Downtown San Diego Partnership reaches out to neighborhoods to plan for future growth
By Cynthia Robertson | SDUN Reporter
To some, Downtown San Diego is a treasure to explore; to others it is a tangle of cars and crowds. Either way, Downtown possesses some of the city’s finest resources for residents, visitors and employees. The Downtown San Diego Partnership and San Diego Foundation co-hosted a town hall meeting in Uptown to discuss how to develop and integrate Downtown resources.
The Downtown Partnership is in the process of holding several town-hall style meetings over three months, including the April 30 meeting in Hillcrest. The goal is to take feedback from the greater San Diego region – called “stakeholders” – to develop an action plan to work with future growth.
“We believe that only through collaboration of all stakeholders can we truly craft a representative plan,” Downtown Partnership President and CEO Kris Michell said in a press release. “The conversation moves from Downtown outward to our regional communities.”
At the April 30 meeting, which was to solicit input from Hillcrest, Mission Hills and Old Town residents, Michell said they were working to “gather ideas” regarding greater San Diego and “how Downtown can fit” into those ideas.
“Downtown is a neighborhood at the same time that is a regional resource,” she said. Upcoming town halls will be held in North Park May 23, City Heights May 29 and Kensington and Normal Heights May 30, among others.
Council President Todd Gloria greeted the audience of more than 25 people at the Joyce Beers Community Center April 30. “Downtown belongs to everybody. The success of our Uptown is dependent on Downtown and the waterfront, as well as parking and transit,” he said.
Staci Ignell, director of external affairs for the Downtown Partnership, said they wanted to discuss tactics to handle a potential influx of people in the region. Currently, Downtown is home to 35,000 residents and 75,000 employees. The population of the entire San Diego region is expected to grow by 1.3 million people by 2050.
“That means we will need to accommodate for approximately 400,000 more housing units and 500,000 more jobs by that year,” Ignell said. “The Partnership is working to accommodate that growth, but we need all your input.”
Formed in 1993 with 14 staff, 40 maintenance workers and additional safety ambassadors, the Downtown Partnership represents over 10,000 property owners, residents and businesses. Called “Our Downtown Vision,” the nonprofit is working in conjunction with San Diego Foundation’s Our Greater San Diego Vision to gather input at the neighborhood town hall meetings.
A power point presentation outlined important points for the town hall participants to consider, including top priorities for Downtown’s future: affordable housing, quality learning, safe and vibrant neighborhoods, transportation, economy and jobs, accessible and protected nature, and trusted regional leadership.
Michell said the Downtown Partnership does not want to shift individuals who are homeless to other neighborhoods, including Uptown. “We respect the homeless population and are continuing to look all over for solutions,” she said.
Establishing a middle school is a priority for Downtown residents, Michell said, and the search is on for finding the proper location. In addition, Downtown residents want to have more higher education opportunities, including technical training and participation with senior citizens.
On the subject of maintaining a safe, vibrant and culturally active Downtown, many people said walking in Downtown needed to be more pleasurable and safe by establishing proper sidewalks and pocket parks, and implementing safety measures.
The participants viewed farmer’s markets as something worth promoting, even if it caused a bit of chaos with parking. “I love the idea of the farmer’s market, too,” Ignell said. “We plan to keep it going.”
One participant said that where he used to live, city managers would close certain streets to vehicles at certain times. The time determined the use, he said. Michell and Ignell both resolved to work that idea into the vision for Downtown’s future.
Michell said the Downtown Partnership is in the process of implementing a shuttle service to increase mobility. The plan for the service will include circuitous transportation between points at the airport, convention center, Balboa Park and Downtown.
“We believe that connectedness from the airport to all points in and along the way to Downtown is vital,” she said.
Michell closed the town hall meeting by thanking the participants. “Your being here is a good example of leadership,” she said.
The next town hall meeting in the Uptown area is May 23 from 5 – 6:30 p.m. at the North Park Recreation Center, 4044 Idaho St. The May 30 Kensington and Normal Heights meeting is from 5:30 – 7 p.m. at the Adams Recreation Center, 3491 Adams Ave.
The Downtown Partnership encourages participation by attending the meetings and completing an online survey at downtownsandiego.org. The results of all the town hall meetings and surveys will be compiled in a data report by summer, and implementation and action plans will begin in the fall.