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.



Johnathan Hale


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:


sandagBikeToWorkAs 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?

San Diego is ranked 115th in the country on the Redfin Bikescore list, and Mayor Faulconer has pledged:

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.

13 Responses to protected bike lanes axed from uptown bikeway


Tyler Huff

May 29th, 2015 at 10:55 am

Unbelievable that it could go on such a wild roller-coaster from such amazing positive hope and envisioning a physical barrier bike lane for all of university all the way down to just sharrows … a sad state that the “not one parking spot!” mentality ‘wins’… I hope some of the Uptown Bikeway gets salvaged at the SANDAG Transportation Committee. This was the best shot for serious dramatic change and to see it gutted and killed is so sad.


Walter Chambers

May 29th, 2015 at 12:30 pm

This reflects very poorly on Todd Gloria’s leadership in Uptown, and on the SANDAG transportation committee. I would have a VERY hard time supporting his candidacy for Assembly.


Walter Scott Chambers III

May 29th, 2015 at 12:38 pm

If this is true, I would urge a prolonged, organized boycott of the businesses responsible for this. That would include, Crest Cafe, Urban Mo’s, Bread and Cie, Baja Betty’s, Hillcrest Brewery, Ace Hardware, and others. I think also reflects very poorly on Todd Gloria’s leadership in Uptown and on the SANDAG Transportation Committee. I could not support him for Assembly in this case.


paul jamason

May 29th, 2015 at 12:42 pm

Hi Walt from my understanding Todd still wants SANDAG to provide another option, one better than the sharrows-only plan. As chair of the committee, he has some ability to make that happen. But remember Ron Roberts is also on the committee. He appears to have little interest in climate change issues or supporting bike infrastructure (Bike Month photo-op notwithstanding!), has been lobbied heavily by anti-bike folks in Mission Hills and likely by the HBA’s California Strategies lobbyist. He could also introduce a motion to accept the sharrows-only plan or even direct the funding elsewhere.


Robert Lawson

May 29th, 2015 at 12:53 pm

How can we boycott all of the businesses that support this? I ride a bike routinely and don’t own a car, so their plan is pretty much a giant middle finger to people like me.


John Dillon

May 29th, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Wow what a one sided article. This a need for improvement however offer and only listening to one plan presented by SANDAG is foolish. I would also add that those riding bikes in this city need to start obeying the tracfic laws. In the ;ast week driving through Hillcrest I have seen over 6 Bicylcest run through stop signs and red lights. This type of poor behavior cointributes to accidents.



May 29th, 2015 at 4:35 pm

Instead of boycott…how about a dine-in at one of the restaurants to show the economic benefit of bicycling?


Michell Theoperasmorg

May 30th, 2015 at 7:53 am

I commute exclusively by bike, so you know I’m very much for the Transform Hillcrest plan. It’s disheartening how the SANDAG agenda ( http://www.sandag.org/uploads/meetingid/meetingid_4008_19206.pdf ) now reads, however, I don’t think they are removing ALL bike lanes planned for University Ave. It looks like they’re doing it the blocks between 4th and 5th, and between 7th and 8th… which still sucks, of course. SANDAG should have learnt by now that fragmented bike lanes don’t help getting new people to commute by bike. Ok, they might fall for it once, then they see that the bike lane is actually trying to get them killed by luring them into bottlenecks and then just leaving them to fend for themselves, then they get home, put the bike into storage and don’t try riding around again = you haven’t replaced any car with bike and reduce any traffic/greenhouse gas after all. 😛



June 1st, 2015 at 2:02 pm

How about picketing in front of these business like Crest Cafe or Bread & Cie. instead of a boycott and let everyone know what selfish jerks they are?



June 3rd, 2015 at 7:21 pm

How about making a sign that businesses who support the bike plan can hang in the window?


paul jamason

June 4th, 2015 at 11:43 am

Hi Carrie, the Livable Streets Coalition discussed doing that as part of a canvassing operation about a year ago, but SANDAG staff advised us against doing business outreach (unless we already had the support of the business). Also, we were advised by Todd Gloria’s office that they would be doing outreach to the businesses because of the poor business outreach by SANDAG.

Well, here we are a year later and no outreach was performed that I’m aware of. The Hillcrest Business Association endorsed the new SANDAG plan for no bike lanes on University Tuesday, despite saying they supported the Transform Hillcrest plan that preserved most parking. No language mentioning Transform Hillcrest was included in their letter to SANDAG.


leylla badeanlou

June 4th, 2015 at 9:01 pm

Please watch and share =)



paul jamason

June 4th, 2015 at 9:27 pm

Awesome video Leylla! Thanks so much and for quoting my post. Will be sure to share the video.

