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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”. 

decobike launches

decobike launches

– Representatives from The City Heights Community Development Corporation, Wakefield Housing & Development Corporation, St Paul’s PACE, and Studio E Architects presented preliminary information about the Talmadge Gateway Project at last week’s Kensington/Talmadge Community Planning Group Meeting (image from SD Uptown News/Studio E):

The mixed-use senior housing project is proposed for the northwest corner of El Cajon and Euclid and would re-use or replace the building housing Til Two Club. Given the recent positive changes on this stretch of El Cajon Boulevard, including the new YMCA (where KenTal CPG meetings are now held), new rapid bus line and the potential for bike lanes, this development could be another big positive boost. It was encouraging to hear that many in attendance agreed with the project’s potential.

Unfortunately, the first question from the planning board wasn’t about the project’s amenities or planned tenant mix, but rather parking, which was deemed insufficient despite this being a reduced-mobility senior housing project. Other board members voiced concerns over parking in front of Talmadge residences, traffic and crime. Board chair David Moty voiced support for putting the project’s retail at the north end of the project, away from El Cajon Boulevard, because this commercial center is out of the “safety zone” for Talmadge residents. It was another reminder of the gulf that exists between the wealthier, older and largely white neighborhoods of San Diego and the more racially and economically diverse areas that represent the future demographics of our city. Personally I’m excited that this project could be the first of many mixed-use retail and housing projects along eastern ECB given its proximity to transit. It’s baffling to see such poor land use on so much of ECB – empty parking lots, single story buildings and used car dealerships – when the city faces such big housing affordability challenges.

– The Foundation For Form folks (You Got Mail, You Are Here) have purchased the building housing the Revivals thrift store on eastern University in Hillcrest. I never realized just how big this parcel is:

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 12.43.04 AM

Given this news, I need to make a correction to an earlier post that identified the Baras Thrift Store site nearby as having development planned (oops). Interestingly, there’s an empty lot behind Revivals’ ample rear parking lot that appears to contain a couple of boats. San Diego is the least affordable city in the country due to its housing crisis, there’s been hardly any residential construction in Hillcrest for years – and yet there are still empty lots in the neighborhood housing old boats? Regardless, if their previous mixed-use projects are any indication, the Foundation for Form architects/developers will bring an innovative design and residential focus to this potential Hillcrest development.

Also coming up in Hillcrest: The Great Hillcrest Spring Clean, which takes place at 8AM on Saturday 2/28:

As always we will provide our colorful HTC Clean T.E.A.M (together everyone achieves more) t-shirts until they run out. If you have one from past Clean T.E.A.M events please wear it. Supplies will be provided.

Two starting points so you can join the neighborhood you want to help in:

(1) Hillcrest Shell, corner of Washington and fifth. Meet at 8:00am for directions. Will clean parts of the Medical District and Hillcrest Core.

(2) Heat Bar and Grill, at Park Ave and Essex St. Meet at 8:00am for directions to clean East Hillcrest.

“TALKING TRASH” happy hour will follow at Hillcrest Brewing Company (1458 University Avenue) sometime between noon and 1pm.

THE GREAT HILLCREST SPRING CLEAN is sponsored by the Hillcrest History Guild, the Hillcrest Business Association, the Hillcrest Town Council and the UCSD Medical Center Hillcrest.

– Waterfront Park has been a big success, but ever try to walk from there to the bay front across Harbor and Ash? What better place to put a high-speed turn ramp (instead of a standard 90 degree right turn) than between our pedestrian-heavy bay front and new family-friendly park. I crossed it recently and the pedestrians had absolutely no idea if they had right-of-way, because there is no visible crosswalk signal. And bonus points if you’re in a wheelchair, because this intersection isn’t ADA-compliant. John Anderson documents this intersection, with photos, in his excellent post, “Pedestrians as Safety Hazards”. Fortunately this and two other intersections on Harbor will receive pedestrian improvements shortly (h/t to Tyler).

– San Diego has been named the least affordable city in the U.S. due to its high housing costs. Voice of San Diego recently did a story on the city’s housing crisis, soliciting suggestions on how to tackle problem; increasing inventory via density was a recurring theme. So it was interesting to see that many metropolitan statistical areas that are have fewer people (and are more affordable) built significantly more multi-family housing in 2014 than San Diego. The metros are Charlotte, Denver, Minneapolis, Nashville, Orlando, Portland, and Tampa. By comparison, Seattle, whose metro population is just a bit larger than San Diego, issued three times as many of these permits. And with support from a majority of Seattle residents, the city is repurposing storage of private vehicles on public streets with bus-only lanes, bike lanes and micro-parks. Buses can move far more people than single-occupancy vehicles, so why not give them priority? Meanwhile in San Diego, businesses along El Cajon boulevard fought the removal of any street parking for the Rapid bus there, which must share a lane with solo drivers. As a result, the “Rapid” bus runs no faster than the prior bus service there.

– Bankers Hill Community Group meets tonight to discuss a Complete Streets approach to the SANDAG bike lanes proposed for 4th and 5th Avenues, while voting on a “Petition for a safer Sixth Avenue to be presented to Uptown Planners for their approval and to submit the petition to the City of San Diego to study traffic calming on Sixth Avenue”. Recall that Uptown Planners Chair Leo Wilson “strongly opposes” a road diet that would increase pedestrian safety on 6th Ave, because fast auto flow is more important. He’s also filed a lawsuit to remove the city-installed buffered bike lanes on 4th and 5th… Recent news that the city’s parking districts have $18 million in unspent funds has prompted a call for ideas on how to spend the money, and whether the funds should continue to be restricted to parking-related items only. February 27th is the deadline to get your suggestions in for 1) the Fiscal Year 2016 Parking District budgets (contact Uptown or Downton parking districts) and to 2) Todd Gloria’s office for changing how meter funds can be spent.

– DecoBike is up an running, so we put our memberships to use last weekend and rode around downtown’s dense station network. Apart from some challenges with undocking the bikes, the system and bikes are easy to use, and we fielded lots of questions from people asking about the program and its cost. As someone who’s had a bike stolen, it’s a great feeling to walk away from your bike and not worry about it.

We started off at the new Meshuggah Shack at the forthcoming Quartyard in East Village:


…ate some really good sandwiches at Rare Form near the ballpark:


…noted the construction at the bay front Marriott that includes the new pedestrian path to the harbor (here’s a rendering):


…and grabbed beers from the new Bottlecraft location – they’ve moved up India to just across the street from Ballast Point in Little Italy:




Then we finished up back at one of the stations with ample docks next to Petco Park. These should come in very handy this season, especially considering all the off-season moves the Padres made to improve the team.