We’ve been wondering what’s going on with the Horton Plaza Park project downtown, and now we know: it’s completion has been delayed a year. The death of the state’s redevelopment program, obtaining a clear property title, and a substandard underground electrical box are to blame for the delay. Looks like that big downtown New Years party will have to wait until 12/31/2015. In the meantime, SD Downtown News has a new writeup on the project, and anticipates a late 2015 opening.
Speaking of New Years, @omarpassons asked for some “cost is no object” NYE ideas that would put San Diego on the map a couple of weeks back. I thought about our city’s geography and came up with this crazy idea: a temporary pedestrian bridge connecting Embarcadero Marina Park South to the ferry terminal on Coronado a half-mile away. Folks could hang out on the bridge right under the fireworks. And when the night is over, remove the bridge and let the boats through. Something tells me the Navy wouldn’t be too excited about this idea…
Over at the airport, they’re (justifiably) crowing over a marked increase in international passengers over last year. Still, with under 700,000 passengers last year, that’s 8 times less than the 10th ranked US metro – Dallas – in that department. Dallas’ metro is less than 2.5 times as large as San Diego’s, which means there’s still plenty of room for improvement (figuratively, not physically, given our single runway destiny) . Now if we can just get some more international carriers to buy Boeing’s 787… Not too far from the airport, Little Italy’s W Date St between India and Columbia could go car-free if the Date Street Piazza project happens. Why limit ourselves to just one street? Chicago came up with 20 car-free zones.
Moving east, Eater SD’s article about The Quartyard in East Village was one of the most exciting things I’ve read in a while:
The Quartyard, a pop-up marketplace that’ll be open seven days a week, is destined to fill a 30,000-square-foot vacant lot at the the corner of Park and Market (1102 Market Street).
When the East Village site opens in Summer 2014, it’ll hold a second outpost of Mission Hills coffee kiosk Meshuggah Shack, a yet-unnamed new food concept from Scott Slater of Slater’s 50/50 and a 10,000-square-foot beer garden operated by Best Beverage Catering, which runs bars at Coachella and Outside Lands.
The local craft beer bar will be housed in a shipping container, surrounded by plenty of seating and an outdoor space that’s kid and pet-friendly.
The Quartyard will also include stalls for a rotating cast of food trucks, host a weekly Thursday night market featuring local vendors, and be able to be reconfigured for all manner of events, from live bands to public and private gatherings.
This is exactly the kind of creative land use our city needs. Kudos to the Rad Lab folks for a massive improvement on a vacant lot. And if Harlem – currently buried under snow – can have an outdoor beer garden, surely we can have one in San Diego.
- Up in Pacific Beach, surfboard-shaped bike racks have been installed, while Balboa Park goes for the old-timey look (photo to right).
- In Hillcrest, Gossip Grill‘s move to the former Range spot on University has been delayed due to liquor license issues. 1202 also faced liquor license issues, which suggests a lien against the license from prior owners (Eden, Universal?). Hopefully this can be sorted out soon and the moribund corner can be partially re-awakened – the former nightclub space next door still awaits a (non-club) tenant.
- San Diego magazine has a wide-ranging list of our 18 best neighborhoods. Great to see the author including bike scores and carbon footprints for each neighborhood. And as Kensington residents, we were proud to make the list, especially since the construction of the Kensington Commons project was described as the neighborhood moving forward. Disappointed that North or South Park didn’t make the list though.
UPDATE: An analysis was forwarded to me showing 922(!) parking lot spaces within one block of University from 1st to 9th Avenues in Hillcrest. I’ve included this in the text below (and have now linked to it).
UPDATE #2: SANDAG asked me to make clear that the change to west University is to reduce “cut-through” traffic, not to prevent nearby residents from reaching their homes: ‘The concept is to reduce cut-through traffic on University specifically between Ibis and Front while maintaining access for people who live in the neighborhood south of University Ave and west of Front. I want to be sensitive to the fact that people may think “close through traffic” means people who live in the area will not be able to get in and out and around their own neighborhood. The concept put forward is meant to make it less convenient for people who use that residential section of University as a “by-pass” of Washington St. We thought referring to it as cut-through traffic might distinguish that type of by-pass traffic from local access. ’ (I’ve changed the relevant text below.)
