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:
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:
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:
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:
The hotel is part of a multi-block downtown revitalization project that replaces a dead shopping mall, and includes this nearly-completed building:
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:
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:
Here’s an overview of the project:
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:
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:
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:
I also like the “beach” shown here:
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.