music box

19 Sep


Music Box has opened in the former Anthology location in Little Italy. I was disappointed when jazz-focused Anthology closed (especially since I never got to a show there), but I’m excited that the venue has finally reactivated, and for the broader range of acts that will play there now.  Here’s the exterior:


There’s a beautiful bar on the ground floor, which was serving up cocktails on draft (for free!) on this media preview night. Apparently this replaces the old horseshoe-style bar, making for more room.


Just beyond that is the main floor and stage, with seating along one side. There’s great views of the stage from above, even directly over it.

The outdoor patio on the second floor is a comfortable place to take in the western view on this rare comfortable evening – a break from the steamy weather of the past few weeks.


Afterward we had dinner at a busy Cafe Gratitude (in fact all of Little Italy was surprisingly busy for a Wednesday night, but maybe that’s the new norm). We ate out front but the interior of the vegan restaurant looks amazing. For me, it was liberating to eat at a semi-upscale restaurant in Little Italy and not have to rule out most of the menu because of my various food intolerances. We had the Mexican bowl, double cheeseburger and a chocolate mint milkshake; considering each item was plant-based, they were remarkably good.

2 Responses to music box



September 19th, 2015 at 8:18 am

Hey I have the same problem with dining out and lots of food intolerances! Man it’s such a pain. I can’t eat peppercorns. Do you want to know how many dishes in restaurants are peppercorn free? It’s depressing.


Paul Jamason

September 21st, 2015 at 9:39 am

Hi Heather I agree. Never realized there were so many dishes with peppercorns in them! For me, with my dairy issues and some sort of MSG/egg intolerance, it’s very challending.

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i’m the decider

11 Jul

“I’m the decider, and I decide what’s best” – President George W Bush, 2006

“It was my call (to remove the planned protected bike lanes from University Avenue)” – SANDAG Executive Director Gary Gallegos, 2015

It’s been over a month since SANDAG killed the long-planned protected bike lane on University Avenue in Hillcrest to preserve street parking.  Here are some good summaries of just what happened:

  • SD City Beat: Bike plan greased with political power; Revision could represent ethics violation for Supervisor Ron Roberts – “As a result of the decisions that were made behind the scenes, the entire community planning process has been undermined”
  • Uptown News: The sting of defeat – “In the end, the community lost because it was outgunned by a group with deeper pockets and misplaced concerns, acting only in its narrow, perceived self-interest, instead of for the greater community”
  • Voice of San Diego – apparently under a “no bike lane articles” policy since October 7th, 2014

The takeaway from these features is that after a years-long process of public input, SANDAG cancelled all public meetings and instead met privately with the California Strategies lobbyist hired by the Hillcrest Business Association for $20,000.  Several HBA members, including President Johnathan Hale, Executive Director Ben Nicholls, Director Cecelia Moreno and former Director Eddie Reynoso all insisted that the lobbying was only to keep the Washington off-ramp to University open.  Yet lobbying disclosure forms from Todd Gloria’s office indicate California Strategies was indeed fighting to preserve all parking on University also.

Think about that for a second: San Diego County taxpayers, who pay the TransNet sales tax that funds SANDAG, were completely shut out of SANDAG’s planning process for the Uptown Bikeway.  Instead, a private business association (who actually receive funding from the city, though none of those funds were used for lobbying), claimed ownership of our public on-street parking, and have now permanently put the safety and lives of bicyclists on University at risk – all for their own private gain.

How does something like this happen?  The Uptown Bikeway was supposed to help address several things beyond safety: the city of San Diego’s Climate Action Plan goals for increased bike mode share; state greenhouse gas emissions goals; and decades of SANDAG ignoring bike infrastructure.  In my opinion, the blame primarily lies with the culture of the senior staff at SANDAG, namely Executive Director Gary Gallegos.


SANDAG Executive Director Gallegos: “It was my call”

Gallegos is the former director of the San Diego Caltrans division, an agency that has largely ignored all non-auto modes for decades.  He’s been executive director of SANDAG since 2001, during which time the agency has continued to under-fund alternative transit modes in favor of endlessly widening freeways and roads.  Their current 2050 regional transportation plan continues this trend, exceeding state greenhouse gas emissions targets seven-fold, and has been successfully defeated in court twice with the state of California as one of the plaintiffs.  Yet SANDAG has chosen to continue this court battle (using taxpayer funds), even as the state made these emission targets official last week.   Gallegos appears to be stuck in the past, ignoring state law and trends of younger Americans using alternative transit modes.  And why wouldn’t he, after serving much of his career in Caltrans, an agency devoted to building and maintaining our auto-centric culture.  He is San Diego’s Decider, issuing executive orders to buy a toll road unmentioned in SANDAG’s regional plan, or gut a long-overdue bike facility.  Gallegos is charting a course backwards that’s incredibly harmful to our city, our children and our climate.

