Browsed by
Tag: parking

Downtown’s housing boom

Downtown’s housing boom

img_2909
The fountains are on at Horton Plaza Park downtown

KPBS published an article this week on efforts to overcome opposition to density and new housing in San Diego.  As housing prices continue to skyrocket, frustration with self-interested residents is boiling over: 

NIMBYs — a pejorative term that stands for “not in my backyard” and is meant to describe opponents to new development — are fighting to keep the system as it is.

“We are facing folks who are very anti-density,” (Borre Winckel) said. “And density has become kind of a four-letter word, for reasons that are completely insincere. People are talking a great deal about wanting more housing, but not near them.”

Winckel pointed to a (rejected) plan by Habitat for Humanity to build 22 affordable housing units for veterans on an empty lot owned by the city of Poway. A number of residents mobilized against the plan, saying while they support affordable housing for veterans, the project was too expensive, would increase traffic and would not fit in with the neighborhood.

“It’s disgusting,” he said. “NIMBYs are the greatest threat to densification. They don’t want it, but they don’t want it for any articulated reason other than self-interest. And I’m not buying that.”

This is hardly unique to San Diego, so a positive sign in Santa Monica recently was voter rejection of a particularly severe anti-density measure.  Prior to the election, Vox pointed out the hypocrisy of residents who advocate for low carbon policies while preventing housing in their urban communities, thereby promoting sprawl and excessive carbon emissions:

In many growing urban areas, residents (mostly older, wealthier, whiter residents) are working hard to slow and block densification. They are doing so even as they celebrate their own eco-friendliness with back yard chicken coops, rooftop solar panels, and f’ing canvas tote bags.

The cognitive dissonance is reaching absurd levels.

“Progressives” who contribute to inequality and climate change by excluding others is a familiar concept to those of us who attend community planning group meetings in Uptown and North Park.  Fortunately things are looking up downtown, where more than 1600 proposed housing units were approved this month at Civic San Diego.  The $200 million Park and Market project on city-owned land (where proceeds will go toward affordable housing) from Carrier Johnson was one of those approved:

57ec93ab2df2a_park_market

The recently-approved units are on top of more than 4400 units being built downtown, including the 330 units at the mixed-use 19-story Alexan development just east of the downtown library: 

img_2953

Check out San Diego UrbDeZine’s development map for all the ongoing and new projects.  New hotels are also going up downtown – here’s a recent shot of the Pendry Hotel on 5th Ave, looking close to completion:

img_2915

Speaking of downtown hotels, we finally saw the new pedestrian access to the harbor that the Marriott Marquis added earlier this year: 

img_2924

img_2977

While the passageway isn’t much to look at – it could use some more public art, for example – it certainly makes getting to the bay front more convenient from downtown.

– The one project that didn’t make it through Civic San Diego this month is the Jonathan Segal housing development planned for Union and Cedar streets.  It seems not everyone who lives downtown is into the whole urban living thing, preferring a suburban, cars-first approach.  Residents complained about the project’s lack of off-street parking, despite the fact this would significantly reduce rental prices:

This approach… was condemned by two neighbors, Denise Nelesen and Michael Smith. They said Little Italy residents and businesses face chronic parking and traffic problems. “The notion of creating this type of development with no offstreet parking is ludicrous,” Smith said. Director Phil Rath said state and local zoning allows for such a no-parking plan, but director Robert Robinson said it was “unfair” to the community.

As cities across the country remove minimum parking requirements to make housing more affordable, San Diego caters to residents like Nelesen (apparently the wife of County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis?) and Smith, who demand developers build and charge for parking in all development, regardless of whether residents or patrons need it.  Nelesen appears to work nearby at the County Administration Building, so couldn’t she avoid the parking and traffic problems she complains of (and are inherent to every healthy downtown) by simply walking the few blocks to work? And if these Little Italy residents want more parking and less traffic, why choose to live in a downtown neighborhood in the first place? 

In North Park, the senior housing complex on Iowa Street is complete, and San Diego Housing Federation has moved their office there:   

img_2740

If you’re thinking of making a charitable contribution before the end of the year, SDHF seems like a great option.  Their executive director, Stephen Russell, has advocated for affordable housing before hostile audiences in North Park and Uptown.  

– CicloSDias was held in North Park a few weeks ago and thankfully the rain held off until the event ended.  Here’s some pictures from a very fun day:

img_2852

img_2853

img_2802

img_2846

img_2850

img_2799

– The LA Times reviewed the Louis Khan exhibit at San Diego Museum of Art; I’m hoping to get over there sometime during this long holiday weekend.

Fair at 44, an international food and crafts market on El Cajon Boulevard near the YMCA, started up recently and runs on Wednesdays at lunch and dinner.  We enjoyed some tasty Jamaican jerk chicken and Cambodian beef on a stick. 

img_2866

 

 

 

 

Return of the Plaza de Panama

Return of the Plaza de Panama

Like a Comic-Con zombie staggering back to life, the Irwin Jacobs Plaza de Panama Autotopia has returned to Balboa Park.  Despite Jacobs walking away after his defeat in court a few years back, the intrusive project has been resurrected by fact-challenged Park institutions determined to squeeze every last car into the Park.  No matter that Balboa Park is one of the few large public green spaces in all of Uptown and downtown, or that a 650-space parking garage for zoo employees was recently added, or that parking lots at the south end of the park are under-utilized.

