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SayNo! Quality of Life Survey

SayNo! Quality of Life Survey

Andrew Bowen from KPBS posted a link on twitter recently to the SoNo Neighborhood Alliance Quality of Life Survey that closes on 1/31 and will be presented to city officials.  Several people who responded noted the leading nature of the questions in the survey – here are a few of the tweets:

The questions are indeed a bit biased.  But that’s not surprising, considering the group opposes new housing, bike lanes and businesses that don’t meet their criteria – despite promising to “to work together” with all residents.  So I thought it would be fun to take some of the survey questions and describe SoNo’s (SayNo’s) likely underlying meaning.  Enjoy!

Please indicate the extent that the following issues cause problems in your South Park North Park (SoNo) neighborhood 
(Not a Problem/Somewhat of a Problem/A Very Big Problem/Not Sure):

1a. Lack of City adherence to Code Compliance and Zoning for residential and commercial properties (No Airbnb in our neighborhood!)

1b. Lack of bike lanes on roadways (Remember when we called safe bike lanes ‘social engineering’? [video])

1c. Increased Housing density (i.e., “Densification”) (We got ours… our children will just have to live somewhere else.)

1d. Preservation of Historic Character (If calling something historic can prevent new housing, then it’s historic.)

1e. Lack of efficient public transportation (We’d never actually ride public transit, but we sure will use it as an excuse to prevent development.)

1f. Lack of affordable housing/rental units (See (1c), (1d), and (1e).  Also, not building any housing somehow creates more affordable housing.)

1g. Non-permitted Marijuana Businesses (75% of our neighborhood voted to legalize marijuana, but residents should drive to an industrial park in Kearny Mesa to buy it.)

1h. Lack of parking on streets (My garage is for storage, not for parking my car – the City should pay for that.  And this is *way* more important than (1f).)

1j. Too many places that serve alcohol (bars, restaurants, night clubs) (North Park was better when we had to drive to Hillcrest because there was nowhere to eat or drink.)

1k. Too few publicly accessible “Green Spaces” (i.e., Parks, Community Gardens) (Even though our neighborhoods are literally right next to the largest urban cultural park in the country.)

1l. Too much vehicle traffic (SD County has 3 million residents, and we live 5 minutes from downtown, but there should be no rush hour congestion… just like every other thriving city.)

1m. Too little representation from Residents, when decisions are made that affect your neighborhood (Only retired ‘R’esidents who can make 6PM Community Planning meetings will decide our neighborhoods’ future.)

Please indicate whether or not you support the following 
(Support/Do Not Support/Don’t Know):

2a. Dispersing affordable housing throughout the city of San Diego (Keeping the poors out of North Park is ‘progressive’.)

2c. A law to hold irresponsible liquor store, bar and restaurant owners accountable for alcohol-related crimes linked to their business practices. (We got a little excited there)

2d. Increasing bicycle lane access on roadways (Roads are for cars!)

2e. More enforcement of zoning restrictions and code compliance for residential and commercial properties (Seriously – did you not get what we were saying in (1a)?)

2f. Densification (Increased Housing Density) (Density belongs downtown!)

2g. Preserving green space (Parks, Community Gardens) (We can’t name a park or community garden that was removed, but we’re really throwing everything against the wall here.)

2h. Stricter penalties for owners/operators of unpermitted marijuana businesses (You will drive far for your disgusting habit hippies – and you will like it.)

2i. A law that requires a residential permit to park in residential areas (Residential parking permits will remain just $14/year, far below the true cost, and continue to be subsidized by other City taxpayers.)

2j. Increased access to public transportation (We demand a trolley that we can later oppose because of construction impacts.)

2k. Building infrastructure before density (i.e., facilities, mass transit alternatives, green space) (We are against the very thing – density – required for the ‘mass’ part of ‘mass transit alternatives’.)

2l. An ordinance that requires the preservation of Historic Structures (A parking lot is a historic structure, right?  Yes, it is. [link])

2m. An ordinance that requires equal representation (Parity) between Residents/Community Members and Businesses on Neighborhood Planning Committees and Councils (But we strongly oppose an ordinance that requires equal representation for young residents and renters. See (1m).)

hillcrest, we have a problem

hillcrest, we have a problem

(UPDATE: Many commenters continue to blame jaywalkers for all collisions, even though a majority of cases in San Diego are the driver’s fault. Of course pedestrians bear responsibility for their actions, but many are being hit while crossing legally.)