Oddly, even the author of our city’s draft Climate Action Plan, Todd Gloria, voted to continue SANDAG’s costly-yet-pointless court battle above.  KPBS concluded that SANDAG’s regional transportation plan hinders the city’s Climate Action Plan goals.  So if a SANDAG board member (and Transportation Committee chair) as progressive as Gloria on transit and the environment can’t go against senior staff recommendations, who can?  This suggests that SANDAG board members fear rejecting SANDAG staff recommendations, because funding for their district could be killed as retaliation.

Thus, once the Hillcrest Business Association successfully lobbied Gallegos in private to kill the bike lane on University in favor of parking, the fix was in. When bike advocates finally were granted a meeting with Gallegos recently, he declared that the decision to keep the status quo there was his decision alone. There was no way the SANDAG Transportation Committee board members, who are appointed by elected officials, could vote against the senior staff recommendation to do nothing for the majority of University (where they actually call sharrows a Bikeway!).  Well, all but one board member: Mike Nichols of Solana Beach, who expressed concern over a long-planned and badly-needed set of bike lanes being removed for parking, when abundant off-street parking already exists in the area.  Two weeks later, when SANDAG staff recommendations for Smart Growth Incentive Grants were announced, Solana Beach’s project had been rejected.

I don’t know how to fix SANDAG’s broken senior staff culture (term limits for senior staff?), but it would be unfair to blame SANDAG alone for the gutted Uptown Bikeway.  Lower-level staff working on the project certainly fought for it.  Unfortunately there was a lack of political courage – nothing new for our city – from our elected representatives, including Gloria and Ron Roberts.  No effort was ever made to bring stakeholders from both sides to the table and find a compromise for the consensus SANDAG said they needed.  Instead the “win-win” “compromise” was to simply remove the bike lanes from most of University for parking, or exactly what the HBA lobbied for.

Let’s not kid ourselves about the fact that our elected representatives need to look out for their own political fortunes first.  Several members of the HBA donate significantly to Gloria’s campaigns, and when they declare they own our public street parking, so be it.  This is exactly why I could never be a politician, because doing the right thing can often be damaging to your career.

Removing public street parking for alternative transit and increased safety is something many cities are doing.  San Francisco and Seattle have removed hundreds of spaces for buses and/or protected bike lanes.  Isn’t it more important to get more people to their destination on time safely, via the greater carrying-capacity of multiple transit modes, than setting aside this space solely for the publicly-subsidized storage of private vehicles?  Apparently in San Diego, the answer is no.

On a personal level, the loss of the protected bike lanes is deeply disappointing.  Hillcrest is a community where I first came out and it’s long been a special place for me.  I’ve picked up trash from their streets during community clean-ups, despite not even living there.  I attended Uptown Parking District meetings to contribute ideas to mitigate any lost parking from the Bikeway.  I’ve promoted HBA events and new Hillcrest businesses on my blog as its business district has declined over the past several years.  Yet I was questioned by both the President of the Uptown Parking District and the Hillcrest Business Association about my activism in their community, since I didn’t live there.  It didn’t matter that I wanted to travel to their businesses safely by bike and make streets safer for others; since I wasn’t a resident, my input was suspect and invalid.  Meanwhile, HBA senior members Hale, Moreno and Nicholls also all live elsewhere.

The Uptown Bikeway was an opportunity to set Hillcrest apart with something really unique: the only protected bike lanes in a commercial district in San Diego.  It could help draw back younger residents who have long written off this now decidedly-unhip neighborhood, and moved on to more interesting districts in North Park, Little Italy and East Village.  And with the first multi-million dollar investment ever from SANDAG in the neighborhood, the placemaking opportunities were huge.  Yet the anti-bicyclist vitriol that I witnessed from many community members was astonishing.  Maybe it really is true that the long-oppressed (in this case, the Hillcrest gay community) often become the oppressors.  To be fair, some community members, such as Hillcrest Town Council President Luke Terpstra, did try to find compromise.

Finally, the most amusing part of this saga has to be the contortions from HBA Executive Director Ben Nicholls.  Even to the bitter end he was telling the bike community that he supported Transform Hillcrest, the alternative bike lane plan that preserved most parking – while secretly agreeing to SANDAG’s plan to gut the bike lanes.  Bike advocates were even trying to sign on to a letter of support for Transform Hillcrest with the HBA until it got bogged down on – you guessed it – parking.  The fact is that the HBA never budged on “giving up” one street parking space, despite the addition of hundreds of on and off-street parking spaces that have (or will) come online in the area.  This is precisely why the HBA opposed the original SANDAG plan and the western segment of Transform Hillcrest.  But this statement in the comments of the SD City Beat article has to be the king of all Nicholls-whoppers:

Screen Shot 2015-07-11 at 6.13.33 PM

Forget the “good compromise” part – how exactly is status quo on most of University a compromise?  The “private closed door meetings” from Circulate SD and SDCBC were a single desperate, last-minute meeting with SANDAG Transportation Director Muggs Stoll (on the Memorial Day holiday no less) to the HBA’s successful lobbying of executive director Gallegos to gut the bike lanes.  Nicholls’ ability to contort truth is breathtaking, but no more so than his laughter during the SANDAG Transportation Committee meeting while speaker after speaker begged for safe bike lanes (middle image below; from the Parking Over People Facebook page):


Clockwise from top left: Charlie Kauffman, Mo’s (owner Chris Shaw did support all of Transform Hillcrest), Ben Nicholls, Leo Wilson, Nancy Reagan?