Thanks to everyone who turned out for the Uptown Bike Corridor meeting last week. While Voice of San Diego noted that Uptown may be warming to bike lanes, Chris Shaw, the owner of Urban Mo’s, Gossip Grill, Baja Betty’s and Hillcrest Brewing is rallying business owners to stop the University Ave route. Shaw has done a lot for Hillcrest, including large donations for the Pride flag and Youth Center, and I’m personally grateful for his advocacy on equal rights for gays and lesbians. Plus his “Universe” of establishments are some of the most fun places to be in Hillcrest. All told, he’s probably the most influential business leader in the neighborhood, so his opposition to the project could kill it, or reduce it to a sorry set of sharrows.
Shaw’s letter says that 91 parking spaces will be lost in Hillcrest. SANDAG representative Beth Robrahn indicated by email that this was a preliminary, worst-case number that’s no longer true. Unfortunately, Bike Corridor opponents have seized upon that number and continue to use it as a scare tactic; reading his letter, it sounds like all 91 spaces are in the 5 block area west of 6th Avenue, which is completely false. In addition, parking will remain on every other street in Hillcrest, along with the 20+ paid parking lots/garages in the neighborhood.
With its narrow streets, that area is indeed the most challenging part of the University Avenue corridor. As Shaw points out, SANDAG is proposing to close
through-traffic cut-through traffic from Washington to University. This is at the recommendation of residents who are frustrated with the heavy volume of through-traffic cut-through traffic, much of which would be better suited for the additional lanes on Washington in Mission Hills (where businesses also opposed putting the Bike Corridor). So it’s not just cyclists who would benefit from safe lanes on this stretch of University, but pedestrians too; some beautiful street designs were shown at the meeting that would make these blocks among the most attractive in the city. This would be a huge positive for the area and draw people to local businesses:
Shaw posted his letter on all four of his Facebook and twitter accounts, as did SDGLN owner Jonathan Hale. The comments that were posted in response (Urban Mo’s shown to the right) revealed that many in our gay community, who have experienced discrimination in their own lives, are perfectly fine discriminating against cyclists if they perceive a threat to their parking convenience. And as a member of the gay community, I’m aware of the occasional astounding self-centeredness that some of us possess, but this might take the cake:
Frankie Mendoza: We shouldn’t be kicking people off the roads and say go pay for parking and walk. Businesses might be losing customers because of people like me, when I don’t really plan where I’m going, if there isn’t parking near by, I will find a place that has parking
Cyclists are getting killed, but “unplanned parking” is more important? The message, over and over again, is that only drivers have the right to every lane of every street in Hillcrest. Also, that parking garages must be built up and down University (how’s that mental image) before a bike lane can go in:
Brett Serwalt: We need MULTIPLE parking garages/lots up and down university BEFORE we remove more parking.
There’s absolutely no mention of the fact that this project is a single east/west pair of lanes in the entirety of Uptown; street parking will remain on every other street, and much of University. Serwalt says there’s “one parking lot” in all of Hillcrest; in reality there are 922 parking lot spaces within approximately 1 block of University from 1st to 9th Avenues. Here’s a map of all lots from Park Hillcrest:
Many seem completely out of touch with major demographic trends that are well underway in the US and being addressed by other cities, as Hillcrest bickers over parking spaces:
America’s third bicycling boom is underway, following those in the late 1890s and 1970s, and smart American cities, both large and small, are investing in bike paths and bike-share programs in an effort to attract Millennials and cut back on carbon emissions. As such, multifamily developers recognize that local cycling paths, as well as rental programs, bike parking places and on-premise bike storage units are coveted amenities and the way of the future.