I biked through the park on 4th of July weekend and found the Inspiration Point lots across Park Boulevard empty. A 2012 parking study found the lots and their 1100+ spaces, served by a tram, are indeed usually empty on weekends:

IMG_2132

Back inside the park, the southernmost lots on the west side of Park also had hundreds of spaces open.  In fact, the same study shows that on any given day there are 1200-1800 parking spaces available at Balboa Park, mostly in these lots.

Given that there’s a tram running directly from these lots to the institutions demanding more parking, I assumed there had to be signage up to direct drivers there.  Surely the city would do this before spending $50 million on another parking garage and bridge?  But this is the only sign as you head south from the always-full Organ Pavilion parking lot, and it’s not about parking:

IMG_2128

Adding some way-finding signs to the parking lots and tram seems like a low-cost way to maximize existing parking resources.  But given some of the bizarre, parking-entitled arguments for the new garage (“my elderly mother isn’t going to wait for a tram to the Old Globe” – despite a brand new drop-off area on Globe Way for Globe patrons), why start using common sense now?

— Remember when Hillcrest residents opposed the Mr. Robinson project on Park because parking?  Well we visited its new ground-floor restaurant, Trust, a couple weeks back for brunch and had no problem finding any.   It seems other patrons didn’t either (perhaps some of them Ubered, walked or biked) – because the place was full.  I liked the interior design, especially the wall behind the bar, along with the space’s big windows to the street and ample patio outside:


IMG_2123

IMG_2119

IMG_2124

San Diego Magazine has a much better review of Trust’s food than anything I can write, but my fried chicken sandwich was pretty amazing – the spicy ssam sauce, chili and pickles really brought it to another level.

— The Uptown Gateway Council has put up a video showing their vision for 4th to 6th Aves in Hillcrest south of University, including the long-vacant Pernicano’s restaurant:

One component of the Uptown Gateway may be a hotel, and on a trip to Palm Springs last month the Virgin Hotel going up there reminded me of how Hillcrest could use a modern boutique hotel:

IMG_2098

The hotel is part of a multi-block downtown revitalization project that replaces a dead shopping mall, and includes this nearly-completed building:

IMG_2086

Like Hillcrest, building heights have been a sticking point, and the Virgin hotel’s height was reduced to no more than 69 feet.  This is still taller than the 50/65′ heights specified in the Uptown interim height ordinance (which turns 8 years old this month).  It seems odd that Palm Springs, a city of less than 50,000 people, has a greater height limit than an urban neighborhood near downtown in a city of 1.3 million.  But Uptown Planners and the city planning department are still wrangling over the final building heights for the blocks in the Uptown Gateway area. Much of the debate centers over whether density should be added near Uptown’s extensive public transit, but at a recent Uptown Planners meeting, one caring resident declared that young people shouldn’t be able to live there – unless they can save up the money to afford a house like she did all those years ago.

— The Port of San Diego has selected the winning project to redevelop Seaport Village – the Seaport project from Protea Waterfront Development:

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 1.03.05 AM

Contrary to many residents, I’m not a big fan of the current Seaport Village.  It’s largely geared to tourists (including some awful restaurants), has half its prime land devoted to surface parking, requires bicyclists to dismount when riding its bayfront, and sports Cape Cod-style architecture that’s totally out of place in southern California.  With the city encouraging more people to live and work downtown for a variety of reasons, shouldn’t our bayfront serve both tourists and residents?

The Protea proposal is a mixed bag of ideas, some with more potential for the above than others, but at least it doesn’t include an 18,000 seat indoor arena like a competing proposal did.  Why would you put a giant, enclosed arena where the bay view is the main attraction?  The tower ride (and aquarium) is a reminder that tourism will still be a big driver, but at least it’s not another ferris wheel.  I like the terraced green space built into the tower base, actually:

Screen Shot 2016-07-24 at 10.20.09 AM

Here’s an overview of the project:

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 1.49.20 PM

I think the above map is the only one which shows the pedestrian bridge (bottom right) planned to connect Embarcadero Marina Park North and South, which is a neat idea.  (Still waiting for someone to implement my infeasible idea of a retractible pedestrian/bike bridge connecting Marina Park to Coronado.)  It also shows the Market Street pedestrian/market area – similar to Pike’s Place – connecting to the G Street Pier.  Here’s a zoomed-in view of the heart of the project, followed by a rendering of Market Street:

Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 10.58.34 AM

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 1.45.12 PM

Pacific Place, a pedestrian plaza at the southwestern edge of the project, looks out on a giant floating screen in this rendering.  Yes that is a picture of a whale jumping out of the water of a screen on the bay:
Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 1.44.32 PM

A wide promenade is planned for the entire bayfront (as far as I can tell) that will allow bicyclists to actually ride through without dismounting, along with additional space for pedestrians.  A boardwalk for pedestrians will extend beyond that:


Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 1.48.28 PM

I also like the “beach” shown here:

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 1.14.41 PM
Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 1.43.20 PM

I’m hardly an expert on these types of projects, just giving my initial thoughts here, but the SD Environment and Design Council’s recommended guidelines for the development of Seaport Village are probably worth reading if you’re interested in the future of this area.