Two Sundays ago, pedestrian Aaron “Curtis” Voorhies was killed while crossing University Avenue between Vermont Street and 10th Avenue. The driver did not stop.  The incident occurred near an opening in the Uptown District plaza that funnels pedestrians to the street at mid-block:



Pedestrians will often cross the north side of University here, find refuge in the thin median, then cross to the south side. Voorhies was leaving the median (or may have been reaching to pick up his roommate’s dog) when hit. This stretch of University, much like the rest of it from 6th Ave eastward, is up to 8 lanes wide: 4 lanes dedicated to auto through-travel, up to 2 turn lane pockets at intersections, and 2 lanes for street parking. So out of these 6-8 lanes, we’ve set aside 0 for cyclists, and 0 to reduce crosswalk distance for pedestrians. The median is more to keep cars from hitting each other than hitting people.

Because Voorhies crossed the street outside of a crosswalk, some Facebook commenters actually said he deserved to be killed:

If this indeed happened because the person was jaywalking, (I’m probably going to be hated after this next statement) I feel no sympathy as stupidity deserves the punishment that befalls upon it.

And idiots jaywalk expecting cars to see them. Roads are for cars. That’s why there are crosswalks.

One commenter speculated Voorhies was under the influence, a dog thief, and/or homeless.  So it seems only drivers are entitled to our public streets, and if a bicyclist or pedestrian is hit, they’re to blame.  While the SANDAG Uptown Bike Corridor has been proposed as a traffic-calming measure for University, that feature is less important than the potential loss of any street parking. As one bike lane opponent said, “It should be about the money”.  Yes, because people’s lives are less important than money.

Another commenter asked how a two-ton vehicle is supposed to stop “on a dime” for a jaywalker.  No one is expecting this to happen, but by reducing speeds, a pedestrian – in or out of a crosswalk – has a dramatically-increased chance of surviving a collision:

Eighty percent of pedestrians struck by a car going 40 mph will die; at 30 mph the likelihood of death is 40 percent. At 20 mph, the fatality rate drops to just 5 percent.

This is the main commercial thoroughfare in the neighborhood, but the roads are designed to encourage travel speeds in the 40+ mph range. Those speeds are dangerous for pedestrians, even if they’re crossing legally. I can personally attest to the dangers of walking and biking in Hillcrest, since I was nearly hit in the unprotected bike lane on Cleveland Ave, and yelled at for crossing University “too slowly” while in a crosswalk. An intermediate step would be a mid-block crosswalk at this location until traffic-calming bike lanes go in, assuming they aren’t stopped by the opposition.  

Walk San Diego performed a pedestrian survey of Uptown over 10 years ago, identifying multiple trouble spots on University. Apart from some sidewalk bulb-outs and pedestrian lead-time crossings, little has been done to increase pedestrian safety.  The recent fatality on University is the same location where another serious pedestrian injury occurred in front of Rich’s a few months ago. And another life-threatening injury occurred at 6th and Evans last year.  In fact, in the 9 years after that 2003 survey (1/2004 to 11/2012) there have been 48 reported pedestrian collisions on University from Washington to Normal (where the bike lane is planned).  Here’s are some partial maps – each dot represents a collision:




From my interpretation of the causes given, in nearly two thirds of the cases, the driver was at fault. Drivers were also at fault in a majority of city-wide collisions (and these are just the reported incidents).  San Diego is one of most dangerous places in the country for pedestrians.

Considering the above, it appears there’s been a failure of leadership on pedestrian and bicyclist safety in Hillcrest. Is a lack of funding due to the city’s poor financial condition to blame? Then community leaders from Uptown Planners, Hillcrest Town Council, and the Hillcrest Business Association would welcome the substantial traffic calming funds provided by the proposed University Ave bike corridor. Instead, they all strongly oppose the project, because they’ve prioritized parking and traffic flow over safety. (UPDATE: Speaking of businesses, I forgot to mention that traffic calming increases business revenue [slower drivers see more businesses] – and nearby residential property values.) And it’s not getting any better: at the recent Uptown Planners election, 6 out of the 7 candidates (and all 3 elected) opposed the bike lane project.

Hillcrest’s (and San Diego’s) streets don’t have to be this way. In many countries, pedestrians have a greater right to public street space. For example, in the UK, where jaywalking is legal, road fatalities are one fourth the rate of the U.S. In the Netherlands, drivers have a higher threshold of responsibility in bicyclist collisions. In Sweden, roads are built for safety, not speed and convenience: “We simply do not accept any deaths or injuries on our roads.” That approach is known as Vision Zero, which new NYC mayor Bill DeBlasio has implemented. How great would it be if new San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer did the same? At the state level in California, a new bill to protect vulnerable road users has been introduced.

Cities around the country are implementing protected bike lanes to provide traffic calming as part of complete streets projects. Let’s hope Uptown will reconsider its opposition to them so we can address this urgent issue.