal Heights summer movie season at Ward Canyon Park (Adams and I-15) this Saturday at 8… There are a couple of clean-up events coming up: Operation Clean Sweep this Saturday morning cleans up the bay, while Coastal Cleanup Day is Saturday 9/21.

- A new residential project is planned for the vacant lot just east of Albertsons on University:

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As SD Streets notes, this is the same architect who designed the Columbia Lofts going up in Little Italy (Columbia St, between Fir and Grape), and there’s an interesting-looking possible rendering of the University project. With North Park Nursery moving in a few doors east, this humdrum stretch of University is looking up.

- I attended Jim Frost’s Transforming Hillcrest presentation last week at the Hillcrest Town Council and was impressed by the thought put into the plan, which would provide protected bike lanes while retaining all current parking on University:


Something’s gotta give, and in this case it’s two travel lanes, which could create traffic flow issues for the frequent bus service on that street.  I had assumed SANDAG performed a traffic study indicating no travel lanes could be lost, but apparently that’s not the case.  We’ll see if they consider this plan, which has broad community support.


- We were headed to the beach Saturday (this has been the best beach summer I can remember since moving here in late 1997, btw) and got caught in the backup from the 7-car sandwich just east of I-5 on I-8.  Here’s a map showing this is the worst stretch of I-8 in the city:


I looked at other freeways individually since you can only plot 1000 collisions at a time, and this appears to be the worst freeway stretch within city limits, largely due to the morning backup onto the I-5N off-ramp.  While Caltrans is widening this off-ramp, why not reduce speeds and/or add caution signage in the area?  It’s been a problem since at least 2000 when I began driving this route (although now I usually exit at Taylor and take the bus to work on my UCSD days – or ride my bike to the Hillcrest/UCSD shuttle).
- Looks like the I-5 widening is going to happen; meanwhile, San Diego ranks poorly on transit.

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seattle’s booming

15 Aug

I posted recently about our trip to Denver and the positive steps they’re taking on public transit and urban residential construction.  If we had returned home from there without visiting Seattle, I’d probably still be blabbering about how much Denver is doing to promote smart growth and transit-oriented development that attracts skilled younger residents.  In my opinion this is key to a city’s economic well-being, but in San Diego, my generation (X) continues to flee as our increasingly older population opposes increased density that could address our city’s housing unaffordability crisis.  Yet for some, a city composed of only rich, old people “will be great”:


Instead, I’ve been blabbering to anyone who’ll listen about the density increase we witnessed in Seattle, from the Amazon-induced construction-on-every-block in South Lake Union just north of downtown, to the five-to-eight story buildings going up in every near-urban neighborhood. And it’s not anything new – Seattle has been building multi-unit housing at a rate twice that of San Diego for years (more data here).

We took the new-ish light rail line from the airport into downtown Seattle, which was only $2.75 for the smooth 15-mile trip.  It shares the downtown bus tunnel to avoid street-level congestion (at a recent SANDAG meeting, the MTS head stressed the need for San Diego’s first tunnel, downtown):


The first night we stayed in the formerly-blighted Denny Triangle neighborhood, amidst cranes on nearly every block.  The parking lot next door to our hotel was set for a 38-story tower; Amazon had just bought the fading Hurricane Cafe across the street, and the crater for the new Amazon headquarters on 7th Street was well underway (full Seattle construction photo set): 


Amazon’s paying for cycle tracks to be built on 7th St and installing 1200 bike stalls as they encourage bicycling to their downtown location. Conversely, in San Diego, Qualcomm complains about the I-805 traffic they created, spends millions on an exit ramp, and lobbied Wednesday for the widening of I-5. But it was the South Lake Union neighborhood just to the east that was undergoing an even greater transformation.  On the workday we visited, the streets were full of young tech workers amidst the office buildings, residential housing, and restaurants.


We managed to grab a table at this awesome biscuit spot before the worker hordes moved in:


These pictures don’t do justice to the scale of the mixed-use projects, some of which took up entire city blocks. This banner shows the area’s walk score, something we saw in other places around the city as a public marketing tool. And the workers at this site said they’ve been having difficulty finding employees due to the area’s construction boom.


More new construction nearby:


The South Lake Union Streetcar runs through the area:


Up the hill in Capitol Hill, there’s a new light rail station and tunnel under construction, along with a ton of new housing. While Seattle’s historic gay neighborhood can change, Hillcrest was declared off-limits to development precisely because of its gay history by Uptown Planner chair Leo Wilson.  New buildings in Capitol Hill routinely exceeded the 30 foot height limit promoted by the anti-density community activists at HillQuest.