Given all of the above, it would be hypocritical for me to continue supporting Hillcrest, so there won’t be any more coverage of the neighborhood here (I know, “big deal”).  But I think it’s up to each person to make their own decisions about what communities or businesses they decide to give their money to.  At the least, San Diegans should be aware that proceeds from events like the Hillcrest Farmers Market, CityFest, Taste & Tinis, etc. put on by the HBA likely go into their pool of money used to lobby the city and SANDAG against the bike lanes.



12 Responses to i’m the decider



July 11th, 2015 at 9:31 pm

I totally sympathize with how you are feeling about the Hillcrest businesses… I definitely eat at the new places when I read about them on your blog, have done so for years. AND I’ve never had difficulty finding parking when doing so (unlike Little Italy.) I think that attracting bikers will improve the lot of Hillcrest in general… THAT is win-win. But here’s what I’m wondering about. Bikers are a minority. And as such they are sort of written off by drivers. Like the argument that bikers don’t deserve buffered bike lanes because they are scofflaws, e.g. (when you’d think it was obvious that drivers bend as many rules as any other human.) But not-so-deep down I’d say that drivers are against creating bike infrastructure because they perceive it as loosing out on the privilege of having the vast majority of infrastructure for themselves. The thing is, does boycotting the businesses help this cause? I’m not saying it doesn’t, maybe it does. But I can’t help but think that really demonstrating to the businesses that bikers SHOP IN YOUR COMMUNITY is also a powerful message. That’s why I really liked the idea of the “Shop Mission Hills” event that went on a few weeks ago. I think that kind of outreach is what is really needed. I’m not saying you arrange a group to bike to Bread and Cie and buy out the store. But maybe Peet’s? Or maybe I’m wrong and what is needed is just legal action. Cleveland National Forest, can you come and save us again? *sigh*


Judi Tentor

July 11th, 2015 at 11:27 pm

Thank you Paul for your honest writing. At the June 5 meeting my comment was about exactly the fact that the public and stakeholders were not involved in the decision after more than two years of input. A lot of money was spent on consultants and Sandag staff to host public and stakeholder meetings. A lot of taxpayer money, a lot of time invested from community members, and all that for nothing. San Diego has long been characterized as a corrupt city, a city where money gets individuals or businesses what they want. Here is another example for the record books. I am deeply disappointed in Sandag. They are our regional MPO and should be far less political than they are. I will think long and hard before volunteering for any Sandag community advisory committee. Why waste my time?
I am thinking of applying for asylum in Denmark.



July 11th, 2015 at 11:55 pm

Friends of mine moved to Hillcrest in part because of the promise of a safe, contiguous bike route through the neighborhood (as outlined on SANDAG maps), and they’re not thrilled that this has essentially been pulled out from under them.

I have lived in BH for a while and am now boycotting the HBA, which has cemented its irrelevancy by lobbying against the very infrastructure that gives it the best longterm hope for resuscitation. With the exception of a couple places where I know the owners, the only shopping I do in Hillcrest is with the chain places (TJ’s, Vons, CVS, et cetera.).



July 12th, 2015 at 12:36 am

The missing part I think is that cycling advocates need to proof they actually represent a majority of the public (if they indeed do); That means winning elections. Otherwise it’s easy for politicians to look at roads full of cars, “community” groups, such as uptown planners, and assume that the majority of residents oppose bike lanes (and then vote for the status quo).
Or you could hope that various climate mandates are going to get them to do the right thing anyway, but I doubt it.


paul jamason

July 12th, 2015 at 10:28 am

Hi Felix, I see your point, but right now city and SANDAG funding for bike infrastructure is about 1% of all spending. And on University Avenue, that is now being redirected to unexplained “pedestrian improvements”. Heck, I’d be happy for people on bikes just to get 6% of all funding, which is the city’s bike mode share goal for 2020.

