The new downtown library had its grand opening event Saturday and while we were bummed to miss it, it sounds like there was quite a crowd to deal with. I stopped by tonight before closing and while bustling, it was easy to navigate. For me the highlights were the rooftop, eighth floor reading room, the lobby, the outdoor ground floor space where the cafe will open, and the auditorium where a documentary was playing. The sheer number of large book rack rooms was impressive too. After so many years of planning, and then waiting for the construction to finish, it’s exciting to finally see this important civic landmark open. And with several other civic spaces coming online in the next year (Horton Plaza Park, Old Police Headquarters, North Embarcadero, County Admin Building Park), San Diego is making big progress in an area that’s been lacking compared to other major cities.
- Speaking of public spaces, Lemon Grove’s new linear park at Main Street Promenade has opened, along with improvements to the trolley station and the opening of nearby transit-oriented development.
- The folks at Voice of San Diego asked me to mention their recent article on community gardens in City Heights and the gardeners’ struggle for water. While other cities have established resources to address community garden issues like these, that isn’t the case in San Diego.
- Vagabond has finally closed… Taste of North Park is this Saturday from 11-4…
Gaijin has closed downtown… The San Diego Night Market in the Zion Market lot was a huge success, drawing 15,000(!) people, and is set to return next spring.
Some changes coming to University in Hillcrest as Gossip Grill moves into the former Range restaurant location at 1220 University. The patio was a big draw at their old location near the Normal St. intersection, so it’s good to hear they’re getting the ample outdoor space next to the building. And Gossip Grill’s already a popular establishment from the Mo’s Universe folks who’ve been successful with all their Hillcrest bars. It’s about time a lesbian bar landed a high profile spot in the neighborhod.
This will be the first time that the restaurant and nightclub spaces in this complex are owned by separate entities; the latter will apparently be re-worked as something other than a club. After three attempts, clearly the rent and operating costs of such a large space were too high for any business to pull off. Personally I’m looking forward to a more bustling patio, which was often empty apart from weekend nights. Some greenery on that concrete corner would be a nice touch though. Gossip Grill’s new location is set to open in November.
Down the street, the old Range restaurant exterior has been returned to its original mid-century Googie style. Commonwealth Ultra Lounge has opened in the space and it looks like they went all Liberace on the design, with an elevated piano, chandeliers and marble galore. The rustic, filament lightbulb look has been done to death everywhere, and Commonwealth is definitely a departure from that.
Over in North Park, Young Hickory has opened in the old Filter location, serving breakfast, coffee, sandwiches and beer. Looks like another solid upgrade over the old interior and exterior. We’ve been out of town, so haven’t gotten over there yet… New restaurant BBQ 81 in the old Flavors of East Africa spot on El Cajon is getting solid reviews on Yelp and I’m always happy to see another alternative to Phil’s BBQ, considering where his profits go.
Vancouver’s had a successful Asian night market for years, and San Diego finally follows suit this Saturday at the new Zion Market on Convoy and Clairemont Mesa:
From boba drinks and specialty tofu to ethnic goods and apparel, attendees will discover over 30 vendors selling Asian-inspired street food and merchandise. A beer garden will feature local craft beer and spirits, and a centralized performance stage will feature cultural dances, songs, live DJs and a drive-by cinema.
Saturday also features the opening of the new downtown library (finally!). There’s a writeup on the architectural highlights in the U-T, but avoid the paper’s other articles and comments where libertarians bash spending money on this useful public resource. Apparently that money should go to the wealthy Spanos family for their new football stadium instead. After all, nobody but the homeless use libraries now:
And there’s one more event Saturday: the Tour de Fat cycling festival at Golden Hill Park, put on by the New Belgium folks, which is always a blast.
(UPDATE: Oops, forgot to include the Adams Avenue Street Fair this Saturday/Sunday…)
Up in La Jolla, I missed the news that a new coastal trail is being built on and around Scripps Institution of Oceanography. I recently finished The Golden Shore by David Helvarg (from the Kensington library, thank you) which contained a lot of interesting coastal San Diego information. The section on Pete Wilson packing the Coastal Commission with property rights and developer-friendly members and the fight to stop them was very interesting.
Finally, time to clear out the inbox:
- I was asked to post this cycling infographic, which contains some enlightening statistics. It’s particularly relevant to San Diego given our imminent bike share program and the recent approval of the $200 million SANDAG early action program for cycling infrastructure:
An infographic by the team at Online Masters In Public Health
- Oceanside Museum of Art has some interesting exhibits coming up:
- And thanks to the folks at Event Setter for their support of sd urban – their widget in the sidebar lists upcoming San Diego events. Or, check out their SD events calendar page.
