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City: Thumbs-Down to Uptown’s Downzone

City: Thumbs-Down to Uptown’s Downzone

San Diego leads the state in the number of new hotels opened this year, and the county has nearly 10,000 new hotel rooms planned. With the return of the Intercontinental chain (under construction at Pacific and Broadway), the City council’s approval this week of a new Ritz Carlton downtown strengthens the luxury hotel market there – another ‘big city’ step for San Diego.

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The Ritz is part of the Cisterra Development’s 7th & Market mixed use project, the biggest, most expensive and densest development in the county, with 1.16 million square feet in two towers:

A 39-story tower blends together luxury condos, market-rate apartments, and affordable rental units. Plans by Carrier Johnson + Culture architects include a rooftop terrace, four levels of underground parking and a 6,000-square-foot public plaza.

A separate 19-story tower includes a 153-room hotel component. The developer is incorporating the historic Clermont Hotel, and its 53 single-room occupancy units, into the project. 7th & Market is slated for completion by October 2021.

Elsewhere downtown, the Modern Times Festival of Dankness had a huge turnout at Waterfront Plaza back in August (yes it’s been that long since I posted):

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More than $10,000 dollars in proceeds was donated to BikeSD from Modern Times and its owner, Jacob McKean. As a volunteer board member for BikeSD, and someone who knows how difficult it is to raise funds for a non-profit, I couldn’t be more grateful. For me, Modern Times is San Diego’s best brewery for reasons like this, the impressive creativity that goes into their product and establishments’ design, McKean’s outspokenness on craft breweries like Ballast Point that have sold out, and their awesome beers, of course.

After the festival let out I snapped some pictures of the bayfront area as the sun lowered on this hot day, including one of the new Carnitas Snack Shack‘s bar on the Embarcadero:

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Having a decent restaurant and bar on the city’s prime stretch of redeveloped waterfront is long overdue – especially with all the surrounding development going on.

The north end of Little Italy keeps cranking out new establishments, including San Diego’s second RakiRaki (with a Pokirrito), on India St:

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We visited shortly after they opened in early September and the Pokirrito poke bowls were very filling – I made the mistake of trying to eat two of them with a 2-for-1 promo they had going. Jay and our friends got RakiRaki’s ramen, which was quite good. And I love that this it’s next door to Bottlecraft, which always has a wide range of smaller-brewery craft beers on tap and is wide open to the street.

Soft-opening this week one block south is a Pali Wine Co tasting room, which includes a balcony for plane-watching:

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Pali is “a producer of premium, appellation-specific and vineyard-designate wines from California and Oregon” and the tasting room “features Pali’s Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines, and Rhone and Bordeaux varieties grown in the Central Coast by its sister label, Tower 15. A rotating selection of eight ‘fresh’ wines, blended straight from the barrel to keg, are available for tasting or for carry-out by growler.”

One last downtown item: after 12 years we finally got up on the roof of the Western Metals Building.  It was a work event at the last game of the season, and while the Padres disappointed as usual, the weather didn’t:

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Closer to home, we’ve been enjoying the ample patio, craft beers, and fish and chips at Beerfish near 30th and Adams:

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Around the corner on 30th, Blackmarket Bakery has opened:

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So many interesting places opening in this area right now, including a Tajima, not to mention all the great stuff there already (Polite Provisions, Soda and Swine, Fall Brewing, Cantina Mayahuel, Jayne’s Gastropub, Hawthorne Coffee, Et Viola). Check them out next Sunday, October 30th when 30th St closes for the return of CicloSDias.

Quickies: Nomad Donuts, just down 30th from Fall, and where I get my delicious vegan donut fix, is opening a second location in the former Lady of the Lake bookstore in North Park (Illinois and University).  They’ll also be serving craft beer and bagels.  Check out the North Park Facebook page for all the goings on in NP, it’s hard to keep up…  Pop Pie Co., serving savory and sweet mini-pies, has opened on Park Blvd in University Heights… [email protected], the El Cajon Boulevard International Food Market next to the new YMCA, started earlier this month and runs each Wednesday evening… A panel discussion on the future of transit on El Cajon Blvd takes place at the vacant lot at ECB and Central Ave next Tuesday.

Speaking of transit on ECB, the City appears to be endorsing a no-bike lane alternative on El Cajon Boulevard after receiving significant SANDAG and County funding to address this dangerous stretch of road.  As one business owner said, “people have been injured, but nobody’s been killed!” to justify street parking over safer streets.  This is a Vision Zero priority corridor, in a transit-oriented neighborhood where the CAP calls for increased alternative mode share, where many lower-income residents walk and bike, and where abundant commercial off-street parking exists – yet not a single parking space can be surrendered for alternative transit.