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holsem coffee opens

17 May



Holsem Coffee in North Park had their grand opening this week. We were planning on going but Thursday’s deluge took care of that (0.7 inches of rain in just 9 minutes at the airport?) . They’re serving up a variety of specialty coffee drinks and desserts, plus beer and wine will be on tap once the license comes through.  They even make their own hazelnut milk.  Here’s a picture from yesterday when it and the neighborhood were bustling with the North Park Festival of the Arts.  The bright, clean interior design couldn’t be more different from Claire de Lune across the street:


– There’s been several positive changes on San Diego’s long-underwhelming North Embarcadero recently: Waterfront Park, the Embarcadero makeover, Lane Field Park, Broadway Pier (could have been better) and two new hotels under construction.  Yet the dining options in the area are still a disappointment.  Wyndham shuttered the subpar Elephant and Castle Bar, and we’re still waiting on Carnitas to open in the new Embarcadero space.  But Anthony’s Fish Grotto has to be the biggest head-scratcher on the waterfront: a restaurant that hasn’t received an upgrade in 50 years, an outdated menu comprised mostly of fried fish, and a retro-but-not-in-a-good-way bar (solid happy hour specials though).  Considering Anthony’s has a 52-year lease, it’s unsurprising there’s been no incentive to improve things.  With the lease expiring in 2017, the Port is looking for ways to maximize revenue from the space, so look for big changes and up to 3 restaurants at the location.

– The Port’s getting smart about parking – using smart meters, dynamic pricing and modifying hours to maximize access to the waterfront and decrease circling for spaces, not to mention pollution.  After a successful pilot program testing the above, they’re expanding it.  One port commissioner even pointed out that the new rates will still be below those of nearby parking garages and noted the city of San Diego’s “free lunch” attitude with respect to parking (and garbage collection, and …). He hoped that the Port wouldn’t adopt the city’s attitude of fiscal irresponsibility.  It’s funny how courageous officials can be when they don’t have to appease voters expecting them to deliver that free lunch.

– Welcome news arrived this week in Hillcrest: the Pernicano’s lot is close to being sold after being on the market for 8 months (and dormant for decades).  The owner was apparently holding out for a buyer who would build a hotel on the site, but that’s going to be a challenge given Hillcrest’s 65′ height limit.  At a Hillcrest Town Council forum last week, Todd Gloria said residents need to be flexible on the height limit to help bring a much-needed new hotel to the neighborhood – one that still has many storefront vacancies despite the robust economy and thriving communities nearby.

Another positive development in Hillcrest: the Uptown Parking District’s free trolley will see double duty starting Monday, with a lunch loop planned to bring Hillcrest Medical Center employees to the neighborhood:
Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 3.04.26 PM

You are cordially invited to join the Uptown Community Parking District in partnership with UC San Diego Health System, Hillcrest Business Association and Hillcrest businesses along with Councilmember Todd Gloria for our ribbon cutting and media event to launch the new Park Hillcrest Lunch Loop!

Learn how this pilot project will decrease the number of cars circling at lunch time and reduce parking impacts! Monday May 18 11:00—11:30 AM UC San Diego Medical Center 200 Arbor Drive San Diego, CA 92103.  For more information contact Elizabeth@ParkUptownSD.org

– Next weekend is Memorial Day, but there’s two events on the following weekend to be aware of.  The first is the Bike SD Bike Month Bash on Saturday May 30th at the Lafayette Hotel and a ride on El Cajon Boulevard (yes I mentioned it last time but now there’s this cool poster):



Proceeds go to the “Complete the Boulevard” advocacy campaign, which seeks to make El Cajon Blvd safe for all transit modes.  Let’s not just make it safe, let’s transform it through art and place-making.  ACT: The Blvd, held the day before the Bike Bash, will build on plans to do just that:

– Downtown, The Block is the name of the project on Broadway between 7th and 8th that will bring 41 and 21-story towers, 600 residential units and 20,000 square feet of retail space:

The-Block-rendering-850x636 (1)

– You know how cool the historic bungalow courts are in our Uptown neighborhoods?  The city took one step toward making these possible again, on lots zoned for multi-family housing with their new small lot ordinance.  However, the ordinance does not reduce parking minimums, so I don’t see how the old parking-free bungalow courts would happen.  Still, it’s a positive step toward providing more housing without creating the vertical “monstrosities” we hear so much griping about from the you-know-who’s.  Yet there were still complaints about the parking impacts of the proposal, proof that nothing will satisfy our neighbors who have shut the housing door behind them.