All of the following strong arguments for a safe bike corridor in Hillcrest are ignored by the opponents, because they’re secondary to the requirement of convenient, cheap parking on every street:
Parking will take a hit, but they have developed a relationship with both Lyft and Uber to get patrons safely home.
I’m hoping that Mr. Shaw and other opponents to safe cycling and complete streets in Uptown consider some of the reasons justifying one east/west bike corridor. If additional parking is needed, perhaps these business owners can create their own parking resources, rather than laying claim to every parking space on its commercial thoroughfares. Our streets are public spaces for everyone, not just free evening and Sunday parking slots for business owners.
Thursday is the first “public” meeting for SANDAG’s Uptown Bike Corridor, with a current route proposed for 4th/5th Avenue through Bankers Hill and University in Mission Hills and Hillcrest. It’s at Roosevelt Middle School, 3366 Park Blvd., at 6 PM. If you’re a reader of this blog and recognize the value of protected bike lanes beyond just cycling, please come out and voice your support:
A street with a protected bike lane also has less speeding, shorter pedestrian crossings, less lane-shifting and more predictable movements for drivers, and the opportunity to add more trees and plantings. Injuries to pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, and car passengers drop wherever the new designs go in.
Unfortunately, opposition to the project is strong, including a majority of the Uptown Planners Group that advises the city on these issues. Also, the opposition is very effective at mobilizing their side to attend these meetings in order to stop the project. So if you can make time to come out Thursday, please do!
This is a key moment for San Diego – can we make the same changes that have created successful, vibrant, walkable, livable, complete streets in many other cities? Or do we continue to follow the car-first crowd and put parking over people?
If you’d like to read more about the Uptown Bike Corridor, please see my recent post on Bike SD. And on a related note, CicloSDias 2 (Electric Bike-aloo?) is set for Sunday, March 30th in Pacific Beach, where they’ll be closing down parts of Garnet, Cass and Turquoise for the day:
Just don’t get too worn out from the Bikes and Beers event the day before. Here’s the map for that event, which will hit several local breweries:
Awards season is here, so here’s some of the best things happening in San Diego in this inaugural edition of The Urbies:
- Best new Uptown establishment: Named Cocktail Bar of the Year by Imbibe Magazine, Polite Provisions is the coolest thing to happen to Adams Ave since Blind Lady Ale House. While the award usually goes to a flashy New York or LA bar, this year’s winner is straight out of
Normal Heights northern North Park in the former humble Kadan location. The cocktails served here are as awesome as the bar’s gleaming interior, and when you need something to soak up all the liquor in those delicious drinks, grab some meatballs next door at sister operation Soda and Swine. Get there early though, because every time we’ve visited it’s quickly become standing-room only. The addition of these two establishments to 30th and Adams is a huge step forward in the ongoing resurgence of the Adams Ave corridor.
- Most anticipated mixed-use project: The North Parker at 30th and Upas has a modernist design unlike anything else in the area, and will feature an eclectic group of establishments: taco shop Tacos Perla (from The Pearl Hotel owners), Influx Cafe, Underbelly, and a Modern Times Beer tasting room. Sitting catty-corner to the recently-remodeled Jack in the Box, the North Parker represents the exact opposite approach to land use: mixing ground-floor commercial with residential above, instead of a single-story structure with a drive-thru and high-profile parking spaces. Hopefully the former approach will continue with projects like the nearby You Got Mail.
