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holsem coffee opens

holsem coffee opens

 

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Holsem Coffee in North Park had their grand opening this week. We were planning on going but Thursday’s deluge took care of that (0.7 inches of rain in just 9 minutes at the airport?) . They’re serving up a variety of specialty coffee drinks and desserts, plus beer and wine will be on tap once the license comes through.  They even make their own hazelnut milk.  Here’s a picture from yesterday when it and the neighborhood were bustling with the North Park Festival of the Arts.  The bright, clean interior design couldn’t be more different from Claire de Lune across the street:

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– There’s been several positive changes on San Diego’s long-underwhelming North Embarcadero recently: Waterfront Park, the Embarcadero makeover, Lane Field Park, Broadway Pier (could have been better) and two new hotels under construction.  Yet the dining options in the area are still a disappointment.  Wyndham shuttered the subpar Elephant and Castle Bar, and we’re still waiting on Carnitas to open in the new Embarcadero space.  But Anthony’s Fish Grotto has to be the biggest head-scratcher on the waterfront: a restaurant that hasn’t received an upgrade in 50 years, an outdated menu comprised mostly of fried fish, and a retro-but-not-in-a-good-way bar (solid happy hour specials though).  Considering Anthony’s has a 52-year lease, it’s unsurprising there’s been no incentive to improve things.  With the lease expiring in 2017, the Port is looking for ways to maximize revenue from the space, so look for big changes and up to 3 restaurants at the location.

– The Port’s getting smart about parking – using smart meters, dynamic pricing and modifying hours to maximize access to the waterfront and decrease circling for spaces, not to mention pollution.  After a successful pilot program testing the above, they’re expanding it.  One port commissioner even pointed out that the new rates will still be below those of nearby parking garages and noted the city of San Diego’s “free lunch” attitude with respect to parking (and garbage collection, and …). He hoped that the Port wouldn’t adopt the city’s attitude of fiscal irresponsibility.  It’s funny how courageous officials can be when they don’t have to appease voters expecting them to deliver that free lunch.

– Welcome news arrived this week in Hillcrest: the Pernicano’s lot is close to being sold after being on the market for 8 months (and dormant for decades).  The owner was apparently holding out for a buyer who would build a hotel on the site, but that’s going to be a challenge given Hillcrest’s 65′ height limit.  At a Hillcrest Town Council forum last week, Todd Gloria said residents need to be flexible on the height limit to help bring a much-needed new hotel to the neighborhood – one that still has many storefront vacancies despite the robust economy and thriving communities nearby.

Another positive development in Hillcrest: the Uptown Parking District’s free trolley will see double duty starting Monday, with a lunch loop planned to bring Hillcrest Medical Center employees to the neighborhood:
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You are cordially invited to join the Uptown Community Parking District in partnership with UC San Diego Health System, Hillcrest Business Association and Hillcrest businesses along with Councilmember Todd Gloria for our ribbon cutting and media event to launch the new Park Hillcrest Lunch Loop!

Learn how this pilot project will decrease the number of cars circling at lunch time and reduce parking impacts! Monday May 18 11:00—11:30 AM UC San Diego Medical Center 200 Arbor Drive San Diego, CA 92103.  For more information contact [email protected]

– Next weekend is Memorial Day, but there’s two events on the following weekend to be aware of.  The first is the Bike SD Bike Month Bash on Saturday May 30th at the Lafayette Hotel and a ride on El Cajon Boulevard (yes I mentioned it last time but now there’s this cool poster):

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Proceeds go to the “Complete the Boulevard” advocacy campaign, which seeks to make El Cajon Blvd safe for all transit modes.  Let’s not just make it safe, let’s transform it through art and place-making.  ACT: The Blvd, held the day before the Bike Bash, will build on plans to do just that:
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– Downtown, The Block is the name of the project on Broadway between 7th and 8th that will bring 41 and 21-story towers, 600 residential units and 20,000 square feet of retail space:

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– You know how cool the historic bungalow courts are in our Uptown neighborhoods?  The city took one step toward making these possible again, on lots zoned for multi-family housing with their new small lot ordinance.  However, the ordinance does not reduce parking minimums, so I don’t see how the old parking-free bungalow courts would happen.  Still, it’s a positive step toward providing more housing without creating the vertical “monstrosities” we hear so much griping about from the you-know-who’s.  Yet there were still complaints about the parking impacts of the proposal, proof that nothing will satisfy our neighbors who have shut the housing door behind them.

Speaking of these folks, opposition has fired up once again to La Mesa’s Park Station project, despite a significant height reduction in line with downtown height limits…  And in Otay Ranch, a group of older residents railed against building housing for younger residents near transit, because traffic.