Speaking of these folks, opposition has fired up once again to La Mesa’s Park Station project, despite a significant height reduction in line with downtown height limits…  And in Otay Ranch, a group of older residents railed against building housing for younger residents near transit, because traffic.

UCSD’s sustainability policies with respect to transit have been questionable recently, but they’re putting on a climate change forum anyway, discussing the city’s Climate Action Plan.
Oddly, the event’s organizers only provided parking instructions at first, with no information regarding public transit or other modes.  A recent climate change symposium at Salk Institute did the same…  Another organization that’s been disappointing on transit is SANDAG, and this KPBS article details how SANDAG’s transportation plan works against the city’s attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  As long as SANDAG staff are led by a former Caltrans director, and much of the board is made up of suburban members, freeways are always going to take precedence over mass transit, greenhouse gas laws be damned… SANDAG has announced their North Park to downtown bikeway, and John Anderson of Bike SD suggests closing Florida Drive too…  Fox 5 had a good report on efforts to bring Vision Zero to San Diego… If you use the MTS website, you probably know that the tiny map of stops at the top of each route page is nearly impossible to use on your phone.  Want to help improve their site?   Here’s a survey.

– Finally, my work site near Sharp Memorial is amidst a concrete jungle of parking garages, drivers running through crosswalks despite pedestrians in them, and daily rush hour gridlock.  I know there’s no way to get around most patient parking at hospitals, but what efforts have Sharp and Rady Children’s made to reduce the number of employees who drive there?  Nearly everyone in my department drives alone, for example.  And why wouldn’t they – garage parking is free, bus service takes 45 minutes to Hillcrest (a 10 minute drive), and there’s no marked bike lanes.  In fact, drivers are still allowed to park for free on the sides of Health Center Drive despite the dozen or so parking garages they could park in.  Why not remove this parking and add a protected bike lane?

It doesn’t have to be this way.  Seattle Children’s Hospital has reduced their auto mode share among employees to 38%, with a goal of 30%.  The article provides some context: “Healthcare providers are undergoing a fundamental shift from focusing on contagious diseases to treating chronic conditions that are often related to unhealthy lifestyles, like diabetes and heart disease.”  Sedentary, car-dependent lifestyles contribute to these chronic conditions.  Thus, the hospital has a dozen initiatives to reduce employee auto mode share, from free transit passes, to dynamic parking pricing, to free bikes.

Why aren’t Sharp and Rady’s doing the same, given our city’s Climate Action Plan and the resulting health benefits to their employees?  An email question to Rady’s about any alternative transit initiatives went unanswered.



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bosa village

3 May

Renderings are up for the new 45-story, 296 unit Bosa residential tower planned for the parking lot just west of the Santa Fe Depot. It’s the second high rise from the right in the front row of this image (the tower across Broadway is another Bosa development currently under construction):

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 10.40.49 AM

The project will feature an open public plaza and ~15,000 sq. ft. of retail/commercial.  In addition to the projects mentioned above, Bosa also built Bayside, The Grande and Electra, all nearby.  While it’s great to see one developer investing so heavily in the area, what does that say about downtown San Diego’s ability to attract a wide range of residential developers?

– Construction at Horton Plaza Park has been back underway for a while now and there are some small new structures up:


– Upcoming events: Is it possible for a machine to think?  Uncanny Valley is a unique science fiction play from San Diego Rep appearing at the Lyceum Theater through May 10th that asks this and many other questions we may soon have to answer…  Bike to Work Day is Friday May 15th, check out the map of all the pit stops… North Park Festival of the Arts is the next day, featuring a craft beer block and two beer gardens… And the following day is Pedal to the (Petco) Park Day – join an organized ride to the baseball game, or make your own way to the Bicycle Pavilion at Park Boulevard & Tony Gwynn Drive… Silo at Makers Quarter‘s 4th annual Craft Beer and Bites features 15 new breweries on Saturday the 30th… Earlier in the day, check out the Bike SD Bike Month Bash at the Lafayette Hotel, featuring a ride down El Cajon Boulevard to some select businesses. Art Around Adams is back on June 6th.