The SANDAG Mid-City Bike Corridor goes “public” Tuesday with its first open house at Queen Bee’s in North Park (3925 Ohio) from 5-8 PM. This will be the first chance for the general public to comment on the final alignment report, which includes a comprehensive scoring report for the various east-west corridor routes:
The El Cajon Boulevard route, favored by a majority of cyclists at the advisory group meetings, scored highest due to its proximity to businesses and transit. It’s also the most costly of the plans, and would remove an estimated 32 parking spaces over its 4 mile route. Notably, it scores high in the “Low Stress” category – because the separated cycle track and reduced number/narrowed auto lanes for this route would provide both a safe riding environment and traffic calming.
Given the City of San Diego’s fiscal condition, this SANDAG project presents a rare opportunity to do something big in North Park and City Heights – not just for cyclists, but for a road that divides the neighborhood with freeway auto speeds. One criticism of the ECB route I’ve heard repeatedly is that the road is too dangerous for many cyclists to ride on. And that’s true, right now… but it was also true for Broadway in New York City until separated lanes were added there. What makes San Diego different?
One business owner who’d been briefed by SANDAG’s very competent Bridget Enderle cited the “dangerous” argument, then said that installing bike lanes on El Cajon would disrupt auto flow. Unfortunately speedy auto “flow” has somehow become more important than pedestrian and cyclist safety on city streets. The owner said he and other businesses supported the alternate SANDAG routes on Meade and Orange, where pretty landscaped cycling boulevards are shown in the renderings. Sounds nice, but who’s going to maintain the landscaping? See the hardscaped Madison Avenue median “eyesore” for reference (Todd Gloria’s description, not mine). Instead, let’s leverage existing resources like the El Cajon Business District to help maintain cycling infrastructure.
Finally, it came down to what it always does, parking. Any loss of parking for bike lanes would be unacceptable to businesses – even though all 6-8 lanes of ECB are devoted to auto lanes or parking (SANDAG reports that ECB has more capacity than required for auto traffic). 100% for cars, 0% for bikes? As I read today, “cars don’t shop, people do”, and numerous studies have shown the economic benefit of bike lanes, even when they sacrifice some on-street parking. Many of the lost spaces under the ECB plan can be mitigated with angled parking on side streets. Expect to hear these same arguments at the SANDAG open house.
- While we’re on the subject of cycling, there was another article today about Amazon’s massive project in downtown Seattle, which includes bike lanes paid for by the company. It’s a marked contrast to San Diego’s respective technology leader, Qualcomm, who continues to expand its suburban campus and is completing this parking garage monstrosity that’s two city blocks long:
Qualcomm’s Sorrento Valley is a traffic-choked nightmare, accessed by gridlocked Mira Mesa Boulevard, and the I-805 freeway that’s at a standstill for hours a day. Solution? More parking – and lots of it! Instead of following the lead of many companies across the US that are moving downtown and/or embracing alternative transportation options (like the Silicon Valley shuttles that are changing the future of transit), Qualcomm’s racing toward the 1950′s. Leading the way is founder Irwin Jacobs, a man who loves cars so much he nearly built a bridge through the heart of Balboa Park to yet another parking garage. I’d suggest Qualcomm employee/future mayor Nathan Fletcher talk some sense into Irwin about Qualcomm’s insanity, but Nathan was riding shotgun on Jacobs’ Plaza de Panama folly.
- Enough transportation ranting. We did a City Farmers run a couple weekends ago, which was the perfect excuse to check out Nate’s Garden Grill next door (on Euclid, south of City Heights). Nate’s is like a little slice of Portland, with its ample outdoor patio, obscure 21-tap list, vegan/organic options and country atmosphere – there’s nothing like it in San Diego. My tempeh reuben and Jay’s pulled pork sandwich both hit the spot on a sunny afternoon.
- I work in Kearny Mesa a few days each week and Koon Thai on Convoy has been a frequent lunch standby since they opened a year or two ago. Spicy and inexpensive, the place somehow gets busier every time we go back… Just up the street, Ice Blast opened recently and serves up the softest shaved ice this side of Oahu’s Matsumoto’s:
- More food stuff: Moncai Vegan food truck is at the new Hess Brewing in North Park for Meatless Mondays, and they’ve started an indiegogo fundraiser to open their own restaurant. Meanwhile:
Trust me, Mondays are infinitely better with meat. Can we put an end to this Meatless Mondays shit already?
