By Dave Schwab
Some Golden Hill residents, while pleased that infrastructure and pedestrian improvements on 25th Street are now complete, are insisting the work didn’t go far enough.
The nearly $3 million project replaced an old water main, as well as installed new pedestrian, bike and roadway amenities and features, such as reverse-angle parking.
“Yes, they did the infrastructure but not the enhancements, which is what we really wanted,” said David Strickland, a retired Caltrans landscape architect and vice chair of the Greater Golden Hill Planning Committee (GGHPC). “It seems that the city had the opportunity to complete the project if they didn’t lose over $1 million in Transportation Enhancement (TE) funds, due to their procrastination in developing plans. The city extended the application two times and was denied an extension the third time, therefore losing the funding.”
TE funding is allocated through the Federal Transportation Act and requires an application submitted to the state’s Department of Transportation for review and approval, Strickland said, noting there’s a deadline required by all TE’s.
“Only with special circumstances can the funding be extended past the original deadline,” Strickland said. “Because the city lost the TE funding, the only money they had was to do the infrastructure, which needed to be done due to the age of this section of the city.”
Strickland believes the city “missed an opportunity by not allocating enough funding to include crossovers, which would be necessary to install lighting and irrigate planter boxes and tree wells as part of the improvement project.”
Speaking on her own behalf and not the group’s, GGHPC chair Ruchell Alvarez concurred with Strickland that 25th Street improvements could have worked out better.
“I’m not excited about the alleged improvements,” she said. “Reverse-angle parking does not work for many drivers. And I feel the ‘pop-outs’ on corners intended to calm traffic are a bad idea. The pop-outs, in my view, invite pedestrians to stand too close to the roadway.”
Alvarez agreed, however, that pop-outs will calm traffic.
“But so would spike strips,” she said. “That doesn’t mean it’s a good solution.”
The 25th Street Improvement Project is in Councilmember Todd Gloria’s District 3. Though the project may not be all things to all people, Gloria said it’s a major step forward.
“The improvements completed along 25th Street make a tremendous difference to the neighborhood and the many visitors who frequent the area. In addition to infrastructure repairs below the street, pop-outs at the intersections encourage walking, and the reverse-angle parking balances vehicles and provides more protection for riders taking advantage of the new bike lanes,” Gloria said. “This area of Golden Hill has emerged as a hub of unique food and beverage venues, and more residents are seeking out its unique character, making the project’s active transportation additions especially welcome. The residents and business owners in the area were impacted by the long construction timeline, and I hope they feel the $3 million in improvements were worth it now that the dust has settled.”
The project is a Capital Improvement Project (CIP), said Monica Munoz, a public information officer for the city. She said this project “does include a dedicated bike lane and some traffic-calming measures.”
In April 2014, Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Councilmember Todd Gloria officiated at a groundbreaking ceremony for the 25th Street Improvement Project.
The project included $1.7 million in amenities for traffic calming and hardscape improvements. It was designed to make the Golden Hill neighborhood safer and more accessible for residents and businesses.
Project enhancements also entailed replacing water mains. Additionally, sidewalks were widened and Class II bike lanes were put in to facilitate accessibility.
The origin of 25th Street improvements dates to 1984 when the city contracted out public street improvement concepts and private design guidelines for a major neighborhood commercial strip in Golden Hill.
The goal was to spur commercial revitalization of the length of 25th Street by providing a framework for improvements to the 25th Street mixed commercial/residential corridor between Balboa Park on the north and state Route 94 on the south.
The idea behind making physical improvements to 25th Street was that doing so would bring economic revitalization, decrease crime and enhance community pride.
GGHPC’s Strickland believes the city has missed a golden opportunity in Golden Hill to finish 25th Street’s enhancement.
“It is sad that by not being diligent in meeting the TE deadlines, the ‘Renaissance’ of 25th Street, of which the community and the consultant worked so hard to develop, will not happen,” he said. “Now, if the city were to get funding to implement the Renaissance design, it will have to excavate the sidewalks and perhaps the streets, to finish the project.”
Strickland noted that street furniture such as benches and trash receptacles, plus installation of water-quality infrastructure, undergrounding of utility boxes and installation of aesthetic street lights and lighted bollards, signage and additional street tree and other street plantings were all a part of the original design of the 25th Street Improvement Project.
— Dave Schwab can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.