– Summer is around the corner and often provides an uptick in business for San Diego dining establishments. There’s been a flurry of activity recently: Rustic Root, next door to Don Chido, opens on 5th downtown next week and includes a rare second-floor rooftop dining/bar area. I’ve always wondered why Austin has all those rooftop venues while our downtown (with its milder climate) mostly restricts dining to ground level or high up on hotel rooftops… Park and Rec from the Waypoint Public folks also opens this month in the former Bourbon Street location in University Heights and will feature live music and DJs, with old-school games in the courtyard… Hillcrest gains a new winery in August but loses R Gang Eatery this month. I was surprised that R Gang remained open this long, it often looked empty evenings, but perhaps the brunch business compensated for a while.

Here in Kensington progress is slow on a number of fronts. It looks like the sushi joint planned for the Kensington Video space from the Ponces folks may not be happening, given the handwritten For Lease sign now up in KV’s window. While the store closed weeks ago, there doesn’t appear to be any rush to clear the space for a new tenant:


Two doors down, the former Fish Public spot remains empty several months after closing, and further east on Adams the Pappalecco build-out has been impressively slow. But it’s the Stehly Farms market in the new Kensington Commons building that has been the most bewildering. A recent post on Nextdoor Kensington said the opening has been delayed from January to June, but several commenters asked why the apparent deli equipment permitting issues weren’t considered before leasing to the market owners, and some speculated the market may never open.

Meanwhile a recent Uptown News article about Kensington Commons made no mention of the market’s issues, or the absence of evening activity on this block resulting from a lack of any dining establishments.  KC is still a big improvement over the gas station previously at this location, but I can’t get on board with the article’s praise for KC’s Spanish colonial architecture.  This style may fit in to the neighborhood, but I personally find this building to be bland and outdated compared to the vibrant and award-winning North Parker:


Image from AIA website

– I was critical of Uptown Planner Tom Mullaney in a recent post over his views on housing.  Tom has emailed a response which I’ve included below.  Our exchange started in response to a Hillcrest resident complaining about the impact of the Mr. Robinson project on street parking (the resident can also be seen in the video accompanying this article).

This exchange started based on your statement at Uptown Planners in support of a high density project at Park Blvd and Robinson, in spite of concerns about adequate parking.
I will respond belatedly to your  email from 3/10/15.

Dr. Ross Starr is the economist who explained a few years ago that San Diego has high housing prices because it’s a nice place to live.

I already mentioned that Dr. Richard Carson is the prominent UCSD economist who explained a few years ago, to SANDAG officials, why there was no evidence of a housing shortage.    He did not say “shortage of affordable housing” which appears to have a different meaning.   Yet neither term can be defined satisfactorily.
To summarize his findings:   There is no agreement on how to measure an adequate number of homes, or a shortage.   There is no evidence that the market mechanism is broken.  That is, developers can and do buy land, design projects, finance and build them.
I will add:   The City of San Diego Housing Element contains an inventory of “housing sites”.  This plan has been approved by the State of Calif as demonstrating an adequate number of buildable sites.
A reasonable conclusion is that  developers routinely look for and find land which has the potential for new projects, in which they can make a profit.  They move forward whenever they can devise a project which “pencils out”, if they can obtain financing.
The phrase “housing shortage” has been repeated so many times that it’s become accepted as fact, by some people.   I don’t want to be unduly critical about the  2/5/15 article in the Voice of San Diego which you referenced.  There must be better cases made as evidence of a housing shortage.  I urge you to reread that article.  The logic is almost childish.

We looked at census data to find the number of new housing units added in San Diego County between the 1990, 2000 and 2010. In 1990 there was one housing unit for every 1.285 members of the labor force. By 2010, that had risen to 1.346 workers for every housing unit in the county. Even adjusting for the increase in labor force participation, between 2000 and 2010, we added about 20,000 fewer houses in the county when judged against increases in the local labor market.    So where did those workers go to sleep at night? Simply put, the failure to build enough in our county fueled demand for housing in southern Riverside County, and to an extent, Baja

Consider what the author is saying:  That during any period in which the labor force grew faster than the housing stock, we can conclude that there was a housing shortage!
Such a simplistic conclusion completely ignores factors like:  The average number of residents per dwelling unit (household size), changes in the square feet and number of bedrooms per home, and the age of the workforce, which can affect household size.
In conclusion,  I don’t doubt that Transit Oriented Development offers some benefits.  I think there is good reason to create safe bikeways.  However, trying to cure a “housing shortage” is a futile goal, since such a shortage can’t be adequately defined, and is probably non-existent.
Tom Mullaney

2 Responses to bosa village


Adam Calhoun

May 4th, 2015 at 3:38 am

Fish Commons shut down! I never understood that place – replace one of the best restaurants in San Diego with Yet Another Seafood Restaurant.