UCSD’s sustainability policies with respect to transit have been questionable recently, but they’re putting on a climate change forum anyway, discussing the city’s Climate Action Plan.
Oddly, the event’s organizers only provided parking instructions at first, with no information regarding public transit or other modes.  A recent climate change symposium at Salk Institute did the same…  Another organization that’s been disappointing on transit is SANDAG, and this KPBS article details how SANDAG’s transportation plan works against the city’s attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  As long as SANDAG staff are led by a former Caltrans director, and much of the board is made up of suburban members, freeways are always going to take precedence over mass transit, greenhouse gas laws be damned… SANDAG has announced their North Park to downtown bikeway, and John Anderson of Bike SD suggests closing Florida Drive too…  Fox 5 had a good report on efforts to bring Vision Zero to San Diego… If you use the MTS website, you probably know that the tiny map of stops at the top of each route page is nearly impossible to use on your phone.  Want to help improve their site?   Here’s a survey.

– Finally, my work site near Sharp Memorial is amidst a concrete jungle of parking garages, drivers running through crosswalks despite pedestrians in them, and daily rush hour gridlock.  I know there’s no way to get around most patient parking at hospitals, but what efforts have Sharp and Rady Children’s made to reduce the number of employees who drive there?  Nearly everyone in my department drives alone, for example.  And why wouldn’t they – garage parking is free, bus service takes 45 minutes to Hillcrest (a 10 minute drive), and there’s no marked bike lanes.  In fact, drivers are still allowed to park for free on the sides of Health Center Drive despite the dozen or so parking garages they could park in.  Why not remove this parking and add a protected bike lane?

It doesn’t have to be this way.  Seattle Children’s Hospital has reduced their auto mode share among employees to 38%, with a goal of 30%.  The article provides some context: “Healthcare providers are undergoing a fundamental shift from focusing on contagious diseases to treating chronic conditions that are often related to unhealthy lifestyles, like diabetes and heart disease.”  Sedentary, car-dependent lifestyles contribute to these chronic conditions.  Thus, the hospital has a dozen initiatives to reduce employee auto mode share, from free transit passes, to dynamic parking pricing, to free bikes.

Why aren’t Sharp and Rady’s doing the same, given our city’s Climate Action Plan and the resulting health benefits to their employees?  An email question to Rady’s about any alternative transit initiatives went unanswered.

 

 

ucsd’s sustainability stumble

ucsd’s sustainability stumble

– SANDAG has released their draft regional plan for growth in San Diego County.  It acknowledges the estimated 1 million more people that will be added to our population by 2050, largely from within, requiring 330,000 new housing units.  That’s about 10,000 units per year (an apartment industry analyst said 15-20,000 last week), yet our metro has only built about half to three-quarters that amount over the past decade.  Since we’ve run out of buildable land to sprawl onto, the report notes we’ll have to grow up rather than out.  Yet given our city’s restrictive height limits – from the 30′ Coastal Height Limit, to community plan height limits, to community overlays (e.g., the Clairemont Mesa Community 30-40′ Height Limit) – and our high land costs, where exactly can we build up, apart from downtown and Mission Valley?  Because we’re not going to fit 330,000 new housing units into those two places.

The details of SANDAG’s transportation plan, which still relies heavily on freeway expansion over mass transit in its early years, are available in this appendix.  I was interested to see whether the current 90-minute public transit commute from residential center North Park, to job center Sorrento Mesa, would be addressed by the planned Rapid route 688:


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Why would anyone do this unless they had no other option?

And it is… by 2035.  So hang in there folks – SANDAG may have widened the I-5/805 interchange to 22 lanes a decade ago, but you’ll still have to wait another 20 years for a reasonable public transit option to Sorrento Valley.

– Earth Week was last week and UCSD students and administrators donned hazmat suits to collect trash on campus.  Sustainability is a big deal at UCSD – their website says the following about the institution’s commitment to our environment:

At UC San Diego, our school colors may be blue and gold, but at heart, we are green. Sustainability is not just a catch-phrase here – it is a way of life, part of the institutional DNA imparted to us by Roger Revelle, one of the university’s founders and a pioneer of climate change research.

Revelle helped found Scripps Institution of Oceanography and SIO has a strong history of climate research, including current researcher Richard Somerville.  Somerville attended the San Diego Climate Action Campaign launch event last week.  (My graduate degree is in climate research, so I’ve had a personal interest in this issue for some time.)