Protected bike lanes even grace the main street of Broadway in Capitol Hill (another flashpoint in our gayborhood):



Seattle’s public bike share isn’t online yet, so I rented a bike for the day and hit the Burke-Gillman trail, where cars actually stop for bikes when they cross the road:


It was a beautiful, heavily-used facility.  Compare that to the sparsely-used Mission Valley bike trail, where you’re required to dismount, walk your bike to the (far) nearest intersection, wait to cross, walk back to the path on the other side, and get back on your bike. And that occurs at multiple points along the trail:


Another night we had a fantastic dinner at the Korean fusion spot Revel in Fremont, where we enjoyed pork belly pancakes, short rib dumplings, sausage and shrimp dumplings, and lemongrass beef noodles.  Everything was as tasty as it sounds…



After that we headed over to Ballard where I enjoyed my first of two excellent vegan desserts at Hot Cakes (the second was vegan cherry chunk ice cream at Molly Moon’s):


While there’s also construction going on in Fremont, it seemed much more so in Ballard, especially as we headed east from there:




There was also some residential construction around the University of Washington, which I passed through on a detour from the Burke-Gillman trail.  And we stayed a couple of days with friends in West Seattle, where there was a new 7-story mixed-use building going in.

UPDATE: Here’s a map from the 2030 Seattle transit master plan document (I cut the area south of Seattle out) which shows the neighborhoods above. Notice how 91% of population growth is set for urban centers. In San Diego, our leading growth area has been the South Bay, sending tens of thousands of cars onto our freeways daily:

www.seattle.gov transportation docs tmp final TMPFinalSummaryReportandAppendices.pdf

Imagine if we had hundreds, if not thousands, of new units going into Hillcrest, North Park, Golden Hill and Mission Hills.  Because that’s exactly what was happening in the similar neighborhoods of Seattle.  And this rainy city is priming itself for the future after years of high unemployment by building the housing that its tech workforce requires.  How is Seattle able to overcome NIMBY opposition to smart growth, while San Diego isn’t?

Seattle’s also building the mass transit and bike facilities younger workers seek, while raising its minimum wage to $15 as our mayor vetoes our much smaller increase. The Seattle metro’s unemployment rate is the nation’s lowest, at 5.9%. It’s the fastest-growing large metro in the country.  I wonder where our city’s economy will be 20 years from now versus Seattle, as our skilled workers move away in search of affordable housing, our aging population continues to fight development, our hourglass economy worsens, and we continue to expand our freeways for ‘boomers in the ‘burbs.

Well, on that cheery note I leave you with a picture of Bell Street in Belltown (near downtown), where they took a 3-lane one-way street and put in bioswales and seating on two of the lanes.  It looks great, and yet it’s awfully hard to imagine it ever happening in San Diego.


3 Responses to seattle’s booming


Todd Schlender

August 15th, 2014 at 5:09 pm

Your most recent post about the building boom taking place in Seattle clearly shows how the short-term and longer-term paths the two cities are taking are diverging. I love San Diego and, like many, I don’t want to see the basic character and face of the city I love to change.
We need to understand what the effects of our current policies will be. Are we happy having such an inconsistent level of public transportation across the city? How will this affect San Diego as the population continues to grow? How will those new citizens move across the city if a) there are limited options for them other than the single-occupant car so common on our roads, and b) if the density in the more central neighborhoods is not allowed to be increased, thereby causing longer and longer commute distances and times?
No, we’re not Seattle. And we don’t want to be — I like the sun! But we can learn a lot from the progress happening elsewhere in the US, Europe and beyond.


Joe Wolf

August 21st, 2014 at 10:23 pm

Paul: Thanks so much for this piece – my buddy Todd Schlender shared it with me earlier this week, I lived in San Diego for many years – Hillcrest, North Park, Little Italy – before moving to Seattle in late 2011,. Planning-related jobs and interests in both cities.

I love San Diego, and it frustrates me – to say the least – to read that its governance is still mired in the traps and mindsets I remember, It has the potential to be such a fantastic place – for everyone, and not just the 5-10%.

You nailed a lot of what makes Seattle such an exciting. uplifting … fun place to be now. It is far from perfect, but there is an openness to trying new things, listening to new voices that I rarely experienced in San Diego, I hope your blog and activism helps to change that.,

Here are some sites you might find interesting:

Seattle Transit Blog (a must-read): http://seattletransitblog.com/

Crosscut: Online daily, good coverage of planning & development issues: http://crosscut.com/

Smart Growth Seattle: http://www.smartgrowthseattle.org/

Curbed Seattle.