Eric S

May 14th, 2015 at 11:40 am

I don’t think anyone knows except Stehly when they’re opening. I do know that they’ve been paying rent on that empty place since January though.

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– SANDAG has released their draft regional plan for growth in San Diego County.  It acknowledges the estimated 1 million more people that will be added to our population by 2050, largely from within, requiring 330,000 new housing units.  That’s about 10,000 units per year (an apartment industry analyst said 15-20,000 last week), yet our metro has only built about half to three-quarters that amount over the past decade.  Since we’ve run out of buildable land to sprawl onto, the report notes we’ll have to grow up rather than out.  Yet given our city’s restrictive height limits – from the 30′ Coastal Height Limit, to community plan height limits, to community overlays (e.g., the Clairemont Mesa Community 30-40′ Height Limit) – and our high land costs, where exactly can we build up, apart from downtown and Mission Valley?  Because we’re not going to fit 330,000 new housing units into those two places.

The details of SANDAG’s transportation plan, which still relies heavily on freeway expansion over mass transit in its early years, are available in this appendix.  I was interested to see whether the current 90-minute public transit commute from residential center North Park, to job center Sorrento Mesa, would be addressed by the planned Rapid route 688:


Why would anyone do this unless they had no other option?

And it is… by 2035.  So hang in there folks – SANDAG may have widened the I-5/805 interchange to 22 lanes a decade ago, but you’ll still have to wait another 20 years for a reasonable public transit option to Sorrento Valley.

– Earth Week was last week and UCSD students and administrators donned hazmat suits to collect trash on campus.  Sustainability is a big deal at UCSD – their website says the following about the institution’s commitment to our environment:

At UC San Diego, our school colors may be blue and gold, but at heart, we are green. Sustainability is not just a catch-phrase here – it is a way of life, part of the institutional DNA imparted to us by Roger Revelle, one of the university’s founders and a pioneer of climate change research.

Revelle helped found Scripps Institution of Oceanography and SIO has a strong history of climate research, including current researcher Richard Somerville.  Somerville attended the San Diego Climate Action Campaign launch event last week.  (My graduate degree is in climate research, so I’ve had a personal interest in this issue for some time.)

The university’s sustainability goals are part of a sustainability effort at all UC campuses:

UC’s robust sustainability program covers all ten campuses and five medical centers. The systemwide programs are driven by a nationally-recognized comprehensive sustainability policy and leading-edge presidential initiatives

The UC system aims to be carbon-neutral by 2025, but upon closer inspection, this only applies to their buildings and vehicle fleet.  Yet transportation accounts for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in California.  UCSD chancellor Pradeep Khosla, gave a presentation in 2013 reaffirming UCSD’s goal of “increasing the use of alternative transportation options by commuters” to reduce these emissions.  Given the university’s strong pro-sustainability position, what actions are they taking to back up these statements?  You might be surprised.

Last year, UCSD ended a decades-long agreement with MTS that provided free bus service to UCSD employees and students.  Initially, it was proposed that UCSD would contribute to MTS bus passes for the first few years.  Yet last fall UCSD employees had the same option as those of any other large employer: the 25% discounted MTS EcoPass for $54/month.  For students, a transit referendum was passed (it was proposed by UCSD student and new Uptown Planner Kyle Heiskala), and all students now pay an annual fee to receive an MTS/NCTD transit pass for about $16/month during the school year.  Killing the free bus zone subsidy saved the university $3.2 million per year; at this point, none of this funding has been restored.  Meanwhile, students and staff are now contributing about $3.97 million per year to MTS via the referendum and EcoPass purchases. Efforts to create a low-cost bike share system on campus have been delayed, with repeated requests by administration officials for items that have already been submitted. UCSD has essentially shifted most of the financial burden for transportation sustainability onto employees – that means they don’t get to claim credit for the resulting environmental gains.

Recently, UCSD announced the construction of a new 1000+ space parking garage despite the abundant parking already available throughout campus (over 15,000 spaces):

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If only there were somewhere to park at UCSD!