- Our favorite restaurants: Instead of posting about new spots (our French Concession visit will have to wait until next time), here’s a rundown of places we always seem to end up: Koon Thai in Kearny Mesa is near one of my offices and it’s busier every time we have lunch there; with excellent specials on some of the best Thai in San Diego, I can see why… Pho Mignon in the same plaza is also a favorite for their healthy Vietnamese food… The vegetarian and vegan offerings at Plumeria in University Heights are always reliable and relatively guilt-free… More vegan options at spicy Dao Fu in Normal Heights – the food may melt your face off, but the flavors are fantastic… Waypoint Public is a fine replacement for the departed Linkery, and the craft beer selection from the Bottlecraft folks is stellar… Still love Carnitas Snack Shack and the makeover they gave to their patio, but that ever-present line means we’re not the only ones who do… Prepkitchen is a welcome break from the “should we get Italian, or Italian?” question in Little Italy… Caffe Calabria‘s parklet looks great and makes their front patio even better… and Cantina Mayahuel‘s mole, Tuesday taco special and wide-ranging tequila selection always hit the spot. More: Tender Greens downtown, Loving Hut on El Cajon, Blue Ribbon and Uptown Tavern in Hillcrest, BFD Sandwiches on Park, and Ponce’s (those margaritas) and Burger Lounge here in Kensington. I’m sure we’re missing a few… Blind Lady Ale House, of course.
- Craft beers move closer: San Diego’s craft beer scene continues to amaze, and many of the breweries are opening mini-brewing facilities and/or tasting rooms right in our urban neighborhoods. This is a great thing – who should be driving after downing a few of the often-high alcohol offerings from our esteemed brewers? From Ballast Point‘s successful new Little Italy location to Hess‘s full brewing operation in North Park, many of these are bikeable locations where you’re not dodging vehicles doing 70 mph (like on our recent ride from my brother’s house in Poway to Ballast Point in Scripps Ranch). And you’re much more likely to catch a bus or a cab here than among the brewing warehouses on Miramar Road. Other breweries that have opened or are coming to our neighborhoods include Mission, Green Flash, Modern Times, Thorn Street Brewing, Belching Beaver, Hillcrest Brewing, Acoustic Ales and Stone. Craft beer: one more reason to ditch the car when possible.
- Biggest relief: The Jacobs plan for Balboa Park aimed to bring more cars into the heart of the park, and would have trashed Palm Canyon and the tranquility of the Alcazar Garden. After the plan was stopped (thank you SOHO), parking was removed from Plaza de Panama at a fraction of the project’s $43 million dollar cost. Many residents in nearby Bankers Hill, including Bankers Hill/Park West Community Association and Uptown Planners Community Planning Group head Leo Wilson, strongly supported the disruptive Jacobs plan, concerned that an alternate plan to close Cabrillo Bridge to cars would bring more cars parking in their neighborhood.
This year, Cabrillo Bridge is closed until April and yet the parking quagmire hasn’t materialized. We’ll have to wait to see if museum attendance is affected by the closure but keep this example in mind next time you hear a project can’t be done because of parking impacts.
- Best civic achievement: The downtown library was a long time coming, and it finally happened in 2013. It’s a huge improvement over the former downtown location, with distinguishing architecture, bay views, and gathering areas like the auditorium and reading room:
Even better, the library is the first in a series of major civic projects in San Diego, including the Old Police Headquarters repurposing, the North Embarcadero project, the County Administration Building park, and Horton Plaza Park. We’re witnessing major changes to a city that has often resisted them.
- Best transit plans: SANDAG approves $200 million in Early Action Plan funds for 42 bikeway projects. While we still need to overcome opposition to safe bike lanes (for example, in Uptown from its community planning group) the money is a big positive step in an area where San Diego has been trailing other cities. If you support bike lanes, or their potential to make streets safer for pedestrians too, come to next month’s Uptown Corridor (2/6) or Mid-City Corridor (2/19 5:30-8pm, Franklin Elementary, 4481 Copeland Avenue) meetings. Second place goes to the Mid-Coast trolley expansion, which will begin construction next year and bring trolley service to UCSD. And third place to the new Express bus planned to run from Adams Ave to downtown – no more hour-long rides on the #11.
While the city is facing serious challenges – like its infrastructure backlog – it’s definitely a fun time to be living in San Diego. And I didn’t even mention the warm weather.
