By KENDRA SITTON | Uptown News
The city of San Diego’s Mobility Board voted 8-2 last week to recommend the city adopt a new plan for adding protected bike lanes to 30th Street. The plan, referred to as Option A+, is a new compromise, and an expansion, of previous plans to add a protected bike lane along a two-mile stretch of 30th Street. Instead of just existing from Howard Avenue to Juniper Street, the bikeway will extend to Adams Avenue. Although no parking will be saved in the residential area from Juniper to Upas streets, more than 100 spots will remain from Upas to Adams Avenue, a move aimed at appeasing local businesses that fear they will lose customers without ample parking options. By eliminating the center lane, city staff included commercial loading zones, timed parking and accessible parking spots in the design. There is a loss of 449 parking spots.
The mayor’s office brought the new plan before the advisory group during the first time it was made public. In May, Mayor Kevin Faulconer ordered the city to implement Option A as the street is resurfaced after installing the 30th Street Pipeline Replacement Project, a project to replace nearly six miles of water main. Even City Council member Chris Ward, who was recently honored by the San Diego Bike Coalition in its annual Golden Gear Awards, did not support that option. Instead, he released a letter in July voicing support for Option B, a compromise that created floating parking spots in the business district.
North Park Main Street joined Council member Ward in supporting Option B this summer. The group’s president, Angela Landsberg, said in a statement that they still support Option B.
“North Park Main Street, surrounding business associations and the majority of businesses and residents in the area oppose this new plan called A+,” Landsberg said. “The fact that the plan continues toward implementation shows a blatant disregard for small businesses as well as many San Diegans in need of ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant] parking. A true compromise was presented by the city and supported by the community. This Option B plan offered protected bike lanes and retention of the majority of parking within the business district. Option A+ is not a compromise but rather a result of a poor decision-making process, failed communication between City Council member Ward and the mayor’s office and an attempt to use our community as a pawn to promote the city’s commitment to the climate action plan.”
In the wake of the vote, Ward released a statement urging the mayor’s staff to continue ensuring the area is ADA accessible as well as continuing to do outreach in the community.
How much community outreach is done is limited by the timeline of the project, which coincides with the resurfacing of the street after the pipeline is installed— a project which is already underway.
While business groups and some residents continue to push back on the planned bikeway, it still has the support of climate and bike activists.
San Diego Bike Coalition executive director, and chair of the mobility board, Andy Hanshaw, voted in favor of the plan which will connect North and South Park and contribute to a fully connected bikeway network throughout the city. He said the bikeway is important in improving biker safety, multi-modal transportation, and helping the city meet its climate action plan goals. “Option A+ is good for businesses and good for the community.”
Data in other cities that have added protected bike lanes, including Los Angeles, Salt Lake City and New York city, show sales increased and commercial real estate sale prices rose. With the sudden loss of hundreds of spaces, business leaders fear the same will not happen in North Park.
Few San Diegans commute by bike to work, something both advocates and detractors of protected bike lanes point to. Opponents argue that fact shows building infrastructure to accommodate cyclists is unnecessary, while proponents say biking numbers are low because of the dangers of riding without infrastructure.
The Adams Avenue Business Association (AABA) has been reaching out to cyclists, most recently by winning a bid to host CicloSDias on Oct. 27. The annual event created a Mid-City “car-free playground,” with four miles of roads blocked off to cars so bikes could explore the area. At the Normal Heights Community Planning Group, a representative of the business association explained the purpose of the event was to bring new customers into the area, even if it meant that many steady customers stayed away for that one day. The representative said that most businesses lost money the day of the event, with the area along Antique Row claiming they lost $2,000; the business association wanted to host the event so people across San Diego would be introduced to those local businesses.
The AABA opposes the bike lane and is working to overturn it, according to the association’s executive director, Scott Kessler.
“The elimination of 85-90% of the parking stalls on 30th Street poses the biggest existential threat to this linear commercial district since the advent of regional shopping malls in the ’60s. It is a prime example of the mayor’s office being totally out of touch with reality and uncaring about the potential harm they are proposing to do,” said Kessler. “I’ve lost a great deal of respect for Mayor Faulconer and Councilman Ward over this flawed process and outcome.”
With the mayor’s plan, those Adams Avenue businesses will see firsthand the potential benefits and costs of taking away parking spaces and adding protected bike lanes.
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.