With another 1000 spaces, and assuming an average commute of 15 miles, this structure will directly result in over 2000 metric tons of greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere every year. This completely contradicts the UC system’s stated mission to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  It also ignores alternative solutions, such as ride share, and new parking technologies, including space counting and real-time parking availability apps.  Meanwhile, parking rates have not been adjusted for 8 years. And why do UCSD students often have parking in close proximity to their dorms, while lots (and the shuttles serving them) on east Campus remain below capacity?  When I attended Virginia Tech, my roommate’s car was a 20-minute walk from our dorm room.

Building yet another parking garage ignores the arrival of the Mid-Coast Trolley to campus in just a few years.  At SDSU, the trolley resulted in a decrease of 6,000 parking permits/year, and the number continues to decrease.

unnamedIf single occupancy vehicles (SOV) make up 75% of UCSD’s carbon emissions by transportation mode, how does cutting transit subsidies and building parking garages help reduce emissions?  To their (employees) credit, UCSD’s SOV mode share is a respectable 42%, down from 66% in 2001, versus the county’s current 70+%. The university’s current Climate Action Plan is from 2008; its updated version should contain significant alternative transit mode share increases. UCSD also supported the controversial I-5-widening, part of SANDAG’s regional transportation plan that exceeds state 2050 greenhouse gas emissions targets by 7 times. Environmental groups, with the state on board, sued to stop this freeways-first plan and have won twice in court so far.

UCSD has been without a transportation director for several years, and the transportation services division is under-staffed – my efforts to review their budget were rebuffed due to a lack of resources.  Once the position is filled, the university’s new transportation director should work with stakeholders to develop 5 and 10-year strategic plans that spell out how UC’s carbon neutral goal will be achieved, including mode share goals.   

To be fair, the UC’s must limit their transportation funding to transportation-related income only: parking revenue and tickets (although I’ve been told this can vary by campus).  This is mostly beyond UCSD’s control, but that doesn’t stop them from lobbying the UC Office of the President to change this policy.  On their end, UC President Janet Napolitano could lobby our elected representatives for a pilot transit subsidy program using state cap and trade funds, where revenue has exceeded expectations by billions of dollars.  The UC’s should be leading in the area of greenhouse gas reductions by examples like these.

Interestingly, one of UCSD’s Earth Week’s focus areas was on water conservation, given our severe drought.  A link between climate change and California’s drought is not yet proven.  Yet warmer temperatures are definitely caused by increased carbon emissions – the same ones UCSD commuters will be increasing under the university’s policies.  And warmer temperatures are directly correlated to reduced snowpack and increased drought severity.

UCSD actually is doing several positive things with respect to sustainability, including new bike paths on campus, electric car charging stations, and green building projects. Achieving sustainability goals can be costly and incredibly challenging. Perhaps UCSD should dial back their rhetoric a bit on this issue until it’s consistent with their actions.

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bankers hill update

20 Apr


April is always jam-packed with events in San Diego, and this year is no exception. Last weekend was busy with the City Beat Festival of Beers in North Park, Taste of Hillcrest, and Earth Fair at Balboa Park. But this weekend is even crazier: the El Cajon Boulevard celebration (shown above), Adams Ave Unplugged, Chicano Park Day, Little Italy Art Walk, and the Creek to Bay Cleanup.  Still, there’s one event I’m really hoping people will turn out for –  Sunday’s Mission Hills Free Bike-In Movie and Neighborhood Ride:


The event is being put on by the Mission Hills business district, using SANDAG grant funds.  People on bikes have spent a lot of time recently making the business case for bike infrastructure – now it’s time for us to get out there and spend some money in the community.  If you’re going to the free movie, grab your tickets here.  Hopefully folks can squeeze this event into an already-full weekend.

14121-aerial02Bankers Hill has been seeing quite a bit of construction activity.  The most entertaining has been the slow demolition of this old medical building on 6th (I had an appointment there back in 2000 and remember it to be just as depressing inside as out).  Luxury 13-story condo project The Park, shown at left, with 63 units, is set to replace it. With The Abbey next door (and asbestos galore?) the demolition is being done the slow way using the machinery in the third picture below, which pulls chunks out slowly as they’re hosed down.  It’s actually fascinating to watch – along with the lack of any traffic backup on the 5th Avenue side while I was there, despite it being reduced to one lane.