At the special Uptown Planners meeting, about half of all speakers supported safer bike lanes. This was twisted by resident Jim Winsor to a “7 to 1″ ratio of local residents opposing the plan, and 3:1 by former Uptown Chair Leo Wilson. To these people, unless you’re a resident, your opinion doesn’t count – despite the Uptown Bikeway being part of SANDAG’s regional bike network to get people to and from their jobs safely. The oppressed become the oppressors…

53% of Americans do want to bike more ( So I would say that cycling advocates do represent a majority of the public. Public transit users aren’t a majority, yet they receive significant public funding. And we spend money on infrastructures for people with disabilities, who are also not a majority.


paul jamason

July 12th, 2015 at 10:36 am

Thanks for your comment Richard. Over a month after the defeat, it’s still hard to accept that a bikeway that was planned for years (after bike infrastructure was ignored for decades) was gutted through private lobbying. It’s a good learning experience for the future.

I don’t blame you for boycotting the HBA. Here’s an organization that has watched its business district wither during an economic recovery, as every other neighborhood around it booms. Yet they are focused on planning events that fill their lobbying coffers, not on fixing problems. Things won’t change until there’s a change of leadership at the HBA, and that means getting rid of Hale and Moreno. Not going to happen.


paul jamason

July 12th, 2015 at 10:41 am

Thanks Judi I appreciate that. You’re right, that was a lot of money wasted on community meetings and evaluating Transform Hillcrest, all to just kill the University Ave bike lanes when the HBA applied pressure. Thank you for your efforts with SANDAG (didn’t you do the Mission Hills event?), and I think there are some good lower-level staff people there. They are just suffering under a military-style leadership from former Caltrans officials Gallegos and Stoll.

I think you said that you bike to Hillcrest with your kid(s), so it’s unfathomable how our leaders and SANDAG can just write off the safety of residents and children that they’re actually encouraging to bike! Now that we’ve been personally affected by our dangerous streets (can’t go into detail at this time), I can certainly relate to your concerns.


paul jamason

July 12th, 2015 at 10:49 am

Hi Heather, I think you make a great point and supporting businesses is certainly a valid approach. Personally, after thinking about it for a while, I am done with Hillcrest and will never spend another dime there. But that’s just my reaction to the sick and selfish people I encountered during this experience. Hopefully others have a more rational approach. 😉

I agree about driver privilege, here’s a good recent article on that:

Regarding SANDAG, they likely have a public TransNet funding vote next year. Maybe we can address their flouting of state greenhouse gas laws and their broken culture in the ballot language?


Robert Lawson

July 12th, 2015 at 11:09 am

And to think I almost moved to hillcrest. Now I just avoid it as much as possible. North Park (and, I would add, the 30th street beer corridor extending in to South Park) are far superior,



July 12th, 2015 at 3:44 pm

Hi Paul,

your are right about the community meetings, but it can hardly come as a shock to you, that that is not where real decisions were made. There is a large number of people (not just lobbyists) who favor cars and the status quo above everything else. Given that, progress will always be slow and depend on cycling advocates acquiring real influence, either through legal mandates or by winning elections. The only reason SANDAG is spending any money on bikes at all, is because of legal threads after all; They would happily spent it all on highways instead.

All I am saying really is that I am not shocked by this outcome. If the 4th and 5th Av. lanes survive, cyclists won about as much as could be expected given the real opposition. I think the conditions for the next fight (e.g. if SANDAG losses the regional plan lawsuits) are a little better now. If people do not give up, those missing blocks will be filled in eventually. You mention public transit, which is also a long struggle with one step backwards for every ~1.1 steps forward.

As for giving up on Hillcrest, is it not still going to have the only protected bikelane in a commercial district? For all the frustration, this is a lot better than nothing.


James Davis

July 15th, 2015 at 10:44 am

Great writeup Paul. Very insightful and brings to light some of the underlying frustration advocacy groups are having for the issue and the history nonetheless.

Its amazing how valuable of an asset is to the urban makeup of San Diego yet is torn between a present and past of auto centricity and passing up of vision for the future and greater good.

Sometimes statistics and data dont tell the story of how to develop vision or workable compromise.

I am certain there will be other opts down the line that will present itself.


Rick D Landavazo

July 15th, 2015 at 7:57 pm

Having come out and lived in Hillcrest throughout the 80’s and 90’s I now think it is a mess. When Crest Cafe first opened we loved their Chicken Salad sandwiches. They are dead to me now. Bike haters. And I am telling everybody to stay the fuck away from those anti-people, anti-bike freaks. Fuck em.

And what about this hatred of those who do not live in Hillcrest but patronize there? My husband and I are now in University Heights with second homes in North County… but we can not comment on Hillcrest anymore? Go FU again. Here is my comment: Hillcrest is behind the times when it cannot support a simple bike path. I and (I will tell) my friends won’t go there anymore. Tell Blue Door to move out – still wanna go with you but not if you are in Hillcrest. It’s worth saving. The rest … build a protected bike lane and we will be back. Assholes.

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z-z-top-46_1532712iChanges are coming to El Cajon Boulevard, and Voice of San Diego summarized them in a recent article. “Give us all of your density”, said the president of the Boulevard Improvement Association, reflecting the decades-long desire for more housing and retail along the corridor. That’s certainly looking like it’s going to happen, with about a “dozen” mixed-use projects on the way.

