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Three Weeks Downtown

Three Weeks Downtown

Letter arrives in the mail: “SUMMONS FOR JURY DUTY”.

That heart-sinking feeling… and work is way too busy.  Can I postpone?  Yes, but you need to re-schedule for a Monday. Postponement date arrives.  Turns out Mondays are when they assign the long trials.  I’m in the jury box.  Oh, you work at UC San Diego – they pay for your jury duty, right?  We’d love to have you for the next three weeks.

Your (county/state) jury duty destination: the Hall of Justice (with new county courthouse behind it)

And so it went.  After nearly 20 years in San Diego I was finally on a trial.  Overall it was a good experience, especially because I could walk around downtown every day at lunch and get up to speed on all the changes happening there.  The other neat part was how easy it was to get there.  An invigorating 10-minute morning walk to either the 215 or 235 rapid bus stops on El Cajon Boulevard, a fast trip downtown (on the 235 anyway), and a drop-off just a block from the Hall of Justice.  Compare that to my commute to UC San Diego: get cut off repeatedly on my drive to Old Town Transit Center, then sit on a bus stuck behind solo drivers on I-5.

The county’s new $555 million courthouse, the most expensive in state history, is nearly complete behind the Hall of Justice.  Here’s a shot of how the perforated roof creates light lines on the exposed interior wall of the structure:

The 22-story, 389 foot courthouse replaces the old courthouse just east of the Hall of Justice on Broadway.  I’ve heard the old central courthouse described as a ‘skyscraper on its side’.  Considering how little demand there was for land in 1960’s downtown San Diego, why build an expensive tower when you can just sprawl across three blocks:

Move-in for the new courthouse was supposed to be this month, and the new jury lounge there would have been an improvement over the one in the Hall of Justice – which along with much of the ground floor, feels much older than the building’s 1996 opening date. 

My lunchtime walks often took me past the ongoing demolition at the Naval Broadway Complex, which will be replaced by the Manchester Pacific Gateway project:

The $1.3 billion project, spread across 12 acres, will include a 17-story office building to serve as the U.S. Navy headquarters, four office buildings, two hotels, a museum, retail promenade and 1.9-acre park.

Pacific Gateway opens in 2020.  A friend who works at the Navy facility said they had to helicopter the bulldozers in because a wrecking ball wouldn’t work on the very thick walls of the buildings.  I’m guessing asbestos plays a role too:

Across Pacific Highway, Bosa’s Pacific Gate is nearing completion:

It was good to see two cruise ships docked on the harbor, given the cruise ship downturn here when travel to Mexico plummeted a decade ago:

Savina is going in behind Bayside.  Its street-level podium appears to take up the entire block, which would make it larger than Bayside’s:

The new Intercontinental Hotel continues to build up at Harbor and Broadway:

Unfortunately there’s a huge pedestrian detour on Pacific Highway for folks walking out of the SpringHill Suites/Residence Inn combo hotel, requiring them to do a loop around the Intercontinental construction.  Pacific Highway is nearly 90 feet wide here, but there isn’t enough room for a temporary pedestrian walkway? 

I stopped into Horton Plaza Park several times and witnessed the homeless problem there that was recently covered in the U-T.  While it was disappointing to see the sheer number of struggling people, I wasn’t personally impacted by it, and the Park still has potential to be a fine civic gathering area.  At least people are talking about what a space like this should be, and how it could be improved.  The same can’t be said for the south side of Horton Plaza, which couldn’t present a more pedestrian-unfriendly face to the street if it tried:  

There have been suggestions of incorporating office space into Horton Plaza, which would bring a built-in customer base to the Jimbo’s Grocery and other retail there.  Whatever changes Westfield has planned for Horton, they can’t come soon enough.

The long lunch breaks even offered the opportunity to get over to East Village, where the library’s reading room offered an excellent view of the 19-story Alexan 23-story K1 construction (the Alexan is just north) on 14th 13th:

Bike to Work Day turned into Bike to Jury Duty day this year, but I was able to hit some new pit stops (for me) as a result, including this one at Laurel and 6th:

On the Park side of Balboa Park, the zoo had also set up a pit stop, and this giant Australian Kingfisher made quite a ruckus (at 3:30 in the video):

And while I didn’t get to Quartyard during my jury duty, I did bike by there yesterday, where they were counting down their last days before moving to their new location a few blocks east at 13th and Market.  Tickets for the June 2nd closing party are available. 

Speaking of Quartyard, there’s an interesting article up about the UCSanDiego.Urban mixed-use project that will replace it, which will feature “music and food festivals”. 

Horton Plaza Park

Horton Plaza Park

It’s been a busy couple of months with lots of evenings spent at community meetings – from proposed bike lane projects to community plan updates.  To catch up, here’s some shots from the camera roll since I last posted, including the Amgen Tour as it sped through Balboa Park in late May:

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Downtown has plenty going on, as always.  The city council passed the Downtown Mobility Plan, and it was encouraging to see council members and Civic San Diego stand up to very powerful interests like the Little Italy Association.  Oddly, the head of LIA (Marco Li Mandri), who speaks of treating streets as public spaces and returning them to pedestrians, strongly opposed this plan that will make Little Italy’s streets safer for pedestrians and bicyclists.  All because Little Italy will only gain 85 on-street parking spaces under the plan instead of the 135 initially expected.

Tacos El Gordo is coming to 5th and F street downtown in the space below.  We ate at their Chula Vista location recently and it was as packed (and as good) as ever.  The tender lengua (beef tongue) taco is a personal favorite.

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Speaking of tacos, Taco Express at 1330 State Street has closed to make way for the 22-story 401 West Ash St hotel (more information on this scaled-back project).

Bosa’s Pacific Gate development continues to rise at the southeast corner of Broadway and Pacific and is already selling units:

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Caddy corner to that, the Intercontinental Hotel had its groundbreaking recently, the Spring Hill Suites/Residence Inn dual hotel behind it opened earlier this year.  Project rendering follows (h/t isellthecity)

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Across Harbor Drive, Carnitas Snack Shack has been open for several weeks now and brings a welcome change from the tourist-geared establishments on the waterfront.  An outdoor bar and restaurant for locals and tourists, in a neatly-landscaped space overlooking the bay – why did San Diego have to wait until 2016 to do this?

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Horton Plaza Park opened and is a huge positive addition to downtown, providing a critical civic gathering space.  I agree it could use some more shade but it also needs clear sight lines to the west-side wall for films, etc.  Hopefully we’ll see some more activation of the space in the coming months.


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The Marriott Marquis’ pedestrian walkway from Harbor Drive to the bay front has opened, along with a mostly-public pedestrian plaza… Downtown’s first parklet since the city’s new streamlined parklet policies went into place had its ribbon cutting on June 16th at the Moniker Warehouse building at 705 16th St. (more info):

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Liberty Public Market has also opened, and seems to be wildly popular.  There’s nothing else like it in the county and we really enjoyed the mix of food vendors, plus the option to stretch out in Mess Hall restaurant or on the patio (get there early).  Here’s some pics from our visit a few weeks ago, including a delicious ceviche tostada from Cecilia’s Taqueria:

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Renderings are up for Jonathan Segal’s mixed-use project at Park and Polk on a lot that has sat vacant for many years.  Looks pretty similar to Mr. Robinson down the street, where Trust is getting great reviews, while San Diego Magazine wonders, “What Happened to Hillcrest?”.

Finally, Bike SD’s Bike Month Bash was earlier this month and thanks to Lafayette Hotel for hosting the launch and post-pool party, Bean Bar for the refreshing iced coffee pit stop, and to everyone who came out to support the organization!
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