Further down 5th, the rebar is going in for another luxury condo project, Vue.  This one’s a real disappointment architecturally – beige, sand and bland.  More pictures of this and other Bankers Hills projects on Gregory’s San Diego.


Over on 4th at Palm, Lloyd Russell’s 4th Ave Lofts (4 stories, mixed-use, 49 rental units, 4 very low income units) are getting their garage carved out:

Fourth-Ave-Palm-20150116The rendering of the new building is shown here.  The project narrowly passed Uptown Planners by a 6-5 vote last year.  Opposition to the project was due to the reduction in parking allowed for the four affordable units – showing that once again, parking is unfortunately more important than housing for many on the Uptown Community Planning Group.

We finally had lunch at Artisan Bento across from Cucina Urbana in Bankers Hill, and it’s a great healthy alternative to the heavier fare up the street at Hash House.  Jay’s chicken skewer bowl and my salmon bento were a perfect lunch break after our bike ride through Balboa Park.






– Imperial Beach’s Bikeway Village, near the end of the Bayshore Bikeway on the southern end of San Diego bay, has received final approval. Studio E Architects are involved, and they’re the same folks involved with a low-income/mobility senior project on El Cajon Boulevard in Talmadge.


The project site is situated along a key transition point along Bayshore Bikeway, and provides an informal entrance to Imperial Beach. The project transforms two large existing warehouse buildings creating a welcoming, functional rest-stop for both bikers, travelers and locals; complete with a one-stop bicycle and repair shop, cafes and a hostel. A host of amenities are oriented towards the bay and bikeway include; a large outdoor deck with formal and informal seating, outdoor fire pit, restored native wetland planting and landscaped retention basin, bicycle parking, water bottle refill station, trail-side rest stop and public restrooms.

– Quickies: Nat Bosa is proposing a 41-story condo building for the lot just west of the Santa Fe Depot downtown… Congratulations to the North Parker for winning best multi-family project in the 2015 AIA best housing design awards.  I still remember the residents who said the project didn’t “fit in” to North Park… SANDAG will be presenting station design information for the Clairemont Mid-Coast trolley station tomorrow night and Linda Vista next week.  Those opposed to public transit for others will be there – will you?…  The rapid 215 bus on El Cajon Boulevard is showing solid ridership gains but falling far short of its initial projected run time of 38 minutes. With an average of 49 minutes, that’s 30% too long. Yet even as Los Angeles adds peak-hour bus-only lanes to its “standard” buses, MTS still isn’t considering the same for El Cajon despite its extra capacity of auto lanes… The other new rapid bus line, the 235 on I-15, will be getting its “Centerline” stations in the freeway median at University and El Cajon by the end of 2017, to the tune of $30 million each. The $9 million dollar shortfall won’t come from the billions dedicated to freeway expansion (which the state is suing SANDAG over) but rather other BRT projects. From a recent SANDAG transportation committee agenda:

Five bids for construction of the SR 15 BRT: Mid-City Centerline Stations Project (CIP 1201507) were received on March 2, 2015. The lowest bidder, Granite Construction, submitted a bid of $39 million, which was $6 million over the engineer’s estimate. An additional $3 million also is needed to fully fund the project to include contingencies and owner-furnished materials, for a total need of $9 million. This shortfall is proposed to be funded by transferring $5 million from the Mira Mesa Blvd. BRT Priority Treatments Project (CIP 1201511) and transferring $4 million worth of scope for a portion of the station at El Cajon Boulevard to the Mid-City Rapid Bus Project (CIP 1240001). Fund
source revisions to both TransNet and federal funds also are proposed in the budget amendment to facilitate program delivery; however, the net increase to the SR 15 BRT: Mid-City Centerline Stations
Project remains $5 million as described above.
Major construction activities for the Mid-City Rapid Bus Project (CIP 1240001) are nearly complete, and Rapid 215 began service in October 2014. The project also includes Rapid station enhancements along the route, including at El Cajon Boulevard and SR 15. In order to utilize the remaining Federal Transit Administration (FTA) “Very Small Starts” grant and matching funds remaining on this project, which are specific to the Mid-City Rapid Bus corridor, it is proposed to transfer $4 million of the construction elements for the El Cajon Station from the SR 15 BRT: Mid-City Centerline Stations Project to the Mid-City Rapid Bus Project. Since the El Cajon Boulevard station is common to this corridor, it has been determined that this is an appropriate use for these FTA grant funds.
The proposed transfer of $5 million from the Mira Mesa Blvd. BRT Priority Treatments Project will still allow implementation of Phase I improvements, providing the Mira Mesa Boulevard corridor with traffic signal priority (TSP) for buses. The Phase I improvements are expected to improve travel time and trip reliability for Rapid Route 237 (planned service from Rancho Bernardo to UC San Diego via Sorrento Mesa). The proposed budget transfer would reduce the funds available for Phase II of the project, which would add bus queue jump lanes along the corridor that could include some right-of-way acquisition. Staff will monitor the Rapid operations after the TSP implementation and reassess the future need for Phase II improvements.