Both the North Park and Uptown Community Plan updates have been in the news recently as they near final approval.  It was very encouraging to see the City Planning Commission reject Uptown Planners‘ downzone of the area and restrictive height limits.  Finally, the city is standing up to self-interested property owners in the community and on the board who prioritize LGBT memories, property value profits and abundant street parking over housing for others:

Leo Wilson, chair of Uptown Planners, acknowledged that Hillcrest is the heart of the LGBT community. “This is our Castro,” he said, referring to the famous San Francisco neighborhood. Wilson worried about redevelopment triggering a “cultural desecration.”

Hillcrest Medical Center workers are going hungry due to high housing costs, but Uptown’s planning chair says we can’t add housing in Hillcrest because of its LGBT history?  What a sad, out-of-touch sense of priorities.

Todd Gloria specifically noted his opposition to Uptown Planners’ plan to reduce density (even more than the city’s earlier downzone), given the city’s Climate Action Plan and related transit-oriented development requirements.  Gloria also said Uptown’s mobility plan needs to be revisited, since it fails to meet bike and public transit mode share goals.  One obvious step, mentioned by the Planning Commission, would be to fill the bike network hole on University Avenue created by the Hillcrest Business Association.

And last, on a completely unrelated note, I finally made it up to artist Do Ho Suh’s “Fallen Star” house at UC San Diego a while back.  Here are some pictures from this unique addition to the university’s Stuart Art Collection.

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Chuck Alek Biergarten

Chuck Alek Biergarten

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Ramona’s Chuck Alek Brewers beer garden opened recently behind Tostadas on University in North Park, bringing the first outdoor tasting “room” to the neighborhood. The garden is a mix of picnic tables, plants, and a walk-up beer window (about ten on tap, minus a couple that were tapped out) that overlooks the space:

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Menus from Tostadas are on hand for ordering food  and the garden is fairly kid-friendly.  A few more trees or umbrellas would be appreciated, especially with hot summer sun not too far off.  In the beer department, their IPA was not quite as hoppy as what I’m used to in San Diego, but the porter was more true to form.  Eater has more details on this welcome new outdoor space.

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On Adams Ave, French restaurant Et Voila has opened in the former Fiesta Market, where the building looks so much better with a fresh coat of paint and all those signs removed from its facade:

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Again, Eater has a good writeup on their menu and some pretty interior shots.  With Tajima going in next door, Blackmarket Bakery set to open south of Polite Provisions, and Beerfish just west of Soda and Swine, the intersection of Adams and 30th is really turning into a dining hub.

– Gordon Carrier from Carrier Johnson presented the proposed Strauss on 5th project in Hillcrest between Walnut and Brookes.  It’s a 72 foot, 6-story apartment building with 141 (24 of them affordable), and many studios and one bedrooms.  Currently the lot is two parking lots and a small apartment building:

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My pictures from the slide show are pretty sad, but since there’s no renderings online yet…

I’ve updated the post with renderings from Carrier Johnson (thanks Vicki!):
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The prominent cap on the building raised some ire, and I’m not totally sold on the “window” in the middle of the building, but the project provides badly-needed new market rate and affordable housing in Uptown.

It was interesting to watch the reactions of Uptown Planners Mat Wahlstrom and Leo Wilson to the project.  They both stated recently that all new development in Uptown is unaffordable, and therefore we shouldn’t allow any.  Yet this project includes affordable units and studios.  Thus Wahlstrom pivoted and criticized the loss of 20 parking spaces – even though the project includes far more parking than required by the city, with three levels of underground parking.  If Wahlstrom is truly concerned about affordable housing, wouldn’t he be arguing for the elimination of parking minimums that contribute upwards of $200/month to the cost of an apartment?  Either the affordable housing argument is just a smokescreen for plain ‘ol NIMBYism, or housing for cars is just more important than housing for people.

For a more sensible approach, check out this new CirculateSD report on how parking minimums are barriers to smart growth. Or read this recent planning exercise where parking minimums made sensible residential development impossible.  If San Diego politicians were serious about addressing the housing crisis rather than just talking about it, they’d have done away with our parking minimums years ago, as many other cities have.  But then they probably wouldn’t get re-elected, given the demographic turnout for local elections.

– The Mid-Coast Trolley extension to UTC may still be five years away, but that hasn’t stopped Costa Verde Center from releasing an ambitious plan incorporating the terminus station that will front this retail center on Genesee.  Renderings in this big pdf show bike lockers, bikeways, pedestrian-friendly features and a rooftop park for patrons exiting the elevated station:

Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 11.08.34 PM– Downtown, Bosa has traded in their conservative condo tower design for Aqua-lite on their 42 story project coming to 777 Front Street:

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San Diego doesn’t have much in the way of daring or remarkable high-rise architecture.  Let’s hope this project starts to change that.