Remember the 2011 mixed-use redevelopment project planned to replace the Hillcrest DMV building dating from 1960? The public/private partnership between the state and developer Lankford & Associates was set to construct two buildings – apartments and retail in one, and a fifty percent larger DMV in another. Profits from residential/retail would go to the state and pay for the new DMV building. I hadn’t heard anything about the project in a long time, so I contacted Lankford, who said the state was no longer interested in doing a public/private joint venture. Toni Atkins’ office confirmed this:
The Deparment of General Services is moving forward with a new design for the DMV, with no mixed use. There is no timeline yet, but we are monitoring the situation.
One word of warning for the state: if you want to build above 65 feet, you might have a long wait. Sam at Bike SD was nice enough to ask me to do a guest post about the Interim Height Ordinance in Hillcrest that’s long past “interim”. It’s relevant to biking because the planning organization (Uptown Planners) responsible for restricting building heights in Hillcrest also opposes safe bike lanes there. I’m hoping to do another guest post soon, on the status of the SANDAG Uptown Bike Corridor cycle tracks on University.
Speaking of bike lanes, there was a bit of a dust-up over SANDAG applying funds from a previously-awarded grant to build sidewalk bulb-outs on 4th and 5th in Uptown. Turns out you can do bike lanes and pedestrian islands, according to SANDAG:
We are working on a design that will incorporate similar pedestrian improvements into the bike project. Where bulb-outs were planned, we envision building pedestrian refuges/islands to improve pedestrian safety and calm traffic. Just like the bulb-outs, these islands would shorten the distance to cross the street. In fact, they will shorten the crossing distance even more than the original design.
I mentioned Lankford & Associates above, and while perusing their website I saw that they’re doing the Maker’s Quarter project in East Village. Voice of San Diego had a podcast on the project recently. UPDATE: City Beat added a good article yesterday too:
During the next 15 years, Makers Quarter—named for the idea of promoting the crafts and artistic trades—would transform into a dense, vibrant and walkable urban landscape, according to a preliminary master plan. With 2.5 million square feet of built space, accompanied by 157,090 square feet of open space, the plan envisions a large public plaza, a widened 14th Street sidewalk and ground-floor retail units inhabited by small, creative businesses.
…which reminds me of this Hughes Marino article from December about companies moving to downtown San Diego. And I’d love to see more shared workspaces like Co-Merge downtown where suburban companies and public agencies (e.g., UCSD) let their downtown/downtown-adjacent resident employees work for one or more days a week. It would reduce traffic (a majority of downtown workers commute to suburban job locations) and provide a setting where workers could interact with people they’d likely never meet while telecommuting from home.
- Closing, opening: goodbye Pita Jungle in Hillcrest, I’ll miss this healthy dining option; Kono’s Pizza is opening 3 San Diego locations, the first in the Gaslamp by the end of the year, and serves pizza with cone-shaped crusts; Hammond’s Gourmet Ice Cream is going in next door to Urbn on University in North Park serving Tropical Dreams ice cream from Hawaii.
Coming to the North Parker, another Modern Times tasting room! Because while 30th has plenty of great beer on tap, it deserves more than just one brewery tasting room, given its craft beer reputation. It’ll be challenging for Jacob & company to top the trippy factor of their Midway tasting room, but this one comes with some prime outdoor seating for our winter-free climate.
- Fausto at Mission Hills Nursery asked me to mention the Mission Hills Garden Walk on May 10th… We had an enjoyable dinner recently at the eclectic American Voodoo in University Heights; they were out of their popular fried chicken, but the chicken biscuit was very tasty, as was my vegetarian meatloaf. Looking forward to AV putting their new alcohol license into action… I also enjoyed a quick bite at the new East Village Asian Diner on University in Hillcrest. This Encinitas import features an Asian fusion menu, whimsical graphic design and decent craft beer selection. While the flavors in my cucumber and seaweed salad were off, the hot stone “Monk’s” pot with sizzling rice, veggies and tofu was a healthy treat, and liberal application of their soy- and chili-based sauces helped boost the flavor. Definitely a step up from the former Pink Noodle in this spot.