– I’ve added the BikeSD Strava widget to the sidebar on the blog, and BikeSD is the San Diego organization for the National Bike Challenge… Mark your calendar for upcoming Bike Month events:

May 2, Bike Fiesta. Hosted by the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition at the San Diego Public Library downtown, there will be a bike ride, free mainenance checks, and fun bike workshops.
May 6, National Bike to School Day. Hop on your bike and roll to school!
May 15, Bike to Work Day. Join thousands of people and pledge to GO by BIKE! Stop by one of 100 pit stops for a free t-shirt, snacks, and encouragement.
May 17, Pedal to the Park. Ride your bike to the Padres game and get discounted tickets. Join a group ride, park in the secure Bike Pavilion, or try a DecoBike.


6 Responses to bankers hill update


Tom Vissers

April 21st, 2015 at 1:08 pm

I suppose the 6th and Palm medical building was pretty cool for its time. My parents had their doctor or dentist in the tower portion, and I probably tagged along with them some time in the 60’s. Hope the new project turns out well — I imagine they’re building to the max allowed height?



April 29th, 2015 at 7:11 pm

Low income housing has reduced parking requirements, yet it takes 90 minutes to get to Sorrento valley by bus. So they will need to have a car. This is why the neighborhoods are upset. The car will be parked on the street and compete with other people who park on the street.


paul jamason

April 29th, 2015 at 9:16 pm

Hi Carrie, are you saying SANDAG and MTS’s negligence of basic public transit needs justifies parking minimums that put housing out of the reach of others? Let’s fix the problem (inadequate public transit) instead of using dubious street parking claims to block badly-needed affordable housing.

Why do existing residents feel their right to street parking is greater than newer residents – my property deed doesn’t say anything about this. A residential parking permit district might be the answer in these cases, but rather than charging the city’s rate of $14/year (subsidized by the rest of us), let’s assign the true cost of a guaranteed street parking spot: hundreds, if not thousands of dollars per year.



May 2nd, 2015 at 6:58 pm

Paul, I understand your position, but the problem is that good transit is in the future whereas street parking shortage is here now. if you want to gain allies for densification it would perhaps be helpful to acknowledge that and come up with a solution, because your attitude is that you’re just going to throw more people into the street paring pool and let them fight it out. In other cities, street parking is allocated using a permit program, has the time cI me to use that in San Diego?


paul jamason

May 2nd, 2015 at 11:10 pm

Carrie, in my comment I supported street parking permits, although we probably disagree on what the price should be. I actually like these programs when they pay for themselves (unlike in San Diego where all taxpayers subsidize them) because people begin to realize that free storage of private vehicles on public streets isn’t a right granted to every homeowner.

You mentioned solutions, so what is your solution to the 330,000 housing units SANDAG estimates we need in San Diego by 2050? How do we attract and retain skilled young workers given the rapid increase in rents (in the most unaffordable city in the country when salaries are considered), which are a direct result of our insufficient housing inventory? If we continue to prioritize street parking over housing, we’re doomed to fail on this issue.


Paul P

May 5th, 2015 at 10:38 am

I understand you both. I’ve only been in San Diego just over a year and can imagine there will be huge growing pains for this city. First, being so sprawled and folks driving SO far in one direction to get to work, it’s hard to imagine how even an amazing transportation system will improve life without re-clustering job centers so that they’re more dense or central. Sorrento valley has how many jobs? And it’s a suburban office park wasteland spread out for miles. There are tech companies in Rancho Bernard and Carlsbad and these areas would need to reinvent themselves as small urban centers. I’m afraid parking is going to remain a huge factor in development for decades to come, unfortunately—even in downtown and the mid-city areas to a slightly lesser degree.

But this consideration should never (in my mind anyway) cover the fact that the streets belong to everyone and free storage of vehicles may be revoked at any time for the greater good.

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