Up first is H.G. Fenton’s project at Florida Ave, which will replace the long-vacant San Diego Sound & Lighting warehouse and the debatable LGBT historic site next door (its demolition permit “error” sadly wasn’t the first time that’s happened). Fenton has also purchased the Kars to Go lot at 3441 El Cajon for $3 million. I also heard a rumor that the block housing Pomegranate and Flavors of East Africa has been bought up. Further east in City Heights, the Talmadge Gateway Project gets another hearing in front of the KenTal Community Planning Group this month (many of whom are “out of our comfort zone” on El Cajon). Back at the corner of Park, the Lusti Motors lot seems like a prime candidate for a very tall project, given the relaxed height restrictions there. And further south on Park, Jonathan Segal is apparently planning an 8 or 9 story mixed-use building at the vacant lot at Polk. Other development/land-use items:

  • Roger Showley had a rundown on four proposed projects downtown
  • The East Village Green folks had their final design meeting last week as they decide on a plan for this proposed park – with a road cutting it in two. Apparently the street will receive a calming treatment and be closed for special events, but still…
  • Mission Valley’s community plan is getting an update, just in time for several major projects coming to the area. A meeting was held last week to kick off the process.
  • Despite all the multi-family construction we’re about to witness, San Diego is still the third-most suburban big city in the U.S. Only Phoenix and San Antonio are more suburban among the largest cities, and we know how they’re on everyone’s favorite city list.

– The new Sempra building looks about done across from Petco Park and has some interesting design features compared to most of the bland boxes going up around it:


Quartyard has added some art to its shipping containers; I recognize this artist from the utility boxes along University in North Park:



– We did a brewery/tasting room ride in North Park two weekends ago and the number of people on bikes there seems to grow larger every time we visit. The new bike corral on Adams at 30th across from Soda and Swine is getting good use already:


…Speaking of bikes, come join us on Saturday August 1st as BikeSD rides from Balboa Park to La Jolla by way of the beach (after-party at Panama66):

You can also support BikeSD via the proceeds from the Modern Times Festival of Dankness at Waterfront Park on August 22nd. Modern Times has been a big supporter of improved bike infrastructure in San Diego, not to mention making some of the best beer in town.



…Back in North Park, we haven’t made it to Breakfast Republic in the former Western Steakburger spot yet but the interior design and patios look really cool… Heaven Sent Desserts is on the move a few doors down from their old location at 30th and University, not sure what’s going in there… Crazee Burger has opened in their new location on 30th, does that mean construction will be starting up soon on the mixed-use project at their old spot?…   We stopped in to Park and Rec in University Heights on a quiet Sunday evening recently, the front bar area is interesting and my cocktail was delicious.  Still waiting to see what they do with Lei Lounge next door… Chi was handing out samples during Taste of Adams Avenue, guessing that means this new pescetarian restaurant from the Plumeria Folks between the Heights will be opening soon…. Javier Plascencia’s Bracero opens in Little Italy Thursday… Caffe Primo has opened in East Village and is a cafe in the morning and Italian restaurant at night.  The 80-seat outdoor patio is the most appealing part for me but I’m an alfresco junkie…. Vietnamese spot Sovereign Kitchen opened Friday with “Iron Chef Vietnam” Michael Bao Huynh in the kitchen; we ate next door at take-out/sister location Food Shop where we enjoyed our healthy-yet-tasty noodle dishes:



– A new connection from the trolley to the airport will open in October, as an improved sidewalk and crosswalk will lead to the airport rental car shuttle nearby.   It’s still a far cry from a direct rail connection to the airport that nearly every other major city has, and it will probably stay that way.  The Airport Authority has long been unwilling to contribute funds to an intermodal facility nearby to serve multiple travel modes, opting instead to spend $316 million on one mode (cars) with their new rental car facility, roadways and parking lots:


Our airport’s director actually said, “We focus on operating this airport, not surface transportation”.  The $316 million expenditure above ($240 million for the garage alone) indicates otherwise – they choose to focus on auto transportation over public transit (at a time when younger residents are increasingly using the latter), while disregarding our city’s Climate Action Plan goals of reduced emissions.  Imagine if LAX’s director said they don’t focus on surface transportation?  Instead they’ve actively purchased land around the airport to help make their challenging light rail plan come together.

– The Environmental Health Coalition spoke at my workplace recently about the health challenges facing children in lower income neighborhoods adversely affected by air and other pollution types.  I asked them if any new state cap and trade funds earmarked for pollution-impacted communities had been approved, and they mentioned National City.  Later that day Streetsblog published an article saying funding for this National City Westside Transit Oriented Development had been approved (along with funds for Chula Vista BRT).