Finally, my Flickr page – much of my photography focuses on the built environment, https://www.flickr.com/photos/joebehr/


Joe Wolf

August 21st, 2014 at 10:23 pm

Paul: Thanks so much for this piece – my buddy Todd Schlender shared it with me earlier this week, I lived in San Diego for many years – Hillcrest, North Park, Little Italy – before moving to Seattle in late 2011,. Planning-related jobs and interests in both cities.

I love San Diego, and it frustrates me – to say the least – to read that its governance is still mired in the traps and mindsets I remember, It has the potential to be such a fantastic place – for everyone, and not just the 5-10%.

You nailed a lot of what makes Seattle such an exciting. uplifting … fun place to be now. It is far from perfect, but there is an openness to trying new things, listening to new voices that I rarely experienced in San Diego, I hope your blog and activism helps to change that.,

Here are some sites you might find interesting:

Seattle Transit Blog (a must-read): http://seattletransitblog.com/

Crosscut: Online daily, good coverage of planning & development issues: http://crosscut.com/

Smart Growth Seattle: http://www.smartgrowthseattle.org/

Curbed Seattle.

Finally, my Flickr page – much of my photography focuses on the built environment, https://www.flickr.com/photos/joebehr/

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fitting in

4 Aug

These pictures were taken last month before we headed out on vacation, so they’re a bit out of date, but I wanted to follow up on a San Diego twitter discussion a while back about architecture “fitting in” to a neighborhood. Specifically, a North Park resident (and/or patron) was saying the Orchid-nominated North Parker didn’t fit in to the Craftsman-dominated neighborhood:


Personally, I think the North Parker’s (“beautiful“) modern design and clean lines look great. Sure, it’s different than the surrounding architecture, but there isn’t a lot of exemplary architecture along 30th to begin with. It’s not a house, so why should it look like the Craftsmans on the adjacent residential streets?

I’m not an architecture critic, nor is the aforementioned North Park resident as far as I know.  North Parker architect Jonathan Segal is probably a bit more knowledgeable in this department, and he addressed the issue in a U-T article:

“My hope is that people start understanding that modern architecture can nestle into a neighborhood rather than being afraid of it,” said developer-architect Jonathan Segal.

(I missed a gem of a quote from Segal the first time I read that article – “I find that community people tend to be interested in venting some anger and I’m not interested in being a recipient of that.”  While I’m guilty of this, I can’t help but think of the North Park community meetings’ venter-in-chief, Don Leichtling.)

Taken to an extreme, if architecture always has to “fit in”, every block of every city would look like it did at its founding. That doesn’t make for a very interesting urban landscape.

Here in Kensington, Kensington Commons is nearing completion (San Diego Streets has a good writeup and much better pictures), and it definitely fits in to the neighborhood’s existing architecture more than the North Parker:


While we’re excited about finally having some new mixed-use development in what’s been a stagnant stretch of Adams (including the Stehly Farms grocery store, set to open in October), the project’s design doesn’t exactly set the heart racing. Considering the age of the average Kensington heart, that’s probably a good thing, but I’d gladly take the North Parker’s more adventurous design in that space instead. With a third floor, of course.

3 Responses to fitting in



August 7th, 2014 at 6:31 pm

I can’t wait to see what Segal has planned for Park and Robinson!!



August 7th, 2014 at 7:02 pm

As long as the building is designed with the pedestrian experience as first priority, I don’t care about the style. Activating the street level, and making it interesting for people walking by is far more important. With that said, people need a variation and detail of facade to keep their interest. Something modernism has failed to do in most cases. The NorthParker seems to do this, however, with its varied street level facade.


Paul Jamason

August 11th, 2014 at 9:54 am

Good points Walt! I neglected to mention that Kensington Commons replaces a gas station, which was about as un-pedestrian friendly as it gets.

Also related – when KC was scaled back after resident opposition, I think the large pedestrian plaza on the corner was significantly reduced in size.

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2 Aug


We spent several days in Denver recently and really enjoyed our visit to this rapidly changing city.  It has a similar feel to San Diego – laid-back, brewpubs, outdoor-oriented – but is further along in building a robust public transit system and near-transit development.  And as this banner at the 16th pedestrian mall downtown shows, there’s a big push to promote bicycling in the city. We spent a full day riding the B-Cycle bike share around town and it offered plenty to see in its coverage zone, from downtown to Capitol Hill, to Cheeseman Park and the Denver Botanic Gardens, to a packed City Park full of people watching a free jazz show on a beautiful summer evening.

