AABA members debate possible changes to 30th Street
By Ken Williams | Editor
Vision Zero is an ambitious strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries in San Diego by 2025. The city and transportation safety advocates like Circulate San Diego are looking at practical ways to make streets safer for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.
Across the city, Circulate San Diego is hosting focus groups to discuss ways to achieve the Vision Zero goals. One such focus group met Dec. 6 at The Air Conditioned Lounge, located at 4673 30th St., just a few dozen steps south of Adams Avenue.
The Adams Avenue Business Association (AABA) invited the local business owners to the workshop to get input about a study that is looking at the potential realignment of 30th Street to better accommodate bicycles, pedestrians and traffic.
The study is sponsored by the Greater Mid-City Community Parking District, which covers a broad area with three independent sub-districts that operate from Golden Hill to University Heights. The El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association serves as the parking district’s advisory board.
Catherine Thibault, program manager at Circulate San Diego, which is the consultant on the study, gave a PowerPoint presentation titled “Biking and Walking in North Park, 30th Street and El Cajon Boulevard.”
Goals of the study are to:
- Instill economic revitalization.
- Ensure safe and friendly streets.
- Increase pedestrian activity.
- Advance transportation choices.
- Increase parking options.
The AABA workshop focused on the stretch of 30th Street from Adams Avenue south to Upas Street, which has 16 intersections, including those at super busy El Cajon Boulevard and University Avenue.
Three potential options were presented for discussion at the workshop.
The first option would remove the center turn lane, leaving 8 feet for parking on each side of the street, 5-foot bike lanes in each direction with a 1½-foot buffer, and two 10-foot travel lanes.
The second option would remove parking on one side of the street, leaving the center turn lane, 8 feet for parking on one side of the street, 5-foot bike lanes in each direction with a 2-foot buffer, and two 10-foot travel lanes. The street redesign would create a gentle wave by placing parking on alternating sides of the street every block and aiding traffic-calming efforts.
The third option would establish a protected bikeway on both sides of the street, with a 5-foot bike lane and a 2-foot buffer from the 8-foot parking lanes and the 10-foot travel lanes.
Most of the workshop participants frowned on the idea of removing the center turn lane because it is used by delivery trucks supplying local restaurants, bars and other businesses.
Designer goldsmith Shirley Kanno Boynton, owner of Artisan Collection located at 4639 30th St., said she was “200 percent against bike lanes” because there are already north/south bikes lanes on nearby Utah Street — four blocks west of 30th Street. She said Utah Street is safer for bicycles because it doesn’t have as much traffic.
Several participants noted that Utah Street is residential, so it is not as enticing for bicyclists as 30th Street and its commercial enterprises.
Boynton said she also didn’t want to “clutter up 30th Street” with bike lanes if there would be any loss of parking. She said she moved from Hillcrest years ago because of parking problems, and said most of her customers would be driving here from places like La Jolla, Scripps Ranch and as far away as Temecula.
Thibault and Scott Kessler, AABA executive director, countered that additional parking would be achieved by converting parallel parking to head-in parking on nearby side streets.
Kessler said San Diego is “behind the curve” on parking alternatives and solutions.
Alison Flynn, owner of Villainous Lair Comics/Gaming at 3220 Adams Ave. and second vice president of the AABA, stressed that the 30th Street/Adams Avenue corridor has been upsized for more density by city planners. Flynn said the neighborhood needs to be prepared for future growth.
Gary John, owner of The Air Conditioned Lounge, said the immediate area is already booming with nine restaurants near the intersection.
“A big part of my business is ride sharing,” he said, adding that he would like to see a space dedicated to loading/unloading passengers who use Uber or Lyft to come to the area to eat and drink.
The workshop participants agreed that something needs to be done to improve the intersection of Adams Avenue and 30th Street. “This corner will require a more creative solution,” John added.
Thibault said various studies have shown that “bikes mean business,” pointing to Seattle, where taxable retail sales spiked significantly after bike lanes were added. In Manhattan, she said, the first protected bike lane in the U.S. brought a major decrease in street injuries as well as a major increase in retail sales. In Canada, Toronto made Bloor Street, a major residential and commercial thoroughfare, friendlier to bicyclists and pedestrians. The result? A follow-up study by Clean Air Partnership found that “patrons arriving by foot and bicycle visit the most often and spend the most money per month.”
Two principals representing Fall Brewing Company, located at 4542 30th St. between Monroe and Madison avenues, said a lot of their customers arrive on foot or by bicycle. Dave Lively voiced support for bike lanes.
Kessler and Thibault said while 40 to 55 parking spaces could be lost on 30th Street between Adams Avenue and Upas Street, conversion of parallel parking to angled parking on Madison and Polk avenues, as well as Gunn, Landis, Dwight, Capps and Myrtle streets, could gain 71 spaces.
After an hour of discussion, the informal conclusion was that losing the center turn lane was a deal-breaker and that mitigating the parking issue was very important.
Comments from the AABA focus group will be added to the study results. Kessler reminded participants that there is no funding yet to tackle this project and that the city has not even begun an analysis.
“This is years away from happening,” Kessler concluded.