The EHC has also been successful in getting elected officials to ask SANDAG to modify the planned Route 94 freeway widening and/or consider a rapid bus stop for Sherman Heights residents.  Not to be outdone by the airport authority director, a Caltrans spokesperson dropped a whopper of their own when discussing the SR-94 project:

“I think in this region, we’ve always looked at providing choices for travelers, and doing projects that benefit everyone, and not necessarily penalize a certain type of user over another one,” said Gustavo Dallarda, Caltrans corridor director on the project.

Since Caltrans’ founding in 1972, the vast majority of its annual budgets have been devoted to building,  widening and maintaining roads and freeways, with comparatively little spending on alternative transit.  As a result, the “choices” Dallarda refers to are almost always poor options, unless you’re driving a car.  For example, it’s been 15 years since we were supposed to receive a bike lane and freeway-median buses on SR-15, yet these are only getting off the ground now.  Caltrans again rejected funding the bike lane this year, so SANDAG stepped in with funding.  Meanwhile SANDAG funds for the Mira Mesa Boulevard BRT were redirected to the freeway-median stations when they went over budget – not from Caltrans.

In Coronado, how does Caltrans increasing speed limits on 3rd and 4th Ave in Coronado “benefit everyone”, when several pedestrians have been severely injured or killed there?  These residents don’t appear to agree with Dallarda’s statement:

“The whole notion of increasing the speed is absurd,” Slattery said. Slattery’s husband Thomas read Caltrans’ mission-safety-focused statement aloud and asked the Caltrans representative, “What planet are you on? This is the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

On May 29, councilman Richard Bailey posted a survey on that garnered nearly 400 responses in just a few days. He displayed the results at the city-council meeting: 77 percent of those surveyed did not believe Caltrans should raise the speed limits on the roads, and 80 percent disapproved of Caltrans’ handling of the situation.

Bailey said he’s “not holding his breath” to form a partnership between the city council and Caltrans. “At every opportunity that Caltrans has had to be a good partner, they’ve failed”.

While Caltrans continues to prioritize drivers over everything else, at least the city of San Diego has agreed to implement Vision Zero with a goal of eliminating all pedestrian fatalities by 2025.  Congratulations to the folks at Circulate SD who helped make this happen.



4 Responses to give us all your density


Walter Chambers

July 8th, 2015 at 6:24 am

What is the City’s Vision Zero plan?


Tom Vissers

July 8th, 2015 at 8:41 pm

Hi Paul, nice update. Re: the trolley/airport “connection”, do you think it’s possible to engage SANDAG and/or the Airport Authority on project details, specifically to consider other options for trolley passengers? Specifically (and I know this has been raised in other forums), having the planned shuttle bus simply stop at the Middletown trolley station would make infinitely more sense for travelers than the current plan. Do they perhaps feel that such a service would duplicate the existing bus route 992?


paul jamason

July 8th, 2015 at 11:30 pm

Hi Tom, thanks. That is a great question about the shuttle. I’m not sure who to contact at SANDAG but we should find out why it can’t just pick people up from the trolley.


paul jamason

July 8th, 2015 at 11:32 pm

Walt, I think Circulate SD is hoping the city will adopt the policies laid out in their report, but it’s not clear to me exactly what the plan is at this point.

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driven to drive

24 Jun

It seems nearly every line in San Diego’s public transit system ends up downtown at some point – from local routes, to express routes like 150 to UCSD; from the green/blue/orange trolley lines to the new Rapid 215 and 235 routes.  So when San Diego Magazine did a feature for their July issue (not online yet, will post the link when it is) on our city’s public transit system by asking their staff to try it out for a day, I assumed that at least some of them already used it, because the magazine’s office is located at 7th and Broadway downtown.  And indeed they do: a whopping 1 person out of 28 on their staff uses public transit to get to the neighborhood best-served by it.

Most days I work at our UCSD satellite office in Kearny Mesa, where it’s no better – of the 100 or so people working there, a co-worker and I are the only two people who don’t drive alone every day that I know of (the area is served by just two transit lines, not dozens like downtown).  So the point of this post isn’t to portray San Diego Magazine employees as uncharacteristic of our city, but whether we can learn anything about our transit system – and ourselves – from them.

There were some encouraging experiences, like the user of the new Mid-City Rapid bus and the North Park resident who took the #2 bus.  But why did it take a work requirement (the magazine article) to get these folks to even try public transit?  Maybe I can answer that one, because I lived in San Diego for a few years before ever even thinking about riding the bus.  I was raised in a suburban car culture and carried that mindset with me even after moving into a large – yet sprawling – metro like San Diego.

Other staff statements about their transit experience were a bit more baffling and seemed to result from a genuine lack of knowledge, or worse, were just plain excuses.  22 year-old Chelsea Street of Carmel Valley took the Coaster from Sorrento Valley but said that since gassing her Prius only cost her $5-6/day, “Fiscally, it doesn’t make any sense (to pay $120/month to take the train).  I wish it did”.