We stayed in Wheatridge with my stepbrother, just west of many of the “hot” neighborhoods on that side of downtown.  That put us relatively close to Tennyson Street in the Berkeley neighborhood, where new cafes, restaurants and mixed-use development dotted this main drag.  But it’s further east in Highlands where things are really getting interesting.  Connected to downtown via the Millenium bridge over I-25 and 15th St. pedestrian gateway, there’s lots of new residential development and restaurants/bars going in. It’s also home to Little Man Ice Cream, where I had the most delicious vegan ice cream of my life (named “Munchies”, which was rather appropriate at the time).



Across the freeway near Confluence Park there’s some high-rise development going in:


And plenty more development further east, near the current Union Station light rail station and 16th St pedestrian mall bus terminus (this picture doesn’t show more high-rises to the right):


Lots of bicyclists use this pedestrian path to get between west Denver and downtown, so the city incorporated these neat bike rails so you don’t have to carry your bike down the stairs:


Moving further east, the new Union Station rail stop canopy has been built, and this station will open in 2016. There was a grand opening at Union Station the weekend after we visited, with various new restaurants (including a Snooze AM) and a hotel in the building:




Denver’s FasTraks program, funded by a voter-approved 2004 0.4 cent sales tax increase, is in the midst of adding 122 miles of rail lines (and 18 miles of BRT), one of which will connect to their distant airport in 2016. We rode the line from west of Denver to downtown to catch a Rockies game and it was a convenient car-free experience. Meanwhile, the city’s innovative Transit Oriented Development Fund invests in sensible development near public transit:

The Fund is capitalized at $15 million, but is evolving now to $30 million in total loan capital. This revolving loan fund will make capital available to purchase and hold sites for up to five years along current and future rails and high frequency bus corridors. The $30 million investment will leverage over $500 million in local economic development activity, serving many economically challenged neighborhoods in Metro Denver with construction and permanent job creation. The Fund will also directly benefit low-income households that on average spend 60% of their gross income on housing and transportation expenses combined. By controlling these expenses and providing access to quality, environmentally-sustainable housing, the TOD Fund will make it possible for families to build wealth and access employment and educational opportunities. It will also provide employers with access to an expanded workforce.

There’s very frequent bus service along the 16th St. pedestrian street, which was bustling both on a Friday afternoon and on Saturday, when the street was closed to buses for a ped/bike event:



As one of the cities with the greatest millennial in-migration, Denver’s new urban residential construction isn’t limited to just west Denver and downtown. We noticed several streets where single homes had been replaced by duplexes:


While they do change the character of the street, they’re certainly a better option than the cheaply-built Huffman six-packs and their large curb-cuts that have negatively impacted Uptown.

The Five Points neighborhood northeast of downtown was also full of new residential projects, and we ate our best meal of the trip on the inviting back patio of The Populist restaurant there. Another dining highlight was lunch at Steubens in Capitol Hill:


Capitol Hill is the city’s gay center, but the vibrancy of their gay community is one area where Denver lags San Diego, in my opinion. We did enjoy our time on the patio at X Bar, which is owned by a San Diegan. And Capitol Hill, like many other neighborhoods, contained several establishments that sold marijuana to both in- and out-of-state customers. Purchasing and intaking cannabis, free of the guilt of doing something illegal – what a concept! Follow that up with a visit to the surreal Chihuly glass exhibits at the Denver Botanical Gardens (more in the Denver flickr set):


It was eye-opening to experience a city that’s applying smart principles to growth, considering the benefits growth can bring to a region’s economy. Denver’s public transit expansion and nearby development was a sharp contrast to San Diego, where established residents oppose any new urban development outside of downtown, and millennials depart at one of the highest rates in the nation. Every new housing unit that Denver builds near downtown is one less resource-intensive suburban home contributing to sprawl – something we appreciated during our amazing hike at Three Sisters Park high in the hills.

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panama 66

16 Jul


Panama 66 has soft-opened in the Sculpture Garden cafe space with a decent selection of local craft beers, some interesting cocktails, and a menu not too different from their sister restaurant Tiger Tiger. They even do coconut-glazed donut and beer pairings as part of their weekend brunch. But my favorite part is just being able to bike to a spot in Balboa Park that serves craft beer in a laid-back setting. We have places like this in our neighborhoods, but why has the Park always felt like a tourist The Prado skews a bit too upscale to pop into after a sweaty ride (and usually has some event going on), but that’s not the case at Panama 66, which seems geared toward both locals and tourists.