— @San_Diego_Matt (@San_Diego_Matt) August 27, 2013
- Waypoint Public is set to open next month in the former Linkery spot and will feature chef Amanda Baumgarten from Herringbone in La Jolla. Look for a big garage door to be added to the south side of the building, along with a small patio. Now if these tropical evenings could just last through October…
Back in June, when Del Mar Racetrack announced Yeah Yeah Yeahs would be performing on 8/23, we marked our calendars to see one of the biggest acts to ever play there. Then, when the folks from America’s Best Racing (ABRV) invited us to attend on the same day with a VIP pack featuring free eats, drinks and a sizable betting voucher, we were really excited. So it was a big disappointment when Yeah Yeah Yeahs cancelled, citing scheduling conflicts (blame today’s FYF festival in LA featuring YYY’s for not selling out). But we still had a lot of fun with the ABRV gang, who tour the country’s racetracks in a giant bus to help market the sport to a younger audience via social networking.
ABRV is promoting Sunday’s $1 million Pacific Classic race at Del Mar, which features favorite Game on Dude from trainer Bob Baffert. The horse has had troubles with Del Mar’s synthetic polytrack in the past, so a win is no sure thing. It’s the 23rd running of the 1 1/4 mile event and the winner gets an automatic entry into the Breeders’ Cup Classic. There are two other $250,000 races on Sunday too.
Del Mar is one of the group’s easier marketing events, since the track is among the nation’s most successful, already attracts plenty of younger folks, and could be landing the Breeder’s Cup. And don’t forget that Del Mar is going to 2 meets/year now, with the closure of Hollywood Park in Inglewood. The fall meet will run from 11/5-12/7 starting next year.
Earlier this year I took the Coaster to Solana Beach and rode the free shuttle to the track, but the planned special events rail platform that will provide direct rail service to Del Mar will be a huge improvement given the insane traffic in the area. If you can take the train to the track in Chicago, why not San Diego? Completion date is sometime between 2020-2030.
We chatted with Jose from ABRV about the various tracks the group has been visiting, and how Del Mar and Saratoga, NY are considered the top two in the nation. I grew up near Saratoga and would have to say the grounds there are nicer – lots of trees, picnic benches (get there early) and space. But there’s also lots of mosquitos, rain, and it’s a town that largely shuts down once the northeast summer has quickly passed. No ocean beaches either. Having also attended the madness that is Baltimore Preakness back when I lived in Delaware, we talked about the troubled neighborhood that track is located in.
I left my bong at home so we didn’t check out YYY’s reggae replacement act Soja. Thanks to Victoria and all the ABRV folks for providing a great time at Del Mar.
Lots of good coverage of Sunday’s CicloSDias event that spanned City Heights, North Park, South Park, Grant Hill and Logan Heights, including BikeSD and Voice of San Diego. Rather than repeat what they’ve reported I’ll describe our experience, which surpassed our already high hopes for the day.
We started off at the eastern end of the route at Cherokee Elementary, where we picked up our gear for donating to the event on fundly.org. We also ran into our friend and neighbor Dan Soderberg, who’s worked extensively with the folks at SOHO San Diego and helped stop the Irwin Jacobs Balboa Park abomination. Check out the video he put together from Sunday.
From there we headed down Wightman, amazed to be riding in the middle of the westbound lane. People were on their front porches and lawns, enjoying the break from auto traffic and watching the variety of bikes passing by. It was heartening to see so many kids riding safely on their own streets – they seemed to be having just as much fun as the adults. One blip came up as we entered North Park when I was waved through an intersection just before a car was waved through by the other volunteer. If it weren’t for Jay calling out for me to stop I’d have been up on the hood.
Taking the left down 30th and seeing the empty street in front of us – save for cyclists, rollerbladers, skateboarders, joggers and pedestrians – was thrilling. I did a volunteer shift at the 30th and Upas hub, asking folks to fill out event surveys and label a map showing where they were from. Several people had come down from L.A. and other points north. One quibble was that the city signs along the route did not properly explain what the event was; hopefully future versions will address that. Overall though, there were two positive refrains from my conversations with survey-takers. The first: that an event like this, where we reclaimed a few streets from cars for a few hours, was long overdue. And the second was San Diego’s unrealized potential to be a great cycling city, given its climate and vibrant neighborhoods.
Next it was down the steep slope into Logan Heights for the southern terminus of the route, where delicious tacos awaited from the street vendors there. We ran into Dan again and rested up for the trip back up the hill – where I promptly blew a tire. Just as I started to change the tube, Jared from Performance Cycling in La Mesa came to our rescue with the proper change procedure and the smart idea of using a Cliff bar wrapper to keep the tube from coming out of the hole in the tire. We had to be at the airport in 90 minutes for the public Grand Tour of the Terminal 2 expansion (see below, plus the photo set), and that wrapper got me all the way home to Kensington. Thanks Jared!