Considering only the cost of gas is a common mistake when calculating transit costs.  In reality, auto travel can cost around 75 cents/mile when depreciation and wear & tear are included.  Let’s be conservative and use the federal government reimbursement rate: 57.5 cents/mile.  Multiply that by the 40-mile round trip from Carmel Valley to downtown and the travel cost is really $23/day, or four times Chelsea’s estimate.

Then there’s parking.  The article never mentions what employees pay to park, or if their employer offers free parking.  Let’s say it’s $100/month.   So Chelsea is really paying $100+($23/day * 22 workdays per month = $506), or $606/month!  That’s 5 times the amount of a monthly Coaster pass from Sorrento Valley to downtown. Even factoring in the cost of the drive from Carmel Valley to the Sorrento Valley train station, it’s still less than half the true cost of driving the whole way.  Yet taking the train doesn’t make any fiscal sense?

That’s not the only dubious statement used to justify driving every day.  New Executive Editor Erin Meanley Glenny took the #50 Express Bus from Bay Park and had this to say about it:

I think if mass transit is anything but a necessity, people will opt for the car.  I love having my personal space and being able to leave items like a gym bag in the car, and I cherish the control and freedom to leave a place exactly when I want, or be able to run an errand, or stop at an event on my way home.  I can’t see getting rid of my car permanently.

I think I count as “people” and for me, mass transit isn’t a necessity, but I still use it as part of my travel.  This is because I care about reducing greenhouse gas emissions and traffic, getting exercise as part of my commute (via walking/biking part of the way), and because our city’s aggressive, dangerous drivers really kill my buzz.  I get part of her point about personal space, especially since my legs are too long to fit behind most bus seats.  But the freedom part is confusing… how is sitting in soul-sucking traffic “freedom”, exactly?  I run errands and stop at events on my way home all the time by transit or bike.  And who said anything about getting rid of your car permanently just because you ride the bus once in a while?  That’s a false choice in my opinion.

But the most revealing statement was when Erin scoffed, “What a waste” that only 11 of 45 seats were filled on the bus.  She’s riding a dedicated Express Bus (resulting in 11 less vehicles on the freeway) to her central San Diego neighborhood that refuses to allow any increase in density (because traffic), but it’s a waste?  There’s almost an animosity toward transit in her statements.  Could this explain why the nearly all-white staff of a magazine that endorsed Carl DeMaio for mayor never rides public transit – because they consider themselves too good to ride with the poors?  To be fair, that sentiment would hardly be unique to the employees of San Diego Magazine.

The funniest-yet-saddest part of the article was 25 year-old Sydnie Goodwin, who drives her car each day from K St. downtown to Starbucks, parks it, then drives again to the magazine’s 7th and Broadway office.  While millennials across the country have established a clear trend of living in walkable neighborhoods near work and using alternative commuting modes, San Diego Magazine’s millennials are opting to drive 0.7 miles of walkable neighborhood instead.  Is the magazine giving away parking or something?


I appreciate San Diego Magazine writing this feature, and pointing out the lofty goals of SANDAG and the city to increase alternative transit use.  It’s the best way to significantly decrease emissions to address climate change, while also decreasing traffic congestion. Contrary to what Ms. Meanley and others say in the article, using public transit doesn’t mean you have to give up your car, but rather just realizing it exists, maybe even sometimes as a viable option.

Mass transit usage one day a week by a majority of San Diego commuters would have numerous, significant positive impacts.  But as another magazine staff member pointed out, why doesn’t MTS offer smartphone payments and/or the ability to load cash onto Compass Cards to help make this happen?  Apparently that’s something for every other major metro to offer, just not San Diego.

7 Responses to driven to drive


Erin Smith

June 24th, 2015 at 12:37 pm

Hi Paul — Thanks for posting the article and for sharing your thoughts. I have read your blog for many years. One of the main goals of this story was to join the local conversation about public transit from a position of experience. You asked a question here about why it took a magazine article to motivate one of our staffers to try taking the bus, as if that were a bad thing. Why not a magazine story? The whole idea was to try taking transit, to take our cars off the road for a day and figure out if and how we might do that more often. Everyone that participated in this was really thoughtful about it, and the whole experience has yielded at least a couple of new transit riders, including myself. And yes, it also yielded some frustration and exposed challenges and limitations of the transit system, particularly for working mothers who live in suburbs. I find all the stuff that came out of this fascinating. I can’t wait to read more reader reactions and opinions. One correction to your blog post here: The staffers who participated in this story did not endorse Carl DeMaio. Our president and publisher Jim Fitzpatrick did, in a letter with his signature.


paul jamason

June 24th, 2015 at 1:39 pm

Thanks for your comment Erin. I agree that anything that gets people to try taking public transit is a good thing. It’s just unfortunate that some staff who have nearly door-to-door public transit to work needed this nudge to try it for the first time. This suggests that for all the complaining we do about traffic and parking, they’re really not that bad if we don’t need to consider alternatives (until a work assignment asks us to).