They’re still in pre-grand opening mode, so hours are limited, but the bar shown above is temporary and they’ll be adding more taps. Bartender “Pete” said they’re installing a roof to provide shade for patrons who don’t score an umbrella-covered seat. I like the architecture of the cafe’s patio, so hopefully it’s not a permanent structure. Panama 66 is also providing drinks for events, like Film in the Garden and the recent Culture and Cocktails event at the Museum of Art, which Pete said was very busy.

I’d really like to see the restaurant’s seating extend out into the car-free Plaza de Panama. Plazas throughout Europe are ringed by cafes with such seating. Why can’t that be done here – because of San Diego’s restrictive alcohol laws? There are actually spaces in the Park that allow for (non-glass) drinking, so maybe that’s not the reason.

Earlier in the day we joined the thousands of people on 30th in North Park watching the World Cup final on a giant screen:


It was awesome to see this public space briefly reclaimed from cars and given to all people, not just drivers. If Mexico City can close down a main boulevard every Sunday morning for pedestrians and bicyclists, why not North Park? There can’t be many deliveries at this time, and there’s a giant parking garage just down the street. While we were there, our friend Christopher told us about the two places going in just up the block at Lincoln. One will be Milk Bar and the other Streetcar Donuts, the latter serving “specialty donuts and waffle-battered fried chicken”.

A new open air fish market opens near the Chesapeake Seafood spot just north of Seaport Village on Saturdays starting August 2nd… Moosie’s Ice Cream had their grand opening in Kensington this past weekend, great addition to the neighborhood… Bake Sale bakery has opened in East Village, from the owner of Bankers Hill Bar and Grill… Architect/developer Jonathan Segal has an unspecified project going in at Robinson and Park. If it lines up commercial tenants on the order of his North Parker, that would be a big boost for the burgeoning Egyptian district in Hillcrest. Will the anti-growth sentiments prevalent among many established Hillcrest residents be voiced against this project too?

- Speaking of NIMBYs, they’re still going wild: A Clairemont “planner” says her neighborhood is “built out” and shouldn’t have to accept any of the estimated 1.2 million new residents projected for our region by 2050… Street parking for established Ocean Beach residents justifies blocking new development that would remove blight…  A Linda Vista mortgage broker says his neighborhood is “absolutely against” the trolley and opposes any new development to address the region’s housing crisis… No major objections were voiced against the eastern end of the proposed Mid-City Bike Corridor at an Eastern Community planning meeting last week, but planner Mario Ingrasi has exhibited a “motorists own the road” perspective in the past.

Mario: Suggestion has been raised to enforce an ordinance to limit and further enforce riding on sidewalks and tax bicycles, perhaps levee a tax on purchase of bicycle components. Licensing may also be an option. The problem lies in a conflict between auto drivers and bicyclists over who is entitled to be on the road. Motorists do not sense that bicyclists are putting in their fair share due to not paying licensing or registration fees. Bicyclists feel by keeping an auto off the road they have contributed. Motorists feel there should be some way for bicyclists to pay for the impacts the addition of bike lanes and bicyclist ROW over motorists that are being given to cyclists

- Circulate SD published a San Diego pedestrian collision analysis showing more than half of pedestrian/auto collisions were drivers “at fault” and that 60% of motorists fail to yield to pedestrians at intersections… University and 4th Avenue in Hillcrest made the list of intersections with the most pedestrian injuries, yet a Hillcrest nightclub promoter continues to rail against the University Avenue street-calming bike lanes because parking… A Long Beach study found protected bike lanes there increased bike ridership by 33%, reduced bike crashes by 80%, reduced vehicle crashes by 50%, and increased pedestrian use by 15%… A recent meeting on the Meade Avenue bicycle boulevard was well-received by attendees… Phoenix has approved a Complete Streets Ordinance… The California Bicycle Coalition is throwing a better bikeways party at Jakes on 6th Wine Bar this Friday from 6-9 pm.


3 Responses to panama 66



July 17th, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Paul, regarding Mario Ingrasi’s comments about taxing bicycles, have you seen any statistics about how many adult bicycle owners also own autos and are already “paying their fair share”? Does he suggest how this tax would be spent?


Michael Skubic

August 5th, 2014 at 4:23 pm

I completely agree about moving more seating into the open “parking free” zone. When I was studying in Spain the Plaza Mayor of Salamanca had an amazing vibe to it thanks to all the seats surrounding the central plaza. We should strive something like that in San Diego.


paul jamason

August 6th, 2014 at 11:54 am

Yes – Siena and Venice also come to mind regarding cafe seats on a central plaza. Why is that so hard to do here?

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