The university’s sustainability goals are part of a sustainability effort at all UC campuses:

UC’s robust sustainability program covers all ten campuses and five medical centers. The systemwide programs are driven by a nationally-recognized comprehensive sustainability policy and leading-edge presidential initiatives

The UC system aims to be carbon-neutral by 2025, but upon closer inspection, this only applies to their buildings and vehicle fleet.  Yet transportation accounts for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in California.  UCSD chancellor Pradeep Khosla, gave a presentation in 2013 reaffirming UCSD’s goal of “increasing the use of alternative transportation options by commuters” to reduce these emissions.  Given the university’s strong pro-sustainability position, what actions are they taking to back up these statements?  You might be surprised.

Last year, UCSD ended a decades-long agreement with MTS that provided free bus service to UCSD employees and students.  Initially, it was proposed that UCSD would contribute to MTS bus passes for the first few years.  Yet last fall UCSD employees had the same option as those of any other large employer: the 25% discounted MTS EcoPass for $54/month.  For students, a transit referendum was passed (it was proposed by UCSD student and new Uptown Planner Kyle Heiskala), and all students now pay an annual fee to receive an MTS/NCTD transit pass for about $16/month during the school year.  Killing the free bus zone subsidy saved the university $3.2 million per year; at this point, none of this funding has been restored.  Meanwhile, students and staff are now contributing about $3.97 million per year to MTS via the referendum and EcoPass purchases. Efforts to create a low-cost bike share system on campus have been delayed, with repeated requests by administration officials for items that have already been submitted. UCSD has essentially shifted most of the financial burden for transportation sustainability onto employees – that means they don’t get to claim credit for the resulting environmental gains.

Recently, UCSD announced the construction of a new 1000+ space parking garage despite the abundant parking already available throughout campus (over 15,000 spaces):


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If only there were somewhere to park at UCSD!


With another 1000 spaces, and assuming an average commute of 15 miles, this structure will directly result in over 2000 metric tons of greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere every year. This completely contradicts the UC system’s stated mission to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  It also ignores alternative solutions, such as ride share, and new parking technologies, including space counting and real-time parking availability apps.  Meanwhile, parking rates have not been adjusted for 8 years. And why do UCSD students often have parking in close proximity to their dorms, while lots (and the shuttles serving them) on east Campus remain below capacity?  When I attended Virginia Tech, my roommate’s car was a 20-minute walk from our dorm room.

Building yet another parking garage ignores the arrival of the Mid-Coast Trolley to campus in just a few years.  At SDSU, the trolley resulted in a decrease of 6,000 parking permits/year, and the number continues to decrease.

unnamedIf single occupancy vehicles (SOV) make up 75% of UCSD’s carbon emissions by transportation mode, how does cutting transit subsidies and building parking garages help reduce emissions?  To their (employees) credit, UCSD’s SOV mode share is a respectable 42%, down from 66% in 2001, versus the county’s current 70+%. The university’s current Climate Action Plan is from 2008; its updated version should contain significant alternative transit mode share increases. UCSD also supported the controversial I-5-widening, part of SANDAG’s regional transportation plan that exceeds state 2050 greenhouse gas emissions targets by 7 times. Environmental groups, with the state on board, sued to stop this freeways-first plan and have won twice in court so far.

UCSD has been without a transportation director for several years, and the transportation services division is under-staffed – my efforts to review their budget were rebuffed due to a lack of resources.  Once the position is filled, the university’s new transportation director should work with stakeholders to develop 5 and 10-year strategic plans that spell out how UC’s carbon neutral goal will be achieved, including mode share goals.   

To be fair, the UC’s must limit their transportation funding to transportation-related income only: parking revenue and tickets (although I’ve been told this can vary by campus).  This is mostly beyond UCSD’s control, but that doesn’t stop them from lobbying the UC Office of the President to change this policy.  On their end, UC President Janet Napolitano could lobby our elected representatives for a pilot transit subsidy program using state cap and trade funds, where revenue has exceeded expectations by billions of dollars.  The UC’s should be leading in the area of greenhouse gas reductions by examples like these.

Interestingly, one of UCSD’s Earth Week’s focus areas was on water conservation, given our severe drought.  A link between climate change and California’s drought is not yet proven.  Yet warmer temperatures are definitely caused by increased carbon emissions – the same ones UCSD commuters will be increasing under the university’s policies.  And warmer temperatures are directly correlated to reduced snowpack and increased drought severity.

UCSD actually is doing several positive things with respect to sustainability, including new bike paths on campus, electric car charging stations, and green building projects. Achieving sustainability goals can be costly and incredibly challenging. Perhaps UCSD should dial back their rhetoric a bit on this issue until it’s consistent with their actions.