Also agree that public transit just doesn’t work for some people. Part of this is because our city made poor land use choices based on its car-dependent planning – it’s nearly impossible to provide great public transit (especially at the service level some staffers expected) to every distant ‘burb 20 miles from downtown. Now that we’ve filled in most of our open space in the process, hopefully we’ll add/allow new housing near transit corridors.

Finally, I’d love to see some more diversity on San Diego Magazine’s staff, or at least the folks in the article. I think if it was closer to San Diego’s ethnic and demographic makeup (rather than say, coastal North County) you might have had more than one transit user before the experiment began.


James Brian

June 24th, 2015 at 2:27 pm

Hey Paul – Go fuck yourself. What a negative article picking on specific individuals and San Diego Magazine. You must feel really proud of yourself for this one.


James Davis

June 24th, 2015 at 3:50 pm

Hey Paul, I typically voice the same concerns about general safety, awareness and advocacy for mass transit in San Diego. It definitely is its own Gordian Knot. But no so sure where the blog was going with this one.

I thought the article was pretty interesting and Erin Smith and Co really always seem to hit the mark with their readership. Though I am not an avid subscriber to the magazine, they do have a look, feel and voice that resonates with their audience and represents a particular segment of the folks in San Diego (or visiting.)

I certainly dont think there was anything to really get from this experiment other than highlighting a ‘what if’ scenario and way of life that I think folks ‘think about’ but dont actually do or try (eg. taking the trolley or bus.)

If it inspires 2 people to try biking to work or taking the bus or trolley, then so be it. No offense to SD Magazine but I certainly dont perceive them to be a winged medium to push a political/social agenda for change. So the critique on the article or persons participating didnt seem to resonate with me on this one.

Keep up the good work otherwise and keep pushing awareness on the issues you have built your reputation on.


Tyler Bergin

June 25th, 2015 at 12:41 am

Paul, I enjoyed the writeup on the article and share many of your same sentiments. Sorry to see that trolls like James Brian have to post rude comments. Love your blog. Keep up the great work!


Alexander Anton

June 29th, 2015 at 7:22 pm

Its all about consolidation. Density provides the need for public transportation to be feasible. True there will be individuals who choose to drive even though it is against common sense (the gal who travels .7 miles to work) but I do not blame the other individual who has to travel 30 miles. Yes, I understand your argument Paul but there is also a time factor. For example, my mother works in Mira Mesa and has to travel from El Cajon to there by public transport and it takes her about 5 hours travel time both ways for a 5 hour a day job. If she could she would take the highways but she cannot drive on it and I won’t fault her even though it may “cost more” if she did drive. The blame goes on how San Diego is developed. You hit the nail on the head in your blog several times but this blog post was off putting a bit. Still follow you and enjoy your posts Paul but understand time factor it all this.


paul jamason

June 29th, 2015 at 8:02 pm

Hi Alexander thanks for your comment. I agree that public transit doesn’t work for everyone, especially given how sprawled-out our city is. And I’m very aware of the time factor – it takes me over an hour by public transit to get to my job in Kearny Mesa from here in Kensington, yet it’s a 10-minute drive. So I carpool, drive, bike or bus/bike to work.

My point was that downtown San Diego is by far the best-served neighborhood in the city for public transit – nearly every line goes there. Commute times are still longer, but in many cases they are competitive with driving, or would be if they had dedicated lanes. And yet every member of San Diego Magazine’s staff but one had chosen to never use it – not even occasionally. My guess as to why (based on my own experience) was that many of us are brought up in a car culture. If the magazine’s staff were more representative of our city’s variety of economic backgrounds, there would likely be more transit users.

The snarky tone of my post was due to some of the attitudes expressed in the article. Not once was the negative environmental impact of driving (air pollution, climate change, etc) even considered. Instead, it mostly centered around personal priorities like “being able to keep my gym bag in the trunk”, room for parking at Starbucks, and biases against public transit. I’m hopeful that their article opened some minds at San Diego Magazine, but I’m not afraid to point out notions of entitlement or bias that can prevent us from change.

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the lonely tower

15 Jun

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


– Two terrific concerts recently with Spoon at the Observatory:


and Sufjan Stevens at Copley Symphony Hall:


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


6 Responses to the lonely tower



June 16th, 2015 at 3:50 pm

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



June 19th, 2015 at 6:41 am

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


paul jamason

June 20th, 2015 at 1:30 pm

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

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


Walter Chambers

July 5th, 2015 at 12:42 pm

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


paul jamason

July 8th, 2015 at 11:51 pm

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


Corey C

July 12th, 2015 at 9:31 pm

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

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